chapter 47: hungry soul

Soon, all seven of us found our way to the basement area, where I would normally go to train my magic. However this was not so that we could train, but so that we could place down a dungeon core. And no, we aren’t placing it in this basement. My bedroom just felt like it’d be too cramped with all of us in there, so we decided to convert the floor of the basement into a larger ‘map’ of the world below.
Of course, this was provided by Terra, who was smiling as we all tried to dance around the map without stepping on any mountains or trees. It’s like walking through a little kid’s room and trying to avoid all the toys. There’s always that one that manages to find its way into the bottom of your foot.
Anyways, back on topic. Since we didn’t know what to expect with this dungeon, we were going to place it on an uninhabited island. Worst case scenario, we wind up with a flying island dungeon, which would be kind of cool.
“Alright… this one should work.” Ryone says with a nod as she points to an island about as big as my toe, standing ankle deep in the ocean. I was really glad that we wouldn’t actually be leaving giant footprints throughout the world or anything, because that would not be good.
I nodded, looking to Terra. However, the catgirl goddess was giving Aurivy a piggyback ride while watching us. With a shrug, I focused on that island, and attempted to spawn a dungeon.

Among the thousands of islands of Earth, one sat alone in its own little corner of the world. This island was inhabited by nothing but a few birds and a pair of thin trees. However, at that moment, the ground shook. A red gem, roughly ten centimeters in diameter, appeared on the ground as if dropped from the sky.
This red gem shined faintly, and then slowly sank into the sandy surface. It was trembling slightly, its light flickering. The gem was afraid. It had appeared in a strange area, not knowing who or what it was. It could only see up to a meter around it. Above was a sky whose limits it could not reach, while below was a safe and comforting earth. Naturally, it burrowed its way deeper, using the unfamiliar ground to shield itself from its surroundings.
After a few minutes, it seemed to calm down. The flickering light stabilized into a steady glow, and it began to examine what little it could of its surroundings. It was at that time that a voice spoke in its mind, thoughts not of its own.
Hello? Are you okay? The voice held a high pitch, distinctly different from the way the gem sounded in its own mind.
‘What is this?’ It thought to itself, only to be surprised when the voice answered.
I am Aurivy, Goddess of Love and Travel. The gem trembled again slightly. It did not understand the concept of a goddess, but the voice suddenly held a sense of pressure for it. It no longer wanted to communicate with the voice, afraid that it might be from the boundless sky above, afraid that it might damage its fragile existence.

“It’s no use, it won’t talk to me anymore.” Aurivy said with a frown, still held up on Terra’s back.
“It’s alright, Rivy.” Terra smiled back to her. “It’s still young. Give it a bit of time, and I’m sure it’ll get lonely. Then it’ll want to talk to you some more. But Dale, do you notice anything?” She looked at me as she asked that last part.
“Hmm…” I looked down at the dungeon and focused on it. “There’s a strange flow of mana around the core, but it doesn’t extend very far, and isn’t particularly strong.” I felt a frown cover my face. “I suppose this is normal for new dungeons?”
Terra nodded her head slightly. “If you watch closely, it is very slowly expanding. But, if you don’t fast forward, you’d have to zoom in extremely close to see it.” She smiled bitterly. “So… if you aren’t planning on buying time zones for every dungeon you get… it’d probably be a good idea to plant some around in advance.”
“Ahh…” Well, I guess that doesn’t ruin my plans too much. I mean, if I desperately want a dungeon right away, I can always buy a time zone to go with it to speed up its growth. Glancing over, I looked at a sullen Ryone, who was realizing that this meant that her dungeon experiment chamber would have to wait. “Want to plant one down somewhere, and then fast forward? There is nothing happening immediately that we need to focus on.”
Ryone looked up, smiling slightly. “I’d like that, sure. Anyways, there are some things I need to take care of first, since I haven’t made any changes to my society yet.” The other gods all frowned when they heard that. “What? You all did it!”
“…Fair enough.” It was Irena who answered, surprisingly, sighing and shaking her head. “I must also return to my people before the fast forward, lest they think I am absent.” I nodded at her words, and let her go. Soon, the others also began leaving one by one, either to go play or to attend to other business.
I decided to give Ryone a couple of hours to get her plans laid out before starting the fast forward.

Back on the deserted island, days passed by overhead in silence. The scared gem had yet to make any attempts to communicate with the voice that had previously spoken with it. It wasn’t until over a month passed that it began to feel regret, that it considered whether that voice was the only comfort that it would be able to find.
‘Are you still there?’ It thought to itself, hoping that the voice would respond once again. Sure enough, the voice once again responded, speaking as if it had only been moments since they last talked.
Meanwhile, in the depths of the Underworld, monsters continued devouring each other. These were no longer simply the goblins and the grue. No, they had changed, become something different. Towering monsters hundreds of meters long, looking like amorphous blobs covered in hungry maws. They devoured everything in their path, be it friend or foe alike.
They knew nothing except their insatiable hunger, having long since lost any other reason they may have had. Anything they ate simply added to their own power, letting them become bigger, stronger. Until one day, something changed.
One of these devourer spirits felt as if a great weight was pressing down on it. Like with all things, it decided to devour that pressure. Black light began to shine from the body of the devourer, before visible cracks spread out in the space around it. When the monstrous spirit roared, those cracks shattered like a broken mirror, revealing a gaping black hole.
Feeling as if there would be more food beyond this hole, it slipped through quietly, unnoticed by any around it. What it found on the other side of the doorway was a large mountain, with its body resting along its side. The spirit could not feel any way to return to its home, and found that the food on this side of the door seemed to be far more scarce.
Angered by this discovery, it felt as if it was suddenly starving, so it dived down the mountain with an impossible speed, literally splashing across the ground when it made contact. Any of the lingering souls of the wildlife were instantly devoured the moment they came into contact with this creature. But this wasn’t enough, this was nowhere near enough for the ravenous monster.
Picking a direction at random, it charged forward, slowly spreading out across the land in order to gather more food. Although this reduced its strength, the spirits here offered little resistance to its feasting.

An alarm blared in my head just a minute after I set the world to fast forward. This has never happened… In a rush to see what was going on, I tried to access that alarm with my mind, focusing on it to figure out the cause.

Emergency detected! Class 3 Spirit detected. Immediate action required to preserve the safety of the inhabitants!

“Uhm… what?” I did not have the slightest idea what that meant, so I turned towards the map, while sending messages to both Irena and Terra. One of those two should know about this situation.
“What’s wrong, Dale?” Irena’s reply came back a moment later, as she appeared in the room behind me. She looked as calm as ever, so it seemed as if she did not know what was going on.
“There’s a–” I started to explain, before the door slammed open, Terra running into the room.
“Where did that thing come from?!” She yelled, and the map instantly changed from its normal colored view to monochromatic. It was only at this point that I really saw what was happening. Across one of the continents, a giant black mass was slowly spreading. Worst yet, this was not an uninhabited continent, and was instead the same one that held the beastkin.
Thankfully, the emergency alarm kicked in before the mass was able to spread to their territory, but it was only days away. Seeing this, Irena furrowed her brows, focusing on something before her face paled slightly. “No… One of them got out?”
“Okay, can someone tell me what is going on, and what we can do to fix it?” I felt like the only one in the dark, and this situation wasn’t going to fix itself.
“I’ll explain. Irena, you go and get rid of that thing.” She looked to the other goddess, who nodded her head, immediately vanishing from the room. “Dale, do you remember the spirit classes you looked up a while back? The ones for monsters?”
I nodded my head slowly, and she explained further. “Most classes don’t actually introduce anything new. Anyone can throw a punch, even if they aren’t a Warrior. The classes simply guide the users along their paths, helping to educate them as they learn their powers. The only exceptions are classes that introduce new systems or energies.”
I was about to ask what this had to do with what was happening, but she stopped me before I could say anything. “This thing… You could compare it to the Chimera Soul class. And, its level would be over two hundred. It must have eaten thousands of other spirits to get this far…”
I paused for a moment as I considered that. “If I officially bought the class, would that slow the growth of these things in the future? Force them to stay at the level limit?”
Terra shook her head to deny that. “No. They’d still grow to this point eventually. If anything, it may speed up the progress by enhancing their intelligence. These things… this problem can’t be ‘fixed’ without going to the afterlife and destroying all of the chimera. Even then, the cycle already began. As long as monster souls go to the afterlife, they will feed on each other.”
My brows knit together, and I asked in a worried tone. “Can Irena deal with these? They are so far above the level limit, right?”
Terra let out a small smile. “Don’t worry. She’s the Goddess in charge of the Underworld. As long as it’s a creature that comes from the Underworld, she has absolute power over it. It’ll just use up a bit of her energy.”
“…That sounds ominous. She can get that energy back, right?”
Terra giggled slightly, nodding her head. “As long as she stays in the Underworld for a few months after this to recharge, she’ll be fine. But that means that she can’t handle this too often. It’d be a good idea to have her take care of the others that are close to breaking through in the Underworld before she rests, and we can start working on some countermeasures.”
I nodded my head slightly, watching the screen as the black mass started to recede.

In a particular corner of the Great Forest, life was beginning to die out. There was no apparent cause to this, it simply seemed as if all life in the area became ill at once. The plants started to lose their color, the animals moving sluggishly. But none of them could tell what was happening.
If one were to observe the area from above, through the eyes of a spirit, they would see a pool of black slime covering a vast area of the forest. Giant mouths opened and closed at random intervals, as if trying to eat the trees. However, not a single mark was left behind on the living world.
It was at this time that another figure appeared above the black mass. A large, radiant figure with two wings, starting white at the top and darkening as they went down. Her eyes shined with a fierce light as she gazed down at the monster that seemed to want to devour all life.
Raising one slim hand, she slammed it down towards the ground, clenching her fist as if grabbing something. A loud scream echoed out that only this woman could hear. Her fist tightened, and the entire black mass trembled.
“Punishment. Extermination.” When she released her hand, an invisible pressure crashed into the monster. As with all things, it wanted to devour this pressure, but soon learned otherwise. Its entire body was being ripped apart at the seams, torn smaller and smaller as indescribable pain surged through its body.
The winged woman looked out to the horizon, not dropping the pressure in the slightest as she continued to apply it to every part of the giant monster. Only when there was not a single scrap of its existence remaining did she let out a tired sigh of relief. She knew that this was her fault. She had seen the monsters growing like this in the Underworld, but had not stopped them. She had believed that, no matter how much they ate and grew, they could never trespass on their own into the land of the living.
She was wrong.
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