Chapter 46: The burning core
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“No, listen. Hear me out,” asks the blue-haired boy. He rubs his lip with the back of his thumb. “What if we just… bricked it shut?” he asks, staring at the dungeon-gate.

The elf, standing next to him, sighs and shakes her head. “The dungeon? You’re asking me what would happen if we bricked off the dungeon-gate? The whole thing?”

“Mhm,” replies the human boy, nodding.

The elf tilts her head, wiping a strand of ashy-blonde hair out of her face. “Are you dumb? Did you half-drown in a river and get brain-damaged?” She points at it. “It’d be walled off, obviously. That’s it. Door’s closed. What exactly do you expect to happen?”

He shrugs in response. “I dunno, I thought like… maybe it would get mad? The dungeon.”

“Uh huh. If that’s what you thought, then why are you asking it out loud, right before we’re about to go inside of it?” she asks, lifting an eyebrow. “If it can hear you and you just made it angry by asking that, I’m going to take it out on you,” she warns. The elf turns her head towards the dungeon and grabs the boy by his robe. “We’re not going to wall you up. This brat is an idiot. Feel free to eat him. I don’t care,” she says, pointing at him.

“Hey!” he snaps. The boy points at himself with his thumb. “No dumb dungeon is going to eat Rh-”

“- Shut it!” she snaps, shaking her head and pulling him inside of the dungeon. “Do you always have to make a scene like this in public? Don’t provoke the dungeon, twerp.”

The two of them vanish into the mist of the instanced dungeon.

 

~ A noted encounter of an odd pair of young adventurers, documented by a self-proclaimed ‘people watcher’, sitting outside of the old dungeon that would later change into what is now called the ‘central beginner’s dungeon’.

 


 

It is odd.

 

Isaiah sits on the very-big-tree, fiddling with a leaf as it looks at the uthra’s nests. Its eyes wander back out over the landscape, cheerful and serene. The birds, that had been frightened away by the tearing of the land and then by the witch’s horrible spell, have now returned.

 

The sun crests on the horizon and ruby rays shine in over the forest, proving that, despite everything, a new day will always come.

 

— This peace. It is… odd.

 

The [Graveyard] will now summon +1 [WISP]

 

This has been popping up every now and then. Isaiah wonders, what would have happened if it had never made an appearance down below? What if it had just sat here peacefully and let the bishop and his men search and explore on their own.

 

— Would they have come to the same conclusion? Perhaps.

 

But what is certain, is that the witch, Perchta, would not have been angered and so, many faces more would remain here to feel the glow of the crimson sunrise. One of the last of the early spring.

 

It takes two weeks for a clutch of blackbird eggs to hatch.

 

It takes two weeks after that for those chicks to become fledglings, capable of flight, in the most rudimentary sense of the word.

 

And two weeks after that for them to master the art.

 

Being a blackbird was quick and simple. It was just instincts.

 

Being a human with a life-path as a paladin was easy. Train as instructed. Worship as instructed. Fight as instructed.

 

But being Isaiah, it has no instincts of its own that are not born of either of those old lives and it has no clear instructions.

 

Isaiah rises to its feet, dropping the green leaf down to the grass atop the roost of the tower.

 

The witch. The gods. All of these creatures just complicate life, don’t they?

 

— Perhaps they are more of a problem than a hindrance, no?

 

Isaiah stares towards the ruby sunrise, wondering if it is itself, or if it is them.

 

Somebody is at fault. Right?

 


 

Arrival - [Divine Will]

 

~ [Whitefeather Harpy] ~
Class: Minion Element: HOLY/WIND
Type: Ambusher Category: Avian
Rank: C
Level: 16

Harpies are wild half-human, half-bird creatures. They prefer to roost only on very high locations, such as mountainous regions. They ideally prefer to build their precarious nests against flat rock faces and surfaces. Despite being partially human in their appearance, harpies are extremely territorially aggressive and lean more towards avian behavior than anything rationally human.

White-feather harpies are a specific breed, found only in the backlands beyond the western mountain. Born from eggs that are hatched in a holy spring, they are imbued with this rare element.

[Shrill Shriek]: A loud, ear-piercing screech that causes any non-monster within 10m to gain status [Disoriented]

[Talons of Light]: The harpy imbues its rough, sharp talons with holy magic, coating them in a protective layer of it to use as armor. All attacks deal HOLY damage that pierces armor.

HP: 61/61

SOUL: 29/29

 

A swarm of white-feathered bird-women fly in from the distance, swarming and swooping around the roost.

 

It looks like the ability that Isaiah had chosen several days ago has been working in silence the entire time. Honestly, it had forgotten about it. But it seems that these harpies were drawn in by the ability.

 

One of them lands on the roost. Isaiah tilts its head, looking at the monster. It is far more ‘normal’ a half-human hybrid than it itself is. If you block out the razor talons and the fluffy legs and the bird-feet, she almost looks like a real human with skin that hints of a life in the outdoors and scraggly hair that has likely never been washed.

 

The harpy clicks with her mouth, swaying with her head like an owl as she examines the roost, large, yellow eyes scanning the area.

 

Isaiah lifts an eyebrow. “You and your clutch may stay on the outside of the tower,” it says. “But not atop it. This is mine.” Isaiah shoos the harpy off. The monster hisses and snaps her teeth at Isaiah’s fingers, missing. She then flies off into the air, her flock of several dozen others flying after her.

 

Interesting.

 

A few wild, flying monsters in the area will keep intruders from climbing up the tower, like the second inspection team had tried to do.

 

New Area
~ [Dungeon] ~
Floor {48}
The forty-eighth floor of the tower dungeon. It is currently empty

Capacity: {98} Monster-Points

Traps: 04
Monster-Point prices per monster
F-Rank: 01 E-Rank: 02
D-Rank: 04 C-Rank: 08
B-Rank: 16 A-Rank: 32
S-Rank: 64 SS-Rank: 128
SSS-Rank: 256

The next sub-boss/challenge room will be available in {07} floors.

The next boss arena will be available in {02} floors.

 

Ah, Crystal is back at it already, his injuries have healed well with some magic.

 

It should get to work too. There is much to do.

 


 

Isaiah stares at the boss of floor twenty. A massive, raging creature, made up out of holy flames. But none of the flames burn. It doesn’t move. It looks like a strange, twitchy, broken mess, as if its presence as a whole were somehow being warped in its shape, rather than any licking tongues of flame.

 

“So, uh.” Red hovers next to Isaiah. “Do you think the bird thing is going a little far?”

 

Isaiah looks back at the boss. “No.”

 

~ [Dungeon] ~
Floor {20}
The Forgotten Phoenix’s Core

An enclosed, spherical room, made entirely out of metal. A ring-shaped walkway is suspended in the middle of the room with an outward reaching bridge on either side. Broken, massive statues, old weapons, ash and bones all float in the air, suspended in time.

Capacity: {01} Boss
[The Forgotten Phoenix]
Boss room: In order to progress, this boss must be defeated.

Upon success: Spawns {01} random, high-quality item of a level equal to this floor’s, according to the item drop pool of the boss entity.

 

Activates a shortcut to use at the entrance, which leads up to this floor.

Room Effect: [Phoenix Core]: As long as the boss is alive, the walkway will spin around. Any time-frozen items that are touched will return to a normal flow of time and fall down onto the walkway.

 

~ [Forgotten Phoenix] ~
Rank: C
Level: 10

An extremely rare bird. Phoenix’s are born of fire and return to it as they die, only to be reborn again.

This one in particular is trapped in the cycle of reincarnation, a powerful time spell having been cast over it.

Boss tactics

Core phase

 

The Forgotten Phoenix will freeze wherever it is, the broken time-weaving spell over it taking hold once more. It will be unable to attack, but will also be unable to take damage. Nonetheless, its radiating heat will still scorch the metal chamber.

Active phase

 

The phoenix returns to the flow of time, as if nothing had ever happened. It will prefer to stay at a distance and use long ranged fire attacks on any intruders. But, given the small, shell-like nature of the room, there is not much space to fly away.

Secret encounter tactic

 

Anyone who is debuffed with the tower status [MERCY] will not be viewed as a viable combat target for the phoenix.

HP: 120/120

SOUL: 100/100

 

“I like it,” says Crystal. Isaiah holds out its hand and Crystal lands on it, sitting down. The uthra’s wing is still bad, burnt from the witch’s magic. It makes flying too long difficult for him. “We’re really playing into the whole secret backstory of the tower,” explains Crystal. “The adventurers won’t know it, but they’ll piece it all together as they go through. It’s environmental story-telling!”

 

Red rolls her eyes. “Whatever.”

 

Isaiah looks at the phoenix, wavering as a whole, like the flames of a fire.

 


 

~ [Beulah] ~
Human, Male, Thief

 

Beulah hums as he works, replacing another screen wall in the shrine on floor eighteen of the tower. A light comes to the corner of his vision and he turns to look at the teal uthra. It flies in towards him. “Here’s your fabric!” says Teal. “Man, you sure are busy, huh?” asks the entity.

 

Beulah nods, taking the new load. “Thanks. What can I say, it’s a full time job.”

 

“Huh…” Teal floats there for a time. “You know, I bet I could make some kind of fire-proof cloth, actually,” it suggests. “That would save a lot of resources and it’d free you up to-“

 

“- No, no,” says Beulah, shaking his head. “It’s no good,” he says, nervously interrupting Teal. “Think about it. The moment a fight happens here, everything will get broken anyways, right?” he asks. “So why use super valuable, magical cloth for that?” asks the man. “I’m sure it would cost more resources than to just keep using this cheap stuff.”

 

“…Huh…” says the uthra. “You know, I never thought about it like that. I guess you have a point.” It nods. “Okay. Keep up the great work!”

 

Teal flies off.

 

Beulah sighs, lowering his head. That was close. He almost got replaced by some old fire blankets. This is the best job he’s ever had.

 

Something rustles behind himself and he turns his head to look.

 

A pair of shiny eyes watch him from around the distant corner. A pair of long, fox ears poking out of her head. Seeing that she’s been noticed, the kitsune vanishes back into the shadows.

 

Down at his feet lies a little bundle, wrapped in parchment paper.

 

He picks it up and opens it.

 

— Inside is a pretty rock.

 

On the parchment is scrawled, in terrible handwriting, ‘Thank you’.

 

He carefully folds the paper together and admires the rock, placing it into his pocket. It’s a good rock.

 

It’s nice to be appreciated for your work. This daily prize here is worth more than some gold or some Obols.

 

He’s not going to give this gig up.

 


 

~ [Isaiah] ~

 

“Did you make the stairs?” asks Isaiah, surprised.

 

Crystal shakes his head. “No. That would have been really fast,” explains the uthra. He points down the road. “The others and I just carried the carriages and the people down back to the ground below ourselves for now. They’re on their way back to the city.”

 

Isaiah nods.

 

“Crystal. Extend the road from the tower. Connect it to the end of our island,” it says, pointing towards the human city. “Make it of brick and make it as strong as you have made the tower,” it orders. Isaiah holds its hands behind its back, looking out over the horizon. “There will be many humans here soon. Very many. They will need a road.”

 

“You got it!” says Crystal, flying up into the air. Isaiah lifts a hand, stopping him. “- Tomorrow.”

 

“Huh?”

 

Isaiah shakes its head, calling over all of the uthra. “We have had ‘a day’, as the humans would say,” explains the creature. “We have toiled every day since this began. From now until tomorrow, we will rest,” it says. “No work.”

 

It looks around at the uthra remaining. Most of them are a little marred or worse for the wear. Crystal and Red got the worst of the rain of those remaining. “Once a week, there will be a day of rest and healing from now on,” says Isaiah, turning back towards the sun that has now risen, painting the world with a radiant cascade of warmth.

 

A flock of birds rises out from the forest canopy below, flying off into its presence.

 

“— It is all worth taking the time to admire, while we are still here.”

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