With Miai mobile, the pair of us were able to move increasingly faster. Given the inverse pyramid-like shape of this dungeon, each subsequent level wasn’t just harder, but it was smaller too. With only the level 50 boss left, it was truly a race against time. Requiem decided he was no longer going to waste time or act defenseless. Part of it was that he didn’t have any more time to spare. The other part was a feeling of anger and a desire for vengeance brewing deep inside him.
He started to take out the enemies as swiftly as possible. Just like in many games, some of the monsters he was encountering were at the same level as the first few bosses from the upper floors. He didn’t let that hold him back though. Besides his equipment being of a higher level, Requiem also wasn’t wasting time trying to destroy enemies in the lowest profile or believable way. He was moving with pure efficiency.
As for his enemy, Adento had cleverly hidden some kind of stealth equipment and was using it to skip past all of the enemies that Requiem and Miai were having to push through. Even if Clippy hadn’t revealed that to him, he would have guessed because the levels weren’t leaving much room for him to have killed the enemies and still had more besides. If that had been the case, Requiem could have just followed the same route Adento took and avoided conflict too.
The final two levels had fewer enemies and were more like boss rooms, as their size had already shrunken to this state. Requiem didn’t allow himself to slow down. At the 48th level, Adento was at the 49th. He did his best to kill the creature quickly and raced down the 49th. The stealth Adento was using, in conjunction with the girl he was kidnapping, had slowed his progress considerably, and Requiem was finally able to catch up with him.
As soon as he entered the 49th level, his eyes snapped to the area where Adento was according to Clippy. He lifted a stone and sent it flying. It struck the man in the side, but it was enough that his stealth was disrupted. He had been sneaking across this chamber, avoiding what appeared to be some sleeping giant beast. When Requiem burst into the room, the beast began to waken, and as the stealth began to fail, it was Adento who was standing directly in front of it.
“Shit!” Adento cursed, his eyes shooting to the two of us. “You’re the two who made it? Heh, how unexpected.”
“Adento, I’ll have your head for that!” Miai snapped back.
She was no less furious than Requiem was. After all, she had been directly attacked by one of his explosives, and if Requiem hadn’t gone out of his way to save her, she would have died as well.
“Sticks and stones!” He shot back, “It’s nothing personal. Just all part of the game.”
As he was speaking, the massive mob for this level, which was every bit a boss, began to stand up. It was a massive three-headed dog, otherwise known as a Cerberus. Requiem had already known what enemy he was going to see before reaching this level, but the others could only look up at the creature which was nearly as large as the previous dragon with awe. It was the guard dog for the final lowest level. It felt suiting after their seeming descent into hell.
“How about you all take care of this one for me?” Adento asked with a ruthless grin.
He chucked the unconscious Ginger to the floor. At some point, he must have incapacitated her, and now he was using her as a sacrifice, just as he had promised. Requiem shot Miai a quick look.
“Can you create music?”
“I have acquired such a spell, but I never understood the point.”
“Play it. It will put him to sleep.”
Miai nodded, opening up her book, and causing pages to fly around her. Requiem didn’t hesitate to run after Adento, right in front of the Cerberus dog. Had he not saved Miai, and she not told him her true intent, perhaps there wouldn’t have been enough trust there that he would have allowed this. It didn’t seem like a big thing, but he had put his life in her hands, and she had put her life in his.
Miai had to trust that what he said was true and that the spell would work. She also had to trust that she wouldn’t be abandoned and that the game would end soon. As for Requiem, he had to trust that she kept playing and didn’t allow the beast to attack him. Given what he knew though, he felt like he could. This was basically sacrificing Miai’s chance at victory to give Requiem the chance against Adento.
Miai had never entered the competition with the desire to win anyway. As long as she survived, it was fine by her. Furthermore, she had already lost the competition once. Had Requiem not risked his life to save her, then she would have already been deleted. Thus, with an unspoken agreement, the pair worked in tandem.
A musical song seemed to fill the air. It was a sleepy and delicate tone, and the Cerberus which was just about to lunge suddenly began to calm down. Requiem who hadn’t paid it any mind charged forward recklessly. This allowed him to bridge the distance with Adento, who had been moving more cautiously, hoping the Cerberus’s attention went to his bait rather than him. When he realized its eye started fluttering closed and it sat back down, he finally gave up all decorum and also sprinted.
Getting to the 50th floor was the goal, but it was never explicitly clear if there would be a boss on the 50th floor, or simply stepping on the floor was the condition for victory. Even Clippy didn’t know the answer to this. When someone reached the 50th floor, whatever programming was activated by the lord himself. In other words, the contestants were pulled off the server and placed into a private VR that Clippy didn’t have access to at the moment. Requiem didn’t want to take any chance, so he used his full strength to race toward the stairway. The two men reached it together, shoving against each other as they went down.
Clippy was watching while holding her metaphorical breath. Perhaps, had she been focusing rather than watching the game, she could have come up with something to distract or catch Adento off and cause him to fall behind, but her childish nature had paralyzed her at that moment. Requiem, on the other hand, had all of his focus on making it to the 50th floor.
The two men burst through the 50th floor together, and it was at a level where it was very difficult to tell who had made it first. They ended up running out into a room completely unlike everything so far. To this point, the place had resembled an ancient tomb. The walls were made of stone, and there were columns, archways, and pits like someone might see in a typical dungeon.
As soon as they broke onto the 50th floor, the floor was a flat metal disk. It sat in a circle that seemed to float in a black room that seemed to contain no walls. While there were no walls, it wasn’t dark. Streams of blue code seemed to run up and down in a stream, giving this world a distinct futuristic appearance.
There were various consoles and panels, and at the end of the disk was a large computer with a massive screen. It looked like the set of a spaceship, although rather than looking like a real ship, it had an almost imaginary quality to it.
“Congratulations!” A voice boomed out, and then a face appeared on the screen.
It was the clear face of Lord Saphire. As he looked in, he blinked slightly, his smile turning somewhat odd.
“Oh, my… two victors? And not who I expected as well.”
“That’s right, I’m the victor.” Adento declared. “Is that a problem?”
The man looked slightly displeased, but he quickly covered it up. “Why would that be a problem? However, you’re not the only one in this room. I’m a bit surprised. The entrance is programmed to disappear as soon as someone enters. You would have needed to enter together for this circumstance to occur.”
“The others?” I asked.
“Already being woken up.” He shrugged and then continued. “As for the reason you’re here, it’s natural to pass your awards to you.”
“Wouldn’t that be easier to pass while we’re awake and everyone can see?” Adento demanded cautiously.
Lord Saphire stared for a second and then sighed. “This is always easier when it isn’t commoners.”
“Hey, what is that supposed to mean?”
“The awards needed to be given electronically. Did you think something as important as an exodus token would have a physical form? An exodus token is an encryption algorithm inserted into your mind. The only way it can be taken is by choice or death, and the only way it can be passed on is genetically. The rights to the Nightborn princess are similarly integrated through your brain.”
“S-seriously?” Adento looked shocked.
Requiem was a bit surprised, but it did make a kind of sense. Creating a digital token and forcefully inserting it into the mind would make it extremely secure. Plus, you could use a genetic cipher, meaning that even if someone could crack open someone’s mind, they’d also need their DNA. Requiem had to imagine that a slave as important as the Nightborn princess, whose own code unlocked a fleet, would be bound in such a manner where she couldn’t just be taken by anyone. It seemed like the only thing that came in physical form was the money, and even that was just a number attached to a bio card activated with DNA.
“So, I hope you understand the issue.” Lord Saphire frowned. “Only one of you will be able to accept the rewards.”
Adento shot Requiem an ugly look, but after a second, he sighed. “How about we split it?”
“I’m sorry. That condition won’t work either. The transfer would be sent all as one.” Lord Saphire sighed. “It seems like the first person to touch this will win.”
As he spoke, a small orb appeared on the console. Adento only looked at Requiem for a half-second before he dived for the orb. Requiem was about to race for it too, but then he heard a warning in his mind.
“Wait!” Clippy declared.
Adento ended up slamming face-first into a wall. He stumbled back, falling on his ass. With a bloodied nose, he shot an accusing look at the lord.
“What the hell is the big idea?”
“I… don’t know… there shouldn’t be any restrictions. Let me check…”
“Oh, that won’t be necessary.” A woman’s voice spoke out.
“What is that?” Adento cried out, looking around.
A woman stepped out from behind one of the consoles. She was instantly familiar to Requiem. He had spoken with her briefly during the banquet. She was Lady Darsis. Requiem would have assumed her appearance was intentional, but Lord Saphire looked as confused as everyone else.
“My love, what are you doing in there?” He asked, looking down from his screen.
“Love… how disgusting of a name.” She made an ugly face. “I’m sorry, Saphire, but I’ve just been using you.”
She reached out for the orb…
“You bitch!” Adento shouted. “That’s mine!”
“You wish for an award?” She asked, her voice sounding dangerous.
He bared his teeth at her, which looked pretty intimidating with the blood dripping over them. Requiem immediately got a bad feeling.
“Well, here it is.” She pulled out a small cylindrical device from behind her.
With a flick, she pulled a pin, and then casually and with a look of disdain, tossed the device at Adento. He looked down to see a grenade.
The grenade exploded with a flash of white. The explosion was enough to disintegrate everything on the platform. Requiem jumped into a pocket of safety created by Clippy and hid behind a console. When the light faded, Adento was no more.
As for Lady Darsis, she had changed. She was now wearing an eyepatch, a long black coat, and a tricorn hat. Seeing the two men had disappeared, Requiem only from her sight, she let out a laugh.
“J-just who are you?” Lord Saphire demanded.
“The name is Dreadpirate Darcy! I’m the greatest pirate who ever lived. As for the awards of your competition? They’re all mine!”