Smit sat in meditation upon the hands of Echo, cultivating his mana and qi. Echo had progressed admirably in the past month since the creation of her body, however, there was more work to be done. Though she had established a connection between her mind and body, and she had mastered the art of walking normally, any aggressive or vigorous movements were still dangerously unbalanced. Hell, the grip of her hand was still so stiff that Smit would not be surprised if she crushed a wine glass by just trying to hold it.
Still, considering that a month ago she was essentially as capable of walking as a human toddler, she had improved by leaps and bounds. Now that she could jog at a moderate pace without crashing into everything in sight, he was confident that she could start to get a proper handle on her body if she learned more focus and control. As such, he had decided to include meditation in her training, forcing her to sit down with him and activate her mind in order to focus on her body. In other words, he had her focus on individual parts of her body one at the time, and allowed her to slowly but surely understand how her body functioned.
The training had only been ongoing for roughly a week, but there were results already showing. Her movements already seemed to look smoother, and less jerky or mechanical. Moreover, his presence seemed to have a calming effect on her mind, which further enhanced the speed of her meditation. He suspected that his presence had nothing to do with the enhancement of her training directly, instead his presence soothed her, and hence allowed her to relax and focus better.
Whatever the real reason for her sped-up progress was, for who knew if her progress was even remotely related to him after all, he felt that there was no drawback to having her be nearby as he cultivated anyways. Besides, if she felt that his presence helped her, he would more than gladly stick around her to improve her growth. She had the potential to be his greatest defender at the moment, and he would take every advantage to improve upon her.
Hence, they both sat in silence, each focused upon their respective tasks. Echo worked on feeling her body mentally, focusing extensively upon her fingers, which gently cradled the heart of her father. Meanwhile Smit absorbed power, creating a miniature whirlpool of power around them as mana and anima were drawn to him.
Within Smit, the storm of powers intensified as anima broke down into qi and was absorbed into the core itself along with the mana that Smit absorbed. Slowly but surely Smit’s core grew in Echo’s hands, crystalizing the powers of the world and expanding as if it were alive. The progress was gruelingly slow, so much so that it was undiscernible to the untrained eye. However, if one could zoom down to microscopic level, one would be able to witness the miracle that should not occur naturally. Tinny crystals grew upon the seemingly flawless surface of Smit’s core, like tinny, blocky needles that emerged without notice and were woven into an incredibly complex tapestry of solid crystal.
Layer after layer of crystal grew to surround the original surface of Smit’s core in a breathtaking display that would be invisible to all but those with the sharpest eyesight and greatest patience.
Smit himself could feel his power growing bit by bit, a slow process whose speed matched the crystallization speed upon the surface of his core, but it made him feel greatly achieved. Once more he was pleasantly shocked at the incredible speed at which a core could cultivate. The fact that he could feel his power grow, however slowly, was just a statement to that prodigious cultivating ability that dungeon cores had. Even as a talented cultivator in his lifetime, cultivating was a painfully slow process, so much so that often weeks, if not months, were needed to note any progress at all.
Soon he would gather enough power within himself to reach his second breakthrough, and he would once more be able to expand his dungeon. According to Echo, the second breakthrough was different from the first. It sounded odd to him that the breakthrough would be significantly different, but he supposed that the first breakthrough acted as a “gateway” to his future evolutionary paths, while the later breakthroughs helped him evolve and define himself. Or at least that’s what it sounded like.
According to Echo, the process of ranking up would take into account his achievements and his progress, which sounded a lot like what The Voice of the World did when he ranked up as a dwarf. However, he was certain that the process would deviate, as his skills did not have any levels or proficiency scores, and he could not easily acquire new abilities like other humanoid creatures could. It would be interesting to see how the system would acknowledge his progress, and perhaps he would be able to work the system such that he could maximize the benefits of his rank ups in the future… but that would have yet to be seen.
As of now Smit was fully devoted to his ranking up task, without a single worry in his mind. He had completed the second floor after all, setting it up with all sorts of new traps, while the large room with the pond had become the temporary home for his Kobolds. Of course, once the special plant that had been recently planted at the bottom of the pond grew appropriately, the Kobolds might have to be moved somewhere else, but for now, they served as an excellent protective barrier between himself and any would be invaders that could attempt to harm him.
He chuckled briefly at the thought of anyone meeting his heavily modified plant once it was ready to go. It had taken a lot of work, and a lot of testing to get the plant to become what he wanted it to become, but eventually he had gotten it right. The only drawback was that due to his limited abilities, he had not been able to create a fully-grown version of it. But that would be fine for now, after all, the plant only needed some time to grow.
Pushing these thoughts out of his mind, Smit got comfortable and started to cultivate to the best of his abilities once more, drawing in as much power as he could hold before directing it into his own self, permeating his very core with it until it crystalized and grew. The benefits of ranking up early would translate to a massive leg up later on, when he would inevitably meet stronger foes.
Time was of the essence.
Alester strutted through the halls of the royal palace with confidence, his fine red cape flowing behind him as if alive, following him through the winding halls of stone. The palace was well decorated as always, silken tapestries of various colours lined the halls, many crafted with depictions of epic battles or mighty warriors, or grandiose views of mountains scattered across the walls, covering large portions of the halls. The ceiling itself was a work of art, carefully painted with depictions of animals, monsters, demons and angels alike, creating images like the sequences of a dream. The ceiling was painted four hundred years ago by a group of dwarven master painters, and every seventy years it was repainted by another group of dwarven masters. The evetn itself was so rare that it would create a buzz around the palace every time it occurred, during which time, the staff and the royal family alike would sneak peeks or openly stare at the dwarves work, laying on their backs as they carefully restored the massive expanse of space that was the ceiling of the main hall in the palace.
Of course, the process required months of attention to detail, and it was expensive too, but the quality could not be denied. But then again, that was to be expected of dwarves. Their craftsmanship eclipsed that of any other race, even that of the elves. Few members of the human race could claim to be on par with a master craftsman of the dwarven race, and to be compared to dwarven master was nothing short of an honor. It was the equivalent of a human mage being compared to an elf in terms of raw magical power, or to an ogre in terms of raw strength.
Alester sighed as he looked up at the ceiling and marvelled at it briefly before he resumed on his way to the audience chamber, were he would meet the king. A shame that it was so difficult to get a hold of a dwarven master. Despite being the best craftsmen, dwarves were generally notorious for being reclusive in nature, and this seemed to be especially true for craftsmen, who followed their passion with surprising stubbornness.
Furthermore, even if you managed to find a master dwarf, you would need to convince it to sell some of its crafts, which was an entirely separate challenge in itself. When a dwarven master crafts an item, they craft them with unbelievable care and detail, with the intent of making them last as long as the mountains themselves. Each item is an advancement of their craft, and it is crafted with a devotion that borders on the realm of the devoutly religious. Hence, you must earn their trust and their respect in order for them to even consider selling you a single piece of finely crafted armour, or a lovingly forged blade of blue steel.
Even then, the most that merchants can successfully obtain from dwarves are what they consider “failure” products. Even though dwarven masters consider them “failures,” these items are still above the normal quality of master work armour from a human blacksmith, and are sold for a considerable sum of money. Usually, the majority of dwarven products one finds in the market are those produced by dwarf apprentices, or these so-called failure products.
Alester shook his head vigorously now, attempting to get rid of such thoughts. While he might be an avid fan of dwarven craftsmen, he had work to do right now. While the king might consider him a close friend, there was clear division between business and leisurely time, and right now he had to deal with the former of the two.
He soon arrived to the large double doors of carved redwood, and stopped before them. He took a minute to adjust his cape and adjust his jacket, before looking at one of the two guards by the door. “Ahem. Announce my presence to the court. The king is waiting for me.”
The guard saluted, and turned on his heel as pushed open one of the doors slowly, revealing the grand audience chamber. The place could easily hold three hundred people, and was decorated with magical chandeliers. Large windows allowed the light to flood in from the outside during the day, giving the appearance that the audience chamber was wider than it actually was.
Alester stepped right up to the foot of the raised platform that held the royal throne, where the king himself was seated, bounded at each side by an aide and a member of the royal guard. Kneeling upon one knee, Alester lowered his head. “Your majesty.”
“Alester. Rise.” Alester raised his head and stood up to face his king, a man whose dark red hair always reminded him of the untamed mane of a lion. As a matter of fact, the man’s features were sharp but robust, as if an artist had tried to take the features of tiger and placed them upon the face of a human. As a matter of fact, the king was known as the “Red Lion” of duels just because of this. Not only was the man an accomplished duelist, with lightning quick attacks and fantastic reflexes, but he was also capable ruler, able to run his country without giving into the temptation of thinking himself superior to all of mankind.
If Alester had to describe his king, he would call him, a bastion of hope. Everything about King Vas seemed to speak of a man with an unyielding sense of duty and strong character. Exactly as a leader should be.
“I read the report Alester. Is this dungeon truly as amazing as you make it seem?”
“That is so, my liege.” Alester confirmed with a short bow of his head. “It seems like the dungeon is progressing quite rapidly, possibly approaching the creation of the second floor. Allegedly, the dungeon has already created kobolds, animals, insects, and even a golem.”
“A golem you say?” Vas seemed to focus on Alester quickly, his eyes searching him for answers. “Most unusual. That is also a very large selection of creatures for such a young dungeon… are you certain that the adventurers did not miss the entrance to the second floor? Surely this can not be correct…”
“No my king, the adventurers were experienced C rank adventurers, not amateurs at all. In fact, they attest to having even seen the dungeon’s heart itself on the first floor. I am sure you understand sire, but the dungeon heart is always in the last floor of any dungeon, thus it shouldn’t be possible that the dungeon has more than one floor at the moment.”
“How can we be sure that the adventurers really saw the dungeon heart however?” King Vas inquired logically, “It could have easily been a dud or a trap.”
“That is very unlikely, as the adventurers had a mage in the party. The mage swears that he felt mana emanating from the crystal in waves, which is a very good indication that this was the dungeon heart. Moreover, the rogue says he didn’t spot any traps, and the ranger attests to the sturdiness of the golem of the golem that was protecting the crystal. For all intents and purposes, the adventurers guild is completely certain that dungeon core really was found by the exploration team.”
“I see. Well then, that is good. Considering how extensive the dungeon seemed to be in the report, I suppose it won’t be long before it starts creating a second floor I suppose.”
“I concur, your highness. The progress of the dungeon seems to indicate that it should occur soon.”
“Hmm…” King Vas leaned back on his throne and closed his eyes, thinking about the situation calmly. The kingdom only had a handful of dungeons, each one of them an incredible resource of sorts. Even the weakest of them all was an excellent training ground for the country’s militia and aspiring knights, teaching them more about survival and combat than it could be explained in simple practices. This dungeon, however, seemed to have already reached a considerable amount of strength if it was this advanced in its progress.
“Good job getting the village expansion pre-work ready” Vas said as he opened his eyes. “Every dungeon is good for something, and this one might be a particularly useful one, especially if it gives items such as weapons. Strong opponents for my knights, and weapons to boot? Excellent. I want a report on the quality of those weapons that the adventurers picked up as quickly as possible. I need to know what we are working with here.”
“Yes, my lord.” Alester nodded, making a mental note of that.
“Now then…” Vas said with a small smirk, his eye twinkling with a mischievous light. “Join me for a drink old friend! I believe we have much to talk about!”
Barking a laugh, Alester nodded graciously as the king walked down off his throne. He had missed the wonderful wine that the king always kept in store, along with the snacks that only the royal chef could prepare with the local fruits. The combination of those excellent tarts along with a perfectly aged wine was just heavenly.
It was good to be friends with a king.
|Species: True Dungeon|
|Name: Smit||Age: 2 months|
|Mana: 90889 MP||Anima: 124|
|Mana Reg.: 210 MP/h||Anima Reg.: 5.1 AP/day|
|Floors: 2||Inhabitants: 55 Species|
|Titles: Creator of Dungeon laws; 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|