~ Side Story: What do you mean LAVA on the FIRST FLOOR?! (Part 2) ~

Angius and Tuberculus slept for three hours, replenishing their Magic Energy and healing their wounds if they had any. Me and Rufus kept watch, but it was mostly me, seeing as how the man was more worried about his own books than anything else. Although I heard some wolves howling at one moment, only three imps dared to attack me. Unlike the ones I had to fight during Illsy’s moment of insanity, these ones went for the kill. They were easy to defeat, but they were certainly tougher than the ones we battled with until then.

Monsters in dungeons usually increased in power depending on the floor’s number and the dungeon’s level. The other factor was the dungeon’s experience with adventurers. Thinking about it from that point of view, this dungeon only had two floors. I checked and Illsy was barely level 53, not even 100 yet. At the first floor, we were supposed to meet no monster, maybe a few rats in the last rooms, but that was about it. On the second floor, we were supposed to meet wild animals: rats, panthers, boars, and maybe wolves. There weren’t supposed to be any traps or lava pits. Harpies and imps were for floors past five. Actually, harpies were in general found only after the fifteenth floor, but what was more disturbing was a first floor boss. The Minotaur was strong and certainly not something anyone barely entering the dungeon would expect.

Basically speaking, Illsy’s dungeon was abnormally dangerous, complex, and powerful. None of the rules we knew about dungeons applied to him. I was starting to believe it was a characteristic of Godlike Dungeon Lord, but it wasn’t that… I remember venturing into one together with mom when I was little. The first levels were identical to regular ones. The difference started from the 15th floor, which was similar in complexity and danger factor to the Ancestral one at the 50th level, then it got even harder.

Could it be that I’m mistaken? Mother is beyond any of the Supremes on the third continents, but still… Sigh… Maybe it was that easy because I was together with her? I thought as I waited patiently for the others to wake up. I pulled my legs to my chest and tried to push away the dark thoughts which told me Illsy was trying to kill us.

Angius was the first to wake up, then was Tuberculus. After a quick breakfast, we prepared to head deeper into the dungeon.

“It’s just the second floor, right? How difficult could it be to navigate this maze?” asked Rufus with a smile.

“It’s probably quite small. Dungeons never rely on long complicated mazes.” said Tuberculus almost certain about it.

“I don’t like those walls…” grumbled Angius.

I agreed with a nod. There was something strange about them. Those reflections and wave patterns weren’t placed there just for decoration. They were certainly meant to mess with our heads.

“Shall we?” asked Tuberculus as he took the lead.

We all followed him and ventured deeper into the dungeon. As usual, we took the left path and even when we heard wolves and imps on the other side, we stuck with it. The maze, however, didn’t prove to be easy at all. Rufus got a headache after the first half an hour. Tuberculus tried to map it, but it proved rather difficult. I was the only one who didn’t look at similarities and differences in the walls. They were meant to make you take those in consideration, to mess with you.

“If any of our students reached this place, they would have ended up lost in here until they were met with…” a powerful flame doused Angius from the top of his head before he could finish his words. “Puha!” he puffed out smoke.

“Fire traps? From the ceiling?” I asked surprised.

“Everyone! Be careful! There may be more of these concealed traps!” shouted Tuberculus right before an imp jumped on him.

He punched it hard, and we raised our guard, but nothing attacked us again.

Was it the only one? I asked myself.

“This dungeon isn’t for Master Ranks… How could a Heroic Dungeon build something like this? It’s impossible…” said Rufus as he shook his head.

It’s simple… he’s not a Heroic but a Godlike. I thought.

If Rufus decided to ask me later about the truth, I feared I wouldn’t be able to hide it from him. Out of all of us, he was the only one who could guess Illsy’s identity just by looking at his actions and this dungeon.

We pressed forward, but we were on guard of traps. I destroyed any I could find, but after one hour of walking around, we finally reached the exit.

Or so we believed…

Upon entering the room, we were faced with a wide floor and a plaque at the end. On it was written the following riddle:

There once was a forest,

That stood as a merciless test

For all those who claimed to be the best!

But merciless as it may be,

Three beasts offered to guide your way:

The Lion was the strongest.

The Wolf followed next.

The Duck was the weakest,

Yet always tried its best.

The Lion was the smartest.

The Wolf was the hungriest.

The Duck was the luckiest.

They all go with you, but only one may lead the way.

Pick the right one, and in your favor, fate shall sway.

Choose the wrong one, and you won’t see the next day.

“Hah! The Dungeon Lord knows how to rhyme!” said Angius, but that wasn’t the most important thing we should have noticed.

This was a puzzle room, something that appeared only starting from floor 150 in EVERY dungeon, yet here was one at the second floor. It was also of a type I had never seen before. The floor was paved with mixed up square tiles. Every tile had the face of an animal mentioned in the riddle: a lion, a wolf, and a duck. On the other side of the room was a door. At first glance, it looked like we could just skip it.

“Why a Duck?” was what Rufus asked.

“Be careful…” I warned them.

It took us about three hours to figure out the riddle because we had no idea what a lion was. At first, we thought it might have been one of the beast folk, but I never heard of a beast of the duck kind, although the wolves were quite numerous. In the end, we made it to the exit. We couldn’t skip it either, the door didn’t budge when I jumped to the other side. We couldn’t just randomly step on things either. When we jumped on the wrong tile, it triggered either a trap or proved to be loose, and we would fall on a spike trap. Tuberculus was the one who tested this out.

We actually spent a longer time there because we wanted to analyze the way the puzzle room was made and what it meant by ‘you won’t see the next day’.

After we walked out of there, we were faced with another maze. It was getting quite frustrating and annoying, especially after imps riding on top of wolves attacked us out of nowhere. Even Tuberculus gave up on his map, the maze was too confusing. At the very least, he did manage to find the entrance to this floor three times and the first puzzle room two times. It was then when Angius, in his frustration, took his map and ate it. The man literally ate the map poor Tuberculus was trying to draw.

A bit later, while going past the room where we destroyed the summoning circles for rats, imps, and wolves, Rufus attacked a wall with a powerful [Fireball], melting it off. We all jumped when we heard the blast, but we soon realized it was a false alarm.

“I thought I heard someone…” he told us.

That was the first sign. He HEARD, he didn’t SEE.

At the end of the day, when we were too tired and frustrated to go on, we stopped in front of the entrance to the next puzzle room and set up camp. We didn’t pack much, so our food was kind of scarce. None of us suspected Illsy’s dungeon to be so hard. I was starting to believe he was intent on killing us. All those traps, the enemies chasing after us through the reflective walls, the optical illusions which drove us mad, they were chipping down at our patience and raising our frustration levels even higher.

I slept for only four hours, but when I woke up, they were all discussing what I feared the most: the fact that Illsyore was planning to kill us.

“I don’t see it any other way… This dungeon is too dangerous even for Master Ranks.” said Tuberculus.

“I told you, you can’t tame a Dungeon Lord! We have to destroy him once we reach the surface!” said Angius as he made a fist as struck the floor.

“I agree…” said Rufus.

“I don’t.” I said as I approached them.

Of course, all the evidence pointed at Illsyore being a mastermind villain who wanted to kill us in a cruel way by torturing us with his traps just like any other dungeon out there, but when I imagined actually destroying him, I remembered how he acted when he was under the effects of that stupid spell scroll. There was a bit of doubt in my heart, something that told me he was innocent and maybe, just maybe, all of this was a misunderstanding.

What if this is the only type of dungeon he knows how to build? He was quite convinced this was an Easy dungeon… It makes me wonder what he understands by Hard or Nightmarish. I thought as I looked at the three teachers who doubted me.

“Why? You’ve seen it too, right? Lava? Harpies? Traps? This maze? Everything is made in such a way to mentally torture us, drain our Magic Armor and then kill us.” commented Angius.

“Indeed… this isn’t normal.” said Rufus.

“Sigh… If he wanted to kill us, he would have come over and shot us with his spells while we were sleeping or trapped us in this maze by blocking the exit. It would have been an easy feat for him.” I explained, but there was something else that created doubt in my heart regarding his evil intentions. That thing or rather her was Shanteya. Why save the el’doraw and heal her if he was evil? I asked myself.

Illsyore’s trial wasn’t over yet. Once we got out of there, we were determined to investigate the matter thoroughly. They were determined to destroy him if they found him guilty of conspiring against us.

With a new weight on our chests, we entered the second puzzle room. This one was a bit simpler. All we had to do was pull some levers in the right combination. The problem was that if we were mistaken, traps were activated all around us. Rufus was in charge of figuring out the combination, while we defended him from the attacks of the traps. We allowed ourselves to stand in front of them because they weren’t enchanted. Illsyore wasn’t able to enchant traps judging by what we faced so far.

Fortunately, Rufus knew what he was doing, and figured out the combination in just four tries. With a smile on our lips, we left the room. The maddening maze continued, and we pushed forward.

Four hours later, we found the entrance to the next room. Illsyore made this section of the floor in a way that required us to finish both puzzle rooms if we wished to find and progress further into the dungeon. It was stressing, annoying, and curses for the dungeon lord kept flowing one after another.

This room looked empty at first, but when we reached the center, countless imps spawned all around us. We were quick to act and defeated the first wave. I rushed ahead and destroyed the summoning circles one after another. No traps were activated in this room, and we were able to proceed forward after we killed the last imp.

The endless maze continued…

For hours and hours we traveled through the endless, confusing, and maddening paths of Illsyore’s torture floor. The traps, imps, and occasional rats harassed us constantly, lowering our Magic Armors and pushing our tempers to the edge. Angius even started to punch the metal walls to relieve himself of the stress.

At one point, we reached what looked like the entrance to another room. We hesitated at first, but Rufus was the one who stepped in front of us and opened the doors. What we found there was another trap, but hidden in another form. Countless giant rats flowed out and jumped on Rufus.

“Rats?” I asked as I jumped back.

“Rats! RATS! GET THEM OFF!” shouted Rufus as he struggled with them.

“Kill them!” shouted Angius.

Rufus chanted the [Fireball] spell and aimed it at the rats, but just when he was about to release it, two of them jumped on him and bit his nose. The spell failed and was shot at Angius instead of the room filled with rats.

“Ugh!” the warrior groaned.

His armor shattered for a moment, and the fire burned his eyebrows. He raised it up before it spread, but the damage had been done. At least, he didn’t look into the flame when it struck him, otherwise, he would have gone blind.

“Argh! This burns!” he complained as he squashed a rat and rubbed his smoking forehead.

“GET THEM OFF!” shouted Rufus as he ran away from us.

“Stop!” I shouted.

The rats chased after their prey, but I knew I couldn’t run off after him.

“Go after him, I’ll destroy the summoning circles!” I shouted at the other two.

Tuberculus fired a few [Ice Spear] spells, killing off a few of the rats and then went after Rufus. Angius followed behind him, while I jumped inside the room.

“You stupid rats!” I shouted as I attacked the floor with my fist, shattering the granite and cracking the circles. Three of them went out in one hit, but four of them jumped on me. I rolled to the side and then smashed the fourth. I jumped again and smashed two more, five to go. The rats didn’t hesitate and continued to attack me, they stopped going after the others and made me their main target. It didn’t matter, I was going to kill them all!

Once I got rid of the last circle, I attacked the rats, and only after that did I go after my friends. I found Tuberculus groaning from a terrible burn to his face. Apparently, Rufus hit him at point blank with a fireball and singed his beard, mustache, and eyebrows. The poor bastard even managed to step into a fire trap and got the top of his head burned off as well. It was a bit funny to look at him, but it was no laughing matter. I picked him up and followed the trail of dead rats.

Rufus was in one of the small imps summoning rooms we cleared earlier. He was punching a few rats with his bare hands, but his Magic Armor was gone. If he stepped into a trap, he was done for. Angius was backing him up, fighting ten other rats.

“Nanya? You have a soft… UGYA!” said Tuberculus, but he didn’t have time to finish his words. For massaging my bottom with his hand, I cooled off his face by smashing him into the cold steel wall.

Leaving the perverted geezer there, I joined the fight. Their hands and clothes were stained from the blood they spilled. Unlike them, I was clean because I focused more Magic Energy into my Magic Armor as we traveled through the maze. Maybe they forgot about theirs?

“This is impossible! This is madness!” shouted Angius as he looked around.

“No! This is Illsyore’s dungeon! But indeed, this isn’t something you would see at the second floor of a regular one… If the students entered instead of us…” I shook my head and refused to think about what would have happened. “We should press forward! The exit can’t be far.” I said.

“I don’t care any more, Nanya, I will destroy this Dungeon Lord! He did it on purpose! I’m sure of it!” he pointed his blood-stained sword at me. He was furious.

“Easy there… we still…” I stopped and blinked surprised.

Something was missing. The feeling was one I knew quite well… Illsyore used Colly Tos again. My anger was spiking. Even if it was accidental, even if it was a misunderstanding, even if he didn’t mean it, to leave me pantyless in this dungeon… Once we got out, it was decided: Illsyore was dead!

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