The next morning, we returned to level fifteen and then continued to the sixteenth floor. We never did run into the floors miniboss. I had thought about remaining on the floor and spending some time leveling on golems and waiting for the boss, but perhaps that was one more temptation that this dungeon used to ensnare you.
I decided I didn’t want to wait and see what sort of tricks level 15 had in store, so we went on to level 16. Sixteen was the first level that did not have a detailed map or descriptions. Raissa ended up not guiding us in the end, but all of the explanations she left for us were now obsolete. The true part of the dungeon diving had finally begun. Not only did the creatures become more difficult, but there was no guidance. We didn’t even know which monsters we’d face, as anyone who had made it this far chose not to sell the information.
I thought that this was weird, but Raissa described it as a trade secret. If you thought about it, most dungeon divers who made their careers out of making it down into the dungeons are reaping rewards no one else could obtain. While the more common places were mapped out, to dungeon divers, it probably felt like a magician revealing how his tricks were done. It undermined their whole business. I vaguely recalled a comment that Raissa and her kind weren’t liked by the hardcore dungeon divers.
They had to risk their lives to make it as far as they did, while Raissa and other Dungeon Guides make a mockery of that sacrifice by allowing even the stuffiest of nobles to make it farther than they had any right to be. Of course, many believed that it was normal for people to work hard and dive into the unknown so that those in the future can have it much easier, but not everyone sees it that way. I had avoided most of this drama so far by sticking to relatively abandoned or new dungeons, but once I started tackling the popular ones, I’d inevitably run into people like this.
Either way, for the first fifteen levels, we had benefited from the success of people like Raissa. Now, we were basically on our own. That wasn’t completely true. The map skill was extremely useful. Anywhere I walked could be mapped out. I could also combine it with various other skills, gaining access to more information than I had any right to possess. I suspected that Lydia’s Scout job would one day give her the map skill too.
The sixteenth level monsters were definitely difficult. This was another water-based level. This dungeon seemed to focus on water, earth, and nature as the primary elements. Everything here seemed to be either rock golems, sunken treasures, or water-like creatures. We actually didn’t run into any monsters, which left me somewhat surprised, but that was when we reached the end of the path. There had been no branching points, and my expression instantly began to fall.
Right before us was a pool of water. There was a stairway leading down into the water, and it seemed to keep going down. There was absolutely nowhere else to go but down into the depths.
“Master, I had heard from Raissa that the 16th floor was rumored to be underwater. I just remembered that now.” Lydia responded sheepishly.
We had no choice. If we wanted to continue on, we had to go underwater.
None of us were water mages, so breathing underwater was impossible. The only other option was to push the water away from us. I honestly thought this would probably be the best option.
“Y-yes!” She snapped to attention.
“Can you please create a bubble of air around us. Definitely give us a lot of air for a while.”
“Ah… I can do that.”
For a wind fairy, gathering air and creating a bubble was simple. Our time would be limited. We might only have an hour or two. I had actually already checked my dp. I did have an underwater breathing ability that was only 5 points. There was also an underwater breathing spell that cost 10. I could use that and cast it on everyone, but the mana to cast it on six people would be a lot. It required continuous use, and I didn’t want to risk taking only some of the girls, even if I could portal the rest in later.
We went down the stairway, moving slowly as the water was pushed back by Celeste’s air barrier. This wasn’t done with a particular skill, but with pure wind control. That had some advantages, but just as many disadvantages.
We headed down into the depths. Although the dungeon still kept the format of hallways, they were much wider now, and even her bubble wasn’t enough to reach the ends. At my recommendation, the bubble sat above our feet. We were actually trudging through water which came to about our hips, with an expanse of about ten feet above out heads reserved for air. We were going to get wet eventually anyway, so I decided it would be safer if we kept ourselves half submerged.
I continuously used sense life as we moved, keeping my eye out for any enemies. If we were lucky, the dungeon considered just the challenge of traveling through an underwater maze sufficient enough that it wouldn’t launch much more at us. I really feared that this was only the first of the underwater levels though, and later ones might be even more challenging. Then I wondered, if this is what we experienced before level 20, what would a mega-dungeon’s lower levels be like? Supposedly, no one has really made it down much farther than level 60.
Any dungeon over fifty years old is considered unbeatable, and one over 100 years, it was called a mega-dungeon. There might be cases where it wasn’t a corridor of water you had to walk through, but a corridor of lava. Maybe an area filled with noxious poisonous gas. As those kinds of thoughts came into my mind, I realized that I was only scratching the surface of what dungeons were capable of.
We continued on with a steady pace, moving efficiently thanks to my Map. Without the Map, the murky water around us that only allowed us to see ten to fifteen feet ahead would have been devastating. Death would have almost been certain.
We noticed a few traps. I was afraid the air bubble would be enough to trigger the traps, so we went out of our way to avoid them. The one or two we got close enough to see appeared to be water mines not unlike what people used to bring down submarines. I was pretty sure if our bubble hit one of those, it’d probably fall down and then blow up.
There were enemies in the end, but they were not aggressive to those outside of the water. One was a plant that tried to grab you and pull you down. The other was a fish that looked a bit like a big barracuda. It was scary the first time I saw when jetting towards us, but as soon as it hit the open air, it fell straight down. Celeste lowered the bubble down to our knees. At this point, we had used some air and it could afford to be lower.
The result was that the fish couldn’t get to us at all. The grabbers could trip us, but their vines were almost useless out of the water. There was simply no way to get tangled in them with the depth at only a few feet. In that way, Celeste’s air bubble had nullified their attack completely. We killed the barracudas that we encountered since they dropped a fish fillet and fish teeth.
It was nearly six hours before we finally reached the end of the maze. The stairway went back up to land and then back down to the seventeenth floor. In the end, we left the water level with very little difficulty. However, our air bubble probably only had another hour of air left in it. Had we not found the exit soon, I would have started to get worried, and had we encountered many more challenges, this could have truly been a scary level. This level wasn’t hard, but it gave me an imperceptible dread for the potential of the levels to come.
Level seventeen was the first truly challenging level. It was a cold level again, taking advantage of the fact that we were wet from the water. We went back up to the dry area of level sixteen and I had everyone change into warmer clothing before we headed back down.
There were ice golems and giant seals that we had to fight. Compared to the previous floors, these battles were actually genuinely challenging. In fact, other than bosses and power leveling, these were the most intense fights yet. I found myself needing to heal the girls after almost every encounter that involved more than one enemy.
This wasn’t the first time we had been on a level 17 floor. In fact, by all accounts, Celeste and I had tackled a level 17 by ourselves when we were tackling Karr’s dungeon. However, that was the difference between ghosts and other enemies. Ghosts are immune to physical attacks. The trade-off was that they were relatively weak enemies. On top of that, I took advantage of some pretty powerful spells and items to compensate. I was able to perform at a level many times greater than normal as a result.
Now, we were fighting enemies on the same playing field. There might be a full team of 6, but we had no unusual advantages or strengths beyond a well-rounded party. The result was that the battles were tough.
For the first time, I was starting to see the limits of the party. Of course, had Raissa been here, she’d definitely be slapping her face. Even at this level, we were moving fairly casually. Most Dungeon Divers would look at us with their mouths open in shock at our somewhat easy-going nature.
I didn’t know it, but what I considered tough was what other Dungeon Divers considered impossible. Dungeon Diving was a field where you risked your life for rewards. By all accounts, we weren’t at a state where anyone in the party was at risk. Even if we made mistakes, there was more than enough precautions to keep us safe. It wouldn’t be until after we passed level 20 that we’d experience something completely new to us. A level of difficulty that normal dungeon divers had to deal with every day of their normal careers.
Well, I would have experienced this if it wasn’t for one thing, the fact that my girls were leveling at a rate of 2 X on 2 jobs while I leveled at 10 X on three jobs. Leveling at nearly thirty times the rate of a normal person from this world, any Dungeon Diver who fought tooth and nail for his income would cry if he heard of such a thing. At the very least, he would pray that I was using my boons responsibly so that I leveled up an important job to help the survival of my party.
[Pervert has increased to level 12.}
“Hah… Hah… this is much harder than I anticipated.” I gasped.
The girls all looked down at a certain hard thing and nodded.
“I’ll take care of this one.” Celeste happily ran forward and moved to her knees.
“I think I’m going to train something else. At this rate we have to stop after every battle so one of you can… ease the pressure.”
“N-no!” Lydia denied it. “You can’t give up now!”
“Every job is important to level!” Shao declared.
“After every fight, it’s like one of us gets a treat!” Celeste says while opening her mouth and enjoying her treat.
As I let the pervert inside me loose on Celeste’s mouth, I decide not to think about it to much. This is just a necessary part of Dungeon Diving.
If any other Dungeon Diver heard that, they’d cry tears of blood.