“You leveled in Armor Smith again.” I mentioned to Garnet as she handed me the newest plate mail she had just forged.
“I feel it… the power inside! I’ll make a better plate mail in the next run!” Garnet declared while her hands tightened on the hammer.
“I’m pretty sure that’s not how leveling works.”
Gaining a level didn’t suddenly make you better at everything. I mean, I guess it did raise status, but it wasn’t like you’d suddenly make a better piece of armor just because you had more strength or agility. That required experience, which I suppose is exactly what she was gaining that helped her level. Now that she was my slave, and I had my Slave Master job equipped, she was gaining experience far quicker than she normally did.
I usually didn’t pay too close attention to every level. I had read in some Adventuring guides that focusing too much on levels would lead to failure. The reason was pretty simple. An Adventurer focused on levels might end up biting off more than they could chew. For example, they might reach level 20, and read that this floor was good for level twenties, and then push themselves to that level. In reality, that floor might have been good for level twenties with Fire Control, but nearly suicidal for other Adventurers.
There are many other examples that are given as well. When people focused on levels as an indicator of strength, they constantly misunderstood their abilities, and were more likely to put themselves in dangerous situations. It also ran the risk of some becoming snobby or trying to rank themselves based on levels. This sort of classism was frowned upon everywhere in this world. Supposedly, there was even a play called “Juggar the Fool” which depicted a man going around flexing his levels only to fail embarrassingly every time.
Thus, when it came to my party, the girls rarely wondered what their levels were, and instead asked the question, how strong were they? Saying that, as someone who had easy access to my levels without the need for a magical item or a Priest, I couldn’t help but look and try to keep track of my abilities. Well, when it came to myself, the flashing text in my vision wasn’t exactly something that I could ignore.
As for the others in my formation, they just didn’t ever ask. Garnet seemed to be a notable exception. She seemed to relish in her levels and greatly enjoy every level up. Thus, I had gotten used to announcing her leveling, which over the last two weeks of nonstop blacksmithing, had grown quite well.
I placed the plate mail to the side, and a former bandit who was now conscripted into my army grabbed it and took it to find a soldier who needed it. Compared to the cheap pieces of scrap metal he once wore before, he was now in a full chainmail outfit with a particularly fine bow on his back. Besides what Garnet made, Xin had also relinquished all of her weapons and was still scouring the dungeon to find whatever magic items and weapons we could use to better equip our army.
“It’s good that you leveled.” I turned back to Garnet as she pulled out some metal to start her next piece. “I will be going soon.”
“What?” Garnet let out a cry, panic in her eyes. “N-no! I need my assistant!”
“I’m your Master though…” I laughed awkwardly, scratching the back of my head.
“The quality of my work goes down whenever you leave!”
“Just work on the less important things, like horse armor or something.”
“I need you!” She cried, grabbing my arm and trying to look up at me with begging eyes.
“You’ll be fine. Besides, getting practice on your own will only make the pieces when you have my assistance, even better!”
This brightened her mood slightly, as it seemed she had a desire to one day make the perfect piece of armor.
“Where will you be going, anyway?” She then asked, still just a bit pouty.
“I’ll be doubling our army today. It’s time the skeletons join the fray.”
While I had been running around leveling and creating the Silvthril blade, the story in this dungeon had continued to move on. That story didn’t involve individual people so much as it involved armies. It spoke of skirmishes and battles, most of which I had kept away from. As a single person, it would be really easy to die in a large-scale battle. I wasn’t so foolish to get involved in one of those, especially before I had an army at my back.
The safe rooms had told the story of these battles, which chronicled a human uprising that ultimately ended up squashed by the Demon King. When was the final battle? It happened a few days before the wedding. This was when the humans surrendered and the nation fell.
This date was important in the history of the continent because that country that fell would end up laying the groundwork for the demon realm. The demon lands of the north weren’t always demon lands. A long time ago, there were countries whose names were long forgotten. Even this dungeon didn’t remember what the name of the country they were fighting for was.
That country had been the one who had allowed the Demon Lord’s castle to rise. Some say that when the demons emerged from the dungeon and seemed so much like humans, the humans had tried to welcome them. They had met them with peace at first, trying to welcome them as a new species to their world. That new species turned invasive, tensions grew, and it was ultimately the demon lord’s son who kidnapped the princess and caused the country to revolt and try to destroy the demon’s castle.
Unfortunately, the country lost, and the demon realm was formed. With the support structure of an entire country, they started invading new countries, spreading until the state of the demon realm ended up looking like what it did these days. At least, that was my current understanding of things based on the few tidbits I had heard from Xin and my observations. Most of this happened so long ago, that even records in Aberis didn’t contain much information about it.
Point being, the skeletons that I had originally allied myself with when I first entered this dungeon over two months ago had been scattered, but not defeated. Although they lost the fort, reinforcements arrived and they were still waging skirmishes to this day. It was for this reason that I was able to build such a large army myself, as the majority of the Demon King’s forces were still dealing with the revolt.
Since agreeing to work together, Xin had provided me a lot of essential information. She gave me the locations of the remaining Safe Rooms, for example, which was why I was able to piece together the majority of the story, as well as complete the rest of her challenges. She didn’t know why I wanted to do that, so I only told her it was for personal training.
In this case, she had managed to tell me where the command center of the skeletons was. This was the remaining forces of the human rebellion. They were still outside the mouth of the valley and hadn’t made any progress in two months. In a little less than ten days, their forces would end up attacking the mouth of the valley and would finally be wiped out.
It was time to change all of that.
The Portal opened, and I carefully eased my foot through before stepping the rest of the way. I was much more careful now, making sure I didn’t have any unfortunate Portal mishaps. No bandit or monster was waiting for me on the other side. This was an area I had been to before when I first came to this dungeon. It almost felt nostalgic how far I had come since entering this dungeon. The place was now completely mapped out. The story was unlocked. Now, I was raising an army to make the final push and defeat the Demon King.
Of course, being able to defeat this Demon King didn’t mean I’d be able to defeat the real Demon King. This was only a shadow of the real man. It was as much an approximation as the mermaid was the princess. I did admit I was curious how he looked, although since Xin only shared the vaguest resemblance to her giant counterpart from the Widow’s dungeon, I didn’t have too high of expectations.
I started walking in the direction of the camp where Xin had indicated. I had only needed to walk five minutes before a patrol of undead riding undead horses rode up to me. I held up my hands as they circled me. Thankfully, I didn’t even have to open my mouth before one of the skeletons seemed to recognize me.
“Commander Stone?” the skeleton said in the surprise.
He gestured, and the others lowered their weapons. They still kept them at the ready though.
“Yes, I have returned. I bring news to our leader.”
“Yes… I suppose you will need to debrief with the general. He thinks you are dead.”
“I almost was,” I responded, and that didn’t even have to be a lie.
The men led me back into the camp, which while shabby, still looked more disciplined than my own. These were real soldiers, not an assortment of conscribed commoners, brainwashed soldiers, and bandits. It made a difference. Still, compared to what Garnet made, their armor was shabby, and it was clear they were all haggard after countless battles. I realized I might have to stay a day or two to cast White Mage spells and restore them to full fighting condition. Never underestimate the power of a White Mage on an army.
As I approached a large tent that seemed to be the command tent, a man broke out. He had an extremely angry expression on his face, and he was wearing armor much better than the rest. His eyes landed on our party, and the men escorting me turned white.
“Commander Stone! You’re supposed to be dead!” He snarled.
I was a bit surprised, having not expected the General to be so violently angry. He continued to approach me, his posture filled with malice, and I realized the situation was sinking fast.
“You are a deserter and a traitor! You let the fort fall to enemy hands! Give me one good reason I shouldn’t order you cut down right here!” He shouted, now right in my face.
I shrugged, a causal expression on my face that caused him to grow even more enraged. “Because you won’t be alive in a second to make that order.”
Without hesitation, I used Pace and Quick Attack, and my blade struck right through his armor into his heart. Although the Star sword was only a dungeon’s approximation of the Silvthril sword, and not made from it, it still could cut through anything else this dungeon made. I wasn’t sure if it’d have that trait outside of this dungeon. It might be something it could only do in here, but that was enough for now.
“A-assassin!” The men could only stare in shock before someone screamed.
As everyone pulled their sword, I put my hand on the man’s chest and a black substance flowed from him to me. By the time we were surrounded by guards, the general, his mouth agape, and a look of shock still on his face collapsed to the ground dead. I casually looked around at the men surrounding me while activating Mimic’s skills.
“What are you all doing?” I bellowed just like he had. “You almost let an assassin in here to kill me!”
“General wouldn’t let anything like an assassin stop him!” Someone else declared proudly.
“Everyone, get ready!” I shouted, ignoring their excuses. “We’re moving out!”
Like that, I was now the general of the undead army.