Chapter 44C: Year 2, Day 61 – Shayma
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Shayma still wasn’t used to having the Great Dungeon of Wind there on the edge of her senses. It was a bit like a Skill, a bit like her connection to Blue, which she was now more aware of, but mostly like something else entirely. At least it wasn’t a very demanding presence, just one that she had to adapt to. She was glad that Blue had left the seed-ship down in the depths, though, because she’d been back twice already.

Once was just to check that there was nothing obvious to be dealt with in the complex machinery of the Dungeon’s Status. It was actually slightly simpler than Blue’s, but that still meant it had a lot of entries to be looked over. She hadn’t seen anything at the time, but obviously she’d missed a trick because the other visit was to deal with an issue with wind Classes.

She had felt a sort of inquiry through her connection and Blue had provided a portal over, which was good because in the ten minutes or so it had taken, a surprising amount of requests for a wind-based Class had appeared inside the weird interface she got when she touched the Great Dungeon’s cores. It seemed that it was taking some time for the dungeon to reconcile with everything else and reassume the role it was intended to have.

Fortunately she didn’t need to actually go through and approve things manually, like Blue was having to do with stellar Affinity. There were far too many names for that. Instead, she did a bit of mental poking around and found a way to just automatically allow people to take Classes, and was done. When she got back home to her beach house, she scrutinized Blue’s interface for the same. It didn’t have it, and before that might have been it, but she had rather more insight into dungeon interfaces now that she was linked to a second one. She focused, and projected the feel of turning on the automatic approval into Blue’s own interface.

“Oh thank God.” Blue said, relieved. “I was getting really fed up with that.”

“You mean thank me,” Shayma said with a grin.

“You’re right, thank Shayma. That’s why you’re my favorite fox-girl.”

“I’d better be!” She stuck her tongue out at the core.

“Well, Sienne is pretty funny…”

“Hey, you leave my mom’s terrible jokes out of this!” Shayma protested.

“So you prefer your dad’s sense of humor?”

“That’s even worse!” Shayma shook her finger at him. “I’m almost glad that you can’t talk to them directly. All you’d do all day is make bad jokes.”

“We probably would,” Blue admitted. “Though I guess he doesn’t have as much time these days what with being the Ell patriarch and all.”

“Oh, he’s loving it,” Shayma said. Her adventure with the Great Dungeon hadn’t really changed anything so far as the Ell retreat went, but with another completed quest both her parents had inherited a sort of reflected glory in the eyes of people in the know. Which was everyone on Orn, Caldera included. Iniri hadn’t missed the chance to make several rather smug proclamations about the three of them. “I think he misses the shop sometimes, but neither mom nor dad were ever really cut out to be shopkeepers.”

“Do you miss it? I mean, with your crafting abilities you could easily set up something in the Village, or wherever.” Shayma considered it, but not for along, because she already knew her answer.

“No. I’ll keep smithing and stuff because it’s fun, but it’ll be to play around and for me and my friends. It’s not like I actually need money, right? I did enjoy being a shop kid when I was small, but I’m not that anymore. I’m a [Hero] now, and it’s a big wide world. There will always be something for a [Hero] to do.”

“So you’re thinking about going back out to find something already?” Blue asked in surprise.

“Oh, no, not yet. I’ve definitely earned some time off.” She stopped to consider. For most people, time off would be a few days or at most a week or two, but she was more or less ageless. Shayma hesitated to use the word immortal, even if Ansae did, but it wasn’t like she had to much worry about the passage of time. She could take a lot of time to do something other than level. “I mean, I have to properly spoil Marin and Eva and Grant, don’t I?”

“I believe that is the customary role of an aunt,” Blue agreed gravely.

“And there’s going to be baby dragons. So many baby dragons!” It was absurd how adorable the children of multi-ton sapient killing machines were. Like clumsy flying cats.

“So what, Taelah is going to be the Caldera Mom and you’ll be the Caldera Aunt?”

“You bet I am. I think I need to balance some of this high-flying fate-of-the-world stuff with some normalcy.”

“I’m pretty sure playing aunt to a bunch of dragons is pretty weird to most folks.”

“Bah, they just don’t realize what real living is.”

“I suppose what you consider normal gets a little bent around me.”

“A little,” Shayma admitted, holding up a thumb and forefinger close together. “But only in the best ways.”

“That’s me, weird in the best ways.”

“I’ll say,” Shayma laughed. “Good thing I love it that way.”

“Aww, I love you too. Even if you aren’t a weirdness magnet. Or maybe you are? You’re the one that found me, after all, not the other way around.”

“Looking back on it, it’s all so surreal. Who would have ever thought a hole in the ground would lead to all this.” She waved around at the beach house, the Caldera, and the state of the world in general.

“Ha, got you beat there. Who would have thought that being a hole in a ground would lead to all this?”

“Who would have thought that going into a hole⁠—” Shayma stopped, realizing what she’d just said.

“Usually it’s the guy that goes into the hole, and that always leads to something.”

“This is what I mean about your sense of humor,” Shayma said, mock-scowling.

“Sure, sure, but you brought that one on yourself.”

“You’d better watch yourself! I have a bigger dungeon I can go to now,” she teased him.

“Uh-oh, I’m in trouble. What can I do to get back on top?”

“Well, if I’m taking some time off anyway, I figure I might as well catch up.”


“On babies.” Shayma rubbed her hands together gleefully. “I think Taelah had the right idea. Twins, to start.”

“To start?” Blue asked, as she felt his emotional link light up as black tendrils started to twine around her ankles.

“Well, I’ve got to keep up with everyone else, don’t I?” Shayma grinned. “To start.”