Just a Little Debt – Chapter 79
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Ally crosses her arms and nods. ‘I’ve figured it out! Back when I was explaining the whole monster per floor limit, I skipped a number of screens marked specifically for dungeons that aren’t awake. Basically, it would have turned a slightly lengthy explanation into me reading a textbook at you. I only found what I needed so quickly because there are some very convenient search tools built in.’

‘Anyway, the answer is simple enough. The system provides some leeway on the early floors so as to allow a dungeon to defend themselves better when they are at their weakest. The subtext to it is that all dungeons will end up overshooting their limits on the early floors. Though that is mostly my guess as the window for it didn’t fit the rest of the content and was titled So your dungeon spent too much. Whoever wrote it probably hid it there, so we’d only find it when needed.’

‘Now the downside because of course there is a downside. Luckily for us we caught it early because for every time a floor is run and it has too many monsters we go into debt. Not for world energy as that would be too easy. Rather, because the system has to support the monster, we get to pay the cost of it in quintessence. Yes, that absurdly useful and expensive thing that is literally your lifeblood. So let’s see how much we owe. [System, display the quintessence debt].’

{Quintessence Debt: 94.08}

Doyle nods, ‘Well that doesn’t look all that bad.’

He is about to add more but Ally laughs and motions for him to stop. ‘Did you forget how much quintessence you were earning before it turned into world energy? You only earned .01 quintessence an hour. That means it would take you a little over four days just to generate a single quintessence. If you threw your entire quintessence generation from then at it, you would need nearly 400 days to pay that off.’

‘Just think of how long that is! It would take you more than a year on your planet to pay it off, and if I remember correctly, you’ve only had 32 attempts at your second floor. Now consider a dungeon that might not find out they did this for years! We caught it early and still owe the system so much. Plus it isn’t like we can just sink all of your quintessence into paying back the debt. After all, you need it like a human needs water.’

‘Luckily most of our world energy now comes from people delving into the dungeon instead of our regen. My advice is you throw half your quintessence at the debt for now. Sure, that will increase the time to pay it back from 392 days to 784, but you can’t really spare much more of it. Besides that, you will be able to generate more quintessence through a few other means.’

‘The first is simple enough. Have more people die in our dungeon. And yes, I do mean actually die. Unlike with the world energy you need for the next floor, this can’t just be provided by a sapient. Only in death will the small threads of quintessence that hold a person’s soul to the mortal coil be freed up. Don’t think this is too much of a shortcut, though. Unless you have some ridiculously strong being die in here, most people will only provide dribs and drabs. Likely two to three deaths for just an hour’s worth of your regen. Of course once a person reaches level ten they should each provide about an hour’s worth, but they aren’t exactly falling over themselves to die in your dungeon.’

‘The second method is to recycle system rewards and loot. Generally part and parcel with option number one as people don’t tend to willingly part with the stuff. Examples of it would be those gauntlets that founder called Sammy got. Rarer than dungeon loot but seeing as this is a new world there will be more of it than normal. The system has to inject more of it into circulation as there aren’t enough trained crafters yet.’

‘Third and while not the last is the last semi common option. You can throw your lot in with some god in exchange for help. This doesn’t mean you fall under their jurisdiction, mind you. Rather, you can agree to set up something in your dungeon that can help their faith spread. You could think of it as a referral program that not only can get you the quintessence you need but other things depending on how well you do.’

‘Now let me preface what I am about to say about that third option with my opinion. That is to not do it right now. Even though 784 days seems like a lot, you don’t have a natural end to your lifespan. While being in debt to the system will make some things harder, it wants you to pay it back. As long as you continue to put in quintessence often enough it will leave you alone and it isn’t like there is any interest piling up.’

‘My opinion on it aside, I looked up some stuff because of your early mishap with the goats. You didn’t really talk too much about what you experienced, but from what I gathered you have likely gotten a lot of goat experiences from a very specific breed. While basic unaligned animals like a goat can be found with almost any elemental or metaphysical alignment. There are limited examples of fire aligned ones in relation to religion.’

‘I won’t refer to the god by name. We don’t want to draw their attention yet, but let’s just say they weren’t from the most popular religion in the area you lived. Anyway, they are a fire god and a guardian deity whose mount is a red goat. While the red goat is a species of goat. The specific one you experienced would have been an offshoot that through their connection with said god gained a strong alignment with fire, lightning, and the sun. And before you ask, guardian deity just means that they are a part of a pantheon and have the role of defending some element of said pantheon.’

Doyle sighs, ‘I’ve only been on the referred side of those referral programs. To refer others I would first need to know people to refer. Do you have any other specific reasons to not go with this mystery god?’

Ally shrugs, ‘The biggest upside to them is also the biggest downside. Since it isn’t a local religion, there are many people who could convert to it. On the other hand, it isn’t a local religion, so you have an uphill battle. Especially since the roots of the local religion is a wee bit monotheistic. A little hard to keep up now that all the gods are around to muck things up, but it is well rooted.’

‘People are more likely to convert to a religion that isn’t already present here before they would convert to one that existed before the system came along. It has been proven time and again. People more easily accept a religion they didn’t know about pre-system. Though going by what I have seen of your world pre-system, the olympian pantheon might bag a good number of converts. But they tend to manage that nonsense anyway.’

Doyle nods, ‘Slow and steady it is. Though what are the penalties I get for having the debt?’

Ally brings up a screen. ‘You actually manage to dip in under a few of the fun penalties. For instance, at every power of ten starting at 100 you gain 10% more experience. As for the stuff you do qualify for? There are 3 so not too heavy. For anyone that owes the system any amount of quintessence they will experience a slower skill growth.’

‘Next for those who owe 10 or more quintessence and are a dungeon core. You get to experience a slower world energy gain from invaders. So we’ve been actually experiencing this one but we haven’t noticed because the adventurers who actually dive have grown as well and offset the loss.’

‘Finally at 50 points it hits you where it hurts. Not really, though. You just have to pay more for anything you buy from a system store. Maybe if there was one nearby that would matter. Really, you can just ignore that one as traveling system merchants isn’t likely to get around to use anytime soon. Those buggers do like to hit up new worlds to try and scam people but this place isn’t exactly a metropolis or anything.’

Doyle takes a moment to think it over and then shrugs, ‘Yeah, most of that doesn’t really penalize me all that much. Though if I had to guess they expect to have dungeons owing quite a bit by the time they realize what has happened. Me figuring it out so quickly is probably a rarity.’

Ally nods, ‘Just the fact they bother to have the experience penalty scale off of debt based on powers of ten would point to that. My best guess is that most unawakened dungeons will summon monsters until they can’t. Though the more I think about it, the sleazier this is. I would bet that most unawakened dungeons in this universe owe the system massive amounts of quintessence.’

Doyle laughs, ‘Nevermind the fact that not having any interest on the debt is a lie in and of itself. You said quintessence is what keeps your soul anchored? Well, I bet part of skill growth uses miniscule amounts of the stuff and look, the system somehow slows skill growth. An odd thing when skill growth is actually just a presentation of you learning how to do a thing better. Plus where do you think the energy I’m not getting from the invaders goes to or that extra charge at a system shop? The system is taking its cut of meat every day that I haven’t paid it back. Not that I can help it at the moment.’

Ally sighs, ‘You’re right. The system is just taking everything it can from you. Not enough to make it harder to pay back the debt, but it is still there. At least, like you said, we caught it early. Now we just have to slowly grind away at it. I guess you can go back to messing with your floors. I plan to go over more of this material I had skipped in the past. It’s like until now I was studying for a test only to find out all the information was actually used when on the job.’

Ally closes all the screens she had brought up while Doyle turns back to the third floor. Even with all those revelations, he still remembered that it hadn’t been carved up. Though here isn’t much for him to carve. The rooms get shuffled all the time and it removes the ore veins, only to add them back elsewhere.

Then it hits him on what he can carve. While the rooms are random, the monsters are not. More specifically, the goats are all wearing leather gear he can carve into. Doyle even has some inspiration to go off of for the saddlebags. So far he had dealt with space that was bigger on the inside than the outside, and of course he wanted to see if he could simulate bags of holding.

The biggest problem coming from the design being in multiple dimensions. A little hard to even just doodle something when your canvas is very much not to shape. Still, he soldiers through and after a number of practice attempts manages to draw together all the disparate advice.

With a sample complete, Doyle focuses on applying the diagram to one of the saddlebags. On the test square, nothing happened when the pattern was completed. But the real world isn’t always so kind.

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