“I found it! The safe room is over here!” Celeste led the way while casually using Slave Communication.
Of course, Calypso had already seen them sneak into the 1st floor safe room. It was only too much to hope that she didn’t notice. It wasn’t that we didn’t make an attempt. Shao’s compatibility with miasma could allow her to hide her movements from the Dungeon Master, but it was too much to think that Calypso wouldn’t have seen her at all. She would have been on high alert last night with this new group. At the very least, I wasn’t going to assume the possibility.
Likewise, our mad dash to the 5th level saferoom also seemed suspicious, but I couldn’t do anything about that. Ultimately, we needed to enter the safe rooms. However, it turned out that she didn’t make that something easy to do. All of the safe rooms were hidden. While the rules of dungeons seemed to require regular safe rooms, and their entrances to not be blocked, that didn’t mean that the Dungeon Master couldn’t put them in some difficult to find and reach places.
In this case, the room was in a large, thick tree. The hole to the room was high up, above several massive branches which completely obscured it. Without Celeste being able to fly up and look around, it would have been impossible to find the safe room. To get there, Terra created steps using the earth so the group was able to walk up to the pocket. We entered the safe room.
The familiar environment with the mural and the transport relay appeared before us. Of course, no two safe rooms were exactly the same. This one had a small spring running through the center. It also had the appearance of a tree. Every safe room took up a theme given by the dungeon. I wasn’t sure if trees were always the theme, but this environment had an earthy scent and felt natural. Since we had battled various types of dinosaurs and ape-like monsters on the way down, I had a feeling that the theme of this dungeon before it got turned into a bandit dungeon had to do with some kind of primordial world, like the Mysterious Island.
“Finally, Master, we can speak!” Celeste exclaimed excitedly, and then covered her mouth. “Oops! We can, right?”
I had ordered them to keep their mouths shut until we could get into the safe room, but Celeste had already been holding it in and it burst out the second that she got inside. I shrugged as the rest of the girls piled in the room.
“We missed you!”
“Do you need your potion!”
The girls all leaped on me giving me hugs as soon as I gave the okay. Terra offered me a potion, which was the one that turned me back into a man. I shook my head and denied it. As much as I didn’t like to continue masquerading as a girl, I had no choice if I wanted to keep fooling Calypso. At least, in the safe room, she wouldn’t be able to see anything we could do.
“Master, are you forgetting about someone?” A voice suddenly broke through all of our revery.
Salicia was standing there were her arms crossed. She had followed along so quietly and only fought when she absolutely had to. It was to the point I had completely forgotten she was with us. She had followed our group right into the safe room, and now she was looking at us with a raised eyebrow.
“Salicia… uh, are you okay?” I asked hesitantly.
“No…” She responded, “Carmine’s dead, how can I be okay.”
I let out a breath I hadn’t realized I was holding. Not only was she speaking again, but she even recalled Carmine. I had feared that Salicia would have been some kind of doll without a personality, but it seemed like without Calypso’s influence, the old Salicia had returned.
“What… exactly do you remember from the last few days?” I asked cautiously.
“Hmmm? Were we building an army of Bandits to contend with that bastard Lord Reign? Now, we’re working our way down her dungeon to prove we’re worthy of the Bandit Hero joining us!”
Was this what they called interpreting events to your convenience? It seemed like her mind had managed to reshape the events of the last few days to imply we made contact with the Bandit Hero and were now doing a test she had set out. I didn’t know if this was what Calypso had programmed into her mind, or if it was something she had come up with on her own. Either way, it seemed like the old Salicia had reappeared the second she walked into the safe room and was cut off from Calypso’s miasmic control.
The big question now was whether Calypso would regain control of her once she left, or if this was semi-permanent. That’s when a thought popped in my head and my eyes fell on Miki. Given her ability to manipulate the soul, it might be possible for her to protect Salicia and keep Calypso from taking control of her. If that could be achieved that would be best.
“Miki.” I chose to use Slave Communication so that Salicia didn’t hear any of this. “Would you be able to make this version of Salicia permanent? Is there any way to protect her from Calypso’s control?”
“Master… I’m not sure.” She admitted, her eyebrows ruffled as she thought about it. “If what you said is true and she’s a dungeon monster, then her corrupted soul would likely be damaged if I tried to do anything. You’d need someone skilled with controlling miasma. You or Shao might have a better chance at that.”
“But Master, right now, I think I should focus on you.”
“Huh?” These words came out loud.
“Master, you’ve been inflicted by a terrible curse. You look as weak and sickly as I did before Master helped me. I wanted to say something sooner, but there was nothing we could do about it. Part of the reason I wanted to get to this room so quickly is because the dungeon miasma is further damaging your soul.”
“I thought I was getting better.” I said helplessly.
“Perhaps, if you weren’t in the dungeon, but the curse inflicted on you has been steadily festering. In time, you might have been converted into a miasmic creature.”
Actually, the idea that a miasmic creature could become mana and vice versa made sense. After all, demons were supposedly creatures that came from a dungeon, but Shao was clearly mana based. I hypothesized that when a monster left the dungeon, they slowly purified their soul until they became mana, and when someone entered the dungeon, they would slowly be corrupted by miasma unless they could resist it.
Given our resistances, it was difficult for the miasma to corrupt us, but that didn’t account for me being cut with a cursed blade. I should have realized it sooner, but even though the miasma on the 1st level was so light, it would have made it that much more difficult for me to heal!
Ten minutes later, I had my shirt off and Miki was sitting behind me with her hand on my back. I felt somewhat uncomfortable with my bare chest exposed, especially because I had a pair of breasts. They were roughly about the same size as Miki’s. Terra was looking at them with an expression that was a tad unhappy. I felt the urge to cover my chest with so many girls looking and seemingly comparing sizes.
“Ah… I see… so it works like that.” Miki said.
“What is it?” I asked.
“It’s mostly what we thought. It’s a miasmic infection.”
“I’m in a safe room now, shouldn’t the miasmic infection be forced out?” I asked. “On that note, why was it able to affect me at all? I have a blessing that’s supposed to negate miasmic affects.”
“It isn’t like Miasma can’t be brought into a safe room. If that was the case, then…” She coughed, her eyes flickering to Salicia. “Certain people would just disperse the second they entered the room. Rather, it is more like oil and water. Safe rooms repel miasma, so the trapped miasma in your body bubbles up together. In this state, it’s no longer able to affect you as long as you remain in the room. However, once you leave…”
Her eyes flickered to Salicia again, and I got the message she was trying to tell me. Although Salicia was in control of herself in this room, once she left, the miasmic control would no longer be suppressed. I didn’t know how long it would take for Calypso’s control to return. It might have been seconds, or maybe days. Either way, neither of us were cured of our inflictions at the moment.
“As for why you were infected, I can’t say for certain, but I believe your affinity protects you from passive miasma. If you were immune to miasmic attacks, then you’d be immune to most spells from dungeon monsters, which often cast from a source of miasma. You could say the blessing worked well. You didn’t face any of the negative effects of the miasma itself. Fear, paranoia, lack of energy… another person would have been a wreck. You were just dealing with the physical damage it was doing to your soul.”
“Like how a cough medicine might cure the symptoms, but doesn’t mean you’re any less sick.” I sighed.
“Can you cure it now?”
“Mm…” She nodded. “I can flood your body with mana, and then extract the miasma from your body. Since you’re a mana creature, it’s quite easy. If you were a miasmic creature, however, then I wouldn’t be able to do this.”
Naturally, the last sentence was once again aimed at Salicia. With her miasmic body, the difference between the control Salicia was exuding and her own base were too similar. Attempt to flush one would end up flushing the other.
“Then… heal me.”
She nodded, and then began to use her spiritual techniques. It didn’t take long before I felt something leaving me. I let out a breath, a black gaseous mass left from my mouth. It tasted oily and wrong. The mass quickly rose up and then disappeared through the roof, presumably reentering the dungeon.
“Is that it?” I asked, almost feeling like it was too easy.
I didn’t wait for Miki’s conformation though. I immediately casted a healing spell on myself. As soon as I did, I felt the aching wound on my back that was still healing and slightly infected quickly cool and then fade away. Letting out a long breath of relief, I realized I was safe again.
“Then, should we go?” Terra asked.
“Master has been healed. You can use magic once again. You have the ability to make Portals from inside a dungeon, something none of us can do. Isn’t that why we did this, so we could escape?”
Apparently, the girls had thought that this was a rescue mission. While they could cast Portals, they didn’t have my affinities from my blessings, so they couldn’t Portal out of the dungeon like I could. Now that I healed myself, there was no reason we had to stay. We could leave and return to my army in Deeksville. As for Calypso, she’d be none the wiser. It might be days before she realized we left.
“No…” I shook my head. “We’re going to beat this thing.”