“You girls ready for this?” Kora asked excitedly.
“I suppose so,” Xera responded. “Here’s hoping it’s not another cold-themed one. There’s nothing more infuriating than snow that refuses to melt.”
“Personally I’m fine with whatever, tktktktkt,” Drea chittered. “Other than those vacation spots, I mean.”
“What, really? I thought you looked pretty hot in that micro-bikini thing last time,” the archfiend pointed out.
The webstalker may have been hiding herself as per usual, but Kora knew that nervous chitter well enough by now to determine she was probably blushing from embarrassment. As for why the three of them were communicating verbally rather than telepathically, it was because their Master was currently sleeping. Their banter would surely disturb Boxxy if they were to use the shared mind-link, so it forbade them from doing so unless it was an emergency, forcing the trio to use the far more mundane method of speaking words at one another.
“Anyway, I guess we’d better get this show on the road. Lavender!”
“What’s up, Arms-boss?”
“Go get Ambrosia.”
“Like, right away!”
The alraune then disappeared in the same abrupt manner that she had arrived in. It was almost scary how quick she had become at operating the Nexus Access feature to move her flower all over the dungeon. She didn’t necessarily need to do that though. The dryad had somehow altered Lavender’s floral biology so that she could walk around on her own two legs rather that being anchored to her honey-pot of a flower. However, much like how Boxxy to this day spent its free time as a spider-legged chest, the alraune too had a preferred way of doing things.
As for Ambrosia, she rose out of the bark-covered ground in front of the demonic trio the same way she always did. She was currently in the middle of enjoying her second spring season with Lavender by her side, so her vine-like hair was covered in beautiful pink flowers to reflect her tree’s canopy. The rest of her was still as green and voluptuous as ever, except that her bust had grown slightly perkier. Her face was not all that pleased, however, and Kora had a pretty good idea why.
“Yes? What is it?” the dryad asked coldly.
“Yo. Didn’t mean to interrupt your pollination or whatever, but could really use your help with this.”
The archfiend held out an all-too familiar square pink gem, which had only just now regained its coloration. Ambrosia sighed, took the Divine relic from the demon’s hand and cupped it between her palms. After about a minute of rapidly being charged to full, the Atlas of Dreams popped out of her grasp and began forming a new instant dungeon. Having fulfilled her part, the dryad bowed with a ‘Fare thee well’ and vanished back into the ground, leaving Boxxy’s familiars to stare at the rapidly forming portal.
Though it didn’t come with an instruction manual, copious amounts of experimentation had allowed the shapeshifter, and by extension its minions, to grasp the limits of this Divine item. Not to mention all the way it violated the natural laws of magic. For instance, the monsters within its instant dungeons awarded combat XP when defeated, despite being conjured purely from mana. They were also uncharacteristically deadlier than their equivalents in their natural world, though that was mostly due to their minds.
Or more specifically, the lack thereof.
Creatures born of the Atlas operated on what appeared to be an odd mix between cold hard logic and natural instincts. They were less like sentient beings and more like meat dolls that had no real will of their own. Even the enlightened that sometimes appeared were nothing more than puppets dancing to some unheard tune. To put it another way, they lacked the soul of a regular dungeon-born creature, which would normally disqualify them from granting XP when ‘killed.’ This also meant they were somewhat predictable, but at the same time this mindlessness made them ruthless and efficient. It was the ideal example of how well a body could perform without any sort of thought or consciousness holding it back or distracting it from its purpose.
This did, however, also mean that said creatures would die immediately if brought out of the instant dungeon. Which, incidentally, was the second way the Atlas of Dreams broke common sense. Anything it created could be taken out into the ‘real world,’ at which point it would become permanent despite being conjured from mana. With some restrictions, of course. The object in question had to be small enough to fit through the portal, and there was a limit to how much mass could be taken out of it.
The instant dungeon’s lifetime would be diminished each time something it created was brought out of it, either by carrying it through the portal or placing it into Boxxy’s Storage. The amount of time the pocket dimension would remain stable would be reduced by three minutes for every five kilograms of mass was removed from it. Meaning that, given the thing’s maximum duration of one hour, one could take out at most a hundred kilograms of material from a single activation.
Once its time was up, the instant dungeon would begin to collapse over a period of three minutes. Any attempt to take further items out of it would be met with failure, as the matter would just disintegrate upon passing through the pink entrance portal. Once the dungeon completely collapsed, any foreign matter inside - such as living things and equipment - would be ejected. The Atlas of Dreams would then go gray for a little over five days, and would only regain its pink luster when it was ready to be used once more.
Which was precisely what Kora, Drea and Xera were currently doing. Boxxy rarely had the need or desire to challenge those instant dungeons, so it mostly let these three use them to run wild and blow off some steam. Especially the archfiend, as she didn’t get as many chances to stretch her body as the stealthy webstalker or the shapeshifting djinn. Kora was therefore naturally the most eager to begin smashing things, which was why she leapt through the pink portal the instant it stabilized.
You have entered a Golem War Zone instant dungeon.
Immediately she was met with a desolate, brown wasteland, completely featureless save for the few charred tree stumps. A thick layer of smoke and clouds blanketed the sky preventing any sort of direct sunlight from passing through it. It was by no means quiet though, as a deluge of rumbling and clanking was descending upon the fiend from her left and right side.
“Oh, good. Should be fun,” Xera said with a wry grin.
“Speak for yourself. I’m gonna struggle with this one, tktktktkkt…” Drea grumbled with an annoyed chitter.
The two demons had followed Kora after she dove into the instant dungeon, and all three for them had a pretty good idea of what was about to happen. Though the exact layout and monster composition of an instant dungeon were randomized to a degree, it always followed a certain theme or setting depending on its name. Furthermore, there were a limited number of these dungeon templates available. Meaning that if one ‘explored’ the Atlas of Dreams long enough, they would eventually see all the different scenarios it had to offer.
For instance, this Golem War Zone was something the demonic trio had seen twice before. That was how they knew that the two rumbling fronts closing in on them from either side were two small armies that would clash right on top of them. What made this particular dungeon troublesome was that they were all war golems similar to Fizzy, though their elemental alignments and subspecies were randomized each time.
In this case, one side was made up of forge golems wreathed in flames, while the other were turbine golems infused with the elemental properties of wind. Both kinds were wide, bulky, heavy, about two meters tall and predominantly human-shaped, though none of them seemed to be made out of a precious metal like Boxxy’s trophy wife. In fact, shiny things were exceedingly rare in these instant dungeons, which was why the shapeshifter didn’t have much interest in them. Nevertheless, even if it was a bit mundane the steel covering these two armies still made them far sturdier than any meatbag hoped to be.
The charging constructs didn’t even wait to get within striking distance before opening fire on one another. The two steel fronts began bombarding one another with built-in weaponry and innate magical abilities the instant the distance between them shrank to about forty meters. Glowing bolts of plasma, lumps of smoldering magma and slicing winds powerful enough to dent armor began ravaging the already desolate ground. This was exactly how this scenario had played out twice before, including the part where both armies were poised to clash against one another right on top of the dungeon’s only exit.
Which was why Kora, Drea and Xera knew that standing in the middle was a really bad idea.They dispersed immediately, with the archfiend leaping towards the forge golem ranks on the left. The red-hot constructs fired on the approaching threat with their hand-cannons, hitting her armored guard a total of four times before she managed to land within hitting range. At that point she ducked low to the ground so that those things couldn’t fire at her without hitting their own allies.
The forge golem immediately in front of her swung its steel fists at her one after the other, but she effortlessly caught both of them in a hand of her own. She then used her four extra limbs to grab hold of its shoulders and squeezed on them like a massive pair of pliers while pulling on its wrists. The golem’s body groaned and creaked, but it was unable to prevent its arms from being pulled out. Its faceless head was then bludgeoned from both sides with its own limbs, crushing it like a walnut.
Kora left the headless thing alone and moved onto the next one, which was preparing to blast her in the face with its arm-mounted plasma cannon. Already in a half-crouching stance, the demon moved all three of her right hands in a scooping motion, throwing a rather rude amount of dirt at the golem - just enough to fill its barrel and jam its weapon. The fiend shaped one of her left hands like a spear and jabbed into the steel monstrosity’s center of mass.
The armored claw-like finger tips pierced its outer shell, though they failed to do much to the underlying layer of metal. At least until Kora used her two other left arms to strike the primary one’s elbow, driving her hand further inside the thing as a hammer would a nail. She then pushed the golem off with her right set of arms, ripping its core from its torso and crushing the spherical part within her grasp as if it were a hardboiled egg. Needless to say, the forge golem did not survive having its ‘heart’ removed, but Kora wasn’t done with it just yet. She grabbed the lifeless steel shell, lifting it up by the hole in its chest with the intent to use it as a shield while making her way over to her next victim.
“Two down, ninety-eight to go!”
Over on the turbine golem side, Xera was also doing her best to thin out their numbers.
The bright yellow beam of concentrated heat energy struck one of the wind-imbued constructs from above, rapidly melting it on the spot. The thing tried to counter by using Heat Exchange to drastically lower its temperature, but the djinn’s magic proved too much for its steel frame and reduced it to a pile of molten scrap all the same. Xera grinned gleefully at this result and moved onto the next one, melting it like a candle before a blowtorch while cackling like a maniac. The constructs on the ground naturally fired up at her, but were having trouble hitting the airborne target. The slutty demoness had been practicing her aerial maneuvering quite a bit during these instant dungeons and was displaying a competent degree of evasive movement despite the lack of a supporting Skill. The illusory copies of herself she was leaving over the place were a good smoke screen as well, making it hard for the ground-based troops to target the real one.
Her pyrotechnics display still did not last as long as she had wished, as she saw one of the steel turbine golems rocket towards her from the ground. This individual had a much sleeker frame than most other war golems and was using the jump jets on its back and legs to rapidly gain altitude. It flew right at the djinn, though failed to hit her since she dissolved into mist at the last moment.
With its thrusters recharging, gravity began pulling the construct back down to the ground, but it still had a hand to play. Activating its Vacuum Field Skill, the turbine golem proved its species’ name wasn’t just for show by sucking the vaporized Xera towards it. The demoness obviously wanted to avoid that, so she reformed her physical body and fought against the powerful air current long enough to finish invoking her newest Pyromancer Skill.
The djinn’s cheeks bulged out as she blew a stream of fire out of her lips, which shaped itself into a crude replica of her physical form. This combustible body double wouldn’t fool anyone in regards to which one was the real xera, but that was hardly its intended purpose. The freshly created Flame Effigy darted towards the falling golem like a large-breasted torch, colliding with it head-on and exploding into a plume of yellow flames. The golem slammed into the ground like a miniature meteorite, with Xera hitting it with a trio of Fireballs to make sure it stayed down.
She then unleashed a wave of flames in every direction, knocking the two additional playmates she had attracted off course. She proceeded to deal with them in a similar fashion as the first one that tried to tackle her out of the sky. Compared to Kora who was only just now dismantling her fourth forge golem, it was quite clear Xera was pulling ahead in the kill count. Hardly surprising, considering that long-range magic was a war golem’s weak point.
That six-armed blockhead aside, the djinn had also had quite a few spars against Fizzy. Though she never won, that was mostly because that ex-gnome was a Paladin that could heal herself on the move. She was an extremely unfair existence that made Xera glad that dynamo golem was on her beloved master’s side. These ‘wild’ war golems though? They were far easier to eliminate when compared to that ex-gnome, though only if Xera focused her attention on decimating them one by one. She could unleash an area attack Spell, but that would divert their attention towards her instead of having them focus on the opposing forge golem force.
But while Kora and Xera were competing to see who could rack up the most kills, Drea was somewhat struggling to do her part. She didn’t have the fiend’s ridiculous strength or the djinn’s potent magic. All she had were sharp blades meant for rending flesh and bone, not living steel armor. Which wasn’t to say she was useless. In fact, she had already felled four turbine golems and two forge golems. The current her was strong enough to rip right through their plating and gouge out their cores, especially if she managed to pull off an Assassination.
The problem was that, as stated earlier, her back-mounted scythes were not intended for this sort of abuse. All six of them were either broken or heavily dulled from cleaving through so much solid steel, leaving her with just her webs and the claws on her hands and feet. Though much sturdier, they also lacked the sort of penetrative power she needed to inflict any meaningful damage on those mechanized monstrosities. She could still theoretically kill those golems, it just took a lot more effort.
Something she was currently demonstrating against a turbine golem wielding a pair of axes made from its own body. The wind enchantment behind these weapons made each of its slashes fly forward, greatly extending its striking range. It still failed to hit the nimble spider-girl, allowing her to claw at its hands and arms with every missed swing. A particularly solid swipe on her part managed to tear off the golem’s right bracer, with a follow up strike cutting through the mechanical muscles operating its hand.
With one magic war-axe-wielding limb out of commission, Drea gained some leeway to start webbing up the metal construct. Globs of Impact Webbing were fired from her palms, which exploded into a mess of sticky silk the instant they collided with the golem’s armor. And the more the thing struggled, the more the webstalker’s strands crept into its joints. It was more than a little ironic, but the golem’s efforts to break free of its bindings were only ensuring it would have even less movement.
Except that some part of its automated thought process recognized that, even if they were made by a demon, the material it was struggling with was highly flammable spider silk. That weakness of her webs was why the arachnid demoness avoided those flame-belching forge golems to begin with. Unfortunately for her, all war golems had Heat Exchange, which was precisely what the turbine golem activated to get itself out of this mess. Scalding steam was ejected from its body, setting it free from its bindings by setting fire to them.
However, this self-generated steam cloud also made it lose track of its target. The mindless monster looked around and then rather abruptly gave up on scouring the area for the invader, instead choosing to focus on its pre-programmed enemy. This allowed Drea to sneak up behind it and pull off a successful Assassination, ripping off a huge part of its back with a single rending motion. With the outer armor stripped away, her magic sight was able to pinpoint the location of the golem’s core. She then began wrapping it up in webs all over again. With its Heat Exchange unusable for the next several minutes and lacking the power to break through her magic string with pure force, it could do nothing to stop her from immobilizing it. Or from subsequently ripping out its most precious part, for that matter.
The three demons continued gradually thinning out the numbers on both sides, but the tide of the battle was swinging massively in favor of the turbines. Their innate ability to control air flows allowed them to overwhelm whatever fire-based Skills their opponents used, giving them an advantage in terms of magical combat. It also didn’t help that Kora was leaving many of the forge golems in a crippled or disabled state, even if she didn’t kill quite as many as Xera. Drea was there too, though it wasn’t until her bladed limbs healed on their own that she was able to do any serious damage. At which point they would grow dull and broken yet again, repeating the cycle.
The point was that the turbine side was winning, and this wasn’t a good thing. Right now their attention was split between the forge golems and the demons, but more and more of them would focus on the latter if the former were to be defeated. Which was why Xera decided it was time to even the odds a little. She floated upwards, far above the war golems’ engagement range and clapped her hands together. After concentrating for a few seconds, a bright light began to pour out from between her palms. A few seconds more and she slowly opened her hands to reveal an apple-sized crystal sphere that looked like a large pearl.
This bauble was a focusing crystal, a common magical reagent typically made with alchemy. One that Xera normally did not have access to, mostly because it was nigh-impossible for demonic familiars to own material things. The thing in the seductress’s hands, however, was a product of her Djinn Job’s Conjure Catalyst Skill, which solidified a considerable amount of mana into a variety of arcane objects. Though the items created through this ability would disappear after several minutes, they were more than enough to satisfy the mandatory material requirements of certain Spells and Skills. Xera’s new focusing crystal, for instance, was necessary to unleash a magic user’s most devastating incantations.
Which, in the Pyromancer’s case, took the shape of a natural disaster.
The ground beneath the steel turbine golems began to shake, rumble and quake. The beaten soil exploded like a geyser of lava, which rained down in huge globs that covered a radius of twenty meters. Metal constructs caught in the initial burst were killed instantly. Those trapped underneath Xera’s hot, sticky stuff could do little as their metallic joints melted and warped to the point of being unusable. A number of the tougher golems managed to either blow away or evade the stream of molten rock, but were trapped between the lava at their backs and the forge golems at the front.
As for the one causing all this devastation, she was just laughing gleefully at the sight beneath her. It was only during these instant dungeons that Xera could cut loose with the Volcano Spell, and she was not one to pass up an opportunity to have a bit of fun. Her teammates were far less enthusiastic though, mostly because they were within its considerable area of effect when she unleashed it. Thankfully Drea had noticed the djinn performing the long-winded chant while she was hiding herself with Invisibility, so the spider-girl was able to get a head start in departing the area.
Kora, however, was not as fortunate.
“Jerome-damnit!” the archfiend shouted. “I told you to warn us when you’re pulling that shit!”
Though she was able to avoid the worst of that Volcano, she had to use a forge golem’s lifeless body to shield herself from it. Even then, the splashback from the lava that landed around her still managed to melt bits off her boots and thighs. One could argue it was her own fault for being too caught up in her Berserker’s rage to notice the sky was both falling and was on fire, but the djinn was ultimately the one to blame for not being mindful of her allies. The same allies that she continued to ignore while dropping a Meteor with a gleeful grin.
Kora did not appreciate being so blatantly disregarded, but she had more important things to worry about than that flame-happy titty-monster. Like the pissed off forge golem that blasted a hole through one of her arms while she was busy defending against her co-contractor’s magic. The Volcano was already subsiding though, allowing her to tackle the steel bastard to the ground and ram its own shiny metal ass down its throat. The archfiend was taking too much damage though, so she had to disengage from the forge golems and retreat through the portal that was the only way in or out of the instant dungeon.
Once back in the Dryad’s Domain, she dragged her burnt and broken body over to a relatively small pool of Ambrosia’s Waters of Life that the dryad kept full at all times. Kora practically fell into it, letting the restorative fluid heal all her wounds and regrow her missing body parts. Of which there were surprisingly few - a wrist, an arm, and various chunks from her thighs, shoulders and breasts. Her current condition was a far cry from the first time she challenged a Golem War Zone, which she left as a disembodied spirit on its way back to the Beyond.
It would therefore be somewhat of an understatement to say that her current ‘could be a lot worse’ condition was a marked improvement over how she was a year ago. A development that could be attributed solely to her master, though not because the creature’s MP had risen, giving her yet more power. While that did technically happen, said increase was much too small to facilitate this sort of difference. No, the main reason Kora was doing so well this time around was because she was actually paying attention to Boxxy’s training.
One would think an archfiend would have very little to learn from a monster that was literally hundreds of times younger, but Kora was a special case. She was actually quite young for a demon, and Boxxy was only her third contract. One of them was as a crime boss of some kind that mostly had her act as a bodyguard and deterrent, but she didn’t see too much action. Her second master only used her to move furniture, so she got even less combat practice then. Meaning that at the time when Boxxy summoned her, it was already more experienced than her when it came to combat, and the gap had only widened since then. She had been able to cover up for that fault with overwhelming strength, but her confrontation against the Gilded Hand proved just how hollow her power was.
In short, Kora was a textbook example of the demerits of power leveling.
Thankfully, her shapeshifting master had been greatly improving its ability to educate others during its day job as a scout instructor. Though originally it mostly intended to use that as a source of doppelganger XP, being able to more efficiently train the most braindead of its minions was an unexpectedly tasty byproduct. It mercilessly drilled Kora, using an imitation of her own six-armed form to spar with her, showing her all the ways she was ‘doing it wrong.’ Boxxy lacked the ridiculous base strength of an archfiend, her outrageous STR Attribute or a front-liner Job like Berserker, but it still trounced her time after time using pure technique and speed. The demoness hated losing in a straight up fight, which her master used to motivate her to better herself.
It took time for her to overcome her stubborn nature, but Kora was something of an idiot savant when it came to violence. She was actually not too dissimilar from how Boxxy was back when it was still a mimic, at least in terms of mentality. Whether it was because of that, the influence the shapeshifter had on her, or a mixture of both, Kora was still able to make great strides in adapting a more careful, consistent, and ruthless approach to combat. One that relied on combination attacks, anticipating her opponents’ actions and making full use of her above-average size and weight. Boxxy also thoroughly educated the archfiend on the subject of grappling moves, which Kora found she greatly enjoyed doing. There was just something magical about holding her victim down while she choked the life out of them. It was hard to say whether smashing or crushing was better, though the archfiend was actively investigating the topic.
In fact, by the time she rose from that regenerative pool, she was more than eager to resume her… intensive research. Admittedly those walking tin cans didn’t make for the best data since there were no mushy bits, but knocking them about was still better than doing nothing. Walking back into the instant dungeon, she saw that the two hundred war golems had been reduced to precisely thirty four, all of which were heavily damaged. Letting out a vicious war cry, Kora joined Xera and Drea in systematically wiping out the stragglers, each femme brutale employing her own preferred methods of murder.
After a few more minutes of face-smashing, flame-throwing and back-clawing, the final war golem fell by having its golem core pierced by the webstalker. The three demons did not relax though. This was their third time in a Golem War Zone already, so they knew full well what was coming next. And then, after about half a minute of waiting on edge, something did indeed happen.
Congratulations! You have cleared the Golem War Zone instant dungeon!
To the victor go the spoils.
However, that message was not the thing they were expecting. Neither was the solid steel chest that popped up out of the ground in front of them.
“Uh… what?” Kora blurted out.
“I think we… won?” Xera said in a confused manner.
“But shouldn’t this be the point where Buckethead shows up?”
Once every war golem was defeated, a ten-meter tall boss version would show up. Or at least that was how this scenario had played out during its previous iterations.
“Tktktktktkkt… I think it might have been because you left the dungeon,” Drea chimed in. “The moment you passed through that portal I thought I saw a small ripple of mana radiate from the exit.”
“That makes a good deal of sense actually,” the djinn nodded.
“It does? How’d you figure?”
“Elementary my dear dicks-for-brains. Dungeons reward effort. The greater the challenge, the greater the spoils. You leaving the dungeon in the middle of the fight was probably interpreted as us being unworthy to challenge the big guy and get the more impressive reward.”
“Oh yeah. Come to think of it, tktktktk, none of us left the Golem War Zone the last two times. Well, other than when we, you know, died. Tktktktktkt…”
And when they came back into that same instant dungeon after getting resummoned, there had been no trace of the boss monster whatsoever. All things considered, it seemed that was an ‘optional’ challenge that would only appear if the smaller war golems were cleared out with nobody entering or leaving the dungeon. In addition, it seemed that there would be no reward whatsoever if the invaders failed to complete it, a sort of ‘double or nothing’ scenario.
“Hmm, just another piece of information for the Master, I suppose,” Xera said thoughtfully. “Dibs on telling it, by the way!”
She was clearly hoping to score points with Boxxy in order to earn its full-bodied attention that much sooner.
“No fair! Tktktktk! I was the one who told you about the thing!”
“The world isn’t fair, dearie.”
Drea obviously had some complaints that were immediately rejected by Xera, but Kora didn’t really care about that sort of petty dispute. Sure, she respected her master’s capacity for violence and destruction, but unlike those two, she didn’t want to do any kinky stuff with it in the slightest. She was instead far more curious what sort of reward their ‘partial success’ had been awarded with though, so she went over to the metal chest while the other two bickered.
When the archfiend got closer, she realized this was no mere steel container. Its surface was covered in some sort of machine-like decoration, almost as if the chest was a war golem itself. That thought led her to briefly consider how her master would look like as a metal construct, but a loud clicking and grinding noise put a stop to that thought almost immediately. The mechanisms covering this custom-built box were winding themselves up all on their own, until the lid suddenly sprang open with a crisp bell ring.
A small piston platform rose from the pointlessly intricate box, atop which lay a single steel sphere around ten to fifteen centimeters in diameter. Upon closer inspection it wasn’t so much a solid object as it was an intricate ball-shaped puzzle made up of countless tiny metal fragments that fit together perfectly. Kora reached out with a hand to pick it up, then remembered how Boxxy made her run laps around the tree until she died of exhaustion, all because she had scratched up one of its shinies. So, rather than risk going through that pointless jog, she removed the armored gauntlet protecting her main left arm and picked it up gently with her bare hand.
Now that she held it between her fingers, she finally realized why this thing looked so familiar. She had ripped out and crushed quite a few of these in this dungeon, but this was probably the first time she was seeing one intact. Or inert, for that matter.
“Isn’t that a war golem core?” Xera asked while floating over Kora’s shoulder.
“Think so, yeah. Wait, where’d bug brain go?”
“She got pissed I called dibs so she went out to eat away her frustrations.”
“Oh. Anyway, this feels like a bit of a crappy reward.”
“I wouldn’t say that. Fizzy would probably be happy to have one of these to study. Or as a backup. Or something. Point is, if she’s happy, Master will also be happy.”
And keeping Boxxy happy was a good way of reducing the likelihood it would take away the various freedoms it had given its familiars. Such as Drea being able to gorge herself on Ambrosia’s fruit or letting Kora ‘play’ with Lavender. Xera was a bit different in that she wanted to please her Master so that it would pleasure her in return, but that too was something that could be denied if she were to misbehave.
“Yeah, I guess,” Kora consented. “Here, you can give this to the boss.”
She then idly tossed it to the djinn, who reached out to grab it as if it were a kickball.
“With great pleas- Oooof!”
“You okay there wonder-tits?”
“Y-yeah. It’s just heavier than I thought.”
It wasn’t like Xera was too feeble to carry the thing around, but having that much mass packed in that tiny a container caught her off-guard.
“Yeah, there’s a good twenty kilos in there. Means we should have another twenty five’s worth of allowance before this place goes.”
“It… it does?”
“Well yeah. It’s been a little over half an hour, so given the time-to-weight ratio we can take forty five kilograms worth of stuff out easy… What’s with that shocked look?”
“It’s just that… since when can you do math?”
Xera was then catapulted clear across the battlefield with a light jab from Kora, who caught the dropped war golem core before it hit the ground. Just because the archfiend wasn’t the smartest person around didn’t mean she couldn’t do simple arithmetic. Especially when it came to these instant dungeons. Kora was someone who used the Atlas of Dreams at every available opportunity, so it was only natural she’d grow accustomed to the way it worked.
In any event, the clock was still ticking, so she ignored Xera’s lustful moaning in the distance and began picking over the scattered fragments and mangled bodies. Almost immediately she found a relatively intact turbine golem, one that had been assassinated by Drea. She lifted it off the ground and then, with as much grace as a fiend could muster, pulled the thing’s head off its body. The helmet-like appendage got a bit bent from the exercise, but Kora didn’t mind since it was like leaving her signature on it. She could just have Fizzy fix it up if she wanted it returned to pristine condition anyway.
A golem head in one hand and a heart in the other, the archfiend then exited the instant dungeon, the pink-hued portal letting out a burst of white noise as the objects passed through it. Kora then accessed the ‘big boy’ dungeon’s Nexus Access feature and transported herself to Boxxy’s treasure hoard. The place had grown so bloated with coins, gems, statues, magic items and precious metals that the shapeshifter would probably need to make a second one within a month or so.
Right now, however, Boxxy was sleeping within the mithril chest called the Vessel of Dreams, which had absolutely no relation to the Atlas of Dreams despite the similar names. Kora strode over and placed the inert golem core on the small pedestal some fifteen meters away from her slumbering master. Any closer than that and she ran the risk of intruding upon its magical perception and waking it up, which she wanted to avoid. ‘Cranky’ did not even begin to describe what Boxxy was like when its rest was disturbed without a valid reason.
After leaving behind her ‘offering,’ the fiend then strode over to an adjacent chamber, which was more of a large closet than a treasure room. Its much smaller size aside, even its contents were far less shiny. Ripped up banners, broken swords, smashed up shields, cracked monster skulls, broken tusks and all manner of other damaged goods lined the walls, either on shelves or mounts. Kora’s face adopted a delighted toothy smirk as she looked upon her handiwork, then went over to a shelf with an empty spot and placed the turbine golem’s head alongside the rest of her trophies.
Granted, ‘trophies’ may not have been the most accurate way to describe this random collection of seemingly worthless junk, but it was certainly the nicest. It wasn’t completely wrong either, as each piece signified a victory Kora had gone through, either inside or outside those instant dungeons. Even Zone’s charred arm bones were inside a plain-looking display case in the corner, though those were technically a memento of Boxxy’s victory rather than Kora’s. In fact, it was the shapeshifter’s idea to grab those remains and turn them into a souvenir that inspired the fiend to start this little collection of hers.
And indeed, as odd as it sounded, this stuff was definitely ‘hers.’ She may have been a demon whose existence in the physical realm was transient, but these items bore the marks of her fists, feet and horns. There was nobody who could dispute her claim over these items, nor was there anyone other than herself who could access the secure location they were being kept in. Well, aside from the others that dwelled within this dungeon, but none of them had any interest in these un-shiny, un-tasty and un-natural objects. Therefore, for all intents and purposes, Kora had become something of an anomaly - a demonic familiar that owned actual stuff.
In her mind, however, the archfiend’s possessions included a lot more than a bunch of inanimate trophies. Lavender the alraune, for instance, was also her property. Admittedly it was more of a joint ownership between Ambrosia, Boxxy and its familiars, but it was still ownership nonetheless. Kora also liked to think she owned Xera’s plump ass, as the constantly horny djinn never rejected an offer to get double-dicked to near death. The various grappling and submission techniques the fiend had learned from their master played a big role in that particular relationship.
Then there was the mind-boggling fact that she also had the romantic attention of Teresa, the Goddess of Truth and Justice. The blonde bombshell of a deity herself admitted to having such feelings, which even she recognized as being illogical and probably a bad idea. Then again, so was the two of them having actual children, which Teresa seemed almost as ecstatic about as having intimate relations with Kora.
A feeling that, surprisingly enough, the archfiend seemed to share. She didn’t want nor ask to have offspring with the goddess, but now that she had them, she found herself wanting to go see them, maybe show them a thing or two. Which, for once, was not actually an euphemism for her genitals or any acts that required their use, but her genuine wish to be a good father. Or at the very least as good a father as a violent sociopathic rapist could be.
“… Huh?” she grunted. “Come to think of it, have I actually raped anyone since the boss hired me?”
Kora talked about forcing herself on others a lot, but she was having a hard time recalling whether she’d actually done that. Her master didn’t approve of the act on the job since it was an inefficient combat strategy, so she never had a chance to violate her enemies. As for the group’s downtime, she had that more-than-willing succubus to satisfy herself with since day one. Even the two demons’ first time, as violent as it was, still came about as a result the blue-skinned seductress’s intentions. Anyone else the archfiend boned since then had been a consenting partner, be it plant-woman or goddess. Admittedly the mind control aspect of the dungeon core might put the former of those into question, but ethics was not a fiend’s strong point.
The fact of the matter was that Kora had serious trouble recalling whether she violated an unwilling individual at all. She had a feeling there might have been an incident or two where that did happen, but not being able to remember them probably meant they weren’t noteworthy in the first place. Hardly surprising considering the caliber of the archfiend’s regular partners. Besides, it wasn’t like she necessarily had to resort to sexual assault to get her kicks.
Whether it was Xera, Lavender or Teresa, there always seemed to be some voluptuous vixen on hand for her to satisfy herself with. Indeed, looking at it logically, why would Kora ever bother exploring some random mortal’s inferior holes when she could just enjoy the ones she had ready access to already? Then again, trying new things was a necessary step if Kora were to obtain even more eager-
The sound of something heavy hitting the bark-covered floor drew the fiend’s attention downwards. She only caught a glimpse of it before it evaporated, but it looked worryingly similar to one of her metal-clad horns. Reaching a hand up to her scalp, she confirmed that the leftmost of her three horns was indeed missing, almost as if it had suddenly fallen off all on its own.
“Damn, probably got busted up when I stabbed it into that forge golem,” she grumbled while rubbing the place where it used to be attached. “Must’ve been hanging on by a thread or something.”
The demoness casually attributed the odd event to lingering battle damage and went to take another dip in Ambrosia’s healing bath to grow back her missing head ornament. After which she went about her night as if nothing had happened. This chain of events proved she was still much too green, though not because she was playing around pretending to be a minotaur during combat.
It was because she was not yet fully aware of the significance of a demon’s horns.