Chapter 12A: Instance Dungeon
Al carefully cut large strips of beef from the drained cow. The fire he made had finished its course and what remained was white-hot charcoal.
On Al’s back appeared a magical backpack. It would seem even the AI have inventory space. From the backpack, he took out two bottles labeled ‘salt’ and ‘pepper.’ To many people who enjoy grilling, these two are the most important spices. Al then took out a third larger can labeled ‘garlic powder.’ He generously seasoned the pieces of meat with all three in a blend. The seasoning from those three spices was all the preparation the meat needed.
Al took a cast iron skillet from his backpack and snuggly placed it on the heat. He took a small chunk of fat from the cow and wiped the skillet. The smell brought about by the fat was aromatic and stimulated the appetite.
Now that the pan was nice and oiled, he placed the seasoned meat on the plan, making sure the pieces didn’t touch. The sound of sizzling and the aroma of food filled the air. The four teens stared with ravenous eyes. They couldn’t wait to sink their teeth into it.
With the skills of a master chef, Al flipped the meat and seared the sides. He tested the firmness by pressing on it gently. It sprang back in a way that showed it was cooked medium rare, the most common taste.
From his backpack, five plates were brought out and handed to the teens. He kept the last plate as he transferred the meat.
Everyone got a slice, and of course, with Al being the chef, he got the biggest piece. No one really minded though, Al was a hulk of a man and was significantly larger than the teens. His capacity for food is bigger too. Also, it’s not like the five of them can eat an entire cow.
Alex and her friends chopped a bite-size piece of the meat and shoved it into their awaiting mouths. The juiciness of the meat completely overwhelmed their senses. Tears flowed from their eyes. The taste of the beef was very different from the meat Alex had been eating until now. Fish and snake were very lean and had little fat. Both were drier meat compared to beef which had a heftier feel.
Only Ruri who had eaten the bear knew how good red meat was. The meat needed only three spices to enhance its already great taste. As any beef eater would tell you, a good steak requires no sauce.
While the five were enjoying their meal, the sun was starting to fall. The evening sky was a faint purple with a hint of dark blue. The campfire shone on their faces, giving everyone a healthy orange glow.
By the time they had their fill, night had completely fallen. The remains of the cow were stored away by Al for preservation. Alex and her friend all agreed, after all, none of them really knew how to cook.
“Alright, rest up now. Digest your kill and let it become your strength! You have yet to complete the quest!” Al laughed as he cleaned his skillet.
The four teens nodded with renewed vigor. But before they could continue, a warning screen appeared in front of their eyes.
[Warning: Dive time almost up.]
“Oh, our dive is almost done,” Alex said.
“Dammit, just as we were all motivated!” Nell sighed.
But there was little they could do. They rented the Dive Tubes, and thus they must follow the strict guidelines of the owner.
They reluctantly waved goodbye to Al and stopped the dive.
Once again, they woke up in a tube. This time, they could move their limbs normally. It only felt like they took a long nap. They spent the night at the DT café and have tasted how enjoyable the ARK program truly can be.
Alex and her friends were eager to go back.
Daily routines must be kept. Alex and her friends returned to their rooms and did their morning routines. Hygienic routines and their morning nutritional bar. Then they split up to attend their respective meetings. Kurt headed back to the military base, Nell went to the government building, Ruri reluctantly walked toward the library, and Alex walked toward the Tinkerer Society.
When Alex arrived, the group of apprentices was already busy exploring the building. Yesterday they couldn’t really move anywhere without the authority of Dr. Ptah. Today, they were given visitor passes, thus giving them limited passage to certain areas.
Alex visited the research hall. She could see various open labs working on large mechanical structures. One group was working on a sleek new hover car design. They were adding various comfort features like a mini fridge and custom AI navigation. It seems that customized vehicles were built in the Tinkerer Society. They were both research and development as well as manufacturing.
The further Alex walked, the more restricted the area became. Soon, all she could see were locked rooms and blocked hallways. It would seem she reached the limit of her visitor’s pass.
With a sigh, she walked back towards the front. Her curiosity wasn’t as satisfied as she hoped. There are too many closed doors with secrets hidden behind them.
Alex thought about which experiment she should use for the project due soon. Finally, she made a decision as she returned to the grand hall.
“I will make that thing,” Alex said with a grin. She couldn’t wait to show off to Dr. Ptah. Hopefully, she could meld their relationship. She doesn’t want someone with such high authority barring her future career.
Soon, the busy day ended, and it was once again time to dive. Alex met up with her tired friends. Each of them had a lot to say about their day. But overall, it was very routine. After all, a career is all about routine.
They headed straight to the DT café and reserved the same four tubes. They couldn’t help but think about one day owning their own.
The dive once again started. 3, 2, 1, Dive!
Albert greeted them when the four of them returned.
“Welcome back, you ready to continue?”
Alex couldn’t help but ask, “How come I don’t see other people here?”
Al replied, “That is because we are in an instance dungeon. They have a limit on the number of people per area. Currently, the system accepted your group of friends as a party even before you registered an official one. That’s why you four ended up in the same instance dungeon. Artificial intelligence, however, can enter as many instance dungeon as they want.”
“Instance dungeon?” Alex thought to herself.
“You will be facing many instance dungeons in the future. Remember that the ARK system isn’t only limited to Agraria, Rubion, and Knowledge. There are also countless instance dungeons as well.”
“Tell us more please,” Ruri bowed. He quickly realized how important this knowledge would be for him and his friends.
“Fine, fine, but your group better successfully hunt another creature today! I need my meat fix!” Al laughed. “Agraria is your personal world. Only you and artificial intelligence can enter. Others must get permission from the owner first. Rubion is just a free roam world. It is a place to nurture the exploring mindset of people. It is a place to discover the wonders of a new world with sights aplenty. Knowledge is for those looking to socialize. It is a place for culture, for society, and to build relationship inside of ARK. A majority of the economy and trade happens there.”
“Then the instance dungeons?”
“Instance dungeons are pocket worlds for training. It is a place to train your skills to match any situation. Whether it be researching trip, assassination, search and destroy, or many others, they are all military and research-based skills that you will need in real life. Once humanity finally finds a new home, these are the skills you will need to live. To scout out the area, to react to any situation, and to properly perform when faced with new lifeforms. It is the ultimate training.”
“So the three worlds are for leisure, and the instance dungeons are for real training?” Kurt asked with enthusiasm.
“Yes! You got it! Now go train and finish up here so you can go out and grow!” Al laughed.