The only way to get answers was to keep heading down the dungeon. There were several times I considered teleporting to the fifth floor and trying to go back up. The only reason that I didn’t was that I had a sinking feeling that Celeste wouldn’t join me. Until we reached the end of this journey, Celeste would continue to be a mystery.
That mystery was currently sitting on my shoulder humming to herself without a care in the world. I let out a sigh, looking through the map. We were making progress very quickly now. We were on the 19th floor. The last 4 floors had taken a day each. The next boss was the second to last for this dungeon. It filled me with a bit of dread. We were barely able to defeat the last both, and truth be known the mobs here were getting kind of tough just for the two of us. Even my cheat skills and her high level weren’t enough to handle this floor.
We were fighting a Maligned Manananggal, which was a flying creature that wasn’t really ethereal at all and was more like a vampire bat with arms. The Bloody Poltergeist was just what it sounded like. They both took a lot of concentration to fight, and we were forced to run away several times.
“Should we start grinding now?”
I had managed to avoid too much grinding by taking shortcuts up until now. However, it was a staple of games to grind. My levels seemed to meet what was safe for our abilities. Furthermore, the bosses were always a lot more difficult than the mobs. I wasn’t sure if we’d survive fighting this boss. A few of the previous ones had been close calls.
“Gr-grinding?” Celeste blushed, floating off my shoulder and backing up a few feet while touching her index fingers together. “M-master… if you insist…”
I shook my head, “Let’s find the last library and then decide what to do there.”
Celeste remained frigidity, but I ignored her behavior. I was very used to her oddities by now. Instead, I focused on the map and finding the pathways we hadn’t explored yet. We continued to map out the floor, only knocking out monsters when we absolutely had to. Suddenly, I stepped on a stone and it glowed.
“A trap!” I let out a cry of surprise.
Up until that point, I had not run into any traps. This had given me the impression that this dungeon didn’t have traps. Apparently, that was a mistake. I should have kept checking every level. This was also the familiar teleportation trap. I was being taken to some other part of the dungeon again! I barely had a moment to glance back at Celeste’s surprised face as I was teleported away somewhere else.
Well, teleportation wasn’t a lethal death trap. There were some traps with endless pits, spikes, or poisonous gas. Those were much scarier. I could even call this trap to be somewhat lucky.
After the teleportation finished, I glanced around the room cautiously. I immediately checked my map to realize I wasn’t on a level at all. I was on a boss floor!
Wait, that sounded familiar. I looked up to see the Shrieking Wraith! I had been teleported back up to the tenth floor! This was the tenth-floor boss! Last time I fought him, he had almost killed Celeste! This time, I may be slightly stronger, but I was all on my own!
Damn, I thought I killed the boss! Does that mean that the bosses respawn! Why do the bosses respawn! Well, I supposed it made sense. Monsters were supposed to respawn. In fact, most dungeon divers mine dungeons, so if the resources were finite they’d probably not be terribly successful.
With no slave to hide behind, I could only equip Hero and White Mage and keep my distance. There was one option. I could swap with Celeste. Overall, Celeste was far better at fighting this creature than I was. However, could I really do that to her? Even if I left a note or something, it would be really cruel. Then I recalled seeing her on the floor after being swatted like a bug. If I abandoned her, that could end up being her fate. There was no way I could allow this to happen!
“Ah… damn… Exorcism!” I threw spell out at the Shrieking Wraith, causing it to scream in pain.
The one advantage I had this time, other than a slightly faster strike from some gauntlets, is the tons of waters of life. Operation whittle away the boss, let’s begin! Deciding to concentrate on Exorcism, I kept my distance, hitting it with exorcise spells. Drinking waters of life a sip at a time, my regeneration ability was incredible. Damage, mana, and even stamina were recovering as fast as I could drink. This meant I could attack him all day.
I felt like I could handle his stun attacks a bit better now too. Furthermore, he didn’t have any other special skills that had distance. As long as I kept running back and ducking behind columns, there was nothing this guy could do.
The battle was long and grueling, and I drank probably half of the waters of life during the battle which lasted many hours. I would have collapsed a long time ago without the water, but with it, I felt completely bloated, trudging along with some difficulty.
“Exorcism!” I panted.
The spell hit him one more time, and finally, the Shrieking Wraith collapsed to the ground, dying. He did not drop more fairy queen dust. Instead, he dropped something called Wraithbane. It appeared to be a rare ingredient used in alchemy. I tossed it in my ring and collapsed, taking in deep breaths. The doors both behind me and in front of me opened. It appeared like I could go back up. Now I understood why the library was on the ninth floor. If it was on the tenth floor, I’d have to fight the boss again every time I teleported to it.
As for why the cathedrals of the other dungeon were different, that was a baby dungeon and perhaps things hadn’t settled yet. As I got back up to my feet, a voice cried out which caused me to nearly trip.
“M-master!” My eyes shot up in surprise.
“It is Master!” Another voice cried.
Lydia and Miki were already running towards me at full tilt. Both girls looked haggard and like they had been crying. There were splotches of dirt on their faces and various cuts and bruises. It looked like while I was working my way down with Celeste, my girls were fighting desperately on their own too. Lydia even looked like she was limping from an injured ankle. Had the village really let them enter this dungeon on their own.
“Lydia… Miki?” I smiled and then started to turn worried. “Oi… slow down a bit… I’m a bit weak…. W-w-wait!”
Neither girl slowed down, and I was tackled by the combined weight of two small girls. It was an instant KO. Pinned under two girls desperately holding me while crying, well, this wasn’t a bad life either.
We had returned to the 9th level. The girls managed to walk into the boss room shortly after I had defeated the boss, so it looked like there was at least one trick to helping people get down to the next level. The door closed as soon as we left the room. That must mean that the boss was respawning now. I was interested in seeing how long it would take.
In the meantime, I healed the girls and gave them both some waters of life. Both girls were dirty and starving. I thought the village would take better care of them than this.
“It’s not their fault,” Lydia said quietly, “Miki and I decided together to sneak out and enter the dungeon on our own. We didn’t realize how long it would take. I didn’t pack very well. We ran out of food two days ago. We forgot to bring a change of clothing. I… I forgot how much Master did for me when we were in that dungeon back then.”
Her eyes grew teary. Miki patted her on the back.
“It’s okay, Lydia. I didn’t know what I was doing either.”
Both girls blushed, and it wasn’t clear which stomach rumbled. As it were, I actually had a change of clothing for both girls still in the bag. Our official dungeon bag had been packed and taken by me. That was part of the reason I didn’t struggle so hard. The other reason was that I had all of those support skills with took the pressure off of some of those things.
I started a fire and the girls made noises of shock as I was able to start it with a flick of a finger. My Create Fire skill came into play. I then made a basin of water and washed the girls. Well, I had offered to turn away and let the girls wash, but somehow I had gotten roped into doing it. While that was going on, I used a chunk of my good rations. I still had tons of tofu to eat, but I felt the girls needed a feast.
The girls ate excitedly, and I suddenly remembered how quickly food went when your partner wasn’t the size of a fairy. Even Miki was feeding herself now, engulfing the food with ease. I supposed there was no way that she could pretend to be weak after fighting her way down to the tenth floor. In fact, I allowed the girls to join my party, and I could see how hard they struggled based on their levels.
Lydia was now a level 30 Swordsman, and Miki was a level 25 Spiritualist. They had both truly fought many difficult battles to get here. The door finally opened heading down to the boss. It had been about an hour before the boss spawned. I was a bit surprised it was so quick, but it made sense.
Looking down into the darkness below, I finally let out a sigh.”
“Master? What is it?’ Lydia asked, her brow furrowed.
“There is someone I left behind down there,” I said cautiously. “I’m… going to have to leave you.”
Both girls let out cries of shock.
“I’m sorry, I stepped on a trap and ended up back up here. That’s why I ran into you guys. I’m glad, but I abandoned a friend who has been helping me down this dungeon. I must return to the 19th floor quickly. I can teleport to the 15th quickly and using the maps make my way to the 19th. It shouldn’t take more than a day.”
“T-then we’ll come with you!” Miki protested.
“You can’t teleport unless you register with the kiosk. I’d take you down by hand, but that could take a few more days, and I worry about her mental state alone.”
“Furthermore, the levels are much harder after 15. You two can’t handle it yet. You need to become stronger!”
“Ah!” Lydia’s eyes instantly brightened at those words.
Being stronger was something that she understood a bit better. It wasn’t inaccurate either. The 19th floor was a dangerous place. I have the benefit of many extra jobs and tricks, not to mention my cheat sword and cheat spells. Celeste was already level 50 on her first-tier job and nearly 20 on her second-tier job. Comparatively, Lydia and Miki weren’t even in the same league.
I suspected that Lydia would unlock some kind of advanced swordsmanship at 50, and Miki would get some kind of stronger form of spiritualist. However, they needed to keep fighting hard enemies.
“We understand, Master…” Miki lowered her head.
“I’ll be waiting for you both on the 19th floor. We’ll take that boss out together.”
The two girl’s eyes brightened at those words, however, Lydia still looked a bit uncertain.
“M-master…” Lydia said, shifting anxiously, “Before you leave, there is still something I would like you to do.”
“What is that?” I asked.
“Make me your slave… officially.”
That was right, I never took Lydia’s slavery yet.