Ch 136 -- Giants Zone
The previous 21 levels had not changed very much in structure, only progressing from stone-walled passageways to rough-cut tunnels but now we were on the 22nd level things were noticeably different with the passageways being twice the size of the ones before. I found out the reason when we entered the level's first room, a large high-roofed space that mirrored the increased size of the passageway outside. The monsters inside were giant Trolls, over 3 metres tall as well as several Minotaurs.
"There are giant Trolls and Minotaurs..." I said, "that's why both the passage and this room are so big."
"That's right." Fer said, his head turning from side to side. "From what I can detect this level and the next few levels too are only populated by giant monsters like those ones."
I see. Assuming Fer was right we'd be encountering giant monsters, most of them over 3 metres tall from now on. I was disliking this dungeon's structure more and more -- I thought I could maybe help in the fighting here and there, what with my Mithril sword and my Perfect Defence Skill but me tackling monsters as big as that was impossible. I could only look up to anyone who could face those monsters with a calm heart.
"It's impossible for me to fight monsters like that, just so you know." I told Fer.
"Hmmm, you're really gutless, aren't you?" Fer said off-handedly. Thanks, Fer. "Still, Trolls and Minotaurs aren't dangerous enemies to us." I know that but for me, even with Perfect Defence I'm not brave enough or competent enough to go up against a monster over 3 metres tall. "Just stand there quietly and watch, OK?"
"It's time to have some fun! Big slow-moving lumps like these, I'll kill them before they know they're dead!" Oh, Dora-chan was really fired up. Help yourself please, I thought.
"Aruji-, Sui's going to pew-pew the big bad guys too-. I'll use my water magic-" Sui-chan was also totally ready to fight. Pew-pew the big bad guys all you want, Sui-chan. You've got really powerful water magic now you received Water Goddess Rusalka-sama's blessing and you've levelled up so much as well.
"Right, let's go." Fer commanded and the three of them rushed into the room.
Slash, crash, slash--. Fer's wind and lightning attacks hammered into the crowd of Trolls and Minotaurs, knocking them around like toys.
Thunk, thunk, thunk--. Dora-chan's body lit up with fire magic and he simply flew straight through the chests of the monsters in the room one after the other like a small flaming comet, killing them instantly.
Splat, splat, sizzle--. Sui's Acid Bullets melted large holes in Minotaur bellies at longer range while she fired Acid Balls at enemies closer in for a greater widespread effect. Being the youngest of the three, Sui-chan's magic attacks weren't as powerful as Fer and Dora-chan's but her tactics were well-chosen to deal with her opponents appropriately. She was definitely getting stronger as she grew up. I wondered if she might evolve again when we finished here and left the dungeon.
"""Guruuuuu...""" While I was distracted trying to imagine what Sui-chan might evolve into, the battle in the room, such as it was, had ended. Total victory for us, of course.
Oh, is it over? I went in and collected the drops. There were Minotaur horns, a Minotaur's Iron Axe, Minotaur meat and Troll skins as well as a Troll's Poison Claw which was a drop item new to me. The number of drops hadn't increased as we went lower in the dungeon but the quality and value of them had gone up somewhat to match the increased danger on each level. We went through the other rooms one by one killing the monsters as they appeared and collecting drops. It just took some time since there were lots of monsters on this level and they stayed mostly in the rooms off to one side of the passageways. Previously we had encountered quite a few monsters as we traversed the passages but not so much any more.
Of course with Fer, Dora-chan and Sui doing the fighting there was nothing we met that gave them any problems. Often I spent more time collecting the drops than they did killing the monsters we encountered. We finally cleared all the rooms on the 22nd level, leaving just the boss room...
"Oh, I got hungry too."
"Sui is also hungry-"
Ah, it's dinner time for the kiddies now that playtime was over, I thought to myself. Fer gave me a Look, apparently my thought had leaked a little. Oops. Still, the idea of getting fed mollified him and we were soon in the level's safe area, close to the boss room.
What should I serve up for today's dinner? Hmmm, ginger-fried pork using Orc General meat and pork miso soup to go with it, that sounded like a good idea. I filled bowls with cooked rice then topped them with the ginger-fried pork and plenty of shredded cabbage. I also dished up pork miso in bowls for the kids, uh the brave valiant warriors of great renown.
"Right, here you are." I said, putting the dishes out and stepped back quickly before I got trampled in the rush. The sounds of gobbling and slurping filled the small room.
"After all our efforts today, food is delicious." Fer thought as he vacuumed up the pork and rice before turning his attention to the pork miso.
"Oh, the seasoning on this meat is really tasty." Dora-chan added.
"Yup yup, it's very delicious- the juice and the meat with the vegetables-"
I agreed with Fer, eating after being so active added an extra touch to the taste of dinner. I helped myself to some of the ginger-fried pork over rice and pork broth too although I had to admit I'd done very little of the fighting today. I had collected a lot of item drops though, did that count?
Hmmm, adding the fresh shredded cabbage to the ginger-fried pork and rice worked well, providing a sharp crunch to the dish. The pork miso soup with its slow-cooked vegetables tasted good too. It was a soothing flavour and I felt myself relax after the non-stop action of the previous few hours. Oh~ delicious.
""Seconds"". Yeah yeah. Dora-chan looked like he was stuffed with the first large serving I had given out to everyone (about three regular-sized servings) but Fer and Sui-chan were, as usual, still going strong. I dished out more food to them and returned to my own dinner. I was interrupted a couple more times as usual until all of the ginger-fried pork I had in reserve was gone. There was a little pork miso soup left, about a single serving which I put back in the Item Box for later. All that food made me a bit sleepy and I glanced up at the ceiling reflexively, to try and judge what time it was before I remembered we were deep underground and the sun wasn't visible. Maybe I should buy a watch from the Net Super sometime? Then again I'd only ever need it in places like this and I wasn't really planning go dungeon-diving ever again.
"Hey Fer, I feel tired after eating." I said. "Let's sleep here tonight and go into the boss room tomorrow."
"Yeah." Fer agreed. "It's probably time to sleep if we were outside anyway. Good idea." Fer seemed to be able to sense what time it was outside the dungeon but hey, my belly was a pretty good timepiece as well.
"Dora-chan, Sui-chan, we're going to sleep in here today." I said.
"Yah, I understand."
"I understand-. Where's the futon?-"
Oh, futons? I glanced around but we were the only ones here in the safe area for this level so it would probably be OK to get the futons out of my Item Box. I put down some cardboard and laid out futons for Fer and Dora-chan and a futon for me and Sui-chan as usual. I hadn't expected to come this far into the dungeon so quickly. Not wanting to use Net Super in the dungeon I had bought more futons and other things to keep in my Item Box but apart from all the food I had prepared it now seemed like a waste of effort. While I was thinking about that as I spread out the futons, I heard running feet and voices from outside the safe area.
"We made it!! Get into the safe area !!!"
"Hurry up! Quick !!!!"
"Hold on Damian, we're nearly there!"
"Is the potion still working?!"
"It's all used up! There's no more left!!"
A group of wounded Adventurers rushed into the safe area, a party of two women and four men. One male Adventurer who was being half-carried by two of his compatriots was in an especially bad way. His side was cut up so severely I could see his internal organs peeping out. Ughhh.
While I was still surprised at their sudden appearance one of the men, the party leader I assumed, shouted at me. "Hey you, do you have any potions?! We'll pay, if you have any sell them to us!" he demanded.
"Ah, y- yes I do have some." I said. I had purchased a lot of bottles in Carerina for shampoo and such but before we had left I had bought some more bottles and tucked them away in my Item Box. Knowing we would be diving into this dungeon I had asked Sui to make advanced, intermediate and lower grade versions of Sui's Deluxe High-grade Potion, 20 of each type just in case. Safety first, after all. I took out one of Sui's advanced potions from the Item Box and handed it to the party's leader.
"Hey, here's a potion, hold on!" The seriously-injured man was laid on the ground and the leader sprinkled the potion on his badly-wounded side. The deep near-fatal cut healed up in an instant as the stunned Adventurers watched.
"Hmm, what is this ...? A high-grade potion?" The leader squinted at the bottle in his hand.
"Oh, no way..." the wounded man said, half-deleriously. "There's no reason to waste a high-grade potion on someone like me..." The Adventurers all looked at me.
"No it's not that," I waved my hands in negation, "It's just an advanced potion but it works better than usual, that's all." I said quickly. "Don't ask me where I got it from, please." OK, it was not quite a lie but I didn't want them to ask me more questions about it.
"Really?" the leader was obviously intrigued but he looked down at his compatriot on the floor and shrugged. "Something that good, I don't understand why you want to keep it secret. Adventurers would pay a lot for advanced potions with such a powerful healing effect".
"Adventurers keep all sorts of secrets." I said, trying to convince him not to probe further into exactly where I had obtained such a potion. "You've probably got some things you don't want others to learn about too, don't you?" The man stared at me for a second more then nodded, seemingly convinced I wasn't going to discuss it further. Still I was surprised just how effective the potion had been in healing the man's injuries and I remained a focus of interest of the others in the Adventurer party.
"He's unconscious now but his wounds have closed up, he's breathing well and seems stable." One of the women in the party kneeling beside the wounded man said with relief. "He will be all right now, I'm sure."
Hearing that the party's leader breathed a sigh of relief.
"Good... Good... I thought there was no hope, we wouldn't be able to save Damian..." Tears leaked from his eyes.
"Don't cry." the woman said. "We know you and Damian have been close for a long time. But I'm really glad he was saved. it was a miracle."
"That's true, I'm the Healer in this party," another man said. "Even if I had not run out of mana I'm certain it would have been truly impossible to recover from that wound."
"Absolutely." another member chimed in. "No-one other than a high-level priest could heal that amount of damage... It really was a miracle." All the members of the party seemed relieved that their companion was still alive.
"Thank you very much for your help." The leader bowed his head towards me.
"No, don't worry. I just happened to have a potion with me and it worked." I said modestly. Of course with Sui-chan's ability to make potions I would never be without potions myself. Safety first after all.
The leader dug a hand into his belt pouch. "Because the potion was so effective and we're in the dungeon, will you accept 15 gold coins as the price of the potion?" I had been informed by the Guild Master at Carerina that the price of an advanced potion was 10 gold coins and I told the leader that but he demurred.
"The potion you gave me was clearly more effective than a regular advanced potion and receiving it in a dungeon is a special condition so the price goes up, naturally." He waved a hand around, indicating the dungeon we were in. "There aren't any traders or stores here where I could buy a potion at the regular price after all." The leader handed me 15 gold coins which I finally accepted.
"This is a bonus. Please find them of use." I handed him three of Sui's low-end special potions since I could see other members of his party, although not as severely hurt as Damian had been were also wounded in various places. Seeing the cuts and bruising on their bodies made me twinge in sympathy.
"Are you sure?"
"Yes, please take them. In return," I went on, "can you tell me what happened to you?"
The leader took the low-end potions and handed them to his subordinates before turning back to me, shaking his head. "It was bad," he said as he explained.
He was the A-ranked leader of the Adventurer party named "Tempest". There was another A-rank member and four B-rank Adventurers making "Tempest" an A-ranked party in the Guild's records. They had a long history of achievements and they were rightly proud of their abilities. They had been diving in Doran's dungeon for two months with this being their second time down this far. Previously they had reached the 22nd level where we all were just now but they had run out of food and been forced to return to the surface to restock and recuperate.
They had been planning to go further down this time and they had gotten through the 21st and 22nd levels without a hitch before entering the boss room here on the 22nd level. However waiting for them...
"There were three Spriggans there, a real nightmare." the party's leader shook his head. "There were also Trolls and Minotaurs and we encountered more of them than the last time we made it this far." A Spriggan, according the leader's description was a giant humanoid monster, even larger than a Troll or Minotaur, with an truly ugly face.
"First time we dove this deep into this dungeon we only expected to face one Spriggan and there were fewer Trolls and Minotaurs around too. I know a dungeon changes over time and we can't expect to encounter exactly the same number and type of monsters on our second dive but to have three Spriggans appear..." The larger number of Trolls and Minotaurs also caused them problems and when they tried to withdraw Damian had been hit in the side by a Minotaur's axe. Barely escaping with their lives they ran for this safe area near the boss room to recoup.
"You should be careful too..." the leader glanced at Fer, "but then again you might be okay." Of course, if someone is an A-ranked or B-ranked Adventurer they would recognise at a glance that Fer was a Fenrir? And this party's leader was A-ranked so... "We had heard there was an Adventurer who had Tamed a Fenrir, and now I can see that was a true story."
"Eh, yeah well..."
"Ha ha, you don't have to worry about trying to hide it from us. The word from the Adventurers Guild about the Fenrir and his Tamer is, don't mess with them and don't ask questions and you'll be all right. Bother them and it's your own fault what happens to you." I was very grateful to hear the Guild had instructed their members to leave us alone.
"If you're diving in the dungeon with a Fenrir as your contracted monster then I think you're going to be safe enough. For us, well maybe we didn't do enough preparation. We talked with the Guild Master and got information about the deeper parts of the dungeon from him. However we understood that there was only one Spriggan on this floor, in the boss room. We expected one, planned for two in the worst case but to run into three of them..." he looked around at the other members of his party who were slumped on the floor, exhausted, bruised and cut, their clothing and armour ripped and dented. "That's it for us, this time anyway. We'll head back to the surface once we get a good night's sleep."
So they had encountered 3 Spriggans, more than they had expected as well as lots more Minotaurs and Trolls. This dungeon seemed to be actively malicious, not just dangerous, making things harder than they were before. Fer had said the dungeon was a living organism, killing Adventurers and absorbing their bodies and it seemed its difficulty levels were also increasing as it grew. As the Tempest members laid out their cloaks and packs and prepared to sleep I gave some thought to what lay ahead. If Tempest hadn't defeated all the monsters in the boss room did that mean there were still some Spriggans, Trolls and Minotaurs sitting around waiting for us as the next party to enter? I asked Fer but he wasn't concerned.
"Don't worry about it. One Spriggan or three or thirty-three isn't any sort of a challenge for me. Bring them on." Fer yawned. "I'm tired. Go to bed already. We're going further down towards the bottom level tomorrow."
I supposed Fer, Sui and Dora-chan would be okay even against monsters an A-ranked Adventurer party had difficulty with and I had my Perfect Defence Skill to protect me, but getting into a fight with a crowd of giant monsters all trying to kill us made me worry just a little bit as you might imagine. We'll all be fine, I told myself repeatedly as I curled up in the futon with Sui and tried to go to sleep.