We were all experienced with dungeons, and had even passed through levels where the entire thing occurred under water. Thus, reaching a place under a lake wasn’t too difficult. Carefully, Celeste was able to create an air bubble, and the group of us just walked down into the lake. If push came to shove, we were in a safer condition than even that previous dungeon, because we could just float to the surface if things became a problem.
That was what I thought, but after about thirty minutes of stomping around on the bottom of the lake, I finally found the door to the safe room. It would be better to call it a hatch. I looked down at the bubbling water sitting in a circular hatch.
“Okay… Celeste, can you?”
“Mm… I’ll do my best!”
She began to pull the water out of the hatch. Slowly, the water came out and merged with the water above us. She continued to do it until the water seemed to have been emptied in the room below us. I casted Light, not even thinking about Calypso potentially spying on us. It only worked one way anyway, so hopefully she wouldn’t notice. Looking down into the hole, I let out a sigh.
“Yeah, this is it.”
“Really?” Shao said, breathing slightly hard.
Celeste hadn’t shrunk the space we were in. Instead, she had expanded it to include the entire safe room. In other words, the air we had left was getting a bit thin.
“What do we do now?” Lydia asked.
I jumped right in, causing the girls to cry out. Celeste quickly flew after just in case. I landed hard on the ground, splashing some of the remaining water.
“Come on, everyone in!” I called out. “Bring the air, then close the hatch.”
The rest of the girls jumped in one at a time until we were all in the safe room. Terra flicked her fingers, and a large covering rolled over, blocking the water at the entrance. With the air bubble now the same size as the safe room, the air was thicker once again. The pressure of the lake pushed down on the hatch cover, and none of the water seemed to leak through. If it did, I had confidence Terra could fix it with ease.
“An underwater safe room.” Miki sighed in disbelief as she looked around the wet room.
“It’s not just the safe room that is underwater. I sighed, pointing at another opened hatch on the other side of the room with water.
The water underneath was completely devoid of light, but I had no doubt if we swam through it, we’d end up in a giant boss room.
“An underwater boss.” Lydia breathed out.
“How are we supposed to fight that?” Salicia complained. “How did previous Bandits fight that?”
“You’re one to talk!” Miki shot back.
“You’re you again?” I asked.
“Hmm?” She cocked her head like she didn’t know what I was talking about.
“Nevermind. Hopefully, we surface again after this boss. It won’t pop until the hatch is sealed. Let’s try to get some sleep.” I said as I registered at the kiosk. “We’ll fight this boss in the morning, and we’ll win.”
It was already very late, and everyone was exhausted. We probably should have transferred to another safe room where it was drier, but the girls passed out almost as soon as the bags were down. The air wouldn’t last all night, but I suppose I could give them an hour or two before waking them up and transferring up to the fifth-floor safe room to rest. We had a hard day today.
This safe room retained the theme of looking like the inside of a tree, although this one looked more like a hollowed-out log sitting on the bottom of the lake. The holes for entry and exit were notches in the wood where large branches had broken off at some point during the decay. The space we were in was a gap in the wood. The cover had been made of stone, however, giving away the true nature of this room.
As the girls slept, I took the time to check the mural. It seemed like there weren’t many details when it came to this curse. That could be because the curse was extremely old. It seemed to be depicting some kind of great battle between the humans and the blue-skinned race. Bodies littered the ground. That was all I was able to glean from this one. I just wish I knew what it meant.
If humans emerged from the dungeons, did that mean that humans weren’t native to this world? Were they similar to demons? If dungeon creatures emerged from dungeons, and over time their miasma was purified and they became mana creatures, then was it possible there was a time humans were the demons of this world? Did we come in the same manner the demons did, and then wipe out the original inhabitants of this world? I didn’t want to believe it, but the lore of this dungeon seemed to suggest this.
In that respect, was miasma even corrupted mana? Miasma could just be mana from another world. While I noticed miasma had a unique signature to it, there seemed to be only one type of mana. Any special kind of mana seemed to stem from some kind of talent. Fairy dust, spirit fire, and recently Terra revealed to me that she had been able to produce Gaia. Shao could produce mana, but any mana she produced had a unique signature to it.
I hadn’t noticed it before, but when I first met her, the miasma she produced was not the same miasma that I made. However, once she became my slave, her miasma has somehow changed to fit me. Now, if I produce miasma or she did, I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference in who it came from. I had thought that miasma had some kind of life to it, that it recognized enemies and friends. Perhaps, what it was recognizing, was the source of the person in question.
Perhaps, the mana of this world would be miasma to another world. Perhaps creatures from another world would see us as the miasma creatures, and themselves as the mana users. I shivered thinking about the possibilities of all of this. It looked like the nature of everything around dungeons was far more complicated than I ever could have imagined. Just as I was finishing up looking at the mural, I heard a shout. I spun around just in time to see Miki plunge into the dark waters below. No, she didn’t plunge. She was pulled into it. Without a thought, I leaped into the water after her as the other girls let out cries of surprise.
Dungeons were typically very dark. That was one reason the Light spell was so incredibly nice. It shrouded me in an aura of light. Anyone who wasn’t part of my team could not see the light I produced. This light worked whether I was in a pitch-black tunnel, or whether I was swimming underwater.
Naturally, I hadn’t thought about things like taking a breath. My entire mind had been singularly focused on following Miki. With her bond guiding my way, I swam straight down into the murky darkness. Before I could see her, I could see numerous tentacles. This didn’t make sense though. We hadn’t closed up the bottom hatch. Was the monster summon because we had closed the other hatch, or was this done because of Calypso?
I felt foolish having trusted Calypso to not suddenly summon the boss like that. She was the Dungeon Master, so who knew what kind of tricks she could pull. Just because I thought I knew the rules didn’t mean they might not be broken, especially when under the power of an intelligent person not created by the dungeon.
Maybe, this had some damaging effects to the dungeon, like damaging the soul of the boss by prematurely summoning them, but why would Calypso care about any of that? As long as she could keep summoning Bandits on the first floor, then the rest of this didn’t matter at all.
At this point, I was starting to realize I was running out of breath. However, I didn’t even think of resurfacing, Rather, I dived into the tentacles, finally able to see Miki struggling as she had one wrapped around her. Another tentacle darted for me, so I pulled out my sword and slashed. There was no room for acting innocent now. Had it been Calypso’s desire to force my hand, she had succeeded.
At that moment, a bubble of air suddenly exploded around me. I let in a gasp of fresh air. I went from completely submerged to treading water. Floating above my head was Celeste. Her wings were beating frantically as she held back the pressure of the water. In that respect, I hadn’t even noticed. My body was built far stronger than it once had been. This level of pressure should have been more than we could handle, but I seemed to be okay with it.
Celeste flicked her wrist, and a bubble of air popped away from ours. It was small, just the size of a head, but it quickly floated to where Miki was and went where her head was. I could see her gasping as the air seemed to stick to the top of her head.
“What’s the plan, Master?” Lydia asked, breathing hard.
“Most elemental attacks don’t work under this. We have to depend on darkness attacks! Shao… Salicia.”
“Yes!” Shao said.
“Huh? Ah… right…” Salicia grabbed her head awkwardly. “Wait… who, who am I?”
She was no longer in the safe room, so the miasma was clogging her mind again. She hadn’t been in the safe room for very long, so it looked like the miasma was able to reassert itself quicker. Without missing a beat, I grabbed her and casted Refresh.
“Salicia… listen to me. You are the incredible Bandit Queen Salicia. You are my slave, and my woman. You have several dark spells, use them on that!”
Her eyes cleared up suddenly and she looked over at me as water ran down her cheeks. “Master…”
“Salici -up…” A tentacle suddenly wrapped around my leg and pulled. I was ripped from Salicia’s arms and yanked into the abyss alongside Miki.