Locked inside a makeshift cage is a small, teary(?) eyed girl in stained pajamas. It screams harassment, but in my defense, she literally tried to kill me a short time earlier. Also, I gagged her. Thought it would better fit the situa- wait, no. Ignore that.
She's been in there for about twenty minutes now.
That's probably long enough. "So, I guess you can get out now."
She's not getting out? Oh. Right. I step inside and cut the ropes tying her, after which she removes the gag and cautiously stands herself up, eyes locked on mine. She stays silent. I'm pretty sure she's waiting for me to speak?
"Well, that was a pretty rough start, with the whole trying to murder me thing, but let's try this again." I offer her my hand. "Khya. No last name."
She eyes it, unsure of what to do. Eventually, she shakes my hand. "Alice."
"Well, that wasn't so hard, do you live here?"
"What about your parents? At least by appearances, you seem a bit too young to be living by yourself."
"They, they aren't here right now."
Something's off. "Hmm, well random guess, they wouldn't happen to be dead, right? Is that why you're here all alone?"
"They aren't here right now."
"Well, when will they get back?"
She seems to be uncomfortable with these questions, as she has to collect herself and force out the reply. "They… will come back soon."
They are very clearly dead.
Or maybe they abandoned her, but as far as I can tell, parents wouldn't normally abandon their children in dungeons.
A thought strikes me. "Oh, your parents, did they happen to be killed because they were vampir-"
"DON'T CALL THEM THAT!" Her previously neutral expression explodes into rage.
"They aren't va-" Midway through, something clicks, and she stops herself. "Ah. Nevermind."
"Well in that case, if your parents aren't vampires, did you become one?"
".. I'm not a vampire."
"I drink mana."
"Umm, what about blood?"
"Oh. So... if I'm reading between the lines right, because of the way you looked, people tried to kill you and your family."
"And, I'm assuming you being over thirty yet looking like you're ten has to do with this 'condition' of yours?"
"..I think so."
"Oh, well, sorry, I guess? Can't really say anything else since I barely know you. Besides, eventually getting over the trauma that you clearly seem to have?" I gesture towards her, "That's on you."
"So, then... let's talk about what's going to happen as of now."
Earlier, I was thinking about how I was mistaken and even used as a dungeon core. Even after having passed the "is this a dungeon core" verification, my race is still classified as a "devil." Like, what the hell?
Amidst the theories, one probable conclusion I reached was it related to my mana. I was spam summoning creatures earlier, and as far as I can tell, this place doesn't have any sort of power creep with "immortals" or "max-statted heroes" throwing out world-shattering punches every few seconds.
So what I think that implies, is that my mana count is pretty high. It might also be related to my unrecognized regeneration, but I'm pretty sure its the mana. I would still have to test it, but as of now, "I'm thinking of giving you back permission to manage this dungeon."
"..This isn't a trick, right?"
"Well, I'm still experimenting with how to do this, but I plan to travel around. It would be a pain if someone tried to capture and exploit me, which is why I'm thinking of staying here and using some sort of proxy as a body. For you, your-"
"What? I'm only here to be your puppet?"
"Well, no. First off, don't interrupt if you want to hear what I have to say. A living body would probably be a hassle to use. I'd much rather use an inanimate object since I don't think it would resist me.
"Also," I glance over her figure, "you look way too young for me to do so with peace of mind. What I actually need you for is to protect this." I motion towards myself. "Me. In other words, if I can make my main body go dormant and move around in a fake body, you'll stay here doing... whatever you do here and defending me. How does that sound?"
She's silent for a while, hopefully considering my offer in a positive light. Eventually, she asks, "You'll help and provide mana whenever I need?"
"Well, sure, why not, though there might be times when I'm busy."
Hmm, might as well test something. "So I want to summarize this. I will let you stay here as the master of this dungeon, where you can do whatever you want and also take mana from me. I won't harm you and also help you when it doesn't pose any major inconvenience to me.
"In exchange, you'll protect me and prevent others from attacking my main body and help me as well. Deal?"
I offer her my hand, and this time, she takes it immediately. "Deal."
I can feel some sort of chain latch onto me. I involuntarily try to feel where it's been bound, but I can't see it. It's not on my arms, ankles, or neck.
Oh, come to think of it, it's probably incorporeal. She also noticed, being a lot more flustered than me, though.
"Oh, I never actually had a chance to mention this. You probably assumed I was some sort of dungeon core that became conscious, but I'm a devil."
"Hey, it's not that bad. If I wanted to torment you, I would've already done so."
"But how could you be used as a dungeon core?"
"And I would know because..?"
"But... devils can't exist here."
"What do you mean?"
"In the book, it said... it said that devils can't exist here."
"A book on monsters."
"Show me that later, but well, why not?"
"It said that this world automatically repels them. Only the strongest devils can manifest themselves, and even then, it takes a great amount of effort and preparation. But, but that means you would have to be... how powerful are you?" She shifts some weight to her rear leg, and her eyes gain a hint of fearful.
"Wait, what? I'm weak. Or, I think I'm weak."
"Well, how strong was that spell you launched?"
"It was my strongest one."
"Then, what values are your status points?"
"..Why do you want to know?"
"To compare with mine."
After giving me her status values, I reply with, "Yep. Most of your stats are higher than mine. Except for endurance, vitality, and defence, but I'm pretty sure you're not focusing on those aspects in the first place."
"Well, that's just how it is. Maybe there's something that lets me avoid being sent back."
"I still don't believe you."
"Doesn't matter. That's what I'm saying, so it's trust or distrust."
I motion to try and change the topic. "Anyways, show me around. I'd like to see what you've done during your time here."
"..Just do it."
We walk to the lower floor, and wow. The scene pretty much describes the clamor I first heard down the stairs. She'd rushed here pretty fast. There were beakers and lab equipment everywhere, some knocked over and several having spilled corrosive fluids onto the floor. "What's this stuff for?"
"Any specific potions?"
"Mainly... transformation potions."
"Well, why though?"
"..So I don't look like a, a vampire."
"But isn't there something like a disguise spell?"
For a moment, her colorless skin changes to a healthier hue, and her eyes shift to a dark brown. "Yes. But spells can see through it, and it'll eventually wear off."
"Ohhhh. So you're trying to make something which would permanently change your appearance."
"Well, good luck. I guess if I find some recipe for something like that, I can bring it back for you."
We continue the tour.