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Hi guys! It is Author-sama again.  I am sorry it has taken so long to get this chapter out, but here you go!

Ten pages of prime writing, straight from me to you! Hahahaha.

In case any of you guys haven't heard the news yet, my computer is basically dead.  The fan in my graphics card died over a month ago, and I ended up setting a big box fan up against the open side of my tower to keep it cool enough to function.  That worked for a while, but my graphics card finally kicked the bucket.

I don't have any integrated graphics, so my computer is all but useless at the moment.  I've been stuck writing on my mom's old All-In-One PC, but I don't get to use it as much as I'd like between working and all the time her or her new fiance are on it.   I just finally got this chapter finished this morning after working on it in bits and pieces for a while now.

I'm not going to ask for help getting a new one though.  I've already earmarked over $1000 at the start of August to do a complete rebuild of my computer.  The pieces I have chosen on NewEgg.com is going to make it beastly. Haha.  New motherboard, CPU, RAM, harddrives and graphics card.  Just about everything but the tower and the power supply.

If anyone is into Geek Speak, let me know and I'll be more than willing to over my rebuild.  Otherwise I'm going to leave out the nerd talk here.  Lol.

This chapter does answer some of the questions left over from the last one, and digs a bit deeper into the world of Eternia as well.   There isn't any action yet, but it is coming, and soon!  

The world will shake and tremble and things will go horribly wrong! Hehehehehehehe.

As for other news, I've hired someone to do some real proofreading/editing on Part 2 of Universe Online for me, so I'm hoping to have that up on Amazon by the end of the month or the start of next.

As always, thank you for your support and I hope you enjoy the chapter!

-|- -|- -|-

“You know this quest you set us on is going to get us all killed, don't you?”

Her question was spoken softly, and for a moment Edwin wasn't sure he'd even heard her right as he turns to look at her again.  Her face was the same...

… Except for her eyes, which has turned golden in color and glow slightly in the darkness.

He doesn't say anything for a long moment, before dropping his head in a nod that is followed by a sigh.

“I fear so, yes.  Goddess Urmis.”

The rich, full laugh that comes from the Princess/Goddess actually startles Edwin a bit, but he still ends up cracking a grin of his own.

“It seems you are more knowledgeable than I anticipated, Edwin Cast.  It has been centuries since I last spoke in the mortal world, much less with a Demon Lord.”  The Goddesses tone is amused and wry, but there is a hint of exasperation there, as well.

“You can thank my manservant, Lucien.  He informed me earlier that he thought the Princess may not just be a Priestess, but a medium as well.  It seems he had met another one a long time ago, of the god Kritin.”

“Ssssh!” She snaps at him, coming around to place a small, almost delicate hand against his lips.  “Be careful what names you say around a medium!  It can draw unwanted attention.”

Edwin freezes up for a moment, having gotten a sudden chill down his back.  The goddess had moved much more quickly than he'd expected, and there's a steely, powerful tone in her voice that makes him want to obey without thinking.  He does eventually force himself to nod and she slowly removes her hand.

“Mediums are not limited to the possession of only one god.  Angela's faith makes it easier for me to do so, but others can still force their way in if given cause.  The god whose name you just mentioned is one of those that does not care regarding the damage they can cause to the vessel, which tends to happen when two of us fight over a medium.”

Aaah.  He nods again, this time more forcefully.

“I understand.  Truth be told, I'm still not quite used to the idea that the gods are real and physically active in the world.  The world I came from has had many come and go, but more from a philosophical standpoint.  We'd found no evidence that they'd literally walked the earth.”

Edwin's words get another, softer chuckle of amusement from Urmis, and she does seem to relax a bit and turns back to looking out across Jottenhiem as it stretches out below them.

“I figured as much.  We have heard other stories of such, from other travelers from other worlds.  The consensus is that their worlds do have their own gods, but they are unable to manifest due to a lack of mana.  The faith of their worshipers feed them, but it is never really enough to do more than influence the physical world.  Eternia is something of an oddity; a wellspring of mana that tends to be rare elsewhere.”

Edwin listens to her, his face taking on the thoughtful cast of a man who'd just learned something.  In a way it made sense, but he had never been overly religious.  Lip service, to be sure.  He knew a bit about Earth mythology, and the idea that every god from every pantheon was once a living being was a new take on what otherwise had just been a curiosity for him.  It would take him quite a while to ponder through all of that, one way or another.

*DING*

The Gods of Eternia
New Codex Entry
There are many gods within the world of Eternia.  Some are bound to specific places, and others are bound to ideals or ideologies.  Very few walk the world, however, as manifesting takes a great amount of power and stored magic in the form of mana.  People who are 'mediums' allow for a middle ground, as a god can possess their bodies for a time with a limited amount of power.

Many high ranking priests and priestesses are mediums for this very reason.

You currently know of two gods:
Kritin, God of Blood and Warfare.
Urmis, Goddess of Healing.
+1 Intelligence
+1 Wisdom
New information about the Gods of Eternia has been added to the Codex menu.


Edwin's thoughts are interrupted when a new message pops up in front of him, and it brings him back to the here and now as he reads it quickly then swipes it away.  For the moment the only god that matters is the one speaking with him.  That thought brings back a sobering thought of its own, and he quickly turns to look at Urmis, who's residing in the very lovely body of an Imperium Princess.

“What do you know about the Citadel Dungeon, Goddess Urmis?  Outside of some old records, we really don't have much to go on, and anything you may know could mean a big difference once we make our raid.”

He finally gets back to the topic at hand, shunting the other thoughts aside so he can think about them later instead of wasting the opportunity he has right now.

“The Dungeon of Parin Dark is the first Dungeon ever constructed, as a experiment to the viability of the idea.  The Citadel was built on top of it to seal it, and Jottenhiem was originally built as the city to support it.  Unlike the other dungeons, this one has no oversight, and grows over time.  Its tunnels go far and deep in and under the mountains.  The Heart Crystal at its center is old and weathered, nearly mad from isolation and the magic that bids it in place.  Parin has become twisted, corrupted with the magic that bound it here.  She is weakened, but has found ways of siphoning off the mana of the creatures she binds to the dungeon.”

Edwin isn't the only one to cringe at that thought, with Urmis/Angela also making a very real look of distaste on her face.

“Her minions are barely living things any more.  She has forcefully absorbed so much mana from them overtime that they have become empty vessels, without conscious thought.  This has made them unique, however, when combined with the original magic of the Dungeon.  They fear no pain or death, and thus can only be de-summoned for a time.  The cost to re-summon them is very low because they are merely shadows of what they once were.  And they are many.”

“But more than that, Parin has learned to gain greater influence over the Dungeon and the area surrounding it, including the Citadel here.  The reason why it was forgotten that a Heart Crystal was at the center of it was because of her influence.  She makes it difficult to remember or recall, and this influence will only get stronger as you work your way deeper into the depths.  Parin will seek to trap you with illusions.  Thankfully her domain has to be physically mined out instead of shifted with magic, so she cannot make the Dungeon itself change.”

Edwin blows out a breath and bows his head, closing his eyes for a moment in the cool night air as he listens to the goddess explain the things he'd only been able to guess at.  The real question, however, is what to do once they get into the Dungeon.  It was a question that has been nagging at him ever since he offered up this quest.

“You do not need to show mercy, Demon Lord.”

Urmis' voice causes him to look up again at her, a startled look on his face that makes her giggle rather cutely.

“Parin offered herself up to help control this Dungeon, and in that she acquitted her duty.  The neglect and abandonment that followed was not of your doing, thus you need not be crushed under the guilt of ending it regardless of how much it may pain you.  There are no easy answers in this situation.”

Edwin however cannot help but frown, before he shrugs one of his shoulders.  His face turns into a mask of concentration as he uses his mana to gather up enough of his mist to pull open the top of his robe, exposing the vivid black markings circling around his chest along with the shining blue facet of the crystal embedded just over his heart.

Urmis sees it and lets out a hiss of surprise, blinking her golden hues before leaning over to look closer, one of her small hands reaching up as if to touch it, although she does refrain after a moment of hesitation.

“I'm already carrying Jottenhiem.  I was hoping to take Parin, too.  I am not sure if it would be enough to break the magic that binds her to the dungeon, but leaving her alone is no longer an option.  But if she is as corrupted as you said, then I fear that her death may be the only way to salvage the situation.”

He cannot help but admit to what he had in mind, although he isn't sure if he could do it at all.  Taking Jottenhiem had been a fluke, if nothing else, and he still doesn't understand that part of his power.  But it is still an option, at least to him.

“I have never seen such a thing before... Nor the black markings, which are of a sigil I've never seen either.  You are full of surprises, Edwin.  If you believe that you can take Parin without being forced to destroy her, then do it.  Heart Crystal's are rare, far more rare than gods, and are powerful in their own right.  However, know that I will not blame you if you are forced to come to a different decision.”

She looks honestly surprised, and stares at his broad, muscular chest for several longer moments before looking away.

“My time grows short, and I have something else to tell you.  Do not trust Justin Steele, Angela's cousin.  He seeks fame and glory above all other, and sees both you and Angela here as stepping stones to gain what should rightfully be his.  At least in his own mind.  He will go forward into this endeavor in order to gain access to the riches held within the Dungeon, but he may also decide to sabotage anything you wish to do contrary to his own desire.  Be careful.”

Edwin also agrees with Urmis' take on Angela's cousin, although more for the fact that he seems like an asshole and a prick than anything truly dangerous.  Then again, he'd died previously from the same sort of people, so he plans to keep a watchful eye on Justin all the same.

“I understand.  I'll be careful.”

Urmis nods to him then smiles, looking up at Edwin.

“Please look after Angela here, as well.  She can be headstrong or demure as the situation calls for it, but she just truly wishes for the independence she's been denied as part of the royal family.  I'd rather not see her hurt.  I've become quite fond of my Priestess.”

Urmis steps back from the railing and swirls around as if taking a dancing step, causing the end of her robes to flutter up in the breeze like a skirt.  At the same time she's raised her arms above her head and gives Edwin a look of like 'Isn't she just so cute?'.  Edwin actually chuckles a little once he's turned around to watch her.

“Oh, one last thing.  Think of it as a gift.”  Urmis says, stopping her light playing and suddenly stepping up toward Edwin.  Before he could stop her she's reached up and grabbed his face, only to follow her hands and kiss him fully on the lips.  He's so startled that he isn't able to respond.  That moment of hesitation gives her more than enough time to bite his lower lip, drawing just a drop of his blood which she licks before pulling back.

“Don't neglect your growing harem too much, 'kay?  Your current form not withstanding, you make more than a few women quite happy.”

The bite on his lip heals over quickly, and for a moment all he can do is stare at her dumbly, which brings another girlish giggle from Urmis before she winks at him.  Then, just as suddenly as she had appeared, the golden hue of her eyes switch off back to Angela's more normal gray-silver color.

“She... she didn't! Oh, Urmis! Tease! Flirt! Get back here!”

Yep, Angela is definitely back, and apparently knows what all had happened.  Especially because Angela is blushing furiously and looking both shy and angry at the same time.  Edwin though just shakes his head while blowing out his breath.  It helps to cover up the chuckle that he felt obliqued to squash.

He has no idea what the goddess was hinting at, however.  He isn't dense, and knows that several of the women around him are interested, but Delora was the only one he'd ever felt the need to push into a physical relationship with.  No doubt the three girls on his list are making plans of their own now that he's shown to be sexually interested, however.

No doubt the fight between Delora, Cernette, and Allisa is going to be intense.  At least once he gets his body back anyway.

*DING*

You have gained the Goddess Urmis' blessing!
Health regeneration is doubled so long as you continue to maintain the Goddess Urmis blessing.
Unknown.
Unknown.


“Urmis is definitely something.”  Edwin cannot help but point out once he dismisses the notification.  Health regeneration is a good bonus to have, regardless of what it casted him.  That and the fact that Urmis' kiss had not been chaste in any way, shape, or form.

“She's a nosy busybody is what she is!  If I didn't like healing others so much I'd seek service with another goddess to get away from her and her pranks.”

Angela is still huffing and has already started to pace back and forth across the balcony, only to blush again every time she sees Edwin standing there, watching her.  She can definitely tell he is amused, but is quite thankful that he isn't poking fun at her for it.  If anything, he's shown admirable restraint, and isn't even blushing himself.

“Well, giving a kiss was more than worth gaining Urmis' blessing.  That and she didn't act all high-and-mighty.  I'd probably kick a more self-important god.”

That makes Angela snort and finally stop her pacing, although she is now refusing to look at Edwin at all.

“There are quite a few of those out there, Edwin.  Urmis is more levelheaded and compassionate by comparison.  You should be thankful for that.”  She tells him quite openly, even dismissively when she mentioned the other 'gods'.

He doesn't miss that, and a slight frown crosses his lips before he shrugs.

“Back on my world there were two major religions that both had various offshoots and sects within them.  Both of them were monotheist, and the worshipers practically despised one another.  Several of our largest and longest wars happened between the two.  When neither side could destroy the other outright, they turned to small teams of terrorists, saboteurs to inflict as much economic and social damage as possible against the other.  And to scare the masses that had started to slowly move away from religion all together.  It was all a big mess.  I imagine it is quite different and yet similar here.”

Edwin really doesn't know why he's even talking about it, to be honest.  He'd never been overly religious, with one church seeming just the same as any other, regardless of which god, messiah, or incarnation of the same damned thing they represented.  At least Christians had stopped the whole hanging, beheading, and burning at the stake thing.

Islam still has a way to go in that regard, at least with the extremists that had still been a problem when he was alive on Earth.

“Yes.  It has been a long time since there's been any real fighting between the churches of the various gods here, but it has happened.  The kingdoms of the Southern Land tend to be more interested in trying to fight over the Spine than within their borders, even if it is against each other.  I cannot say for sure, but I know the various demon cities and clans and races also fight amongst themselves, but as individual warriors instead of with armies.  Similar to the Trail of Strength I heard you underwent soon after arriving here.”

Angela's admittance wasn't really that much of a shock to him by now.  In a way, the Southern Land kingdoms remind him of Rome, where almost all the fighting was done on the borders, well away from the civilian populations so they wouldn't have to see the carnage.  No doubt that kept most of the commoners well away from the evil 'demons', even though one kingdom may be fighting another on land they don't even own.

It makes him sigh.

“Good to know that the humans here can be just as messed up as the demons, and that both are just as bad as the humans from my old world.”

Angela looks thoughtful for a moment, but simply nods, not able to say anything back about that.

“We have work to do in the morning, so it is time to get some rest.  We have a dungeon to raid.”  Edwin finally says after a few moments of awkward silence, turning from the railing of the balcony overlooking the city.  He summons his mana to pull his mists back together then starts to float his way back inside, leaving the priestess to watch him go.

-|- -|- -|-

The next morning the Citadel was bustling with activity, even more so than was normal.  A lot of people knew something was up, and that it involved the Adventurers that had been called in the day before.  Something was going on, and people being the naturally nosy beings they are, many of them wanted to find out what it was all about.  Those involved however had been instructed not to say a thing.

That included the fully armored and armored contingent of Jottenhiem guards that had been billeted in the little-used barracks the night before.  The stragglers took a while to get there, having been so spread out in their various tasks.  The guards just didn't have enough trained troops yet, and with quite a lot of area to patrol they had been spread out far and wide to maximize their effectiveness.  That, however, meant that it could take a while for messages to reach them, and then even longer for them to report in to find out what was going on.

Thankfully the entire group hand picked by Cormic was professional, so none of them complained even if not all of them had been allowed a full nights rest.  Everyone did get a big, hearty breakfast, and was allowed a few hours of free time to rest up or restock whatever necessities they required for the days ahead.

The others were catered to as they required, with the Citadel's quartermaster making quite a bit of gold off of everything sold from the stores, limited as they had been.  Potions, weapons, gear... the human Adventurer's and the guards went through it all and what wasn't in stock was quickly ordered from places down in the city.  Lucien had set the budget for all of that, but did let slip that Edwin was basically paying himself back for everything the guards and Adventurer's purchased.

That had drawn a bit of a chuckle from, the two of them.

Still, the atmosphere was heavy and tense, expectant on the outside and focused on the inside.  Even though Edwin had managed to sleep quite well the night before, he hadn't forgotten the Goddess Urmis' rather dire warning.  And that worry was eating at him quite a bit even though he could do nothing else about it.

They were all going to die.

However, Angela had admitted that such portents are not really prophecies, or set in stone.  They tend to be more of a feeling, a hunch that could go either way.  She wasn't overly worried, although she had blushed when he'd cornered her to ask just before breakfast.

Edwin had eaten in his study, while the Adventurer's and guards had eaten in the hall off the kitchens.  Mostly it had been for a moment of privacy, something he hadn't really had since he woke up to his change.  Lucien or one of the others had constantly been around him, making sure he didn't get hurt or something equally unpleasant happened to their weakened ruler... but Edwin had needed some time and space to simply sit and think.

The fact that everyone was almost outrageously busy this morning gave him the perfect excuse for that.

First thing Edwin had done was pull up his Status Screen, which he'd been almost hiding from.  He knew that things were bad, and didn't really want to face just how bad they are.  But here, by himself, he finally bites the bullet and checks to see just how far he'd fallen.

STATUS SCREEN
NAMEEdwin CastRACEVoid Demon
CLASSLEVEL
Demon Lord / Master of Dungeons10
Physical AttributesStrengthDexterityConstitution
Totals74 (10)56 (10)93 (20)
Mental AttributesIntelligenceWisdomCharisma
Totals644460
Applied AttributesHealthManaStamina
Totals750930750
LeadershipLuck
3170
Unused Stat Points5
TRAITS
(LOCKED)
Demon's Tail is a unique combination trait that allows the growth of a freely shape-shifting, prehensile tail; which can be used both in combat and out.  The tails limitations are directly connected to the levels of the skills associated with it.

Skills unlocked: Tail Whip, Tail Manipulation, Tail Enhancement, Tail Morphing.
Blessings
Blessing of Goddess Urmis'.
Health regeneration is doubled so long as you continue to maintain the Goddess Urmis blessing.
Unknown.
Unknown.


He was quite surprised at the much bigger holographic blue panel that pops up in front of him, and it takes him a moment to realize that the new additions show his purchased traits, of which his tail is currently locked, as well as Urmis' blessing.  It shows permanent editions.  That is pretty cool.

Just like he had thought however, his physical attributes are all in the tank.  It has barely left him as strong as he had been when he was first summoned to this world.  Only his constitution is greater than that starting point, but even then it is offset by his current weakness to light.

He does make sure to read over everything, before finally dismissing it with a thought.  There's no reason for him to become despondent simply because of a temporary situation, right?  He has to force himself to not fall into a depressed spunk by blowing out a hard breath and sitting up straighter in his chair.

There's still work to be done, and he isn't about to fall behind by becoming depressed over what is already arguably spilled milk.  Heh.  Do they even have that saying here in Eternia?  Edwin isn't sure, which brings a chuckle of the ribald humor to his lips.

He finishes eating and then sets the plate and cup aside on the coffee table in front of his usual chair, then forces himself up and out of his seat.  It is time to prepare, and now that he's done with his moping, he's already starting to think about how he can be of use without physically being able to take action.

The one thing he thinks of is using his magic.

His magic is the one thing that the incomplete transformation he's undergoing hasn't tampered with, and he tests it to make sure by summoning a ball of flame that winks into existence in front of his hooded face.  It works just fine, and he dismisses it even while producing a wide, feral grin.  Which thankfully no one is able to see.

He can use that.

“Jottenhiem, is there any way to store spells for later use?  Like a scroll or a gem that someone can make?”

His sudden question of his full time companion causes a startled reaction that he can feel in his chest, before he hears the 'hmmm' of thinking echoing up to his ears.

“There are, but none you are able to produce at the moment.  Scroll Making is a delicate, time consuming process that most magic users scuff at.  Alchemists make low level ones to sell to the general population or guards or Adventurer's; but they are limited due to how much mana and resources they have on hand.  I don't think that is what you have in mind, however.”

Well, if nothing else, Edwin got to learn something new today.  Although it shouldn't have surprised him that there was alchemy in this world, it was the first he'd heard of it.  He does doubt that it is anything like what he is familiar with, as well.

“Yeah... I need a way to store an already prepared and casted spell for later use so I can preserve my mana.  Moving around actively requires to me to use my mana, which means that if I run out I'll be immobilized, and yet not being able to assist in the fighting is a bit much for me.”

He explains his thought, and is a bit taken back when Jottenhiem breaks out in childishly cute giggles.  What'd he say?

“Oh, sorry, Edwin.  I thought you were just being funny there for a moment.  All you need is a Mana Crystal to store your excess mana so you can use it later when you need to.  It is much more efficient than making something to store spells.”

He could clearly still hear the humor in her tone though, and he has to shake his head to keep a frown from forming.  It seems that Jottenhiem wants to drag this out for some odd reason.

“Yeah, that'd definitely be helpful.  Any idea on where I can find one of those?”

His own wry tone makes her laugh even more, the brightened blue glow of her amusement shines even through his black robe.  Thankfully it doesn't hurt him, although it should.

“You already have one, silly! I possess the same ability to store mana that Mana Crystal's do, but in far larger quantities.  Hahaha.  So sit back down and I'll show you how to do it.  Where did you think I put all the mana I siphon off of you ever since we bonded?”

Edwin does as directed, and learns how to open himself up enough to directly connect to the Heart Crystal embedded in his chest.  The process turns out to be quite simple, if a little involved.  He simply ends up thinking of it like having a battery inside of his body where he can store the excess power.

He ends up staying there for several hours, pouring almost every drop of his mana into Jottenhiem's crystal and feeling that he'd barely poured a cup of water into the parched desert.  She literally sucked every bit of it up and still had room for more.  And more.  And more.  And even more.

Putting mana in was easy enough, but getting it out again was a tad trickier.  Jottenhiem really couldn't help him there, because it was something she'd never tried before, either.  All of her contractors put mana in, but only Edwin had ever tried to pull mana out.

He does eventually figure out how to do it, and is more than a little surprised when it finally occurs.

*DING*

[tr][td4]You have gained the Mana Manipulation skill!
By practicing a way to store and draw mana from the Heart Crystal Jottenhiem, you have gained an innate understanding of the structure of mana and how it is used both inside the body and out.
Skill Name:Skill Rank:Skill Level:Skill Experience:
Mana ManipulationBeginner111.0%
The skill that governs your understanding of mana and it's aspects that affect both the living  and the inanimate world around you.  A very useful skill to have for the aspiring magic user, but also for those involved in Alchemy and other scholarly pursuits.

Increases the efficiency of magic.
Increases the regeneration of mana.
Increases the ability to use raw mana.
Increased sensitivity to the flow and control of mana.
Mana Sight (10 feet).


Almost as soon as the message pops up in front of him, his entire view of the world changes.  Where before he could see everything physical, now it was like a lense had been put in front of his eyes.  Vivid colors that seem to flow like currents pushed about by the air swirl in every direction.

Some squirm, some wiggle.  Others are dispersed like clouds or mists.  Some of them worm away in converted patterns while still others drift or seem to strain to remain stationary in the air.  Everything is covered in riot of colors, which of which have their own textures.

Even his body is covered in the colors, and looking down at his chest and stomach he can see the hazy soup of black that hangs heavy and limp.  The parts of his body that is currently mist gives off an almost black light glow, while what he could see of his remaining flesh gives off a steady pulse of the same color.

“Cool...  Now how do I turn it off?” He cannot help but mutter to himself, although there's a slight grin stretched across his lips.

He looks back at the panel, which he hadn't closed yet, and tries to touch the Mana Sight segment.  But nothing else comes up.  There isn't any other information at all available, nor does it say rather or not the Sight is an ability or a skill in and of itself.

That is a tad confusing, and more than a little disconcerting.

One thing is immediately clear though.  The different colors of the mana he can now see corresponds to the elemental affinity of that mana.  And if there's raw mana in the atmosphere, why can't someone use it instead of their internal stores?

Something to work on later, at any rate.

-|- -|- -|-
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Viken

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