A note from zaifyr

Another long and spotless break... I hope many of you survived!

Bee studied the statue carefully. At first, she thought it resembled the hero on the griffin from the carvings. However, that was not the case. Instead, the figure seemed to be one of the humans leading a legion of humanity. More than that, though, it was… lifelike. Almost too lifelike.

If Bee had to guess, she'd say that this may very well be an actual man. He seemed to be in stasis like a fully depowered demon. Her theory's only problem was the complete lack of script circles surrounding him. Though with the examples of lost magic she had seen on their way down here, ancient humans might have had some way around that. The figure seemed to be a man, but the mask and armor made it difficult to tell. She wondered about that. The human leaders and the hero also seemed to wear masks. Why?

She couldn't prove anything, in any case. So maybe this was just a very well-made statue. Unless.

She resisted the urge to smack her forehead and instead glanced back at her master. So far, it didn't seem like Void had any way of knowing that she constantly forgot about her only active skill. Sure she had gotten a class and a proficiency skill upgrade, but Scan was the only thing she had to activate consciously. Yet she often forgot to use it in new situations. This was not a great start to her adventuring career. Well, at least she remembered the skeletons.

Bee activated Scan, targeting the statue. Name:??? Race: ??? Class type???? Level 40+

Well, that wasn't nothing, but it was pretty close. Bee supposed she should be grateful that it gave her a level approximation. At least she had learned something about her skill. When she passed level 10, she could see level ranges of something up to 30 levels above her, rounded down. She wasn't sure if that was the case, but it seemed true. Nazareth'gak had been marked as 30+ before she hit level 10, so it made sense. Hopefully, she wouldn't be encountering enough level 40+ things to find out.

Still, being in this room calmed her. It made her feel as though she was protected. They had gone far enough fast enough that they no longer heard the stamp of skeletons' boots. She was curious how the skeletons she had been fighting differed from the stronger ones in the above tombs. Why were some free to roam and some not? Also, did the stronger ones appear because of the trap she activated, or were they already there? She assumed they weren't from the tombs - no amount of broom-swinging would save her from something 25 levels above her. Yet more than a couple had appeared behind them on the path down, despite Void cleaning up every skeleton fragment thoroughly. So maybe they had some other source. But they hadn't seen any coffins or crypts besides the huge one.

Bee glanced around the room for other paths or hiding spots. She didn't see anything around here. Aside from the arch they had entered through, she also didn't see an obvious exit. Maybe there was something she was missing here. So far, the catacombs have only had one proper "catacomb" room. The rest had been hallways, carvings, a trap, and this beautiful monument (or person).

Looking around, she spotted Void over by one of the walls. It seemed to be intently examining something, but she couldn't tell what. She thought about the trip back upward and realized that returning wouldn't likely be a simple operation. It had taken them over a day to get down to this point. They had essentially walked the perimeter of the entire castle almost three times since each circle downward was several miles. That didn't count for them stopping and fighting every dozen minutes. And all of that was ignoring that they'd have to walk uphill on the way back, making the trip even longer. And fight their way through what must be thousands of skeletons. They were way too strong for her to be of any use. At least, that was her assumption. Maybe she was missing something, or perhaps Void would take pity and help her, but it seemed like a pretty dire situation if not.

For now, though, Bee couldn't even consider planning for the road ahead. Fighting all day took a tremendous toll on her, and she was spent. She shrugged off her pack and rummaged through for some water and food. Unfortunately, she had started to become severely dehydrated. With her last bit of panic moving her forward, she hadn't thought to rehydrate or grab food for quite a while.

After she had pulled out some rations and a waterskin, she carried her backpack over to where Void was examining the wall. From what she could tell, there was nothing special about the walls, but her master knew much more than she did. She leaned against the wall and slid down until she was sitting. As Void continued to examine the wall, she ate, drank, and leaned her head against her pack.

She intended to talk to Void. To ask it questions and maybe get some answers regarding what they would do next, even if the prospect exhausted her. However, she realized she had already slid into a dream. It was a good dream full of freshly baked bread and her mother's comforting embrace.


Beatrice's eyes snapped open. She had no idea how long she had been asleep, but she was still in the white room. Void sat still next to her. The usual glow that emanated from the runes along its flat top had dimmed to nothing. But as she moved, they flared back to life. Void moved around a little bit, just twisting and turning as if it too was waking up, before giving a cheery beep in greeting.

She attempted to bow, but her pack prevented her. Still sitting upright, she settled for inclining her head. "I'm sorry, master. I didn't mean to fall asleep."

It didn't give her a verbal response, instead gently nudging her leg. She took that to mean that it didn't mind. She struggled out of her pack. Constantly wearing it had become a habit, but sleeping in it was terrible for her neck. Bee gave a quick stretch and a few pained winces as she got her feet. She dug around in the pack again, pulling up a little bit of her food and water. She smacked her chapped lips, realizing how dry her mouth still was. They would have to make it out soon. Otherwise, it would be tough for her. There was no way that backtracking alone would work, not without relying on Void. But it seemed like there was only one entrance and not even any branching corridors. But the skeletons had to be coming from tombs somewhere, right? She could only hope.

It was just one giant downward spiral forming three levels. How were skeletons getting in here, and how did they keep popping up in the tunnels?

She would count herself lucky if she even managed to make it back up to the catacombs level.

I powered off next to my human. I'm glad she took the initiative to sleep. She needed it. Soon we would have to go back. I wasn't sure what was waiting for us up top, but based on Beatrice's reaction, she had some idea.

Still, it would take a while to just walk out, even at a relatively quick pace. And that was under optimal conditions. Beatrice had, for some reason, chosen to charge sitting up against a hard stone wall. That might have been fine for me and my kind, but humans like soft squishy things when they are charging. Maybe she just preferred to charge on hard surfaces. That would explain why she had yet to use a bed. Unless she was trying to emulate my charging for some reason? I hoped not.

I hoped we had cleared out all the skeletons on the way down. I had yet to see any others, but we still needed to leave the room to check. Still, I'd like to get back up to the castle today or tomorrow. Things were waiting for me back up the stairs, things I needed to clean. Beatrice could rest in the hallway for an hour or two on the way back up, but skeletons had appeared too frequently. Of course, it was always possible that I could let Beatrice rest and fight them off myself for a while. But short naps didn't seem to help her as much as an entire rest did. Plus, she seemed to appreciate the opportunity to get stronger through these fights. I couldn't deprive her of that.

While Beatrice charged, I searched the walls carefully. I saw nothing that indicated any strangeness or irregularities - they were just beautiful walls. I left the room for a moment because the curtain struck me oddly, and I wanted to look closer. It was made of some kind of cloth, which was strange since these floors were ancient. No one had been down here a very long time, yet the fabric had not decayed at all. Like so many things around here, this did not seem right. I would be lying if I said there wasn't an itch in my wheels, ready to get out of this place. This room, in particular, felt fine, but the whole catacombs complex seemed… Well, sinister wasn't the right word. Overbearing, maybe? Overly dirty? I'd need to come back and give it a very thorough once-over.

Beatrice first hydrated and then spent some time eating. With that, we began to move out. For me, the slope wasn't too big of an issue. As long as I could find purchase, I was light enough that I didn't put in any additional effort on the incline. It didn't seem to be the case for Beatrice, however. Even the gentle slope upwards proved more taxing on her. She wasn't struggling, but we moved more slowly than I had anticipated. That was okay. I had an idea.

Over this trip, I used my sanitation lamp nonstop, trying to sanitize everything I could. As I did, I noticed that it had grown significantly stronger again, even compared to when we had entered. Its potency had increased by 32.4% in the last 10 hours alone. This improvement made me consider a new possibility. Could it be that cleaning didn't just increase my effectiveness? However, the use of my individual mutations also improved their power.

I thought about how I couldn't lift a blanket when I first got my arm. Then a few doors and other grabby activities later, I could suddenly lift that weight. Had my arm been getting stronger, or did I get stronger from cleaning and training? My mop seemed slightly more effective at pulling in liquid and hadn't seen much use. But I didn't see how that could be related to me getting stronger or faster. I was shocked that I hadn't made the connection before. Was I also getting smarter? I knew my processing speed was increasing. I noticed a while ago that I was now making connections that I wouldn't previously consider. With my accelerated thoughts, I could even recontextualize my interpretation of those times when... Oh yeah. I felt myself shrinking inward in embarrassment. Let's not do that.

I did my best to push the feeling down and only consider the possibility of improving my mutations. The only other mutation I still needed to collect data for was my sensors. However, I needed to have the sensors longer to determine any change in their effectiveness. In the meantime, though, now that I had a hypothesis, I could put more effort into testing it.

I turned my sanitation lamp on to full. There was no liquid on the floor, but I popped out my mop and moistened it to wipe away streaks of grime as we moved. I popped out a particularly heavy skeleton head from my dustbin. Hefted it in my grabby arm, exercising it with repeated upward pressing motions. Finally, with all those subroutines operating, I focused on collecting as much sensor data as possible. My energy expenditure increased significantly. It was mostly due to the lamp, but the speed at which I performed my other tasks also took its toll. Recording my efficiency at each given task, I could track their improvement and correlate it with the number of actions I took. It would be my own little research project and training session combined.

I trundled down the hallway happily. Beatrice had been trying so hard this entire trip. It felt good to do the same. After all, I wanted to improve at cleaning as well. If my idea was correct, this could be just what I needed.


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About the author


Bio: After reading pretty much everything I could I figured I would try making some of the stories that I wanted to read.

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