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  • No chapters this week.

    No chapter this week. It is my birthday on the weekend, and there is prep work I have to get done for upcoming chapters of Winterborn. Also, some RL stuff I'll need to deal with. So, no chapters this week, for any of my stories. Thank you all for reading and understanding.

    Dark Fate, Chapter 39

    No, I didn't forget it. RL just made it a bit late, is all.Chapter 39 – RescueStalking through the Bloomingdale’s as we headed for the stairs, the scenery began to get more and more chaotic. Before, the mall had looked mostly abandoned, with a few signs of fighting. But here? It was like a war zone.Everywhere we looked, there were broken shelves and scattered products. Blood stained the walls and floors, and pieces of bodies could be found in places, like the severed arm still clutching a useless taser we found by the head of the stairs. That there were survivors at all was surprising, given the sights we saw.As we got to the bottom floor, we heard the moans of the undead, and readied ourselves for battle. But the undead weren’t coming our way. For a moment, I was confused, wondering what the Dungeon was up to, and then I heard the sound of breaking glass, and the screams began.“Shit, they’re going after the survivors!”I was already in motion as those words left my lips. The dungeon had clearly decided that its ‘home grown’ undead weren’t going to be able to do the job of killing me, so it decided to try and wipe out the survivors. I wasn’t sure whether it was because it was more intelligent than normal dungeons, or whether it just wanted the resources to try and summon more defenders. Either way, it was a good trick.Undead dungeons played by slightly different rules than other dungeons, as far as anyone knew. They had slower respawn times than other dungeons, and often had weaker monsters, overall, but as a group their monsters, and the nasty diseases they could carry, could overwhelm more powerful foes. And anyone who fell and was raised as an undead by the dungeon didn’t count against the dungeon’s spawns for 24 hours, giving them a chance to potentially get some valuable pawns when high-level adventurers died in their halls.These survivors couldn’t be all that high level, but they had survived for a month inside a dungeon. They weren’t going to be level 1, that much was certain. If they died, then the dungeon could raise them, and replenish its forces.And I had to save them. Not because it was the right thing to do, or any of that. I left those delusions behind in my last life. No, I had promised to save Ezraekiel’s sister, which meant that if I let the girl die, then I would be breaking my word. And I hated when people made me a liar.The girls were hot on my heels as I ran past the ruins of the mall management office, and I saw a horde of the undead breaking down the doors of the spa, and forcing their way past the barricade inside. I was suspicious, naturally, since if they could have burst through the doors so easily, then it must mean that the survivors had been allowed to survive this long. But why?I didn’t have time to think about the answers, or what they might mean. My scythe blazed with the holy hellfire as I cut a swath through the undead like a reaper scything through grain. The undead parted before me, fleeing towards the food court.“Inside, quickly!”We rushed inside, cutting down the last undead that were pressing on the barricade. I heard someone screaming from the other side, but I didn’t bother with that. Instead, I just hopped up, landing on top of the desks and debris that had formed the barricade, and turned back to offer my hand to Rachel. The other girls had the skills and abilities to get over the mess on their own, but Rachel had devoted more of her points from levelling up to mental attributes than physical ones, making her magic hit harder.“Who the hell are you?”Even as I turned to look at the sound of the voice, my pet vampire climbed up the wall beside me, and called out, “It’s ok! They’re from the outside! They’ve been killing the undead between here and the exit!”Zarina VasquezHuman FemaleLevel 3 Adept / EnchanterMarket Value: $1,500“Ezrae? You’re alive! I thought for sure that you’d been killed when these undead started going crazy. And we heard an explosion from above!”The vampire hopped off the wall to hug the speaker. She was definitely a Latina, with a figure that would have boys howling after her like werewolves on a full moon. Looked to be a bit younger than what I took Ezraekiel’s age to be. I figured her for high school, probably a senior, but someone could be more developed than others for their age, and the System would have reshaped her, even if only slightly, to better reflect her new attributes.So, guessing her age was pretty much impossible. Not that I was considering her in that way. I had plenty of lovely ladies to keep me company, so I didn’t need to go adding to them at every step. But, if one fell into my lap, I certainly wasn’t going to turn them down, either.Ezraekiel looked back at me, and said, “Master, this is my sister, Zarina. Zarina, this is my Master.”“Master? What the hell do you mean, Ezrae? What did this bastard do to you?”Ah, it was nice to see a sister coming to her sibling’s aid. But I wasn’t going to simply allow her to throw abuse at me. And yet, it would be a bad idea to mention slavery so soon after the Apocalypse. Best to let society collapse a bit, first.“I am your sister’s Master, because she bound herself to me, body and soul. As part of the binding agreement, she will serve me, doing anything I ask of her. In return, as a reward for her service, I will take you out of this place, and offer you my protection.”I looked up and saw twelve pairs of eyes focusing directly on me. The other survivors, who had been huddling as far from the barricades as they could get, were now watching me, as well as Ezrae’s sister. “The world outside this dungeon is not what it appears in the windows. That is an illusion, made by the dungeon to increase the ambiance of the dungeon.”An elf in the back of the crowd spoke up. “You mean it isn’t the Apocalypse?”I had to laugh. “Oh, no, it is definitely an Apocalypse, but not a zombie one. They’re calling it the System Apocalypse. The world outside has changed in this month you’ve been huddling in a dungeon, and it has gotten one hell of a lot more dangerous. But that doesn’t mean it is the end of all things. Not yet.”A man dressed in the remains of a suit raised a hand. Probably a businessman doing some shopping after work when the Apocalypse hit. “Can we get out of here? If the outside world isn’t overrun with zombies, then I want to go home!”“Sure, you could have gotten out of here at any time, if you could have fought your way to the entrance. This building is a Dungeon now, and that means that the only way I know for sure in or out is the entrance, up on the Mall Level. There may be a door that opens up down here, but that won’t happen until the boss is defeated.”A little gnome female pushed her way to the front. “The boss? You mean that huge fucker?”“Exactly. If we’re very lucky, killing the boss will open up a second way out, or offer some other means to get back to the entrance without trekking through the entire dungeon. Though this one might be too young and weak for such things. Still, even if we have to walk back, it isn’t like there’s anything in here that is a true threat.”“NOT A TRUE THREAT?!?”Karen SmithHuman FemaleLevel 1 Commoner / Soccer MomMarket Value: $0.50My eyes fixated on a slightly overweight white woman with blonde hair and blue eyes. Her clothes showed the least signs of wear out of everyone’s, being a simple track suit that likely hadn’t ever been within six miles of a track. Her hair was slightly disheveled, but still retained that ‘I want to speak to your manager’ style. In short, it was a Karen that was actually named Karen. Fucking lovely.“How DARE you say that those brutes aren’t a true threat! They killed my poor Suzy! Those monsters ATE my BABY! She was a shoe-in for the tiara at the Pre-Teen Miss Georgia pageant next month! We had been training for months, and then—”“Bitch, I don’t give a fuck about your daughter, and I doubt anyone else here does, either. Those shambling mounds of rotting flesh that ripped your precious little angel into bite-sized chunks like you attack the pastries every time you see an all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet? Yeah, they aren’t even capable of scratching me.”The Karen, aghast that I had actually cut her off, opened her mouth again. “Wha-““No, your speaking privileges have been revoked. I don’t give a shit about you. I don’t care what you think. I could kill every last one of you, and the only thing that would happen is I would get some extra experience, and a bunch of people who had already been written off as dead by the outside world cease to exist.”I looked her directly in the eye, daring her to speak. “My pets and I have cut our way through this dungeon that you have been trapped in for the last month, slaughtering everything in our path, facing odds of easily greater than ten to one against us. And we have yet to have any serious injuries.“Let that get through the perfectly smooth slab of cement you call a brain. I was already Level 10 before I stepped foot into this dungeon, and started killing everything that got in my way. Outside of entities bound directly to the System, I am the most powerful being in the entire goddamn city right now!”I allowed the shapechange I was wearing to fade away, revealing my demonic form in all its glory. When I spoke, I infused my words with magic, giving them extra weight. “Listen well, you impudent fool! I am no mere mewling human, desperately clinging to the trappings and memories of the world that was! That world is gone, and will never return!“The time has come for each and every one of you to make a choice. Will you stay stuck in the past, until the new world crushes you under its heel, as uncaring of you as you are of an ant? Or will you force yourself to new heights, grow to be more than what you once were, and adapt to live in this new world?“Choose well, because I can tell you plainly that there is no room for the useless and the weak in this new world. You either rise to the challenge, or you fall. And there are fates far worse than death in this new world, creatures out there that can take your soul, and torture it for a thousand years in the time between one breath and the next, condemning you to countless lifetimes of untold agony! And that still is not the worst fate that can be found in this new world!”I took a deep breath, and looked them all over again. My voice returned to its natural sound, and I said, “If you are not going to rise up, by your own hands, then you should ask one of your fellow survivors to kill you now, so that they at least get some experience as a benefit for your foolishness. Because there are no managers for you to call, and no amount of yelling will save you from the troubles that inhabit this new world.”I was about to continue, when I heard a loud roar from behind me, just before a table came flying through the doors, shattering them completely, to slam against the barricade!

    Lewd Dungeon, Chapter 196

    Chapter 196 – Deadly PerilNudara Belkis, Crusader-Champion of Pofmis groaned as she fell against the hard stone floor. They had just finished the fight against the Vurlock boss. A healer as a boss was a rarity, especially in young dungeons, but it wasn’t unheard of. Those fights were often far more dangerous than they initially appeared.And it had pushed them. Their enchanted items provided no benefits to them, and the damned ‘Hardcore’ mode meant that their regeneration rates were locked. Finding the safe zones allowed them to rest and recover, but the humiliating rules there meant they could not actually relax. And if there was a safe zone in the Water Temple floor, then they hadn’t found it.So, she had been counting on the seventh floor of the dungeon, which had been described as a rest floor, to recover their strength. As much as she hated this Demon, the dungeon, and everything associated with it, she was not blind to reality. They needed to rest. Unfortunately, it seemed that was not going to happen.The instant they had stepped through the portal, she had heard a condemnation from a female voice. She barely had time to recognize the words as a banishment, casting an Anathema from a shrine. And they were the Anathema!Crusader Bilada groaned. “I guess that whole floor was considered a shrine to one of the gods.”Belkis nodded, as she rose to her feet. “The Adventurer’s Guild mentioned that the floor was home to a shrine, and was marked as a safe zone, but I had not considered that the priestess would throw us out like that. We’ll have to find the rest area on this floor, instead.”“Champion! The notice!”She turned to look at Crusader Grimtooth, their Blessed Berserker, and saw that there was a System notice hanging in the air. Like they needed any more of the things. The notice was bad, but expected, given what she knew of the dungeon.Unholy BlightThis floor has been Blighted by the presence of the undead and dark magics. Take care, lest you join the shambling horde.All Undead stats increased by 25%All Undead +25% resistance to healing and holy magicsHoly Magic costs 25% more MPShe sighed, knowing that the Blight would make everything more difficult, especially since most of their powers involved Holy Magic, and took a proper look around the room they were in. They looked to be in some kind of catacomb or tomb complex. Shelves were carved into the stone walls, each holding the skeletal remains of those long dead. Other skeletons were crumpled, sitting against the walls. One was even laid out across a rusted iron gate.As she looked, a deathly blue light filled the skeleton’s eyeless sockets, and it rose to a sitting position, animated by foul magics. And then it spoke. “Welcome, travelers, to the Crypt of the Virtuous Ranger. Before you pass into the tomb, hear now the Ranger’s tale of woe.”(Later)Cursing the Demon and his Dungeon Laws under her breath, as she and her squad were being chased by the undead, weary from the battle in the halfway point of the catacombs, Belkis found herself thinking about the story the skeleton had told. She’d wanted to destroy it the moment it animated, but was concerned that it might be another noncombatant in a safe zone. She had no wish to see what other damnable Dungeon Laws the Demon had come up with, so had let the foul creature speak its piece.The Ranger’s story was a cruel one, describing the fall of an innocent who had done nothing wrong. Betrayed and enslaved before he knew what was going on, he was the kind of person the Church was meant to save. But then the Demon corrupted him, twisting him from an innocent into a monster. It was sad, but she would have to put him down, along with the rest of the dungeon’s creatures. He was beyond saving, but that did not mean she didn’t weep for the innocent he used to be.“Damn it all,” Crusader Yathrena cursed. “We should be destroying these weak undead by the droves. This damned Dungeon Law is a serious hinderance.”Belkis grunted, as she kept up the pace. “There’s nothing for it. Without the ability to use our equipment to its full effect, and the limitations on our magic, we’re going to have to save our strength. And we know there are more dangerous foes beyond. The Guild has reported ghouls, wraiths, and vampires, but you can bet that if there are other types in the mansion, and the forest around it, the Demon will send them after us.”They turned what was supposed to be the final corner, according to the rough map they’d gotten. Unfortunately, they came face to face with a solid iron door, with the Demon’s symbol emblazoned upon it. There was no sign of a handle or keyhole.Trial of the SlayerThe true undead slayer sometimes finds themselves fighting against uncounted odds, facing foes that outnumber them a hundred to one. As part of the Hardcore experience, you must overcome this trial to proceed.Kill 600 undead to open the way forward.600/600 kills remaining.Bonus Objective:Kill 600 more undead to prove your might.600/600 kills remaining.Reward: Potions are exempt from the restrictions caused by Dungeon Laws while in the Forbidden Chambers of Exotic Pleasures.Belkis’s eyes went wide. Six hundred undead to open the way forward was bad enough. But another six hundred, just to use potions? She couldn’t deny how useful it would be, but still…No. No time for that now. Turning to face back down the hall, she could see the undead fast approaching. They were only mindless skeletons, but there were many of them. “Form up, and get ready. Focus on the first six hundred. We’ll worry about whether to get the next six hundred after that.”She watched as they moved into position beside her, blocking the hall, forming a shield wall as good as any soldier could make. “Conserve your strength. These are Tier 1 skeletons, according to the Guild. Weak, easy to kill. No need to go all out. Just keep them from grabbing you. No raging, Grimtooth. This is a trial of endurance, not might.”Belkis took a deep breath to steady herself, shield in front, sword raised to stab around it. It wasn’t the best weapon to face skeletons with, but it was what she had, at the moment. “May grace of Pofmis light our path.”The instant before the undead were upon them, she could swear that she heard laughter, coming from everywhere and nowhere.(Later)“Hold.”Battered, bloody, barely still on their feet, Belkis stopped, along with the other three members of the Golden Host as Crusader Trueheart, the closest thing they had to a tracker remaining in the squad, held up her hand and whispered that command. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Crusaders Grimtooth and Bilada set down the crude stretcher they were carrying Crusader Holad on. Crusader Yathrena moved up from where she had been covering them with her Pulse Rifle, to look ahead.Moving as stealthily as she was able, Belkis moved up next to the Rodaini that was serving as their scout. “What is it?”“Door to the safe room. Right where it is supposed to be. Two Dread Wraiths on guard, like in the report. But there’s a pair of Death Knights, as well. Can’t tell races because of the armor, but one could be one of these humans, the other has to be one of the lizardfolk.”“Levels?”“The ones I’ve gotten a clear read on? 45, across the board. But I’m certain I caught a glimpse of another, probably a stealth user, maybe goblin. Don’t know where he is now.”“Damn, this is going to get messy.”“Been messy from the start, Ma’am. At least we can use potions now.”She ignored the Crusader’s tone. They’d all earned a bit of leeway, after the hell they’d already been through. And she wasn’t wrong. The whole delve had been a mess, and was getting steadily worse, ever since the Anathema was declared.“True enough, Trueheart. The potions did save Holad, once we got those ghouls off her. The disease almost got her by the time we got her stable, and we can’t risk using the mana to regrow her leg here, with the Blight and the lack of regeneration. We need to get into that Safe Room.”“What’s the plan, Ma’am?“We do the only thing we can. You stay back with Holad, on your rifle. I want you scanning for that stealther. You have the best eyes among us, so when you see them, you light them up. There’s a chance they’ll try and make a play for Holad, kill or convert him, like they did to Crusader-Chaplain Telhan with those false undead.”“Understood.”With a nod, she crept back to the others. Looking at Grimtooth and Yathrena, she whispered, “There’s two wraiths, two death knights, and a possible assassin in the clearing ahead. We are going to take the visible fighters. Grimtooth, I want you on the death knights. Rage out if you have to, but keep them under control. Yathrena and I will work on the wraiths, try and deal with them fast, so we can help out.”“W-what about me, ma’am?”Looking down at the barely conscious Holad, she grimaced. “You rest, for now. But keep a hold of your weapon, Crusader. If you see anything trying to sneak up on Trueheart while she is covering us with her rifle. I want you to shoot it, understood?”“Y-yes ma’am.”“Good girl. We’ll get you healed up good as new once we get to the Safe Room. We’re going to have to rest for a while, anyway. No sense in making the Demon’s job easy, right?”“Aye, ma’am.”She crept away from the downed Crusader, back towards the clearing, with Grimtooth and Yathrena at her sides. She glanced questioningly at Trueheart, but only got a silent shake of the head in reply. The stealthy assassin hadn’t been spotted, yet.“Start it off, Yathrena.”The priestess nodded, and took a breath. She began counting down on her fingers, as she muttered prayers to Pofmis. As she dropped the final finger, she yelled out the final word of the prayer, “[HOLY NOVA]!” With a rush, the growing spell’s power was unleashed, and a burst of holy light exploded in the midst of the undead, burning their bodies. Even the wraiths burned with divine flames that somehow stuck to their incorporeal forms.Yathrena staggered slightly at the use of so much of her mana, due to the Blight’s making her spells more costly, but Belkis didn’t have time for that. She charged at the closest of the wraiths, activating three skills in rapid succession. [Armor of Faith] enhanced her armor with divine power, increasing its defensive value, and allowing it to shield against incorporeal undead as though they were solid. [Holy Weapons] wreathed all of their weapons in the divine light of Pofmis, ensuring that they would do deadly damage to the undead. And [Consecration] laid down an area of holy might, strengthening the blows of her and her allies, while weakening the attack power of her enemies, and damaging them slightly over time.The three spells took a lot out of her, but she had been shepherding her power for just such a moment, relying more on martial skill than on her holy abilities. She did not miss a step as she charged out next to Grimtooth, the snarling berserker already dipping into his battle trance. She couldn’t fault his judgement. They needed this fight done as quickly as possible. They could heal on the other side of the door.The undead were just starting to recover from the [Holy Nova]’s effects, as the two of them crashed into the lines. The snapping hiss of Yathrena’s pulse rifle showed that she, too, was fighting through the disorientation. Somewhere behind her, she heard a yell, but she couldn’t pay attention to that right now. She had all she could handle in front of her, with the wraiths and death knights.And again, she thought she heard the sound of laughing.

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