Ella woke up groggily, squinting as the sunlight managed to find its way through the wooden blinds that covered the simple window of her room. Staring blankly at it, she groaned as she tried to roll over in her bed, only to let out a pained hiss as a sharp pang of pain struck her ribs.
As if struck by thunder, Ella recalled the last battle of her last dungeon dive. She laid in her bed reliving it piece by piece, moment by moment. It had been one of the most intense moments of her adventuring life. Had it not been for the fact that Zig had been quick to move to heal her several times, she was unsure of the extent of the damage she would have suffered. It was entirely possible that she would have been crippled, or worse.
Ziggurd had easily healed her thrice despite her drinking the healing potion. She was certain that of those three injuries she had been healed of, two of the injuries might have caused her death during the battle if they had not been attended to quickly. It was moments like those that she wondered how other adventurer parties managed without a proper healer. Perhaps the reason why the great majority of high-level parties have at least one person that can act as healer is because those who don’t simply… die.
Chuckling darkly at her morbid thoughts, she pushed them out of mind. There were things to be done today, and morbid thoughts did not rank upon the priorities. Instead, she hauled herself out of bed with a groan, and set herself to do her morning routine. Her morning stretching, however, was carried out more slowly and carefully than normal. She longed for a hot bath, but time would not allow for such frivolous desires at the moment. She settled for washing her face with a bucket of fresh water, and then using a towel wet towel to wipe herself down too. She had to be mindful of her sore injuries, particularly the tender area in her gut, under her ribs. That last strike she had endured had been particularly nasty, and had it not been for Zig spending a significant amount of mana healing it, she might have had some serious complications.
Fortunately, due to the healing potion and the treatment administered by Ziggurd, that particular wound was healing nicely. In a week it should be as if it had never happened, or so Ziggurd had had assured her.
Still, a single thought had floated in her mind since their adventure, and it buzzed around her mind like an annoying fly that refused to be ignored… How had the dungeon changed so much in so little time? The time frame between the first dungeon dive and the second had been about a month. In one month an entire new floor had been created, decorated, settled, and populated as if it had been there since the very beginning. How was that possible?
To begin with, dungeons rarely were so quick to expand at such a young age. A new dungeon could spend months creating a new floor, and they were particularly vulnerable as they did so, considering that the second floor was usually sparsely populated and rarely did contain more than your usual pit traps. It was quickly becoming apparent that this… Dungeon of Origins did not play by the same rules as the other dungeons. Even if you ignored the fancy decoration and the intricate artwork that seemed to infuse the very dungeon’s design, the way it developed was far too different from that of any other dungeon.
Moreover, she was certain that the Kobold lord had been the same one that James had faced in the first dungeon dive, but his strength was on a different league altogether this time. Whereas she would have described him as slippery and evasive last time, acting more like a cornered animal trying to survive, after seeing him in action again, she could not say the same thing. Though she had been preoccupied by her own enemies, from what she managed to observe of him, he was now much more agile and dextrous. The kobold clearly had a better idea of how to use his spear, which was demonstrated by how he managed to block and deflect the heavy war-hammer that James utilized.
That kobold was not a slippery cornered animal anymore. He had changed from a cornered rat to prowling wolf that was not afraid to bare its fangs at any intruder that would dare trespass into his territory.
A pang of jealousy surged through her for a moment. How unfair it was, to have a creature such as common kobold lord advance so quickly in the martial path without any guidance while she, a lady raised from a young age to wield the sword, had been forced to struggle for years to reach her current level. Ten years of struggle to reach her current level, ten years of blood, sweat, and tears. A decade of her life dedicated to the path of the sword.
In ten years she had advanced quickly, reaching a level mastery of the sword that would allow her to stand toe to toe with even a consummate knight from the kingdom’s army. She had been heralded as talented youth with a bright future, one of the few who could one day be called an expert in the art of the sword.
And a common Kobold lord had advanced more in month than she had advanced in two years of hard work. How unfair.
She clicked her tongue and shook off those negative thoughts, chiding herself for being jealous of a monster that could barely be said to have a community with members of its own species. The dungeon itself was an oddity, it shouldn’t be a surprise that its inhabitants fall outside the norm. Rather, it should be expected that the creatures from this dungeon are different from that of a common dungeon.
Still, the growth of the Kobold lord was nothing short of suspicious. She would make a mental note to mention it to her superiors. Perhaps they could offer some insight in the matter.
Putting such thoughts aside for the moment, she finished cleaning herself, and proceeded to get dressed. Her attire today was more casual, consisting of common trouser and light blue shirt, which was then covered with a leather vest. She strapped her sword to a belt around her waist, and put on her shoes. As for her hair, she decided that it would be too much trouble to comb properly the unwieldy mane of hair she had, and settled for putting fixing it up in a ponytail and ran a brush through it a few times to make herself presentable.
Satisfied with the arrangements, smiled and set off to check on her companions. Standing straight, showing no weakness, Ella walked out of her room and proceeded to knock upon the doors of her teammates, receiving answers from every member except James, who was laid sprawled upon his bed, shirtless and dead to the world as he dreamed on.
Ella sighed and looked at the giant man with an amused half smirk. Though he was as strong as a bear, he slept like a hibernating bear too.
“James? James.” She called out to him as she shook his shoulder, merely managing to make the man roll over to the other side of the bed. Unwilling to waste any more time, or to be ignored, Ella drew back her hand brought it down on his exposed back with a loud smacking noise. “James!”
With a yelp of surprise, James finally opened his eyes and turned around to look at Ella with confused expression before he managed to process the cause of his wakefulness.
With a sigh, Ella looked down at the man with pursed lips. “Get up James. We have a report to make. I expect everyone to be ready for the crystal call in an hour. We must be presentable.”
“Aye, I hear and obey.” James said with a yawn which made her want to smack the back of his head. However, she resisted the impulse as she knew that he meant no harm, it simply took him a bit more to wake up than she liked… that and his thick skull might bruise her hand if she smacked it too hard.
“Go down to the tavern and eat as soon as you are able. We will do the crystal call as soon as we have all had our breakfast.”
Hearing him mumble his agreement on the matter, she turned on her heel and left the room, her thoughts taking flight in another direction as she proceeded to the tavern for some much-needed breakfast. One of the less appreciated benefits of adventuring was the fact that, despite consuming more food than the average person, there were very few overweight adventurers. The very nature of the job was physically taxing, burning through more energy than the average person. Hence, it allowed her to indulge herself and more. For someone that enjoyed the pleasure of dining and drinking, this was a clear benefit.
Hopefully today the menu included something with a bit of substantial protein. While a well-prepared bowl of gruel was welcome, bread with some protein was luxury that she was always happy to indulge in. Eggs, sausage, bread, and fresh goat milk was a favourite of hers, but that might be asking for too much for a small village in the middle of nowhere.
Still… a girl could dream.
With breakfast taken care of, the entirety of the team met in Ella’s room, standing before a fist-sized yellow crystal which stood upon small silver stand. The stand was decorated with a few runes, giving it a mysterious and unique aura about it.
This little crystal was what was known as a communication crystal. A communication crystal was an expensive magic tool that allowed for communication at long distance with another magic crystal. Usually, a large magic crystal would be split in half after being treated through alchemical processes. Each half was placed on metal stand that had been enchanted with rune magic that allowed for a visual projection of whatever stood a short distance away from the crystal, creating a hologram.
The device itself was ingenious, but rare given that finding a large enough magic crystal was rare, and the process of crafting a communication crystal itself was lengthy. If a common man could get his hands on a pair of communication crystals and sell them, he could live well on his own for the better part of a decade.
Ziggurd reached out to the crystal and ran his finger along a runic inscription on the metal stand, voicing the command “connect” to the artifact. A whirring noise that originated from the crystal was heard, and the crystal itself began to light up with little constellations of light. It would only take a few seconds to connect to the other crystal, giving the squad just enough time to make themselves to look presentable.
Squaring their shoulders, the members of Azure Arrow stood in straight line, facing the space just above the crystal. A moment later, several thin beams of light were projected from the crystal, creating the three-dimensional appearance of the upper body of a person. This person was none other than their guild master, Ikfes Massan, former S ranked adventurer and leader of the adventurer guilds across the kingdom. The man himself was a legend that had completed many quests that had been considered suicidal in nature, such as the legendary undertaking of the red basilisk.
“Ah, Azure Arrow!” Ikfes said with a smile, his soft amber eyes managing to retain that strange quality that seemed to see through everything, despite it being only a magically created hologram. “Right on time as usual. So, tell me, how did your last dungeon dive go? That should have been… two days ago, yes?”
“Correct.” Ella replied with a nod, her hands crossed behind her back, looking like the poster child of discipline. “We entered the dungeon two days ago, and found to be significantly changed.”
Ikfes eyebrow arched upwards, his eyes glinting a little due to some sort of light source outside the scope of the crystal. Nevertheless, his expression was the very depiction of contained curiosity. “Oh? Do tell.”
None of the members of Azure Arrow missed the fact that his last statement was not a request, but an order. An order that all of them would be more than happy to answer even if he had not requested it, as the dungeon was far too different to not be talked about.
“Sir!” Ella replied with a nod, looking at Ikfes in the eye as she began to report. “We entered the dungeon two days ago, with orders to check for any changes to the dungeon. However, we did not even have to enter the dungeon to notice that it had changed.”
“Oh-ho?” Ikfes exclaimed as he stroked his short beard, listening intently to the story.
“Yes sir. The entrance to the dungeon has completely changed from the original hole-in-the-wall look it had. Rather than looking like the entrance to a cave, it now resembles what I could only describe as the ornate entrance to the tomb of some king. It’s as if the dungeon itself erected a pavilion of green stone. I have never seen a more intricate design adorn the entrance of a dungeon. The dungeon also seems to have a name now.”
Ikfes eyes seemed to widen slightly, becoming sharp at the same time. The intensity of his eyes seemed to cut into them like a knife. “A name you say? Has this dungeon being claimed by a god or demon?”
“I do not know sir.” Ella replied while shaking her head. “However, the name of the dungeon seems to be the Dungeon of Origins.”
Silence stretched between Ikfes and Azure Arrow as the guild master seemed to consider things. You could almost hear the cogs in his mind spin as he sorted through a hundred possibilities and discarded them almost as quickly.
“We will set that aside for now.” Ikfes said after a minute of silence, “I have a few ideas as to what that could be, but they are all inconclusive. I have trouble believing that a god or devil already claimed such a young dungeon. However, the possibilities of someone powerful enough naming a dungeon that has just been discovered… Moving on. Continue your report.”
Without missing a beat, Ella continued her story, relating the little changes they noticed about the first floor, before getting on to the important stuff.
“Other than that,” She stated, “The first floor is more or less the same as last time. However, we have confirmed that a second floor has already been created.”
“Hm…” Ikfes replied thoughtfully. “What is the level of completion for the second floor? It wasn’t there last time, was it?”
“It seems to be fully developed.”
A pause stretched between Ikfes and Ella, his eyes boring into her without a word. Soon enough, he broke the silence. “Fascinating. Tell me more about the second floor. In all my years, I have never heard of an entirely new second floor being developed in a month.”
“Of course. At the final room of the first floor, there is an opening that leads to spiraling staircases down to the second floor. The stairs have no railing, and are connected to the walls of the vertical tunnel. There are some impressive decorations on the stairs, seemingly crafted with loving detail. At the bottom of the stairs, there is an entrance that leads to a long and wide corridor. I estimate the corridor to be over three hundred meters in length and easily thirty in width, but I am not certain to the exact dimensions.
The hallway white, and within it there are large stone pillar of varying widths. It seems that the pillars themselves contain traps that are triggered as you move through the hallway. We experienced at least a dozen different traps within the hallway, and I believe that there are undoubtedly more that we simply did not trigger. The traps range from common darts to gouts of fire that spew from the pillars, and even self-detonating pillars that pepper you with shrapnel.”
“That’s quite a serious floor then.” Ikfes hums thoughtfully.
“Yes sir. We consumed two potions getting through the hallway, and had it not been for James taking the lead to tank most of the damage, we might have had to use more.”
“Oh-ho! Quite serious indeed then.” He said as he stroked his beard. That floor was certainly something to make note of. C+ adventurers were not exactly pushovers. For them to have trouble with one trapped floor despite having Adder to help them through it… he would have to put a warning about that floor for lower level adventurers.
“Yes. We managed to get through it, of course.” Ella continued, “However, the next room is just as dangerous. The second room of the floor is large enough to contain a large pond in the middle. The room was infested with Kobolds. We encountered sixteen kobolds and a Kobold lord. The kobolds themselves contained two varieties of kobolds, kobold shamans and kobold warriors.”
“I see. The dungeon is truly evolving beyond what we had expected. To be able to create those creatures already… Given the amount of time it has had, the kobold shouldn’t have been able to evolve on their own. The dungeon must be able to create them from scratch now.”
“It’s as you say sir.” Ella nodded.
“Good to know. Now then, what happened next?”
“We fought… and had to retreat.”
“…Pardon me?” Ikfes looked at Ella like she had grown a second head. Not that she could blame him. A group of C+ ranked adventurers should be more than capable to take down a band of kobolds that is three times their number, even with a kobold lord leading them.
“We… had to retreat. There were four warriors and six shamans. We had our hands full. But the worst of the lot was the Kobold lord. He is clearly superior to the average kobold lord, as he was able to duel James through the entirety of the ordeal. I’ve never seen a kobold lord that is that capable with a spear. He was capable of parrying and blocking James’s hammer several time, and even managed to injure him. With our main tank blocking the entrance to the room partially, it limited the ability to use ranged attacks, which forced Adder and myself into close quarter combat with kobold warriors and common kobolds while we were peppered with magic from the enemy. The organization behind the entire thing was frankly astonishing, even considering the kobold lord leading the pack.”
“I see…” Ikfes said with a pensive tone, his mind hard at work once again.
“I would like to propose that this kobold lord is the same one we defeated last time, sir.” Ella ventured, making Ikfes look up at her sharply. “So, you are saying that this Kobold Lord is a boss monster, huh.”
“Potentially.” Ella ventured. “He singled out James from the group, and proceeded to duel him without regards to the rest of his surroundings. Moreover, I find it hard to believe that even a dungeon as odd as this one would be able to create second kobold lord within a month, specially one strong enough to survive a duel with James… unless it was a boss monster.”
“So… you are saying that the kobold lord remembered James and singled him out for a rematch, is that it?”
“Hm… It isn’t unheard of you know? There have been cases where dungeon bosses seem to retain memory of previous adventurer parties and reacted differently to them. It is quite possible that this is the case here. However…”
“However…?” Ella echoed after a few seconds of silence, hoping to encourage the guild master to continue his thought.
“However, that means that his dungeon is far more than we had thought. Dungeon bosses should theoretically appear every ten floors. For this dungeon to be able to create one so early… This is more than even a phantom dungeon. This dungeon has the potential of at the very least being ranked as Heroic!”
A collective gasp was heard through the room, as all the members of Azure Arrow caught their breath. Heroic rank dungeons were almost unheard of. In the entire continent, the number of Heroic dungeons did not even reach triple digits. Any dungeon considered to be “Heroic” literally was a potential treasure trove. Unlike the lower rank dungeons, which provided exclusively basic raw materials and combat experience, Heroic level dungeons were an entirely different level. Once they developed past a certain point, it could directly reward the strength of a person, allowing someone to physically transcend the boundaries of what a human should be able to do.
Ikfes himself was proof of this. It was said that Ikfes and his part had managed to conquer a heroic dungeon, and despite losing most the party in the process, the three survivors had exited the dungeon with power that was incomparable to that of their previous selves, earning them the S rank in the adventures guild. Ikfes himself had been catapulted from a formidable adventurer to the strongest man in the kingdom as a result of his sudden increase in power after conquering that heroic dungeon.
“I am sure you all know what this means.” The entire group nodded silently, understanding the impact of the news. “In the entire continent, there ae only twenty-seven Heroic dungeons, and four Legendary dungeons. If this dungeon has the capacity to reach the heights of even a Heroic dungeon, this is a huge boon for our country. If even a fraction of our adventurers and knights can get their strength boosted by the dungeon, even by only ten percent, then our nation will become a force to be reckoned with. That’s without mentioning the treasures that we have yet to find within this dungeon as it grows.”
Ikfes looked at each individual member of Azure Arrow, who now stood ramrod straight, almost petrified in time. Had it not been for the subtle movements of their chests as they breathed, Ikfes might have been concerned that they had been hit by a petrification spell in secret.
“As of now,” he continued, “I am placing a silence order on you all with regard to the official ranking of the dungeon. The dungeon is still too young to ascertain its true ranking, but the minute that it is ready, we will have it ranked. I will be also be sending my assistant to oversee this new branch of the adventurers guild. If this dungeon is truly as special as I think it is, it must be protected at all costs. Furthermore w-”
Whatever Ikfes was going to say next was suddenly cut short as he paused without a reason. His eyes shifting to focus on the side of the tent as if staring at nothing.
“Sir?” Ella asked with confusion.
“Shush!” He hissed, “Silence child. Do you not hear it?”
“What do you-?”
“I hear it too.” Mei replied, turning to look in the same direction of Ikfes.
Everyone stood stock still, barely daring to breathe as the seconds melted away. Second after painful second, Ella, Adder, and James just stared in confusion at the same spot as Ikfes and Mei were looking at.
And then came a sound.
Distant at firs that grew into a soft melody that seemed to seep into the bones of everyone present. The mountain where the dungeon resided seemed to resonate with the sound, as if the wind and the earth themselves wanted to carry the tune.
“What in the world…?” James whispered under his breath, holding his breath as the deep tone of the melody permeated the entire village. It was, unmistakeably, the voice of some living being. But it was also a voice that was clearly not human. It was too powerful. Too old. Too clear and mysterious.
“…The dungeon… it’s alive…” Ikfes whispered, his voice for once full of awe.
No one doubted his words at the time. They instinctively accepted them as true.
The dungeon was conscious. Alive.
And it knew of them.
|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|