[Vol. 1 pt. 26] Forming Bonds
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After the battle, I had my aurbold strip the humans of their belongings for the same reason that I had them skin what was left of the centipede. I wanted everything that they had before I converted them since they seemed to have some useful things on them.

The man’s armor was fully intact, the woman’s armor was mostly intact save for the right arm of it being blown off, and we made sure to collect anything that they might have dropped by mistake during the battle. We made sure to get that pouch I was inside of, too, since there were some more items in there.

Before I get into inventory management, I’ll let you know what happened once we had everything collected in a neat pile near the back of my dungeon.

Well, it shouldn’t be a surprise.

I converted them into dungeon points and aether.

The man was worth fourteen aether and thirty-seven dungeon points. The woman was worth twelve aether and thirty-two dungeon points. They were only listed as slain humans on the conversion windows, too.

Now, to reward my snake for doing a good job, I let it consume the blown-off arm of the woman that it was responsible for as my ooze slimed its way all throughout the heavy suit of armor as if exploring it.

Part of me was expecting to see the option to evolve my fire snake after the battle since it seemed like everybody else was getting to evolve after each major battle, but there was no window giving me that option.

Its higher costs and potential meant that it would take much larger requirements in order to evolve. Though, it’s not like it needed to evolve. It was already the deadliest out of all my monsters despite only being at its first stage. My construct was the sturdiest and probably the most useful in a fight, but it couldn’t essentially explode limbs by biting them and injecting them with flames.

If I had to rank my monsters at the time from strongest to weakest… I would probably have to say that my construct came in first, snake in second, ooze in third, golem in fourth, and aurbold in fifth.

It wasn’t that my aurbold was useless or a bad fighter. She just wasn’t as talented at fighting nor did she have any sort of special qualities to fight her. At the time, she was basically just a smaller, weaker human with a slightly harder and red skin.

But that seemed like it might change.

While she was never too good at swinging a sword around, nor did she seem to really understand how to use that centipede’s stinger as a weapon, she did gain interest in the slain woman’s spear.

By the time I had returned my attention to her, she had the spear held in both of her hands and she was practicing with it by thrusting it around the place.

At least there was nobody for her to accidentally hurt by doing that.

She even tried on some of the woman’s armor, but took it off after it not quite fitting her properly. Their bodies were too differently shaped to share armor like that.

As for the rest of our victory spoils, there were various potions in glass jars, items such as basic charms and pills, ingredients that the humans have been planning on taking back to their headquarters that they gathered while on their way to us, and…

A map.

I made my aurbold put down her new toy so that she could hold me and look through the papers.

I never saw a map before, but I could tell what it was since it showed the tunnels I called home for so many years. Everything from my starting tunnel to the larger room was detailed. It even had labels for the magma pools, crystals, and golden rocks.

The map showed a vast cave system. Everything I had seen so far was only a small part of a huge system of tunnels and rooms that would eventually lead to the world outside of the volcano. From what I could gather, we were at the top of the volcano – or near the top of it, at least, and the cave systems only grew more complex the deeper down into the volcano you would go.

It seemed like most of the lower tunnels were not fully explored yet. Some of the unexplored tunnels and rooms were marked with warnings of danger advising nobody to proceed.

That made me curious.

What made me even more curious was that, apparently, nobody had seen past the caved-in tunnel at the south of the large room yet. It must have been caved in since before they arrived to make the map in that case. But, while that might not have been explored on the map, the area north of my dungeon was mapped.

It looked like the tunnel just north of my territory – the one that was closed off from me when I chose to place my core room, had a couple of small tunnels connected to it before opening up into another large room similar to the one to the south. However… to the northeast of this room was what looked like some sort of green pool surrounded by warnings while the tunnel to the northwest of the room led into the volcano’s lower depths.

Since exploring to the west in the direction that the humans came from seemed like it would only lead to a long, plain tunnel before running into any more rooms, I came to the conclusion that I had three new targets to expand toward instead.

The first target was the mysterious, caved-in tunnel to the south.

The second target was that smaller room marked on the map with green colors and warnings to the northeast.

The third target was to the northwest and would take us deeper into the volcano’s cave system.

Then again, when I thought about it, couldn’t I expand up and down as well as instead of just staying on the same level? Especially now that I could expand in pretty much any way I wanted to without being restricted to a few squares in a straight line?

I ordered my aurbold to shake me so that I would stop thinking about expanding some more.

We still had to deal with the aether issue before I could think of any of those three targets.