A bunch of people lied spread on the ground in front of me, sweating buckets while foaming or spewing blood out of their mouths. Some of my allies are also among the victims.
How did this happen? To answer that, we need to go one day back in time...
"GARAMI!!" - Lily
"Whoaaa!?" - Garami
Ah-, AAAAH!? The undead-! The 800 Materials-! Salvage, salvage-! ...Phew... I managed to save the Materials.
It's been two days since I summoned Onyx and I made quick use of his experience as a Necromancer to teach me a few tricks. The creation attempt just now was something he was helping me with. Well, it was just me trying out a new blueprint I came up with. Onyx only gave some advice to get rid of the bugs.
"Dammit, Lily! What's your big idea...?" - Garami
"*Swoon*" - Lily
And she's fainting!?
Crap, incoming fluffball!
I ducked as a ball of feather and fire passed right above my head, before it straightened its course and came flying at me again.
That damn Phoenix Hatchling! Ever since it hatched yesterday, it has been overly protective over Lily and antagonistic to me! Lily will start crying again if I kill it, resurrection be damned, but there's no way you'll ever hit me with that telephone-torpedoing, you stupid-
-!?!? I-I forgot... there are two balls of feathers...
I fell on my knee and held my ankle that had been pecked by the Small Fengfeng. Both it and the Phoenix Hatchling looks like big balls of fluff, but they are damn fast. The Fengfeng's feathers are orange like the sunset, while the Phoenix is closer to crimson.
"Is that fine with you?" - Onyx
"...If I put a hand on them, Lily's not gonna forgive me. And it's better to think about them as her reliable comrades." - Garami
I've already killed her appetite for bird-meat after she got to know about having eaten the Phoenix before it was born. Better keep the mental scars as few as possible.
"I've got a better question, why did she faint like that?" - Garami
"...Animals do have greater danger perception," said Onyx as he looked at the C-rank undead that I had finished.
It's a jet-black, humanoid Skeleton with red markings similar to blood veins all over it, spikes on its shoulders, knees, and across its spine, fangs similar to a warthog's, and devilish horns.
My personally designed undead, the Evil Undead. It's radiating [Aura of Evil] even as we speak...
I dismissed the boney bringer of terror and knocked the consciousness back into Lily. The birds are out cold, after finally noticing the Evil Skeleton, those birdbrains...
"Wha-!? Where am I!?" - Lily
"The undead-testing grounds." - Garami
Some spots are better when researching the undead and Necromancy, so Onyx found one of these on the sixth floor that we sealed off and turned into a Necromancy-limited testing ground. And boy do I feel the difference. Those old bones sure got the experience that comes with age.
Coincidentally, the spot appears to have been a park, if this place's really taken after a real city. Is it the grudges of the guys that didn't get any chocolate for Valentine that's making the place so good for Necromancy?
"...I think I saw a resident of hell..." - Lily
You're not completely wrong. It's especially worse for someone with beastly characteristics.
Lily had evolved into a Growth Chimera (Beast) in the pursuit of smoother movements like a beast and is now sporting a pair of black-furred rabbit ears, the droopy kind, her ankles are covered with the same kinda fur as her arms, though on the inversed sides, and her fangs had improved. Instead of a Chimera, people could mistake her for a Therianthrope, hadn't it been for the reptilian tail and the single horn that had remained from before the evolution.
"And why are you here?" - Garami
"Huh... oh, Thyst wanted me to give you this." - Lily
Letters? Does the mailman come all the way out here?
As for who Thyst is, she is one of the named subordinates, the first Dark Elf I summoned. She acts as something like a secretary, taking care of the paperwork that comes with the Dungeon.
Other named subordinates include Sapphire (the first Zerbreus I summoned and now a Malpherus), Rald the D.Goblin Pack Leader (the D.Goblin Mira once got from Random Creation), Garnet the Volcanic Wyvern, and the newly-named Topaz the Grotto Scorpion.
Ugh, that's not important right now. What are these letters about?... This is-!?
"Is there something wrong?" - Onyx
"... Can't read this." - Garami
The ink's spread all over the page due to some liquid. It feels kinda sticky as well...
I stopped trying to figure heads-or-tails out of the humid mess and opened a different letter instead. This one is readable, thank the devil... I'm not gonna thank someone in the same job as that goddess, okay?
There is a dire need for a certain medical herb located in a "Chaos Dungeon" close to your location.
Simply said, go and retrieve it.
You and your subordinates will obviously be compensated for this inconvenience, so no worries. You can also scavenge as many treasures as your pockets can fill, even if I should not be the one to tell you that.
...Honestly speaking, the herb is something we can obtain on our own, but the one on the sickbed is the daughter of one of our few allies in Solomar. They do not know of our operations or plans and are solely giving Lady Filyn support out of their goodwill, a rare trait here in this demonic kingdom.
This incident is most likely the work of a Demon King-supporter that is suspicious of me and Lady Filyn.
That family can do nothing else but to travel to the Dungeon and hope they can buy the medical herbs at a low price. Despite them being nobles, they are not the wealthiest family here in Solomar. That is one of the reasons why they can feel some empathy at Lady Filyn's supposed situation.
In other words, gather the herbs, locate the agent of that family afterward and give them the herb for a spot prize without revealing that it is us who asked you to do it.
Please do not fail. Lady Filyn looks after that girl like she is her own little sister... I do not want to see her heart shattered again.
...This is one heavy assignment there. Kinda understand who sent the first letter now.
I opened one of the larger envelope and found a huge stack of documents that contained all the info Blot had gathered...
"'Chaos Forge'? That's some name." - Garami
"Forge? Then I and Flint will be awesome there!" said Lily while making some shadow-boxing to show her enthusiasm with her feathery friends copying her.
"...Nope. You two will probably be some of the worst choices for this mess," I said while reading through the documents.
Lily made a sound of displeasure at my verdict. Don't blame me, blame this nasty Dungeon. Flint would say no anyway, as he's too busy figuring out how to improve his abilities as a smith after evolving into the Fire Lizardman-race. Then, the members I should bring along are...
After that, I brought along Mira, Revi, Iron, and Alf, and we left for this Forge-place.
The Forge looks like an Arabian palace, with some additional pipes that spew dark-grey smoke. Around it, however, are lots of simple buildings and tents, all filled with merchants or other people that sought after the Sol in the pockets of adventurers who had come to challenge the Dungeon.
And one of those tents worked as a stall for a certain challenge. Whoever could eat three-outta-five of these hotdog-like dishes covered with some terribly hot chili-sauce would win a prize that's at 20,000 Sol now thanks to the many contestants who had failed and upped the pot with their participation money.
How hot? Enough to stop Mira from finishing a single hotdog even with such a prize on the line. She's now lying on the floor with the many other adventurers who attempted the challenge. She's faring off better than most of the other contenders, who're sweating to the point that I think they're gonna dry up like raisins. For some of the challengers, the super-spicy chili's so hot that it literally wounded their mouths to the point where they're spewing out blood.
The stall-owners aren't fazed with this spectacle from hell. Not that I think someone serving devil-hotdogs like these with the slogan of "only a true adventurer can stand after eating one of these!" would care. Damn, that's one nasty business plan.
The worst part of it all is that you can ask two friends to help you with the hotdogs... and Mira chose poor Revi. She's faring better than those macho-uncles though. It's not due to her [Fire Resistance]... right?
|Race:||Netzach Dracoria | Gender: Female|
|Main Class:||Witch Apprentice Lv.45|
|Sub Class:||Gravekeeper Lv.36|
|Sub Class:||Cook Lv.50|
|SP: 174/174 + 290|
|STR: 172||VIT: 272||MAG: 472|
|RES: 398||SPD: 304||DEX: 373|
|INT: 107||LUC: 97|
...Let's say she was diligent and visited the Volcano every day.
"Now come, now come! Are there no true adventurers here?" shouted the owner of the stand, fanning the ire of the yet-to-challenge adventurers who hadn't gone along when their comrades had been K.O.-ed.
"Won't Garami be able to withstand those?" - Iron
"Oh, good question." - Alf
Eh, excuse me, you two cowards who've taken a good distance from the stall this whole time? What stupid ideas are you guys coming up with?
"And what about you two? Man up already!" - Garami
"Sorry. Vampires can't eat either garlic or chili." - Alf
"I can't eat." - Iron
HEY! That vampire over there's lying! And even if it's true, you got that True-whatever title to cancel such inborn weaknesses!
As for Iron... well, that's fair.
"And you're the crazy girl who got the other two to underestimate the power of spiciness after your spree of spicy foods! I felt my tongue catching fire while watching you eat back in Velantas!" - Alf
Really? No way... it would explain why people always applauded me after I finished those "Volcano Bowls" at Marc's place.
Eh, a girl's gotta have courage! I grabbed one of the three remaining spicy-dogs on the plate and-
The taste is... average. What the heck? No, it's a letdown. The hotdog itself's not half-bad, so I finished all three pretty fast... why're people looking at me like that?
"W-we have a winner!!"
The stall-owner suddenly started to ring with the bell in his hand. Hey, it's not that impressive... and why're you two cowards nodding along!? I keep on saying it's not that-
Title: [Foul Eater] has advanced to title: [Extremely Foul Eater].
Through the title, you have acquired skill: [Acid Resistance Lv.1]
Acquired title: [Spicy Challenger].
Through the title, you have acquired skill: [Fire Resistance Lv.1]
"As expected of the woman with the tastebuds of a Fire Dragon!" - Alf
"Cheers." - Iron
We're currently in one of the inns for adventurers and are trying to plan our strategy for the event that's gonna happen here... if those two idiots could stop making fun of my eating habits and the two victims raise their faces from the barrels with water that they bought. Hey, you're gonna ruin your appetite for the rest of the day!
"Puh, heavenly! Then, what are we talking about again?" - Mira
"Garami's volcano-stomach-" - Iron
"No, we're not! Focus on the Forge, not the hotdogs!!" - Garami
"*Burp*. Excuse me, but they were too 'hot'...." - Revi
We're not here for bad puns either!
"Okay, I'll be serious~." - Mira
"Then, let's go over what we know: the Chaos Forge is a special Dungeon created by the God Chaos himself, so there are no Cores we can crush to take over the place," Alf started after seeing me create a "silence area" through [Total Presence Concealment].
"This Dungeon is open all year, but for one week every four years, certain parts of the Dungeon that's normally closed off will be unlocked and open to the public. It is considered a special Event Quest, but there are few rules. You need to be a party of 2-to-6 people. Only up to three of them can enter at once, and you need to leave at least one member outside of the Dungeon." - Alf
"The first floor of the Forge is divided into an outer ring that's designated as 'Area 1', which is the place normally open for public. Area 2 is the inner ring, which we need to find a stairway to the second floor. The problem here is that when you find the stairway, you need someone on the outside to find the switch that opens up the lock to the stairway." - Mira
"Hints of the switch's location are shown close to the door, and the door's only open as long as the switch is pressed. The Quest grants special items that allow the two groups to communicate even from a distance." - Garami
"The second floor shares the same design as the first, meaning it's divided to an inner and outer circle. The inner-circle which the stairways lead to is Area 3. You then need to complete several puzzles and quizzes that require assistance from the outside-group to gain passage through the Gates leading to the outer circle, meaning Area 4." - Alf
"And after clearing more quizzes and puzzles, you can unlock the way to the third floor, which is a giant boss room... is what you wanna think. but there are seven of these floors. You need to be the first to clear one of these rooms to clear the Quest and gain the prize." - Mira
"Not that we need to worry about that. Area 4 is the place where the item we're after is located. No need to face any boss here. Just get the plant and get outta there as soon as possible." - Garami
The bosses are often "Fire Djinns", a C-rank monster that can fight evenly with dragons should they have environmental advantages. And a Fire Djinn in a Forge filled with melted metal and fire? Yeah, no way we're gonna kill that. None of our members have anything that can be used against something like that.
The limitation to six persons is why we decided to come in such a small group. Plus, there are tons of Fire resisting monsters in the Forge, drastically killing the advantage that Flint and Lily have with their skills. And using poison in such an enclosed environment is a stupid move, so I left her at the Dungeon. Same with Flint, and he needs to study that meteorite. Noire's a Goldsmith, so she should be able to give him some kinda help with it.
The reason why there are no monsters from the Dungeon to take the sixth place is, well, they're monsters. Their common sense differs too much from regular people, even the humanoid ones. They're bound to get busted. Gotta think of some training for those that are gonna interact with humanoids...
"And the teams planned are-" - Alf
"Ehm, excuse me, but I want to be on the outside-group." - Revi
"Why?" - Garami
She's the only plant-specialist in our group.
"It is embarrassing to say... but I've had enough of hot, spicy, or sweaty things!" - Revi
"Same here. Give us a day or two to rest, please~." - Mira
...It wasn't that bad, but seeing how they were literally knocked unconscious, I can't say that to them.
"In that case, me, Garami, and Iron will go and scout the Dungeon first, then we will bring Revi with us after we've located the herbs." - Alf
"Okay~." - Mira & Revi
...Did my likability-points reduce while I was on the "vacation" because I didn't bring them along? *Sob, sob, sob...*
"And take care of this little guy while I'm in there," said Alf while pulling up Polaris, the little polar bear-cub from space, up from the floor, still holding the pot of honey it had been given before.
Mira agreed to hold the little glutton and-
...And poor Revi has both her hand and heart wounded. I'm gonna give you some sweets later, so cheer up.
Wait, an Ice bear is definitely a no-go, but would a Vampire like Alf survive walking through the Forge? We're equipped with fire/heat resistant equipment, but that's only a drop in the ocean if he's too weak against fire.
|Race:||Vampire | Gender: Male|
|Main Class:||Polearm Master Lv.8|
|Sub Class:||Angler Lv.50|
|Sub Class:||Hunter Lv.46|
|HP: 435/435||MP: 348/348||SP: 468/468|
|STR: 572||VIT: 389||MAG: 223|
|RES: 303||SPD: 378||DEX: 491|
|INT: 112||LUC: 105|
...Okay, someone's been visiting Mira's Bootcamp against their will.
"Hey, when did you go fishing?" - Garami
"Huh... you got no sense of privacy at all, do you?" - Alf
Nope. Except for my own.
"It was more like a tug of war with the Knockers. Those guys love to mess with fishermen." - Alf
Ah, so the high-quality "catch" gave lots of proficiency, even if you fail to put it on the dinner table? That's something we could use to advertise the Dungeon to people other than invaders.
And this guy? Is he prepared for the Forge?
|Race:||Phantom Mail | Gender: Male|
|Main Class:||Guardian Knight Lv.22
|Sub Class:||Sentinel Lv.50|
|Sub Class||Pathfinder Lv.25|
|HP: 634/634||MP: 294/294||SP: 579/579|
|STR: 449||VIT: 791||MAG: 210|
|RES: 733||SPD: 289||DEX: 280|
|INT: 95||LUC: 104|
...Guess he is. Or, he's overqualified!! And that new title, it's as outrageous as those I have!
With everything done and decided, we made it so the first three days at most should be used to have me, Iron, and Alf, look over the first three areas and start looking for the herbs latest on the fourth day, giving us more than enough time. The boss? Not worth the risks. Even with everyone now owning [Fire Resistance]...
Let's hope those two foreigner-groups don't mess things up.