I sat upon the ground with my legs crossed, meditating with my halberd across my lap. My hands held the true body of the father, which cycled the power of the world in a slow but unstoppable tide like the currents of a whirlpool. There was something comfortable about being washed by the powers of the world. Mana and Anima, the two driving forces that allowed father to grow and us to grow with him.
Perhaps it’s because I myself used to be a dungeon core, but I can feel the powers of the world more clearly than anyone else in the dungeon, aside from father himself. I can almost even touch them, but I can no longer manipulate them like I once did. At best, I have only a fraction of my abilities as a dungeon core, the sum of which add up to merely manipulating mana better than most creatures could.
Perhaps I can use this ability in the future, though that will have to be able to wait for a later time, once I have learned to properly control this body of stone. The durability and strength of this body is definitely an advantage I should exploit, for the sake of the father and the dungeon. Ideally, I should be able to fight with my weapon up close and be able to mimic the abilities of magic users in some way.
I push these thoughts out of my mind after a moment, letting the slip out of my stream of thought as I refocus back into my task of meditating. The training had shown to be effective, increasing my proficiency at controlling my body appropriately, making my movements smoother and less… spasmodic. As father has pointed out, the better I better my control over my body, the more effective I will be in my battles in the future.
Thus, my mind settles into place, and I begin my self-awareness practice. This time, the focus of my studies concentrating upon how my abdominal area should be able to move. I focused on what an organic body should be able to do. The tension, the flexibility, strength and fluidity, everything I had noticed that organic creatures could do with a strong core. The abdomen was a nucleus of strength that gives any warrior the ability to perform certain moves with far more efficiency. It is the connector that allows people to guide the strength of their legs to their upper body.
These reasons are why I have chosen that my core must be one of the main focuses for training myself. A strong but flexible core will allow me to carry out a wider variety of movements, in addition to strengthening more simple movements.
My meditation stretches from minutes into hours, a constant stream of wordless thought. Slowly, I feel myself reaching a new understanding of my own body, rehearsing the movements that I should be able to recreate in a battle.
In an instant, my training is disrupted by resounding roar from the next room over, heralding the start of the real battle. As father had predicted, the adventurers had succeeded in getting through the greeting hall, and now they would face of with Pala and his people.
I listen intently as chaos ensues. I can hear all sorts of sounds, from metal on stone to that of bone breaking under pressure. Every sound indicating a different event that marks the battle that is just beyond my reach. How I yearn to prove my worth just as Pala and his brethren do… But my duty, should worst come to pass, will be the most crucial one of them all.
This body that has been gifted to me, this durable shell, it will become the final line of defense for the father should the adventurers slay Pala and his kobolds. By the sounds of things, it seems like Pala and his brothers and sisters are giving their all, making the adventurers pay in blood for any sort of progress they make. That is good. Should the worst come to pass, it will make my job far more simple.
Time seems to blur as while the sounds of battle hold me in a trance-like state. My mind is busy too busy trying to reconstruct the battle to be able to focus in my exercises properly. Though this showdown between Pala and the adventurers is to be his honor, I can’t help but to desire a similar challenge to prove myself. How wonderful would it be to prove myself worth, and present the fruits of my labor to the father?
The orchestra of battle starts to wind down after a while, an atmosphere of exhaustion seems to permeate the air. It’s as time itself was stretching out the fight, desiring to see a clear victor.
By this point, the noise had been reduced to a handful of sounds, with one continuous small duet of sounds that danced amongst the cacophony of the battlefield. It stood out just enough to grab the attention of a listen, but not enough to overshadow the rest ambiance that was created by the exhaustion of battle.
A shout was heard, a female voice, and then… nothing. For several seconds silence reigned, and my hearing would not pick up any sound that betrayed either winner or loser. If I had physical heart, it would have beaten like a drum as the suspense built up for those short seconds.
Pala’s victorious howl resounded across the dungeon, and I let out a sigh of relief. Even though I don’t need air to survive, I find the action of sighing to be reflexive in this situation. It’s also oddly satisfying.
I let myself relax slowly now, my body had become taut without me realizing it. Closing my eyes, I let my mind sort through the entire series of events for a few moments.
Eventually, my turn to prove myself will come. I must be ready for that.
I will be ready.
Smit observed the adventurers from the moment they set foot into the dungeon, tracking their movements with curiosity. It was rather satisfying to see their reactions to his improved dungeon. The looks on their faces when they had seen his new entrance had been particularly satisfying. The spiral staircase he had designed had also gotten a doe-eyes and dropping jaws, which was always a good sign as well.
However, though their reactions to his works of art were good, he was more interested in how they would fare against his new challenges. The idea was, after all, that all the creatures and obstacles he created would help keep him safe. Thus, Smit remained silent as he observed the adventurers with scientific interest, watching them work around his machinations, observing them as they overcame his obstacles and defeat his animals.
His excitement grew when the adventurers reached the greeting hall, watching them stop entirely for a moment as they analyzed the situation, as they should have. Diving into the greeting hall head-first would have been border-line suicidal for the adventurers, in his opinion. He had to approve of their quick thought process, and the accuracy of the analysis. However, he chuckled internally as they spread out to try to find a safe passage.
Though in theory it would be good to spread out in hopes to find a passage that was not dangerous, the fact was that any intruder would encounter at least a trap in any which way they chose to cross his hall, hence making the idea of spreading out useless. Rather, it would be more dangerous for them if they got significantly separated, as they would not be close enough to aid each other immediately. Worse, to reach the injured person, the closest team member had to make their way to them blindly, and potentially activating more traps. Of course, if the would-be rescuer triggered more traps and got caught in them, the situation would only worsen for the invaders, as they would now be faced with two team members down instead of just one.
In other words, this greeting hall was designed to slow and injure large groups of people. Should a flood of invaders try to force their way into the dungeon, this room on its own was guaranteed to deal large amounts of damage to the invading force. As a matter of fact, a small, organized group of people would be better suited to cross through the veritable minefield that the greeting hall was. By making someone take the lead and absorb most of the damage, the rest of the party would be able to follow behind the person tanking the damage. Of course, he had set some delayed activation traps to hit the people that would be behind the tanker, but these traps were but a minority in the room.
Fortunately for the members of Azure Arrow, they realized that the best strategy was to have James tank and absorb the damage, though by that time, they had already consumed two health potions to avoid serious injuries that could have turned life threatening, costing the adventurers dearly for their mistakes.
It was oddly satisfying watching the adventurers struggle through his obstacles, almost like a game of sorts. Could they make it? Could they use their skills to survive his test? Or would they simply rollover and die? It was exciting in its own right. This feeling was amplified when he saw the adventurers approach his creations, his children. Now the real challenge began, and he squashed down those emotions that were welling up in him mercilessly as he focused in earnest. Right now, his son and his brethren would test their mettle against the adventurers that dove into his dungeon.
As the clash began, he seared into his memory the actions and movements of both sides, observing every move and word that was utilized during the fight with surgical precision. This feat was only possible due to his ability as a dungeon core to be aware of anything occurring in his dungeon at any time. Any martial artist or warrior would have killed for the ability to analyze movements so exquisitely, even if just for a day.
With unshakeable focus, Smit absorbed everything he saw, making a mental note to break down the entire sequence of events in his mind later. To understand anything, it was important to deconstruct it first, break it into tiny little pieces, and then carefully reassemble it, piece by piece.
This is what Smit plotted to do with the movements he was witnessing. He would take it all in, memorize it, and then bit by bit he would break down all the movements to better comprehend the structure, the pattern, the flow of all the movements he witnessed today.
Then he would pass that on to his creations.
He would create a force to be reckoned with, and his enemy was going to help him do that.
As the fight reached the apex, Smit watched intently as Pala faced off with James, taking in the sight carefully. Both sides were exhausted, but the adventurers were running low on mana and ammunition, meaning that the James, Ella, and Adder would have to fight the kobolds while protecting Mei and Ziggurd. Definitely not an advantageous position when they did not know how much more of the dungeon was left to explore. He could practically taste the victory coming his way. Regardless of if they stayed or ran, they would have to pull something out of their hat really soon if they wanted to survive.
True to his prediction, his thoughts were interrupted by the bright flash of light that stunned his kobolds and gave the adventurers time to turn and run. Naturally, the light did not affect him too much, as he was perfectly aware of their location and movements by virtue of the fact that the entire dungeon was an extension of him, allowing him to sense them in detail beyond the mere visual means.
Satisfaction spread across his soul as if he had drunk a tankard hearty good ale. There was something extremely satisfying of successfully executing a plan, be it a simple project, a competition, or a strategy to defeat adventurers, success had a sweet aftertaste to it.
He followed the adventurers in silence as they made their way out of the dungeon, instructing his remaining creatures to let them out without any fuzz. He needed them to spread the news, after all… and perhaps he had grown a little attached to them. They were his first real visitors, and from their interactions, he could respect the professionalism that they shared when it really mattered.
A lesser group of adventurers would have hardly been able to face off against his squad of kobolds with such determination and unity. In all likelihood, a lesser squad would have probably panicked at the unprecedented unity and organization of well over a dozen kobolds rushing at them with sharp spears while said kobolds were being given support fire from kobold shamans.
Pushing that thought aside, Smit watched the adventurers finally leave his dungeon. He gave them an invisible nod, as if to acknowledge their ordeal, before deciding that it was time to talk with his children.
They had done a good job. It was only proper to praise them…but not too much, it wouldn’t be good for them to get big heads about a single victory.
Focusing back upon his children, he found Pala splayed on his back like a starfish, breathing heavily, but grinning from ear to ear, a toothy smile fixated on his face.
Chuckling, Smit’s consciousness focused on Pala as he contacted him through the mental link that they shared.
“You seem satisfied.” Smit said with a carefully crafted neutral tone.
“Father!” Pala yelped with surprise, as he attempted to stand, scrambling to his feet in a mess of limbs.
“Settle down, there is no need for that.” Smit said soothingly in Pala’s mind. In response, the kobold collapsed onto his rump, sitting on the hard ground with a slightly uncomfortable expression as he accidentally hit a sharp rock with his tail.
“Yes father.” He replied as he started to take deeper breaths.
“Let me have a look at you.” Smit stated as Pala began to relax.
A quick examination found several injuries of varying degrees of severity in Pala. Bruised flesh and cracked bones being the majority of the damages. His hands seemed to be numbed and had a large number of minute fractures, probably from blocking and redirecting that giant hammer with his spear repeatedly.
“Father, did you manage it? Did you break through the second stage?”
Smit snorts at the question, almost as if the question is a joke in itself.
“Boy, of course I did it. Who do you take me for?”
The response elicits soft chuckle from Pala who shakes his head, considering things over. He had heard from Echo herself that breaking through to another level was a difficult and time consuming process that could take years to complete. And yet, in less than a quarter of a year, Smit had completed two breakthroughs. That was nothing short of outstanding in Pala’s eyes.
To be fair, however, Pala was convinced that Smit was a special existence even amongst others of his kind. Everything that he had seen his Smit do only served to re-enforce that belief. He was a being that was the closest to a so-called “god” in Pala’s eyes.
“Seems like you had an intense fight, didn’t you?” Smit hummed at Pala, brining the Kobold back from his distracted thoughts. Smit however, barely paid any mind to the distraction of the bipedal monstrous lizard before him as he started to direct the flow of mana into Pala, healing him at a steady pace.
“Yes.” Pala mumbled as he closed his eyes, letting himself drift upon the feeling of mana circulation through his body. It was a very different feeling. The mana that circulated through his intact body was almost cool, relaxing, and soothing. But wherever the mana touched his injuries, the sensation switched from cool to warm, as if sunlight was concentrated upon a single spot in his body.
“I see. How did you find your opponent?”
“He was strong father. His blows were reserved as he did not want to be too separated from his clan, but even then, I could not use that to my advantage. If he hadn’t been restricted by his clan, I might have… lost.”
Smit was silent for a moment, observing Pala as he healed him. The kobold lord before him seemed… ashamed. He studied Pala for a second, considering his words before he proceeded.
“I saw.” Smit stated simply. Two words which caused Pala to snap his eyes upwards, to where he could sense vaguely the presence of Smit to be stronger. However, before Pala could talk, Smit continue to talk.
“It was a good fight, Pala. You have improved.” He allowed his words to contain some pride and warmth. Pala was his child, and it warmed his heart to know that Pala improved. One could say that it Smit had begun to develop fatherly instincts towards a few of his creatures. “You could stand toe to toe this time, instead of bouncing and dodging around the entire room like a circus monkey.”
The childish grin rom earlier returned to Pala’s face in full at Smits words, causing the dungeon core to chuckle at his son. He allowed the moment to stretch out for a moment, giving Pala the acknowledgement that he so craved. However, that had to come to an end.
“However,” Smit continued, “You must improve. This time he could not move as he pleased, which evened the odds between you and him. However, next time you might not be so lucky. You must improve, son! Your opponent this time was bigger and stronger than you were, with a defense that made using your spear efficiently far more challenging. You must learn to overcome these challenges. Become stronger, prove yourself even more, my son. Given time, I have faith that you can become a paragon of strength for my dungeon.”
Pala looked straight up, and his eyes closed for a moment as he smiled broadly. His eyes however, changed a little from before. The innocent, child-like happiness seemed to have mixed with a certain flame of desire, like an amber that burned behind his golden eyes.
“Yes, father!” The reply was filled by determination. They were the words of a warrior and son that wished to protect his father. “Give me time, and I will reach the apex of your dungeon father. This I swear!”
Smit chuckled at Pala’s reply, and said no more as he continued to heal Pala. There was nothing more to be said.
|Species: True Dungeon|
|Name: Smit||Age: 2 months|
|Mana: 98,892 MP||Anima: 171|
|Mana Reg.: 235 MP/h||Anima Reg.: 5.25 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|