The next morning, Mae showed Lilith the list she had compiled. It mostly came down to passive benefits or things that would save Lilith the trouble of getting them herself, so her plan didn’t change much.
And the plan itself was simple – all she had to do was get as strong as possible as fast as possible. That in and of itself wasn’t as bad of a plan as it might seem, seeing as how she had, to the best of her knowledge, the most growth potential of anyone living.
The problem was where she would go to get her EXP. She could just go around the area below her own dungeon, killing everything she saw, but that wasn’t renewable. Eventually, far down the line, she would run out of monsters to kill. As things stood, she could most likely clear the area far faster than it repopulated, so if she was looking for a long-term training ground that wasn’t it.
Fortunately, Mae had thought of a solution. Apparently, after Lilith had gone to sleep, Mae had wrestled with this same problem herself and had come to a conclusion; she just needed to nurture one of the wild dungeons into becoming strong enough to be a worthwhile training ground. So, she had taken the time to find the most out of the way dungeon she could, hid the entrance even more, fed it resources, taught it growth tricks Nuwa had learned, and groomed it into becoming her own little secret powerleveling spot.
It still wasn’t as good as leveling in her own dungeon, but she couldn’t get experience from her own monsters, so this had to suffice. So, after she was done looking at the list, she and Nuwa (in the spare avatar), made their way to this dungeon, and did one final check before going in. Eve wasn’t there, being busy solidifying her status as an adventurer, but she was helping by giving any experience gains to Lilith instead of herself, as were Nuwa and Mae.
At the moment they weren’t really interested in the stats that came from Classes, as most of her stats came from her Racial Classes anyway, and Class growth slowed down quickly if she didn’t reset her Classes when she was done with them.
So, the goals of this session were to increase her Racial Class levels, obtain more Skills by progressing through Classes, and level up her Skills as much as possible. Her current Class was Magic Gunslinger, and she planned to keep going down that line, which would eventually culminate in Arch-Gun Magician and its similar offshoots, such as Arch-Fire Gun Magician and Arch-Gun Sorcerer.
Wordy as the Class names were, they would be as effective as they were hard to obtain. Well, hard to obtain for other people. To get them, she’d have to progress all the way through the gun Classes, the magic Classes, and the lower tiers of mixed Classes to get to those ones, meaning that, if she wanted all of them, she’d have to work her way through dozens of Classes.
She gave it two weeks if she went at it optimally, storing up every last drop of experience in Glutton’s Gullet and then using all that stored experience to go through most of the Classes in one go.
With that in mind, their little group entered the dungeon and were greeted by a window.
You have entered the Red Ruins!
Lilith waved the window away. Alright, where to first? She asked Mae.
Just wait for a second.
They did, and a few seconds later another window popped up.
Benefactor. Why come?
I’ve come to train. You promised I could in exchange for my help, remember? Mae said.
Remember. Is acceptable. Use right rooms.
Thank you, Red. I will be coming here to train a lot from now on, should we always use the right rooms?
Alright, I’m talking to just us now. Mae said. By right rooms Red just means the rooms on the right, not any specific rooms.
Sounds good. Nuwa, would you like to stick together or split up to cover more ground? Lilith asked.
Splitting up seems more efficient. I should be able to handle myself, if I have any questions I’ll ask. Nuwa replied, walking off.
I suppose we should get started, then. Mae, if you would guide us to where we’re going, that would be appreciated.
Can-do, mistress. With that, Mae walked them through a few rooms, eventually stopping at a large, empty room. Monsters should start pouring in soon. She informed. I had Red make a few rooms that just throw wave after wave of minions, it should be pretty good for farming EXP.
Sure enough, the walls opened, and monsters began to emerge. They were generic-looking, but they all seemed to be strong enough. So, Lilith began to slaughter them as they moved to attack her. Despite them being strong-looking, Lilith was still a Perfect Chimera and was stronger still, meaning that it really wasn’t much more exciting than clearing out monsters in Haven had been.
At the very least, there was a much larger variety of monsters to fight here. Some of them were even able to take multiple hits from her, even if she hadn’t been putting her all into the attacks.
She settled into a monotonous sort of rhythm of killing the monsters and Assimilating their remains, which she kept up for a couple of hours before the walls closed again and the monsters stopped coming.
Benefactor. Stronger than expected.
Lilith hesitated slightly. She wasn’t exactly sure what the best thing to say in this situation was, so she just opted to nod.
Curious. There is dungeon of benefactor, yes?
It took her a moment to realize that Red was asking if she had a dungeon. She nodded again.
Can see Benefactor monsters?
Mae, what do you suggest? I’m not privy to all your dealings or plans for Red yet.
Apologies, I didn’t expect Red to ask like something like this. Let’s bring in Saria, I like to make sure Red knows it’s dealing with someone much stronger than it, so it doesn’t get any funny ideas.
Lilith nodded. Alright, Red. Give me a few minutes to bring one here.
Nuwa, Red wants to see one of our monsters, so I’m going to fetch Saria and make sure it knows who the top dog around here is. You can take a break if you would like, or you can keep working, whatever you feel like. Lilith told Nuwa, leaving the chamber and working her way towards the exit of the dungeon.
I’m going to keep on working. I’m not tired. Nuwa replied.
A couple of minutes later, Lilith was outside and was about to summon Saria when she realized she didn’t know the best way to go about doing that. Um, Mae, do I just go get her from the dungeon myself or…?
She’s in telepathy with the rest of us. Just ask her to come and she’ll teleport straight to us, she’s got an ability that lets her know our location at all times.
Right, thanks. Then, directing her telepathy out towards Saria, Lilith continued. Saria, are you free? I need you for a bit.
Yes ma – I mean, yes Lilith. A moment later, Saria appeared in front of Lilith, panting slightly. “What do you need me for?”
“Red here wants to see one of our monsters, so we thought we’d give it a show.”
Saria straightened instantly. “On it.” She gracefully stalked into the dungeon, Lilith not far behind.
Benefactor. This not monster?
Yes, she is. Mae said. She doesn’t look like it in most forms of analysis, but she is. Check using your map’s identification function. It should show that she’s from a different dungeon.
Oh. Is monster. Want test fight. Go straight to next room.
Lilith guided Saria into the next room, where a giant, armadillo-like monster was waiting for them.
This boss. Confident will win.
If you’re so confident, you can let your boss make the first move. Lilith said, then privately told Saria not to go easy.
The armadillo rolled up into a ball, its plating sticking out such that it had the appearance of spikes, then charged toward Saria.
Saria grabbed one of the spikes, looking indifferently up at the beast that was more than triple her size. “Is that it?” She asked impassively, throwing the armadillo back against the wall of the room. “This isn’t even going to be a challenge.”
The armadillo uncurled, standing on its feet and shaking itself off. The act sent a barrage of spikes towards Saria, who extended two long, whip-like weapons from her hands and twirled them rapidly in front of her, staving off most of the spikes.
The last one, however, she wrapped up with a whip and then hurled back at the armadillo, striking it directly between the eyes and causing it to keel over. She yawned, extended one of the the whips further, grabbed the corpse, then flung it to Lilith’s feet. “There you are. The spoils of war, Lilith.”
Lilith Assimilated the corpse, waving away the new Skills she gained. Was that satisfactory, Red?
Confused. How such strength?
My dungeon is much farther ahead than yours, Red. Mae said. As such I’m able to create much more powerful monsters. Furthermore, your monster was too one-dimensional. It had the roll attack and the spikes, but that’s it. And even if the spikes hit, they come from the monster’s armor and don’t grow back for a few minutes. During that time, your monster is basically a giant pile of meat that can’t protect itself very well.
How Benefactor know these things? Should not know just from fight.
I have my ways, Red. May I return to training now?
Alright, that’s all Saria, thanks. Lilith said. You can go back to whatever you were doing.
“Yes, Lilith.” Saria saluted, then left the dungeon. Lilith and Mae made their way back to the right side of the dungeon, where they once again settled into the monotony of grinding for levels.
The meeting was a bit of an odd one for Lilith, as it highlighted the changes that had occurred while she was asleep. Most notably, there was one less of her than there had been. Carmen was…not gone, just…not as independent as she used to be.
But there were new additions as well. Carmen (Anna and Jameson’s child) was there, even if it was mainly because there would be no one to watch her and they didn’t want to leave her on her own or leave her with some random Adjudicator, as it was unclear how well they would take to babysitting.
Saria was there as representative of the Adjudicators and, as Lilith was coming to find, someone who lived in the “private” living space of the dungeon anyway. According to Nuwa, Saria was the most “personality-complete” of the Adjudicators, and Nuwa thought she brought a certain liveliness to the place.
But she couldn’t reminisce forever, so she put her musings to the side and properly started the meeting. “I believe most of you have been briefed already, but does anyone have any questions before we begin?”
There was silence. “Alright, in that case, I think we should open by having Judy list out the greatest risks Mai and her “children” pose.”
Judy stood nervously. “Um, so, the obvious bad news. Mai and Errus are both Perfect Chimeras, and as it stands, they’re both stronger than Lilith. I don’t know by how much, but I’m guessing it’ll take at least a month before Lilith could take Errus in a straight fight, and longer still before she could take Mai. Uh, if we’re talking raw stats, anyway. I don’t know how cohesive their abilities are, so theoretically that distance could be closed much sooner if really synergistic Racial Class Skills are chosen.
“The big problem is Mai. If it was just Errus and the rest of the children, then this wouldn’t be this much of a problem. I’m about ninety percent sure that Mai has a Skill similar to Lilith’s that gives her all her subordinate’s Skills. And she’s got an exceptionally strong way of making people her subordinates. You have to have some really good resistance to be able to bypass it, like…outside of the Perfect Chimeras there are probably only a handful of people who could outright stop it.
“You have to have multiple levels of redundancy, because she’ll use the Skill she gets from Envy to strip away your resistance, and even if you do resist but are captured, she’ll take them all over multiple days.”
“We’re not locking down, though.” Lilith added. “I’ve taken the liberty of placing a Watch on you all so I can always find you, and I’m working on getting you all an emergency escape button.” She paused, then turned thoughtfully to Kali. “Kali, if I went out of my way to make one with Worship, would Mai be able to counteract it?”
“Not a chance.” Kali confirmed. “Higher Being stuff trumps everything else.”
“Right. I’ll do it that way, then. Nuwa, can you be in charge of that?”
“Thank you. Judy, go on.”
“Right. Our biggest strength right now is actually the Adjudicators. From what I’ve been able to gather, monsters can’t be taken from their dungeon’s control by anything less than either a full takeover of the dungeon or the dungeon master willingly giving them away. So, the Adjudicators can freely operate.
“Furthermore, my swarm is still there. Kali’s done…something, and she can’t seem to properly respond to the swarm. She mostly just ignores them or kills any that get too close to her, and she keeps them out of any important meetings, but I have a pretty solid grasp on the day-to-day life of her commune, and I’ll be able to see if she starts making any big moves. That’s…pretty much the highlights reel, so…yeah.”
Lilith nodded. “This also isn’t in the public eye yet, so we’re free to handle it as we please. Any suggestions?”
“Split up Errus and Mai, deal with them separately.” Alex said. “If it’s only one of them we have to fight at a time it becomes significantly easier. Ideally, we’d capture Errus and deprogram him, in which case we could have potentially four Perfect Chimeras just storm Mai’s place and take her down. That being said, Isa’s probably guaranteed to help if the fight’s good enough, but what about Winston?”
“I think he’ll help.” Raphi said. “If I know him, he feels like he owes you for getting him out of the Elenoa situation.”
“That’s good, but we have to be careful. Mai got Errus somehow, so there’s a chance we’d be bolstering her forces if we lost any of them in a fight.” Lilith countered. “I think we should save them for forcing a showdown.”
“Keep your options open, though.” Siph said. “I don’t like the stakes here. She won’t kill us, but…she’ll potentially make us fight each other.”
“Not happening.” Lilith said flatly. “I’m going to make an effort to keep any of you from any battlefield where Mai or Errus is, and if you get caught by anyone else, I’m taking you right back. Even if you do get brainwashed, Kali said she’ll fix you if I can keep you here long enough, and they can’t take you out if I keep you in Kali’s house.”
“Does…that mean we can fight elsewhere?” Mike asked.
“Yes. If I’m reasonably confident Mai or Errus won’t show up. I’ll need to place a Watch on them first, though, that way I can tell if they show up.” Lilith responded. “Judy, are there any teleport protections around their home base?”
“Yes, but I know where they stop, and you can just walk right in.”
“How long would it take to get from there to where Errus and Mai usually are? I’ll use Absent Alarm so I can just go full speed and they won’t notice, but I only have ten minutes of that.”
“That should be plenty. The exclusion area isn’t too big.”
“Let me do that.” Eve volunteered. “It’s less risky if I get captured. I can just retreat from my avatar and destroy it if need be. It’s not ideal, but it’s better than you getting captured.”
“Reasonable. Get it done as soon as you can. Any other ideas?”
There was another silence. “Alright, let me know if you think of anything. I’m going to focus on training up and getting stronger while we get more information. So…meeting dismissed, I guess.”
Carmen looked up from the tablet she was playing on. “Does that mean I can go?”
“Yes, you can go, sweetie.” Jameson said.
“Yay!” She ran over to Fenrir, reaching up to his side. Fenrir bent lower to let her on, and, once she was on, left the room with her. Following her lead, people began to disperse or chat amongst themselves.
“Well, I’m going to go place a couple of Watches.” Eve said. “Judy, if you could come with me to give me the proper coordinates, that would be welcome.”
“I…guess I’ll be going to level up again.” Lilith said. “Don’t hesitate to call me if you need something.”
Absent Alarm affects all of us Parallels at once. Mae said, best wait until Eve is done.
“Scratch that, I’m taking a short break. Kali, you up to watch a tv show or something?”
“Always!” Kali replied enthusiastically. “Let’s go!”