Smit had been meditating for seven days in a row, pausing exclusively to spawn more creatures every time the population became too low. Had it not been for the dungeon’s passive ability to absorb everything after a certain amount of time, there would undoubtedly be a disturbing amount of animal corpses and gore all over the place. Every day he had to respawn his creatures at least once, sometimes even twice. On the flip side, the blood and sacrifice was paying off quite well. A handful of veterans from every species were ready for their evolution, however, he let them accumulate more energy and experience, in hopes that some special variant might arise from them.
Surprisingly, the wolves were not very effective in their hunting, probably because of the small hunting area they had and the small numbers. After all, wolves excelled in chasing down their prey and taking it down with exceptional teamwork. The problem was obvious: the dungeon was too small and the prey was too small to provide proper use of their tactics and strengths. Still, all was not lost. They offered excellent training for the kobolds, and perhaps he would turn them into a sort of pet in the future.
But that was just a secondary matter. The most important thing was Smit himself. Every time he slipped into meditation, he felt an odd sense of relief. Every hour that passed his mind became more clear, as if a fog that he had not been aware of was been slowly evaporating from his mind. At first, he didn’t even notice the change. But as the hours became days, he noticed. His mind became sharper, his thoughts became his own, his thought process seemed to flow more freely. And above all, he felt as if he returned to his senses, much like as if he was waking from a long, drawn out dream.
It wasn’t until the midnight of the seventh day that he finally grasped the first stage of cultivation, triggering his rank up. In a bright light tinged with a jade color, everything began all at once.
|“Congratulations! You have gathered the required energy to rank up. Rank up initiated.”|
|“Congratulations! By cultivating yourself, mind and spirit have been restored.”|
|“Warning! Anomaly in dungeon personality detected! Reverting to default dungeon personality.”|
|“Warning! Default dungeon personality annexed by integrated spiritual entity. Overriding default personality. Spiritual entity [Smit] empowered.”|
Even while all these notifications blinked into existence in succession, Smit could feel his body expand, and his mind seemingly unbending from a warped state. It was a surreal feeling that almost overwhelmed him.
|“Alert! Dominance established. [Smit] has undertaken permanent sovereignty. Original dungeon personality Overwritten. Original dungeon personality accepted as [Echo].”|
|“[Echo] has accepted full and total subservience to [Smit]. ”|
|“Due to prior interactions with the true dungeon core [Smit], entity [Echo] has spontaneously evolved to Origin Spirit. Origin entity may be placed into any body created by [Smit].”|
|“Congratulations! The rank up was successful, allowing for a significant increase to the size of the dungeon. Additional floors may be created now. Maximum floor size increased.”|
|“Congratulations! Due to the speed of your rank up, special conditions have been met. Due to your newfound spiritual stability, special conditions have been met. You may select two of the following options.”|
|“Contract Monster [limited]; Dungeon Abilities; Fame increase; Monster Traits; New species [Monster]; New Species [Plant]”|
Smit’s mind, which had just become clear, instantly became flooded by even more information as a bunch of windows opened up in his mind, causing him to have a mild headache. Growling in annoyance, he mentally pushed them to the side, allowing his head to clear for a moment. Thanks to those damnable windows, he now felt like he was waking up from a hangover rather than awakening from a lucid dream.
God damn it all. He growled mentally. Why did the voice of the world always do that? It was like it freaked out when someone did something outside the norm. Even when he was a dwarf, it did the same damn thing when he crafted his first legendary weapon, earning him the tittle of “Legendary Blacksmith.”
Once his head stopped ringing, he brought back the windows into focus, and started reading them one by one, with the patience that only an old dwarf could have. Sturdy, unyielding, and enduring. That was the essence of a dwarf, their very personality representing the stone of the mountains they dwelled in. Of course, one could add secretive, possessive, and hoarding a trove of treasures, but that thought did not pass through the mind of the old dwarf at the time.
He began to understand what had happened with more clarity. Even in his… impaired state of mind, he had deduced that he had fused with the dungeon core. However, it was not until now that he understood what had occurred.
The initial conflict between him and the original dungeon core, which was now [Echo], had resulted in his soul battling with hers for dominance, a battle which he had clearly won. However, he had not escaped unscathed. His mind and soul had clearly been exhausted and perhaps even damaged in the process, creating a disparity in his personality that was inflated by the elation of being alive again. Add to this a confusing spiritual connection with another soul that used to own the body you now inhabit and voila: you get a fiasco of a confusing personality without any real sense of direction. Just a childish personality with the bare minimum of what actually constitutes a dwarven soul; an entity that tries everything at random with whatever happens to be interesting at the time.
What a bloody fucking mess. Smit thought to himself with a grunt. Even his own voice in his head sounded closer to what it should. A deep, barreling voice that no one would mistake as childish.
He looked around briefly with a critical eye, examining what he had created during his state of what he could only describe as “childish mediocre standards,” and he had to say, he was not impressed. Though all things considered, he was not entirely disappointed either.
The layout of the dungeon was fine enough for a general design, though it clearly lacked the beauty that he wanted in any dwelling of his. He would amend that later.
The problem that he found was the lack of preparation. Any dwarven craftsman worth his salt knew that preparation was the key to success. For example, if an armour was to be effective, it had to be as perfectly crafted as possible, with as little excess material as possible, with as few weak spots as possible, and handled by someone that could clearly make the best use of it possible. The current state of affairs was… mediocre. If his ancestors knew he had carved something as careless as this, they would surely mock him.
The one saving grace he had however, was that all his crafted items were still intact. Every finely crafted item, all of them seemed to still be in place, hanging from the walls or stored away in his room. Thought something worried him… Where was his spatial ring? Frantically he expanded his consciousness to search the room, until he had come to sense a weak magical signature right beneath him. His own mana seemed to have been interfering with the aura radiated by the small item.
Sighing with relief, he looked at what was now left of his body: A pile of bones covered in dusty blankets. He absorbed the bones into himself, and tried to use mana to reach for the ring… except he couldn’t actually interact with it properly. Frowning, he reached out, and found that though his mana could wrap and bind around the ring, he couldn’t even lift it up, let alone actually activate it.
Growling at this, he felt like he wanted to bash his head against the wall. Of course it wont work you blithering fool, you don’t have a corporal body to use the ring! As if anyone would make a spatial ring that can be manipulated by anyone with mana from the distance. If anyone found out, they could just empty the ring from the distance!
Reluctantly, Smit called in a mouse and had him dig a shallow hole right under his levitating mana core, and bury his ring there. That should be fine for now.
He could figure out how to craft himself a body later to use that ring, but for now, he had bigger fish to fry. He had only a few days at best before he got visited by adventurers, and he was not going to be caught with his beard stuck in his belt. He had work to do.
First, things first though: he had to finish his rank up.
He observed the options for a moment, and put his whole thought into it, examining all the windows one by one. “Contract Monster” was interesting, however it was a gamble. Essentially, it allowed you to contract a random monster or animal within a 10 km radius of your dungeon, however, the creature had to accept your contract, and there was no guarantee that whatever you contracted was useful. He skipped that without a second thought.
“Fame Increase” was also discarded, as he didn’t need to increase his fame at the moment. In fact, he didn’t even feel ready to be discovered yet, why on earth would he want to attract more attention to himself at the moment?
“New plants” seemed interesting at first, except that he had no use for the selections that were given to him. They were different types of moss, grass, and mushrooms that he knew for a fact grew around the mountain anyways. He could get those himself later if he needed them.
The decision came down to the last three options. Out of these, the decision was not difficult for him, as he chose “New Monster species,” which revealed the original monster list he had received when he became a dungeon, asking him to choose one additional species.
There was no need to think about it. “Constructs” were his choice. The childish planning of his previous self was overridden completely by his desire to work with stone and metal. It was the calling of his ancestors, and he would not deny it. Even if he had no arms and legs to forge constructs as it should be done, he would still craft them, one way or another. Of course, he would not mass-produce them as he would produce the mice or the insects, but he would take his time into crafting his constructs. After all, he would only be willing to create true works of art.
Satisfied with this, decision, he went through the last two options. However, there was only one thing that really picked up his interest, right under the Dungeon Abilities.
The ability was called “Bestow knowledge [rare],” and it allowed the dungeon to bestow some knowledge to one of his creations about something, provided that his creation had the capacity to process this knowledge.
In other words, he could teach them skills.
If the blacksmith had had a face, he would have been grinning from ear to ear. Imagine the possibilities. He could teach the kobolds how to smith for example! Or how to cultivate. He could teach them how to mine or any number of things.
Sure, creating things with just a thought was fun, but he suspected that there was a limit to the quality of what he could create through this method, as convenient as it was. And besides, how could he forgo the love of the hearth and the clanging of steel? The best weapons were those created in a dwarven forge after all. And once he had a body, he would need assistants to speed the process.
He chuckled at his thoughts. He sounded like a youngling again, with dreams of grandeur. He had never taken on an apprentice before, mainly because he didn’t trust anyone to stay as faithful to the art he was, nor did he want to share his techniques with some stranger so easily. But now he could create the perfect apprentice to help him. That thought alone made him smile. The idea of relighting his forge and to create a new. That sounded like a pleasant dream.
Out in the wilderness, minutes away from Smit, a group of people approached the dungeon. They were dressed in patched over clothes, leathers, and furs, with knives strapped to their belts. Every single one of them looked ragged and dirty, and not one of them looked like the sort of man you would like to meet in a dark alley at night. Most of these strangers had used short swords or axes strapped to their belts, one even had a bow that seemed to have had better days. These men were not adventurers, to be sure, they were bandits. Highway men of the truest sense.
“Oi, Buck,” The largest of the men called out. “Are you sure it was around here?”
“Yes boss!” A stringy looking fellow with large ears piped up, his raspy voice dripping with enthusiasm. “It’s definitely around here. I heard it all with me own ears. That half-wit hunter should have been smarter, who goes talking about a new dungeon in a tavern before he even reaches the adventurers guild, says I? But all is well. I heard it from the twit himself. Halfway up the mountain, directly north from Nam village. It shouldn’t be too far now.”
The leader grunted and stroked his dirty black beard in thought, “I didn’t ask for the whole story, Buck.” He grunted as he analysed the situation as best as he could. “But, this be good!” He said energetically. “We must be a few days ahead from the adventurers. If the dungeon is new, then it must still be weak. One of them cores is worth a fortune boys!”
He heard a cheer from the men behind him, only to have one of them nervously stutter out.
“B-but boss, that’s still a dungeon. I heard ‘orrible things abou’ them. Just awful. Monsters everywhere, traps that will poke out your guts, and slimes that eat you alive. Should we really go?”
“Shut up the fuck up Muck.” The leader grunted without looking at him. “It’s a new dungeon. It probably only has something as dangerous as squirrels protecting it. And what if it has a slime or two? If adventurers can handle them, then we can handle them too, eh lads?!”
Another cheer came from the bandits, shutting up the self-conscious Muck. He had a bad feeling about this. All of it. Ever since they had stepped on the mountain he had had a bad feeling about this adventure. And his gut had never led him stray. Last time he didn’t listen to it he lost half of his left ear to a stray arrow. If he had left the bitch to die from blood loss that wouldn’t have happened, but noooo, he had to ignore the warning from his instinct.
“Eh! Look over ‘ere!” One of the bandits shouted, pointing a dark hole that was dug out of the mountain itself.
Muck shuddered at the sight of it. He had a bad feeling before, but now? Now he felt a foreboding feeling that permeated his bones. Something was going to go wrong. He just knew it.
Smit had just barely started to play with his new species, the constructs, when he sensed a group of people approaching. He quickly moved his consciousness to the entrance of the dungeon, and found about fourteen men making their way towards him. They wore dirty clothing, devoid of much of any armour other than a few scrapped, mismatched pieces that seemed to be stiched together forcibly by leather strings. Anyone with eyes could tell that they were most certainly not adventurers, and anyone with more than a handful of brain cells active in their brain, could guess that they were bandits of some sort.
He felt anger flare up inside of him as he realized this. As an crafter, few things irked him more than thieves. They were a natural enemy of crafters, who were always a prime target for thieves. Not to mention that these thieves were filthy looking things whose presence would do nothing more than tarnish and damage the dungeon that he had built so far. Just by looking at them he felt repulsed.
Still, even as his anger simmered in his mind, he saw an opportunity. He could use this filth as an experiment of sorts. While he was no scholar or military mastermind, as a dwarven craftsman of many years of age, he had a sharp mind. He had scant minutes before the enemy showed up, and hence he rushed to create some last minute preparations.
He called in his kobolds, ordering to meet him immediately. Like loyal dogs, the four kobolds assembled before him within a minute of receiving the message.
Good. He thought to himself. Let us test this new skill.
“[Bestow Knowledge]” Smit said, and focused on the kobolds.
Right away he understood that the extent of their capacity to understand was low, but it was sufficient for his needs.
He passed onto them basic knowledge on how to handle spears.
As a craftsman, particularly one that specialized as a smith, Smit had trained himself on how to use every weapon he was capable of crafting to a degree. While a normal smith might forge a sword and hand it to a soldier, the soldier using it would be able to test it and see the strengths and flaws of a weapon better than the blacksmith himself. As a lone craftsman, Smit had trained in weaponry enough to be able to discern any flaws in his own craftsmanship, which would then allow him to craft a better weapon in the future. In this way, he heightened his art beyond that of other blacksmiths once upon a time.
And now, he passed some of this basic knowledge to his kobolds.
The beauty of the spear is that it was a simple weapon to craft and easy to use, while offering great advantages. Even in the army, a peon armed with a spear with only a week of practice was more effective than a squire that had spent a month training with the sword. The reason for this was quite simple, as the spear offered three great advantages:
First of all, a spear had superior reach to that of a common sword or axe, allowing the spearman to stay out of the range of damage of the opponent. Secondly, the spear was easy to handle, as simple stabbing and simple slashes was all that was needed to keep an enemy at a bay, and the length the enemy had to cross to reach the spearman gave the spearman more time to react even if an attack got through. Last of all, spears could be thrown accurately, even with little practice.
These features made spears one of the best weapons for beginners that had never held a weapon before. Smit had kept all of this in mind as he passed the basic knowledge onto his kobolds.
To be fair, he only was able to pass onto them simple things like “Hold the spear like this,” “Stab like this,” “Step back like this,” and “Don’t stretch forwards too far like this.”
It wasn’t too much information really. Any normal person could have gotten that much knowledge from a month of practice, but for the kobolds, this was a treasure-trove of information. The experience left them staring at Smit as if he was a sage of some sort.
And to be fair, compared to them he might as well be the god of knowledge. The kobold were barely at the level of knowledge of cavemen.
The entire process of bestow knowledge only took about a minute, but that was precious time he was lacking now. The invaders would be here any minute now.
“Here, grab these.” Smit said quickly, willing four simple spears made of iron and oak-wood to float down from one of the walls. These weapons were old, but well kept, and enchanted to fight off the rust. Though they had been crafted as a simple project a long time ago, the slightly rounded sides of the blade made these spears a bit different from the basic triangular tip. It allowed for a slight increase in the efficiency of a slicing attack, but other than that, the spears were not very remarkable from Smit’s point of view.
With the seconds ticking down, he organized his dungeon, pulling back most of his dungeon mice and evolved snakes to the central second room, which he would use as a choke point to tear down the enemy.
Seconds after he had done this, the intruders stepped into his dungeon.
Fourteen bandits slowly crept into the dungeon, each of them shivering slightly as they felt an intangible breeze of power wash over them. As they looked around them, they saw the first room of the dungeon, giving way to three separate corridors. All around them there were a few mice and insects that scattered at their approach, hiding behind rock or in the mossy outcrops that littered the room.
“This place give me the chills.” One of the bandits muttered. “It don’t feel natural here.”
A murmur of agreement went through the group, but it was quickly waved away by their gorilla-like leader. “Shut up you lot. Instead of making a big fuzz over some little ‘feeling’ like a little girl that saw her shadow move, why don’t you have a look at the damn room? It’s as empty as that head of yours, Muck. The only things are insects and rodents around here, now man up like the cutthroats you are supposed to be.”
The words seemed to encourage some of the bandits, reassuring them, though a few of the more superstitious ones were still somewhat skittish. Naturally, the leader ignored them completely.
“Now, we got three hallways. I’m taking four of you boys with me through the middle. Buck, you take three more on the right, and Quag, you take the rest on the left. I don’t want to waste time exploring this damnable thing so let’s find that core and get the hell out before the guild gets here.”
With mutters of agreement, the assortment of bandits split up, unaware that Smit had been watching them the entire time. In the brief time he had observed them, Smit had decided they were all going to die. Not only had they invaded him and disregarded his abilities, they had come with the full intent of capturing and killing him. He had no doubt that they would loot the entirety of his collection of weapons and armours in the process too.
He wouldn’t even let them get close to them.
He focused on the first encounter the bandits would have, their enemy would be the few snakes that had been left in the hallways, which had been tasked with hiding. They would be sacrificial lambs for the good of his dungeon, as he doubted those bandits had even bothered to prepare healing items or antidotes.
Smit waited patiently, observing the groups split up in his dungeon. Fear would have to be instilled in them, and they had just made his life a whole lot easier by splitting up. His patience was rewarded when just minutes later the halls of his dungeon were rewarded by surprised shouting from all three groups of bandits. As expected, they had come within range of the snakes. These were just the common snakes in his dungeon, whose poison was not very powerful, but even if it wasn’t strong, it would serve a purpose, by reducing the balance of the bandits and their bodily control.
Several of the bandits got bit, some of them even getting several bites on them before the snakes were cut down, but that was fine. He could see the bandits were weary now, their heart rates had increased, moving the poison through their veins faster.
So far so good. Smit thought to himself with an invisible smile.
He would cut them now, one at the time.
-An hour later-
Badack ran with the remnants of his once glorious gang. They ran away as fast as they could, taking the middle path of the dungeon. They had been had by the dungeon. They had been completely outmatched.
The entrance had looked harmless enough, but that was only a front for the true horrors of the dungeon. First, snakes had attacked them, their poison shaving away at their reaction time and dexterity. Then they had encountered traps, pits with sharp rocks at the bottom, which had broken the legs or arms of several members and killed two. Even then they would have been fine, specially since the side rooms seemed to be devoid of life aside from insects and mice, just like the first room. They felt their hope increase as they delved deeper and deeper into the dungeon.
But then they entered the second room of the middle path, and they knew something was amiss. They had been ambushed. Snakes which had been coiled around the stalactites in the ceiling dropped down on them, wolves had pounced on them the minute they had been distracted, and even large, vicious mice latched on to them and began to tear at their legs and groins with their sharp teeth. To make matters worse, the stalagmites had dropped so low that more than once they had interrupted an overhead attack from the bandits, causing them to lose their stance and become off-balance.
It was a simple swarm attack by the dungeon, but the poisoned and injured bandits could offer little resistance. In the end, Badack sounded the retreat within minutes of the fight beginning, but by then it was too late. Many had been injured, and by sounding the retreat, he had effectively condemned them to expose their backs to the ravenous inhabitants of the dungeon.
Out of fourteen, only three remained. Three men running like demons being chased by a holy man. They didn’t even turn to look back to see if anyone else had made it.
Bleeding and terrified, the three bandits were met with four short figures guarding the entrance from where they had come, with spears at the ready.
Desperate in their charge, the three bandits drew their weapons without slowing down, ready to cut down the short monsters in their way. But alas, that was not meant to be.
The kobolds stood in a line in front of the only entrance and exit to the dungeon, blocking it entirely as their spears faced their enemies. By virtue of the very nature of the charge by the bandits, the kobolds held the advantage as they lowered their spears. The spears thrusted at their midsection violently, and one of the bandits was pierced through its gut, blood splattering out of the open wound as the kobold retracted its spear and thrusted it into his eye.
The other two bandits faired better, only suffering shallow cuts to their ribs or arms before they jumped back. The kobolds, though unversed in the ways of war, they were well versed in the art of hunting within the halls of the dungeon. Slowly they rounded up their two wounded enemies, pushing them back towards one of the walls. As per Smit’s orders, the Kobolds prioritized wounding to killing their enemy. Bit by bit the kobolds sliced and pierced their prey, bleeding them, letting them tire and weaken with every moment that slipped by.
The remaining thieves, now too weak to even parry properly, were left to despair. Not for the first time, Badack attempted to hack at the spears that pushed against him, only to be met with unexpected resistance from the wood. He had no idea how these creatures had gotten their hands on such finely worked weapons, but he was certain that even in the army of the kingdom, few below the rank of captain would even be found holding weapons such as these.
Just as he thought of this, a spear found its way to his neck and Badack was no more.
|Species: True Dungeon|
|Name: Smit||Age: 49 days|
|Mana: 1870 MP||Anima: 28|
|Mana Reg.: 110 MP/h||Anima Reg.: 2.75/day|
|Floors: 1||Inhabitants: 23 Species|
|Titles: Eager Creator; Guide of the Bloody Evolution; Legendary Craftsman; Reincarnated One|
|Abilities: Absorb matter; Alter environment; Bestow Knowledge; Break down components; Craftsmanship; Creation; Digging; Destroy creation; Dungeon Laws; 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|
Bestow knowledge: Allows you to pass on knowledge to a targeted creation or subordinate. Knowledge passed on dependant on your own understanding and the intellectual capacity of the targeted creature. Chance of failure if the knowledge is far too extensive or targeted creature is unable to process all the information.
Dungeon Laws: Allows you to set rules or laws for your dungeon or for specific parts of your dungeon. Creates an automatic system in which certain actions will occur if the laws are followed or broken.
Monster Loyalty: Animals, plants, monsters, and other creations are extremely loyal to the dungeon core. Intelligent creations are particularly entranced and dedicated to the dungeon core, protecting it more fiercely.
Enhancement: Allows dungeon core to modify, enhance, and manipulate creations (both living and nonliving) with much more precision than otherwise expected. This process is semi-passive, as more complicated enhancements must be carried out consciously by the dungeon. Previously done enhancements can be remembered and applied automatically.