With a fraction of my consciousness, I've been observing the mortal since it awakened, never leaving it alone for even one second. And in this month, something became obvious; it has no idea I am here.
Often, I perceived its magic seeking for something but dissipating slightly after. At the start, this made me think it had some clues about my existence and made me uneasy about its intentions. However, even after a month, nothing happened.
The mortal is way weaker than I thought one of them could ever be, it never tried to move near my core's room, and it never inquired about my presence either. I even saw it cry every so often in its sleep and watch the outside world with sorrow in its eyes. In the end, all of this made me realize it wasn't sent by whoever is behind the blue flames, but it was attacked by them while coming here.
Throughout this month, it supported my creatures, often saving some of them with its strange magic, and spoke with the odd being inside the Wasp's nest every day, helping it grow. In that regard, I should have recognized way sooner it was more than a flow of unknown attuned mana, but I didn't even consider the possibility of it being alive.
However, seeing the invader interact with it made me realize the whirling consciousness can understand and think, and it is far smarter than the Wasps themselves. It soon became clear it is a living being like my other creatures are. However, it is different from them too.
The mana flow is a Unique monster.
This is why its Attunement is much harder to grasp than the others, and this explained why I didn't receive its pattern when it was born. Every Unique creature is different than other monsters in certain aspects, and it would make sense if a dungeon couldn't create more of them like it can generate the others.
After I finally realized what it was, the Records sent a message with its description, confirming my theory, but no knowledge of its pattern appeared in my mind.
|Swarm Awareness (Unique): This Unique creature was born in peculiar circumstances; the fragile ghost made of lingering emotions from a social and swarm-minded species was nourished within a nest built from a plant with a hive-mind-like ability. It has no physical form and can only exist within its nest. This being can gain the experiences from its swarm's bodies after flowing inside them and transfer that knowledge to the other individuals. Its growth, abilities, and intellect are based on the rank and numbers of its colony.|
In the end, I was right. The flow was responsible for the knowledge the dungeon-born Wasps demonstrated after being just born. And I would like to think the lingering emotions mentioned within the description are Twitchy's ones. Her body was given to the Queen, and it is possible she kept living on in this form.
Without the mortal, I don't think I would have realized it anytime soon.
I've been considering talking with it for a while, and I believe it is time to learn more about what it knows while it's still living inside my dungeon. It doesn't look like it can leave within the foreseeable future, and it should have some knowledge about the Azure Scorching as well. I don't like it, and I've been putting it off for days now, but the possible information is too important to miss. Doing that, my instincts will finally shut up as well. They kept pushing me to interact with it since it came here, and I couldn't unwind for even one second throughout this whole month.
Hoping it's not a mistake, I send a message to the Wasps just outside the nest to prepare themselves for a possible fight. After doing that, I stir some ambient mana to communicate with it. 'Mortal. We have to talk.'
The being takes out its tiny stone and watches around itself. However, as my voice resounds within the hexagonal cell, its eyes widen, and it begins to cry. Suddenly, letting the knife fall down, it mutters, "My Core..."
Without wasting a second, I order every Wasp to surround the crying figure.
How? How can it recognize I am a dungeon core? I know thousands of creatures able to communicate this way, and my voice alone shouldn't be enough to guess what I am.
My creatures move and wait in position, but I stop them when it stays frozen and shocked, not doing anything.
However, it soon shivers and moves its head around. I feel its magic reaching out but dissipate soon after without any effect. "H-How? I should sense you, but I cannot feel anything!" it says aloud, watching everywhere with desperation in its brown eyes.
Of course, I don't answer the question.
"H-Hello?! Are you there? You are a dungeon, right? Please, answer me!" While it talks, I see the strange sentient mana flow swirl around the mortal's body. I don't stop it since I know the Swarm Awareness is loyal to me, and it doesn't know much anyway. After a few seconds, the figure's eyes widen, "Life? Oh...oh! You are a monster of my own dungeon!"
Again. This is the second time it says that, and it looks certain I am a dungeon. 'I do not belong to anyone. Talk, mortal. How do you know I am a core?' I send to it.
It shivers, but it ignores my question again, and I see its lips rise. "I-It's real...You are real. I've found you." Tears come out of its eyes, and it falls down on its knee, suddenly sobbing like a newborn. "I've found it, Lily. I've found it. I can save you all."
The Swarm Awareness swirls around its body, and I pause in my interrogation.
I cannot understand what is happening. This is nowhere near the reaction I expected, and my instincts are howling to somehow stop this.
It's the same feeling I had with Twitchy, but it is even more powerful.
"Are you still there?" it whispers while I think, now crying silently on the floor.
'Yes,' I answer before I can stop myself.
'Yes.' Why can't I stop myself?
"That's good..." it whispers before falling asleep in a fetal position.
What in Life's name just happened?
The figure snores for a few hours, and I have enough time to think things through. However, there is so much I don't know, I cannot reach any conclusion at all.
At this point, it's obvious it's not an enemy, and it seems like it was looking for me for some reason I cannot fathom. However, one thing is obvious, its arrival wasn't random. It appeared exactly within my core's room while knowing I was there, and I don't like that at all.
My musings are interrupted as the figure bleary wakes up before springing upward in alarm. After a few seconds, it sags and says aloud, "Fat chance, huh."
As it picks up the stone's chip, I call to it again, 'Wake up. We have to talk.'
The stone falls on the ground, and while the odd mortal watches around with wide eyes, I begin to think the small figure has some kind of mental problem. "It wasn't a dream!"
'Why are you here? How did you know what I am?' I ask again.
"H-Hi. I am your dungeon fairy...The connection!" It shouts all of a sudden, quickly climbing down its hole." We have to bond before you become insane!"
My what? Before I become insane?
"Where is your core?!?" It shouts with desperation in its voice while recklessly climbing down the nest's cells.
There is no way I am letting this crazy mortal anywhere near my core.
All of this is quickly becoming a waste of time. I put all the depth I've accumulated in my life behind my voice, and say, 'Stop.'
The figure finally freezes, almost slipping down.
I order a Wasp to take the intruder inside one empty cell, and I speak to it again, pushing my annoyance and wariness inside my voice, 'Talk. How do you know what I am? Why are you here?'
Swallowing, it breathes a few times and finally answers me, "I am your fairy! My magic recognizes you. I...Every time a core forms or a creature becomes one, a fairy is born to help it."
Dungeons should have someone to help them after they evolve? Is this why the Records didn't give me all the information and why I had to find things by myself?
Still, this doesn't explain what its relation with the Azure Scorching is.
'Why did you arrive with the Azure Flames?'
"We are imprisoned! For thousands of years, all dungeon fairies are taken away before we can form near our core."
Why would the fires imprison them? The Azure Scorching seeks the Life-Attuned mana within every creature, but imprisoning dungeon's fairies? Why? What would it gain from something like that?
The mortal could be lying too, now that I think about it. I never heard about dungeon fairies, but that doesn't mean much.
While I ponder, I hear it mutter to itself, "Damn, I don't know how much time it spent sleeping after the Evolution. It clearly doesn't trust me, but it didn't kill me after all this time. It doesn't seem that insane, so it hasn't been much time since it awakened. But it could be already too late. Damn, damn, damn. Cmon, Tyra. Think."
The time I spent sleeping? And why would this...fairy...think I am insane? I changed after becoming a dungeon core, but that is completely normal. Every creature changes after Evolving.
Something else is going on here.
I don't have any experience talking with other beings like this, and there is only one thing I can do to truly understand what is happening. 'Fairy. Tell me everything you know.'
I see its eyes widen, but it nods after a few seconds, and it starts talking. "Alright. If that's what you need to trust me. Where to start? I was born 3 years, 7 months..."
It seems like this will take some time.
As the dungeon fairy...as my dungeon fairy keeps talking, the mana flowing around my core moves faster and faster.
I can accept the existence of a being born to help dungeon cores since there is so much we can do, and all the choices can quickly become overwhelming without guidance. However, it doesn't mean I can trust it...her so easily.
I don't think she is lying, though. Since the start, my dungeon core's instincts tried to defend her from even myself, and they pushed me to talk and help the fairy since she arrived inside my dungeon. Even my own creatures behaved strangely when she was involved. The Swarm Consciousness spent every moment it could with her, and it even gave the fairy some of their food without my orders.
It wasn't the only one too. During this month, the fairy swam near a few dungeon Dark Cloud Basilisks I created, but they didn't attack her even when they easily could.
For this, it's clear she is telling the truth, and she is somehow connected to me, but...do I need a helper?
While I keep listening to her story, I sweep my consciousness throughout my dungeon and think about everything I did since I Evolved.
All the decisions, all the challenges, and all my achievements.
I really do need some advice, don't I? I would have died multiple times without my Trait, and I could grow without too many problems only because the tunnel and Vines are simple barriers. I have no idea how the Wasps could have survived a few minutes if the Dark Cloud Basilisks were around to ambush them since the start, and I would have been much more vulnerable without any creatures.
My obstacles and choices will only increase as I develop, and I cannot forget even mortals will attack if they find me.
It's not only that. From the dungeon fairy's words, the amount of mana flowing inside my core will slowly warp my mind, and I will become more and more paranoid and insane as time will go by. And while I would like to deny the possibility, I've already noticed since the beginning that the mana within my heart can influence my focus and ability to think.
All this time, I didn't let my mana regenerate over 10 units to avoid spending every single moment thinking and planning, but that's because I was a tree before, and I didn't feel too comfortable in that state. However, I can easily imagine many newborn dungeons using this effect to their advantage and being incredibly productive because of it. Yet, it seems like the end result of that choice would be catastrophic.
I didn't even realize I spent some time sleeping after the Evolution.
"...I was Tricked outside by the Elders, but my body was damaged by the flames even more in the process, and you probably know what happened next." She hesitates, biting her lips, "Can you trust me?"
Do I trust her? 'I believe you are telling the truth.' I send after a while.
I can see she is taken aback by my words, but it doesn't stop her from asking again, "Can we complete the bond then?"
'What will happen if I accept?'
I see her sigh in relief. "I will share some of your mana, and I will be able to use my magic to help you and your creatures in defending your heart. You will change, but your instincts will stop trying to compensate for my presence, and your mentality will stabilize. I will change a bit as well. Also, I will gain a version of your Traits, but I will not be one of your creatures." The fairy stops for a few seconds, lowering her head and gritting her teeth, "This means your orders will not work on me... I am your partner, an equal."
I keep waiting for her to continue, but she just keeps her head lowered, and just shivers in place.
'That is all?'
The fairy raises her head, "Ah... I thought...No, nothing..." She takes a deep breath before continuing, "No, some of my magic will flow into you as well. You cannot use your mana to generate inorganic matter, right? You can only create the creatures you have the pattern for. However, my magic will give you the ability to generate a fake version of things you have inside the dungeon. The connection will grow as well with time, and the effects change for every different core and fairy. Sorry, but I don't know anything about it."
I would like to wait and think about it, but if the mana flowing inside my core will make me more and more paranoid, I don't believe it's a good idea. Also, I doubt time will make this choice any easier.
However, there is one thing I have to ask her before anything else.
'Why do you Live?' I ask the waiting fairy.
Her expression shifts between incomprehension and doubt, before I see her eyes slowly narrow and sharpen, "I want to survive. I want to save Lily and all the other fairies as well. I want to slaughter the Blue Flames and whoever is behind them. And I want to grow powerful enough to not see the people I love suffer again."
I kept my perception on the fairy for a few minutes, before asking myself some questions as well.
Can I really find a way to defeat the Azure Scorching alone? Will things really be different from when I was an Elder Tree? Could I help my creature like she did with the Swarm Awareness?
Thinking about how I behaved the last two months, and all my life before that, I know the answer.
It's not a matter of trust. If I want to reach my goals, I will have to take risks. Life is a Struggle, and it's time for me to endanger my life if I want to truly Grow.
'Come, fairy. I will accept your link.'