Chapter 68: Dungeon Exploring
Facing her adversaries, two skeletons and three [Hungry Wolves], Nisha unsheathed one of her short swords.
Judging by their frame, the undead were most likely human or elvish, however there was simply no way to exactly deduce their origin just from their outward appearance, so most of them were grouped in the same category.
[Hungry Wolves], on the other side, weren’t as starved as their name suggested. Their most telling feature, compared to a normal wolf, were their large and bloody teeth. Forever ready to pounce into all kinds of meat that wandered in their territory. Not all that stronger than the animal their name came from, their only advantage besides their strong maw was their tenacity in hunting down a prey no matter how long it took – like starved monsters, hence the name.
Nisha did not conceal her presence, she openly strided into the room, leaving behind a confused Henry. Right now, she wanted to fight, not hunt. With willing opponents, she could fully reveal her conviction, striking back at those that opposed her.
I don’t think he will feel forced to fight if I show overwhelming strength. Henry needs to realize that he is not forced to protect me or that I require him to hunt with me. He probably won’t come to this conclusion in the first fight.
Greed glimmering in the various wolves eyes, they stormed in her direction in a single line. With their saliva splattering to the ground, the three monsters acted quite different from the skeletons, who slowly dragged their bodies towards Nisha as well.
Of course she knew that was an act, she fought several undead before. Their speed was in no way inferior to that of other first rank monsters, the rusted sword in their hands could be quite the dangerous weapon if one was caught unprepared.
Operating the aura residing in her body, the dragon smoothly let it flow through her limbs, charging herself with the electric surge of power. Akin to waking up from a slumber, everything got sharper, more defined and colourful.
Compared to using aura enhancement in the past as a dragon, her current method gained a lot of refinement and had developed additional attributes as well. Thanks to the frequent hunts she undertook, this power up already felt familiar to her. Placing the elven girl in her best condition to fight, no, even filling her with anticipation.
Flowing down her limbs, the aura naturally gathered in the short sword in her left hand, giving the weapon her personal red and black hue on top of the the regular blue glow it has.
From behind, her stepbrother shouted something, yet right now she only focused on the fight in front of her.
To use the element of surprise, the dragon chose not to engage straight away and made a tumble to the side, letting the wolves charge into nothing. Their strength was nothing much to fear, might as well leave them for later.
Along with the rhythmic pulsing aura in her sword, her own blood pumped through her veins akin to being set on fire.
Nisha was fairly confident of beating these five monsters. She had encountered them before and prevailed over them. However, in a fight anything could happen.
Right now, she rolled over the stone floor, getting up and charged towards the first skeleton on the right side. The stone chamber was similar to all the others in the dungeon, nothing special or resembling a specific environment. The [Hungry Wolves] behind her needed more time to break their rush and turn on her. The elven girl needed to break through the encirclement before they recovered, otherwise she’d be surrounded.
At least I get to act like a true dragon in moments like these.
Fierce. Decisive. Explosive strength. Her fighting style could only be called tyrannical, if it was a style at all.
Calling on the inferno in her blood, the edge of her sword erupted into a blaze when she was just steps away from her first victim.
It’s bleached bones rattled, raising the rusted sword to meet her charge, mindlessly responding to her challenge.
Adventurers generally disliked dealing with undead. Sharing a common trait, their limitless vitality and absence of pain made them dangerous opponents, while the materials they left behind generally were quite useless.
To subdue an undead, a party generally needed to destroy their bodies to the point where they were unable to move anymore or a priest to cast holy magic on them and cleanse them.
Either way, the flesh or bones they left behind was damaged beyond salvation, be it due to being broken or already being rotten. Since the undead also generally carried damaged weapons, their physical strength supplementing the broken equipment, hunting undead was generally unrewarding.
And even in case someone salvaged materials from them, it was hard to find a craftsman willing to work with it, superstition attached bad luck and misfortune to the remains of the dead.
Nisha on the other hand didn’t care about that. Stepping under the slow swing the skeleton greeted her with, her own sword buried itself deeply into its eery white ribs. Screeching in pain, the undead wailed while the elven girl observed with her [Spirit Sight] as a gaseous energy left the rattling bones. Nisha didn’t know why it worked, but somehow the burning energy drove out whatever powered the skeleton, turning that cry into a death wail. Falling to the ground, the bones scattered and the creature died.
Enraged by the death of its comrade, the second skeleton gave up all pretenses and hurled its clacking limbs at her, increasing its speed several times over.
Bringing up her foot and kicking away the rib cage still stuck on her sword, the elven girl managed to ready herself just in time to respond to the attack.
Parrying the brutal blow, it only took her a simple feint to dive behind the second undead’s guard. Feeding the flaming edge of her short sword, another ghostly howl filled the room.
This time her weapon didn’t get stuck in the opponent as she burned that intangible essence from the monster’s body.
With the skeleton’s being taken care of, she could fully concentrate on facing the [Hungry Wolves]. True to their name, they already recovered their bearing and rushed over again, intent on tearing her apart.
Unconsciously smiling, Nisha truly enjoyed herself. It wasn’t even close to a fair fight, she far eclipsed the monsters in strength. Nonetheless, clashing with others always brought joy to her. Sadly, this time she’d have to cut the fun short and finish them quickly for Henry’s sake.
Coalescing dark mana in three fingernails of her right hand, each of them turned black before she flicked her wrist, releasing three ominous lights flying straight towards her enemies, which were already mid flight and ready to pounce on her.
The effect was immediate, taunt limbs turning limp in a flash, Nisha only needed to use her sword to deflect their bodies, already devoid of life.
Watching them drop to the ground behind her with her [Spirit Sight], she observed how their flesh started to turn soft and melt away. If she turned around, there’d be a distinctive obsidian stain marring their flesh.
Frowning slightly despite her win, Nisha braced herself for what she knew was going to come. A wave of fatigue hit her, the dark lights were especially taxing on her to utilize. The dragon knew they weren’t meant to be used with mana, however she didn’t figure out yet what else could be substituted to use this fierce ability, aura did not work.
In the future, I should get some throwing daggers to use along with the poison darts. Monsters don’t care enough to use aura to shield against it or try to dodge it altogether, so it doesn’t matter here, but an intelligent foe guarding with mana or aura will probably be able to ward it off if I don’t hide it under another attack.
Evaluating her attack, Nisha shrugged off her fatigue and summoned a rather simple spell, especially for her. Flinging two fireballs at the undead remains, not even their bones remained when the flames receded, while the dark type spell had finished dissolving the [Hungry Wolves’] bones by now.
Having gotten rid of all evidence concerning the battle that took place in this room, Nisha turned around to face Henry with a brilliant smile, who was gobsmacked and stared blankly in the entrance.
“Do you need help picking up your jaw? I do have some free time now.”
Teasing her step brother, Nisha enjoyed the refreshing embrace of the ambient energy. She had no idea why, yet every time she exhausted her reserves, the surrounding mana and aura simply poured into her, invading through all pores and refilling the elf with new vigor. The invisible snakes winding around her in her [Spirit Sight] strengthened as well, probably related to that.
Sheathing her sword, Nisha started to grow worried if something happened to Henry, he still couldn’t stop staring at the aftermath.
“You … how did you do that!? That were three wolves and two undead! This …”
Finding his voice again when she was about to get impatient and prepared to give him a few slaps on the face to wake him up, Henry accusingly glared at her, albeit he held no ill will. Demanding an explanation, he wouldn’t budge and even walked over to the place where the ashes and the last remaining sludge of the wolves was about to dissipate.
“I think I mentioned it already, I really like to hunt. And in the Wilderness, it doesn’t really matter how many enemies there are. It’s either you or them. That probably helped me so far, I dare say I am a pretty good hunter.
You know, I don’t mind answering questions, however let’s talk while we walk, we don’t have all day after all.”
Leading the way, Nisha advanced further towards the outer reaches of the first dungeon level. Taking Henry with her this time and showing her skills off to him felt weird for the dragon already, no need to accidently reveal something to passing adventurers as well.
In reality, there might be others searching the outskirts of the first layer as well, more than once did the dragon already have to hide from other parties. Not everyone aimed for quickly advancing to the second layer, the dream of quick riches and instantly becoming powerful led many fools to their death.
Searching chambers that haven’t been cleared in a long time also seemingly improved the chances of a hidden treasure box appearing, a rumor most parties knew, to the point where it was considered common knowledge.
The only downside was that groups powerful enough to go treasure hunting on the first floor might as well do that on the second floor, where second ranked monsters appeared, and consequently second ranked treasures emerged, many times more valuable than equipment and materials from first ranked sources.
Thinking up to this point, the two of them made some conversation whenever Nisha wasn’t busy slaughtering monsters and Henry hesitantly followed along.
“Say, you have been to the second layer before, right?”
“Yes, we had some missions there. I also noticed my limits on that level. Why?”
“Ah, I was just wondering how strong monsters of the second rank are. I’ve hunted a bit here and there, however only on the first floor. I’m a bit curious.”
By now the young man wasn’t even batting an eye anymore as his step sister tore through room after room of monsters. After all, Nisha always was special, even if he didn’t know exactly how much before. Showing no signs of exhaustion after this many battles, and having the leisure time to converse with him, he might as well oblige.
“Truthfully, it’s not like there are many of them on the second layer. Maybe some of the early second stage every now and then. Still, compared to this floor, there is no need to compare them, even the early tier is much more powerful. It’s the same for humans and elves, a higher rank is always much more difficult to beat.
Well, that’s how it is supposed to be. No one knew there was such a freak like you.”
“Oh stop, you’re making me blush.”
Not reacting to the friendly jab, Nisha was eager to learn more about the deeper levels.
“It’s a gradual increase, however, monsters and humans are different in that regard. A late second stage goblin might even give a party of humans with class three cultivation a run for their money. Of course they can still beat a goblin, but if it is a [Steelfur Bear] or a [Swift Plain Panther], or any large and powerful animal, they might get wiped out as well.
On the second floor the monster are limited to the early second rank, with very rare mid tier encounters. You have to be seriously unlucky to find one like that.
The third floor has only mid to late first tiers, while the upper limit is the mid second rank. Following that, the fourth level spawns late first to mid to late second ranks, and the fifth floor only has early to late second tier monsters. However, the fifth floor is also different. Instead of two entrances and exits, like the other floors has, everyone has to pass through the boss room. It isn’t always a different guardian there, every other year it changes so the maps aren’t too helpful, but if you ask around in the guild someone can usually tell you.
Mind you, this are only stories I heard from other adventurers in the guild and from my teacher in the academy.
As for the guardian of the fifth floor, unless your party can defeat it, you can’t advance further down. It’s the make-or-break point for many groups, who are forced to hunt in the first five floors even if their strength would allow them to take on early third ranked monsters.
Some get greedy, first rank materials get you coppers, sometimes a silver, while a second rank hide or ore can already be sold for tens of silvers. However, third tier equipment or materials regularly are sold for gold coins, because there aren’t as many groups able to advance past the guardian. Dad took me to the auction house sometimes, so I know that’s reliable information at least. True first class adventurers can surpass the guardian and step in the true dungeon, while the greedy but weak parties parish in the fight. There’s more to it, but my teachers won’t tell me.
Anyway, I keep on babbling, yet you’re not even listening. Do I bore you?”
Finishing his rather long explanation, Henry looked dubiously at Nisha, who stopped moving and stared at the map.
Their trip had already achieved the desired effect. Her step brother apparently didn’t mind the blood and the fights as much anymore. Walking through the first layer with only a frail elf as a vanguard had shattered his common sense. Having reached the outermost ring of rooms, Nisha wanted to clear one or two more groups and then return on a different way, therefore concluding their outing.
However, she constantly switched between studying the map and observing the room before them with her [Spirit Sight]. Out of habit, she scanned for hidden treasure and encountered something truly extraordinary.
On the map, this chamber was connected to others in three ways. The path they entered from, one to the left, one to the right. The map only had these three. Yet reality refused to acknowledge that. Instead, behind a thin layer of stone, a hidden path appeared in front of them, leading even further than the most remote ring of rooms.
“Are you ignoring me, Nisha?”
Recognizing the clearly unusual behaviour, Henry tried to gain her attention by shaking her shoulder. Neglecting his actions, the elven girl approached the back wall, using her eyes to ascertain whether her [Spirit Sight] was playing a trick on her.
Tracing her fingers over the coarse stones, the hidden pathway just wouldn’t match up with the sensation transmitted by her limbs.
“Did you snap from battling to much? What should I do, stranded in the dungeon with a battle obsessed elf, are we ever going to find our way …”
His last words went under, as Nisha found what she was looking for. Summoning a ball of her fire mana, the brittle wall shattered in thousands of small fragments. Even using mightier spells, she might not have been able to destroy the stone more thoroughly, a hidden formation on the other side of the wall would have reinforced the layer to the point where it was comparable to solid stone. By unraveling the formation, the seal over the entrance was broken.
“Did you see that! I discovered a new room! It’s a new room! Come on, we need to go in! Fast, before another party comes along.”
Excited beyond the limit, the dragon dragged her companion along.
How long has it been since I discovered something on my own. Let’s see what this dungeon tries to hide.
Leaving behind a hole that was slowly closing as the formation recovered, neither Henry nor Nisha noticed the stone fragments on the ground fading away as they were both excitedly looking forward to the next room.