"This is a totally inappropriate use of my abilities," the Horned Reaper growled, swinging his scythe. A fireball whooshed away from the weapon, down into the large chamber below. It splashed into a large rectangular basin filled with molten metal. Its orange glow became noticeably brighter, and an imp squealed in fright as it barely avoided being scalded by a rain of red droplets.

"You complained that you were bored," Ami, leaning against the unfinished rock of the cave , replied without looking up from the black tome that was hiding her face.

"Don't you have coal for this?" the demon growled, unleashing another blast of flame into the smelter. It struck suspiciously close to a bug-eyed imp who was struggling to drag an ore-filled bag toward the bubbling pool. "At least you could take your nose out of this infernal book and be useful! You probably know it by heart by now, anyway!"

Lowering the book enough so she could peer over it, the blue-haired girl gave the towering figure standing next to her on the balcony overlooking the cave a questioning glance. In the red glow of the furnace, her blue eyes looked nearly violet. "Only the first six chapters," she replied in all seriousness.

Realising that she wasn't joking, the Reaper felt a vein throb in his forehead. He thought back to how she had refused at first to learn the first steps of Necromancy. He'd had to explain that the book contained a healing spell she could use to fix her ribs before she even deigned open it. The only bright point of that entire headache-inducing situation had been the terrified grovelling of that cowled merchant type when he explained that he had not been able to find any other of the books the Keeper desired. "Never mind that now. You should be moving the ore while the imps mine. With only four of them, it's going to take forever otherwise."

Ami considered the point, and then reluctantly put the skull-encrusted book down. She faded from her spot overseeing the mining and melting operations and shimmered back into existence on the ground, next to where her imps were striking at the rock with their picks. One of the four was just about done stuffing the raw nuggets into a sack. The young Keeper walked over to the bag and lifted it. Or at least attempted to. While her senshi transformation vastly increased her strength, she was also a slight girl, and the container outweighed her. Losing her balance, she fell over and landed on top of the dusty bag with a grunt of surprise that was lost in the clanging of metal on stone echoing through the chamber.

"While I appreciate the sight of you making a fool out of yourself, I don't want this to take any longer than strictly necessary," the Reaper quipped, which earned him a glare. Coming from a face covered in dirt, it only made him chuckle. "I meant for you to use your Keeper abilities to move the ore. You can use them to move anything that belongs to you, not only yourself," he explained, while preparing to fire another fiery projectile into the molten mass below.

Ami stepped away from the bag and stared at it with a look of intense concentration. The sack twitched once, and then tipped over, spilling freshly-mined ore all over the floor. Then, the now empty wrapping disappeared and suddenly burst into flame a foot above the boiling mass of rock and metal. Covering her mouth with one hand, Ami watched as the charred remains ascended on the hot updraft and dispersed.

"Visualising the ability as picking something up with a giant invisible hand helps with control,or so my former Keeper told me," came the deep voice from above. "Keep trying until you get it right!"

Soon after, piles of glittering ore faded from their position on the ground, only to splash into the smelter with some regularity. When the noise stopped for some reason, the demon looked up from his task, only to see that the Keeper had that strange blue visor over her eyes and was staring at an empty spot in mid air, while her fingers danced over that weird rectangular not-a-book she conjured up sometimes. "What's the hold up?"

"I'm trying to find out where the ore goes between the moment I pick it up and before I drop it again," the short-haired girl replied, attention focused on the figures flickering over her visor. This was fascinating! She could see the ghostly outline of a hand, a just-as-ghostly load of ore held within. Experimentally, she turned the immaterial appendage over. The ore stuck to it, as if unaffected by gravity. Hmm. Could she use this power to pluck material directly out of the vein? No, apparently not. It was limited to interacting only with things that already belonged to her, as far as she could tell. So what would happen if she just wished the whole hand to appear, rather than just its contents?

From the Reaper's elevated vantage point, he could see a translucent shape of a hand appear in mid-air, filled with dirty stones. The mound of rubble immediately lost cohesion and slipped out of the hand's grasp, trailing a dust cloud on the way to the ground. "Great work, Keeper. You have found another way to turn something that works neatly into something messy and inefficient. Truly time well spent." The sarcasm in his voice turned to anger. "Now stop fooling around! I'm getting IMPATIENT!"

A while later, both the fuku-clad girl and the demon were standing on the lowest level of the chamber, watching as a thin stream of molten gold trickled out of the bottom of the smelter. The metal ran down a narrow channel and finally gathered within depressions set into the ground to the left and to the right of the groove. "This should be a barely adequate start," the Reaper commented, eyeing the red-hot substance critically. "We were rather lucky that the ore was too low yield for the previous Keeper to bother with."

Ami just nodded silently. He had explained to her earlier that the dungeon heart worked like a reverse philosophers' stone, and turned gold into baser materials. Thus, given enough gold, it could create all materials required for a construction project in just the right qualities and quantities, leading to end results that were in general superior than what could be achieved by gathering the required resources manually. She'd double-check that information later, of course. If she had learned anything, it was not to blindly trust the murderous beast.

"Well, what are you waiting for? Put it in your treasury so the heart can use it for alchemy."

"It's still molten," the senshi protested, looking at the gleaming pools that were radiating heat.

"So? It's not as if you are going to burn your hands," though I wouldn't put it past you to find a way to do just that, the red demon waved the objection aside, and tapped his scythe against the ground impatiently. "Just do it. We have wasted enough time here."

Still doubtful, Ami complied, and made the liquid gold disappear from its containers and re-appear in the vault several hundred metres above. She still hadn't gotten used to how she was aware of exactly where everything within her dungeon was located, as if she had a three-dimensional map in her head. It was quite creepy. Fully expecting to find a spreading puddle of hot metal, she teleported herself to the treasure chamber. The treasury was another build pattern that Ami had dug out of the dungeon heart's bowels. It had been surprisingly complex for what she thought was basically storage space. Nevertheless, she had not run into trouble setting a treasury up. The frightening Reaper had insistent that the dungeon needed one, for some reason.

Now that she was seeing the small hill of freshly minted, glittering coins resting on the mirrored floor of the chamber, she could appreciate the suggestion. Her dungeon heart felt as if it was brimming with energy, ready to call forth its powers on her slightest whim. Gaping at the riches sparkling in the torchlight, she needed several seconds to realise that this all belonged to her. She gulped. This was more money than she had ever seen in her life, or even dreamed of having. Back in her own world, she could buy nearly anything she wished with even a part of this. For a moment, she lost herself in daydreams. She saw herself owning a clinic. Going on a cruise with her friends. Attending any university of her choice. Shaking her head in wonder, she took a step forward and bowed down to pick up one of the coins, feeling the cool, heavy disc rest in her hand. The Mercury symbol was engraved on one side. She flipped it over. Her own face stared back, features set in a regal, haughty expression. Such wealth, she once again thought, still trying to wrap her head around it. And all it had cost her was her soul.

As if summoned by that sobering thought, heavy footsteps echoed through the vault as the Reaper approached. He took in the sight of the gold, and the corners of his mouth twitched down. "It will have to do," he snorted. "Now follow me. It is time for your next lesson!" He had already caught on to the fact that she was much more obedient when he framed his orders within the context of education. Strange, but he wasn't complaining.

"Now that we have some gold in the coffers, it is time to instruct you in the finer arts of crafting your dungeon," the Reaper stated as both stopped in front of a blank wall. "Summon your imps and start digging. Your dungeon isn't going to impress any entering creatures just yet." Following this proclamation, the demon proceeded to run Ami through a training program that strained her shaping abilities to its limits. Time and again, he found a little flaw in the inclination of a pillar, in the curve of a statue's bat-like wing, or in the pattern on a bronze brazier, and made her re-create the object from scratch. Still, she was making progress.

Even though Ami felt more exhausted than if she had just sat through a four-hour exam, she was impressed with the results. The rectangular chamber now reminded her a bit of a cathedral with its high and vaulted ceiling, its gleaming floor, and with its rows of pillars framing the path toward the back hall. Instead of an altar, a massive throne with an arched back stood elevated against the back wall, framed by flaring braziers on both sides. She didn't care much for the decorations, statues of grotesque monsters looming within the thirteen alcoves that took the place of windows, but the Reaper had designed those himself by invoking some magic built into the room. Right now, the demon was stomping towards her, the sound of its hooves muffled somewhat by the red carpet leading up to the throne. "That will do," he finally nodded.

Ami gave a slight smile of satisfaction. Yes, the place looked as if it was right out of some (sinister) fairy tail palace. However, currently the soft, comfortable-looking pillows lining the walls were much more attractive to her than the décor. She really could do with some rest.

"Hmm, you are still here?" the voice of the Horned Reaper startled her out of her contemplation of the furniture. She turned her head, only to see that he had sat down on the throne. The over-sized dimensions of the seat fitted the towering demon perfectly. "This is my room. Go make your own if you want one. Shoo," his voice taunted. Pointy fangs gleamed while his grin widened in reaction to the Keeper opening and closing her mouth mutely, like a fish. "What, you expected me to work for free, did you?" he mocked.

Previous chapter: Next chapter:
Chapter 5: Fire Reading Chapter 7: So Hungry