So I can kill them, I thought, and I received a mental snort from my sword.
I turned around to face the boy, but he was gone and so were the eyes on the wall.
Still on my guard, I walked to the elevator that now had red cushioned seats. As it took me to the lower floor, I got lost in my thoughts.
People thought they were illusions created by the Undermine, but they were wrong. If the knockers could die and even give ether, then they were as real as the ore that was being mined.
Which pointed to a darker truth.
Bo had said that the dungeon would resets every day, but that couldn’t be entirely true. After all, the white-eyed boy had clearly been taken by the mine recently.
I didn’t know what the people of Bunker thought of what happened to those taken by the Undermine, but the knockers weren’t just mental attacks meant to torment the miners. They were former people that had been transformed by… something into whatever they now were, and would be forever. That white eyed creature truly was the husk of a child dearly missed by his mother a few floors higher.
Which meant that the dungeon had the ability to change, even if it was limited.
I wasn’t sure of all the implications of that discovery, but I knew it meant that being “taken” by the Undermine really was worse than just dying.
And one touch from the knockers was all it took… though killing them seemed worth the risk seeing how great the gains in ether were. With fifty ether now available, I could finally increase my attributes.
My options were “Machine Symbiosis 0/20”, “Sharpshooter 0/40”, “Priest of the Deep 0/30” and “Shuari Blade Dancer 0/30”.
What I wanted were higher numbers. I dismissed Sharpshooter as it would use most of my resource, and decided to raise Machine Symbiosis and either Priest of the Deep or Shuari Blade Dancer.
But what mattered was to maximize my ether usage. While removing the “100%” cap of my Sunken dance proficiency seemed like a good idea, there was a great chance that Priest of the Deep would add a brand new ability to those I had… and only a few of them had been useful until now.
So my choice was made. I added the required amounts to both skill trees and notifications popped into existence.
Dreadnova Enforcer reached level 5
+3 to Vitality, Strength, Constitution, and Perception.
You have unlocked the skill Hextech Mana Drain – Toggle
If activated, damage to mechanical devices in contact with user will cause user’s mana to be drained to fuel repair.
Mana drain is increased by damaged device’s rank.
Blade Priest of the Deep has reached level 2
+4 to Intelligence, Wisdom, Dexterity, and Agility.
You have unlocked Grasp of the Deep – Dominion – Active
The waters of the Deep rise, and the flood shall soon take everything.
User’s stamina stop regenerating as they become the center of a circular AOE spell.
The stamina of surrounding opponents will decrease at the speed of the user’s stamina regeneration as long as they stay in the area.
Effectiveness is countered by opponent’s own stamina regeneration.
Effectiveness decrease against multiple opponents.
Vitality 22 (+3)
Strength 19 (+3)
Constitution 23 (+3)
Dexterity 14 (+3)
Agility 16 (+3)
Perception 21 (+3)
Intelligence 18 (+8)
Wisdom 12 (+8)
Tenacity 0 (+3)
Keeper of the First flame 0/100
Left eye of the nameless Djin
Dreadnova Enforcer (3rd gen) – level 5
Machine symbiosis 0/40
Hextech Mana drain
Sharp shooter 0/40
Blade Priest of the Deep – level 2
Shuari Bladedancer 0/30
Sunken dance [ minor proficiency : 100%]
Priest of the Deep 0/60
Grasp of the Deep
Unspent Ether: 0
These… were some interesting abilities.
While the first one was situational, it meant that if I was prepared I could negate the damage done to my equipment, as long as I had enough mana.
Not that I had any equipment to speak of but, assuming that Tamie was working as hard as I was, that detail would soon change.
On the other hand, Grasp of the Deep was something that was directly improving my survivability. If it worked the way I assumed it did… then didn’t it meant that any person with low stamina who wasn’t able to quickly take me out was no longer a threat?
It also was a new weapon against beastkins in general.
Since the Spar with Ardos I had had my doubts, but after killing a knocker the possibility that Ikun Omi was able to pierce aura was stronger than ever.
But even then, I was still vulnerable to their powerful attacks and speed. Not mentioning that there would definitely be times when I would want to be able to not maim or kill any opponent.
With the new skill, I had a chance to defeat strong enemies as long as I stayed alive. And that was a great improvement.
The platform stopped moving and my musings were interrupted by the vision of grotesque creatures.
I had been told that the monsters the warriors had to kill were “big toads”, but those I had in front of me were enormous. Fat, round and with vaguely human faces, the smaller ones reached my waist.
Their skin was a dark green and covered with pimples from which a viscous transparent substance would occasionally spurt. I wondered for a moment if that might make them more frogs than toads, but the stench was so horrible I decided it didn’t matter.
I could only see a few of them until the passage made a turn, but I didn’t want to risk getting too close before I had an idea of their abilities.
Summon: drone, I thought, and Kirby appeared in his usual fashion.
“Hello, Ed,” he said.
Hello Kirby. See these toad monsters over there?
“I do. I did not have the knowledge of their appellation, but will now call them toad monsters.”
Just give me your answers through the communication link. I want you to go to the end of this passage while avoiding any attacks they might throw at you, got it?
And off he went.
He flew at a moderate speed, and the monsters didn’t react until he got around three meters from the closest one. It slowly positioned its body, and when Kirby got closer it opened its mouth a large brown tongue shot out of it.
I could see how it could hurt someone who would somehow get hit by it, but the projectile was too slow for the daring drone who managed to avoid it and continue its course. They kept trying to catch him like a fly without success, and Kirby soon got out of view.
What do you see? I don’t need every detail, just the main points.
Three toad monsters. Two humanoid corpses. Two Doors facing each other. Four toad monsters. I have now reached a hall with four different passages, and two groups of people fighting. Which passage should I take?
I was just thinking. Give me the composition of the groups in the hall and the weapons you can identify.
One group of three against a group of two. The first group is using two swords each. The second group is using maces.
And they are not reacting to you in any way?
Take the first passage to the left. Tell me if you find anything suspicious before you reach the elevator.
There was a moment of silence, and then I heard the drone’s monotone voice in my head, I didn’t find anything suspicious, Ed. This passage is empty.
I dismissed him and finally got off the platform, my sword already unsheathed.
I got closer to the first toad and just like with Kirby, his tongue was flying toward my head as soon as I got in range.
But if it couldn’t catch him, how could it touch me?
I dodged the tongue and sliced it off before it could be retracted.
Thankfully only black sand came out of the wound, and not spraying toad blood. The pimples covering the creature started secreting more of that substance it was covered with, but I was at a safe distance.
I considered for not having my blade go through this disgusting “thing”, but I had come all this way for the ether and not getting as much as possible wasn’t an option.
Not sure where its vitals were, I swung my sword several times without being able to deal the final blow. The liquid was dripping everywhere and it was getting increasingly hard to not splashed by it. Then, in a moment of annoyance, I brought my sword down from over my head and sliced the toad in half.
… Five? Only five?
That was a ridiculously small amount in exchange for so much effort. Especially after receiving ten times more ether for killing a knocker.
I wondered if the gain of ether were constant, and if not, what parameters determined them.
Seeing the other toads in the passage slowly move their repulsing bodies toward me, I sighed. This didn’t seem worth the effort, but I still had to do it.
At the very least I didn’t waste time dealing with the other ones. No more fancy tongue slicing: I would dodge, dive in, and cleave them before they could start secreting anything. I did it four times before encountering the corpses Kirby had mentioned.
They were adults with light steel armors that didn’t include their furry tails. However, their protection hadn’t been very useful against whatever they had been fighting against. Several spots on their chest plates and helms were deformed and caved in.
Assuming I had any faith in this scenario and really believed they had been recently fighting.
With much caution, I moved closer to one of them, carefully aimed the tip of my sword at his exposed neck, and then thrust the dark blade into his unmoving body.
There was no reaction and it immediately turned to sand, but the coming notification told me I had done the right thing.
It had gotten slightly lower after I had leveled up twice and indicated two possible theories. Either I would get less ether every time I leveled up, or it didn’t matter how strong I was and it was all about how many of them I killed.
I glanced at the other body, but it was gone. I chuckled and shook my head.
Everybody was doing their best to avoid the knockers, but here I was looking for them.
Deciding to wait before using the ether, I walked toward the two doors in the walls.
They both opened without any issues, and both revealed identical rooms: Dormitories. At least fifty rows of small bunk beds only children could sleep in.
The beds were all neatly made with spotless white sheets, and on each one was a small purple book.
Was I curious? Sure.
There were even drawers between each row, and it was possible that some of them had interesting items. But I didn’t feel daring enough to enter unknown rooms with only one exit.
It probably was odd to choose that particular moment to back off, so far from the surface. But I knew there was such a thing as pushing one’s luck too far.
So I turned away from the doors and headed toward the four toads that were now done preparing themselves fight me. Not that their preparation mattered in the end.
Gaining five ether from each of them confirmed the fact that it was better to wait as long as possible before leveling up. Preferably when I’d be done with this dungeon altogether.
Now that I think about it… When will I be done? I wondered as I moved further along the passage.
All I had been told was to “not go too low”, with no clear indication as to what that actually meant.
Might as well go as far as I safely can.
I started hearing the sound of fighting, and it wasn’t long until I reached the hall where it was taking place.
Apparently one of the fighters had fallen since Kirby had been there. Only two red-tailed beastkins, wearing light armors similar to those I’d already seen, were now struggling against two purple robed individuals.
The beastkins, while using a style different from mine, were clearly blade dancers and watching them fight filled me with smug approval.
Sure, the fact that they had to use two swords indicated that they clearly were overcompensating for something, but there was no denying that their steps radiating with violence were truly elegant.
However, their violence had to be exchanged for caution that didn’t fit them, since their opponents weren’t ordinary either. Even though I couldn’t see their feet under the rustling robes, they moved swiftly around the hall. As if carried by something.
They both held prayer beads in one hand and raised a shining silver mace with the other.
And though their lips were sewn together, the look in their eyes said a lot about how long ago they had lost their minds.