~ Chapter 35: The ‘monster’ hidden in the shadows of my dungeon ~
[Roderique’s Point of View]
I managed to survive somehow…
Huffing and puffing, I looked back and saw the dead imps on the floor. Only bits and pieces remained after I attacked them. The battle was tough, but it was not over yet. Without any soldiers to support me and tortured by the complexity of this infernal maze filled with traps and monsters, I was now faced with an even greater danger. Somewhere within the darkness and shadows before me, a terrifying monster laid hidden, waiting for the opportune moment when to jump out and slit my throat!
“Show yourself!” I shouted at the steel walls.
It was like my own reflections were sneering back at me, pointing at my failure with those accusing eyes. It sickened me, but I tried my best to ignore them, to look away.
“Grrr!” the terrifying growl kept popping up here and there, now it was behind me.
I turned around to look, but there was nothing there, only the dead imps.
How did I end up in this situation? I shook my head and tried to calm down.
What happened? I asked myself as I leaned back on the cold wall and looked up at the ceiling. My fingers clenched tight around the hilt of my sword, and I tried to remember what happened in this last hour.
After we climbed down the ladder, it vanished just like that. Milord Dankyun wasn’t worried about this, but there was something that made him mad, something that made him scream. What was it? Ah, yes! The bodies of the two el’doraw scouts he sent ahead of us to find this accursed dungeon. They were placed at the entrance as a macabre welcoming gift. One body was skewered and burned, the other was impaled in the head and had its bones crushed. I think the mocking message on the wall was also to blame. Milord stayed behind at the entrance just to make sure none of our soldiers dared to turn tail and run. This included us, his loyal commanders. As for those two women, whatever killed them was still inside this maze, I was certain of it.
I let out a sigh and looked to my left then to my right.
“AAA!” the scream of a soldier was heard somewhere, lost among the reflecting walls of this unending maze.
Gulping, I forced myself not to go in that direction. More than half of our force was already devoured by the madness of this maze. Imps, wolves, rats, boars, harpies, traps, illusions, and that monster that lurked in the darkness were all found all over this place.
It makes no sense, absolutely no sense! A young dungeon isn’t supposed to be this difficult! I shouted in my mind.
Looking at the ground, I remembered Milord Dankyun’s orders: “Find the exit to this maze. NOW!”
After that, we split up into three groups. All three of us, Emperor Rank commanders, took a different path through the maze and killed off anything that stood in our way. Meanwhile, Dankyun remained at the entrance and awaited our triumphant return.
“Triumphant… heh!” I laughed.
Six soldiers advanced with me, but not even half of them survived after the first puzzle room. One was killed by some imps that attacked him from behind. Another died in a spike trap. Two more died in a battle with some imps after they were pushed in some arrow and fire traps. The others remained by my side, but there was something lurking in the darkness. Before I realized that we were being hunted, the other two soldiers had their throats slit open. I was the last one standing, and I had no idea where the exit was or even how to get back to the entrance.
“I’m not going to die here…” I told myself and cringed my teeth.
When I stood up and looked to my right, there she was, standing in my path.
With a glistening silver hair and wearing a black leather suit, a beautiful el’doraw woman was looking back at me. She was charming, captivating, but also dangerous. I could feel it in the marrow of my bones that she was deadlier than my wife after she found out I was cheating on her.
But this was no laughing matter… This el’doraw was here only for one thing… to kill me.
“So be it! I’ll take you on, you demon!” I shouted and took my stance.
Raising my sword up, I was prepared to attack. If I would win or not, it remained to be seen…
[Illsyore’s point of view]
I led Shanteya through the twisted paths of my maze until we encountered the first group of soldiers. One of the commanders was with them. Truth be told, after that insult and direct attack to Dankyun’s pride, I was expecting him to rage at me with his sword unsheathed and run straight into my traps not yell once and then send his dogs after me. I guess I was wrong…
Either way, he handed me on a silver platter the perfect opportunity to finish his little army one soldier at a time. Of course, the one to do it wasn’t going to be me, but the one with more experience in taking another sentient being’s life: Shanteya. And she was good at it, really good!
The moment my beloved el’doraw moved through the silence of the darkness in the maze, all traces of her seemed to vanish. Before anyone had a chance to realize where she was, Shanteya had already silenced one of them with a swift dagger stabbed in their throat.
At first, we only found three wandering soldiers. The first one died in such a quiet way the others didn’t even notice he was gone. The second one managed to yell once, but Shanteya didn’t wait for the other to strike first. A swift dagger to the heart, right between his armor plates, finished him off. The move surprised me, and I thought it was flawless, but she let me know it wasn’t. She had to force the blade a bit in order to push through, cracking one of his ribs in the process. Still, it wasn’t something I could accomplish or even wished to in the first place.
Once we reached the bigger group, I used some imps to cause a distraction. Honestly speaking, I didn’t expect them to kill one of the soldiers. The little buggers simply jumped on him and finished him off in a jiffy! The others pulled back, but didn’t try to save their friend.
Either way, one by one, the soldiers were killed until only Shanteya remained with the commander. Now it was time for their big battle, although, I wasn’t expecting much of it. After all, he was only an Emperor Rank, while Shanteya had enough stat points to be considered a lower Supreme Rank even if she didn’t have the required skills.
I was quite curious to see how this battle was going to end, so I watched them carefully.
Shanteya analyzed him first, she looked at his armor, his weapon, and his eyes. From what I could tell, she was trying to find out his weakness or if he had something special stored up just in case a threat like her appeared. It was a wise decision if I were to say so myself.
When the battle started, the commander was the first one attack. Shanteya jumped to the left and avoided the first strike. Then, using the wall, she threw herself at him. Thinking it was a chance, the draconian tried to slice my el’doraw slave in half while she was still in the air, but his blade was deflected by her dagger. Touching the ground, she stopped herself and kicked the man in his left side. The power was Godlike level, and the man’s Magic Armor cracked. As a result of the sheer force, he was tossed into a nearby wall.
“Gah!” he grimaced and got off the floor, but Shanteya was already next to him.
The next strike was a fast thrust with the enchanted dagger straight into his heart. It ignored most of his Magic Armor, slipped through the metal plates and then pierced his flesh. The draconian commander died before he got the chance to cast a spell or do some actual damage to Shanteya. As for how she managed this feat despite his Magic Armor, well… she used the dagger of one of those el’doraw assassins, the one used to kill Elovier. It was the only weapon of theirs I didn’t absorb, and it turned out it was enchanted with a similar spell I had on my spikes.
“Off to the next one!” I declared, and we left the man’s body to rot there.
For now, there was no need for me to absorb their bodies or move them away. Once this battle was over, the cleaning would commence, but until then, I left them where they died.
“Very well, Master.” she said with a bow.
Looking at him one last time, she noticed his pendant and took it off.
“Souvenir?” I asked as a joke.
“No, this is a spell crystal capable of storing items. It might prove useful in the future.” she noted.
“I see. Good thinking!” I complimented her, and she showed me a smile in return.
From there on, we proceeded with our hunt of all the draconian soldiers and commanders who popped in our way. With Dankyun the mighty Grumpy staying at the entrance and waiting for his loyal minions to return with the exit key, we didn’t have to worry about any sudden surprises from him. I stuck close to Shanteya as well just in case he decided to cast his Supreme Skill inside this floor, but I highly doubted such a thing would happen for the simple reason that he didn’t see me as worthy enough for it, which was a good thing. It actually took something off my list of things to worry about.
This didn’t mean, however, that I wasn’t planning on starting my attack on him. For each step we took through the dungeon, I reset the traps and recharged the summoning circles, making it even more dangerous for the soldiers if they wanted to turn around. Truth be told, some of them who got lost did try to do this and didn’t realize the traps were reset. The end result was an agonizing and painful death for them. I didn’t stay to watch though.
Me and Shanteya were hot on the tracks of the second commander. He was a brawny draconian sitting at an imposing stature above all of his soldiers. It was a good thing I had 3 meters tall walls, or was it? Lower ceilings would have meant more troubles for the usually tall draconians, but also for my slave and wives. I had to admit though, the commander looked rather intimidating, but my cute el’doraw didn’t think so. Without a second thought, she moved behind the last soldier, slit his throat and pulled his body back.
Watching this reminded me of a stealth game I used to play. I always dragged the bodies back into a corner where not even Death herself could find them. The draconian didn’t even have a chance to wave his hands around or scream. By the time the draconian commander realized he lost some of his soldiers, it was too late, and we had him cornered.
“Commander Theyon! What do we do?” asked one of the soldiers.
“You fight!” he replied and dashed at Shanteya.
This one was wearing a full-plated armor and wielding a big, two-handed axe. With one fast swipe, he could easily take down an imp or maybe even a Minotaur. The el’doraw was too fast for him, however, and the first strike landed on the floor, leaving a gaping cut in it. Next was the soldier who spoke earlier. With his sword raised, he tried to attack Shanteya using a [Dash] skill like the commander did, but the result was the same. She dodged, and he missed, allowing her the perfect opportunity to use her dagger, cut through his Magic Armor and pierce his chest.
“Gah!” he spat out blood and fell on one knee, but he wasn’t dead yet.
After pulling out her blade, Shanteya jumped back and avoided Theyon’s attack from behind. It was a near miss, but even if it had struck, it wouldn’t have cut through to her. His weapon wasn’t enchanted.
“Stay still, you pest!” he shouted at her, but she wasn’t planning on listening to him.
By the time the commander lifted his axe up, she was already next to him and punched him in the face. I was surprised by this as well, but instead of using her dagger, she used her fist. The force behind that hit was so powerful, it sent the commander flying, axe and all, into the wall on the other side of the corridor, just as she did with Elovier. The remaining soldiers could only gasp in surprise as they looked at her incredible feat.
“Ugh… you…” the commander tried to say something while getting up from the ground.
His Magic Armor was shattered, his plated armor was cracked and bent from the impact, and his nose was bleeding like running tap water, however, he didn’t lose track of his target. Like a true warrior, he stood up and prepared himself for another attack from her. Unfortunately for him, someone else attacked him. From his right, a dire wolf sprung forward and sank its teeth into his throat. The imp riding the wolf used his club and struck Theyon in the jaw, dislocating it.
“Uga gi gi!” screamed the imp proud of his victory.
“Ugyan ga gi!” he then pointed at Theyon’s metal boots and spoke some other bizarre words.
In the next moment, three imps appeared, took off Theyon’s boots and then they all ran away. Me and Shanteya just stood there and watched dumbfounded what they did.
What’s wrong with these imps? I wondered, but I just hoped they were looking for trophies and spoils of war instead of something to hump like the one I remembered I had to obliterate.
Theyon died a moment later from heavy bleeding. The wolf’s sharp teeth managed to slash open his jugular veins.
I heard the ding of a new level, but I didn’t check my status. I probably gained more than ten levels since the last time I checked. What kept me from checking it was the thought of having nothing to upgrade since the idiotic darkness inside of me sealed away my only Emperor Rank Skill.
“P-Please! Spare us!” begged the remaining soldiers.
The one attacked by Shanteya was now dead, and the last of them were on their knees, bowing their heads down to her. They weren’t a threat, and with their commander dead, they had practically no chance of winning against her.
“Let them live.” I ordered Shanteya.
“As you wish, Master.” she replied.
“Thank you! Thank you!” they said at the same time.
We left them alone and walked away from the scene.
Finding the last one of the commanders proved to be a bit harder since he was located a bit deeper into the maze, unlike the other two. My guess was that he was probably next to the imp spawning room when the others completed their puzzles. Speaking of which, I was rather surprised to see how fast Theyon finished his. For a moment, I thought he was actually smart, but there was a high chance he just got really lucky with it.
When we entered the spawning room, we saw the scene of a massacre. Imp bodies were scattered all over the place, cut into pieces or smashed by a powerful force. The circles were destroyed, but there were no signs of dead draconian soldiers. This enemy was far more powerful than the other two.
Threading carefully, we advanced through the maze until we were met with the remnants of another battle scene, but this one was also a bit strange. We saw the bodies of three draconian soldiers, but no trace of traps or monsters to be blamed for their death. This was a so-called clean corridor where no danger resided, yet these soldiers had been cut down by something or someone.
“They were stabbed and slashed by swords.” explained Shanteya as she knelt down next to one of them and checked his wounds.
“There are three draconians ahead of us. They are probably the survivors.” I told her after I did a quick check.
Nodding once, she moved away from the bodies and ran in the direction I pointed her into. After a few turns, we finally encountered the group of three. In the middle was a tall draconian wielding a big shield and a long sword. On his left and right were two soldiers with their shields up, forming a wall around him.
“Can you get behind him?” I asked Shanteya.
“No.” she replied.
Well, I could cast a fireball at them and split them up, giving Shanteya the perfect opportunity to engage them one by one, but something felt off about this group. The three draconians from before had been killed not by traps or imps but by these fellows. If they wanted to flee, they could have been killed for treason, but then why stop in the middle of the corridor like they did?
This group seems to have been the best at navigating through my maze. They even survived the Imp Spawning Room, so why try to flee? It doesn’t make sense… Hm? Are they waiting for someone by any chance? Dankyun? I asked myself and then looked back to check on the Supreme’s location. It didn’t change.
“Let’s try something… Reveal yourself, Shanteya, but stay on guard and be ready to retreat the moment you sense trouble.” I whispered to her.
She nodded and moved out of the shadows.
“I mean no harm!” the tall draconian in the back declared as soon as he spotted her.
The el’doraw stopped.
Well… that’s new! I thought and then ordered “Explain yourself.”
“I wish to know if what Princess Ayuseya said was true or not.” he replied while trying to find out where exactly my voice was coming from.
I moved in front of them and then asked “About what?”
“Her curse. The one taking the lives of the royal family! Is it true that it has been lifted?”
“On her at least, yes.” I replied.
Unexpectedly, he let out a sigh of relief, and the two soldiers smiled at each other.
“Then… then there’s a chance for our kingdom…” he said.
“Huh?” I was a bit confused.
“My name is Zarus Dennekar. I am the son of Joviar Dennekar, the Godlike Ranked General who married the youngest daughter of the Pleyades King from seven royal generations ago. My mother was the Princess’ maid at that time and by blood, I am Princess Ayuseya Pleyades great great great great great grand uncle from her great great great great great great grandfather’s family side!” he declared proudly.
That’s a lot of greats… I thought.
“So you are related… and?” I asked squinting my eyes at him.
“For the past two centuries, my father has been searching for a cure for the Royal Family. When he went into an expedition with Dankyun, he never came back, and I long suspected the Supreme for having done something to him. The only reason I joined him was to find out the truth, but even if I did, I fear I was and still am too weak to do anything to him. Even so, I do not wish for this draconian to marry or kill Princess Ayuseya! There are many still loyal to the Royal house despite its current weakness. I am one of them. That’s why I believe that me battling you and helping Dankyun find Princess Ayuseya would only bring disaster to our kingdom. If possible, I wish for you to defeat Dankyun or at the very least flee with the princess. The future of our kingdom may very well depend on the results of this upcoming battle, especially since she is now freed of that god-awful curse!” he declared with a solemn tone, unwavering and showing not even the smallest regret in his decision to betray Dankyun.
His words sounded truthful, but I had my doubts. It sounded like a very good plot to make me lower my guard or have Ayuseya and Shanteya lower theirs so he could get close and kill us. Considering how deceitful Dankyun was, I had my bets on the possibility that this whole thing was a trap.
Just kill him, and that’s the end of the problem… A sudden thought popped in my mind.
Indeed, killing him would have solved the problem. If this was a game, I could have went online to look for a walkthrough, or save the game here, make a choice and then see what it led to. Usually, saving and trusting people brought you good points, killing them resulted in negative points. Either way, this wasn’t a game, this was real life. A choice like this could eventually lead to either the saving or the loss of one or more human lives.
I had to be careful…
Just kill him… the thought popped up again, and I shook my head.
“What do you intend to do if I let you go?” I asked.
“I wish to return to Teslov and bring this wonderful news back to the first prince, however, I would suggest if possible not to let Princess Ayuseya return without the escort of a Supreme. There are many spies and nobles who would see the removal of the curse as a threat rather than a hope for our kingdom.” he explained calmly.
Well… this solves my problem. I thought.
“You don’t want to stay along for the battle?” I asked.
“I’m an Emperor Rank, at most a lower Godlike. I have no means to be of assistance to you, Dungeon Lord. However, by going back to the kingdom, I can warn them of Dankyun’s betrayal and ensure that he doesn’t get a second chance no matter what the outcome of this battle will be. At the same time, I can bring news that a way to remove the curse exists indeed.” he explained.
“Wouldn’t that put a target on you?”
“No doubt, but it is a risk I must take!” he replied punching his chest.
“Why didn’t you act sooner?” I questioned him.
“Dankyun used his authority to brand as traitors anyone who opposed him and then killed them off before they had the chance to explain their actions to someone who would actually listen. Once this was clear to me, I did my best not to stand in his way. My own weakness is my curse to bear.” he explained clenching his fist and looking down at the floor.
“Why now then?”
“I believe this to be the best moment to take action. Only a few of his soldiers were with me, and if this negotiation was to fail, we would die either at your hands or his. Your dungeon far surpasses the abilities of a Master or Emperor Rank.” he explained calmly.
In other words, this was the only moment when Dankyun’s dogs weren’t pointing their ears at him.
“Very well… I’ll let you go.” I told him.
I wonder if I can make my dungeon see them as allies.
<Do you wish to set the selected individuals as Friendly?> Y/N
And ‘Yes’ was my answer.
These pop-ups never failed to surprise me or annoy me, it always had to be one of the two.
“I think the monsters and traps won’t react to you anymore, but if I see you moving any deeper, I’ll reset your status to Enemy, and they will engage you.” I warned them.
“Of course, just erm… lead us or point us the right way. We’re kind of lost…” Zarus said after looking left and right.
“Sigh…” I looked back at Shanteya and then at him. There seemed to be only one way out of this one.
I flew back to my cute el’doraw and absorbed her. After this, I would engage Dankyun, so keeping her around would only put her in needless danger. I returned to the group of three and told them to follow my voice. Without delay, they did as told, and when I asked them about the other dead draconians.
“They were loyal only to Dankyun and attacked us when they heard what I intended to do, meaning speak with you.” was Zarus’ answer.
It took a while to lead them back, but instead of sending them straight into Dankyun’s jaws, I led them on a path that brought them closest to the Supreme. There, I sealed them off in a room to cut off unwanted access.
Using the [Create a Room] skill, I made a path through the walls, leading to the first floor, in the mini boss room. It was a steep path, but they didn’t complain about it. Once they were out, I covered the entrance and guided them back outside.
“This is it.” I told them after we crossed the lava moat.
“Thank you, Dungeon Lord. Just a word of advice. It’s very likely that Dankyun has many Spell Crystals on him. Throughout our journey from Teslov to here, I always saw him charging them with his Magic Energy.” he warned me.
“Understood. Thank you.” I told him, and the three of them left.
It made sense for the Supreme to have more of those annoying things. They were like potions in a game. It always was a wise thing to bring with you to a battle more consumables than you would normally use for the simple reason that you never knew when you might need them. The difference was that in those sort of games, I always ended up with 999 Potions of all kinds, and during the final boss fight, I barely used three or four, maybe ten if I was on hard or above difficulty.
Note from the author: Thank you for reading this chapter, I hope you enjoyed it! Oh, and be sure to check out my other stories too!
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