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Chapter 40

A day and a night flew by as we continued to battle every zombie we encountered on the floor. I was determined not to retreat to level five again, but there was no good place to rest on the sixth floor either. We ate the last of our food and then set out. Lydia had finally reached level 10, and she even said that she felt like her knowledge of swordsmanship had increased. That was good enough for me.

As for myself, I returned to White Mage. I reckoned that if we wanted to survive this dungeon, White Mage was still the best job for me. I could heal both of our wounds, and if I learned any more buffing skills, that would be best. So, after Hero reached level 5 and I was able to help a bit with the sword without stabbing myself, I switched back to White Mage so we could quickly down the zombies. Speed was important, and I could be a bigger help using Harm Undead, which grew more powerful as I leveled up.

That’s right, I discovered leveling up did have a direct relation on stats. Each level someone gained in a job likely increased their status in certain areas. Which stats depended on which job. White Mage mostly contributed to mana and spell power, but with each level, I had to gain a little in strength and constitution too. When a job switched, you didn’t lose those status bonuses. However, you could no longer access any related skills. Some skills boosted relevant status, so even if I was level 100 mage with full mana, there might be various skills that amplified my status for using White Mage spells, as well as decreased mana consumption, and increased mana pool, making equipping mage still potentially useful.

I also found that when I unequipped Hero, I lost my knowledge of swords. It was the same with cooking, but it was less recognizable, especially since I wasn’t cooking much at all. There was a bit of latent muscle memory, so I could still wield the sword better than I did before I got the spell, but the difference was night and day between having the skill Basic Swordsmanship and not having it.

After leveling all day, we could down a group of three zombies in only about a minute. She was a level 10 swordsman, and I was a level nine White Mage. As for what skills I learned, they were Holy Circle and Light. Rather than disappointed, I was very deeply happy that I had got these skills. I had been so worried about food that I hadn’t even noticed we were running out of oil. My lanterns would have been out in a day. Lydia had better night vision than I did, but even she needed some light to navigate this dungeon.

Water was also a concern that I had been putting off. I had about two days of water left, and we were already low enough on rations that my throat was scratchy. I couldn’t even imagine what I would do if we ran out. The floors were always damp though… so I imagined we’d end up licking them to survive. The second skill was Holy Circle. Holy Circle was a spell that created a circle around us. Zombies didn’t seem to be able to pass within the circle. They were repelled. That’s all it did, but if we didn’t run into another cathedral, this was the only way we were going to be able to get any sleep.

We were both exhausted, but I didn’t want to rest before seeing what was on the next level. We returned to the hall with the two Living Armors who seemed to be standing in vigil over the staircase. Gripping my sword nervously, I looked over at Lydia.

“Shall we go?” Lydia asked.

I gave a nod and the two of us surged forward. I would be taking on one living armor as a level 5 Hero, and she’d take on the other as a level 10 Swordsman. The last time I had risked my life, I had acted on pure instinct to protect Lydia. This was the first time I made the choice to truly put my life on the line.

Chapter 41

The fighting was brutal. I didn’t have Lydia’s speed so I seriously thought I was going to die. In the end, the best I could do was stall one, only engaging enough to keep his attention, while Lydia finished off the other. It really made me feel a bit useless, but at least I could keep the armor off of Lydia. The only true help I provided her was the Party Status Up bonus. Lydia still managed to down the monster in about five minutes. Her injuries were superficial.

After all, from that first time we fought an armor up until now, Lydia not only was twice her level, but she also had my status bonus. Her battle wasn’t desperate. Ah, crap, I was watching her rather than paying attention to my own fight. The monster’s sword glowed menacingly as he activated a skill. I leaped out of the way and was slightly grazed, flying away and skidding across the ground painfully.

“Ow…”

“Master!” Lydia leaped over and began to polish off this monster the same way.

Like the other, it was no longer a challenge for her, but a matter of time. As for me, I laid on the ground with my face in the dirt, feeling a little bit useless. I cast the Weak Heal spell on myself, and by the time Lydia finished off the monster, I was standing back up and brushing myself off.

{Hero has increased to level 6.}

{You have unlocked the Hero skill: Charm Up.}

“Charm up?” I muttered before realizing that Lydia was eyeing me. “What is it?”

Lydia looked away, blushing. “I thought Master was seriously hurt, so I was worried.”

“Ah… sorry, I worried you.”

“I never realized Master looked so…” She muttered under her breath.

“Huh? Did you say something?” I pretended not to hear her.

“N-n-nevermind! Let’s got to the next floor!”

“Ah… of course…”

However, I did hear what she said. So, Charm Up increased my attractiveness? Well, my ‘charmingness’, at least. I supposed being well-liked and even idolized was also a part of being a Hero, huh? I knew I was a guy who typically repelled girls, so this kind of attention wasn’t something I was used to. I didn’t know if I was wanting to equip it out on the surface. Perhaps, I could use it with Haggle and make some profits bartering. Chasing after girls was still outside of my realm of comfort.

The pair of us headed down to the seventh floor. This was the moment of truth that would decide whether we lived or died. The answer to that was…

“More Living Armors.” The girl spoke sadly.

This entire level was filled with Living Armors. In fact, if there was a second mob, I didn’t see it at all. Even the zombies weren’t present. There would be no food on this floor.

“What do we do, Master?” Lydia asked, her voice clearly disappointed.

“Push on to floor 8. We can stay hydrated. We’ll just have to tighten our belts and forge forward. However, it’s late and I’m exhausted. We should find a place to sleep.”

“We both won’t be able to sleep,” Lydia explained. “Master must sleep first, and I’ll sleep after.”

I was too tired to argue with her. We found a corner hallway where Lydia could watch both corridors without having to turn around. I cast Light and a Holy Circle, just in case. This area had no armors, but the creaking noises could be heard off in the distance. Unlike the cathedral, the floor was a bit damp. I didn’t dare to set a fire and risk attracting any monsters here. The Light spell seemed to be one-directional, allowing me and my party to see out, but not the other direction, but it wasn’t the light I was worried about. I wasn’t even certain the armors could see light. However, there was also the heat and the crackling of fire that the might spell did not replicate. This was definitely the worst night since I had been to this world. It was cold, there was no food, and monsters looked around every corner. However, with Lydia sitting nearby watching over me, I quickly went to sleep, feeling that things could be worse.

When I woke up, it was clear Lydia had taken both of our shifts. She was barely keeping her eyes open, and I had to order her to get her to go to the bedroll and sleep. I could only give her a few hours. My stomach was rumbling, and things were only going to get harder.

Chapter 42

Working together, we took down one armor at a time. It was absolutely necessary if we wanted to survive. A day went by, and we had managed to kill a dozen armors, but no food was found. Her Swordsman went up to eleven, while my White Mage went up to Level 10, finally unlocking Create Water. As soon as I got the skill, I laughed and filled an entire waterbag. As soon as we got somewhere safe, I reckoned I’d make a bath.

My stomach felt emptier and emptier. I tried drinking water like they suggest you do, but it was really tough. Some people claim they go on water fasts for a full month. That meant it was possible to survive, especially for me and my fat deposits. Especially considering that illness wasn’t an issue. Was my clothing feeling loose? I felt like it was.

“What are you doing, Master?” Lydia asked after the latest monster collapsed.

“I’m deciding what job I should equip,” I explained.

It was at a point where I didn’t feel like I needed to keep White Mage up to protect Lydia. It was all about survival. What skills would keep me alive the longest? At the moment, my status was:

{Name: Deek

Class: Support

Race: Human

Job: White Mage (level 10)

Possible Jobs: Hero (level 6), Merchant (level 1), Alchemist (level 1), Cook (level 3)}

Alchemy wouldn’t be difficult to get to level 3. Neither would Merchant. Was the secret to survival with either of those jobs? That was the dilemma I was facing. Every kill I wasted leveling one skill was a kill that took away from another. Time was precious. I was a bit caught up in having so many options.

“Pick Hero…” Lydia offered her thoughts.

“Hero? Why Hero?” I asked.

Lydia blushed, looking very cute as she avoided my look, her tail swishing aggressively. “Because Master is a hero.”

“Hah…” Her reasoning was founded on something so simple. “Very well…”

I decided to go with her argument and set up Hero. My goal wasn’t to defeat this dungeon. It was to escape it. Of all the skills, I had the feeling an Escape Dungeon skill existed for a hero most of all. That was my justification for choosing as such.

We continued to fight for the rest of the day. At level 11, Lydia’s next level was slow to come. As for me, I was getting really hungry and it became all I could think about. It was at that point that I finally leveled up. It seemed like different skills took different amounts of time to level. Even though I’d leveled with Hero equipped almost as much as White Mage, Hero leveled slower because it wasn’t a support job. At least, that was my theory.

{Hero has increased to level 7.}

{You have unlocked the Hero skill: Sense Life.}

Sense Life? This ability was the least useful yet! I really wanted to curse. I was just about to switch to Merchant and hope for a miracle when I suddenly noticed that I could indeed sense a lifeform. I could feel Lydia’s life, but hers wasn’t the only one in the dungeon. It wasn’t the armor either. If it was, then there would have been one sitting just twenty feet away from us.

“Lydia…” I whispered. “I want you to attack with all your speed… right… there…” I pointed in the direction my sense life indicated.

Lydia pulled her sword and didn’t even question me. She lunged with her sword, drawing on all of her skill to attack the area I had indicated. A screech filled the air, and a creature leaped away from the corner, causing Lydia to pull back and cry. However, the creature had already been severely cut, and a few moments later it fell to the ground into a bloody pile.

Lydia approached it, and a moment later let out a sad noise. “Ah… it was just a cute bunny.”

“No…” I shook my head as I watched the bunny melt back into the earth. “This is food.”

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