Had anyone told Smit that he would have had an angel come and visit him and give him a warning from an ancient god any time before yesterday, he would have laughed and called them delusional. Dungeons don’t get warnings from gods. Dungeons usually get taken over by gods. The very concept of a god trying to help a dungeon remain free is anything but ordinary.
And yet here he was, staring once more at the ability he had gotten from the messenger of a god so ancient that even he had believed him to be a myth.
|[Selective Speciation]: Legendary ability that allows one to guide the path of evolution. This ability has a limited number of uses. This ability consumes mana depending the level of the desired evolution. This ability requires the consumption of existing species in the species selection screen to be used. [Selective Speciation] is linked with [Equivalent Exchange].|
The ability was something that concerned him quite a bit. The potential it held was immense, but the cost of it seemed to be proportional. The largest concerns he had were the ability’s restrictions, especially the part that clearly stated that there was a finite number of uses. It didn’t specify if there was an absolute limit in the number of times he could use it, if it was limited based on time, or the number of species available to him, or anything. He could come up with a dozen potential things that limited the number of times he could use this ability, but he had no way of knowing until he tested it. However, there was one single clue he had to this.
|[Equivalent Exchange] rules the ability to allow something to be gained in exchange for something of equal value. This principle applies across various facets of the dungeon, from creating creatures, to rewarding a foreign party should a boss monster be defeated in the dungeon, this principle will hold true.|
In other words, for any creature he wants to evolve, he would have to pay a particular price. The ability mentioned that the price would be dependent on the species he wanted to evolve them to; the higher the level of the resulting species, the higher the cost.
“Well…” Smit contemplated as he hummed thoughtfully. “If I have a limited number of times to use it, I’d better save it for now. It would be a shame if I were to test it and then be left with mediocre, if any results.”
Sighing to himself, Smit contemplated his options. Pala was extremely close to his evolution. As a matter of fact, he had already reached the point where he could evolve at any moment. The only reason he had not done so already was because Pala had purposefully postponed his evolution upon Smit’s request.
Smit was curious to see the effects of refraining from evolving and the results so far were rather interesting. A number of things seemed to happen when Pala had decided not to evolve. First, the speed at which power concentrated in him had slowed down to half of its original speed. Secondly, mana seemed to condense around the magic core that Smit had imbedded near his heart. This was the magic core that had allowed Pala to go hunt outside the dungeon without dissolving into nothingness, but now it seemed to act as a sort of anchor for the excess mana and anima that seemed to flow into him as he defeated his enemies.
This was promising in Smit’s eyes. Smit stipulated that the more energy Pala had at his disposal, the more likely he was to be able to unlock a powerful evolution. This, of course, would be complementary to the evolutionary process based on the lifestyle of the creature.
Or that was the hope at least.
Smit only had partial confirmation on his hypothesis so far. Of the many insects that had consumed blood moss, only a few had evolved into species that were related to it. Namely, the insect known as “Blood Moss Beetle” had recently appeared. It was a crimson beetle with black speckles sprinkled on its carapace. The beetle was unremarkable, save for its ability to consume rotting flesh and certain toxins in the blood stream, though it did have fairly tough chitin compared to its brethren.
However, other bugs that feasted on the blood moss had shown no signs of evolving, which led him to believe that there was more at work with evolution than the simple at, sleep, fight, repeat’ that some of his creatures had. He was fairly certain that enhancements, lifestyle, achievements, power level, experience, and even the species itself all dictated what evolutionary paths where available to a creature. Perhaps there were even more variables that he wasn’t aware of, but for now, he suspected these six factors manipulated the evolution of a creature. Perhaps it would be seven factors if one fulfilled a special condition, but such occurrences were so rare that it would be nigh pointless to keep this seventh factor in mind.
Arturus, for instance, would be one of the rare cases who met one such special condition, which allowed him to evolve into something that normally shouldn’t have been possible even with Smit’s help.
“But what happens if I just activate the ability without using it?” Smit hummed to himself.
Curiosity filled him, and in his desire for knowledge, he pushed his consciousness towards Pala, who was fighting a fearsome modified bear. Smit did not say a thing, not bothering to make his presence known to the skillful kobold lord as he silently willed the skill to activate.
“Currently available evolutions: Bloody Kobold Lord, Great Kobold Lord, Kobold King.”
“Potential evolutions: Warlord Kobold, Solemn Kobold King, Dragonewt.”
Oh-ho! Smit thought internally, stroking his imaginary beard as he looked over the information. Pala was certainly strong, already having three evolutionary pathways open to him, and three more potentially open to him. This was truly great news.
And it seems that simply checking the progress of my creatures does not count as the ability being used. How conve-!
Smits thoughts were quickly interrupted as he noticed something disturbing. His mana was decreasing rapidly, in a handful of seconds, he had already consumed over two thousand MP, and that number was decreasing by the second.
What an absurd consumption of mana! Smit thought with shock. He could have created so much with that amount of mana!
Shaking off his shock, Smit quickly had a look through the cost of the potential evolutions, burning the numbers in his mind before he quickly shut down his ability, missing seven thousand MP in less than a minute. It was a horrifyingly expensive ability, but by the looks of it, one that was well worth it.
So… for a dragonewt, I require sixty thousand MP, five hundred Anima, and I must sacrifice at least five lower tier species in my list… Smit thought after he shut down the ability, frowning at the thought. He knew that dragonewts were powerful, more than strong enough to destroy an entire village on their own. But the price needed to create one was astronomical compared to anything else he had created. Hell, sixty thousand MP was more than he had spent creating the first floor of his dungeon!
On the other hand, he had heard more than one story about dragonewts, he had even crafted weapons and armor out of their bones and scales. They were powerful monsters to be sure. Similarly to kobolds, their blood was said to hold that of dragons, albeit much more of it, comparatively speaking. Unlike kobolds, though, dragonewts even had the ability to use an elemental breath and their scales were hard enough to turn away a steel sword. Turning Pala a dragonewt would certainly be a grand boon for Smit, allowing him a far greater chance to survive in the future and perhaps even allowing him to fend off the B ranks that would be coming in a matter of days.
However, as tempting as creating a dragonewt was, he had to cultivate. A dragonewt could indeed be very powerful, but a freshly evolved dragonewt would not be able to deal with multiple teams of B ranks on its own, no matter how talented it was. In this case, cultivation was his ticket to getting through this mess. The maze would buy him time and perhaps some of the adventures would be weakened by lack of food and sleep. If he could create more floors with powerful creatures for the adventurers to have to work through, perhaps that would suffice.
Though he was fairly confident that the adventurers were not out to kill him, he was still apprehensive about letting any of them reach his core room. Not to mention that the idea of someone simply waltzing through his dungeon bothered him greatly. He wanted them to be challenged! To earn his prizes and behold his creations! He didn’t want them to stroll through as if they were enjoying a walk through a sunny meadow.
Not to mention that if there were gods that were going to make a move, he didn’t really want them reaching him easily either. The very idea of being made subservient to anyone, even a god, did not sit well with him at all. He hadn’t defied death only to become a glorified manservant to some snooty god that simply thought he was mildly amusing.
Though if there were gods making their move, perhaps the devils would be making a move soon too. And if there was something that irked Smit more than the idea of being subservient to a god, was the idea of being made a slave to a devil. At least gods could appreciate beauty, while devils were not exactly known to be fans of art or beauty. Smit was sure that if he were to be taken over by a demon or devil of any sort they would ruin his dungeon, and that was definitely not happening.
Well. Back to work. Smit grunted as he returned his consciousness to his core and settled to cultivate with a renewed sense of urgency.
He wouldn’t be enslaved. Not by a god, nor by a devil.
James and his allies staggered out of the second floor tiredly, making their way through the first floor. Limping their way out, they sluggishly fended off snakes and rats, each strike from the smaller creatures feeling much heavier and faster than it should have. Bloodied, scarred, and bruised, Azure Arrow hobbled through the first floor until they met with the greenhorns.
The greenhorns paused as they watched Azure Arrow go by them, their images burning themselves into the minds of the novice adventurers. The mighty James, whose physical prowess was top class amongst the C rank adventurers was hunched over, his armor dented and singed in multiple places, creaking and chattering with every step he took. His mighty shield, usually so perfectly polished and kept was bent slightly inwards, and dried blood adorned his iron armour, making it almost look like it was rusting away.
He was helping the leader of the team, the infamous noble knight Ella Graz. She had a limp leg that wobbled whenever she put weight it. Large scars and tears were present on her leather armour, exposing her skin to the damp cool air of the dungeon’s first floor. Her hair, usually so luscious and vibrant, was matted with sweat, blood, and dust, making her look tired and exhausted. Her sharp eyes were still present, looking around carefully for signs of danger, but the bags under her eyes spoke volumes of the dangers she and her team had faced.
Behind them, Ziggurd used his staff as a walking stick, hobbling weakly after them as he hummed a slow, mysterious tune as if in a trance. His leather vest still had something embedded in it that look like broken steel needles dotting its surface and his magnificent robe was dirtied and scratched. His face was covered in black stains of soot and dirt.
Adder and Mei walked beside him, their eyes wary, their shoulders sagging, and their clothes dirty. Yet they kept their weapons drawn and at the ready, sheer willpower and determination allowing them to remain ready for danger, despite the sorry condition that they found themselves in.
Many greenhorns swallowed drily as they watched the current top dogs of the adventurer’s guild make their way out silently. No one said a thing, they simply stared as the danger started to sink into the hearts of the greenhorns.
Many of them had started to get too used to the dungeon, becoming accustomed to the general danger of the first floor. But the sight of the C ranks that they looked up to showing up so beaten and ragged seemed to have blown away that false sense of security.
For many of them, it drove home for them a point that some had forgotten. They were in a dungeon. And they were trespassing. As simple as this first floor was, and as harmless as some of the creatures seemed, there was danger lurking in this place. If they were careless, this place would readily swallow them whole.
For others, however, it sent a shiver of excitement. Some of the adventures relished the idea of the challenge. What could have possibly driven a team that was so close to the top of the C rank to look like that? What treasures could they have found in the depths of the dungeon while facing such danger? What wonders had they seen in doing so?
However, the members of Azure Arrow paid little mind to all of that. They had no time to worry about their appearances nor about what thoughts were running through the minds of the greenhorns. They had to hurry to the guild master and inform him about the changes in the dungeon. The dungeon was far more dangerous that they had given it credit for. They had even seen stairs that seemed to head down to a fifth floor, which was a cause for concern. If the dungeon had created a fifth floor, then the dungeon was getting close to creating a true dungeon boss. More than that, the size of the floors of the dungeon were clearly getting larger, which was another cause for concern.
Soon, they saw the light of the entrance to the dungeon, and they let out a collective sigh of relief. Slowly they made their way to it, and finally stepped out of the dungeon, collapsing the minute they did so.
Finally, they were safe.
Lord Ravoul rubbed his grubby hands together as he looked through his papers. He’d had plenty of time to do research on the available B rank adventurers, and he had already created a list of adventurer groups that he planned to bring over to his side. Or that had been the plan anyways. Out of the five teams he had selected, that accursed Lord Lerron and the Duchess Bik’aard had already brought two of the best teams to their sides, each one undoubtedly scheming to gain the upper hand in the upcoming game. Fools, the lot of them, regardless of what preparations they had concocted, the dungeon would ultimately belong to him.
He had more than enough gold to buy the favour of various noble houses and it would be a simple matter of throwing enough money at them to entice them into becoming his puppets. This was a game of numbers, and he was set to win.
He had already hired one of the top adventuring groups of the B ranks, well known for their love of money and their brutality, the Black Widows. A group of all female adventurers that prided themselves on their speed and hiding abilities. Most of the team members had somewhat shady reputations, but their abilities were undeniable, and they were one of the teams said to be moving up to A rank within the next decade.
With this team, Ravoul was quite certain of his victory. He had even paid a premium for them to sabotage the competing adventurers within the dungeon. Once inside, a little or accident or two were expected to happen, and no one would pry too deeply. It was perfect.
His only real concern were the adventurers from remote locations. He had no doubt that the kingdom of Illeb and the Kingdom of Gined would send adventurers to participate under the pretext of simply wanting the prices that the king was offering the adventurers. Though the adventurers would still be up for hire by nobles of Hyspa, the adventurers themselves could still bring news to their homelands.
The real problem for him, however, was not the information being leaked to other kingdoms, but rather that there would be adventurers of unknown strength joining the fray. Adventurers that he had not had the chance to assess or bribe. Adventurers that might throw a wrench in his plans.
Though the king had set certain rules to prevent this kind of infiltration, Ravoul had no doubt that the other kingdoms would find ways to work around the rules. Such was the nature of human greed, a subject he was an expert on. He had exploited the greed of others many times before and he fully intended on doing it many more times in the future.
“No matter,” he grunted to himself. “In the end, everything can be bought. Even loyalty.”
Even if there were to be hidden tigers amongst the flock of men that were heading towards the dungeon, he would just tame them with the absolute power of gold.
|Species: True Dungeon||Rank: 2|
|Name: Smit||Age: 3 months|
|Mana: 216,434||Anima: 659|
|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; Selective Speciation; Trap building; Transfer dungeon; Treasure Management.|
|Resistances: Magic (general); Mind control|