Chapter 62: Entering The Dungeon
Having evaded detection inside the Guild and, almost as important, Aubrey, Nisha relaxed her tense shoulders, allowed herself a small smile, and headed for the harbor. She hadn’t been there before as there were few shops besides stands for fishermen to sell their daily catch. Fishing was quite a respected occupation, their guild not lacking any prestige. Fighting a swarm of monsters in the open sea took a lot of courage and more than one crew ended in a watery grave after losing a battle.
Of course not all of them ventured that far, most of them threw their lines right into the basin or fished in small sail boats near the coast.
Nonetheless, a delicious smell tempted the dragon to temporarily abandon her search and indulge in the savory taste of seafood.
Persisting through temptation, she arrived at a large stone building, thanks to the unusual movement of aura and mana in the air. Besides the current created by the people roaming the street, there was a strong ethereal gale escaping the building in all directions, softly blowing away the man made streams.
The circled cross hung above the entrance as well, there was no mistake. This was the entrance.
Let’s see what the dungeon has to offer.
The building was just so impossibly big. Compared to the halls to its left and right near the waterline, where true ship mammoths were built – comparable to the [Navis Terram], the dungeon entrance was at least three or four times their size. Additionally, besides the building ran the river that lent his name to the city, yet in comparison it looked like a small stream instead of a roaring river. Crossing a high arched bridge, Nisha arrived, admiring the entrance.
Instead of separate doorways, a giant gate was opened to allow the streams of adventurer parties to enter and exit freely.
In comparison, the guild building she stopped by before could not be called anything but a small branch. Not only was the ceiling twice as high, countless shops were set up inside, displaying their goods both outside and through a shop window. Innumerable adventurers fit on plate armours, made practice swings with finely crafted swords, inspected scrolls dripping mana in her vision, scrutinized the quality of camping gear, and untold more commodities were haggled over.
On top of that, hammers rang out with their song of metal hitting metal, thousands of voices trying to reach each other as others were talking at the same time.
Whatever Nisha was connecting with the word adventurer, she found it here.
In a regular manner, spiral staircases extended from the ceiling, likely hinting at another layer of marvels on the floor above.
Of course there were a thousand more impressions and perceptions for the dragon to process, only they were too much right now.
Standing dazed in the open gateway, it was no wonder someone ran into her with the busy traffic.
“Your first time?”
The question contained more implications, it didn’t bother with the details, and somehow Nisha understood.
Turning around, she faced a middle aged veteran, scarred and bruised from life, carrying a large bag filled with fish.
“Yes, ah. Wait, I’ll move out of the way.”
Aware that she was holding him up, Nisha graciously stepped aside to let him step through.
The uncle sighed as if another heavy burden was added to his shoulders.
“Come along. I’ll tell you a bit about this place.”
Not caring whether or not she followed along, he went ahead with a brisk pace, not bothering with the shops on either side of the main path.
Why would he ask me to come along? Do I know him?
Her curiosity won. Nisha followed the corridor, keeping her eyes on the frame in front of her. She didn’t ask any questions, only admiring the various stores displaying goods of different qualities. Some were extremely pleasant to look at and had a strong glow in her [Spirit Sight] while some crude pieces even eclipsed them in luminescence.
To her surprise the main path ended in front of another spiral staircase, although this one far surpassed the others.
Instead of going upwards, it burrowed downwards. While the others were big enough to easily have four adults ascend it at the same time in one direction, this one took up the whole space of the street where it crossed with another one of the same size, easily allowing fifty adults to use it at the same time. Not to mention the blue crystal it was carved out of, silently illuminating the scene with a calming light blue iridescence.
Turning towards the right side, away from the river rumbling in the distance, her guide walked away from this wondersome construction.
Not willing to let her thirst for knowledge go unsatisfied, she pried her eyes away from the spectacle and followed him, ignoring the heroic figures that ascended and descended the stairs.
I think I like this place. It’s something about the mood, everyone is filled with hope and aspirations.
While not everyone shared this sentiment, laughter and merriment was indeed the predominant impression she had so far.
Branching away from the main path, the veteran entered one of the stores. Further away from the bustle and constant traffic, fewer adventurers entered and exited the stores, although it wasn’t enough to call the stores deserted. The quality displayed also couldn’t compare with the main road, however not to the point where they couldn’t catch Nisha’s eye anymore.
Entering the same door, Nisha carefully inspected the room inside.
Taking fishes out of the bag he had carried, the uncle only spared her a glance before moving behind the bar, pulling out a glass and filling it with juice. Placing it on one of the few tables inside, he returned to unpacking and didn’t bother with her anymore.
Puzzled by the silence, the elven girl fully entered and sat down at the table the glass was on, not drinking any of it.
“Coming, Pa. Did you get everything?”
Having had missed part of their conversation, yet aware of his existence due to his aura moving beyond the walls, she wasn’t surprised when the younger man entered the room.
“Greenhorn. You talk to her, I’ll start cooking.”
Picking up his purchases, the scarred man left for the kitchen, already tired of dealing with Nisha and forgetting about her.
“Sorry about that, my father just can’t leave any newcomers alone and at the same time he feels it is too troublesome to properly explain himself. Go ahead, drink. It’s on the house.”
Reassuring her to take a sip, the dragon searched for traces of malice or questionable intentions in his demeanor. Something bothered her about his statement.
“How do you know I’m new to this place anyway? What gave it away?”
Smiling slightly, he gestured at her choice of clothing.
“There are two kinds of people coming to the dungeon building. Adventurers and traders. The traders head for the third floor where the materials get sold and auctioned, while adventurers head for the dungeon. And any dungeon diver worth his salt wears at least some armor and has a weapon on him. You didn’t go for the stairs, so that leaves one option. You’re new. At least that’s what I learned from my Pa.”
Nisha frowned. This wasn’t the first time her clothing betrayed her. The problem was simply that it didn’t matter what she wore for her every day activities. Even when going to court, a single moment away from watchful eyes meant that she could exchange her casual clothing for the official dresses she stored away in her [Soul Space]. Similarly, she didn’t bother walking through the thoroughly heated city in the summer while wearing sturdy leather armor. It didn’t bother her, but her dresses were precious mementos from studying how to sew together with her grandfather and far easier to move around in.
“You can say I’m a newcomer then. Are there really three floors though? I thought there’d be at most one more stage.”
“Indeed. The dungeon prides itself on being the largest building in the entire harbor. Speaking of the third floor, there is no ingredient or material you can’t find, no matter what it is. It only gets more expensive the rarer it is.
Also, being a greenhorn isn’t shameful, everyone started out one day. I might not look like it, but I had my fair share of adventures too.”
Lifting part of the trousers on his leg, the young man revealed a disfigured limb, something took a large chunk from its meat. Looking thin and infected, Nisha couldn’t help sucking in a cold breath of air when seeing the leg.
“I don’t really want to talk about it, please. How about I answer your questions instead? I already got time off work to help you out, Pa is going to be angry if I send you rushing to your death.”
Truly a mystery, both father and son.
Naturally Nisha wasn’t going to be polite and decline help when it was basically thrown at her like this.
“Then, can you tell me more about the dungeon? And can anyone enter it?”
“Straight to the point, I see. As for entering, the dungeon doesn’t belong to anyone, so naturally anyone can enter. The only problem is when you return, you won’t be able to sell your materials anywhere but at the guild branch here.”
Smiling wryly, he anticipated her question and continued.
“The guild council consists of all the big guilds; the smiths, the tailors, the cooks. And it’s led by the [Adventurer’s Guild]. You can take with you whatever you want, no one is going to take it off your hands. If not obtained through proper guild channels, most artisans will lose their backing from their respective guild once it becomes known that they went against tradition. No offer is worth enough to make them give up their guild membership.
“Even I’m not crazy enough to take meat off you if you do manage to hunt something, since word always gets out.
“As for the dungeon itself, it’s a large underground cave, basically. There are many different room types; big rooms where groups of monster gather, small rooms with only one or two enemies, boss rooms containing beasts, trap rooms with naturally formed obstructions, treasure rooms containing rare ores or mountains of gold, there are countless enticing rewards waiting down there.
“Due to the proximity to the sea, there are somewhat more water elemental type monsters around here, but orcs or spiders can still appear, so everyone always has to stay alert.
Tell me, have you fought a monster before?”
Seeing her nod, he continued with a somewhat split expression, torn between humor and regret.
“Now, imagine you are fighting all the time, everywhere, at any time, without any warning. It is only a matter of time before you make a mistake and when you do …”
Slapping his own disfigured leg, there was no need to finish the sentence.”
Good intentions as they may be … it can’t be more dangerous than the Wilderness, can it?
Unwilling to talk about her own capabilities, Nisha tried to change the topic.
“What about all the stores inside this building? How are they different from the stalls outside? And why are there so many?”
“That’s a good question. Simply speaking, there’s no need to go outside when you are here, at the dungeon’s entrance. Everything an adventurer group could possibly need, you find it here. Cheap at that. Almost everything in here is produced by means of the materials sold on the third floor. Not that the quality is below other goods, a good craftsman can more or less contribute the missing bit to his creation so most people don’t even mind the difference anymore.
“A few groups live here as well. The second tier is somewhat akin to this one in the aspect that there are many different lodgings available. From a few coppers to several gold coins per night, you can find rags or luxuries for all tastes inside. By diving into the dungeon and selling off the materials once they come back, they all hope to hone their skills and break into a higher rank, or simply make a living.
“This place is both a prison as well as a haven for many.
“My Pa and I are no different. Getting a shop in a side path is relatively easy, many store owners can’t give up diving down every other day, to seek the thrill of an adventure or procure their own materials, so some stores end up vacant every now and then. Some make it out, some don’t. That’s just how this place runs.”
The speeches later parts got increasingly dark, even the one holding it noticed Nisha’s apprehensive look.
Pondering for a moment, he couldn’t just let it end like that.
“On the other hand, there are also advantages. People gather here and form groups, getting to know each other, forming alliances and building networks. If you are good at what you do, there’s almost no trouble at all to earn a living.
“Folks help each other out as well, you can negotiate all prices, make agreements with the crafters living on the third floor and maybe find the treasure of your lifetime while diving. My Ma and Pa met that way.”
A small chuckle escaped the man.
“We also look out for each other. Young adventurers are the lifeblood that keeps everything running. Not a single merchant in this building will try to swindle you for your money. While not everything is top quality, you will never end up with fraudulent armor or a chipped sword.
“It also helps that it is very unhealthy to have a group of experienced adventurers angry with you if the goods you sold the new addition to their group breaks in the middle of exploring.”
A wry smile again.
“The Guild also isn’t some bad guy. While they do buy everything coming back from the dungeon, the prices are actually pretty fair if you consider that they sell them for next to no profit in the third floor to the crafters that live here. Cheap material means cheap equipment, the newbies from today might bring in phoenix bones in a few turns.”
As the mister got more and more passionate during his speech, Nisha finished off her juice while listening to the explanations.
“The dungeon creates one big family around it. That’s also why father wouldn’t let you rush in alone after noticing you are a greenhorn. We look out for each other, that’s the way of the Guild.
“Make sure you find a good party and return alive from diving, or our effort would have been wasted.”
Smiling at her, he collected the empty glass and returned it behind the counter.
“Thank you, I certainly took your words to heart. Thank you to your father as well, I really didn’t know about all of that, it was really helpful. What can I do to repay you?”
“Ah, you truly took the lesson to heart. It is actually fairly easy. Whenever you need rations for a dungeon dive, stop by and pick up some rations. Our shop is called Two Wood, we’re always looking for more customers. We also have some variety regarding the content, the season is good for seafood right now.
“But don’t worry, as long as you keep yourself safe, I’ll consider us even.
“You can go to the second floor to look for a party or right in front of the blue crystal stairs, both places have Guild branches where you can sell materials or check for missions requiring specific hunts.
“I need to get back to help my Pa, or I’ll lose my remaining good leg as well.”