I adjust my bag over my shoulder while I trudge uphill, trusting Mei to lead us up the mountain. Despite coming here once before, I hate to admit it, but I am certain I would get lost within the first hour of hiking. How does Mei even know which way is the right way? There are trees everywhere, and the only real general sense of direction we can get is that we are going in a generally upwards direction towards the top of the mountain. I can’t even tell if the village of Nam is east or west down this hill.
I am half convinced that this “tracking” thing that rangers and hunters do is really just a different type of magic. I can’t understand how they orient themselves in the wild with so few clues and tools. It is slightly maddening that I can’t figure out the trick to it myself, but then again, that’s the entire reason for having a team. It is just about impossible for a single person to be able to do everything. A team is supposed to be composed of people that cover each other’s weaknesses, creating a group that will be able to surpass obstacles that an individual cannot.
“I swear this trip feels longer than last time.” Adder grumbles aloud, making it no secret that he dislikes carrying things. Even if they are his own things that he needs to survive.
“That’s because it is.” Mei replies simply.
“Why would you even do that?!” Adder replies indignantly, the rogue puffing up slightly as if he had been personally insulted.
“Because there are bear tracks on the original road.” She speaks up simply, her tone clearly signifying that she is not willing to elaborate more.
“… Good answer.” Adder finally speaks up after a long pause, seemingly more calm now that he had an explanation.
“We shouldn’t be too far off.” I spoke up finally, looking up at the sky. We had been moving through the wilderness for the better part of the day, and we were just passing the point of noon. Considering the speed at which we were going, it was safe to say that we should be arriving in less than an hour.
“…She is right.” Mei chipped in, turning to gaze at me with those intense green eyes. I swear, she has the prettiest eyes I have ever seen in my life. They are piercing and soft at the same time. How is that even possible?
Mei looks away after a moment, letting her eyes linger in the forest, scanning it slowly. “We should be there within the hour. I recommend stopping to eat now while we can. I haven’t seen any signs of predators for a while, and we have a relatively clear view in this area. It would be best to eat here, before entering an animal and monster infested dungeon.”
Considering that we have been hiking since the sun rose, I approve her suggestion and give the order to rest and eat. If we have a moment to spare, it is better to use it to regain as much energy as possible. That dungeon is surprisingly energy consuming as far as new dungeons go, there is no need to go in at anything less than our best. That would just be asking for trouble.
Lunch was uneventful, save for this Gray Jay bird, the so called “Camp Robber” bird, that tried to have a go at stealing a piece of my bread. Not that it was very successful in its attempt of course.
No one takes my food.
Other than that, we packed up our bags and set back out to find ourselves that odd dungeon. Never in my life had I met a dungeon with kobolds that were just so… tenacious. Of course, that might be because I have never met a dungeon that has kobolds, but I have met kobolds before. My team has been part of several extermination missions, and a few of them dealt with aggressive kobold tribes.
However, those kobolds were more disorganized, more vicious, more wild, less… determined, I suppose? I am not even sure if it is possible for a kobold to be consciously determined to do more than just hunt for food or protect its young. Yet, these kobolds felt different. They even looked different! Even their teeth seemed to fit better, be less crooked, the scales more uniform, and their eyes seemed to hold a different type of determination that I just can’t place.
To be honest, it’s a bit unsettling and yet exciting.
To be fair, everything about that dungeon is weird. How did it even grow so quickly in such a short time? Normally that would not be possible. And another thing worthy of note is that the level of the creatures was surprisingly high. The difficulty was for clearing the first floor of was higher than it should have been for a dungeon that young. Also, the statues… all the little statues that we found around the first level had a superb level of craftsmanship. How does the dungeon, which is a sort of monster like creature, create so many of those little statues so quickly, with that level of detail?
I guess that's going to be a mystery for the ages, isn't it? Perhaps with time, and enough studying, we will discover the reason for these oddities. But for now, we'll just have to focus on our task, namely to go and explore the Dungeon and make sure that it hasn't changed dramatically since their last visit. The worst thing that could happen would be that our people go into this dungeon unprepared. Going in blind is one of the most dangerous things you can do when walking into a dungeon, and that is why the adventurers’ guild pays so well for new information regarding the dungeon. Every single bit of information they can get is a higher chance for us, the adventurers to return alive, which of course is a very desirable outcome. Nothing worse than losing a large number of adventurers to the same silly mistake.
A feminine gasp up ahead of me breaks me out of my thoughts, and my instincts right away bring me into a cautious stance, my senses going up in high alert.
Mei is not one to be startled or surprised easily, specially not in the wilderness, the place where she is the most at home.
I move towards her as quickly as I can, while keeping as quietly as possible, fully aware of the gentle rustling of leaves and the sound of small sticks breaking that remind me that the rest of my team is right behind me.
The minute that I reach Mei, I quickly come to realize what has made her stop. I follow her gaze slowly, unsure if I want to know what sort of thing could have possibly made her stop. I don’t have much time to wonder however, as my eyes quickly reach a wondrously crafted structure.
I do not know what it's made from, other than it seems to be a type of stone… but never in my life have I seen a rock made of such beautiful green. It is as if the forests and the oceans themselves have blended into a solid structure crafted by the gods themselves. Bewildered I turn my head towards my team, whipping my hair around in the wind so quickly that I think I hear my neck make a small popping sound.
They all look just a shot and speechless as I do.
Where could have this structure come from? Who created this in such a short time? Was is the dungeon itself? Or perhaps some devout villager? No that doesn't sound right… no villager would spend this much time and effort into creating an entrance for dungeon, and much less with such detailed craftsmanship and in such a short time. Not even a master Craftsman would have been able to pull this off in such a short span of time. Even with all the skills and knowledge required to just reach this level of perfection, the time needed to create it by a single person should have been months at best.
Slowly, my team and I approach this pavilion of wonder. Weary for any sort of tricks or malicious intent, we keep an ear and an eye out for anything that seems off. But try as we might, the only thing that seems off about the entire picture is just the structure made of this weird green stone while everything else is exactly as we left it before. Talk about ominous.
The closer we get to the structure, the more we realize how amazing it is. Sure, from the distance it looks well crafted, sturdy, and fancy… but up close it’s a whole different level of brilliant. The rock itself lends the structure amazing complexity, drawing your eyes in waves upon layered waves of green that twist and flow gently across the entire surface. But the second you are up close, you notice that carved from those waves there are figures. Weapons and vines of many kinds can be seen lovingly sculpted on the stone, and each figure demands its on moment of attention.
It is amazing how well organized the entire piece is. This entrance is the single greatest piece of art I have ever seen in my life, and I come from a house that is considered lower nobility. Never have I ever witnessed such a well portrayed sculpture. Though every creature that was sculpted demands attention, when the entirety of the entrance is viewed as a whole, none of the pieces fight with each other for attention. Rather, they act in harmony to draw the eye of the beholder towards the doorway itself, and the large pair of ancient eyes that overlook any who would stand before the entrance of the dungeon. It is as if a god was personally apprising the adventurers, judging them before they even set a foot into its domain.
“Well… Damn.” Ziggurd was the first to speak surprisingly, whistling as he finished his sentence.
“No kidding.” I agreed.
“Who do you think made that?” Adder asked, for once too stunned to add sarcasm or distaste to his tone of voice.
“Damn if I know.” I replied.
“None of the villagers could have done this.” Mei supplemented, “And virtually no one knowns about the dungeon either yet.” She added, shutting down any hope for any external force having anything to do with this.
“So that means…” Adder tried to say, but I could almost feel his mouth starting to go dry. It was easy to tell, because my own mouth was doing the exact same damn thing.
“…That the dungeon created this itself.” James spoke up, finishing Adder’s sentence for him.
For some reason, when James says something with that heavy, solemn voice, it really seems to drive it home for me. I take a deep breath and accept the fact that this dungeon is far beyond anything that I expected it to be. That’s fine. Breath in, breathe out… again… again… and again.
“So… anyone have any clue what this could possibly mean?” I ventured, hopping anyone had any theories, ideas, guesses… anything really. Anything would help. I just needed to attribute this massive change to something. It would just make it easier to swallow.
“Great.” I groan out, as four voices reply to my inquiry with a negative. Rubbing my head with my hands, I sigh and look up at those deep green eyes that have been sculpted at the top of a sign.
I blink for a second and realize I had been so caught up with the entire craftsmanship that I had completely ignored the sign bellow it.
“Well damn.” I grumble as I do a double take. “The dungeon is named too.”
For three full heartbeats, nobody says a thing. Everyone has their eyes fixated on the sign bellow those hauntingly beautiful green eyes.
The Dungeon of Origins
“The hell does that mean?” Adder blurts out, staring at the only part of the entire structure that was made of black stone.
“It means that either a god has named this dungeon or…” Ziggurd ventures slowly. I can practically see the gears of his brain turning and working overtime to process all the information.
“Or it means that this is an entirely new type of dungeon that no one has ever seen before.” I finish for him with a sigh.
“Great.” Adder grunts, sighing loudly as he scratches his head.
“Indeed.” James agrees, hefting his hammer over his shoulder. “Well. I say let us stop idling about. The night won’t wait for us, so we best get going.”
“Agreed.” I reply, and shake off all the questions for a moment to organize my thoughts. “Everybody, standard formation. At the very least, I think it’s safe to say that this dungeon has now started to create its second floor. Our objective is to just do a check up on the dungeon, not to conquer it. Let’s get it done without dying people.”
The speech concluded, I turn to face the empty doorway, and walk in, following James.
But despite all my determination, I can’t help but to feel a little apprehensive. I can already tell that this won’t be like the last time I was here. It will be something… more.
Time slipped through Smit’s mind like sand slips through the fingers of an open hand. Time lost meaning as he focused exclusively on his cultivation. Absorbing qi and mana, owning it, solidifying it, conquering it… it all required so much attention and skill that he could barely afford to be vaguely aware of his surroundings, especially given the intensity with which he was focusing.
However, with such intense focus came certain benefits, namely a significant boost to his cultivation speed. Of course, the speed at which he was forcing himself to cultivate was far beyond what most people would have ever been able to endure mentally, but thanks to his constitution as a dungeon core and his mental fortitude as a stubborn old dwarf that passed the seven hundred year mark, he was more than capable of pushing himself past the boundaries of regular mortal men.
With this excessive cultivation speed, it was only a matter of time before he made his second breakthrough. And achieve a breakthrough he did.
|“Congratulations! You have gathered the required energy to rank up. Rank up initiated.”|
|“Congratulations! By cultivating yourself with superhuman determination and willpower, your mind and spirit have been strengthened. Hidden conditions met, bonuses will be applied. New tittle gained [Master of Concentration]”|
|“Second breakthrough accepted. New species have become available for creation. General improvements for all abilities and skills have been taken place.”|
“Alert, due to vastly increasing your repertoire of creatures available to you for creation through brutally evolving your creatures, you have met hidden requirements. Bonuses to evolution and species manipulation have been applied.”
“Due to successfully advancing to the next dungeon rank in a record span of time while maintaining balance within the dungeon ecosystem, an award has been unlocked. Rare species [Elemental Spirits] has been awarded.”
Smit grinned as he opened his eyes, and felt power and knowledge flow into him. Before he could even utter a word, he turned his focus to look into his dungeon, and felt those five familiar foreign presences scurry through his dungeon. Smiling, he set himself to watch.
For now he would enjoy the show in silence, watching to see how his creations would act without him.
And later he would celebrate.
|Species: True Dungeon|
|Name: Smit||Age: 2 months|
|Mana: 97879 MP||Anima: 163|
|Mana Reg.: 215 MP/h||Anima Reg.: 5.12 AP/day|
|Floors: 2||Inhabitants: 63 Species|
|Titles: Creator of Dungeon laws; Creator; Guide of the Bloody Evolution; Legendary Craftsman;Master of Concentration; 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|