On the unnamed island in the middle of the ocean, the storm of mana had died down. In fact, there had been no real visible indicator that the ‘calamity’ had even taken place. I wasn’t sure if that was because it was too weak, or simply because mana by itself did not create as much of a disturbance.
However, something else was clear. In that one week, the dungeon had rapidly expanded. Although it was not to the degree I had hoped, my guess was that it had gained about a hundred years of growth in that one week.
“You totally cheated, didn’t you?” Terra asked from behind me, startling me briefly as I didn’t hear her enter the room. “I mean, it’s not really a bad idea. Though it might get a bit expensive. You’re not planning to make monster spawners in dungeons like that, are you?”
“Huh? No, nothing like that.” I shook my head. “I was actually thinking about something entirely different, but I wanted to hear your thoughts on if it were possible.”
Seeing her raise a curious eyebrow, I explained my idea. “I know that you said granting a new attribute to the dungeon cores won’t affect the ones that are already spawned. But… what if the attribute was a telepathic link? Something that they could use to communicate across the world with others of their own race.”
“You mean like a heightened akashic field?” Terra asked, pursing her lips in thought. The term sounded familiar before, but I wasn’t really sure where I had heard it from, outside of television. “It’s basically a subconscious field that connects an entire race. The last Keeper put it in for your world, because he wanted culture to be more widely shared. However, the one he put in was pretty weak because he was stingy, so it had a minimal effect.”
“Ahh… and a heightened version would allow for race-wide telepathy?”
“Essentially. They should be able to hold conversations and share knowledge pretty easily. It’d be expensive, though.” She looked thoughtfully at me as she gave that warning.
“Would it connect to the ones that were already born?”
Hearing the question, she gave a brief nod of confirmation. “They are still considered part of the same purchased race, just of different generations. So it should connect them as well.”
I let out a breath of relief at that, before telling her the rest of the plan. “Good. The main reason that the dungeons have trouble learning seems to be a lack of social interaction. This… akashic field would let them communicate with each other. And I know that Ryone’s dungeon has been training as a summoner, so it would be able to spread that knowledge around.”
“Aha.” Terra gave a knowing grin as she heard that. “You want to make it so that the dungeons aren’t forced to rely on spawners. Instead, they can make their own.”
“Right. That seemed a lot more cost effective to me, at least. It’ll take a little while for each dungeon to be brought up to speed, but if they are empowered by the mana surge then they will be able to immediately put their knowledge to use once they have learned how to do so.”
Glancing back towards the catgirl, I saw her give an approving nod. “It’s not a bad idea. It’ll take some of the pressure off of us, since we won’t have to personally educate each dungeon, and they might even be able to create their own culture.”
“That’s what I’m hoping, at least. By the way… about that last Keeper. I’ve been meaning to ask something.” I saw Terra’s face sour briefly when I mentioned the previous Keeper, but asked my question anyways. “How did he even get his job? I mean, if he is as lazy as you described him, that doesn’t seem like he’d go out of his way to kill the one before him.”
Terra backed up from my chair, sitting on the bed with a tired groan. “It’s exactly because he was so lazy that he got the job. The Keeper before him was a very proactive one in a tech-focused world. You could even call him a genius when it came to stellar technology.”
“But he was so active in the world that he took part in all of the cutting edge experiments. For his last experiment, he was designing an upgrade for his warp drive, which he planned to submit on the market for more points. Your Keeper was one of the maintenance engineers, and didn’t do his job properly. Rather than an accidental death, it was evaluated as sabotage because he was given clear and precise instructions that he chose not to follow.”
My jaw dropped open as I heard that, and I couldn’t help staring at Terra. “So… because he forgot to uncross a few wires or something… he became a god.” Seeing her nod her head helplessly, I couldn’t help chuckling. “And here I thought my entry was ridiculous.”
A small smirk appeared on Terra’s face as she heard that. “Your’s wasn’t so good yourself. A car accident because you were driving when you were too tired? Still, there are a lot worse people that could have gotten the job.”
I felt myself smiling when I heard that, turning back towards the computer. “So, how’s our guest doing? Still here?”
“Starkiller? Yeah, she stayed in Bihena’s room to nap while we were running our errands. Trying to get the poor girl to play with her some more now, but it seems-- ah.”
I was about to ask why Terra caught herself off mid sentence, when Bihena’s voice spoke into my mind. Dale, can you come here? Balu said that she’s not allowed to leave without collecting the payment, but she’s got to get back to her world. She’s got an invasion coming up, and she’s on the defense this time.
My eyebrows jumped up as I heard that. Part of me worried that this might be the last time that we saw Balu, but another part of me felt that was unlikely. She knew the formula to create a False Divinity without even needing to think about it. More than likely, she had practiced those energies herself in her world, and was actually far stronger than what an invading force would expect.
Alright, I’ll be right there. As I sent that reply, I sent a small smile towards Terra, before shifting myself back to the living room. Bihena was sitting on the couch, while Balu was restlessly shifting from side to side on one of the recliners.
“Ahh!” She shouted out as I appeared, immediately turning to face me. Her arms propped herself up over the side of the chair. “I need you to pay me, quick! My alarm just went off, and I need to get home!”
“...Are you having a hard fight this time?” I couldn’t help but ask.
Balu looked troubled at my question, thinking over whether she should answer it or not. “Well… maybe? I don’t know. We don’t know much about this guy! But that just means I need to prepare my full power to defend, just in case!”
I nodded my head at that, not wanting to waste any time. “So… how do I transfer points?”
Balu suddenly froze, her eyes blinking at me in confusion. “Right… you’ve never done that before, have you. Uhm… could you call your system companion? They should be able to do it for you, and it would take too long to practice to get it right.”
Before I could even send the message, Terra appeared behind the chair Balu was sitting on. “I’m here, little fert.” She said in a playful tone. “The agreed price was five hundred points, no?”
“Yeah!” Balu nodded her head rapidly, extending one paw towards Terra. She didn’t seem at all surprised by Terra’s sudden appearance. “Five hundred for a consultation! Full privacy included, no intent to sell information!” Terra gave an approving nod as she stretched one hand out to grasp Balu’s paw.
System Companion Terra wishes to transfer 500 points to Starkiller. Do you wish to approve this transaction?
I checked over the window that appeared briefly before allowing the transaction to be completed. Once it was done, Balu let out a long sigh, smiling happily towards us. “Pleasure doing business with you, thanks for inviting me over! I’ll let you know when my invasion is over, in case Bihena wants to play more.”
Bihena simply rolled her eyes at that, so I did notice the corner of her lips twitching upwards. “Just get going, Starkiller. You’ve got to get back home fast, right?”
“Oh! Yeah. Hope I don’t get one of the long ones…” She said as she focused, no doubt on going home. However, immediately afterwards, her eyes opened wide and her lips parted. “Oh no… not this--”
Before she could finish what she was trying to say, she… imploded. Her body seemed to be sucked into itself, collapsing in as she let out a brief cry. Her arms and legs vanished into her torso as it folded forward, her head disappearing next before all that was left was a small puff of white fur on the chair. And even that seemed to be shrinking.
“That… I really hope we don’t get that one sometime.” Bihena said, shivering as she looked at the chair where Balu previously sat. However, afterwards she turned and directed her attention to me. “But, what was that about a consultation?”
I briefly explained the situation to her, about how I wanted to get a professional opinion on the world. I also made sure to include what I had shown her, and what she had said. Though, I left out the specifics for the formulas, instead just saying that she had given me information on new energy types that could increase my power.
Once I mentioned Balu’s warning about the Perfect Self class, Bihena lifted her head in alarm. “That would have been dangerous…” She muttered, mostly to herself. “I was tempted to start training that class. I suppose I still can, since the flaw only affects Keepers, but if you had tried to learn by copying me… Okay, I admit, it was worth the points.”
Saying that, Bihena got up from the couch, glancing towards the door that was now connected to the living room directly from her room. “I suppose it’s alright for me to unseal the area you blocked off while she was here? I’d like to move my room back to where it was.”
When I gave a nod, she walked towards her door, stepping through it. Rather than saying the door closed behind her, it might be more appropriate to say that the wall did. “Okay… step one down… now let’s see if I have the points to handle steps two, three, and four.”
Terra gave me an amused smile as the two of us walked back towards my room. While we walked, I sent a message to Ryone, letting her know about the previous expenditure and what I planned to buy next. My response came not just from her, but surprisingly Aurivy, and even Udona and Accalia as well.
They all rather emphatically agreed that I needed to make the improvement to the dungeons, even if the cost was high. There was nothing else that we desperately needed at this time, but this would be a major help in the long run. Both for the mortals and the goddesses themselves.
So, once I got back to my room, I opened up the menu for the Dungeon Core race. Following what Terra mentioned before, I chose to add ‘Heightened Akashic Field’ to their racial traits. Immediately, the price for the race shot up by a hundred points. While expensive, it was still well within my ability to purchase.
It was the next bit that burned a hole in my wallet. Seeing that a category two mana surge wasn’t quite enough, I chose to set a conditional calamity spawner. Whenever a dungeon core spawns, a category three mana surge would erupt at its location, five hundred meters in diameter, and persisting for seven days. For this, the total price came to… twenty-five hundred points.
I was a bit surprised to see that the cost had jumped to five hundred times the original. However, given that it would become an automatic feature of the world, it could make up for its own cost in time. More importantly, I was quite certain that adding such an explosive growth to the dungeons themselves, while cheaper, would not stop so easily. The last thing I wanted was for the dungeons to grow so much that they encompassed the entire world.
With all of that taken care of, and a meager three hundred and thirty three points left in my balance, I blew out a sigh of relief. Choosing another island, I spawned one more dungeon, allowing the telepathic field to connect them all together.