Chapter 106
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Well I can’t say I’m surprised, truth be told I think to myself as I watch the hero-marker enter the map from the stairwell. A moment later a handful of the other familiar markers come into focus as they enter one after the other just behind him. Now obviously, there is an issue at hand here, friend. One I’m a little confused about myself. You see, this was the last floor originally, right?

 

  Well, if that’s true then… where are they going to go? Is there a ‘new’ staircase here that leads to the floor below? To floor ninety-one? Because as far as I know there’s only the secret staircase and honestly, I don’t even know where that one comes up into this floor. I remember it was behind some bookshelf but… well, there are more bookshelves here than I can tell you about. The entire floor is just made up of bookshelves and a short-haired carpet that really does need to be cleaned more often. Dungeon-life can be so unhygienic.

 

  But no, really. This is a dead end, isn’t it? For them? Swiping my menu away, I decide to worry about it while continuing my search. If it’s a dead end for them, that means they can’t go further and clear the dungeon by reaching the last floor anymore. That means… I’m safe from timing out, doesn’t it? Will they just be stuck here forever? Just wandering around the library in a circle looking for a staircase that doesn’t exist?

 

  Wait no, there’s a bigger problem. If I die and respawn below, how am I going to get back up here? I can’t take that pipe that leads here as anything else other than an ooze, which I’m not guaranteed to respawn as to begin with but… no wait. I stop myself for the third time now. There’s a staircase on the floor below that leads up, right? So there must be one here that leads down. Uh… I’m lost, guy. Sorry. The mechanics of this whole dungeon-life, respawn forever, cosmic punishment thing are just too much for little old me to keep track of. I can tell you all about mushrooms though if you want?

 

  Did you know that the thing you probably think of as a mushroom isn’t actually the mushroom itself? The uh… uniquely shaped growth that sprouts from the ground is just the fruiting body, the reproductive organ of a mushroom. The actual mushroom is the mycelium, which is sort of a series of clear, colorless roots that are buried beneath the substrate and spread out far and wide. That’s why if you have some food that’s gone moldy, say some bread, it isn’t safe to just scrape it off and eat the rest. Because you’re just scraping off the fruiting body, but the real mold is still spread through the food itself, most likely invisible but all too present. So just throw it out, okay?

 

I bump against a shelf, not having paid attention to where I was going. Reorienting myself, I turn the corner and continue my search. Wait.

 

  Aren’t they just going to kill the dungeon-master now that they’re here? Won’t them doing that make me respawn? I figured that was what was happening this entire time to begin with but apparently not. Somewhat worried I rise up out from the shelves and look to the pit, but everything seems to be as I left it, though I think I hear some fighting off in the distance, off behind the shelves on the other side of the floor. Hmm. Floating back down I continue on with the task at hand.

 

  Mushrooms aren’t plants either you know? They’re their own unique kingdom that is entirely separate from plants and animals actually! What am I even looking for I wonder as I bump around from shelf to shelf, scooting some books to the side and looking behind them as if there would be a secret passage hidden in the shelf, which to be fair, there might be. But there isn’t this time. I push the books back where they belong and think.

 

  If I was the dungeon-master, where would I put the secret staircase in the library? The section on wine making? No… too obvious. Alcoholism self-help? No, too introspective for the boss. Maybe in the adult only corner, honestly I’m not sure why we even have that. I think it’s just uh, you know, just for the dungeon-master. But… hmm… well, it’s possible actually now that I think about it. The problem is I have no idea where that is now since the library has shuffled again. Mm…

 

Did you know that mushrooms are extremely important for the natural cycle of death and rebirth? Fungus is a decomposer in natural environments since it gets rid of old dead matter, breaking it down and returning it to the soil in a usable form.

 

Hmm… I wonder i- AH!

 

Something grabs me out of the air and I squirm and fidget as two hands tightly grip my cover and swing me around to face her smiling self.

 

  “Hey! Hey!” She presses her face forward, so close that she is almost smashing her nose against my leather-bound cover. “I found you! I found you!” says the thief, her eyes glowing with their usual haunting glimmer. She lets out a small giggle which then turns into a laugh as she inches in closer still.

 

Did you know that a single large mushroom can release up to sixteen billion spores at once? Crazy stuff!

 

  Wrapping her wet fingers around each of my covers she tears me open and sticks her face inside of my pages and takes a deep whiff of the paper. I feel somewhat violated, I’m not gonna lie. I’m not sure if I feel more or less violated then when she stabbed me to death, but… you know, it’s up there. I’m glad Madeline isn’t here to see this.

 

She pulls back and holds me at an arm’s length with a broad smile on her lips, which have clear bite-marks. Something dribbles out from inside of my body. “You smell nice! Did you miss me?!” She presses me against herself. “I missed you! You were gone so long!”

 

I flap my pages, trying to talk.

 

  “I can’t speak book, you dummy!” she says laughing, as I barely manage to move my pages at all. “Hey! Hey! I got you something! You know?” I notice my insides stick together as I try to talk, but she continues to hold me shut. Looking down curiously I see that her fingers are covered in a thick layer of dripping red.

 

Suddenly there is a human scream in the distance that echoes out over the shelves. The room begins to rumble a moment later as it sets to motion once more. Whether the moving shelves were triggered by this shout or if it’s just a coincidence I can’t say.

 

  “Hey!” she spins me around in a circle as the world begins to twist all around us, as the shelves set to motion. “Hey! You know what? You know what?! I lied!” She giggles. “I lied just a little… But it’s okay! I know, I know you’ll understand!” she says smiling a giant, giddy smile at me as we spin.

 

  I twist myself curiously in her grip, not sure what she’s getting at. We really should move though, it’s dangerous here. But she seems oblivious, uncaring of the churning mass of shelves grinding past us. Her fingers clenching tighter and tighter around my body, the stained leather of my cover squeaks under the pressure she is applying to me and more wet drips out from between my pages that are compressing something.

 

“The truth is…-“ she laughs, her eyes growing wider and bloodshot. “The truth is, I couldn’t forgive her! I couldn’t forgive her for babying you when you were a dragon! I didn’t like the way she looked at you!“ she laughs, spit landing over me as it sprays from her mouth.

 

  “It’s okay now! It’s okay now! Everything is okay now!” she presses me against herself again, holding me tightly as the world shakes in an embrace. “See?! See?!” she extends me out to an arms length and spreads me open wide. Two crushed, green pupiled eyes fall out from between my pages, down to the carpet below.

 

“See?! I got them for you! I do it for you!” she laughs staring at me with an expression of childlike jubilance.

 


*~+---SPECIAL THANKS---+~*

Henry Morgan,  Shadowsmage, The Grey Mage, Spencer Seidel, Slime girl chapters 4 lyfes, chp2001

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