Now, where were we?
Wait, I started off the last chapter that way. That is such an easy way to transition into a new chapter… but I suppose that I should not overdo it.
Now then, where were we?
It is much more diverse with an extra word included!
Now then, what happened next?
I see. That phrase and its many combinations are even more powerful than I might have originally believed. An entire story could likely be told with each and every sentence beginning with such a phrase!
Truly a powerful phrase. I should be careful not to overuse or else it may overwhelm my writing and the series would be nothing but that phrase and its variations.
I must show restraint. There is nothing that can defeat me, and that includes extremely useful phrases to begin chapters!
Now then, where—
That was close. I had to grab my hand to physically stop myself from finishing that phrase.
It is truly, truly powerful.
Therefore, instead of relying on something as useful as that phrase, I will have a much more sudden transition instead!
I wanted to test my strength.
I did not have an opportunity to fight since my battle against the pyre emperor, and the new strength that I knew my body was full of tempted me into testing it out.
That was why I gathered my gnomes.
In an attempt to learn more about my body, its capabilities, and my limits, I was going to spar with my monsters just like how they used to spare with each other.
None of my other monsters had any interest in sparring, especially Corra, but they all seemed interested in watching our training session.
“Please, do be careful not to hurt them,” Deiti warned me.
Of course I was going to be careful! The last thing that I wanted to do was hurt any of my monsters.
I turned my attention to South Guardian and nodded, beckoning him forward.
South Guardian returned my nod and lunged at me with a fist ready to strike me.
I turned my body, copying how I watched Ahti fight, and countered his punch with one of my own!
Our fists crashed into one another with enough force to blow my hair back. His hair, of course, was still stone and so could not be blown.
I broke him.
His fist cracked and crumbled in front of my own, his hand to his wrist falling to the ground as a shattered mess.
My hand was bruised and I did feel a minor amount of pain, but that was it.
I reached down, picked up his broken hand in my own, and asked, “Deiti! What do I do?”
“You could not break your monsters in the first place,” she answered.
“How do I put him back together?”
“You have seen Ahti heal overtime. Just let him naturally heal.”
I grabbed South Guardian’s arm and tried to put the hand back on it.
It fell and broke into even smaller pieces.
“Would you stop panicking? You are the most overdramatic being that I have ever encountered.”
Seeing as how she was still a part of me, she was able to feel every single one of my emotions and know my thoughts.
And yes, I was panicking.
None of my monsters – well, Corra being accidentally injured excluded, had gotten harmed since our battle against the pyre emperor. Now, I myself broke one of their hands.
I looked into South Guardian’s eyes, most likely making the most worried expression that I had ever made.
It helped that I had yet to make many expressions.
But of course, since all of my monsters were and still are the best monsters that I could ever ask for, he was understanding and shook his head to try and reassure me that he was alright.
“Are you in pain?” I asked.
“No,” he answered, reminding me that he could talk.
I already forgot on an almost daily basis that Ahti could talk because of how rarely she did it. South Guardian and Pit Twin talked even less.
“Are you sure?” I asked.
“I’m sorry. You can rest for the next month.”
“A month is far too long for such a minor injury! Do not forget that you are speaking to a monster!”
“That isn’t needed. I will continue serving you no matter the injury,” South Guardian responded.
I mentally glared at Deiti since it seemed as if he somehow heard that he did not need a full month’s rest.
“I order you to rest for two days. You are not allowed to disobey this command,” I told him.
South Guardian, for the first time, showed me the slightest of smiles and nodded his head. “Thank you, my lord,” he said, copying Corra’s style of addressing me.
Now that I knew my full strength was too much against my monsters, it was time to try out half of my strength.
I turned my attention to Pit Twin.
She took a step back and looked to the side at the same time, pretending that she did not notice me!
But before I could try again to naively get her attention, Ahti stepped up and cracked her blocky fingers while maintaining eye contact with me.
“Do not worry, Ahti. I will not use as much strength as last time,” I told her.
Ahti shook her head and said, “Full strength.”
“I refuse to hurt you. I do not wish to harm any of you, so I will not use all of my strength after seeing what it—”
“You won’t hurt me.”
Her monotone voice was full of confidence. Borderline smug confidence.
There was so much confidence that Corra looked jealous.
The rest of my monsters did not know whether to be impressed by her confidence or worried for her.
As much as I wanted to take it easy on her, how could I when she was so confident? I believed in her. To make light of her confidence would have been a direct insult!
I nodded and beckoned her to approach.
Ahti smiled and lunged at me in the exact same manner that South Guardian did.
I prepared to counter her just like I did him, but that was foolish of me.
Ahti jumped up, grabbed onto my extended arm, and swung her leg around to kick me directly in the side of my head!
I wasn’t going to take it easy on her, and she most certainly was not going to take it easy on me. Her kick had enough force in it to stagger me and almost knock me over, and then she pushed herself off of my arm before I was able to grab onto her.
“Please protect yourself better. Do not forget that I can feel all of your pain.”
Deiti might have been displeased from the pain I felt, but I enjoyed it.
My monster – my Ahti was taking me seriously.
She was never able to go all out with any of my other monsters because she was always in a class of her own.
But not anymore.
Now she had the perfect partner to practice with.
And the same went for me.
I charged her this time, trying to punch her in her shoulder, but she ducked under my attack and countered with a punch directly into my gut.
A cough forced itself out of my throat as I brought my elbow down to hit her, but I only grazed her back as she dodged out of the way.
The reason for her wanting me to go all out became clear.
She knew that she was going to take severe damage if I hit her.
That was why she had no intention of ever letting me hit her.
My monsters stopped worrying about her and started worrying for me.
But, no matter how worried they might have been upon seeing me get hurt, they stopped worrying when they saw my smile.
Fighting Ahti, even if she was making me hurt more than the pyre emperor ever did, was fun!
The two of us continued chasing each other around the room, throwing kicks, punches, knees, elbows, and headbutts at each other whenever the other was in range.
I was faster and stronger than her, but she was far more experienced. Her skill closed the gap between our power with ease.
Unfortunately for her, I also had far more stamina.
She slowed down and I landed my first direct hit on her, sending cracks rippling through her left arm.
Her arm would have been destroyed had I not halved the strength of my attack.
She looked up at me with a pout.
“Sorry,” I apologized. “I could not bear to purposely harm you. Besides, you won already.”
“I didn’t win,” she said with crossed arms.
“Yes, you did. You would have killed me had I been anyone else.”
Her attacks that were enough to crush the metal protection of humans and their bones were only enough to bruise my skin.
However, I was bruised all over from my ankles to my head whereas she only had one cracked arm.
“You took it easy on me,” Ahti said, still pouting.
“Because you already won.”
“You did. The rules are whoever gets hit ten times first loses. You hit me over twenty times before I hit you once.”
She looked like she wanted to dispute my logic, but I changed the subject before she could.
“Does your arm hurt?” I asked.
She shook her head and looked it over.
Despite her arm having cracks running through it around the source of impact, she was still able to move it around and swing it with just as much efficiency as before.
“Good job,” I said, patting her head.
That finally got her to stop pouting.
“Who is next?” I asked, looking over the rest of my monsters.
None of them acknowledged my question.
There was, however, Corra who rushed up next to me and wrapped her arms around my own. She made sure to hold my arm in such a way that her chest pressed up against the side of my arm, too. The result was a very alluring sight that I did not yet understand at the time, but I will tell you this: she knew exactly what she was doing.
“My lord! Are you alright? Are you in pain?” Corra asked me. “To hurt you in such a way… I would never hurt you, my lord!”
“I’m fine. Thank you. Now, let’s start,” I answered.
“Start? My lord?”
I took my arm away from her and got into my battle stance.
“E-eh? My – my lord? I – I did not mean that I was volunteering to—”
“Don’t you want to test your new body? You have fire now. Let’s test it.”
Corra looked all around for help, but the only help she found was Ahti pushing her back to push her closer to me.
“My – my lord! Perhaps there would be a better way to test—”
I beckoned her forward.
“You are being very cruel right now,” Deiti told me. “We both know that she has no interest in fighting you.”
“But she looks… I don’t know the word. I like how she looks right now,” I said, regarding Corra while looking at Corra, to Deiti.
She went from panicking to blushing.
“The word you are looking for is ‘cute.’ She looks very cute right now, I will admit.”
“Yeah. She looks cute.”
Corra’s cheeks turned a brighter shade of red as she repeated what I just said. “Cu-cute? You – my – my lord thinks I look cu-cute?”
Corra looked down at the ground, flames appearing at the tips of her fingers as her shoulders shook.
“My – my lord…”
She looked into my eyes.
Her eyes were full of excitement, of fire – of lust.
“My lord, how am I supposed to hold back when you excite me so much…”
I had no idea what the purpose was for Deiti’s “oh,” but I did not care. I was more interested in the growing flames surrounding Corra’s hands and forearms.
“Are you ready?” I asked her.
“Yes, my lord!” Corra answered with the most excitement that I had ever heard from her.
I beckoned her forward.
She held her arms out to me.
From her arms spewed two vortexes of flames headed by the heads of dragons.
The heads at the ends of her flames looked just like Deiti’s did when she was still a dragon and not just a soul combined with my own.
“I see. She might not appreciate me as much as she should, but her powers are still influenced by my previous form.”
As Deiti went over the discovery with herself, I braced myself for the flames.
I did not try to jump out of the way nor defend against them in any other way. I simply let the flaming vortexes crash into me.
They were impressive.
But they were nowhere near hot enough to harm me.
They were not even half as powerful as the pyre emperor’s. Neither the force behind the magical attack nor the heat of the flames were enough to stop me from approaching her through the flowing flames.
When she finally ran out of flames, I stood before her unharmed.
Corra sighed. She knew that she would not be able to defeat me, but she still wanted to try for me.
“I – did that only count as two hits?” she asked.
One hit for each flame vortex.
I nodded and raised my hand.
She flinched, worried that I was going to hit her as hard as I accidentally did in the previous chapter, but that was not my intention.
Instead, I stuck out a single finger and poked her shoulder.
I poked it ten times.
One poke equaled ten hits.
“I win,” I said.
“My lord! You touch too roughly!” she whined.
My eyes widened and I looked at her shoulder.
I did, in fact, poke her roughly enough ten times that a bruise formed.
“Why is your skin so delicate?” I asked.
“I have normal skin! You are too rough!”
“My lord is so rough… but thank you, my lord. You tried to be gentle with me, yes?”
“Yeah,” I answered with a nod.
It seemed like I had a long way to go before learning how to properly interact with those who didn’t have stone for skin.
“Thank you for trying, my lord. Let me show you how gently I wish for you to touch me,” she said, reaching out toward my hand before pausing as if to ask if it was alright for her to grab me.
Gently placing her hands around my wrist, each of her hands still being too small to wrap around my wrist, she slowly and carefully pulled my hand to her body.
And she placed it directly on her chest.
Her soft, warm breasts.
For the first time, I felt a woman’s chest directly under my hand.
“See, my lord? This is how gentle I wish for you to be,” Corra said with a blushing smile.
And then my other wrist was grabbed.
Ahti roughly brought my other hand against her smaller-but-still-perfect chest, roughly pushing my hand against her.
“Full strength,” Ahti told me.
Under one hand, a woman who wanted me to be as gentle as possible.
Under the other hand, a woman who wanted me to be as rough as possible.
The two girls turned to look at each other. Now, Corra was the one pouting as Ahti showed her a smug smile.
I was a very conflicted dungeon core.
A very happy dungeon core, but also a very conflicted one.