Smit wasted no time at all in getting to work with the dungeon itself. He let his creations have their fight for survival while he focused on expanding his domain. Naturally, the four Kobolds quickly asserted themselves as the apex predators, hunting rats and eating them raw regularly. Smit wished that he had larger animals for them to hunt, and thus that way they could grow quicker, but that was not to be… not yet at least. When he grew enough, he would unlock even more creatures, so he was confident that it wouldn’t be long before he could do that.
Now that Smit had created a decent environment with “survival of the fittest” as the core value, set about to work on the dungeon itself. He quickly discovered a few things between experimenting and talking with Echo. First, there was a theoretical limit to how extensive he could make each floor of his dungeon, and it depended on how much mana he produced. The more mana he produced, the more mana could permeate the stone that surrounded him, and the further he could expand his territory. One fun fact that he discovered as he let mana permeate the stone around him was that, once he created a room and let his mana permeate the stone, the stone became much harder than usual.
Secondly, he became aware that by deconstructing rock to create a room, he could analyse anything he deconstructed to produce more of it. Oddly enough, when he deconstructed the rock he could either store the stone he had removed in a sort of pocket dimension inside of him, or break it down into smaller components, and even create mana out of it. This was a fantastic surprise for him since it allowed him to store matter that he could use for future use instead of crafting everything out of raw mana. Interestingly enough, Echo had never had the ability to convert stone into mana, or store stone. Instead, she had been able to store specific items such as swords, and she could not revert the process of creation to degrade stone into mana.
The last discovery he had made was probably the most significant of them all however. By expanding his dungeon and creating new rooms, he could increase the regeneration of his mana! That was a major discovery for him. Creating what he would call a “standard room unit”, which was a cubic room in which each side was two meters long, he felt his regeneration rate for mana increase slightly. He was fairly certain that it was less than even one MP per hour, but that was fine. This discovery meant that as long as he increased the size of his dungeon, he could increase his natural production of mana, and therefore he could create more things!
Smit lost no time in expanding through everything that his mana had permeated through. He began with a simple design. Since his first floor currently a kilometer-long hallway and his core room, he decided to simply expand along that hallway. Had he not been in a rush he would have taken his time in creating a miniature maze right from the start, but given that he could have unexpected visitors at any moment, he didn’t really have the luxury to be fancy.
Safety first, appearances later.
He decided on creating three rooms first. One near the entrance, one in the middle of the hallway, and on near the core room. Each room was oval in shape, reaching seventeen meters in the long axis of the oval, and ten in the short axis. The ceiling was fairly low too, reaching a height of only three meters. He had a sudden inspiration however, and he opted to make all the rooms look unrefined for the moment, leaving a few stalagmites protrude from the ground haphazardly and some stalactites hang from the ceiling in such a way that anyone swinging a large weapon might find their attack interrupted by a stalactite if the person wasn’t careful.
Admittedly, he did toy with his new rooms a little. As a craftsman, he couldn’t help but to have some standards of appearances, even if he was going for the “natural cave” look.
He started off with the stalagmites and stalactites, adjusting them just a little so that they were a bit more smooth than normal, and giving them a bit of a pearly shine. Next, he spread moss in the rooms, using the thin layer of moss to cover the sides of the room. This of course, gave the rooms a look of being ancient, which would play in well with the intimidating look of the stalagmites and stalactites.
And yet… it was missing… something. He pondered over this dilemma for a while, before he snapped his fingers with a grin. Water. It was missing water.
Stalagmites and stalactites could only be produced by water anyways, so he decided to add some dripping water to create puddles, and this should help create a better atmosphere in the dungeon. However, the problem lied in how to maintain a slow and constant water flow into his dungeon without making it excessive. He eventually came to the conclusion that he should just do it through the most simple method that would work underground, without the need to remodify the entire mountain: Water Stones.
Water stones were a type of elemental magic stone that, as the name suggested, produced water in nature. As a craftsman, he knew that these stones were valuable, as once refined they were fantastic conductors for water-attribute spells. These stones however were rarely found in large sizes, and thus expensive.
However, Smit was a dungeon! He could create any kind of mineral as long as he had enough mana. He willed himself to create a small pebble about the size of a pea. It would be a deep blue color, no impurities of course, as he would rather a good conductor for the mana to produce adequate pure water. It took him a good hour to get it right, since he had to create the stone from scratch instead of using knowledge given to him through absorption. Thankfully, as he had worked with elemental stones extensively, and knew them down to their last detail. Had he not known them so extensively, reproducing one would have been nearly impossible.
Once he had produced one such stone, and tested that it worked properly, he produced several of them at the same time using his creation skill. Soon, one hundred and thirty-five stones were created, costing just over two hundred and fifty mana. He then embedded those stones across the ceiling of the three rooms, making them appear as tiny glowing blue stars in the darkness of the cave. Of course, he made sure to wedge the water stones tightly in the ceiling, making it nearly impossible to pull one out.
With this, he modified the rate at which the stones produced water from the air that permeated the rooms, and he managed to create the atmosphere he wanted, creating a few puddles in the process. With one last flare of creativity, he made a meter wide puddle in the last of the three rooms, right against one of the walls. On the wall right above the puddle, he placed a small cluster of five water stones, creating a miniature spring that flowed down the side of the wall to re-fill the puddle whenever it was low on water. The puddle was only about ten centimeters deep, but it was a nice touch, and big enough for the Kobolds to have a drink. He was sure they would appreciate pure water instead of only drinking the blood of their raw prey. At least he thought it would be a welcome change.
Satisfied for the moment with these adjustments, he barely noticed that two days passed while he toyed with the details of his new rooms. Then again, the fact that he was a dungeon core meant he needed no sleep, so he could hardly be faulted for loosing track of time.
There was one thing that surprised Smit, however, and that was the cost of the rooms. They had not been expensive at all, at least in comparison to what he expected them to be.
Each room had costed about 237 MP, and each room was roughly four hundred and one cubic meters in volume. That was quite literally enough to fit the three peasant houses from a human village side-by-side. It would have been a very tight squeeze, but it still! Proportionally, creating a monster was actually vastly more expensive than creating a room. Even when he added in the cost of the stalagmites and stalactites, the cost of each room did not exceed 260 MP.
Apparently creating life was a much more intricate process which required more energy. When he thought about it, it made sense though. Any living organism had to by definition live, and therefore survive. They had to grow, adapt, develop, reproduce, and well… live. You could not compare that to a simple rock.
As he contemplated this newfound knowledge, he was brought back to reality by a sudden tingling feeling in the back of his mind. Something had come into his dungeon.
I quickly focused on the intruder, anxiety flaring for only a moment before relaxing. It was only a snake. It was probably a young one too, as it couldn’t have been longer than seventy centimeters at most. Sighing with relief, I watched the creature cautiously slither into my dungeon. However, it’s presence made me… hungry, so to speak? I suppose that the feeling I got must be the work of my dungeon instincts.
I suppose this would be a good time to test out the strength of my dungeon mouse. I chuckled at the thought of a snake getting destroyed by a mouse, but I am fairly confident that a small group of them could take out the snake. Sending out a Kobold would be overkill after all.
With a mental command, three of my black dungeon mice converge near the snake, and march towards it. They are simply animals, so they can’t create any sort of formation on their own. I had to mentally guide each of them so that they surrounded the snake from a distance. The snake was clearly confused though, as it hesitated, trying to keep an eye on all three mice. I chuckled, and simply let the mice swarm the snake from three different sides.
The result? Easy victory. The snake seemed to have some sort of paralysing poison, but could only attack one of the mice at the time. One of the mice died, but the other two managed to tear apart the snake while it was distracted. I let the mice eat part of it, before I started to consume its body.
|“Congratulations! You have absorbed your first creature that is not from your dungeon. You have absorbed a [Green Sap Snake]. You now have broken down and analysed the snake, allowing you to create more of them under your command.”|
I hum curiously at this. Information certainly flows into my mind regarding the snake. It is a common snake that has weak paralysing poison. It can kill rodents, maybe even foxes if the snake reaches its adult stages… but I seriously doubt it can kill anything larger than that. Perhaps I will be able to play around with the species and change it like I did with the mice, but that will come later.
Even though I have increased my mana regeneration rate by 14 MP per hour, I still can’t play with this as much as I want. A snake would cost about 23 MP, so I think I will just create a few and let them wander around the dungeon. Hopefully they will grow stronger.
Speaking of stronger, the two mice that survived the encounter with the snake are clearly a bit larger now. They were two of my most vicious mice to begin with, having hunted on their brethren constantly, growing stronger by the day. But now I clearly feel that they have gained a bit of strength. I hypothesise that if they can keep this up, I might be able to trigger an evolution in one of them soon.
I moved through the mountain quietly, tracking the game that I had been hunting for the last few hours. I am quite far from the village, already almost two days away, but that’s fine. I can’t come back with a common rabbit or deer for the ascension ceremony. In four days a new village chief will be selected, and a feast will be in place. I need to bring something special.
Such is my luck that I finally stumbled upon the tracks of a deer hare. This was perfect. Deer hare are essentially large hares with antlers that resemble those of a deer, and are known for their magnificently tender meat. By the size of the tracks, this delicious animal must be at least the size of a medium sized dog, maybe larger. It was perfect.
The only trouble lies in killing the sly bastard before it notices me. If he catches wind of me before I take him out, I may never find him again in time, especially considering their notorious running speed.
However, I am… puzzled. The tracks lead further and further up the mountain, which is rather unusual for this breed of rodent. They much prefer the depths of the forest, where there is a lot more trees to hide and the herbs they are known to prefer. After another hour tracking him, I spot him at about two hundred meters away between the small trees, near the mouth of a cave.
Pausing to look around, I feel an odd feeling wash over me that I had not mentioned before. It’s almost like a gentle breeze that causes a light tingle in my skin. Except that there is no wind right now. The feeling causes me to look around curiously, pushing my red hair to the side as it momentarily gets in the way of my eyes. I can see nothing that is out of place. The trees are more scattered and a bit smaller than at the foot of the mountain, but that’s normal when you are halfway up a large mountain like this one. The only things out of place here are that hare and the cave.
Frowning, I try to shake the feeling off but it still remains at the back of my mind. I take a deep breath and focus. I can’t let the hare escape me here. Kill it, take it, and get out. The rest I can sort out later.
Carefully I start making my way towards the hare, minding my steps as to make as little noise as possible. My fifteen years as a hunter serve me well, as I manage to half the distance to the hare that seems to be feasting on something. I creep closer still, but his ears start to twitch, and it raises its head in alarm. Cursing to myself mentally, I freeze. Deer hares have great hearing.
Time slips by slowly while I try to still my beating heart. My hand instinctively reaches towards the bow I have across my back. Every movement I make must be done with outmost care in order to produce as little sound as possible.
First get the bow. Then grab the arrow. Gently lift the bow, and hold it with a firm grip. Ready the arrow, and pull the string. The lessons of my father resound in my head as I focus to the limit. I have one shot. If I miss, the hare will run.
Just as I am about to release the arrow, the hare starts to move slowly towards the cave. I grit my teeth, and time my shot. There is not wind, so thankfully I don’t need to worry about that. The shot will be difficult to make at about seventy meters distance… I can do it.
I release the arrow, aiming just a little higher than where the top of the hare’s head should be and…
Right through the head!
I let out a cheer of happiness and rush towards my prey, who has fallen right before entering the cave. I move quickly, and retrieve it, but I freeze at the entrance of the cave.
That feeling is back. The cave is clearly the source of this, no doubt about it. I feel it in my bones. I look up from my hare and I am greeted by the eyes of several small creatures staring at me from within. Mice and snakes just… staring at me. It was oddly unnerving. They slowly retreat back into the cave and I am left there stunned as my prey bleeds through the hole in its head.
I grab the hare and run. Run away from this place. It isn’t natural, and I can only think of one thing that can cause animals that would normally be enemies to act like that.
I grinned mentally at myself here. Today had been quite the eventful day indeed. First I obtained a snake, and now I get discovered by a human. I was a little upset at the fact that I lost the opportunity to obtain that hare, but at the same time… Now I can get some people coming into see my dungeon. Adventurers soon will make their way here I bet.
Why am I so excited about that? Because of what that can do for me! I can syphon mana from creatures that visit me, and if I kill others, I can obtain mana and anima too. Anima apparently is what you would call raw life power. It’s the basic component for any complex and sentient living organism, and it’s the component that allows me to place souls into my creations. I can generate a small amount of anima from ether as is, but to at this rate it might be months or years before I can produce anything worthwhile.
Lastly, if I can devour more things I will grow more, and create more. What kind of self-respecting dungeon does not want to grow? That said, I don’t intend to kill everything that comes in my dungeon, but I definitely will not shy away from taking down some fools. Especially those that upset me. Thinking about it, I shouldn’t kill everyone anyways, otherwise people won’t visit my dungeon.
I suppose that the best set up will be one that gets progressively more challenging, which would weed out the weak and the foolish naturally. In addition to that, I should modify my dungeon so that I can move my creatures in secret between the rooms of my dungeon, which would allow me maneuverability if I decide to take down a particularly dangerous (or unsavoury) group of intruders.
Hmm… this might be a good time to start crafting some Dungeon Laws, before I get visitors. I should probably sort out how to organize my defences and I should add more rooms too. My crystalline body glows eagerly while I grin in my head.
Let the games begin!
|Species: True Dungeon|
|Name: Smit||Age: 37 days|
|Mana: 1600 MP||Anima: 15|
|Mana Reg.: 35 MP/h||Anima Reg.: 0.75/day|
|Floors: 1||Inhabitants: 14 Species|
|Titles: Eager Creator; Guide of the Bloody Evolution; Legendary Craftsman; Reincarnated One|
|Abilities: Absorb matter; Alter environment; Break down components; Craftsmanship; Creation; Digging; Destroy creation; Enhancement; Equivalent exchange; Ether manipulation; Evolution; Interdimensional Storage; Life bestowal; Life-energy harnessing; Mana absorption; Masterful mana manipulation; Modification of creations; Monster Link; Telepathy; Trap building; Transfer dungeon|
|Resistances: Magic (general); Mind control|