Every dungeon was a little bit different. At least, that was the conclusion I came up with upon entering my third dungeon. Mina’s dungeon had the distinct feel of a tomb. It had a dark, grave-like quality. There were dirt walls, deep cathedrals, and no shortage of undead walking along the narrow corridors. Karr’s Dungeon was an echo of the mansion, full of wide hallways and carpeted landscapes filled with ghosts.
Terra’s Dungeon reminded me of an old, medieval castle. I supposed when it came to an actual dungeon, Terra’s dungeon fit the bill the best with grey brick walls and thick oak doors. However, the place had an arid feel to it. Rather than feeling intimidating and full of life, it felt dead and dry. Entering a dungeon usually felt like entering a living thing, yet this particular dungeon felt like it was the decayed mummy of what once was a dungeon.
Supposedly, some hero from ages long past found that defeating the dungeon was too much trouble. Instead, they used magic to strangle the dungeon. If one had no respect for the lore, then this seemed like an ideal way to deal with dungeons. It was low risk, and while it took a long time for the results to finish, you didn’t need to enter the dungeon at all. Things like dying without a Resurrection safety line didn’t happen.
“I believe we should go this way, Dungeon Diver!” Carmine said, already walking off into the darkness.
I made sure all of the girls had successfully entered the dungeon with me, and then I began to follow Carmine. She seemed to be incredibly bold as she walked. She said that other than the guardian, the dungeon was effectively dead. That meant there shouldn’t be monsters or traps to impede her way. However, I was still here to help escort her, right? She should show a little bit of hesitation as she walks down. I made sure to pull up my map with Detect Trap and Sense Life.
When I detected nothing, I sighed and continued after her. I was surprised when five minutes later, we had reached the stairway down. This level really was incredibly small. I was glad there was no monster because, at this size, we definitely would have run into it. Carmine started heading for the stairway, but I grabbed her arm and pointed to a door nearby.
“What is it?” She asked.
“That room should contain a dungeon kiosk. If we need to teleport in a hurry, we should register.”
“This really isn’t necessary!” She said, frowning. “The Bandit King is coming, we don’t have time to fool around. The faster we head down, the better.”
“I understand we’re in a hurry, but I insist.”
She looked at for me for a few moments, and I felt a strange edge to it like she was hiding how she truly was feeling. A moment later she shrugged.
“Very well, do as you wish.”
I let out a breath of relief. I didn’t know what I would do if she decided she was going to give me trouble with this. I decided to move quickly, The room that contained the kiosk looked like some kind of dirt shrine. It was really odd. I quickly had the girls register. I noticed Carmine was waiting outside with her arms crossed. That made me feel a little frustrated, but I decided not to push it with her.
As I was leaving the room, however, my eyes fell on the mural.
The murals were the key to understanding the lore of any dungeon. I had almost missed this one entirely because the murals were degraded. Many tiles had fallen to the ground and there was significant wear and tear. I pulled out a clean piece of cloth and used it to wipe the dirt off the surface as I tried to make out what happened.
“What’s the hold-up?” Carmine demanded impatiently.
The other girls were now giving Carmine a dirty look. They liked the lores of the dungeons, and stories I came up with by reading them. They definitely didn’t seem to like her attitude when she spoke to me. As for Carmine, she seemed to let their looks flow right past her as she continued to sit there with her arms crossed and an unreadable expression on her face.
“Can you figure it out?” Lydia asked eagerly.
I shook my head and sighed. “I can only see the basic start. There was apparently a man and a woman. They were powerful magicians. There was something about children, but that part of it is unreadable.”
It appeared that when a dungeon’s mana was strangled, it was more than just its ability to output monsters that changed. The lore of this dungeon was damaged too. It was a story on the verge of death. A strange part of me who had grown accustomed to figuring out the lore of a dungeon felt almost sad at this incomplete and degraded lore. I found myself slightly upset with the weak and cowardly hero who had opted to kill it in such an inhumane way.
I shook my head. I was being ridiculous here. This wasn’t a living thing. It was some strange magical aspect of this world. I shouldn’t feel sorry for curses. Dungeons were the source of monsters in this world, and preyed on helpless adventurers, luring them in with treasures. They were like a tragic Venus Fly Trap for this world.
“Can we go now?” Carmine demanded.
I nodded, “Yeah, let’s get out of here.”
Once again, she headed off, and I had to run to catch up. On the second floor, I checked again for the traps. I would be cautious all the way to the body. I had traveled enough dungeons now. Even if this place couldn’t create a trap now, there is no saying that a trap wasn’t once created while this dungeon was still alive, and now it is waiting to go off in Carmine’s face. I was a support class, I felt it was my job to worry about such things.
Level 2 was finished almost as quickly as level 1. That meant about ten minutes a level. That was about 12 hours better than usual. I’d consider a level quick if I had it done in a few hours. Now, we had levels being done in minutes. It added to our sense of urgency. We weren’t here for fun or exploration. We needed this guardian as quickly as possible. I had only one thing I needed to see. That was what was left of the lore. I had a feeling like knowing the lore of this dungeon would help us in acquiring the guardian.
We continued to explore at a rapid pace, and it was barely an hour before we found ourselves stepping out onto level 5. The midtier bosses had long been extinguished for mana to keep this dungeon alive a little longer, but the kiosk should still be here. It was time to learn the next part of this story.
“Seriously? You really want to register with the kiosk here too?” She looked even more irate than before.
Her sweet demeanor she had used on the surface seemed to be going away. The deeper we got, the less cute she became. The other girls didn’t interact with her at all. Rather, she had some kind of notebook she kept pulling out. She’d look at it, compare a couple of pages, mumbling to herself, and then continue on. That’s how the last hour had passed.
“I’m sorry!” Although I said the words, I left and walked into the room with the kiosk.
As the girls registered, I looked for the mural. I sighed when I saw this one was in even worse shape. A city was destroyed. That was about all I could tell. It seemed to be destroyed by something they created? Perhaps that was why they needed to build the guardian? They accidentally used their magic in a way that created something worse. Maybe they summoned a monster. Thus, they needed to construct a guardian to protect it? Well, these murals were usually all guesswork, but this one was even less than that.
“Master?” Lydia asked as she noticed me shaking my head.
“It’s nothing. I’m just getting an uneasy feeling.” I said. “It’s never that easy, right?”
The four of us headed back out to find Carmine standing there looking at some kind of compass. When I saw the look in her eyes, I froze immediately.
“Carmine… is everything okay?”
“I can’t believe it… The Bandit King… already…”
“What?” I blinked. “What do you mean? The Bandit King is out there. We’ve only been in here an hour.
She shook her head, tears forming in her eyes. “You don’t understand! I have a magic device that allows me to track my enemies! The Bandit King… they are already in the dungeon!
“They must have attacked much earlier than I thought. Their assault was more impressive than I would have guessed. They’re also after the same thing that we are after. They just entered, so they’re about an hour behind us, but you better bet that they’re moving fast.”
“Calm down… what are you saying?” I said, holding her shoulders.
“I’m saying, the Bandit King wants the power of the guardian! If the Bandit King gets it, I’ll be dead meat. We must hurry! We cannot afford to take our time anymore!
“…” I didn’t mean to look uncertain, but I didn’t like the idea of being rushed at all.
This Bandit King, if we faced him here, that actually might be for the best. He would have no resurrections, so I could kill him and his strongest supporters. We could use the dungeon to our advantage, and perhaps even mount a surprise attack on him.
“Just… how strong is the Bandit King?” I asked.
She shook her head. “A tier three job…. Level 50! I know what you’re thinking, but the Bandit King cannot be fought. You will definitely die if you try to battle them.”
That was what I was afraid of. The ones I had fought were just small fries. The Bandit King was the real deal. Looking at my girls, I knew I couldn’t put their lives on the line for this. We had to move faster, as Carmine had said.
“Then… I guess we go.”
“Thank you…” She kissed my cheek. “You’re saving my life. If the town has truly fallen in under an hour, this guardian will be the only way to save either of us.”
Actually, if I just used the kiosk back to the 1st floor, I could portal out and be back in Chalm. However, I didn’t like the idea of this Bandit King getting control of the champion either. Rather, I had to just keep going forward.