After Doc and Anadine carefully removed her from the wall, Claire flew calmly into her house and shut the door gently behind her. Her face held no emotion as she disappeared inside. The four in the heart-room listened to her humming a song to herself as she summoned water for her bath.
Doc couldn’t remember a time he felt more terrified.
“Master,” Anadine spoke up to him, “if I may be so bold, why are you scared of Miss Claire? You are a great and mighty dungeon who kills sentient beings on a fairly consistent basis. She is a tiny pixie with limited control over the dungeon and cannot harm you due to your bond.”
“Well,” Doc began slowly, aware that Claire was likely listening to him, “As you know, the bond between Claire and I does not allow either of us to harm the other.”
“Yes my lord, so why . . .” Anadine pressed.
“Because I live with her,” Doc revealed, “and I will likely live with her for the rest of my existence. Dungeon pixies have lived with dungeons for generations, most of which try to kill the pixies on first sight. It would be foolish to believe they haven’t thought of any counter-measures to keep a dungeon in line even without using physical punishment.”
“It’s true,” Claire admitted through their bond, “The best example is that a dungeon pixie can trick the church into believing their dungeon is corrupt in an effort to commit suicide. Pixies also can change some of the involuntary functions of the dungeon the spirit is usually not aware of. I know of one story where a pixie made their dungeon smell so bad the surrounding area was abandoned. That dungeon is still trying to complete its first floor I believe.”
Anadine snapped her mouth shut and began to polish Doc’s crystal with special concentration.
“So Doc, what did you learn?” Claire asked him calmly from her bath.
“Monster cores explode,” he ventured.
“Devouring too opposing forces result in an explosion if done at the same time,” she clarified to him, “The two cores acted against each other as their power flowed into you; the light pushed the darkness and the darkness pushed back.”
Her voice changed from her current calm tone to her teaching tone, “Elements tend to work together and against each other in nature, depending on context. For instance, water will stop a fire but enough fire will heat water into steam. Some wind will make a fire stronger, but too much wind will destroy the fire. Darkness and light have their own relationship too: too much light will eliminate darkness and too much darkness will swallow light. Of course, these two elements are more abstract than the other elements and so work in ways even we magical creatures don’t quite understand yet. Point being: your soul is neutral and both cores were trying to influence your slime at the same time. The slime couldn’t take the conflict and exploded.”
“Momma, why is Poppa’s soul important here?” The Twins spoke up in question.
“Because while the elements are neutral forces, the wielders of said powers tend to fight each other and thus take opposing stances on things; light tends to be used more by selfless people and dark tends to be used by selfish people,” Claire answered, “I’m fairly certain that the light core came from a unicorn relative and the dark core came from a shadow tiger relative. Those two monsters are rivals for territories and unicorns help others while shadow tigers eat others. No, don’t focus on ‘shadow’; that’s a human name from their limited understanding.”
The twins rolled on the ground in confusion while Anadine and Doc struggled to understand what Claire was telling them.
“The two cores are bullies who fight even in death,” Claire summarized.
“Okay that makes sense.”
Claire’s exasperated sigh filled their minds, followed by her normal giggle, “You sillies wouldn’t get anywhere without me. I’m barely an adult and I already have so many children to watch. Mommy would be proud, I guess.”
“We are proud of you too,” all four chorused together.
Claire couldn’t help but giggle again, this time out loud, “Fine, but you owe me a new chair Doc. I’ll decide your punishment later.” Claire paused for a moment, “Never mind, you never know what you doing, but I still care for you.”
After Claire finished her long bath, which took half a day to remove the solidified slime from her hair, she and Doc stared down at the shard of dungeon crystal they had gotten from the Tomb of the Undead King.
“It’s time to grow again,” Doc announced happily.
Claire nodded, but she looked worried, “Doc, I haven’t mentioned this before, but there are risks with devouring another dungeon’s heart crystal even if they are just fragments.”
“Like what?” Doc asked.
“As you know, heart crystals are the sum of the dungeon’s magic power and spirit. Each shard will hold a piece of the dungeon’s soul in it, which could maybe hurt you. Mommy told me side effects may range from personality shifts to outright possession. I think you should eat something with the shards to make the devouring easier.”
Having said that, Claire flew into her house and came back with the jar of fairy light she had retrieved from the tree ceremony in town. She placed the bottle on the floor next to the shards.
“Claire, that bottle is larger than you,” Doc pointed out to her.
Claire rolled her eyes, “I already showed you in the past I can grow to the size of your crystal. My physical strength is proportional to my original size; how else could I fly with this and a stolen bottle of booze?”
“We need to drink that later,” Doc reminded her, “Even though I can’t drink.”
“Agreed, but let’s focus on the task at hand,” Claire pointed at the bottle of fairy light, “Absorb the light with the shards. Fairy light is a powerful substance that dissolves in sunlight, and taking it will recover a person’s spirit and mental fortitude. It will make sure you don’t succumb to any memories that aren’t yours.”
“Okay; thanks for the help Claire,” he thanked her.
Claire blushed and smiled up at him, “You silly Doc; like you said earlier we are together to the end. I might as well make sure you are as strong as possible so I can live for a long time too.”
“Keep telling yourself that,” he teased her, “I know what you really mean.”
Taking a fictional deep breath, Doc opened his mana to the shards and the light. The two dissolved into purple lights, and flew up into his crystal body.
“I . . .feel funny,” Doc muttered as his spirit lurched like he ate something bad.
“Be strong Doc, you can do it!” Claire cheered, but her voice sounded so far away. So far away, and he was gone.
I'm walking through a strange land. All around me there are moving images of things I have never seen before. I see tall plants, humans, and strange places. The road I walk takes me through all of them.
The path is long, but I manage to walk past everything without understanding anything. Should I feel accomplished? The strangest thing is that I feel like I should recognize everything.
Especially, that one human, that girl that seems to flit on the edge of every image.
The path is ending now; the images are different. One side blue, the other side red they seem to be warring with each other. It feels kind of silly to be honest since I seem to be purple on the inside. As I walk by, the two sides appear to become subdued and join back together in harmony.
I reach the end of the path; someone is there waiting for me. He is sitting with his face resting on his arm which is on his knee while the other arm is on the floor. Strange human; he doesn't seem to wearing any clothes.
"Who are you?" I ask the strange human.
He raises his head, his eyes colored a sparkling purple. He grins with a strange smile.
"Why, I am you of course."
And everything goes to black.
Doc blinked as the memory of his journey came back to him. He turned his head to gaze at the strange landscape around him.
“Head,” he wondered to himself as he stared down. While indistinct and blurry, he was currently not a crystal body. He had hands, or at least something he could use to pick things up. They constantly morphed and changed before his eyes, almost as if his body was an illusion.
<MAKE US WHOLE,> Doc heard in his head. He turned to see the strange naked human sitting on the path again. There were two this time: a red human and a blue human. They looked identical except for the color.
“Who are you?” Doc asked them. As he asked, two new figures appeared next to the red and blue humans. They were green and yellow.
<MAKE US WHOLE >
<We are you, but you are not us. We shall wait, for we are waiting to be made whole.>
<MAKE US WHOLE>
Doc’s world returned to black, and he heard one last thing.
“We shall be free.”
Doc blinked as he came to with a worried looking Claire staring at him. She hovered in front of his crystal, darting back and forth as if to try to catch his attention.
“Doc, are you alright? You disappeared again, like before,” Claire asked him with concern.
Doc thought to himself, but drew a blank. “I don’t remember, but I feel stronger. Anything strange happen?”
Claire nodded and pointed at his crystal, “You have two new colors: green and yellow. It was very strange to look at, but now they are hiding under your purple color.”
Sure enough, when Doc checked his crystal, he could see the faint colors of yellow and green beneath his normal color. The red and blue colors had left their former positions and moved in with the new colors. It was as if his crystal had gained inner layers.
“I guess I’m on a path to becoming a rainbow dungeon core,” he said jokingly.
Claire reluctantly nodded, “Well, as long as it’s not hurting you, I guess there’s nothing we can do. Let’s . . .”
She was interrupted by a loud and sudden crack that filled the room. Doc and Claire’s attention shot over to the cocoon in the corner. A crack had appeared at the top, and it was moving down in short bursts.
“Doc, it’s happening! The child is coming!” Claire shrieked in surprise.
“GAH! What do I do, what do I do? Water, do we need water or a human doctor or . . .”
“Stop panicking, you’ll scare him!” Claire cried out to Doc, her voice failing to hide her own panic.
As the two ran around the room like slimes with their cores being stolen, the cocoon fell apart and something rolled out. Doc and Claire watched as a young boy, human-looking of about 10 years, brushed himself off and stood up. His glowing, grey eyes stared up at the two frozen dungeon monsters.
“Where is my father?”
“I think I killed him,” Doc admitted.