~ Side Story: In the arms of an angel ~
NOTE: This the same story as the Prologue of GDW web novel, which can be found on this website.
Before I begin to tell you my story, I suppose some sort of introduction is at hand.
My name is Tuberculus Firerage. I am what one may call me… a High Mage. To be noted, I am different from an Archmage. The latter is far more powerful version of a Mage who can do what a High Mage can do, but in every magic specialization…
Oh? Yes, I may have strayed a little bit from my story, but I promise you that it was all worth it!
What? Skip to the action? Sigh… People these days don’t have any respect for the elderly…
[Tuberculus’ point of view]
“You stay out of this, old man… Actually…” Dankyun told me with a smirk on his lips before he snapped his fingers.
Everything that happened afterwards was like a blur. All I felt was a sharp pain in my back, then a kick to that wound. I think I fell or maybe I was tossed off my horse, either way, I landed on the ground a couple of steps away. The animal was startled and pulled back from me.
With my vision blurry and pain surging through my muscles, I tried to get up, but before I could, the one who attacked me hit him hard in the chest. I lost consciousness for a moment, but when I opened my eyes, all I could see was the blood flowing around the dagger impaled in my stomach.
I got… stabbed? I asked myself.
My body was one step away from going into shock. Maybe the reason it didn’t was because everything happened so fast, I simply didn’t have enough time to react or understand what just happened to me. Before I had the chance to, I got dragged away by my attackers. I groaned and squirmed a bit in pain, but I barely had the strength to get up, let alone fight against those who could so easily defeat me.
Is this it? I asked myself while my vision was fading in and out.
The injury wasn’t that bad, but I was suspecting the dagger was poisoned.
As for who attacked me, it certainly wasn’t a draconian. They were holding me by my hands, but I was too close to the ground. Draconians by nature were far taller than humans, elves, or el’doraws. They were tall and strong enough to easily hoist me over their shoulder if they wanted to, although, I vaguely remember being dragged by the hair first. It must have been bothersome to keep it up like that, that was why they switched to carrying me by the hands. At least, they were kind enough to bring my mage hat with them. It was up there, keeping cozy to my scalp, but why would they do that unless they wanted to mock or get rid of the evidence laying around in the middle of the road? As if my blood spread on the ground from my wounds wasn’t enough to hint at my unfortunate fate.
I couldn’t figure out what these two were thinking, but one thing was certain: they weren’t draconian, so the other option had to be el’doraw.
Without a doubt, I saw two of them dressed in soldier armor or maybe disguised in it, walking close to Dankyun. Unlike draconians, who were tall lizard-like people with a tail and slit, reptilian eyes, the el’doraws were close in resemblance to elves, with long, pointy ears; thin, agile bodies; and a knack for magic. The only difference was in their skin, which changed its color depending on their emotions, going from light tones when they were happy to darker ones when they were either angry or mad.
Even so, to be able to execute a surprise attack like that on me could only mean that they were of Godlike or Supreme Rank. I was an Emperor Rank, and I could at the very least defend myself against the first attack of someone of similar or lower power than mine. Despite my age, I spent most of my years crawling through dungeons and fighting against terrible monsters. I doubted there was anyone other than me out there with more knowledge in enchanting or how a dungeon actually worked like.
That was actually the main reason why I started my academy. I wanted to develop my own Dungeon Core and prove to the world through my research that they were created by something or someone, not just magically appear out of thin air… Without the Fellyore Magic Academy, no kingdom would have allowed me to conduct my research, this way, it turned into a project from which the students could benefit and learn dungeon crawling early one, without putting their lives in danger. If Dankyun didn’t arrive, we might have obtained some more funds and expanded…
Was I wrong to accept Princess Ayuseya’s application? She was the sole reason why that Supreme traveled all the way to Shoraya Kingdom from Teslov Kingdom? No…
None of us could have guessed what sort of monster this draconian would prove to be…
In a way, I felt content with dying now. My research was proven to be a success with the birth of Dungeon Lord Illsyore, and I was certain Fellyore Magic Academy would continue to exist with the help of Nanya and my friends: Paladinus, Angius, Zertan, and Rufus. All things considered, they were a group made out of a Godlike and four Emperor Ranks. Not many academies had such powerful teachers, with experience to boot too.
Meanwhile, I was getting old, coming close to my seventies. A trembling old grandpa I was, just not one with a family…
Either way, with everything that happened to me and my academy, I could only suspect the gods had it against me. Dark clouds seemed to loom around my future, calling out to my death, pressing the priests to prepare my grave and send me into the arms of the Underworld Harpies.
I opened my eyes and saw the ground moving under me, leafs and branches form the forest around the Magic Academy. My lungs barely pulled the air around to fill them up, but the scent of blood reminded me of my imminent death.
Is there even a reason to keep on fighting? I asked myself.
A few moments later, we stopped. One of the el’doraw let go of my hand and moved ahead, stopping on the edge of a steep slope. We appeared to be on a hill or near some kind of depression, I couldn’t remember if there was one nearby. Exploring the forest wasn’t exactly my business, that was what Nanya and Angius were for.
What are they doing? I wondered.
A sharp pain surged through my body when I accidentally tensed my muscles.
I’m too old for this… I grumbled in my mind while I abstained from letting out a groan.
“We should kill him here and head back to Dankyun. A pack of Dayuks is ahead, and I don’t want to waste my time fighting them.” said the el’doraw as she returned to us.
The monster she spoke about what was known around these parts as a horned wolf. It was the same size as a Dire Wolf but ten times fiercer and could rip a Beginner Rank in the blink of an eye, even a Master Rank had troubles with them.
“No, sister. I have a MUCH better idea! Hehe!” said the other el’doraw woman, who was currently holding me.
That doesn’t sound too good… I thought.
“Speak, sister. We don’t have any time to waste.”
“Sure!” she giggled and then grabbing me by my neck, she lifted me up with ease.
She’s strong… Ugh… I groaned.
“You said there’s a Dayuk pack not that far from here, right?” she asked.
“Why don’t we leave him for them? Even doggies need a treat from time to time, don’t they?” she tilted her head to the left while showing me a sadistic smirk.
In my current state, I could barely fight against one Dayuk, let alone against an entire pack.
“Sigh. Do as you please.” the sister didn’t oppose.
They didn’t debate any longer on the matter, sealing my fate with those last words of hers.
The el’doraw holding me by the neck took me next to the edge of the steep slope and tossed me over the edge. The moment I hit the ground, my entire body screamed in pain, numbing my senses as I tumbled down the slope. There was no way for me to control my fall, and I ended up hitting all the rocks and branches scattered on the way down. If not for my Magic Armor, even as weak as it was, I would have certainly ended up covered in scratches and bruises.
I tried to stop myself, but until I reached the bottom, it was literally impossible to do so in my weakened state.
“Argh…” I groaned when I came to a halt. “It hurts…” I muttered as I gaped and tried to breath.
The scent of my blood was all around me, letting any nearby dangerous or friendly beast know that I was injured and dying.
I never thought I would end up knocking on death’s door like this, weak and unable even to stand up. Strangely though, I felt somewhat appeased with my current demise. There was nothing worth fighting for, at least from my point of view. Maybe if I closed my eyes, I would just slip away in death’s sweet embrace.
It actually doesn’t sound so bad… I’m tired, and what’s there to fight for? I don’t need riches or castles. There’s nothing to search for, nothing to spark my curiosity. My academy is in good hands with my friends… Such a selfish principal I am to accept my death like this… I thought as I let my breath stop for a moment and closed my eyes.
Pain subsided, and my muscles relaxed. This was it… death…
“One day, you will find the one… It’s just that I’m not her. Tuberculus, don’t waste that beautiful heart of yours with someone like me… I’m not worth it…”
I suddenly opened my eyes and took a deep breath in. My heart was beating fast, and the pain returned, waking me up from that reverie that felt so real as if I was reliving that moment again.
Just gives to show that I’m a stubborn old fool… I thought as I took another breath, refilling my lungs with the much-needed oxygen.
It made me wonder for how long was I in that state, dreaming about Nanya, hearing her sweet voice again. I may have been a fool who fell in love with the wrong woman, but I was one only because I chose to…
Ever since that day faithful day since I first met the feisty girl, Nanya never changed one bit. She remained as young and energetic as always. On the other hand, time was merciless with me. While she kept her beauty: long, black hair; pink lips always smiling even when she didn’t feel joy; and a small, yet bouncy chest; I found myself staring in the mirror at a constantly aging old man. Wrinkles and gray hair were but among the first of many signs to show just how far apart the two of us were.
Despite my magic growing stronger and even reaching the Emperor Rank, I found my mind and ability to focus weakening with each passing year. I was even getting tired much faster and diseases appeared one after another. If not for my healing knowledge and enchants, I may not have even reached my current age.
The only things that didn’t change between us were our clothes. Well, our style of dressing, not our actual clothes. Although it may seem that I enjoyed wearing the same-old robe every day, I actually had an entire dresser filled with them, otherwise, I would have smelled worse than an ornak’s armpit after a week-long battle… and that can be actually used as a lethal weapon.
Nanya always preferred to wear long robes meant for battle, leather pants and an enchanted chainmail hidden underneath all of that, just for those tricky situations where a hit was inevitable. She never was one to fancy the expensive dresses and jewelry. Functionality and practicality were her creed, although, she did make for a gorgeous woman once she put on a long one-piece dress. That woman, despite looking like a teenager, was quite smart and terrifyingly powerful.
Then again, maybe that was the reason why I fell in love with her in the first place? A beautiful black-haired beauty, with charming eyes and a captivating smile. Give her a chance, and she could steal any man’s heart.
Alas, she was the love of my life, but because of her, I stubbornly refused to seek out any other woman. That may have been my biggest mistake yet, however, given how things looked like right now, with me dying like this, if I did find a sweetheart to embrace, she would have ended up a widow…
Nanya… was I wrong to keep the fire in my heart burning just for you? I asked myself as I pushed myself up and dragged my weakened body to the nearby tree.
Leaning with my back against it, I flinched from the pain and looked up at the sky. If blood loss didn’t get me soon enough, then the approaching Dayuks would. There was also the poison I had to worry about, I had no idea what sort it was, but it acted slowly, weakening me. My Magic Armor and Magic Energy were low, maybe not even as powerful as a Beginner Rank. I could barely regenerate it and with every passing second, I felt like I would soon be unable to do even that.
Well… there’s technically still a chance for me… I thought as I pulled out the storage crystal I kept around my neck.
It was made by me and was protected by two very distinct and useful enchantments.: [No Steal] and [Ignore]. The first one kept it safe from anyone using a spell capable of swiping away any item in my possession. The last one was something special I designed a few years back. It was a form of illusion that didn’t alter the physical aspect of the item, it simply made it ‘undetectable’ by one’s perception, basically it made them unconsciously ignore it.
I had to be careful with it though, since even I could accidentally lose it. Now that I think about it, I actually did… When I first made the thing, I left it on my desk and then ended up spending almost an entire month looking for it until I finally found it.
Thanks to these two interesting enchants, neither Dankyun nor the el’doraws took it away from me. If they saw it or even caught a glimpse of it, they would have definitely stolen it.
With a sigh escaping my lips, I took out a white crystal the size of my palm out of it. If I had a Rejuvenation crystal or any other healing crystal in there, I would have used it, but that was the one thing I didn’t stack up on. I left my last one with Nanya, believing that it would be of better use to her than an old man like me. It was a decision I didn’t regret even now.
Looking at it, I was remembered how I found this weird crystal twelve years ago. It was during a dungeon crawl with Nanya and Paladinus. We were on the eight floor… After a few traps, we found the remains of some dead adventurers. Among them, a mage had this spell crystal in one of his pockets. It was white and without a drop of Magic Energy charged in it. Later, I found out that it had [Teleportation], but the nature of the spell was uncertain and unstable. No one knew exactly what it did, and no one dared to try it out. Even I wasn’t able to figure it out, but instead of selling it, I kept it and charged it with Magic Energy as a hobby of sorts.
I never thought I would get to use this… I thought as I placed my storage crystal back and looked at the perfectly shaped crystal in my hand.
It was the work of a brilliant mage, I was certain of it.
A hope or maybe my end… I sighed.
Even so, it wasn’t the first of its kind I found. The one I left with Nanya was the one I bought from an old Spell Crystal seller. I gave him two gold coins for it… Unfortunately, I didn’t charge it completely, and that one was a bit more tricky than the unknown one I held in my hand. It simply teleported the user in one direction: south-east, but at least you knew where it sent you, this one, not so much.
The growl came from in front of me. Looking up, I saw two Dayuks coming out from behind the trees. They approached me carefully since they could feel my Magic Armor. Even if I was in my best of strength, I still would have had a bit of trouble with these beasts. Normally, one wouldn’t dare to face them on their own because they could easily surround them and then overpower them.
Theoretically, for building my Magic Academy, I should have used a much safer area instead of this monster infested forest. Unfortunately, it was just perfect for my dungeon experiment. Another plus it had was that it allowed me to offer my students quick first-hand experiences in combating dangerous monsters.
This is it, I guess… I thought as I saw another Dayuk coming out of the bushes to my left. More were approaching.
If I were to pick where I wanted to be teleported to, I would have chosen a peaceful meadow or plains filled with beautiful flowers. It sounded like the perfect place where I could give my last breath in this world. As for being saved… now it sounded a bit like a joke. There was no way I would end up teleporting close enough to a healer able to both cure me of poison and heal my wounds. The gods simply hated me too much for something like that to happen as proven by my current… predicament.
Thus, I closed my eyes and squeezed the spell crystal in my hand.
“Teleport.” I said.
In that moment, I felt the flow of energy being unleashed from inside the spell crystal and completely surrounding me. There was enough power in there to cast more than a couple of Supreme Ranked spells at the same time, enough to wipe out this entire area of any form of life. A truly terrifying amount of energy, and all of it was currently being used to teleport me somewhere, hopefully, not closer to the jaws of those Dayuks or some other monster.
I waited patiently for the spell to be over, and when it did, the dirt had vanished from under my feet. It was replaced with something hard, flat, and cold. The air turned damp and smelly like the inside of a cell. The sounds changed as well, silencing the growls of monsters as well as the song of the forest.
When I opened my eyes, the scenery was different. Instead of the lush forest with tall, green trees, I now saw a cold, dark, and damp corridor made of stone bricks like I often saw in temples or dungeons. The ceiling reached at over three meters tall, maybe a bit more if my estimations weren’t wrong. Looking either left or right, I saw no distinction in the corridor, no doors or decorations, not even a window or a torch, however, there was a bit of light in here, faint but definitely there.
For a moment, I thought I managed to save myself, to get away from the monsters and dangers lurking for me in that forest, but then I heard it…
Breathing hard and dragging a chain of white skulls in one hand, while carrying a shield in the other. With long sharp horns, and wearing a full plated armor, a Minotaur appeared at the left end of the corridor. The beast barely fit inside the tight corridor, but it probably didn’t need much space anyway. The shield it carried was filled with sharp spikes aimed at whoever stood in his way.
Gulping once, I tried then to pull myself back, to run away from this monster, but I didn’t even have enough strength to stand up, let alone run.
What’s a Minotaur doing here? I asked myself while, for some reason, still hoping I wasn’t where I thought I was.
Taking out my storage crystal, I removed from it a Dungeon Level Detection Stone and used a bit of magic energy on it. Meanwhile, my mind was trying to deny the fact, to come up with all sorts of reasons as to why a Minotaur was inside that corridor. I prayed it wouldn’t be so, but when the stone let out a yellow glow, displaying a number, I realized the horror of my fate.
This… this can’t be true… I thought as I looked at the golden number displayed on the black stone.
My worst fear was confirmed. I wasn’t in some safe temple or castle, I was in a dungeon, and to make things even worse, this was a level 1126 Dungeon.
It was an insane level unheard of before on any of the three continents. No record, or historical document even mentioned something as ridiculously powerful as what I was being shown. It was a monstrous dungeon without match, something that not even a party formed of all the known Supremes could manage to clear.
Lady Luck must really hate me if I ended up teleported inside this monster… I thought this was impossible? Gods! What did I ever do to upset all of you? I asked myself as I looked at the Minotaur getting closer and closer to me.
He wasn’t even running at me. I was an injured and weak, not even a match for a Merion, let alone a Minotaur.
“GRAO!!!” shouted the beast, startling me.
He pounded his chest armor a couple of times and then prepared to charge at me.
No… This can’t be! I have to get away! I thought as I panicked and looked around for some way to escape.
My mind went to the teleportation crystal in my hand, but what I saw instead was a pile of white powder. The crystal was gone.
No… I thought as I felt my last drop of hope fading away.
Unable to run, unable to hide, unable to launch even a single attack against this monster… my fate was sealed. I was meant to die squashed by the shield of a Minotaur in a ridiculously powerful dungeon.
“Stop!” a young woman’s voice echoed on the walls of the corridor.
Blinking surprised, I looked around, but I couldn’t see where she was.
Who? I thought and foolishly tried to get up, but then my mind reminded me of my injuries.
The pain surged through my muscles and bones, pinning me down on the walls, forcing me to gasp.
The Minotaur listened to the voice of the woman and turned around, going back the same way it came. I was relieved to see this, but who could have had such power over that beast?
“You! Mortal!” the voice addressed me from somewhere, but I could see her “What are you?” was her first question.
I blinked surprised.
Is she maybe the voice of the dungeon? Is she communicating like Illsyore did? I thought while looking at the wall in front of me.
If there was one thing I always found both surprising and fascinating, that was Illsyore’s ability to talk with anyone he desired to, wherever on his Dungeon Territory they were. He made you aware that he was always somewhere out there, watching over all of us, protecting us.
“Didn’t you hear me? I asked what manner of creature are you?” the voice repeated herself with a commanding tone while I was lost in thought.
Once more, her question confused me. I looked down at my hand covered in my own dried blood and then back up at the wall.
“I’m a human…” I replied.
“Hu… Human? I never heard or seen any of your kind before. You look like an elf, well… sort off… minus the beauty.” she spoke with a rather excited tone of voice, like a child who had just found an new toy.
First of my kind? That’s impossible… Humans are spread on all the three continents… unless I’m not on one of them. I thought as I came to a rather frightening conclusion.
“Are… Are we that rare around these parts?” I asked a bit reluctantly, trying to form a smile on my old wrinkled face.
“Yes! Very! As I said, you are the very first one I saw in the past couple of centuries!” she replied while her voice reminded me of a young maiden squealing a the sight of her perfectly ornamented birthday cake.
“Unfortunately, I won’t be able to keep you company for long…” I showed her a bitter smile and looked down at my wounds.
It was a wonder I managed to survive until now, but I was feeling the end getting close. Maybe even these few moments I spent talking to this dungeon were seeping away at my life force faster than I thought. My heart and breath could come to a stop in any moment now.
“What? Why?” she asked as if it wasn’t obvious enough.
“You see…” I looked up and kept that foolish smile of mine “I’m an old man… a fool with little to no luck as it seems. I’m injured… I’m dying…” I told her and then showed her my blood-drenched palm.
I spoke those words a bit out of breath. My strength was fading fast and my vision was blurry.
“Dying? But you just got here!” she complained like a child.
The sound of her voice, however, made me smile. At the very least, she seemed nice and sweet like Illsyore, not one of those monster dungeons I used to crawl and search for treasure.
“Maybe… Maybe some of you, dungeons, aren’t as bad as others claim you to be…” I said and closed my eyes.
I’m tired… I thought.
“No… No!… Wa… Wake up… You… have to… can’t… won’t… it… allow it…” bits and pieces of her words was all I could hear.
The weakness took me fast, my breath was slowly coming to a stop, and her voice was nothing but an echo in the background. I felt like sleeping, like closing my eyes and drifting away in that never-ending sea.
Was I dreaming?
The dungeon kept trying to tell me something, to wake me up, but I couldn’t reply, I couldn’t even hear her properly. I was slipping too fast and too deep into that warm, cozy darkness, into the cold embrace of death.
I clearly underestimated my remaining time in this life… Indeed, a foolish old man I was, one who didn’t even manage to fulfill his love… Maybe if I had another chance, no… that was impossible.
“HEY!” the shout forced me to open my eyes, and a sudden jet of cold water washed over me.
Although I was cold, I couldn’t even shiver…
“This is important, so listen! Answer ‘Yes’ and I’ll be able to save you!” the female dungeon told me.
I wanted to smile and tell her there was no way she could save a senile old fool from his dying fate.
“Will you marry me?” she suddenly asked, but maybe I just heard wrong.
Who in their right mind would ask a dying old man to marry them?
I closed my eyes for a moment, but with my last breath, I decided to play her game. It wasn’t like anything was going to change. It wasn’t like fate could be fought against… Lady Luck abandoned me a long time ago. She abandoned this senile old fool.
<Do you accept?> Y/N
What a ridiculous message. I thought.
My lips whispered a dying ‘Yes’
Believe it or not, that last ditch of effort from my side, that last word I spoke would be the last one from my life as Tuberculus Firerage, the principal of Fellyore Magic Academy, and the first as Tuberculus Firerage, the husband of Yandrea, the Godlike Dungeon…
Now, my friends, many adventures awaited both of us… many stories to tell and many songs to spread, both of heroics and villainy…
Would you care to listen to more?
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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