“Yeah, what is it?” (Gideon)
“For an entrance to a dungeon, I thought it would be, you know, grandiose. For example, a gargoyle at both sides of the entrance or indestructible stairways to the entrance, or swirling magical powers that would teleport us inside-” (Crystal)
“You have either been duped by adventurer’s storytelling, or have too active of an imagination. It’s just a cave, and unless someone has a lot of time and money on their hands, no one will bother to decorate it.” (Gideon)
A dungeon is a mysterious being.
From what I know thus far, it is an entity that grows through feeding itself mana from the surroundings. As it grows bigger, the dungeon increases in size and length. As it grows bigger and larger, both the quantity and quality of the monsters increases as well.
No one knows where or how dungeons first appear, but it can be found almost anywhere in the world. However, not all of them grow to be extremely big. [Eclipse] is considered quite the large-sized dungeon.
Even though an entrance to a dungeon looks just like a cave, there’s one huge difference. That is, once you entered it, one will feel the atmosphere change completely, whether it’s from the mana density within the air, or the sudden heightened sense of uneasiness from the monsters within.
All of the monsters in any dungeon are made of mana, so they’ll disintegrate slowly after being destroyed. Since there has to be a certain number of monster within the dungeon before it can start to grow, it will instinctively produce more monster. Besides, if it doesn’t have enough monsters, it can be invaded to its core, which will mean its doom.
As the monster quantity increases and the size of the dungeon grow, the dungeon can reabsorb weaker monsters and produce stronger ones from the core. This is also one reason why stronger monsters are found nearer to the core.
With an abundance of mana within the dungeon, many different and mystical happening occurs. Examples would be natural appearances of golems, formation of rare metals like Mithril, Adamantium and such. Rarely, artefacts of great power and capabilities could form within in, and therefore dungeons, especially huge ones, are highly sought after by all.
In the core of the dungeon, things are a bit different. Instead of semi-permanent mana-created monsters, the core room has a core guardian, which is much more “alive” in the sense that it will leave behind a corpse when it dies.
The theory that is accepted widely is that, the core guardian is created as the dungeon forms, and grows stronger as the dungeon grows larger, as the dungeon feeds it mana to grow along with it as well. Hence, the core guardian would always be the strongest creature within the dungeon.
As we stepped into the cave, I felt a sense of déjà vu. After all, I went into the cave previously with someone I trusted, as a pair. The only difference is that this time, I’m with a [Hero] instead of [The Six].
“Hey, Gideon, you sure like to daze off at weird moments don’t you? We’re in the dungeon already.” (Crystal)
“Huh? Ah, no it’s nothing…just thinking back on the past a little. Let’s go, after stepping in here, I can remember the route a lot better.” (Gideon)
“Don’t worry, I’m fine. Let’s just finish this up quick, and head to the dungeon’s core.
We checked our belongings and made sure we brought everything we need, before we continued on forward. Things such as potions are kept close to us, in a waist-bag for convenient purposes. As usual, I placed the wooden rod within my shirt, tightly snugged in between my body and clothes.
Without saying anything much, we proceeded on further into the dungeon. Having mapped out the dungeon previously, I know more or less where to go and where not to go. However, being 3 years since I last came here, there are times where we almost got lost.
As I expected, the monsters that can be found in here remains the same. It would seem that after that one invasion three years before by me and Del’thrush, no one else came over to invade this dungeon, giving it time to grow.
Thankfully, the pathways didn’t change at all, so I could remember more or less, the shortest distance through the dungeon. Therefore, it was rather simple to slaughter through the monsters one by one.
Even if the monsters came in a group, Crystal and I easily dispatched all of them easily, taking out one with every blow.
However, Crystal complained slightly that the essence of dungeon exploring is to get slightly lost and then eventually find the correct path. I could only chuckle bitterly about it.
As far as I’m concern, I just want to get back my weapon and be done with the whole thing. After all, getting back my weapon means that I’m that much closer to accomplishing my goal of revenge.
Once I get back my weapon, I’ll be near undefeatable! Every single one of my attacks will be able to tear through the defences of anything under the sky!
“Hey, what’s that?” (Crystal)
“Oh, that’s new. I haven’t seen a monster like this before, when I was here previously.” (Gideon)
As we went in deeper, a new monster appeared. It was a four-legged beast with 3 different heads and a lean, powerful body. It even has a tail that’s as long as its body! This looks a lot stronger than what we just faced…does this mean that we’re getting closer to the core room already?
“Ah, it’s a Chimera. You know, those mythical three-headed beasts. Be careful. If I’m correct, all three of the head will have different abilities.” (Crystal)
I took a close look at the Chimera once again. Indeed, each of the three heads is different; one of them is a head of a dragon, the other a wolf and the last head is an eagle’s.
“Let me handle this.” (Gideon)
Crystal nodded, as she leaped a few steps back to make space for me as well as checking my back for any other incoming monsters.
The beast pounced straight towards me. I sidestepped its assault easily, instantly delivering a strong downwards cleaved on the wolf’s head.
Although met with some resistance, I cleaved straight through, severing the first of the three heads.
“Tsk, this thing is harder than I thought…” (Gideon)
Roaring in pain, the eagle’s head that is closest to me reared back and jabbed me heavily with its beak, while I was still defenceless. I managed to deflect it with the Greataxe’s pole, but the impact still caused my hands to numb a little.
“Such power, this beast is at least on par with an A-ranked adventurer!” (Gideon)
I jumped back a few steps and baited the Chimera over. Even if it didn’t come over, a huge wound has already disrupted the mana-created body, and it will fall apart regardless in a short time.
Infused with a will to destroy all intruders, the Chimera didn’t charge forward, but exhaled a breath of intense flame, while the eagle head spewed a blast of fierce wind. The winds fanned the flames even further, creating an entire heat-storm heading straight towards me.
This is on a totally different scale of those from the Salamander’s; this one will cause quite the damage even to me!
I quickly jumped back, in an attempt to gain more distance from the flames. However, the flames are spreading with such high intensity and speed…
“Change over, it’s my turn!”
Crystal jumped ahead on me, patting on my shoulders as she went by. With her mana shield up, the flames, no matter how intense, are all negated and brushed aside by its absolute defence capability.
Changing into a lance-form, the spiralling mana-formed lance pierced through the Chimera’s body like butter. Giving out one final weak roar, the Chimera fell onto the ground and starting to disintegrate.
“Not bad, thanks for the save.” (Gideon)
Though I’ll be able to defeat the Chimera eventually, I’ll rather have it destroyed with no damages left on me. Still, Crystal has such an impressive speed in switching in between offense and defence, as per usual.
Due to her natural ability in manipulating mana, she is able to almost eliminate the gap of time needed to interchange from shield to spear, to almost less than a half a second. Most foes will definitely be caught unaware should they have not seen it coming, and will be pierced with a spear that was supposed to be a shield just half a second ago.
When I first heard about all her abilities during the trip here, I was shocked. To think that there’s someone out there with a versatile inherited skill such as mine.
Compared to hers, my [Burst Stream] seems like child’s play. Although it is very useful for dodging and attacking, that’s about it. It can only compliment brute strength, and it also have a daily limit of sorts.
We proceeded on forward, without any other significantly stronger monsters stopping us. After a while, we finally reach the entrance of the core room.
“Well then, we’ll take a break here first.” (Gideon)
“Why? Didn’t you kill off the core guardian previously already? Let’s just get in and grab the axe.” (Crystal)
“Well…just in case. After all, that axe of mine is quite a powerful artefact. In fact, it wasn’t even an axe at all in the first place.” (Gideon)
“Eh? What do you mean by that?” (Crystal)
“Well, the axe was originally some sort of sphere-like artefact that was given to me by Ansta-, I mean, the Overlord. After receiving it, I thought that I was going to be presented a weapon and felt rather disappointed. And then it just…morphed into an axe.” (Gideon)
“I see…that is quite interesting. It could be capable of reading into one’s body, mind and soul and transforming it to suit your usage. If that is the case, it is quite the artefact.” (Crystal)
“Yeah, no matter what I did, or who I cleaved, it did not crack or even chip!” (Gideon)
“Yeah, I can tell that you aren’t exactly a person that would take care of his own weapon, having an artefact level weapon works wonders!” (Crystal)
I gave her a wry smile. Well, it is kind of true that I don’t really take good care of my previous weapon, yet it was always fantastically sharp and shiny without any polishing or servicing.
“We’re digressing. Since there’s no core guardian or even an artefact there to strengthen, I’m afraid the axe may have acted as a proxy for the dungeon’s artefact. Worst case scenario, it will have transformed according to the dungeon’s will into the new core guardian…” (Gideon)
“I-I see…that would be trouble….” (Crystal)
As we fall into deep thought, silence enveloped the area. After mere seconds the surrounding got slightly awkward.
“C-come to think of it, we just ploughed through the entire length of the dungeon in less than a day.” (Gideon)
“Yeah, you’re no fun at all. Who finishes a dungeon like this so quickly? I wanted a longer journey where we map out the dungeon, get lost a few times…” (Crystal)
“Alright I get it, next time we’ll go to another dungeon together, alright?” (Gideon)
“Really? You promise?” (Crystal)
“Yes, I promise.” (Gideon)
“Yay! You better keep that promise!” (Crystal)
She lifted up both hands and came in for a hug. My heartbeat increased at a rapid rate, and my face started to flush red.
Unable to control myself, I raised my arms and tightened it around her as well.
Even though she initiated the hug, she obviously didn’t anticipate me hugging her back. I looked at her face, and at that same moment, she looked at mine. Her expression…I’ve never seen that expression on her face before; her faced flushed, biting on her lower lips slightly and looking away slightly after our eyes met…is my face that flushed as well?
“D-don’t look at me for so long, it’s embarrassing, you know?” (Crystal)
“Ah, sorry…!” (Gideon)
As the atmosphere was slowly turning awkward, I tried to say something, but before I could open my mouth, Crystal already started to speak.
“Gideon, don’t worry about me. I’m the legendary [Hero], alright? We’ll get through any obstacles together.” (Crystal)
“Alright then, I’m counting on you…partner.” (Gideon)
After that, we enjoyed each other’s company silently, whilst in embrace. Shortly after, when we felt more energized, we got up and prepared ourselves.
We walked into the entrance and through the tunnel that leads into the core room. However, before we could reach the core room, the supposedly entrance is a dead end.
“Wait…that can’t be right, I know I was on the correct path…” (Gideon)
“Wait, Gideon. This isn’t naturally form, is made by magic, powerful one too.” (Crystal)
“Then, it must have been Del’thrush. That pile of bones must have sealed it up after murdering me before.” (Gideon)
“Don’t worry; something like this can’t stop me!” (Crystal)
She punched the earth wall blocking the way, and it shattered into pieces and flew into the core room. I stood there, stunned by the scene of a girl punching a wall into pieces, revealing the core room that is, a cavern.
Then, a rush of dread rushed out of the core room, causing me to flinch momentarily before raising my guard to the maximum and rushing into the cavern. Crystal, sensing it as well, follow suit.
Damn it! I forgot two important elements…this is really, really bad.
“Is this the worst case scenario?” (Crystal)
“No…It is worse than that.” (Gideon)
I pointed at the “core guardian”. It is a pitch-black, yet extremely familiar body, with eyes piercingly blood red, noticeable even from far. It’s holding on to my axe.
That’s…that’s my old body. Charred pitch black, and slimmer than what I remembered, but this is my body.
“Crystal, take a good look at that, how many souls are in that body?”
“I can’t even begin to count, there are too many. This is a monstrosity…”
“So I was right then…Del’thrush used a spell that required souls to kill me off. Some of the souls that weren’t used up probably took refuge in my body, and possessed it and surviving through feeding on mana. The dungeon core probably took my old body to be the “new dungeon guardian” then…this will not be easy.”
“So…basically is now an undead, filled with a lot of souls that fed on mana to survive and grow, with an artefact weapon…this is practically [The Six] in terms of power, huh? It’s a good practice for the both of us, don’t you think so?” (Crystal)
“Nope. Without a doubt, this thing here is definitely stronger than me during my prime, and it’s now not afraid of dying. We need to give it our all otherwise we’ll be the ones dying.” (Gideon)
“That’s harsh…no matter, with the both of us, nothing can beat us!” (Crystal)
“Yeah…let’s do this!” (Gideon)
The Charred One, as though noticing our intent to destroy it, let loose a fierce howl that shook the whole cavern. It started to morph in a weird way, with one arm significantly larger than the other, covered in huge spikes; the other arm that’s holding on to the axe fused to the axe, having a stump at the end of the arm with the axe head protruding.
It rushes towards us in a mighty rage, as we steadied ourselves for impact. It swings its Axe-arm downwards, but Crystal parries it with her Mana Shield and pierces the Charred One in the next instant, with the newly transformed mana spear.
At about the same time, I pushed forward and strike the other spike-arm, which was swinging sideways towards us, with my axe, cancelling out both our attacks.
We jumped back to judge the situation. As expected, the wounds that we have dealt are already beginning to heal up, regenerating as though as the previous engagement didn’t happen at all.
The worst part is that, one single exchange already proven to us how incredibly tough is it. Not only was the exterior hard to cut through, the insides are rubbery thick, making it near impossible to deliver a clear cut, or a nice, piercing blow as a finisher.
It looks for the first time in my human body…I’ll be experiencing a long, long battle of attrition…
“Hmph?! To think that it’s true, the prophecy…”
“What’s wrong, Lord Del’thrush?” (Asarou)
“…Some adventurers have found the [Eclipse] dungeon, and reached the core room by breaking open my seal. Asarou, you’re in command for the time being, I’ll set forth to [Eclipse].” (Del’thrush)
“P-personally? Why not just let me do a menial task like this, I’m about to head to Abyss Mount-” (Asarou)
“No, the strength that broke my seal is considerably powerful. There’s a chance that it might even be a [Hero]-class. If that’s the case, even you might be overwhelmed if he has assistance. I’ll personally take care of this matter.” (Del’thrush)
“If that is the case, it will be as you command.” (Asarou)
Asarou bowed respectfully, as Del’thrush started heading towards the [Eclipse] dungeon.
(So…what he said was true after all. My seal indeed was broken by a powerful force, just as he foretold. In that case, the person that broke it must have been [Hero of Spear and Shield], along with one other assistant! Just who is this person, to be able to foresee the future to such an accurate date?)
(Just who is he…Kpsid?)
Author : Kiribou