Ch 123 -- A Small Problem at the Dungeon Entrance
Fer and Dora-chan headed off towards Doran's dungeon with me following behind carrying Sui in her bag. Elland-san had given us simple directions, go out the gate we had come in, follow the city wall to the right and we'd arrive at the dungeon entrance.
About 500 meters from the gate we reached a place where a lot of people were gathered. There was what seemed to be a marketplace with stalls and small stores selling all sorts of food, goods, weapons and the like. What I took to be the entrance to the dungeon was surrounded by a stone wall with an opening guarded by two knights in armour.
"This looks like it." I said, looking around. It wasn't like the small dungeon Fer had dragged me into to face Kobolds and such, that had been a simple cave entrance out in the countryside. This was, well, organised, almost like a business operation.
"Umu, no doubt about it." Fer said, licking his lips, his eyes focussed on the opening.
There was a long line of Adventurers at the gateway waiting to enter the dungeon. Next to them was a small building and as I watched more Adventurers came out of the building's doorway and joined the end of the queue. Elland-san had mentioned in passing that there was a branch office of the Adventurers Guild where Adventurers were required to register otherwise they would be refused entry to the dungeon. That building was presumably the branch office.
"It seems we can't enter the dungeon unless I register at the branch of that Adventurers Guild so we'll have to go through there first." I said as I led the way into the building. Inside there were three windows and I stepped up to one that was not in use.
"Excuse me, I'd like to register please." I said to the receptionist, handing her my Guild card.
"Yes, dungeon entrance registration, oh, would you be the Tamer, Mukouda-sama? We've been expecting you." the receptionist said.
Tamer, me? Expected? Huh? What?
"Oh, I'm sorry." the receptionist hurried to explain, seeing my confused face. "We were informed by our colleagues in the Adventurers Guild in the city that a certain strong Adventurer named Mukouda-sama accompanied by his Tame contracted monsters was expected to come here, wishing to enter the dungeon."
Eeh, really? Being expected like this was kind of troubling...
"Well, in my case, it's not me that's really strong but my contracted monsters." I explained. I was no match for Fer or Dora-chan or even Sui, really.
"Despite what you say, Mukouda-sama, they are part of your party's assessed strength and are counted as such by the Guild." the receptionist explained. "Moving on, I see you don't have much baggage with you. Is that right?"
Baggage? How was that a problem? The receptionist noticed my expression and continued.
"Perhaps this is the first time Mukouda-sama has planned to enter a dungeon?" Well, there was that time a certain Someone, I glanced down at Fer pretending to sleep beside me, dragged me unwillingly into a small dungeon to level-up my Earth Magic against a horde of Goblins and Kobolds but this was my, well our first big dungeon.
When I nodded, the receptionist explained that certain preparations were necessary to enter Doran's dungeon since even a short journey exploring only the upper reaches of the dungeon would take at least three days. A full exploration of a large dungeon with many floors like this one might take up to a month depending on the abilities of the Adventurers in question. Collecting valuable drops meant a lot of searching, defusing traps and locating hidden passages and that added to the time spent underground, not to mention the encounters with various monsters along the way. There were no convenient supply points or places to obtain food etc. in the dungeon either thus any party of Adventurers had to take sufficient supplies with them to support themselves. Indeed, parties sometimes failed to come back out of the dungeon having perished there -- it was not an uncommon story for such parties to have run out of food if they were insufficiently provisioned.
"The street vendors and shops in the market outside sell preserved food and other essentials for Adventurers who are intending to enter the dungeon. There are also maps of varying accuracy covering the first fifteen levels for sale. If you go beyond the fifteenth level you have to be much more careful, of course, but taking sufficient food with you is a basic necessity."
I see. I asked if we couldn't get our own food in the dungeon such as meat from monsters but it depended on them dropping meat randomly after they were subjugated -- dungeons absorbed the monsters killed within them, I recalled from my own combat experience in the small dungeon a certain Someone had dragged me into. Rather than relying on lucky drops it seemed better to prepare enough food to take with us before we entered the dungeon in the first place. That sounded like the proper thing to do, I agreed. Safety first, after all.
The helpful receptionist went on to tell me that this dungeon consisted of thirty floors. One high-ranked Adventurer party was fighting on the 22nd floor at the moment, well ahead of all the other Adventurers currently exploring the dungeon but it had never been totally conquered. It seems that there had been a party of particularly strong Adventurers which had almost conquered the dungeon in the distant past. The receptionist's description of that party's members suggested to me that Doran's Guild Master, Elland-san had been one of them along with his companion Rodolpho-san who was of course now Claire's Guild Master. They had apparently reached the last floor's final room and discovered the Last Boss was a Behemoth. They discussed what to do before entering the room and triggering the boss fight and sensibly chose to make a strategic withdrawal at that point. Wise decision, Elland-san, Rodolpho-san, I agreed. A Behemoth, brrrr... that was a top-rated Last Boss in many games.
"Huh, a Behemoth? That might be fun." Fer's intrigued thought resonated in my head as I saw his ears prick up at the receptionist's words.
"Fer, the words 'fun' and 'Behemoth' don't go together," I answered him telepathically but I feared that a flag had been raised.
I considered what the receptionist had told us. Fer and Dora-chan had rushed off here ready to enter the dungeon right away but it seemed we weren't actually ready to do so. We'd have to go back to the inn and return here later. I was fairly confident Fer and Dora-chan (and Sui-chan too) could deal with any strong enemies within the dungeon but we had to eat. Our real enemy would be hunger and the only weapon I had to defeat that kind of boss monster was cooked food.
In the worst case we wouldn't starve because I had Net Super but I couldn't use it in front of other Adventurers we might encounter in the dungeon. For that reason I'd have to make lots of food beforehand and store it in my Item Box before we entered, I decided.
"Excuse me," I said to the receptionist, "but we won't be entering the dungeon today. Listening to your explanation made it clear our preparations are insufficient and we need to take some time to get ready. You have been most helpful, thank you."
"I'm glad you agree, preparation is important if you wish to succeed in exploring Doran's dungeon." She handed my Guild card back to me. Fer and Dora-chan objected telepathically to my decision, of course.
"Well, we've come all this way and we're not going into the dungeon?! Meanie-!"
"You both heard what the receptionist said, didn't you, Fer, Dora-chan? We need to prepare properly or we'll not have enough to eat when we're in the dungeon."
"What are you talking about?" Fer complained.
"Yeah," Dora-chan interrupted. "The big guy told me we eat food from another world that you can just order when you want. Right?"
"Ah-" Fer looked down guiltily. Blabbermouth, I thought at him.
"Hmm?" Dora-chan looked between us. "Oh, is it that square box thing that always appears before you? I thought that was part of your magic."
"Right, I haven't explained things to you yet, Dora-chan. You see, I was Summoned from another world. As for the box thing, Net Super, it's a Unique Skill I have, I can buy things from the world I came from and have them delivered here. I use a lot of condiments, spices and sauces from that other world to make the food you like so much. They're the reason the meals are so delicious. However-" I raised a warning finger, "what do you think would happen if I used my Net Super skill in front of others in this world, people like Adventurers?"
Dora-chan thought for a moment. "Greedy humans, they would threaten you to get their hands on other-world things you could get for them, I suppose." I was surprised, Dora-chan seemed to have a better grasp of human beings and their habits than I had expected from a creature that mostly stayed out of sight. He brightened up, continuing "Just don't let them threaten you then!"
If Fer was around all the time it wouldn't be a problem but in the dungeon I couldn't be absolutely sure he'd be able to protect me all the time. There could be blind spots, we might get separated or Fer might be busy fighting while I was being targeted. I explained all this to Dora-chan.
"I don't even know how many Adventurers are in the dungeon so I don't want to use the Net Super skill down there unless I absolutely have to." I decided to appeal to his stomach, and Fer's stomach too. "We can buy lots of the food they sell here in the market and enter the dungeon right now but it's things like preserved salted meat, raw vegetables, powdered soup, hard bread and the like. Are you OK with eating that sort of food for the next few weeks? If so-"
That 'offer' convinced Fer and Dora-chan. They'd wait and let me cook lots of food for the dungeon exploration so they could eat delicious meals rather than having us subsisting on basic travel rations.
"So just wait a little. I'd say it'll take me about three days to do a good job of the preparations and then we can go into the dungeon. How does that sound?"
"Isn't waiting three days too much?" Fer complained. He wanted to go to the beach- the dungeon right away! It wasn't fair! Waah!
"I think so, too." Dora-chan chimed in. "Surely one day's cooking will be enough? We can come back here tomorrow." C'mon Dad, why wait? Let's hurry!
"Eeh-," I tried to explain to the two kindergarteners. "Look, I don't know when we're going to be coming back out when we enter the dungeon. I want to look around Doran and do some sight-seeing before we go in. Besides we're going to need a lot of food and I absolutely need three days to cook it all and get it ready."
"Nu, making meals is fine I suppose but what is this 'sight-seeing' you're talking about?" Fer was still annoyed.
"Fer, I noticed how you reacted when you heard there was a Behemoth in the dungeon. You're planning to go all the way to the bottom of the dungeon, to the 30th level and fight that Last Boss, aren't you?"
"Of course." Fer's simple agreement was tinged with excitement and bloodlust, more than I'd ever felt him express before. Never mind, I'd deal with that situation when it happened.
"The Guild receptionist said it could take a month to get there. I don't know when we'll be able to return to the surface in that case." I suspected it might not take Fer that long to clear the dungeon but it was still going to take a week at least, maybe two. "I want to look around before we enter the dungeon. I was really looking forward to exploring this place all the way here, it's such a big city." I wasn't planning to cook for three days morning and night and then enter the dungeon immediately afterwards while I was tired out after all that effort. I intended to take it easy instead, wandering around the city streets and seeing the sights between bouts of cooking.
"You can wait for three days, can't you Fer, Dora-chan? That way we can all eat delicious food even when we're in the dungeon."
"Nuuuu, It can't be helped," Fer moped, finally giving in. "But only three days though."
"We can't say no when you promise us delicious food, boss." Dora-chan finally agreed. "It can't be helped like the big guy said but just three days, right?"
"Now that's decided, I'm going to explore the city of Doran today." I declared. I started on the way back to the city gate and the streets of Doran. Fer cast a single long glance back at the gate to the dungeon and turned to follow me with Dora-chan buzzing along beside him. I caught a faint telepathic thought from him as he caught up... "Behemoth".