James appeared in the dungeon and looked around wildly, preparing to fight any monsters. He’d already pulled his knife out and swung at the air a few times before realizing that he was alone and that there were no threats to him in the current situation. Instead of monsters or traps, James saw a massive pair of doors in front of him.
“Oh right, the 5th floor is a boss floor. Shit!”
James, still affected by his fatigue, leaned against the wall and sunk down until he was sitting on the floor. He knew he’d made a really stupid mistake, and that it could have cost him his life.
It was true that he was tired, but that didn’t make him any less careless. He shivered at the thought. Since he’d discovered the dungeon, everything he did had a lot more consequences. There were plenty of times where he had been one wrong move from getting himself killed while fighting monsters.
Even if James didn’t do anything reckless, a moment of forgetfulness brought him into the dungeon. He was fine now, but it could have been disastrous - fighting monsters in his current state was not a good idea, especially since he was still reeling from the effects
No. James slapped the sides of his face. Although the situation wasn’t as bad as it could have been, he wasn’t completely in the clear yet.
Out of the frying pan, into the fire? Although James didn’t have to fight immediately, since he had landed on the 5th floor instead of the 4th, that meant that he had to fight the boss monster on the 5th instead. Each floor showed an increase. But, the boss floors, occurring every 5 floors, only contained the boss room. Thus, it was sure to be a difficult fight.
He needed to fix the problem of his fatigue first, or else he wouldn’t really be able to fight. James tried drinking a stamina potion. He temporarily felt better, but became tired very quickly.
“What should I do?”
It didn’t take him long to decide. James reached into his spatial storage bag and grabbed a fistful of magic stones. He pressed them against the beanie on top of his head, which absorbed all of the magic stones.
The beanie’s presence fluctuated
“Hello, Jimmy,” said the beanie, which was using telepathy.
Normally, James would have complained about the nickname, but he didn’t care right now.
“I’m in a bit of a pickle here.” James explained his current predicament, starting from the music that landed him in this situation. “So I was hoping you might know why I’m so tired right now.”
“Hmm.” The beanie didn't have limbs or facial hair, but James could have sworn it was stroking its beard. “Sounds can be used as a weapon, but on Earth? Interesting. Anyways, that’s not very important right now. We have bigger issues. Let me take a look.”
James felt something sweep over him. He’d experienced this before - the beanie was using its mana to inspect him. James couldn’t even imagine what skills were needed to do this, since he couldn’t even control mana. The beanie’s skill was high, but it was limited to using the mana that James provided in the form of magic crystals.
“Did you find anything?”
“This is … a magical connection? What could have you made a connection with?” The beanie sounded a bit bewildered. “Oh! The bear!”
James tilted his head. “The bear? You mean Leo?”
“Yes. I believe the other side of the magical connection is causing this effect.
James wasn’t sure whether he could have a magical connection given that he didn’t even have magic, but he went and summoned Leo, who was sleeping. Leo blinked. Normally, it would start rolling around, unhappy to be woken up, but this time, Leo didn’t react.
The beanie went silent for a few seconds, but it then laughed a deep, hearty laugh.
“Hahaha! Incredible! I thought that this bear was interesting, when I first saw it, but to think that it would be a mutated monster!”
“You mean that the magical connection you were talking about is the mental connection skill I have in my status?” asked James. “And Leo is a mutated monster?”
“Yes. When we say mutated monster, it just means the monsters are different from the norm in some way. Nomenclature is problematic. For example, if a monster that normally isn’t hostile goes on a rampage, we call it a berserk monster.”
“I thought monsters were all hostile. Well, I’ve only met 4 different kinds, so I could be wrong.”
“In this dungeon, all the monsters are hostile,” said the beanie. “Non-hostile creatures are generally referred to as ‘beasts,’ but two are often used interchangeably. As I said, naming is a pain. But, with the use of Dragontongue, issues like this are avoided.”
The beanie cleared its nonexistent throat.
“Anyways, back to the point. This bear here is a type of mutated monster that has developed the ability to digest almost anything. There are some names for them, but they're widely referred to as gluttonous mutants or gluttons. They’re generally one of the rarest and most dangerous types of mutant monsters.”
Hearing this, James became slightly worried. Leo had been eating a lot, but James didn’t know if it could be called ravenous. Would it become dangerous in the future?
“Haha, don’t worry, nothing will happen to the bear.” The beanie seemed to sense his emotions. “Gluttonous mutants can digest almost any sort of mana and assimilate it into their body, causing rapid growth. The cost is that they’re always hungry and must constantly consume food and mana until they reach their ‘equilibrium point.’ Reaching equilibrium is a big event. It can be considered a form of evolution - their mana stabilizes, and they no longer need to consume massive amounts of food to stabilize their own mana pathways, but they keep the benefits of being able to digest and grow from almost any form of mana.”
It was a lot to take in. James thought for a moment and asked, “Then, Leo is about to reach that equilibrium point?”
“Yes. Right before evolution, a lot of magical power and rest is consumed.”
It was true. James had fed hundreds of magic stones to Leo, who was weaker than a goblin. If the 4th tier bear James had fought was the gluttonous mutant instead, James couldn't’ even imagine how many magic stones would have been needed.
“That means...my connection with Leo while he’s evolving made me feel tired, I assume.”
“Exactly,” said the beanie. “Learning to control the connection is one solution, but it will be hard. Besides, the bear will need to go through its evolution, or else it could die.”
“Die? It’s that serious?”
“Well, if it wasn’t serious, gluttonous mutants wouldn’t tear through entire ecosystems and devour anything in sight. The bear you have is quite the exception, due to its weakness. The amount of mana that this bear needs to reach the equilibrium point is low due to its low strength. Gluttonous mutants are usually stronger, and thus much more troublesome to deal with. Achieving equilibrium at such an early stage is ridiculous.”
James nodded while listening. He reached into his bag and grabbed a handful of magic stones, intending to feed them to Leo.
“Hmm, you don’t need to do that. I think there’s a better way to get him the mana.”
“You’re on the 5th floor, right? The boss monster on the 5th floor is a big slime, which is arguably a conglomeration of mucus and mana.”
“A big slime...wait.” James glanced upwards towards the beanie in vain - he was wearing it. “You’re telling me Leo can eat the slime?”
“Yes. Actually, it would be more like drinking. Do you drink or eat soup? Slimes are thicker than soups, though. ”
James thought long and hard about the question. “Are slimes like Jell-O? You eat Jell-O, you don’t drink it.”
“Jell-O? What is Jell-O?”
James shook his head and separated himself from the useless discussion. He fed a few magic stones to Leo while mulling over the idea the beanie had given to him.
“And how big is this slime on the 5th floor?” he asked.
“How big? It’s approximately 1 meter in diameter.”
“1 meter.” James recoiled a bit. “That’s really big. I mean, maybe not that big, but if we’re talking about consuming the entire thing, that’s quite a bit.”
“Trust me,” said the beanie. “The bear will be able to finish that without a problem.”
“Well, that’s the least of my worries. Safety is the bigger issue, since we’re still fighting a boss monster. How does one normally defeat slimes?” he asked.
“It depends on the type of slime. Weaker slimes don’t have intelligence, and thus don’t have a core. The best way to deal with them is to use magic. However, larger slimes with intellect, such as the one you’re about to fight, will have a core. Destroying this core will kill the slime. Admittedly, the core can be hard to find sometimes, if one’s mana perception isn’t the best.”
“Alright. But is getting touched by the slime dangerous?” When he imagined slimes, James saw harmless transparent blobs in various colors that bounced around. Fun, but not dangerous. But if he thought about it more carefully, the slime was strong enough to be a boss monster. It had to have some mode of attack. Tentacle whips and acid/poison were the first things he could come up with.
“Ah, I happen to know that this particular slime is neither acidic nor paralytic,” the beanie assured him. “One simply has to not get swallowed and suffocate to death.”
James vaguely recalled his seniors saying that the fight on the 5th floor wasn’t extremely dangerous in the normal way. Rather, it was only somewhat dangerous and extremely tedious, which made it dangerous in another way.
“I just kept on stabbing it until it died," Beck had said at the time. "The hardest part was mental strength. It took me, like, an hour of constant pounding to kill the damn thing,”
This made the beanie’s statement more believable. But James still had one big qualm.
“How is Leo, who needs to drink the slime, going to avoid being engulfed and suffocated?”
The beanie evidently thought the answer was obvious. “What do you mean? Gluttonous mutants don’t need to breathe, as long as they have mana. They only need to intake mana.”