~ Chapter 5: The Heroes (Part 2) ~
The big difference and the most important one between elves and el'doraw was the fact that the latter would typically have dark shade skins which changed colors all over their body depending on their emotions. Elves weren't like that, their skin was just of a light shade, similarly to the white variant of the human species.
Because of this unique feature of their species, the el'doraw were usually taught from a young age how to control the color of their skin to the point that some individuals could keep it unchanged no matter what they went through on the inside.
Speaking of which, Shanteya was a rare albino variant of the el'doraw species. Her skin was the same as a human's. I remembered the beautiful former assassin who became Illsyore's first slave and companion.
Although she was enslaved by the Dungeon Lord, even when she was granted her freedom back, she stubbornly refused it. Shanteya certainly wouldn't have declined such an opportunity unless she held her master, Illsyore, in high regard.
While thinking about such things, I noticed how one of the statues had no weapons on it, yet it held out its hands with its palms facing the ceiling.
“Wasn't there supposed to be a weapon over there?” I asked as I pointed at it.
The automaton approached at a calm pace and analyzed it carefully for about a minute or so.
“I can't remember.” he replied as he turned around to look at me.
That's odd... I told myself.
With a shrug, I continued to look around to see if I could find anything of interest, but in the end, nothing stood out. All of these so-called heroes had more or less the same story behind them. They started out as weak adventurers, they grew strong, and in the end got in over their heads when they tried to conquer the deeper floors.
None of these fallen individuals were remembered for acts of bravery or standing up for what they believed in. Yandrea gave them the label of 'hero' just because they were strong enough to venture past a certain floor.
Even so, while looking at them and hearing their almost identical tales, there were certain questions which popped up in my mind and which could only be answered by my Godlike Dungeon wife. Our conversation, however, would have to wait for when I was back inside her Inner Mind, where there was only the two of us.
After we left the temple, the automaton brought me to one of the ornak settlements to grab a bite to eat. By now, my empty stomach was growling loud enough to disturb my concentration.
The food I was offered was good, but definitely not one of the best I had. It consisted of monster meat steak, a salad, and some fruits for desert. While I ate, I kept looking around at my surroundings and more specifically at how the ornaks interacted with one another. To be honest, just by glancing at them, it felt like their way of life was restrained. No, it would be better to say that it felt enchained, but maybe it was just me?
Either way, I couldn't feel the same joy or enthusiasm from them as I did from the people living in a village or small town in Shoraya. There was a strange pressure in the air, and although I was a rather strange sight to find in this place, none of them came over to ask me who I was or why I was there. The automaton was the only one who talked with them. He exchanged a few words with the ornaks guarding the gate and then I was led to a tavern. Once I finished eating, I got up and left. Nothing else happened and because of this, I felt like the whole thing was strange, wrong even...
As such, there were a lot of things on my mind when I returned to Yandrea's room early in the evening. After a short greeting, she absorbed me inside her Inner Mind, and I got to greet the enchanting pink-haired elf once more.
Before I got to my questions, we had a small talk about how we spent our time today. While I was off visiting the temples, Yandrea went and repaired the damage done by some of the adventurers on the upper floors. She summoned a few monsters in the areas where their numbers were lacking, and she also made a few random items for the curious adventurers. The Dungeon finished her day by going to absorb the minerals gathered by the ornak and ellyarian miners.
“Ellyarian?” I asked tilting my head to the the left when I heard the strange name.
“Yes.” she replied, then crossing her arms at her chest, she began to explain “Erm, you called them reptilians and dragons before, which isn't wrong, I think, however, they prefer to be called ellyarian. Maybe they first two which you know of are related to them? You know, those you call dragons and the ellyarian?” she asked.
“I wonder... They certainly don't look like the draconians I know, but I said reptilians because they resemble ordinary reptiles.” I scratched my head.
“Maybe. Anyway, how did you spend your day, Tuby?” she asked.
With a smile on my lips, I began to tell her about my visit to the Temple of Heroes. I told her only those things I thought to be interesting, like the two species, the Forglores and the Reiss.
When I told her about the possible missing artifact of the Negvar Elf, she told me that he certainly should have had one. It was a strange crystal of some sort, but she couldn't remember if he had the chance to activate it or not. In fact, she wiped out his party so fast, she became troubled by their lack of strength and worried that the next group would be even weaker. That was why she never bothered to check their artifacts and see if they were dangerous or not.
In the end, our conversation went astray and somehow we ended up talking about irrelevant things like why were the cubs of certain species cute and others scary.
“Well, this was a fun conversation, I have to admit.” I said with a smile as she came close and embraced me.
It was time to go to bed.
“Yes, it was.” Yandrea nodded and snuggled closer to me.
“Before we go to sleep though, I have one last thing I wish to ask you and which has been on my mind ever since I left the Temple of Heroes.” I told her.
“Hm? What is it, Tuby?” she asked.
“Yandrea, what did you feel when you killed those Adventurers? Why did you bait them?” I squinted my eyes at her.
She remained quiet for a moment while resting her head on my chest. I had my arms wrapped around her and was listening to the sound of her soft breath. After she gathered her thoughts, she looked up into my eyes.
“I was afraid... at first.” she said.
“Afraid?” I blinked surprised.
I did not see that one coming. I thought.
Lowering her eyes, she continued “The first Adventurers I encountered was when I was quite young. They tried to kill me... I was a big crystal, a shiny object in their eyes. In order to defend myself, I killed them, but the battle was rather tough. I barely came out unscathed. Even though I won... Even though I won, I was still afraid of the possibility that they weren't alone, that somewhere outside they had friends or family waiting for them and that they would come seeking revenge.” she clenched the shirt on my chest. “I was afraid, Tuby... I was really really afraid!” she said.
Remembering this stuff was scary for her, and I could hardly imagine what it was like to live down here, alone, wondering when the next hunter would come after me. At one point or another, all the Dungeons in the world had to go through something this, and maybe this was the main reason why most of them ended up becoming monsters who tried to do everything they could to kill any intruder.
“For a while... I was safe...” she continued. With sad eyes, she looked at me “But it didn't last long... Groups of adventurers came one after another. They entered my dungeon, they destroyed my traps, and they killed my monsters... Instead of facing them, I dug deeper and made more floors... I made my floors as dangerous as I possibly could. But then...” her hand trembled.
She's shivering? I thought and instinctively pulled her closer to my chest as if wanting to protect her.
“A group of adventurers came... they were powerful... too powerful...” she shook her head.
“What happened?” I asked.
“They destroyed all of my traps and killed all of my monsters... Nothing seemed to be able to stop them. I thought I was going to die... I really did...” she shook her head and clenched my shirt in her hands. “They stopped at my body and pointed their swords at me. I fought desperately against them... but... I lost...” she told me and tears ran down her cheeks.
“You lost?” I asked.
“But they let you live...” I said.
“Yes... on the condition that I made items for them, enchanted ones... Once a month, I was supposed to give them several items. If I failed to do so, they were going to come after me and destroy me.” she said.
It sounds like something veteran dungeon-crawling adventurers do... Depending on the country it's actually against the law to attack a Dungeon's Crystal Core once they reached the last room. Even I did this a couple of times, although... Nanya destroyed them no question asked. I thought.
Looking at how frightened Yandrea was when she remembered those moments made me wonder if maybe those Dungeons I hunted down felt the same as her. That was a strange time in my life... Never did I thought I was going to end up as the husband of one.
“I did as they told me, but meanwhile, I kept digging deeper and deeper, gathering more and more material and growing stronger with each passing day. The adventurers who came after them didn't even bother to go too far down. They even raised a sign saying: Dungeon. Rank Emperor.” she said.
“Rank Emperor? So they use the same ranking system as we do? But does this mean those Adventurers who made you agree to their deal were actually Godlike Rank or even Supreme?” I asked.
“They were Godlike... I think...” she said and then let out a sigh.
After taking a deep breath, she regained her composure. She wasn't shivering anymore, and she wasn't clenching my sword either. Maybe the fact that I remained calm and embraced her helped her out?
“Thank you, Tuby...” she said with a gentle smile on her lips.
“You're welcome, but I'm guessing you eventually grew strong enough not to listen to them anymore?” I asked.
She nodded and then laid her head on my chest “But until then... I kept abiding by their deal. Once I was powerful enough, I turned the tables and lured adventurers deeper and deeper within my dungeon... I killed off all the promising ones before they grew too powerful and became like that party of adventurers. When I stopped supplying them with items, they sent a subjugation force and tried to get me to comply again, but this time... I was ready...” she showed me an innocent smile “I killed every last one of them and turned their remains into Magic Energy.”
A shiver went down my spine.
Yandrea looked like an innocent frightened woman now, but I had to keep in mind that she was Godlike Dungeon who stayed alive by hunting down adventurers. She never was the passive type to let them die off in her traps... She lured, she planned, she schemed, and then she killed...
“So...” I gulped “it was all in order to protect yourself and your people from them?” I asked.
“Yes...” she nodded and then snuggled closer to me.
“Self-defense...” I muttered as I wrapped my arms around her.
At this point I was stepping into a very dangerous territory. On one hand, I had a sweet and charming Yandrea in my arms, but on the other, I became conscious of the fact that she had lived through a traumatizing past and reached the conclusion that it was far better for her to do the hunting and keep matters silent than to have the adventurers come after her while all she did was hide in her room.
I honestly didn't knew what to do in this situation, how to react. A part of me told me that this was wrong, but the other warned me that she might kill me if I questioned her too much...
Troublesome... I thought.
“I made the first one hundred floors in my dungeon to be quite profitable for the adventurers, but they scale quite fast in difficulty, up to the point where around the 90th floor, the Godlike Ranks are starting to struggle a bit. After the 100th floor, I built giant mazes filled only with monsters who vanish after being defeated. They have no chests, no light, nothing profitable for them... It goes like this up until the 300th floor... They are meant to deplete the resources of even the most stubborn adventurers and force them to return. But once in a while, a strong enough and well prepared group manages to push through.” she let out a sigh.
“The heroes?” I asked.
She nods “I lure them deeper on paths with small, insignificant chests and weak monsters. Then, when the time is right, I push them onto the hard paths where I attack them directly with my spells. There's always at least one who dies in the first attack. I don't show them mercy, and I make sure not to let even one of them return to tell the tale.” she says.
For the first time since we began talking about this, I could feel the hatred she held for these people. It wasn't nice, but it still felt like one fueled by the desire to survive and the law of the jungle. It was either them or her, there was no middle way.
At the very least, I highly doubt she added lava on the first floor... I thought as I remembered the wretched dungeon built by Illsyore.
If Yandrea built something like he did, then by the 100th floor, the Supremes would have been cursing her.
Letting out a small sigh, I ask her “Do you think it was alright to lie to your people about these adventurers? I mean, you are treating them as heroes?” I showed her a wry smile.
“I don't really mind. It's my choice how I label those monsters. And why should I care about what those under my protection think? The ellyarian and ornaks are only there to serve me. Without me, they wouldn't have even been born. As for the automatons, I am their maker, what they say doesn't matter. I really don't understand why it should.” she tilted her head to the left as if I had said something strange.
That's a very harsh way of putting it... I thought.
In other words, because Yandrea summoned them or built them as well as gave them a place to live, their will was not their own, and naturally, it was demanded of them to blindly obey her every command.
Yes, there's definitely no way this could EVER go wrong... I thought in a rather sarcastic tone of voice.
“Tuby, as long as I'm around and they are well aware of my power, the truth will only turn them soft. Like this, they live with the fear of not knowing when the next wave of adventurers might come. They know that I granted them the title of hero for being able to reach this far, but they also live with the belief that if I'm not around, these heroes will kill them. My followers must live with this belief and continue to grow strong and more powerful so that when they will meet for real, their might will be unmatched by that of their enemy. As for the adventurers, it's simple: if they want to survive and live another day, all they have to do is not go past the 300th floor.” she replied with a smile.
“I honestly don't know what to say...” I said and shook my head.
“Do you think I'm wrong?” she asked tilting her head.
“I don't know... it's just that... living in lies... It's never good.” I said these words as I gently touched her left cheek. “But what I do know is that I'm glad you survived...” I showed her a smile.
With her cheeks turning pink she nodded and then snuggled in my arms.
“Let's go to sleep. This talk made me tired, Tuby...” she said as she closed her eyes.
“Alright... Good night, Yandrea.” I said.
“Good night, Tuby...” she replied.
Yandrea fell asleep right away, but I didn't... I kept thinking about what she said and how she viewed things. While it didn't feel right for me, I had no idea how to explain my point of view to her. What she did and how she treated her people was definitely wrong, but I was not in a position where I could just brashly state this.
Although highly unlikely, it was quite possible that the ellyarians, the ornaks, and the automatons both accepted and approved of this way of treatment. As such, who was I to claim otherwise?
What I lacked was information and proof as well as a better understanding of my wife. As the former principal of Fellyore Academy and a teacher in magic there, I found it hard for me to ignore Yandrea's misguided view of the world.
But, the question I had to answer was: How could I teach Yandrea the right way without her thinking that I'm trying to conspire against her or trick her?
Then again, even if I did... did it matter or was it too late to change anything?
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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