Walking out into the treasure room, I opened up the next chest and reached inside. I ended up pulling out a gauntlet. It wasn’t something that I would wear. It was clear white, shiny, and made of metal. It wasn’t like I was trying to typecast myself or something. Just because I was a White Mage didn’t mean that I needed to wear robes or something. I’d happily wear the most protective armor out there. That usually ended up being light leather armor though, as anything else just got in my way too much and became intrusive.
Most of the girls with me agreed, even Terra who would rather take hits with her regenerative body than an armor that had to be maintained. The only girl I knew who liked to wear heavy armor like this, well, that would be Carmine, right?” I used the kiosk and returned to the safe room.
“Master, what took so long!” Carmine cried, standing up as soon as I walked in the door.
“I got this for you,” I said instantly, holding out the gauntlet.
“Ah! M-master!” Her eyes shined as she saw the new piece of armor.
It was a Star Gauntlet which told me that there must be an entire star set of weapons and armor and that we’d eventually obtain the whole thing. I didn’t want to explain how I had stupidly put my life on the line because I wasn’t able to read carefully. Instead, I had used the gift as a distraction, and it seemed to have worked splendidly. Carmine looked at it in admiration before she finally put the gauntlet on. She then gestured to her side and lifted a similarly white and shiny helmet that looked like it’d be very reflective in battle.
“I got a helmet! Soon, I’ll have a whole new set of armor.”
There were fifty of these trials, and so we had 48 to go. I couldn’t imagine another 48 sets of armor, so I wondered what else would appear in these trials. I was more interested in other things like the star potion. Then again, I had to keep my eyes on the main prize. We had to escape this dungeon. Ultimately, nothing else mattered but our escape.
“Let’s go.” I gave the command, and the two of us left the safe room.
Once we left, I heard her mumbling a spell. It must have been her purification spell again.
“You’re not cured?”
“No…” She frowned.
I shook my head. “It was Mimic then.”
When I used Ablution, I had unlocked Mimic and gained Karmic Espionage. Ultimately, that’s what allowed me to be okay. After all, I hadn’t gotten rid of Drakus’s karmic infection. It was still a part of me, which is why everyone thought I was him. I checked, and she did not get the job Mimic. After all, you had to manipulate your own karmic debt to gain it.
At least, there were places she could recover her mind. I was really happy that I had unlocked my strange job. Otherwise, I would have been constantly battling between being this Drakus guy. I met him, and I didn’t envy him. I still didn’t even really know his place in the story. Was he meant to die in that ambush, or was that not something that originally happened?
Did any of it matter? It seemed like this story was now rewriting itself as it went, including us as actors in the story. I guess we really would end up having to rewrite the lore of this dungeon if we wanted any hope of escaping.
“Drakus! You have returned. Are you ready to begin?” The fort commander asked.
I nodded, “Assemble the troops, it’s time we started this campaign against the demons.”
“Is everything ready?” I asked.
“Yes, I have every troop we can spare without showing any weakness in our defenses. It’s best if we move quickly though.”
I nodded and lifted my hand, creating a Portal. “Then, please go.”
“I never realized you were a Blue Mage, Drakus.”
“it’s just an artifact I found in a dungeon once.” I came up with that lie on the spot.
He nodded, accepting this without question. “After we succeed in conquering this fort, you will be promoted for sure!”
That was the third time he had promised me a promotion, so I wondered if they were additive or if he just kept forgetting he had already promised to put me in for a promotion. It didn’t matter, but it might be easier if I had a higher place in the army to wage this battle. The commander didn’t give me any time to ask such questions, as he immediately stepped into the Portal. He was the first to go, and it showed his trust toward me. A dozen more skeletons began to enter the Portal. More and more came from behind them. There were one hundred and fifty men in this courtyard, and I decided to be the last to enter, although it didn’t seem to be necessary to hold the Portal open.
I could close the Portals when I wanted to with a thought on either side. They closed as soon as I stopped delivering mana to them. They did take quite a bit of mana, but compared to the amount used to initially open them, the loss of holding them open was only at the amount that I lost mana at a trickle. I could probably keep a gate open for hours if I had to. I could make them bigger too, but it required more initial mana and more to maintain it, so it was always a tradeoff. The current size was just big enough for a single man on horseback to go through at a time.
Even with just one hundred and fifty, it took nearly fifteen minutes before they were all through the portal. Carmine and I were the only two left in the courtyard. I had worried if Bernard had some way of telling if we were in this fort. If he did and he felt us leave, would he suddenly attack this fort or return to his own? I didn’t know. It would just have to be a gamble. I had considered leaving Carmine behind for this reason, but given how the Karma was affecting her, I couldn’t trust her to put up a fight against Bernard. Karmically, she was supposed to resist that demon noble from earlier, but she wasn’t supposed to resist Benard, so there was no saying what would happen. If he succeeded in kidnapping her, would the karma correct itself and she’d end up falling for him? I just didn’t know.
“My lord…” Carmine grabbed my arm.
“I see the miasma is affecting you again.” I sighed. “I suppose I won’t leave you behind after all.”
She blushed but didn’t say anything. She still had her wits about her, so it wasn’t like she thought she was the princess. However, she was inclined to act like the princess, which was something far too subtle to resist. This princess was now attached to me karmically and saw me as her white knight who she must stay near. That was simply the nature of things now.
I led Carmine into the Portal. She also didn’t wear her armor today, including the new helmet and gauntlet. While those things might appeal to the Paladin Carmine, her princess side wouldn’t wear something like that, even for her protection. Instead, she wore an elaborate dress that seemed to have been provided by the fort. We had only parted for a bit after leaving the safe room, but she had time to find a new outfit, do up her hair, and even apply makeup.
The more I saw Carmine in a dress, the more I was starting to like her displays of femininity. It reminded me of the first time I had ever seen her before she had revealed she was a Paladin. Once I had pushed her into service, she was always wearing her armor. I had a theory that the armor she wore was to protect her from her sister. In full body armor, Salicia couldn’t grab or touch her inappropriately.
Since her sister wasn’t around now, I wondered if her desire to dress up and look pretty was entirely motivated by the princess. This might have been just the only time she could look nice around me without her sister getting involved. I shook my head at that thought. Even if she did want to look pretty around me, her armor was important to her. She was lowering her combat ability by doing what she was doing, and that didn’t fit my image of Carmine at all.
While thinking such things, the pair of us entered the Portal, and on the other side, we were back in a familiar fort. However, this wasn’t the fort of the skeletons, but the fort of the demons! Since I had been in the building, I could naturally create a Portal right into the hallways and past all their defenses. While the majority of their troops were busy preparing to attack our walls, we’d ransack and conquer their fort. This was the perfect way to demoralize their troops and cut off their support.
Meanwhile, once we’d sent for reinforcements. Even if Bernard did attack and manage to get through the gate, we’d all just escape back to his fort. They’d experience heavy casualties and they’d end up with basically nothing. Once on the other side of the Portal, I could hear distant fighting. The demons who had remained behind were now being routed out of their castle.
“The commander is in trouble!” A skeleton ran up to us and shouted.
I nodded and followed him. The group of us ran down several hallways until we came out into a courtyard. There seemed to be an embanked group of elites still holding out. The commander was fighting against three men, while there was a mage sitting out too. I went to help the commander, but as I was moving, my eyes landed on the mage, and I realized this was a mistake. The princess had followed us into the courtyard, and as soon as the mage saw her, his eyes gleamed happily.
Whatever spell he was casting he completed, but instead of launching it at us, he launched it at her. It was a powerful lighting strike. In her armor, or even with a shield, she’d be fine, but the current Carmine didn’t act with that kind of common sense. She let out a cry and covered herself.
The commander used some kind of skill that caused him to disappear from his spot and reappear on the other side of the courtyard in front of Carmine. The lightning bolt struck him instead of her, and he went flying against the wall, his body breaking apart as he struck it. The Commander had just received a fatal blow!