Ali Kama Tewe (Together in Peace)

Jen realized she was dead as they bore down on her. She had been cut off and those that were in her unit were dust. There was no way for her to either properly defend or escape. Yet as she saw this inevitability, she squared her stance as she readied both of her daggers.

Then she heard Ishida's voice. "Get Down!"

Without question or thought Jen dove to the ground as a bar of blackness the size of an ogre's torso passed through the space she had occupied. She blinked the spots away as her eyes adjusted and took Stone Soup's offered hand.

"Alright newbie. What's the situation?" The Dwarf looked about as she and Ishida flanked Jen.

The white haired goblin blinked, then after a moment to catch her breath. "They've been acting pretty uncoordinated for the past hour, almost like they stopped getting orders and were having to fight on their own. Zed sent me here. Something about Morrigan having a hunch on why there hadn't been as many coming in as reinforcements. This is where they were all gathering."

Taru's head tilted, her black eyes looking to Jen. "An hour?"

"An hour," Jen confirmed.

Ishida, Stone Soup, and Taru all exchanged looks. "You're coming with us."

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

"What do you mean Lonely Hill's gone dark?" Naoko's voice was tight as she looked to Nyx as she hovered at the door to the second floor room that had served as their command center.

"Just that," The spectre stated. her eyes, soft glowing pinpricks of starlight, met Naoko's own gemstone eyes. "He is not dead, but the light of his core is swallowed. We have seen this once before when he and Cronos clashed."

"That would mean," the head Librarian looked at the map spread out before them. Several gestures caused its focus to shift where Bonehead had fallen along with a timer that was ticking up counting the time since he had fallen. Another gesture sent it to a point within the library grounds. Another timestamp. This happened several other times.

"You can't tell me that crazy bag of bones pulled it off." Ally stood there watching Naoko fiddle with the map.

The Librarian's head shook. "Go find Stone Soup and Ishida, they're relatively close by this point and headed this way. Take anyone else you need to delve Midori's holdings."

Naoko reached to a corner of the room and her staff flew from it to her hand. "I will need to meet with the allied cores."

Nyx bowed to her. "While I have been given reign to speak on their behalf your grace."

"Librarian, please." Naoko's voice was hard, yet her body posture easy. "Every spin 'round I've had as nobility I've hated."

"As you say Librarian," Nyx's voice remained soft. "If Lonely Hill is doing battle with Midori directly this is, to borrow a phrase from the skeletons, Above my pay grade."

"Agreed," Naoko looked about and pointed to a pair of automita. "You two. hold down the fort. Nyx, I want you to keep doing sweeps. Even if Midori's out of the fight we still have an army on my front lawn."

"Yes Librarian." Nyx again bowed then sped away as if carried on unfelt winds.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

Ally met with Stone Soup's party and the four of them started back to Midori's holdings.

A horse-drawn buggy was called for. It was a simple black buggy that, in an older earth, would not have looked out of place for the Amish to use. As they rode, their horse-like constructs were joined by others that bore cloaked riders. Each rider was a skeleton. Each rider cloaked. They would occasionally spy Nyx flying above and ahead of their formation as they rode past the holdings that bordered Midori's lands.

These too sent riders.

Along the way they would see remnents of Midori's army dissolving. They would see that it was only those that had been infected suffering this fate and for a time they were all silent.

Then Ishida's eyes widened. "...He's gone..."

"You're sure?" Worry streaked through Jen's voice. "How can you tell?"

"Lass," Stone Soup put a hand on Ishida's and gave a gentle squeeze. "Every creature that is part of a dungeon knows their core."

Ishida frowned as she watched the countryside and cityscape roll by. "This was always the plan. Get him close enough to act as a way for the cores to link. Use the fact he is on the throne mechanism to hit all of the infected all at once. Burn it out completely."

The ride continued in silence after this revelation. Ally and Stone Soup both made notes in journal books they carried. Neither seemed in a talkative mood beyond what was needed.

In time they would stop and disembark. The skeletons fanned out to form a parameter. Nyx flew overhead. the four entered a large structure that might have once been a cathedral.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

"Midori's destruction confirmed." Stone Soup sounded hollow with that proclamation.

The mass surrounding Midori's core had withered and blown away by this point, leaving a raised plinth and an empty pedestal. Jen saw something laying there. Creatures died and turned to dust. Some dropped something of theirs in death. This was simply how dungeons worked.

She held up a dented metal scabbard coated in olive drab paint. Slowly, almost unwillingly, she pulled the sword free and frowned at the characters she saw.

After gentle prompting she handed it to Stone Soup, who squinted. "Roughly? My Grandfather's Sword."

The dwarf then frowned. "Legendary bound drop."

At Jen's confused look she elaborated, "some items bind themselves to the first person who picks them up that is able to use them. In this case, you."

"But... I'm a Thief." Jen protested, trying to push the sword away when Stone Soup offered it back. "Daggers and stuff, not swords."

"You made the same mistake he did." The Dwarf said softly. "You followed your heart when you should have followed your head."

She placed the sheathed weapon in the thief's hands. "you didn't make the far worse mistake he made of ignoring his heart for his head."

Ishida then helped clip the weapon to Jen's belt. Somehow, impossibly, the weapon seemed to resize itself to remain proportionally correct for the goblin. "We knew him better than anyone alive. He would have wanted you to have this."

Ally smiled sadly. "Campbell and I are short a party member anyway, and your mentor kinda told you to pack up."

That caught Jen's attention before she looked to Stone Soup. "But you already have a thief. And... the way Naoko spoke..."

"Bah," Ally waved a hand dismissively. "there's a lot of paperwork to do and education, but if you're that much of a loose line better we keep an eye on you than risk you running off to who knows where."

Taru nodded slowly as she picked up the ragged remains of Bonehead's coat and slid it on over her slight frame.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

When the party exited Midori's sanctum the ysaw a quartet of kobold and a muscular yet clearly artificial being. Its eyes glowed like embers as it looked at them.

"Scoria." Taru hissed, immediately taking a defensive stance, which was immediately mirrored by the rest of the party.

The golem's eyes brightened but otherwise did nothing. "Subsumed?"

Taru's black eyes locked onto the burning coals of its eyes. "Detonated, along with Lonely Hill's core on the opposite end of the settlement to purge the infected."

The golem gave a soft purring growl to her before looking to the Kobold. "We will cross blades another day apostates."

Then between blinks it seemed to vanish. Only the faint smell of burnt gunpowder marked its passing.

Dion gave a weak chuckle. "Yea uh... It kinda recognized offing us in the middle of something that could spread to the whole of everythign was a bad idea."

Raiph snorted, "Even said your library was neutral ground as far as the Scoria was concerned."

This earned a derisive snort from Taru, "Their approval fills me with such joy."

"Now what?" Leo asked as the quarted looked the party over.

Ishida shrugged. "Rest. then start rebuilding. Stone Soup and Ally have to go report and Jen's going with them, but hte rest of us have a city to clean up. Not all of Midori's units were infected and some of them might want new homes, or need putting down."

This got a collective nod from the quartet before they, Jen and Ally started to leave.

Stone Soup hugged Ishida close. "I'll see you soon my heart."

"Do what needs doing love." Ishida's fingers entwined with Stone Soup's. "I'll be here making sure the home fires stay lit."

Only then did Stone Soup join the others as they left, taking the buggy with them.

Ishida then looked to Taru and gave a wry smile. "Guess it's just you and me kiddo."

"Papa." Taru offered Ishida a hand. "Think we'll see him again?"

Ishida gave the question a moment to roll around in her head. "Considering everything? Yea."

This caused the automiton to straighten as the pair walked. "Guess we'll have to make sure he's got something to come back to."

Nyx spoke up from where she floated above the pair. "He did speak of opening a noodle bar. I have no idea what that is, but it will be interesting to see what one is when he gets back."

As the trio walked and the sun set a spider watched. At one time she had been named Thalia. At one point she had been Loona. Another time she had been Shelly. At all these times she knew these people well. If the spider had voice she would have laughed. What happened had further reaching implications than just the eradication of a mind control fungus. She could feel it in the drift and flow of mana. Humans had not been native to this age or this world. they would begin to be born now rather than simply spin out as dungeon cores.

What effects this would have? She was but a little spider this life, so far from her to say beyond it would be Change that none could fully predict. This brought Charlotte joy.

Bring on The Singularity.


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