158 The Dungeon Core
Later on that night, Zoey found herself outside the Stella Tenebris, sitting on top of the bridge at the highest point of the cruiser. She had already moved the cruiser back up to the top of the sinkhole until she emerged from the swirling clouds like an island in a stormy sea of clouds.
She was sitting there just looking up at the night sky, watching the stars twinkle and shine above, a beautiful sight. Since she had closed the dungeon, the fog and miasma that had covered the area was now cleared up, allowing her to view the sky.
She had been reflecting, remembering her journey until now. Meeting Nito, then Athena, the time spent at Sand Pit and then Brumau, her time on this planet was quickly approaching a full year. She had changed so much during her time here.
From the broken survivor of a dead universe to a powerful warrior with her own cruiser. She could not remember her parents from Gaia, but she was sure they would have been proud of her.
She was brought out of her reflections by Viridi who appeared next to her and started nuzzling her while purring loudly. She wanted attention. Zoey chuckled at her friend as she scratched the big feline in her favorite spot behind her ears.
After a few minutes of giving Viridi her attention, Zoey opened her inventory and pulled out the dungeon core she had acquired. She figured it was time to get to the next rank. Sethrii had warned her that the change would be significant when she achieved Rank 5, so she was a little excited, yet apprehensive.
Viridi sensed that something big was about to happen, so she sat before Zoey and lowered her head. Zoey placed her forehead against her friend's, holding the crystal orb of the dungeon core between them as she activated her magic.
She gently controlled the tendrils of magic essence as she reached out to touch the dungeon core, but just before she did so, another magic essence touched hers! With a start, Zoey realized that Viridi was sending her magic essence into her to take part in the process!
Until now she had assumed since Viridi was a part of her, she did not have her own essence, but clearly she had been wrong. Zoey quickly realized that Viridi's essence was completely familiar to her yet with subtle differences. After the surprise wore off she used her own essence to embrace Viridi's essence, twining the two strands together almost instinctively, as if it should be this way.
The two of them were linked, but after connecting their essences like this this connection was stronger than ever, almost as if they were sharing their very blood with one another. Viridi was such a mysterious creature, yet Zoey felt completely at ease with the situation.
After they had linked their essences and gotten used to the unfamiliar sensation, the two of them turned their attention back to the dungeon core that awaited them. Their essences formed sharp point and slowly started to penetrate the outer shell of the core. It was slow going but neither of them wanted to rush the process.
After a seemingly long time, they felt the shell finally give way and their essences finally penetrated into the dungeon core!
Suddenly, both Zoey and Viridi experienced a sudden flash of light, then darkness.
Zoey awoke with a start. Where was she? She looked around, but saw only darkness, her eyes unable to make out anything.
She suddenly realized that she was holding something. It was Viridi! But she was small, like she had been when she had just hatched, and she appeared to be asleep.
Zoey then realized that she was not wearing any clothes, she was completely nude. This place was getting stranger by the second.
She noticed that the tattoos on her left arm were gone, her skin clear and pristine. She sent her senses inward, but all she could sense was her connection to Viridi. Her inner world had completely disappeared along with her magic energy!
This was strange. Were they inside the dungeon core? Zoey could only assume they were, but why had she been reduced to this. It was like this was her form before she had arrived on Darren, without magic or her Heritages, just another human.
The next instance she saw a light before her. It shone steadily brighter and brighter until Zoey was bathed in the light. Then, she heard a voice.
[POWER EXCESS DETECTED
It was that voice, the one from her Dark Star Runic Blood! She had heard it before when she absorbed essence stones and now it was here, its mechanical bass echoing with power as it spoke. Whatever was happening was likely due to the Dark Star, whatever it was.
[DARK STAR STATUS: 50%
[SHARDS ACQUIRED: 1/3
The voice rumbled out again, and it seemed to resonate with her bones to the point where her body felt like it was filled with energy and power.
Something appeared before her, and Zoey recognized the Dark Star Shard she had picked up in the dungeon outside Sand Pit. The shard was placed on a pedestal, and next to it were two more pedestals, presumably waiting for a shard of their own.
Beyond the pedestals, Zoey suddenly saw a form appear, and with a start she realized it was her! She got up and walked to the form, holding Viridi in her arms. It was definitely her body, but this version of her had the tattoos on her arm, and seemed strong, incredibly strong. It was as if she was looking at a hurricane contained in a human body.
She also sensed something else, barely noticeable, but present still, like a fleeting thought in the back of your mind. Zoey didn't know what to make of it, but just being near her own body was making her conscious self feel... calmer, stronger, clearer. It was as if an aura was spilling out of her form and into the surroundings to create this strange sensation.
It was quite heady, almost like a drug or some form of intangible energy, but she was not clear what was causing it. Was this what people were experiencing when she was around? Had this been going on without her noticing?
Curious, she approached her suspended form and reached out to touch her other self. The instant she did so, the air behind her floating other self warped and suddenly was lit up by a brilliant mosaic of information that spread out around her body like an aurora in the sky.
Zoey could see runes and geometric designs that she did not know the meaning of rotating and flashing, all displaying some form of information, but she was unable to decipher most of it. However, she was able to make some sense of what she saw.
The mosaiq of glittering runes, formed a picture that seemed to show herself as the center, her body the nexus of something incredibly complex. Directly above her head was a circular arrangement of runes that depicted something she recognized...
It was her inner world!