Ami felt the urge to slap the Reaper around with her Keeper powers for his insolence, but ruthlessly clamped down on it when she realised what she was thinking. Can't let this place get to me, she thought. That she was scared of what he might do was also partly responsible for her hesitation to strike directly at the demon smirking down at her from his throne. She turned in place so fast that her skirt whipped around her legs, and stalked toward the door, never once looking back. Thus, she missed the disappointed frown on the Reaper's face. He had been looking forward to an explosion of some sort from the way the blue-haired girl's eyes had turned almost completely red in rage.

On the threshold of the room, Ami stopped. Without turning, she stated in a deceptively calm tone of voice. "As you seem to like this room so much, why don't you stay here for a while?" Behind her, she heard the impact of large boulders as the doorway crumbled, rendering the question a rhetorical one. An imp rolled out of the avalanche of stone and dust, landed in front of her, giggled gleefully, and skittered off. down a side tunnel. Ami heard some muffled clanging noises from behind the collapsed exit, which were soon followed by vile curses. Her lips twitched up in satisfaction. That should hold that maniac for a while, if his previous behaviour was any indication. If she had been an immortal, tireless demon trapped in some underground prison, she'd have used the centuries to dig her way out. Even if the walls were nigh impenetrable, she was pretty sure the ceiling wasn't. He was just lazy.

Appearing next to her dungeon heart, Ami decided that she could no longer ignore the problem of her growling stomach. With renewed vigour, she scanned through the patterns stored within the magical artefact, searching for a solution. The emergency food supply, a huge, segmented maggot corpse frozen within an ice block, was still not looking any more appetising than when it had still wriggled around. Ami reasoned that if she was supposed to field armies, it would only be logical for there to be a way to feed them. Unless all the monsters were like Angry Red, who had weathered centuries without sustenance? Her limited experience wasn't much help - she didn't know if youma ate anything.

After a while of concentrated work, Ami let out a relieved cheer when she found what she had been looking for. It was so much easier to focus one's attention when there wasn't a huge, sulphur-smelling monster in the room. At the thought of checking up on the Reaper, she experienced a strange moment of double-vision. Superposed over her surroundings, she saw the demon sitting on his throne, chin resting on one hand, and sulking. The strangeness passed as quickly as it had appeared. Blinking, Ami chalked this up to being another feature of the dungeon heart, and returned to mentally plotting out the location for her new room.

By now, Ami was more familiar with crafting rooms from pre-set patterns, and having gold really took all the difficulty out of it, she pondered. Before her, a formerly empty cave exploded into a maelstrom of earthen colours as gold coins rained down from somewhere above, striking the floor in places and transforming like strange seeds. Structures grew and expanded outward from the impact points, devouring all empty space in an eye blink.

Ami looked around. The smell was rather agricultural, but she took that as an encouraging sign. The entire floor of the room was covered in muck, and there were a few shabby wooden sheds. Clucking noises informed her that these were henhouses. As if on cue, a fluffy yellow chick peered out, and then hopped down to the ground below, where it started scratching and pecking in the dirt. A dozen others followed the first one, and soon the air resounded with their chirping. Ami, for her part, had mixed feelings about this. She was glad about now having a food supply, but while she knew intellectually that people ate chicken all the time, she was a city girl. The thought of taking one of those birds, wringing its neck, then butchering it left her feeling queasy. A new thought brightened her mood. Chickens meant eggs! With a spring in her step, she approached the nearest henhouse.

As expected, the low building was warm, dimly lit, and full of nesting hens. Ami stared at the rows of lined-up nests resting on shelves along the walls. Only a few of them contained eggs, as far as she could tell. She stared at the closest one. A vicious looking hen stared back balefully. The senshi was undeterred. She had faced various youma in battle, armed with nothing but bubbles, and no mere bird was going to get between her and her objective! Determinedly, she took a step close and waved her hands.

"Shoo! Go away!"

The hen spread her wings over her clutch in challenge. With the way her comb fell over its beak, it looked almost as if she was scowling.

It's a good thing the Reaper isn't around to see this, Ami reflected as she dashed out of the door amidst a cloud of feathers and straw, left hand held protectively over her ducked head, the right one pressing three eggs against her chest. An angrily clucking chicken was hot on her heels, batting its wings furiously. Ami remembered that she could teleport, and performed a tactical withdrawal. Looking down at her quarry, she smiled. Mission successful!

Her elation evaporated a few minutes later when, upon being subjected to her improvised cooking equipment, the eggs dissolved into green motes of mana. What? WHY? Grumbling, Ami, reappeared on the hatchery grounds, fading into view with her visor already covering her eyes. After batting away a still irate hen, she pulled out her palmtop computer and started analysing what she saw. Her shoulders sagged upon reading the results: all of the living beings here were conjured from pure magic, which made them inedible. The muck was full of dead bugs and worms and the likes, though, which were all made of transfigured matter and in the process of being greedily devoured by the pecking chickens. Which, presumably, would make the latter real enough to consume at some point, as well as their future offspring.

Ami figured that transfiguration of material directly into living beings didn't work for some reason. She would have to find a book on it. Bitterly, she considered the chicken feed. Transfiguration into dead organic matter was obviously possible, so if whoever created this pattern had specified 'sandwich' instead of 'dead vermin', she wouldn't be so hungry right now. Well, she didn't have a few days to wait for her animals to mature, so another solution was required. Perhaps that trader again? Arriving in the library, she contemplated for a moment that teleportation was really convenient. Unfortunately, the crystal ball she had accidentally contacted Mr. Abraxe with failed to show a reaction this time around. More likely was that he just wasn't answering because he still hadn't acquired the books she requested. Sigh. She eyed the single tome resting on the otherwise empty shelves. No. While its graphical descriptions could ruin one's appetite, that wouldn't be enough to take her mind off her growing hunger. Near the dungeon heart, the frozen, sickly white flesh of the maggot creature glittered, as if taunting her.

No! She still had another option. She could visit the surface, now that she had the Reaper locked away. Yes, he's still sulking, she confirmed when she mentally checked on him. So far, so good. She would have to be careful, of course. Make a tunnel that first led far away from the dungeon heart, and sized to only allow passage to an imp. She could move herself to its end without crossing the intervening space effortlessly, so why take a risk? She would also make sure that this exit was easy to collapse, just in case. If she proceeded cautiously and stealthily, there would be little danger of detection, right? Her stomach growled a confirmation.

Previous chapter: Next chapter:
Chapter 6: Basic Functionality Chapter 8: Meet the Locals