56. Seed Grotto
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As Rakna approached the village, his eyes wandered over the houses and roads. Compared to what he saw in Black Steel, it was as if he had jumped thousands of years back in time but with a closer look, the structures of this village were obviously more than just what they appeared.

 

Though nowhere near anything as technologically advanced, concrete and metal had been used in the construction of the buildings. “There are claw marks on more than a few of them. Monsters?” Rakna muttered to himself as he stepped inside the village.

 

As soon as he did, a voice greeted him from behind, “Are you a fledgling Host, young man?”

 

Rakna’s eyes narrowed and he slowly turned around to see a short elderly man standing behind him. He hadn’t sensed his presence at all before he had called him out; something that he almost thought impossible after the massive increase his senses had gone through.

 

“…and you are?”

 

The old man chuckled heartily. “I’m the chief here,” he said and walked past Rakna, going further inside the village.

 

Rakna scowled and followed him whilst keeping his distance. “A Local, I assume?”

 

“Yes, that would be how the System calls us,” the chief said with a smile as they properly entered the settlement. They crossed a few people walking by, performing their daily routine. A few of them would bow their heads to the old man when they saw him.

 

“Are you here for your Trial?”

 

Rakna was pulled out of his thoughts by the question. “Not exactly. It was on the way and I was curious to know what a village such as this one was doing here.”

 

“What a blunt and roundabout way of asking what the hell this place is for,” the chief jested and waved his hand in a certain direction. “In that direction, there is a Dungeon. From time to time, it overflows with monsters and, if left alone for too much time, might lead to a stampede. It can have a lot of different consequences but the main concern is the safety of the area around the station of the Black Steel’s Spear.”

 

“I see…” Rakna uttered. “So, if I understand correctly, Dungeons give birth to monsters?”

 

“That’s an odd way of putting it, but yes. Dungeons are essentially big clusters of mana capable of manipulating organic matter to a certain extent. Dungeon monsters are, in a way, antibodies made to keep intruders away. You can see overflows as a consequence of the Dungeon getting sick.”

 

“And then I’m the one who puts things oddly,” Rakna retorted with a monotonous voice and the chief laughed as he stopped in front of a relatively larger house.

 

“Young man, I can see that you are new to the System but you seem to possess a strength equal to someone who has spent at the very least a few months in here. So, are you willing to do something for me?”

 

❮ ◈ ❯

Gaelius Kein, Chief of the Second P.1 Settlement, extends a Quest to you.

Objective: Head into the Dungeon, Seed Grotto, and cull the number of monsters present on the first three floors.

Rewards: 100 Exp, 1000 Talys, ???

Do you accept?

Yes/No

❮ ◈ ❯

 

“In other words, you want me to do your job for you,” Rakna said.

 

“Now, now, that’s a mean thing to say. I’m in retirement, to begin with, and it’s not like I’m asking you to do this for free, am I? You need to complete Quests to promote, don’t you?”

 

Rakna grunted to acknowledge his word and accepted the request mentally. “Just the first three floors then? How many would I be required to kill?”

 

“Around 50 in total should be enough. I trust you will easily be able to do that much and even more. I don’t give this Quest to just anyone, you know? I know that you have the ability for it.”

 

“I see. How far is the Dungeon?”

 

Gaelius hummed. “Let’s see. About three hundred meters to the north-east. You won’t miss it.”

 

“Understood,” Rakna checked the compass of his map and was about to leave when Gaelius spoke again.

 

“Wait, what is your name, young man?”

 

“Rakna. Rakna Xiorra.”

 

“Does it have a meaning?”

 

Rakna scowled at the old chief. “As far I know, Rakna does not. But I have been told in the past that Xiorra could mean ‘next universe of thought’. How ironic now that I think about it. Why?”

 

Gaelius smiled. “You can think of it as a random old man’s antic. Let’s say that I value the worth of names. I wish you a good dive into the Dungeon. And, survive well,” he said before entering the house behind him.

 

Rakna furrowed his eyebrows. “That line… is starting to get obnoxious,” he muttered to himself and left in the direction of the Dungeon. Once he was out, he reinforced his body and ran off to the north-east.

 

After twenty seconds, he came close to what seemed to be the entrance of an underground cave. He approached it and stuck his head inside. He scanned the interior from all possible perspectives and the only thing he saw was an endless hole under him.

 

He activated Fabled Sight to try and see the bottom and Pronos similarly used his natural night-vision to take a look. He managed to make it out and count around twenty meters from the surface to there.

 

There was only one question that came to him when he saw that. “How do monsters even climb out of this?” He muttered and leaned back. He knocked the outside walls of the entrance and circled around it before returning to the front. “Alexa, to be sure, how do I enter the Dungeon?”

 

[Jump.]

 

“…I’m not sure if I should praise it to be so candid or denounce it for asking people to jump down a dark tunnel with no knowledge of what is at the bottom,” he said with a dull tone but nonetheless jumped inside the hole without missing a beat.

 

He balanced himself vertically and calmly cast Artzpul before hitting the ground. He had found out earlier that he could still use this skill without unfurling his wings.

 

He landed lightly on his feet and inspected his surroundings with his eyes still glowing golden. The cave was around ten meters wide and the ceiling was about three meters high. Aside from that, there was a large stone gate at the back.

 

He walked toward it and slowly placed his hand on it which was followed by a System prompt.

 

❮ ◈ ❯

Do you wish the enter the Dungeon, Seed Grotto?

Note: If you refuse, you will be transported back to the surface.

Yes/No

❮ ◈ ❯

 

“Yes,” Rakna answered.

 

❮ ◈ ❯

Please select a difficulty:

Easy ⦔ - ⦓ Normal ⦔ - ⦓ Hard ⦔ - ⦓ Fiendish

❮ ◈ ❯

 

“Difficulty? That old man didn’t specify one, did he?” He mused for a short moment and selected the normal difficulty. Only an idiot would pick the harder difficulties without knowing anything about laid behind this door.

 

The second he made his choice, the stone gate opened inward and revealed a straight tunnel with surprisingly smooth and chiseled walls. There were also lanterns hanging from the ceiling, lighting the path ahead. And if the very unnatural color of the light and the fluctuations of the flame were anything to go by, Rakna was almost sure that those weren’t natural in the slightest.

 

He also noticed that this ‘corridor’ seemed to be quite short. He could see a dead-end barely thirty meters ahead.

 

When he was fully inside, the gate closed behind and, directly after, several parts of the corridor’s walls collapsed. Rakna’s eyes sharpened and Pronos jumped down with a hiss. A few seconds later, they both started hearing odd purring sounds coming from the opened parts.

 

Rakna’s expression twitched as he watched thin long hairy legs slowly emerge from all sides, sticking to the walls. Soon enough, the owners of those legs came out; giant black and red spiders quickly filled up the path in front of them. After less than a minute, at least twenty of them had come out.

 

At first, they all seemed to be pretty docile but when Rakna moved to transform Sonata, more than half of them abruptly opened their mouthparts and let out a high-pitched cry. They proceeded to rush at him with startling speed.

 

Rakna opened his mouth to inhale and exhaled a crystallized breath. “Sadly for you,” he whispered and his body began to release cold air. “This place doesn’t work to your advantage,” he declared and a thick fog immediately invaded the tunnel, engulfing all of the spiders as they charged at him.

 

Rakna kicked the ground while enclosed by his Cold Mist, closely followed by Pronos who could easily navigate in the fog with his echo vision. He slithered up a wall and jumped on a spider that was clueless as to where he was whether it was based on sound or sight. He plunged his fangs in the back of its head and released a dose of Eion Poison strong enough to kill it in a second.

 

Meanwhile, Rakna jumped over the whole horde and latched onto the ceiling with his claws before using it as a foothold to get behind all of them. He whirled Sonata and dashed into their rear lines as he swung his weapon in a wide arc that bisected four of them simultaneously.

 

One of the spiders immediately turned around when he did that and secreted a string of silk that he easily dodged with the kinetic acuity of his Fabled Sight. He then created five knives with Star Make that had no particular ability like Dáinsleif or Gungnir and threw them accurately to the same number of spiders. They stabbed the arthropods’ heads before dissolving into cold particles.

 

The rest of the fight lasted thirty seconds with Rakna crushing the last spider’s head with his grip and claws. He flicked his hand to get rid of the blood, showing absolutely no reaction to the repulsive scene, and dispersed the mist with a single thought.

 

When the view was clear again, Pronos and Rakna saw themselves standing amidst the many corpses of the Arachne with their legs curled up to their stomach or twitching from a post-mortem spasm.

 

When the last spider finally stopped stirring, many piles of Talys emerged from their bodies in quite a disturbing way. At the same time, at the very end of the corridor, the wall collapsed to reveal a staircase.

 

❮ ◈ ❯

You have completed the First Floor. Would you like to exit?

Yes/No

❮ ◈ ❯

 

“Their level wasn’t even high enough for me to receive exp,” Rakna complained after refusing to leave and shouldered Sonata as the Talys were collected by the System along with the very few other drops that were sucked into his spatial ring. He walked over the dead spiders and headed to the staircase.

 

“Let’s hope the next floors pose more challenge.”

 

Pronos followed after him with a deadpan face.

 

Rakna looked at him as if he knew what he was thinking. “Yes, I know I chose normal but you can’t expect me to pick hard or fiendish without knowing how strong the monsters inside are, do you?”

 

The little snake cocked his head to the side as he tried to emulate a shrug. Rakna sighed and stopped in front of the stairs.

 

“Anyway, let’s go down.”

 

I absolutely didn't wake up at 4pm. Couldn't be me. Truly.

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