Chapter 132 -- Reunion in the Middle of a Dungeon
We moved into the dungeon, advancing quickly through a series of stone-walled passageways. Monsters that appeared as we approached were dealt with by Fer and Dora-chan with no apparent effort. I felt the rate at which we were moving was a bit too fast, we should be more careful but Fer and Dora-chan wouldn't be dissuaded. I was proved right a moment later.
Hyun---. "Waah!" An arrow flew past my eyes, bouncing off Fer's Barrier. Some kind of dungeon trap?
"Oh, this dungeon has arrow traps." Dora-chan commented as he skilfully dodged around the deflected arrow in mid-flight. "The big guy's Barrier will come in useful after all."
"There's no problem with traps because that guy has Perfect Defence, he doesn't really need my Barrier." Fer said telepathically, continuing to sprint down the corridor. Huh? Can Perfect Defence protect me from inanimate traps? I thought Perfect Defence was 'a Skill that completely protects against physical attack and magical attack from hostile forces'. How could a trap be a 'hostile force'? I thought that meant some person or monster had to be hostile to me for the Skill to protect me.
"Ah, that's right. You're ignorant about dungeons and how they work." Fer said. Well, I had a vague idea about dungeons from the games I had played, if you defeat monsters you get valuable drops, there are treasure chests here and there, traps and pitfalls and the like. Fer went on to explain how dungeons worked in this world.
"A dungeon attracts people to enter them with drop items and treasure chests that can be obtained by defeating stronger monsters. Sometimes the people are killed by the traps and monsters. Those dead people are absorbed by the dungeon as nourishment and the dungeon grows." Another group of monsters fell to Fer's magic attacks, Kobolds? it happened in a blur and then we were around a corner before I could look back to check, and he continued his explanation. "Because of this, a dungeon is considered to be a living being. So, you see, a trap is a hostile attack by the dungeon creature and so Perfect Defence protects you from them."
Oh I see. Fer's explanation made it clear the dungeon really was a living thing. Fer went on to tell me about the dungeon's core. It was the heart of any dungeon and meant the dungeon would live and slowly grow unless the core was broken or captured whole and removed from its dungeon.
"If you break the dungeon core or remove it, what happens to the dungeon?" I asked as more unidentifiable monsters appeared before us, were dealt with and left far behind as Fer rushed through the dungeon. Dora-chan was flying alongside us and keeping up with no apparent difficulty.
"It means the dungeon dies. It becomes merely a hole in the ground that produces nothing, no monsters, no treasures. However the dungeon core is always moving around in the dungeon so it's almost impossible for most people to find it."
"When you say 'almost impossible' and 'most people', would you be able to find it, Fer? After all you have that monster-detecting ability of yours." I asked. Fer agreed that he could, with some difficulty and a lot of effort, find the dungeon core if he wanted to, but as he went on, "It would be stupid to kill an entertaining playground like this dungeon".
From then on I didn't worry about the traps we triggered in our rush through the dungeon passageways. Arrows and spears bounced off Fer's Barrier and he jumped easily over the pitfalls that opened in our path. Each level's boss was dealt with in a passing blow by Fer or Dora-chan and we didn't even slow down as we descended the stairs behind the dead monster. By the way, Sui-chan was fast asleep in her leather bag hanging from my shoulder as usual.
After getting down to the 10th level we finally noticed traces of other Adventurers.
"What will we do now?" I asked as Fer stopped for a moment.
"Hmm, there are no enemies here worth fighting seriously." he said grumpily. "The level boss is a Venom Tarantula." I could understand his disappointment, Fer had effortlessly knocked down eight Venom Tarantulas in a single attack in the Forest of Ishtam so this level's boss was just another 'small fry' as far as he was concerned.
"Okay, just go straight for the boss then?"
"Nuuu, let's do that." Fer agreed so we skipped exploring the tenth level and instead headed directly to the boss room using Fer's monster-detecting ability to guide us there. Outside the boss room we found four muscular guys, obviously a party of Adventurers, patiently waiting. When they saw Fer and Dora-chan approaching they reached for their weapons in a practiced manner but they stopped when they saw me on Fer's back.
"Ah, a Tamer, right?" one of them called. I nodded, not wanting to bother with the long explanation and they put their weapons away.
"Is that the boss room?" I asked and the one who had spoken, the party's leader I presumed told me it was.
"Can't you go in right now?"
The Adventurer shook his head with a confused expression on his face. "Is this your first dungeon?" he asked. When I answered yes he went on to explain further.
"You see, inside a dungeon there are various ways of doing things, rules we follow."
・ When fighting monsters in a dungeon, the party that attacks the monster first gets priority and any dropped goods belong to that party, naturally.
・ You don't help others during a battle with monsters unless you're asked to help.
・ Whoever opens a treasure chest has priority on what it contains.
Those were the basic rules of dungeon exploring as the Adventurer explained them to me.
"There is a party already in there fighting the boss. We can't go in until that fight ends." he went on. "I should warn you though, some people in here don't agree with the rules. They snatch items dropped during someone else's fight, even steal them from other Adventurers." He looked at me shrewdly. "Someone who's not that familiar with dungeons, the bastards might even try and kill newbies like you and take their stuff. The dungeon takes care of the dead bodies for them, leaving no evidence. Watch your back, that's all I'll say." That was scary stuff to hear.
As he finished speaking the boss room's door creaked open. This meant the previous group of Adventurers had finished fighting the boss monsters inside and had gone down the stairs at the back of the room to the 11th level. Or, and the thought chilled me, they'd all been killed and absorbed by the dungeon, there was no way of knowing what had happened to them. The four-strong party that had been waiting went in and the door closed behind them again. It looked like they'd be some time fighting the boss and I settled down to wait.
"Hey, what are we hanging around here for?" Fer grumbled.
"Yeah, Let's just go in now!" Dora-chan chimed in.
"Don't say that, Fer, Dora-chan." I chided. "There are rules in this dungeon and you have to abide by them." We waited and finally the four-man party finished their battle. They collected their drops but surprisingly they came back out of the boss room.
"Good luck, you guys." their leader said as his party members went past us towards the corridor we had come from.
"Aren't you guys going down to the next level?" I asked, puzzled at their departure.
"Oh, we always planned to stop at this floor. We all have wives and children after all and going any further down is too risky for us. Bye." Saying that the party leader followed his compatriots along the corridor behind us.
... why is it that such rough-looking guys have wives and children? Damn, normies go explode.
"Hey, let's go." Dora-chan led the way into the boss room where the monsters had already regenerated, a boss Venom Tarantula and a bunch of smaller spiders (although they were 30 centimetres across, only small compared to the boss). I identified them as Poison Spiders using my Appraisal Skill. Dora-chan blasted the Venom Tarantula with fire magic and finished it off before Fer could use any of his own attacks. I took the opportunity to shoot off some Fireballs myself at the surviving smaller spiders as revenge for hearing about the normie party's happy family life. Take that, normies! Explode! Fwoosh! Kapow! Somehow I felt better afterwards.
The Venom Tarantula drop was a poison sac which I collected before we headed for the stairs to the next level down. The 11th level was yet more small-fry, according to Fer so again we just went straight to the boss room which had a group of Orcs led by an Orc General. I expected this fight to be a tougher one but Sui-chan had woken up by this time and joined in enthusiastically, pew-pewing the bad guys along with Fer and Dora-chan. The battle with the Orcs, if you could call it that, lasted less than a minute. I felt a bit sorry for these monsters even though I knew they'd respawn in the boss room as soon as we left. I'm sorry guys, I said silently as I picked up the drops which were pieces of Orc meat. Tasty tasty Orc meat. I started running through possible recipes in my mind as we descended the stairs to the 12th level.
There were no substantial monsters on level 12 either according to Fer but we decided to go through the level this time because everyone was complaining they were hungry. We'd stop off and eat in a safe area before going straight to the boss room right afterwards. I didn't know where this level's safe area was because we didn't have a map but Fer said he could find it. After going down a few passageways triggering harmless traps and slaughtering assorted minor monsters Fer stopped at a doorway in the side of the corridor.
"This is it." he announced so I pushed the door open and we entered. Inside was a large room, about the size of a typical school classroom. Over by the back wall there was a water fountain gurgling away, splashing into a drain. We had been told by the Guild receptionist that there were several Adventurer parties exploring the 10th to 15th levels and there were quite a few people in the safe area, I guessed about five parties in total looking at the way they were grouped together. We settled down in a vacant space near the entrance, staying together like the other parties did.
"Mukouda-san?" I turned around in surprise as I heard my name called and recognised the person who had spoken.
"Vincent?!" It was Vincent!
"It really is Mukouda-san! Long time no see!!" Vincent replied. "Hey look everybody, it really is Mukouda-san like I thought!" The people around Vincent were the Iron Will party who I had last seen in the town of Falier in the far-off Kingdom of Feenen.