“There really are no enemies, huh?” I asked as we made our way to the safe room.
“According to the guide, the first enemies don’t appear until the 5th floor. The 5th floor only contains the boss. Then, on the sixth floor, regularly enemies can be seen. Furthermore, there are no treasures.”
“Yeah… I was afraid of that.”
I saw the same as she said, that there were no treasures on my Map. It was just five levels of confusing mazes filled with crystals, some of which created reflections and really tricked the eyes. On the one hand, the way the light kept tricking you into seeing movement would make levels with true enemies truly stressful. On the other hand, I wasn’t feeling terribly thrilled about this dungeon, no matter how pretty the geological crystal formations looked.
The key aspect of a dungeon was that it continued to consume mana. It could do this in two ways. First, it could grow, engulfing more land to suck mana from, much like a tree with roots. The second way is to draw mana containing creatures, like humans, into it, where it would use miasma to feed on their mana. If they died, it would get a giant meal. If they lived, it could continue to consume them for weeks or even months. This sucking of mana was also the same reason that dungeons wore on a person’s mental state over time.
There weren’t too many long-term studies on people in dungeons. There was one story of a Magician who was trapped in a dungeon for almost 18 months before he managed to escape. His mind had deteriorated to the level that he was an invalid, and his ability to use magic had been whittled away to nothing. Another story told of an Adventurer who had lived three years in the dungeon and experienced nothing serious. He had remained mostly in a safe room, which was free of miasma and wouldn’t suck mana away. I had heard rumors that there were entire levels free of miasma, such as those alternative world levels, but these were very distant rumors from a guy who knew a guy.
This wasn’t even a problem I, nor any of my girls would ever have. Between Miki and myself, the miasma wasn’t able to affect us. We theoretically could remain in a dungeon our entire lives, although I wasn’t going to try it. Even with my own Dungeon Creation skill, I had no desire to build my own equivalent of a Demon Lord’s castle. Karr’s Dungeon was all the cursed mansion I could take.
With the map at hand and my own Map to locate us in the dungeon, it was rather easy for us to find the safe room. After only thirty minutes of walking, we arrived. However, we had taken enough twists and turns that had we tried to make it here on our own; it would probably have taken weeks. When we arrived, I was surprised to see that there were several parties of people already in the dungeon.
“A new dungeon diving party? No one mentioned a new dungeon diving party,” someone spoke up.
“You guys just arrived at this dungeon?” another guy, who looked to be in charge of a three-man party, spoke up.
“Um… yes, yes we have,” I admitted, attempting to act polite.
“Well… bugger off! This cave isn’t for lightweights!”
“Hey, you all look young and inexperienced,” one of them said. “Why don’t you try to bite on one of the baby dungeons? I hear they really hold people’s hands in Dirage.”
Looking around, I realized these were all more experienced people, about the age of the Guild Master, and they had an air of experience about them. They were all large and imposing, including the women. Many had dozens of scars. Every single one of them carried a large backpack almost as big as themselves. Lightweight was actually an apt description because we weren’t carrying any packs or anything. All of our stuff was in storage rings, but I had a feeling if I said that, they’d definitely scoff at it.
There were three parties in all. One group possessed three people, one possessed five, and the last one was six like my own. At twenty people, the room was a bit crowded, but only a bit. The level of imposingness seemed to grow as their size shrank. The three-person party consisted of three muscular men, each about twice my size. The second group were all women, but they were also quite large. The final party consisted of more regular looking Adventurer types I might have seen in the Capital’s Adventuring Guild.
Those clustered on that side of the firepit consisted of only one woman and five guys. That seemed like a weird set up until I realized I was traveling as one guy and five girls. Could they be perhaps part of a fabled reverse harem? The guys in her party did all look attractive in a variety of different ways. I could pick out the bad boy, the boy scout, and the rogue easy enough. However, regardless of the group, they were definitely all looking down on us.
The woman who appeared to be leading the party of five girls was quite pretty, and she didn’t seem to have any scars. She had a massive greatsword on her back that looked humongous. It was definitely impossible for me to pick up, but it looked like it fit her size. She leaned forward and gave me the kindest look of the fourteen of them.
“We’re just looking out for your best interest. A lot of people hear this dungeon doesn’t have enemies on the top five floors and become convinced that means it is simple. This dungeon isn’t so simple. It’ll tear up and eat newbies like you. Come back in a few years.”
“What she’s saying,” the leader of the three-person party and the first one who had spoken initially said, “Is that this place is for true dungeon divers. You can go play kissy kiss with your harem somewhere else.”
“Oi… is that a slight at me?!” The leader of the six-person troop, a red-headed woman, stood up angrily.
She actually admitted she had a harem of guys. They were all glaring at the three-man team angrily. The man receiving those stares chuckled.
“Relax, Harem, it wasn’t intended to insult you, unless you’re taking a liking for another for your collection.”
“Hmph!” She crossed her arms and then looked over at me and bit her lip. “Although, you do have an innocent boy type I like. How about ditching the bitches and I’ll show you how deep my dungeon diving goes?”
“If I might ask, how deep have you guys managed to dive?” I asked, trying not to treat her veiled flirting like she was serious.
It wasn’t just five women behind me boring a hole into my back, but also the five men behind her. I was being glared at by all sides. Why would I be even interested in that arrangement? She was pretty, with her long black hair over one eye, wide hips, and a dress and attitude that gave the feel of a sorceress.
The girl pursed her lips thoughtfully at my words, “Harem’s Boys has made it as low as level 15. Can’t get past the boss, but we will soon.”
“I’m sorry, Harem’s what?”
“Ah, we forgot to introduce ourselves. We’re the B-ranked Dungeon Divers, Harem’s Boys!” She made a gesture to the guys, who actually seemed a little happy she acknowledged them. “I’m Harem, by the way.”
Her name is actually Harem!
“Is that short for something?” I asked, my lips twitching.
“Yup, it’s short for Harem Queen!”
It was as bad as I thought. To prevent myself from going crazy, I looked over at the next group.
“Rank S, Titan Fall,” the leader from the group of women said.
“Rank A, Demon’s Head,” the man snorted after everyone glanced in his direction.
“Still not S?” The large woman put on a mischievous smile.
“Hmph! If I accepted two more members of my ability, we’d be an S ranked team!” he shot back, and then looked at us. “So, what rank is your team? Six people, you have to be a C, right?”
Most Dungeon Divers were Adventurers from the Adventuring Guild, so these ranks were their official Adventuring Guild ranks. For various circumstances, I had been fighting in dungeons rather than going on guild sanctioned missions. The result was that we had only advanced a single rank. As for our group name, I couldn’t even remember it.
“Deek’s Group, um… F…”
I coughed. “Rank E.”
“Get out of the Dungeon…”
“Hey now, maybe they have more experience than it looks. They could have been in a higher group and recently broke up and formed around one weak companion. If they haven’t done missions, they might really be at least a C or something.” Harem offered an excuse. “How long have you been Adventurers? Like since you were 10?”
“About three months now?”
I let out a sigh. “Believe it or not, I have a lot of experience with Dungeons. I actually have the official job.”
“Well, duh, if you didn’t have at least that much, you probably wouldn’t have even made it to this safe room.”
“You got Pathfinder, right? Even with a map, it’s near impossible to navigate these tunnels without an anchor. You probably been running around the dungeon for the last few days and finally made it here.” Harem hesitated for a second and then sighed. “I’m just too nice. After you rest, I’ll take you back to the entrance so you guys can be on your own.”
“No buts! If you go any deeper, you’ll definitely die! Don’t think about yourself, but your women. I can see we’re kindred spirits, so you must definitely look after your girls! Don’t you care about them?” Her words resulted in smug looks from all of her male companions, who clearly enjoyed me being put down.
I let out a sigh and agreed with them. I couldn’t imagine their reactions if they knew we had arrived and made it here in under an hour. My Map skill made the typical Pathfinder look like child’s play.
There wasn’t much of a point in going any further right now anyway. I could Portal to this safe room. That was enough for today. I also didn’t want to argue and perhaps become enemies with the very first professional Dungeon Divers I had met. And worst of all, I didn’t want to be seen as uncaring to my girls, even if they did think it was funny and were hiding their laughter behind wooden looks and conveniently placed hands.
“Don’t waste the trip,” the leader of the five-girl party spoke up. “We’re on our way out anyway. I’ll take them.”
The rest of the girls looked at their leader with unhappy expressions, but they didn’t argue with her. Harem looked slightly disappointed, but she eventually acquiesced.
Before we left, I registered with the kiosk even while earning snide looks from the other parties. I also checked out the mural. It only consisted of a single tree. That was it. I had a feeling the lore for this dungeon was going to be a long and complicated one. However, the day I would come to crack, it would be a long time from now.