“How about you cook for them? Bonding with your teammates is helpful, and these Bandit women will definitely be more amiable once you’ve made something.” Calypso had encouraged me. “Tomorrow morning, you will join them on the descent to the bottom floor. Once you reach my boss room, we will meet again. Help me defeat them, and I will officially take you on as my disciple.”
Bond with the girls? That really wasn’t a problem. However, I was sweating as I cooked. All five girls were around me as I made food over a fire. Nothing about this was abnormal, except that Calypso was watching over us, and Salicia was nearby as a guard dog. It left the entire campsite somewhat silent. Of course, that was only to Salicia and Calypso. As for me, it was extremely noisy as I tried to juggle conversations with all five women. Of course, while I could open up connections between them and me, the girls couldn’t talk to each other.
“I don’t understand why I’m not allowed to say a word.” Celeste responded pouty.
“Did you make sure to order Celeste to be quiet. She’ll definitely speak and ruin everything!” Terra’s voice came in shortly after.
I didn’t just have to juggle five conversations in my head, but I had to also pass messages between the girls that they wanted to say which would tip Calypso off if spoken out loud. While doing that, I had to cook a good meal and let none of it show on my face. Calypso seemed almost oblivious to the strange expressions and glances that the girls shared. Even so, this was really difficult for me, and I had to admit that without the Mimic job smoothing out my features and refining my acting, I would probably have already collapsed from the pressure. I was extremely thankful to whatever deity decided to randomly hand me that skill already partially leveled.
Slowly, I sorted everyone out, explaining everything, including the state of Salicia. Naturally, there was much to say about what happened, and where we would be going. As for Calypso’s plan to ultimately kill all of them, I naturally explained what we can do instead.
“Master, we need to be able to discuss a plan openly.” Terra spoke up.
“I would love to, but she is the Dungeon Master of this place. She can potentially see and hear anything. Any secret meetings we have could be easily exposed. Right now, it’s odd, but she seems to trust me. I think it might be because of my blessings. I have an affinity for miasma, which I believe is causing her to put her guard down around me.”
“There is one place where we can meet.” She explained.
“Hmm? Where?” I asked a bit surprised.
“Ah? I thought Master knew? The safe room.”
Admittedly the room was safe, but Calypso could still find us there.
“Dungeon Master’s can’t sense in the room. Unless she’s in there with us, she won’t know what is said or done. She also won’t know if we teleport to other safe rooms until we leave.” “In other words, once we get to level 5, we can finally make a plan!”
It turned out the safe rooms weren’t just areas free of miasma and monsters, but they were dead zones for dungeons. As soon as someone entered a safe room, the dungeon’s perception of them was cut off. I had never seen it before, but supposedly even the monsters would lose sight of you as soon as you entered a safe room. I remembered in my first dungeon, Mina’s dungeon, running and barring the doors in desperation. It seemed like they were never going to break in and threaten us. It felt almost foolish in retrospect, but no one in that party had been a seasoned Dungeon Diver. It was exactly for that reason people like that existed.
Terra also revealed something else that was extremely interesting to me. In the event that a being with a full karmic soul sees you enter a safe room, they might be able to follow you. However, if they did, they’d be cut off from the control of the dungeon. Terra had never explained this to me, but when I brought her into a safe room for the first time, it was only then that she had begun to regain her mind. I had assumed she always had full control of her mind, but she explained that even she had been under the control of the dungeon.
It was likely the same for Celeste. However, Celeste wasn’t just being controlled by the dungeon, but her Fairy Queen mother. In that respect, she was only half controlled by the dungeon, and those chains were broken when she entered the safe room.
“Are you saying if we forced Bandits into the safe room, we could forcefully break their connection to the dungeon?”
I had managed to use Monster Tamer to break several monsters from their dungeon before, but simply forcing them into the safe room seemed a lot easier.
“I can’t guarantee it’d be permanent.” Terra admitted. “Once they end up in the dungeon again, they’ll be controlled once again. Plus, this only works on dungeon monsters with a strong sense of self. Most of these Bandits, with the amount of damage their souls have taken, would likely just turn feral and attack anything that moved.”
I let out a sigh. So, it was like that. Anyone who was strong enough to be able to take advantage of being freed by a safe room would also be the kind of person you couldn’t easily force into one. For every other creature, without their connection to the dungeon to feed them a sense of command and purpose, they broke down mentally until the connection could be restored. Talk about the safe room interested me on many levels. Specifically, I wondered if entering a safe room could fix my current miasmic poisoning.
I also wondered about the safe rooms in my own dungeon. I was able to sense them. However, I also never became the Master of my own dungeon. I guess, it should be a given, but I made Elaya the Dungeon Master. She also seemed to be aware of the safe rooms, but perhaps it was the difference between knowing where they were and knowing when someone disappeared from your perception, as they must be in them isn’t the same as seeing them. Scientists can’t see black holes, but we know they’re there from the effect they cause. It might be something like that.
There should be a safe room hidden on the first floor. However, if we all went to it, Salicia would assuredly be suspicious. However, no one would question a group of dungeon divers stopping when they had time. The 5th floor really would be the best floor to stop.
I gave Lydia and Shao orders to go out tonight and scout to find this floor’s safe room. I wanted them to register for the first-floor kiosk. Being able to return to the 1st floor suddenly without Calypso realizing it might be a trick that would save our lives. We eventually all ate in an awkward silence, and then I went to bed. The next morning, dungeon diving would begin.
With all the girls gathered, I probably could have attacked Calypso now. She’d assuredly be weaker on the first floor where her miasma was thinnest, and escaping from the battle would be easiest here. While some of her Bandits might be strong, I was confident that we could also fight them off. Calypso herself was also likely very dangerous. Still, even if it was a fight we lost, I felt that we could probably escape.
Even if I was worried about my ability to use magic, we could always break down to the 5th floor, use the safe zone, and then we could come out swinging. There was no reason to continue to fool Calypso if I didn’t want to.
The reason I didn’t do it was because I had a feeling it wouldn’t go well. At the end of it all, there was a dungeon at the root of all this. While Calypso may have taken control of the dungeon and warped it into a machine that she used to conquer the southwest corner of Aberis, even if we defeated her, the dungeon would still exist. Furthermore, a copy of Calypso might be created who would carry on her work, even if she died. Then, of course, there was the fact that she had that knife. A single scratch was enough to almost kill me. I couldn’t imagine tossing my girls against her and the knife.
Therefore, I felt that the best plan was to take our time. The dungeon was there to level us up. We should take advantage of it. Any monsters we killed and any treasure we claimed only weakened the overall power of the dungeon. Furthermore, the dungeon had to have some kind of lore behind it. I hadn’t seen the name of the dungeon when I entered since I was unconscious, but using my Dungeon Diver skill I was able to ascertain the name.
It was Bandit’s Respite like she had named it, but I had a strange feeling like this wasn’t the original name. At some point, she must have renamed the dungeon. Was that even a thing? I wouldn’t know until I saw the murals, which was one more reason that I had sent the girls to look at the first-floor kiosk. Once registered, all it would take is a Party Swap from the safe room on the 5th floor and I’d be able to see the first floor myself.
“Good luck,” Siti said as I finished packing my bags early the next morning.
“Are you going to be okay?” I asked worriedly, “Your… time… with Calypso is coming up.”
She smiled. “I look forward to servicing Master.”
I didn’t know what was happening to Siti. At first, I thought her calming down was reasonable, but now I was thinking there was something more insidious about it. I didn’t think she had been killed and replaced with a doppelganger, but there was still something wrong with her. I had decided to keep her out of the loop and not mention that my slaves had managed to infiltrate the dungeon. At this point, I didn’t think I could trust her anymore. Was this how other Bandits felt as they saw their brethren slowly become Calypso’s slaves?
Siti… I will find out the secrets of this dungeon, defeat it, and free you from Calypso’s grasp. I swear it!