Chapter 61 – Hammer Time (2)
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After James smashed the skull of the final skeleton, all the bones that laid scattered about on the floor began to glow, and disappeared into a flurry of lights, just like the monsters on the other floors. They left behind magic stones, as usual.

James brushed some bone dust off of his armor and pants.

“Somehow, fighting the skeletons makes me feel...dirty. Even more dirty than fighting goblins and imps.”

When he was hunting on the 1st and 2nd floors, James had gotten used to being splattered with blood, and he was able to endure the smell of gore. But, fighting skeletons made him feel slightly repulsed, which was weird, since he didn’t even get dirty. He suspected it was the effect of the mana that the skeletons emitted. Maybe it was like this for all undead.

James went to pick up the magic stones. Three in total, one for each skeleton that he killed. But, as he was about to put them in his bag, he noticed something about the magic stones and paused.

The magic stones were the exact same as the ones that dropped from the other floor. All tier 1 monsters dropped colorless crystals half the size of his palm. Tier 2 monsters, boss monsters for the 1st tier floors, dropped stones that were golden in color. If a monster had gone berserk, like the goblin boss on the 1st floor, a red mark would be left branded on the stone.

But why were they all the same? If the magic stones really came from the monsters, they should probably reflect which monster they came from. James knew roughly how the mana from goblins, imps, and skeletons felt now, but he couldn’t feel anything from the stone. James would have expected the magic crystal from the skeletons to give him the same uncomfortable feeling as the skeletons.

James could only guess, but he came up with 3 reasons why this would be the case. 

Number 1: All magic crystals contained the same exact type of mana. This seemed unlikely to James, but he couldn’t rule it out.

Number 2: The magic crystal holds mana. If it traps the mana perfectly, then it wouldn’t leak anything to the surroundings. So, the reason he was not feeling the mana is because there was no mana.

Number 3 was the idea that interested James the most: The magic crystals didn’t come from the monsters, and were instead given out by the dungeon. This was the most likely in James’ opinion, because it would explain why the worth of every single magic stone was standardized. They all looked practically indistinguishable to James. It also meant that the dungeon was able to produce/gather magic stones and then transport them to the dungeon. 

If they could do that, they could probably skip the magic stone step, and deposit points directly under the name of dungeon explorers. However, James thought he knew the reason why that didn’t happen - the magic stones themselves were valuable and could be used. James himself had two uses for the crystals - feeding his pet bear Leo, and activating the beanie.

He was pretty sure both of these cases were rather special, but it wasn’t like they were absolutely unique. Other explorers probably had use for them too.

“Whatever. I keep on thinking about how the dungeon functions, but it doesn’t really affect me right now.”

James stored the magic stones, and then pulled his spear out from the bag. He began tapping the floor in front of him. Checking for traps, he continued through the dungeon.

====================

Crack!

Snap!

Krrrk!

Bang!

The train of satisfying sounds that came from James’ relentless beatdown of skeletons was interrupted by the sound of James missing and smacking his hammer against the wall. However, all was well. James dodged the bony hand reaching towards him, and tried again. This time, he hit the skeleton.

James was a bit apprehensive that the pick on his hammer sometimes would get stuck in a bone, but it didn't turn out to be a problem. The face of his hammer, the point of contract, was not any larger than the rest of his head - in other words, the hammer did not have a neck. So, James was always able to pull the hammer out cleanly. The claw on the backside wasn’t really useful, but it never got in the way, since he didn’t use that side.

The skeletons were actually not that hard to fight, so long as James was a bit patient. He steadily made his way through the dungeon, breaking the bones of anything that stood in his way.

James had already discovered the item that he was looking for on this floor:

[Orb of Defense – Tier 1

 Can be consumed to increase defense stat. Maximum 50.]

The skeletons on the 3rd floor dropped these every once in a while, just like how the monsters on the other floors sometimes dropped orbs. Strength was red, agility was blue, and defense was green. 

He was really excited. If he raised his defense, he would become stronger! Currently, James was faster and stronger than he looked, but his stats were imbalanced - his strength and agility were higher. To put it another way, his body would break if he tried to use his full power. 

For now, the orbs basically made James into a teenager who was able to temporarily exert as much force as a strong adult. His endurance had increased, but that was an effect of his physical training, not the orbs. James had to thank the beanie - he could feel himself becoming more fit.

Of course, James had already swallowed the orb. He didn't feel a large difference immediately, but that was how it was. Slow improvements were the way to go.

James finished collecting the magic stones and continued bashing skulls until he finally reached the large double doors that barred him from seeing what was in the boss room.

“I’m not trying to jinx myself, but the dungeon hasn’t really been what I was expecting. So far, the dungeon has been one path. There have been turns, and traps though. Well…”

James turned and looked back past a trap he had avoided. It was a net that was spread conspicuously across the floor, along with an obvious trigger - a thick rope that was strung a foot off the ground. When the rope was disturbed, the net would shoot upwards, catching whoever was standing above it.

“...if you can call that a trap, that is. You’d literally have to be unable to see in order to fall for that.”

James had simply stepped over it. Even if he’d gotten caught in it, James would probably be able to cut himself free with a knife in a matter of seconds, since the trap wouldn’t even hold the victim tightly enough to bind their arms.

Maybe the traps were simple and harmless because it was on the 1st tier floors. If he climbed up, maybe mazes, dead ends, and lethal traps would await him.

“It’s almost like a game tutorial. Like it’s designed to train us…”

James had another interesting thought, but as usual, he could prove anything, nor could he use the information.  He switched his mind to his next task.

“There’s only one monster in this miniboss room, but that means it will be quite a bit stronger than the tier 2 imp on the 2nd floor. A tier 2 skeleton will be faster, stronger, and probably more sturdy. I probably should watch out for regeneration too. I don’t know if it’s possible if I crush its bones, but might be able to reattach bones to its body if they get separated.”

While reciting the important points to himself, James checked all of his potions, and picked up his hammer again.

“But, if it has bones, it’ll make a nice sound when I smack its face into the ground.” The smirk on his face looked evil.

Perhaps this was the moment when James turned from a “normal person” into a fully fledged monster hunter that enjoyed massacring residents of the dungeon.

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