The bodies of the ogres and goblins dissolved into nothing as the dungeon claimed them its own, breaking them down and absorbing the information without leaving a single trace of them behind. The creatures provided Smit with a pleasantly large amount of mana and the knowledge of how to create three different types of goblins in addition to the common ogres.
“Still… it’s rather disgusting,” Smit grunted as he received the information he needed to craft those creatures. He found them repulsive enough that even with extensive remodelling, they would probably never be called beautiful. As a matter of fact, the amount of enhancements and remodelling that would have to be used to make even a single goblin aesthetically pleasing was so large that Smit was completely sure the resulting creature would be an entirely different species.
“Now what sort of creature would that be…” Smit hummed to himself as images of pixy-like goblins with locks of brilliant hair and refined noses crossed his mind. Perhaps that would make for an interesting project one day. It had taken him a very long time to create the new species of two headed spider, but how long would it take him to transform a species like a goblin? Days? Weeks? If so, the beatification of an ogre would at least be a few weeks wouldn’t it?
Setting the thought aside for now, Smit opted to refrain from creating either ogres or goblins. Just the idea of having to create them made him feel like he had swallowed some sort of unpleasant ale that was far past its expiration date.
Focusing back on the real world, he studied his gains. He realized that he had absorbed a number of things besides the ogres and goblins, namely all equipment that they had brought with them. Loincloths, wooden clubs, low quality arrows and bows, and even a fire stone that a goblin had had on his person. How or why the goblin had a fire stone, Smit did not know nor did he care. All the items were simply broken down and absorbed as material for him to use.
The amount of mana he had gained was significant. Each goblin had provided him with approximately seventy points of mana, while each ogre had fed him close to five hundred. It was clear to him that though the goblins were weaker than your average kobold, the ogres would have easily been able to fight five kobolds at a time. He was convinced that had he not had Pala or Echo ready to aid him, the number of resources needed to take down the Ogres would have been at least three times what was spent.
“Speaking of which…” Smit turned his attention to the seven survivors of the assault, all of them exhausted. Pala, Echo, two bears, the alpha wolf, a kobold warrior, and a kobold mage. Less than a third of his original force. However, there seemed to be benefits even in this fiasco.
All of his seven creatures had significantly increased their levels of energy, making them a stronger than before. As a matter of fact, two were ready to evolve, and Pala had leaped forwards in his advancement significantly. He was on the verge of reaching the required energy to advance once more, so close that Smit might have been able to force the evolution, but he decided against it. Pala was a warrior through and through. He would prefer to earn his strength, and it would do him good to gather every ounce of experience that he could manage to get.
On the other hand, the alpha wolf and the kobold warrior, both of whom were survivors of the frenzy prior to the assault of the goblins, were both well past their evolutionary threshold.
“Now, the question is…” Smit muttered to himself as he started to channel mana towards his seven survivors, “should I evolve them now? Or should I hold off until the adventurers leave?”
After a second of weighing his options, Smit nodded to himself. He had plenty of mana, he could evolve them and still reset his dungeon composition. He would be a bit tight for time, but he had to risk it. With a group of adventurers that large just a few hours away from his home, he had to take every advantage he could.
“Let’s start with you.” Smit focused on the wolf, pouring his power over it, enveloping in a cocoon of energy as he examined the wolf.
|Conditions met! [Common Mountain wolf (Alpha)] has met hidden conditions. Optional evolutions available.|
Smit blinked as he saw this, surprised by the window that had popped up. All previous evolutions had been automatic, following a natural pathway, so to speak. Never had he had this sort of thing happen, not even with Pala.
“Interesting…” Smit hummed to himself, focusing on the window and willing it to continue.
|Hidden condition: Leadership of separate specie [Grizzly Bears], has led to the acquisition of skill [natural leader].|
|Hidden condition: Consume the flesh of a stronger being [Common Mountain Ogre] while protecting ally [Echo] has given rise to title [Selfless Defender of the Pack].|
|[Natural leader] has given rise to evolutionary option [Great Mountain Wolf (Alpha)]. [Selfless Defender of the Pack] has given rise to evolutionary option [Sentinel Mountain Wolf (Alpha)]. Normal evolution [Superior Mountain Wolf (Alpha)].|
Smit curiously observed the options as he continued to feed his wolf mana, as he started to study the selection. The two additional options seemed like variants of the species, which usually were superior to the standard evolutions. This was common knowledge, and it was speculated that variants were randomly produced as mutations or perhaps due to external sources such as devouring mana stones which amplified their powers. Even Smit had hypothesised that different evolutions were possible based on their behaviour and enhancements. However, it seemed that there was another possibility: monsters could evolve differently based on achievements too, much like humans and other sentient species could obtain titles and skills based on their growth and achievements.
“Who would have known,” Smit said with a chuckle. “Evolution is such a mysterious process. I should try to unravel its mysteries some time. But first things first. Let’s see if there are any hints as to what the evolutions are beyond the names.”
|[Superior Mountain Wolf (Alpha)] is a higher tier of wolf. They stand at twice the size of the mountain common wolf, and have higher intellect, speed, and agility to their prior form.|
|[Great Mountain Wolf (Alpha)] is a rare evolution of the [Common Mountain Wolf (Alpha)]. Their intellect is significantly increased compared to the normal evolution, and are capable of leading different species as well. These wolves have higher speed, and agility than the standard evolution, but have less strength.|
|[Sentinel Mountain Wolf (Alpha)] is a rare evolution of the [Common Mountain Wolf (Alpha)]. They are quite large, about two and a half times the size of the common mountain wolf, and have a thick hide. They have a higher defence and strength than the standard evolution, however, their agility is slightly lower.|
If Smit had eyes, they would have been bulging out in shock. Never had he had anything close to these definitions for his creatures. The great majority of them simply evolved on their own. He had close to no say on their evolution path and he would only find out about their abilities once the evolution had been completed. How or why he was able to see this information was beyond him, but he would hazard a guess that it was only possible due to the hidden conditions that his wolf had cleared. If that was the case, he wouldn’t see this occur too much in the future, and therefore should take advantage of it.
“I see. Well, then let’s go for that one,” Smit said as he selected the [Sentinel Mountain Wolf (Alpha)] evolution.
|Warning! Evolving your wolf to this form will cause the title [Selfless Defender of the Pack] to be erased. Do you wish to continue?|
Nodding with satisfaction, Smit willed the evolution to begin. However, a moment later something violently tugged at his reserves of mana and anima. An alien force that he did not recognize intruded into his dungeon like lighting, and zapped the alpha wolf with… something. Whatever it was, it seemed to have dealt some sort of damage to the wolf, while simultaneously causing Smit to feed the wolf more mana and anima. The exhausted wolf let out a pitiful yelp as it writhed in agony.
“Hell!” Smit roared as he struggled to stabilize the wolf, but in an instant, it was over. Whatever that force had been, it had lasted but a second, and it had left Smit confused and on edge.
|Conditions met! [Common Mountain wolf (Alpha)] has met hidden conditions. Optional evolution available.|
|Hidden condition: surviving from the brink of death by absorbing empowering essences has given rise to skill [Light of Healing].|
|Hidden condition: for being endlessly loyal to the entity [Smit] even at the edge of death when tested by holy powers, the title [Blessed Canine of Unwavering Loyalty] has been bestowed.|
|Alert! Special hidden conditions met! Multiple compatible hidden conditions detected. Synergy of [Blessed Canine of Unwavering Loyalty], [Light of Healing], [Natural Leader], and [Selfless Defender of the Pack] possible. Ultra-rare evolution [Saint Bear Wolf] available.|
“What in the name of Orfin’s great hammer is fucking happening?!” Smit finally shouted at no one. If he had had a body of flesh and blood, his heart would have been racing, his face would be flushed, and his eyes would have been wild with shock. Smit looked around his dungeon feverishly for a minute, expanding his consciousness without holding back as he searched for anything or anyone that might have caused this, but found nothing. Not even a single rock in his dungeon had been touched.
He took a few minutes to calm down, but eventually, Smit managed to regain his composure. Whatever that had been, it clearly was not around him or his dungeon anymore. The idea that something that had the ability to come and go in his dungeon undetected was terrifying, even more so when it had occurred with the speed of a bolt of lightning, leaving him no time to react. It was so surreal that he almost believed that he had imagined it all.
And he would have forced himself to believe he had imagined it, were it not for the window that was still present before him.
He stared at that for a minute, his mind twisting and turning as he tried to make heads or tails of what had just occurred. Whatever, or whoever, had messed with his wolf just now, had seemingly divine origins, and it seemed to have taken an interest in Smit. Whatever it had been, it had allowed his wolf to meet new hidden conditions and unlock an entirely new evolution. Even with over seven hundred years of knowledge, he could not recall ever meeting a creature called [Saint Bear Wolf], and that was saying something, considering that he often dealt with adventurers in the past.
“Now the question is,” Smit said to no one, “is this a trap, or is this being trying to help me?”
Sighing after a moment of silence, Smit shook his head internally. It was abundantly clear that if that thing wanted him dead, it could have done it at any time. Of this, he had no doubt at all. Might as well accept the gift of an ultra-rare evolution and not ask any questions, he didn’t have the time to question things anyways.
“Right. Saint Bear Wolf it is,” Smit said as he willed his thoughts over to it, prompting another window to pop up.
|[Saint Bear Wolf] is an extremely rare evolution from the wolf category. They are creatures touched by the Light, and fiercely loyal. Intelligent, strong, and noble, these creatures are thought to be as rare as unicorns. Are you sure you want to evolve [Common Mountain Wolf (Alpha)] to [Saint Bear Wolf]? All skills and titles associated with synergy for this evolution will be erased.|
“Yeah, that should be fine,” Smit said with a sigh as the window vanished from sight. He was getting tired of these windows. He couldn’t recall ever getting bombarded with this many windows from the voice of the world before.
Without further ado, the wolf finally began to evolve before Smit’s eyes. The wolf, while it had been large before, had tripled in size, making it as large as a grizzly bear. Its fur became long and fluffy, with two tones of colour: Silver and steel grey. Its jaw became a bit more square, and its shoulders became wider. Overall, the wolf looked like a cross between a wolf and a bear, as Smit expected. In fact, the creature seemed noble, but at the same time almost… cuddly. If you ignored the fact that it was large enough to stare a man in the eye even while standing on all fours and that it had teeth that were literally as long as the fingers of a human man and as thick as the fingers of a dwarf.
But Smit knew that underneath that gentle appearance lay a temple of muscle. It was as if the animal had first been crafted by the god of war-beasts and then the goddess of all things fluffy had covered its powerful figure with a misleadingly gentle and fluffy coat of fur, which was probably tough enough to resist the thrust of bronze stock or the smash of a wooden club.
Smit had no doubt in his mind that his creature was now physically stronger than the grizzly bears and probably second in intelligence to only Pala and Echo amongst his creations.
“Well now,” Smit exclaimed, thoroughly impressed by the massive changes, “that’s quite something.”
The bear wolf slept soundly, like the dead, thoroughly exhausted despite his new form.
“Sigh. Well, that’s one down. An expensive one it was, too,” Smit commented, realizing that the evolution of his wolf took an impressive one thousand mana points and a hundred anima. Not one to get distracted easily, Smit moved on to the kobold warrior who had reached his evolutionary threshold. Smit looked at the female warrior and hesitated for a moment to begin the evolution. He really didn’t have neither the time nor the patience for another round of endless pop-up windows and random, future-altering events. Nevertheless, he had to get it done.
Wrapping the kobold in his power, Smit allowed for the evolution to begin on its own. The minute that the evolution began, Smit readied himself mentally for any other surprises. He waited for a handful of seconds for something to occur, but he was only met with silence as the evolution continued.
Sighing with relief, Smit let the evolution run its course as he started to consciously re-populate his dungeon properly.
He still had lots of work to do.
As the sun started to approach its apex, Ella and the other adventurers reached the entrance to the dungeon. A collective gasp was heard from the new adventurers as the entrance to the dungeon came into view. The temple like structure of it all gave it a mystical aura that demanded attention.
Ella chuckled at the reaction, recalling that she and her team had had a similar reaction to them. She could hardly blame them, the entrance itself was impressive beyond doubt. She was willing to bet that she could come here every day for a year and she would not grow tired of admiring that masterpiece.
“Alright lads,” Ella shouted, “Enough gaping, the flies will start nesting in your mouth.”
She practically heard them all click their mouth shouts and nod an apology at her. Most of them managed to regain their senses quickly, and filed behind her and her team.
“Me and my team will lead the way,” Ella said loudly, “And you will follow. The first floor is fairly safe, however do not forget the information that was given to you. For some of you, this will be your first dungeon dive, and as such I will repeat what you already know: Don’t be fooled. Though it might seem like there is not much difference between the dungeon and the creatures found in the wilderness, there is a world of difference between being in a forest and being in a place that is littered with all sorts of traps.”
“Lastly, I say this. How you decide to spend your time in the dungeon is up to you, however, know that the second floor is far more dangerous than the first. Enter at your own risk. Above all, do not be arrogant! That is all.”
With that, Ella turned on her heel, and led the way into the dungeon, followed by the rest.
|Species: True Dungeon||Rank: 2|
|Name: Smit||Age: 3 months|
|Mana: 15,029||Anima: 449|
|Mana Reg.: 861 MP/h||Anima Reg.: 19.27 AP/day|
|Floors: 5 (Max Floors available: 5)||Inhabitants: 81 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; Loot Craft; Luck of the draw; Mana absorption; Masterful mana manipulation; Modification of creations; Monster Link; Telepathy; Trap building; Transfer dungeon; Treasure Management.|
|Resistances: Magic (general); Mind control|