For the span of four seconds, the Silent Desert dungeon had turned from night to day. Had any creatures lived on the surface they would have been amazed. After the light faded, and Dustin opened his eyes, he could see the fruit of his efforts.
There was a tangy smell in the air, a mixture of roasted meat and burnt rubber. Dustin felt a little weak as his mana had been over-charged to cast the spell, draining whatever mana was there, and then decreasing the rest from his maximum temporarily. Still, the results of the spell were impressive.
The Lava Centipede was undoubtedly dead, a cloud of steam wafting from its charred carapace. The lightning bolt had fried it entirely, from the tip of the mandibles to its tail end. Just to confirm what his eyes saw, a notification also popped up for clearing the dungeon, and a pale blue color shimmed next to the well-done bug.
The guards were crawling around on the ground, holding their heads tightly. Markus and his family had not faired well either, huddled together with their daughter in the middle. Dustin could see a bit of blood coming out of her eardrums and stiffened, not intending to have hurt the poor girl.
Lei-Lei was looking at him in a sort of reverance at the lightning attack he had whipped out. She had never seen something as strong. Even the greater lightning elementals in the dungeon he took her from could only exhibit half of the spells power.
Dustin leant on his staff to alleviate the weariness in his legs. It was too draining to use the spell under normal circumstances, but given that he would be trapped in the dungeon otherwise, it was a necessary sacrifice.
Over at the palm trees, James was rubbing his eyes as the butler dutifully cut the ropes away, having saved himself from the majority of the flash by turning away in time. The butler stood up with a straight back and looked at Dustin, alarmed that he might perform another reckless feat.
Dustin needed to recover before investing in anything extravagant, so he quietly sat down and sipped his mana tea. Despite feeling fatigued, it wasn't his health that was causing it, but the massive mana drain. Restoring his mana would help alleviate some of the symptoms, but he wouldn't feel in top shape for a day or two.
He watched as the butler walked over to one of the armed guards and kicked him aside, taking the handgun. He expertly ejected the empty clip and slotted another one in from the guards pockets. It was easy enough to strip the remaining guards of their weapons, piling up the handguns in his pant line and pockets.
By the time the others recovered, they worried less about their guns, and more about Dustin. Despite his calm tea drinking, they wore mortified expressions as they watched him. It was undeniable that he was the cause of the massive lightning bolt, given his childish shout of the spell's name before casting it.
Markus tried to crawl to the portal that the dungeon had notified him about, but found a firm leather shoe pressing down on his backside. James had broken out from his stupor and was standing with one foot on Markus' back, pressing it into the sand to stop him from moving.
"Now Mr O'Connor. I believe you know the drill."
Markus shivered as he nodded, his pathetic frame wobbling in the sand. James gestured to his butler, and the man suddenly shot Markus in the leg.
Surprisingly, the man managed to hold back a scream, and grit his teeth tightly. James smiled calmly, then pulled a sandy notepad and pen from his back pocket. He scribbled down a couple of numbers, then threw it in the sand in front of him.
It was complete silence as Markus picked up the pad, his face draining of color. It took the threat of another bullet for him to nod violently, then resume his crawl to the portal. James didn't stop him as he escaped with his family, followed by the guards.
It was down to the three of them. Dustin had expected them to fearfully leave, but found James returning to his goofy nature as he looked at him.
"You never told me about all this Dustin!"
He froze, seeing the look of realization on the butlers face. It appeared that James was the one who knew from the start, and the butler was the one who was on the edge.
The trio stood next to the charred corpse awkwardly. James had no intention of taking back his statement and crossed his arms.
Dustin deactivated the disguise and took off his mask, peering at them coldly. James looked smug in his reveal as he smiled at his butler.
Dustin quickly realized he had underestimated James greatly as he was questioned to reveal the nature of the dungeons. The both of them had heard of his disguise previously, so they were aware of his relationship to the dungeons.
James reassured him that he wouldn't reveal his identity, but Dustin wasn't going to take any chances. The contracts that Dos used were similar to quests. As it stood, James was to keep the cloaked man's identity a secret, and Dustin would answer a couple of questions.
He kept his answers vague, and surprisingly they did not push for further information. There was a fine balance between placing importance on clearing dungeons and growing stronger, and foretelling their doom at the hands of man-eating rocks.
"What happens if we go through there?" The butler asked, pointing at the portal.
"We'll be placed back at the entry point, that being Markus' house."
James bit his lip as the trio looked towards the portal. The businessman wasn't brave enough to kill James with a witness around, but if they reappeared inside his property, it might still be possible to cover up silencing him, putting the entire previous threat to waste.
"There is another exit we can take, I just have to find it." Dustin said, offering an olive branch. He wasn't too keen on popping out with the injured and humiliated businessman either. Less so about being murdered, as the guards had lost their guns and his constitution was a lot higher thsan before. But for his personal image.
So far, no one had seen him come out of the portal. It wasn't impossible for surveillance to catch him on camera, or police to spot him. He also couldn't very well emerge with the disguise off, as they would probably realize it was him under it the whole time.
The second entrance would have been created when the Brine entered the dungeon, but now led to a different point on earth. The distance in the dungeon and the distance between the dungeon entries would be the same. If they walked for twenty minutes to leave, they would appear twenty minutes from Markus' house.
The downside of this was that the exit was unknown. They could suddenly appear in some old ladies house whilst she was watching the news and scare her to death.
They continued chatting whilst Dustin moved around the dungeon, clearing monsters with a bit more struggle from the fatigue, until they eventually found the exit.
It had been collapsed under sand, but was promptly revealed when Dustin fell straight down after climbing a dune. Thankfully he didn't land directly in the portal and called the two down. Before they left, James offered a reward for saving them, which was tempting as money was a concern.
"I do need to hire a warehouse still..." Dustin muttered to himself. James had managed to hear the important part, 'hire a warehouse', and perked up.
"We've got a couple rented that are empty at the moment. Would you like to use one of them?"
Dustin wanted to say yes, but considered the risks behind it. The warehouse could be used to track him, which was devastating if someone came across whatever alien goods he stuffed it with. The government weren't going to like finding one of their citizens hiding giant ant eggs.
James assured Dustin that they could talk it over when he saw the other parties hesitation. James' family was rich, and apparently quite powerful. Keeping a warehouse off the radar wasn't particularly hard, considering what good usually went through them in the first place.
Things from another world probably wouldn't have been the most dangerous goods to bless the grounds. Dustin agreed to talk to James about it later, and waited until the two of them disappeared to collapse.
The mental stress from being found out, and worrying about the repercussions, combined with the physical fatigue of mana drain, led to wobbly legs and a thumping heart.
For the sake of Dustins health, and humanity, it was probably for the best that the dungeons underwent a decrease in strength. Fighting a lava centipede before level 10 was just too intense. He couldn't just pull out a spell like Cloud Splitter everytime something looked at him funny.
Draining the body of mana too regularly could evolve into Mana rejection, where the body refused to collect mana anymore as it was treated as a harmful substance. This was as good as death to a mage, as their pool of resources was ended. Pioneers who used resources other than mana, or nothing at all, might be able to survive without it, but not Dustin.
Even if the rewards and experience were worse, it was better in the long term. He wouldn't be doing much for the next couple of days until he was recovered, halting the dungeon train. If that happened too often, the increased rewards wouldn't be able to make up for the extensive recovery periods.
While thinking of rewards, Dustin checked what the Silent Desert had gifted to him.
[Silent Desert completed, please choose two rewards.]
- Uncommon Centipede Carapace of Searing.
- Uncommon Toxic Scorpion Dagger
- x2 Flightstep Potions
- x2 Silentstep Potions
- Perception: Vibration
Dustins eyes widened in surprise as the dungeon rewarded two choices, instead of one. The first time he had been allowed to take more than one item was when he and another party member were the last two alive in defeating a giant minotaur.
That was the result of being a small party, being alive when the boss died, and keeping up his kill contribution by intensely healing the tank who was with him.
It was fair to say that this time he had killed the boss alone, granting him 100% of the kill contribution. It was also a very tough fight, which would reward players who performed better with matching rewards.
[Perception: Vibration learnt]
You become acutely aware to the vibrations every moving thing gives off, able to detect the distance, direction, and size, of the target.
His first choice required no thought, as perceptions were amazingly useful, given that they did not become useless when he leveled up. Perception: Vibration was a particularly amazing one, as it helped detect targets moving around or towards him, avoiding sneak attacks like the monsters in the desert had favoured, as well as working in conjunction with Tracking.
Since monsters usually moved in a set path, combining the two perceptions offered a great view of the path a monster took, and often where it would be going. It could also help with identifying what type of monster it was. If one felt four vibrations, it could indicate a four-legged beast, or two people standing in front of each other.
By using the tracks as well, one could find paw prints, or human footprints, differentiating what the vibrations were.
The second choice of reward was a toss up between the uncommon gear, and the flightstep potions.
A grayish concoction that allows the consumer to reduce the effect of gravity, lasts 10 seconds.
Normally the generic reward options were to be ignored, but in the case of a Flightstep potion, especially in times where Dustin lacked escape options, it was a great backup plan. Reducing gravity could let him jump higher, and more importantly, dodge attacks.
Dustin might have just chosen it straight up if the first reward hadn't been so appealing.
[Uncommon Centipede Carapace of Searing]
10.0-15.0% Physical Mitigation. 17.0 - 24.0% Fire Mitigation.
The black carapace of a large centipede that has been hardened by exposure to lava, worn as a chest plate.
Searing: Gain 20% Fire Resistance for 5 seconds after taking fire damage. Cannot occur more than once every three minutes.
What Dustin lacked was definitely a solid defense, and having a strong chestplate was definitely the best option for that. Since it wasn't traditional armour made of steel or iron, it was a lot more flexible since the monster who had worn it needed to freely move about.
One tingling sensation later, and Dustin was wearing a shiny black layer around his chest. It had little grooves in it to allow proper movement of his arms, and kind of fit his original look. The black cloak was a little tattered from combat, and the chestplate nicely covered some of the chest level holes, pressing it tightly to his body. Wearing it on top looked natural, and obviously provided a superior defense.
Dustin was happy with the result, and checked the rest of his notifications.
[Silent Desert completion. +750 Dos.]
[Silent Desert boss +500 Dos.]
[Silent Desert secret +150 Dos]
[Silent Desert secret in progress.]
[Silent Desert monsters +615 Dos.]
Dustin looked at the secret in progress curiously. He didn't expect to run into two dungeons with more than one secret back to back. Finding the rest of the dungeons monsters for a full clear was going to take forever, so he gave up on that option, but leaving a secret behind was taboo.
It wasn't actually 'taboo', but Dustin and his party had never left a single one behind after retrieving a sacred item from one, which were non-combat items that provided amazing utility, but were extremely rare.
As he scaled the wall to climb back out of the secret chamber, he felt it tremble. A couple of rocks fell first, then the entire wall section fell forwardd, carrying Dustin into a second secret, secret chamber.
He coughed to clear the dust from his throat and looked up, alarmed at first as he met eye to eye with a monster, but calmed down when he realized it was just a statue.
The statue looked like a large crocodile, just with shorter jaws and a long tail that came down under its stomach.
Upon closer inspection, he could see a murky brown gem in the statues eye, giving off a sparkle, even in the dark chamber. Unable to contain his treasure hunting nature, he yoinked the gem out of the statues eye and inspected it.
Channel the eye of a Basilisk, petrifying targets who face the caster for 15 seconds.
"Not bad." Dustin mumbled as he pocketed the shiny. A crack caught his attention as the stone statue had a long, jagged line running along it, the stone pulled apart by force as something underneath it shifted.
It happened again, and the line split further revealing a scaled body underneath. Dustin lost the smile on his face instantly and quickly ran to the portal, escaping whilst he still could. Even identifying the creature was enough to make him run, not willing to take his chances. Stealing its eye could be considered as a suitable reward.
[Violent Desert Basilisk.]
[Status: Petrified (failing)]
He felt the entire underground area shake as the beast roared, challenging whoever had stolen it's treasure. Dustin had no notions of taking it on and dived into the portal, catching a spider's web as he flew.
Only when Dustin felt the ground changing around him did he relax, his mind boggled at the insane health value. The Centipede had only just breached 5,000 health, meaning the Basilisk was equivalent to fighting three of them, only much more terrifying.
Not being able to look at an opponent when fighting it was a huge deficit, not to mention the violent prefix which resulted in a ludicrously strong monster.
He had to quickly strip from his dungeoneering outfit and back into a casual attire before the world was created around him. After placing it in his inventory, the status warned him that it was full.
He wasn't able to fit the boss or even a small part of it in, so it had to be vendored off for extortionate prices. The only loot he managed to retrieve from the dungeon, and that could fit in his inventory, was some scorpion parts, his new chest plate, and the basilisk gem.
[Vendor successful. +600 Dos.]
Even the notification of his uncollected loot selling was not enough to match the sense of loss, and Dustin reappeared with a sorrowful expression in the middle of a cemetery.
Thankfully there was no one around, and Dustin stepped off the grave he had been standing on. James and the butler were nowhere to be found, having already left the premises.
The chamber had been about 35 minutes from where he spawned in, matching how far away he was from Markus' house. Dustin took his phone out, fortunately spared from a pocket full of sand by being stored in his inventory, and opened up a map.
He found a nearby bus stop and headed towards it, still feeling the weakness in his legs. When he was safely on a bus heading towards home he deflated, and opened the status to spend his attribute points and shop, resisting the urge to fall asleep as he slumped down in the chair.
The engine was bumbled along quietly as the bus crawled down the street, avoiding the parked cars. It bounced on the uneven road patches, and gently moved Dustin around like a baby in a rocking cradle.
He stared at the status screen numbers, watching as they slowly lost meaning. He didn't realize his eyes were closing until it was too late, and sleep consumed him.