Chapter 64: The Spider Queen and Labyrinth
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I was still perched on the thorax of the Arachne, and my vision was starting to get hazy. Mabel had yet to move or twitch, and I wasn’t sure how much longer I could keep conscious. Taking advantage of the pause, I brought one of the health potions to my mouth, hastily swallowing it down. Almost immediately I started feeling better. The haze over my vision dissipated, and the wound on my arm felt less like searing pain, and more like annoying itching.

I tried to move, but after a small check of my status, I found that my stamina had bottomed out, as well as my mana. The combination of mental exhaustion and fatigue from running out of mana combined with the pure physical exhaustion from running out of stamina meant that movements relying on any amount of force were nearly impossible. The only way I would be getting off this Arachne's back is if I was being carried.

Gently I turned my head, looking up at Mabel’s torso, finding that she was very much still alive and conscious. Based on the movement of her shoulders and the gentle tremor of her upper body, she appeared to be sobbing.

“Umm… what’s going on? Did I win?”

I honestly didn’t know what to do… she had just tried to kill me, and was now weeping? I assume that her failure weighed heavily on her mind.

After a minute or so, my stamina had ticked up enough to let me move. I gently pushed myself off of her back, tumbling to the ground. Straining under the sheer effort, I stood up and turned to look at the balcony.

The queen was still there, quietly looking at the scene with a curious glance.

Seeing that I was up again, she called out, “That’s enough, Mabel. Come back inside. I’ll get you another gem before the little Cheetah gets here. Don’t worry.”

Apparently, that was the right thing to say, because immediately the guard captain returned to her more threatening demeanor. Wait… she was sad because the gem broke? For real? What kind of half-assed final boss was this? The number of questions I needed to ask the queen continued to increase.

“Ms. Gale, if you would, please follow Mabel deeper into my chambers. Mabel, take our guest to the tearoom, please.”

“Yes, your Majesty!”

The queen turned and left, her guards following her back into the complex. The guard captain made a quick bow, keeping her head lowered until the queen was out of sight.

Shuffling her legs to get a better look at me, Mabel spoke again in a curt voice. One that held a modicum of respect.

“Follow me.”

She turned, walking back towards the hidden doors she entered from without looking back to check if I was following. I picked up the pace, marching after her. Once she had reached the wall, the doors revealed themselves again, opening to the inside on smooth hinges, guiding us into the inner halls.

Luna, is this normal? Shouldn’t I have left the dungeon or something already?

You should have, yes. After beating the final boss, you would get an alert about your progress and any additional benefits from the floor, then you would get your drops. Finally, it should boot you back to the hub. You should not be able to spend any more time here, and most importantly, the boss should not have been able to survive.

There is no mechanic build in for multiple difficulties in dungeons, or at least there shouldn’t be. That’s not to mention the fact that Mabel is far stronger than she should be. That armor was nothing to scoff at.

That’s what I thought. Let me know if you see anything important. Hopefully, we can get some answers from the queen.

The hidden parts of the Queen’s chambers were decorated similarly to the fourteenth floor. They were extremely fancy but had been done up in a neat, intentional manner. Unexpectedly, the halls were massive and winding. Servants moved about, passing us by. Whenever they did, they looked at Mabel with obvious reverence but tended to approach me with caution, and on a couple of occasions unreserved hostility. It was clear that this was not a place for intruders.

The inner rooms moved and shifted through the fortress, every intersection identical to the last, every hallway seemingly copy-pasted. I recognized it from an old history book I read on fortresses, that they were intentionally made confusing within to deter trespassers who didn’t know the way.

After a while, we arrived at an unremarkable door. Mabel held it open for me, gesturing that I should enter, and I found myself in a luxurious sitting room. It was currently unoccupied, and I was all alone, so I found a seat on one of the large round chairs. The furniture was intended to seat Arachne, so I could either sit cross-legged in the middle of the cushion or sit on the very edge. The size made me feel like I was in a house for giants. I felt out of my element.

Now that I was sitting, I took a better look around the room. The walls were in a nice white color, and there were two entrances; one coming in from the hallway that I entered from, and another coming through a second door on the side. The furniture was carved from redwood, and was coated with a smooth lacquer, and polished, making it shine. Unsurprisingly, there was a distinct web-motif to all of the ornamentation on the walls. Unlike any room I had seen yet, this one had a small window against one wall, letting in sunlight from outside of the castle.

For a moment I wondered why they would allow a window when that could let someone break-in, but I realized just how foolish that was after remembering how staggeringly tall the fortress was from the outside.

I waited in the room, just enjoying the comfortable seat and the atmosphere for a couple of minutes. I was just starting to get impatient when the side doors opened, and from within came the Spider Queen herself.

“Ms. Gale. That was a stellar fight. I’m glad you were able to survive. I would have been so disappointed if you had died, and I had to wait for another adventurer bearing Luna to talk to.”

I was a little bit startled by her casual manner about death. She seemed so… normal. Like she was just a regular person who happened to become a dungeon master. Though she wasn’t benevolent. I did what I could to keep a level face, but the comment upset me, and it showed on my face.

“Oh, come now Victoria. You didn’t expect that I would spare you if you lost, did you? That’s not how this works.”

“You’re not a dungeon monster, right? You came here from the outside. That’s why this dungeon is so strange. Why there were stores. Why there were comfortable places to rest and sleep. I don’t think normal dungeons are supposed to be hospitable. They’re supposed to be lethal.”

“Why can’t they be both, Ms. Gale? Why not? My goal for this dungeon is to have all of the modern amenities an adventurer could need. I want to kill those that enter, yes. But more than that, I want them to understand that they can make it to the end. That they can reach the fifteenth floor.”

“But why? Why do you need to kill people? The tutorial didn’t kill anyone, and it works just fine.”

The Queen let out a long sigh, clutching her head like she was in pain.

“That’s the job, Victoria. That’s how this works. Adventurers come in, they fight, and if they survive, they are rewarded. If they die, I am rewarded. I get a little bit when adventurers are wounded and have to retreat, but no more than one-fiftieth than what I get if people die.”

“It’s a job, is it? That means you were hired. Was it this Labyrinth person?”

Suddenly, her demeanor shifted completely. Shifting from the regal and polite body language, the queen started to squirm in joy. She grinned maniacally, a cruel smile cutting her passive face. She slumped forward, all pretense of being a queen forgotten.

Ding Ding Ding! You got it in one!

It was something about the voice… the cadence, the pitch… it was all wrong. It seemed familiar. This was possession, wasn’t it? The same thing Luna did to me, but instead of just the voice, it was the whole body.

“Are you… Labyrinth?”

That’s right, that’s right! It’s such a pleasure to meet you, Vic! I’ve been watching for some time, and wow! You are definitely in my top ten favorite adventurers, and that’s saying something! The icing on the cake is, I get to meet Luna too! Double word score! Hey there, grandma! It’s a pleasure to meet you.

I felt Luna pushing in my mind, like a tap on the shoulder.

Be careful, Vic. This guy isn’t as strong as Norr, but he’s nothing to scoff at, especially here. I can feel his control over the dungeon. Try not to make him angry.

Got it. I’ll do my best.

“You called Luna your grandma. In that case, who is your mother? Does that mean you are a child of one of the gods H.G. made?”

“Oh? I suppose some proper introductions are in order, yes?”

He stood using the body of the Queen and made a deep bow. It seemed he wasn’t quite used to using the additional legs, because when he rose, he did so clumsily, almost falling over. At the last second, he was able to catch himself, a testament to the stability of more limbs, but he quickly crouched down once again, clearly uncomfortable with the extra appendages.

“My name is Labyrinth, Son of Loth, who is the goddess of luck and fate. I am the god of risk and reward; the higher the risk, the greater the reward! It’s as simple as that. I determine what sweet, sweet loot you get when you finish a challenge; the greater the challenge, the better the loot! Hahaha!”

Well, someone sure was full of themselves. As he spoke, he started to drift further and further into his personal little world. He was talking of the rewards, but I smelled something foul in the way he brought up his titles.

“You’re also the god of risk, though, right? So, while you provide rewards, you also provide the danger, don’t you?”

He seemed to deflate after I spoke, and he turned his full attention back to me.

Oh ho. So not just a pretty face. There is a brain in there somewhere. Yes. Yes indeed, I make sure to provide an adequate danger to my little borrowed dungeons. They were so drab before, and I just couldn’t stand it! I hope you like the changes my little disciple made. I am quite proud of her.

“So Elizabeth Cunningham is your disciple? How did she get here in the first place?”

At my question, he smiled again, but it never reached his eyes. He seemed like a person who liked to gloat. A person who wanted others to feel small. It was an almost too perfect personality for someone in charge of the rat race that the dungeons were.

“It’s a rather fun story. I found little Lizzie in the hospital, wasting away. She was such a smart little thing, everyone’s favorite girl. The star cheerleader at her school. The prom queen. Alas, it was not to be. A hidden congenital defect in her spine left her paralyzed from the waist down after a nasty fall, and to the world, that was the end of Elizabeth Cunningham.

“But little Lizzie had a secret. She was clever, far smarter than anyone could have counted on. Devious. Uncaring. I believe the medical term for it is ‘Sociopathic, with delusions of Grandeur’. And gasp! The nasty fall wasn’t an accident; she had been pushed by a jealous teammate whom she had scorned one too many times.

“When the first wave came and she was freed from her bed-bound state, she immediately went to visit her little friend and acquainted her heart with a pretty knife. She had such a strong, ruthless mind, that when the fourth wave came and I was freed, I couldn’t pass up the chance to offer her a job. So now here we are!”

He did like the sound of his own voice. How annoying. It was difficult to pick out the hidden secrets from his words, but there were a few. The first was, he couldn’t manage the dungeons by himself. Why else would he need someone like her to come in and take charge? The next thing was that Elizabeth probably had to accept the decision voluntarily. He didn’t give her the job against her will, he offered her the job and she accepted. The final thing that I was able to figure out was that he probably only took people with a specific mindset to offer the jobs to. He seemed attracted to people who weren’t afraid to kill. It was a safe bet that every dungeon master, if not a homicidal maniac outright, would have no problem with people dying in their realms.

Elizabeth Cunningham was more than willing to kill and let others die. I didn’t know much about psychology, but ‘sociopath’ was a common buzzword in crime shows. She was right here… I could end her reign. Just like the gems. It might save everyone outside the dungeon, keeping a murderer from running a monster factory. But could I really kill her outright, just for running a dungeon that was little more than a murder trap anyway?

No. I couldn’t think like that, not with this many lives on the line. The day she decided to let the monsters out the front door, thousands could be killed in the onslaught. I looked back at what Steph had said in that Chinese food restaurant before the battle at the hotel. Ending the lives of a few to save more later on. The spider queen was more than ready to kill me with her traps and monsters, and the sheer number of spiders on the ninth floor was enough to wipe out all of Austin. I could very well save them by taking her out. A mindless monster was far easier to deal with than one with a will acting behind it.

I was shaken out of my thoughts when Labyrinth addressed me.

“I know that look, Ms. Gale. Don’t even think about it. I left a little surprise behind for anyone who gets lucky enough to kill one of my dungeon masters. If you do kill her, you will have to take her place, and while having you trapped here at my whim sounds fun, I think it’ll be even more fun with you out there, taking on my trials.”

At his comment, my head cooled, and all thoughts of killing the queen left my mind. The idea of being at the mercy of Labyrinth terrified me. Hopefully, I would find a better way. Even if I could do a better job than her, I would be stuck here, unable to help my friends when they needed it. I felt guilt at my cowardice, but if need be, I could return. I desperately didn’t want to, though.

“So are all dungeons run by your followers?”

“Hmph. No, not yet. There is a distinct lacking willing material out there. It takes someone truly desperate for them to take the deal, so… I suppose it’s just a matter of time.”  

That proved that it had to be voluntary and that the terms weren’t that good as he offered them. It also explained why the rat dungeon was seemingly normal, while this one was so strange. It meant that there truly was no rhyme or reason to the dungeons; they were created at the whims of their masters, so some might be easy, some might be extremely difficult.

“So, what does this mean for me? Are all of your dungeons just going to kill the people that enter them immediately? That doesn’t seem fair.”

“Right you are. That wouldn’t be fair at all; and that’s why I set up some rules that all dungeon masters must follow to keep them in line. I don’t think I’ll share them, though. It’s more fun that way.”

Dammit. Keep talking, nitwit.

“That’s fine, as long as they’re beatable for their ranks, I guess. It’s not like I have any say, but that’s the only way anyone would want to go into a dungeon, to begin with.”

He nodded in agreement, grinning once more.

“So, why visit? I could have learned all of this from Elizabeth here. Why did you deign to talk to the likes of me?”

“Haha! I like your tone. Too few people know how to show proper subservience. Just for that, I’ll give you a little present before I leave.

“No, the reason I decided to come here was to give you and Luna a brief warning, much to the chagrin of my fellow less than kind deities. You have some problems coming in the future, Vic, and you too Luna. They learned about something… something that belongs to Luna. And they want it, bad. I don’t know what exactly they’re searching for, but it can’t be anything good. I don’t know how they plan to find it, but I do know they are gunning for territory as we speak, spreading their influence, so watch out.

“Mother did a reading on the fate of the world if they were to succeed in finding whatever they were searching for, and it was bad, to say the least. Bad for me, especially, which is why I’m here.”

That was… ominous. He was probably talking about the evil gods, right? If they were trying to steal something from Luna, they needed to be stopped. This conversation seemed so far above my realm, though, I didn’t even know what to think.

In my mind, Luna wasn’t panicked in the least. When he said that they were searching for something, she was slightly confused, but that was it. She remained silent on the subject, unwilling to speak to Labyrinth.

“With that, my task is done. I’ll leave Luna and Elizabeth to sort out your reward for clearing the dungeon, but I still need to give you my present.

“My gift to you is in the form of information. A couple of weeks ago, I found a very angry crystal golem running through the woods. I promptly dropped him into a tier four dungeon somewhere in the southern Rocky Mountains. GLHF~.”

“What do you-”

The Queen’s body slumped over into her cushion but she quickly started picking herself up. I knew the leader of the gems survived! At least he was a prisoner; a slave under Labyrinth, and would be stuck there forever. Building traps and minions for all eternity. I didn’t know what the limits Labyrinth mentioned were, but obviously, the dungeons had some rules that kept them from being instant death traps. I would be visiting him in time, but only after I figured out how to kill dungeon masters without getting trapped there myself.

The Queen was sitting perfectly straight once more, but I no longer saw her as the perfectly normal person she appeared as before. She was a killer, no question about it, and considering her statements and actions, she presumably showed little remorse.

“I am terribly sorry about that. Now that that’s out of the way, let us get onto the fun part. The loot!”

I received an alert and immediately pulled it up.

Alert! Floor 15/15 complete!


You have completed the rank 2 dungeon, Temple of the Orb Weaver Queen!

You have received 5000xp!

You receive a large reward!


You completed a rank 2 dungeon alone! 5,000xp!

You receive an epic reward!


You are at the max level. No experience is gained.


It’s a shame about losing all the experience, but I could always get more xp. I was just happy the dungeon was clear.

From the air in front of me, two boxes appeared, both about the size of watermelons. I opened them both without ceremony.

Queen Arachne’s Silk (Rank 2) – this fabric is extremely comfortable and durable, forming armor that is both flexible and resistive.

Mana Conductivity: 3

Aurelium Ingot (Rank 2) – this metal is both hard and light, making it ideal for armor. Shining with a striking gold color, it keeps its luster, remaining untarnished through battle.

Hardness: 3

Mana Conductivity: 3


This metal was the same stuff the armor of the guard captain was made from. It was extremely strong and would likely serve me well.

Luna, did you tweak the drops? It seems like too much of a coincidence that I got two excellent armor materials when I have a new armor set waiting for me.

I have no idea what you’re talking about.

After seeing me put the drops into my monster pouch the queen looked confused.

“That’s all? There should be one more thing. The fight is supposed to guarantee three drops, but you only got two…”

Oh, right.

With a thunk, a third container appeared. This one was a scroll case, as it was oblong, and just a bit too small for anything other than a dagger. This is what I had been waiting for. I ripped open the case, and carefully pulled out the small manual that was stored within.

Yin-Yang Soul Scripture – a cultivation technique based on fusion of conflicting elements to improve all facets of the body. Requires access to conflicting aetherstreams, and a constitution over thirty-five.


Another perfect drop. Luna kept her word and got me the items that would help me the most. This technique sounded like something out of a wuxia novel, but if it would help me survive, I would use it in a heartbeat. I couldn’t wait to get back and get started. I still had to rank up as well, and I was excited about that too.

The queen must have understood that I was ready to go because she rose off her seat.

“Thank you for delving my dungeon. Make sure to tell your friends.”

With a smile and a wave, she sent me off. My vision faded to black, and when it returned, I was back in the hub. I had a lot to think about, but the thrill of victory and moving on to bigger and better things loomed.

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