Chapter 9: Of Guilds and Dungeons
Smit sighed in relief as he watched the invading adventurers take their leave, red-faced and tired, their armors marked in many places by the trials that they were forced to face by Smit. Snakes, wolves, kobolds, rats, mice, and ambushes had left their mark on the adventurers. It would not be wrong to say that if the party had not had a healer, it is likely several of them would have died. But then again, if they had not had a healer and pushed in so deeply with so little trouble, perhaps Smit would not have been forced to create a “last stand” with all his remaining kobolds and wolves.
Regardless, the dice had been cast and the outcome had been decided. Smit was safe. At least for now.
Smit had to admit, he was worried when the adventurers met Echo. Thankfully, Echo did not behave aggressively right away, which gave pause to the adventurers. Had she decided to react to the knife and arrow that were launched at her, things could have easily deteriorated into a fight.
As confident as he was in the toughness of her body, he was still very glad to avoid the fight, especially since her dexterity was not up to par. If a fight had broken out, there was a definite possibility that his dungeon core could have been knocked out of Echo’s hands and been damaged or stolen.
However, thanks to her lack of reaction and their shock, Smit had time to intervene. Well, not that his intervention was anything spectacular. He had simply ordered Echo to wave them all away. Though he had gotten a confused reply from Echo at the time, she had carried out his order, albeit with a fair share of uncertainty in her initial movements. Thankfully, the adventurers had reacted well to this improvised method of communication. He was pretty sure that such a thing would not happen ninety-nine times out of a hundred.
He had been lucky, and he knew it.
And by god, did he ever hate relying on luck.
Well. I suppose I have my work cut out for me. These brats were not even B ranked yet and I got pushed to this extent. I need to get to work. He grunted to himself internally, clearly unhappy with the result, even though he had expected it. No one was more critical about his own work than himself.
He began to analyze the situation with a critical eye, while ordering the few creatures that had not been slaughtered by the adventurers to not attack the retreating invaders. Though he should regain the great majority of the mana expended on his creations when they die, he still did not wish to have spend more time than necessary recreating every single thing that the adventurers had killed. By his tally, they had killed over a hundred and fifty creatures, which was more than four fifths of his combat force.
“Mas- I mean, father?” A feminine voice rang in his mind, pulling him back from his thoughts.
“What is it Echo?” He asked, giving her a piece of his attention.
“Why did the… invaders leave? They had the upper hand.” There was clear confusion in her voice. As expected, someone that had knowledge but no experience would be confused. Intelligence without wisdom was a rather interesting thing to behold.
“Simple.” Smit grunted. “It wasn’t worth it.”
“It wasn’t worth it?” Echo repeated, clearly confused. “I was under the impression that father’ core was magnificent and very coveted.”
“You are not wrong. But you need to consider their point of view beyond that.”
“What could possibly be more important than your core, father?”
The question itself made Smit stare at her, wondering if she was serious about her words. Unfortunately, it seems she truly meant that. It was easy to forget that Echo was one of his creations, which meant that due to his trait, Monster Loyalty, she instinctively held him in high regard. And in addition to this, he was fairly certain that without his core the dungeon would just cease to be a dungeon, leaving behind a set of caverns underground. So of course, from her point of view his core was probably the most important thing that there could possibly be.
Sighing, Smit began his explanation.
“Consider this: First, their healer was out of mana. This alone means two important things, first they can’t get healed in battle quickly. Even if they use something like a healing potion, the effect is not as instantaneous as magic. Second, it means that since the magician doesn’t have magic, he can’t even defend himself well, which means that he must be protected. This limits their actions as a team, unless they are willing to let him fend for himself, which would probably end with him dead. Do you understand? A magician without magic is usually worse for a team than not having a magician, since they must protect them without anything to be gained from it.
That’s but one reason however. Consider this too: You are an unknown creature that deflected an iron dagger and an arrow with just your skin without even blinking. They have no idea of the extent of your fighting abilities, or if there are any tricks associated with this room. For all they know you could be an immortal warrior that can cast fireballs with a flick of your wrist. Add to that the fact that they are exhausted mentally from long hours of exploration and fighting, and that their weapons and armors are not in optimal condition. Do you see now? Their confidence waned. They were completely unsure that they could get out of this alive. And lastly, their job was to identify the dungeon, not to take me away. From their point of view, their mission was accomplished the minute they laid eyes on me.”
Echo tilted her head slightly, processing this new information with interest. He could almost hear the imaginary cogs in her brain turning, working over his words and absorbing them.
“I understand.” Echo said after a while, nodding her head slowly. The movement made Smit chuckle lightly. Tilting her head, nodding… those were very… organic reactions. It was the sort of thing you would expect from a being of flesh and blood, not from a golem. But then again, Echo was beyond your average golem. After all, how many golems had an actual soul?
Speaking of souls… Smit hummed thoughtfully as he thought about his Kobold chief, its soul standing in suspended animation within the unknown space that Smit held within his core. He could feel the soul of the Kobold chief, ready to be called upon.
Thinking over it briefly, he decided that he should create a proper body for him as soon as possible. After all, the kobold chief was his greatest warrior to date. Having him around would grant him some peace of mind while he restored the rest of the dungeon.
He promptly began to gather his mana, remembering the kobold chief. Hmm… perhaps he should improve him too. Maybe I should give him denser muscles, a stronger tail, harder bones…
But just as he readied himself to activate his mana, he was greeted by an information box.
|“Warning! Invaders are still present in your dungeon. Cost for creating new creatures tripled. Are you sure you would like to continue?”|
Smit just stared at the text box for a moment before growling. These restrictions… who came up with these? Some annoying God probably. Maybe more than one had a hand in it. He hadn’t had any trouble creating creatures when something like a snake came into his dungeon… so perhaps it was limited to things that could be seen as a threat then? Or was it limited to sentient creatures? If it was the later, he would bet the gods of each respective species had a hand in it. After all, which god would like to see their people at a disadvantage?
Grumbling at the unfairness of it all, he stayed his hand and waited until the adventurers shuffled their way out of his dungeon. Thankfully, he didn’t need to wait too long. It barely took the adventurers two hours to walk out, following the path with the least amount of traps. The second they stepped out of his dungeon’s entrance, Smit noticed that the slain creatures were recycled entirely, their mana breaking down and refilling Smits now diminished reserves. For a moment he wondered if there was also a reason for this, but pushed this thought out of his mind as he gathered his mana and the soul of the kobold chief.
He used the soul of the kobold chief as the center piece, wrapping it in mana and molding it into the proper shape. Bigger, better, faster, stronger… he wanted to create a more deadly kobold, but unfortunately there is a limit to his enhancements despite all his skills related to the matter. To begin with, he had already enhanced the kobolds when he created them, so the current enhancements were not as effective as he would like them to be, but it still worked to an extent.
Of course, Smit made his enhancements consciously, guiding his mana rather than let it work on its own. It was the only way to decrease the mana expenditure when he created things, and right now, he really could not afford to waste a single iota of mana. Not when he was so defenseless.
Though normally it would take a while to create a body from scratch, it seemed that by recreating a body from a soul the process was shortened, as the soul seemed to retain knowledge of its now deceased body, which allowed the mana to form more effortlessly into the form of the soul’s old body. By the time he was finished with his enhancements, barely an hour had passed. He estimated the enhancements to have been decent enough, perhaps somewhere around a ten percent improvement to his strength and speed… but that yet had to be determined with certainty.
The kobold lord had grown to a height of 185 cm, and his tail seemed to be more powerful. Overall, he looked like the same kobold chief he was before, except he was… stronger to put it simply. More muscular without being bulky, his scales seemed tougher, and he even managed to look more masculine at the same time. But perhaps Smit’s favorite change was the eyes of his reborn kobold chief, which seemed less… feral, holding a certain wisdom in them. He hadn’t intentionally created that, though he assumed that it was due to the fact that the kobold chief had obtained a proper soul. After all, they do say that the eyes are the windows to the soul, do they not?
Whatever the reason, Smit was quite satisfied with his creation, even if it had cost him more than twice the amount of mana than an average kobold, leaving him with a significant 6,988 MP. Between him and Echo, he could sit down to cultivate, gathering his mana at a much faster rate.
As he thought of this, the Kobold chief opened his eyes again, and looked around him slowly, before gazing upon his own body. For a few seconds he marveled at his own hands, his body, even going as far as to lift his tail and feel it with his own hands. The kobold chief once more turned to his creator, and kowtowed towards him, letting his forhead touch the ground in reverence.
“Thank yousss father.” The kobold chief muttered outloud, just loud enough for Smit to hear. The words seemed heartfelt and shaky, almost as if the monstrous creature was choking down his tears. Smit was fairly certain that if the kobold chief had a larger vocabulary, he would have said more.
“Raise your head.” Smit ordered, looking upon the golden eyes of his creation, noticing the tears that streamed down his face. Who knew that Kobolds could cry?
Pushing such thoughts aside, Smit felt the need to respond towards the feelings of his creation. Though he might have been a mindless monster before, the spark of wisdom and knowledge had risen within this creation, and it had even acquired a soul. This kobold had fought, bled and died for him, while being fully conscious that the chances of survival were next to none. And it had done so, if only to protect him for a few seconds longer. Considering this, how could Smit not spare a few words for his beautiful creation?
Gathering his thoughts for a second, Smit spoke again. “You fought well. You made me proud, and so I decided to save you, and give you a soul. You are my greatest warrior, and I shall call you Pala.”
|“Alert! You are about to bestow a name upon your created creature. This will render this creature a [Named Monster]. Would you like to proceed? Current limit of named monsters:2”|
Accepting the notification, Smit felt his magic leave him, pouring towards the kobold lord, wrapping him in tendrils of faintly visible white. It was as if vines made of clouds coiled around the kobold chief, seeping into his skin.
A moment passed, and the kobold chief closed his eyes, allowing the power granted by Smit to become his. Before Smit’s eyes, he witnessed as the Kobold changed. His forest green scales became marked with a hint of gold, his shoulders became broader, he seemed to stand up straighter, and his height rose another 5 centimeters. He had retained all the enhancements that Smit had crafted for him upon recreating him but he now looked more… elegant for lack of a better word.
For the second time in a day, the kobold lord opened his eyes, and this time his eyes let the tears flow freely, basking upon the honor of obtaining his own name while silently worshiping the name of his creator as he remained kneeled.
|“Alert! Limit of named monsters reached. Limit will increase upon ranking up.”|
Smit however, remained oblivious to the thoughts of Pala, simply dismissing the text window after having a quick glance over it.
“Now then.” Smit said as he addressed both Pala and Echo, “I am going to have to sit down and meditate to gather mana quickly. Your job is to protect me until I wake up again. Understood?”
“By your will, father.” Echo spoke up as she cradled his core.
“By your will, father.” Repeated Pala, jumping up to stand once more.
“Good. Echo. Carry me to the real core room. We have no time to waste. Pala, follow Echo and guard me.”
Finishing dealing out instructions, Smit wasted no time in slipping off to find his balance, meditating as he drew in the ether that surrounded him. He had things to do and things to create.
This dungeon is truly a mystery, and rather unnerving. By all accounts, a group of high C rank adventurers should be far more than capable to clear a brand new dungeon on their own, on the first try. In fact, even a group of D rank adventurers should be able to do it on their first try, albeit with a lot more trouble and perhaps with a couple of missing limbs.
And yet here we are, coming out of this looking like we got worked over with sticks. My shield hasn’t been this scratched in a long time, and everyone’s armor will need some repairs. Ella in particular has several locations where the kobold warriors managed to slice up her hindbear leathers. Perhaps the most disturbing thing of the entire ordeal was the blue golem lady. By the gods, did she ever scare the living hell out of all of us.
The mystery of her creation was beyond me. Dungeons were rarely known for being able to create anything in fine detail that was not a monster, even those statues are a rare enough find. But that golem? It was a veritable goddess. The skill behind that workmanship must be unmatched under the heavens. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was created by a god. And yet… why would a god create a statue like that? Why would a dungeon have it? Could it be that this dungeon had been marked by a god? But if so, why would a god claim such a miniscule dungeon? Moreover, no god would mark a dungeon without leaving his name behind. Did this mean that the dungeon had truly created that magnificent golem?
“Focus James.” Ella barked at him, causing him to snap himself out of his internal monologue. “This dungeon is weird, and I don’t trust it even if we were allowed to leave without a fight.”
“She is right.” Mei spoke up, her voice a bit unsteady as she looked around. “The creatures of the dungeon… they are all staring at us. None of them have made a move as far as I can tell, they are just… staring.”
Those words sent a cold shiver down my spine as I tried to look around me without being too obvious. Indeed, in the darkness I could faintly make out the eyes of what might have been a large rat. It didn’t move. It simply followed our progress with its eyes.
I guess this dungeon can be more disturbing than I thought.
Step by aching step we made our way out of the dungeon, and the closer we got to the entrance of the dungeon, the more creatures we began to make out. All of them were lower tier creatures, like mice, rats, or small snakes. But the fact that they would openly let us go was by far the most unnatural thing I have seen in this dungeon.
Under the scrutiny of all those critters we reached the exit, and I breathed in deeply the moment I stepped outside the dungeon. The sweet scent of fresh mountain air greeted my lungs and I felt alive once more.
“Right then.” Ella said as she looked up to the sun, who was already getting low on the horizon. “This took a lot longer than we expected. Let us go down the mountain some ways and find a somewhat flatter spot to make our camp. We will set out in the morning and reach the village.”
Getting a general consensus of agreement, we all began to move, ignoring the protests of our legs. There would be enough time to rest soon enough.
Time slipped out of the mind of Smit as he focused on his progress, drinking in copious amounts of ether, feeling it enter his core and become mana. The process was much more effective when he meditated, more than doubling his already impressive mana regeneration. He spent 24 hours completely submerged in his meditative state before he finally stopped, opening his eyes to realize he had increased his mana pool by 7,512 MP. He had practically doubled the amount of mana available to him.
Upon awakening, he noticed Echo had not set him down on the ground as he had always been, but rather she had sat down cross legged again, holding him in the palm of her hands. Nearby, Pala stood guard, pacing the room silently, his eyes constantly darting back towards the hallway that led to the core room.
The first order of business was to repopulate his dungeon, expending a grand total of 7,135 MP to recreate creatures, enhancing some of them in small ways in hopes of triggering an evolution at a later date. He additionally created his first dungeon law, [Respawn]. It was a simple thing really. Simply put, it would respawn creatures in a floor once the floor was free of invaders, saving Smit the trouble of having to respawn all the common creatures himself. Of course, the [Respawn] law only applied to common creations. Special entities such as Echo or Pala were not included.
“Warning! To use dungeon law, you must verbalize the law you wish to create. Various effects can be achieved through intonation and modulation of emotions and speech.”
The warning had some interesting implications, but for the sake of efficiency, this was was ignored at the time. Or rather, it wasnt so much ignored as forcibly pushed aside and forgoten.
The second step for Smit was crafting the skeleton of his second floor. Currently it was little more than a long hallway with pretty walls. But he would fix that.
Grinning broadly to himself, Smit threw himself at his work determined to turn his second floor into the ideal floor he had imagined. First he extended his hallway in length, making it an impressive 500 meter long hallway with high ceilings. He also increased the width of the hall, making it broad enough to have ten people walk side by side comfortably. The ground however, he turned it into a polished tiled floor using basalt, black, heavy stone that would not be easily damaged. The contrast between the pearly walls of granite and the black floor made for a wonderful contrast. Instantly he decided to make the ceiling of white granite too, to increase the contrast.
White on black. Simple, yet beautiful, giving rise to a cultured and elegant look.
Then he began to add the fun part.
First he created a few wide columns, scattering them over the length of the room. The columns were made of the same polished basalt as the tiles on the floor, adding a bit of a mysterious look to them. Each column had a little surprise associated with it. But of course, he would have to tinker with them. In essence, his plan for this hallway was simple: the tiles on the floor would contain triggers for the traps within the columns of stone. One tile would trigger arrows, another would cause a column to release a cloud of noxious gas, and yet another tile would cause a column to collapse onto the intruder.
He had five types of trap ready to set, and a few more that he was already considering to place, but he had yet to decide upon them. He would leave the trap making for later however, as he had to continue creating the skeleton of his floor first, before he could work the details.
Leaving the columns of stone behind him, he began to work on the second part of the floor. The hallway would end on a doorway carved out of heavy wood, which would then lead to the main room of this floor. It would be this room that he would call “the reception hall.”
The reception hall would be a large room of one hundred meters in width by another one hundred meters in length. The ceiling would be high above the ground, rising a good six meters above the floor. The materials for the creation of the room were once again polished granite and basalt. But now, he would add beauty to this. First, he crafted spiraling columns that reached the ceiling of the room at the four corners of the room. The columns were beautifully designed, carving leaves and vines along their lengths to decorate them.
Next he added a little detail. The walls themselves were carved to produce charming ledges that could be used as benches, creating a sort of polished indentation in the wall so that people could sit comfortably and rest. Above each bench, he added decorations. Lions, bears, eagles, and fish were carved beautifully, one specific carving per bench.
Next he would set up a small circular pond at the center of the room, making it cover roughly two thirds of the space of the room. The pond would deepen gradually towards the center, reaching a depth of five meters in depth at the centre. The ground would be basaltic for the pond, except for the deepest part, which would contain rocks and sand, ideal for housing fishes.
Lastly, on the far end of the room, he created a raised platform. The platform itself was not very high, only about 40 cm above the ground, but it was wide enough to host a small orchestra. Above the platform he created luminous crystals that lighted the stage sufficiently, making it stand out. It was from this stage that he would perhaps have a few creatures pepper the invaders with some kind of projectile… or perhaps he would use kobold mages. Either way, the stage was ideal for harassing the enemy as they tried to go around the pond.
The pond itself would have a surprise, however. He planned to house there some kind of monster, be it kobolds or something else, which would be able to leap out and contain the invading forces. This room itself would be the center piece of this floor. Here, every adventurer would have to prove themselves to proceed any further. In fact, the entire floor was more of an obstacle course designed to deter weak adventurers from proceeding. However, those that could survive this room would be welcomed to sit upon the benches he created, and relax as they watched the fish dance in the pond.
He chuckled at the progress he was making, enjoying the idea of testing any invader that would be brave (or foolish) enough to step into his domain. The idea of watching them stare in awe at his creations, followed by a struggle to survive sounded like a fun plan indeed.
But before he could continue, he ran out of mana. The extend of detail he was using, and the materials he was using were draining his reserves of mana much faster than he expected, swallowing over 7,000 MP in the creation of a mere hallway and a room. Granted, his hallway and room would be enough to humble a noble once he was done, but it still annoyed him that he had run out of mana when he was in the full swing of things. It was like someone had snatched a cake away from his plate when he was only halfway done eating it.
Grumbling at his dilemma, he decided to spend this time resting, and thinking of his next move. To begin with, he needed an aquatic species to place in the pond. His rank up had unlocked a handful of species from his animal races, two of which were simple fishes.
Oddly enough, his rank up had not unlocked any new variations of golems or kobold. Perhaps it had something to do with the rarity rating of the species? He would make a note to ask Echo about that.
At any rate, one or two species of fish would not be enough. He needed some aquatic plants, and he also required some kind of more… fierce creature. Perhaps a giant carnivorous frog. Or a water snake. Hell, he would settle for a man eating plant that lived in water. Kobolds would work as well, but he craved some variety. Plus, it was never a bad idea to have more species available to him. The worst case scenario would be that he would not use them, and the best case scenario would be that he would implement them, and then they would evolve into something even better.
Thinking upon it, he would not be able to send his dungeon mice to gather creatures like he had before in that case, for obvious reasons. He was going to have to send out kobolds to look for plants and fishes in the rivers of the mountain, and hope that they could find something useful.
The problem would lie on making sure that the fish survived long enough to die in Smit’s dungeon. If they didn’t make it here, then he would not automatically absorb the information of said creature.
Right… so first, create a handful of kobolds. Then create monster cores for them. Follow up by sending them out with tools to gather fish and plants that live in fresh water. Then have them return without killing the fish or plants.
Now that he thought about it… Did he have aquatic plants already? Also, plants don’t necessarily die right away after being cut. Could they survive long enough to come to him after being cut?
Questions like these started popping up in his mind left right and center, causing him to become distracted for a moment. Soon enough he returned to the real world though, and he pushed those thoughts aside as he settled down into a meditating again.
Those thoughts can wait. First I must finish the set up. Then I can go about the details.
He couldn’t help but to think of the surprise of the adventurers when they came back, diving deeper and realizing a whole new floor was waiting for them.
Thinking this, Smit chuckled before he let himself sing into his mind, reaching out towards balance and inner peace.
|Species: True Dungeon|
|Name: Smit||Age: 54 days|
|Mana: 343 MP||Anima: 0|
|Mana Reg.: 151 MP/h||Anima Reg.: 3.5 AP/day|
|Floors: 2||Inhabitants: 30 Species|
|Titles: Eager Creator; Guide of the Bloody Evolution; Legendary Craftsman; 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|