[Vol. 2 pt. 9]
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It only took another hour to find the downward stairs to the sixteenth floor.

Finally.

Finally.

We can get past these vegetation-infested floors.

I forgot just how seriously annoying the eleventh through fifteenth floors can be. Most new adventurers – the smart ones, anyways, spend weeks if not months going through those floors for the first time. The monsters, the dark zones, how hard it is to move around and tell where you’re going, all the tentacles and poison – these past few floors are a bitch for any new adventurers to them.

But we got through them in only a few days.

Then again, Snow is too strong for these floors, I’m slightly over-leveled for them now, and Elanah is a fast-enough learner to keep up and move on.

I never have been one for partying up.

But I’ve got to admit that we’ve been making a pretty good party so far.

Snow’s involvement is lacking for a party member, but she’s been a big help the few times that she’s actually done something.

Plus she’s one more person to carry things for us.

For me.

I’m the only one here without any bags to lug around.

Even if I have no easy way of carrying around multiple items for myself, I’ve got two party members to carry everything that I want for me!

Being in a party is actually pretty nice now that I’m thinking about it. My bone collection is growing pretty steadily thanks to the board getting the bones out of all the monsters I want her to collect from.

I figure that we might even be able to have enough bones for my throne of bones by the time we get out of this tower!

Well, that depends on how deep that magical bag of hers goes. It might be able to fit more inside of it than it should be able to hold despite its small size, but it’s still got a limit.

“Will there be more monsters with tentacles down there?” Elanah asks, looking down at me.

It seems like my hatred for all things tentacles has spread to her.

Good.

Fortunately for both of us, I shake my head.

There won’t be any monsters with tentacles for a while.

Instead, we get to deal with traps.

A lot of traps.

I bark at Snow and tell her to tell Elanah to make sure to stay behind me at all times.

I might not have Trap Detection right now, but these traps aren’t going to be difficult for me to spot without that. I already know exactly what to look for.

Now, it’s time to actually get down there.

With me in the lead, the three of us head down the stairs.

The overgrown floor and walls get replaced by dark bricks that give an appearance similar to being in an actual dungeon.

I would know. I’ve been locked away in a dungeon.

Once.

And I escaped.

Though, I wouldn’t have escaped if it wasn’t for how lucky I got that the drunken guard passed out right in front of my cell.

I still remember her face when I made it back to our room less than two days after getting thrown in there.

If there was one thing I loved, it was surprising that woman no matter how pissed off she’d get at me for it.

But those are old memories better left in the past.

I’ve already got one too many abyssal elves to deal with. I don’t need another one taking up space in my thoughts.

Instead of thinking about her, I should be thinking about how proud I am of myself for not having any difficulty with these stairs anymore.

Steep stairs like this gave this smaller body of mine trouble back when I first encountered them, but not anymore! I can go up and down all the steps I want now without falling or making a fool of myself!

Shit. Still have to be careful, though.

Almost tripped just then.

At least the bottom of the stairs are right there. Just two more steps and… safe.

No tripping accidents.

I am Woofen, King of Bones and Conqueror of Stairs!

Fuck. The human me would be ashamed right now if he could see the puppy me.

I need to go back to thinking of burying my bone into these women instead of—

“Stop,” I bark.

Snow passes the order onto Elanah.

This floor isn’t going to take things easy on us, is it?

The path ahead of us is about… thirty bricks wide. The bricks are all either dark blue or dark brown to the point where they both almost look grey regardless. Not only that, but most of the bricks look worn and have rusted spots on them.

However, in three separate spots, the bricks look just slightly newer than the rest of those around them.

Stepping on those bricks would trigger a group of monsters to spawn.

It’s a basic trap in multiple ways, but it’s still a trap.

What’s worse is the crack in the floor ahead of that.

It’s not uncommon for the tower to arrange traps one after another to catch people off-guard who think that they might have a short break between traps.

Now, the crack looks natural. There were cracks just like it up above in Zurie’s new streets.

But this tower doesn’t naturally crack like that.

If an adventurer made that crack, it would have been healed by now by the tower.

Just knowing that basic knowledge is enough to detect these traps.

And detecting them is enough to get me my skill.

[Skill Acquired!

Trap Detection |R1|

+1 WIS

Increases your ability to detect hidden traps.]

Nice and easy.

Now, those traps I just spotted have a very subtle light outlining them.

The only downside here is that, since we’re all in a party, the others won’t potentially learn the skill since I’ve already detected the traps.

I could disband the party so that we all have a chance at increasing the skill, assuming they also learn it, but then any experience we get from killing monsters won’t get shared if end up ambushed before getting back into a party together.

They both know magic, too, so they could probably make use of some more points in wisdom.

Them being able to detect the traps would also save me some trouble.

That woman always wanted to stay split up so that we could focus on skills instead of experience.

Maybe we should do the same here.

All of us are meant to grow stronger by exploring these floors. If there’s a skill that they can get, I should help them get it.

I guess.

Damn it. I’ve always hated having to teach others.

Unless it was teaching them how to play some fun games with cards without going over any of the strategies. As long as they knew the basic rules and I knew all the strategies, easy money could be made.

Ah, whatever.

Disband Party.

[Party Leader increased to rank 7!]

Three ranks from that. Not bad.

“Woofen?” Elanah asks.

I explain the situation to Snow whom explains it to Elanah.

“Oh,” Elanah says. “That makes sense. You already detected traps?”

I walk right up to the first traps and point down at them with one of my paws before explaining what would happen if the bricks were stepped on. Then I do the same with the crack in the bricks and how toxic gas would come out from it if stepped over.

“You’re so smart, Woofen,” Elanah says after listening to Snow struggle to translate all the information.

I know.

 

Our first battle on the floor is against a rare variant of a goblin.

A “tower shadowstrike goblin.”

I always felt an odd connection to the shadowstrike goblins back when I was a human since we both fought in similar ways, and now I feel that little connection and the fact that we’re both monsters.

But even if it knows how to hide in the shadows…

I still know that they like to prioritize the softest-looking targets by sneaking behind them while hidden in the shadows to go for a backstab.

I wait for the exact moment that I can hear its magic wear off to turn around with my sword ready to parry its attack.

[Parrying increased to rank 7!]

With our blades grinding against each other, mine has the superior positioning.

The tip of my blade is pointed right at its neck. All I have to do is slide it up and…

[Tower Shadowstrike Goblin took 39 damage!]

It’s nice fighting something without too much defense for once.

Too bad I couldn’t cut deep enough to kill it in one attack.

And, of course, this variant of goblin is resistant to venom since it often uses venom itself.

But it can’t use the venom on its blade if I cut its wrist holding its dagger.

[Tower Shadowstrike Goblin took 25 damage!]

Now, before it escapes, it should only take one more cut thanks to how heavily it’s bleeding.

[Tower Shadowstrike Goblin slain!]

These bastards can’t out-rogue me.

“Wow, Woofen. You – you killed it so easily,” Elanah says.

I already know that she’s looking at me with hearts in her eyes without even having to look at her.

“You’re so strong…”

For fuck’s sake. That again?

I’m moving on before she gets too into it. I’m not going to let her get all worked up, and get me worked up, while we’re in tunnels full of traps and monsters.

 

As we move along the sixteenth floor, I point out every single trap that I find to teach the girls about them. The whole point of disbanding the party was so that they could learn Trap Detection and increase its rank. As long as we’re “alone,” we can each learn and increase it.

I manage to increase my own Trap Detection skill up to rank three after just a couple of hours.

Then, by using Lucky Bone Toss every time we come to a split in the path, I manage to increase Coin Flip to rank three as well.

There is one thing above the rest that I haven’t been able to focus on nearly as much as I want to, though, and I’m probably supposed to be working on it, too.

Biting.

To be more specific, biting with fire magic.

I know that it might bring back bad memories for Snow, but any fire now won’t get so widespread since there isn’t flammable greens everywhere.

So, I give Elanah my sword and switch over to my fangs.

Another monster comes along with perfect timing.

A darkhound.

We haven’t seen any of these since me and Elanah killed the ones attached to that patrol on the higher floors. I forgot that they can naturally spawn on this floor and the next few.

And it’s going to be a fair fight since neither of us have weapons other than our claws and fangs.

Though, it is still a few times larger than me. And its fangs are bigger and sharper.

But it doesn’t have fire magic.

“Tell her that I’ve got this one,” I bark at Snow before approaching the last spot I saw the darkhound at before it turned invisible.

Just like before and like with the shadowstrike goblin, it knows how to hide in the shadows.

I wonder if I would have automatically learned that skill if I evolved into a dark pup. There is magic to copy the effect of hiding in shadows… but it doesn’t beat races that have a natural skill to do so.

Well, I’d rather have this powerful fire instead of being able to hide in shadows instead. Never needed that ability as a human so I don’t need it now, either.

All I need to do is bait out its attack.

Fortunately for me, that isn’t difficult to do.

The moment I walk past the last shadow it was standing by, pretending that I have no idea where it could have gone, the darkhound leaps at me with fangs ready to tear me to shreds.

But it can’t do that if I tear it to shreds, first.

“Hellfire Bite! Forceful Bite!” I bark immediately after evading the hound’s attack.

I jump up and latch onto the darkhound’s neck with my fangs.

Meanwhile, I try to scratch it with my claws to the best of my ability.

[Darkhound took 52 damage!]

[Fire Bite increased to rank 3!]

[Fire Attack increased to rank 2!]

[Forceful Bite increased to rank 7!]

Damn, this bastard is still alive.

And that’s a lot of skills hitting rank seven.

Well, it’s not going to survive for much longer. The fur around its neck is on fire and it’s bleeding from the wound I left.

I can either bite it again or just let it—

[Skill Acquired!

Burn Attack |R1|

Burning effects you apply are more powerful.]

Right. That makes sense. If Bleed Attack and Venom Attack are skills then of course Burn Attack is one as well. And I guess that while Fire Attack applies to the strength of flames, Burn Attack makes the actual… burning stronger? It’s weird that there’s a difference between the two.

Well, Fire Attack also gave me a point in intelligence, so I guess that Fire Attack is more for magic whereas Burn Attack covers fire in general.

I wonder if people with lightning magic can learn something like Electrocution Attack. Or if people with ice magic can learn Freeze Attack.

Is there a Drown Attack for people with water magic?

It sounds stupid, so probably not.

Then again, a lot of skills that sound stupid exist.

Yeah, that’s probably a skill.

[Darkhound slain!]

Oh. It died already.

It didn’t even try attacking me again.

I should have tried using Hellfire Bite on it again before it died.

Oh well. I have to admit that there’s something about the pained yelping and crying of hounds now that bothers me even though it never really affected me as a human.

Anyways, Elanah is smiling and clapping a little for me which just feels emasculating, but Snow looks… sad?

I wonder if it has to do with that skill of hers.

If she can understand animals, can she understand the tower’s animals? Or maybe she just doesn’t like to see animals get hurt.

In either case, she probably doesn’t exactly appreciate killing hounds like this.

But this is the tower.

That hound was a monster that would have killed us all if given the opportunity.

Even if she doesn’t like it, that doesn’t matter. She has to get over it.

Just like how she has to get over her fear of fire.

It might make me an asshole but it’s what needs to be done.

If she can’t handle killing monsters in the tower then she probably can’t handle whatever it is that the vampire has in store for her.

I mean, fuck.

I helped torture somebody in one of my first tasks underneath her.

Anyways, time to move on.

I’ll let Elanah handle the next few monsters so that I’m not taking all the experience for myself.

 

Going through these floors is so easy compared to the last five floors.

It took us – what, a week to go through those last five floors?

And now we’re already on the seventeenth floor – two and a half floors in a day, because we don’t have to deal with the shit of a time that is navigating the previous floors.

All there is to worry about with these floors is stealthy monsters and traps.

And as long as I’m in the lead, even the floors’ best traps are easy for me to spot.

And now we’ve found ourselves a gathering zone to call it a day in.

The two girls set our stuff up in a corner of the gathering zone as I look around to see if there’s anything useful in here.

I know that some of the flowers in here can be used for healing potions, but that requires a better crafting skill than what any of us have—as far as I know—and other materials that we don’t have. Then there are the boulders in here with “shadow ore,” but we don’t have any use for that nor do we have a pickaxe to mine it with.

Actually, if Elanah could get some gear modified with shadow ore, that would boost that one stealth skill of hers. I think.

What was it again? Shelter of Shadows? Yeah, that.

Oh well. We probably should have brought a picka—

Elanah swings a pickaxe into one of the boulders.

When… where… how long has she had that?

Damn. That bag of hers is seriously impressive.

What else is she hiding in it?

“This is shadow ore, right?” she asks, looking at me.

I nod at her.

“Good. I’ve heard of it coming from these floors, and it was always too expensive for me to buy anything made with it, so I thought I’d bring this cheap pickaxe to get some myself.”

She swings the pickaxe again.

“Oh. My Mining skill increased again.”

I wonder if I could get the Mining skill by using a pickaxe the same way that I use my sword.

It would be an easy and quick way of boosting up my strength attribute some more.

The higher my strength attribute gets, the more damage I can deal, the stronger I become.

A puppy swinging a pickaxe around to do some mining… now that just sounds ridiculous.

I bark at Snow so that she tells Elanah to let me try.

“You want to try mining?” Elanah asks to confirm.

“Look. There’s a piece of ore low enough right there. I can reach it,” I bark, pointing at the shiny, black metal exposed at the bottom of the boulder.

“You’re so hardworking, Woofen,” she says, setting the pickaxe down for me.

I know, I know. I’m the best, this and that, blah blah.

I just want to try to get this Mining skill. Even if I only get two points of strength from it and then never increase the skill again, it will be worth it.

Every little point adds up over time.

Now, with the pickaxe’s handle held in my mouth the same way that I hold my sword, I aim… and… swing!

Alright, this can work. Definitely possible. It should only take a few more swings before I get the skill. I hope.

It takes me more than just a few more swings.

I even have to go to another boulder in the room to find another low-to-the-ground piece of ore that I can mine out.

But, after about thirty minutes of swinging the pickaxe, I do get the skill.

[Skill Acquired!

Mining |R1|

+2 STR

Improves your chances to obtain higher quality materials from mining.]

There we go.

I am so done swinging this pickaxe around now.

It’s heavier than my sword is and each swing requires way more force.

My neck is sore now.

So, with that, I drop it so that Elanah can take it back.

Now, of course, she just has to do something weird with it.

She picks it up and… holds the handle right in front of her face.

“Woofen… you got so much of your drool all over it,” Elanah says, a light blush contrasting against her dark cheeks.

She might be crazy, and I might want to fuck her just to deal with my pent-up desires, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t weird me out with her… tendencies.

At least there’s a way to distract myself from whatever she’s about to do with the drool-coated pickaxe handle.

Skills.

Skills
Rank
Name
Activation
10
Bite Proficiency
Passive
10
Blade Proficiency
Passive
10
Felhuman Slaying
Passive
10
Throat Ripper
Trigger
9
Bleed Attack
Passive
9
Vital Targeting
Passive
9
Evasion
Passive
9
Severing Attack
Passive
8
Sneaking
Passive
8
Venom Attack
Passive
7
Corpse Eating
Passive
7
Digging
Passive
7
Forceful Bite
Trigger
7
Parrying
Passive
7
Party Leader
Passive
7
Underdog
Passive
6
Insectoid Slaying
Passive
6
Iron Gut
Passive
6
Stalking
Passive
5
Mounted Attack
Passive
5
Night Sight
Passive
5
Pain Resistance
Passive
5
Sword Proficiency
Passive
4
Bleeding Bites
Passive
4
Extraction
Passive
4
Sticky Resistance
Passive
3
Bone Breaking
Passive
3
Coin Flip
Passive
3
Fire Bite
Trigger
3
Observation
Passive
3
Claw Proficiency
Passive
3
The Curse of the Blood Queen’s Kiss
Passive
3
Trap Detection
Passive
3
Wall Jumping
Passive
2
Attack Interception
Passive
2
Falling Resistance
Passive
2
Fire Attack
Passive
2
Instant Kill
Passive
2
Magic Resistance
Passive
2
Sadistic Methods
Passive
2
Spinning Slash
Trigger
2
Sturdy Bones
Passive
2
Tracking
Passive
2
Venom Resistance
Passive
2
Vermin Slaying
Passive
2
Wound Licking
Passive
1
Bleeding Resistance
Passive
1
Bloodbath
Passive
1
Blunt Proficiency
Passive
1
Brewing
Passive
1
Burn Attack
Passive
1
Cannibalism
Passive
1
Mining
Passive

I haven’t checked on my titles in a while, either.

Titles.

Titles
Name
Primary Bonus
Conqueror of Magnurr’s Tenth Floor
Bonus damage and extra resources within first ten floors of Magnurr World Tower
Hobgoblin Chieftain Slayer
Non-boss goblins flee, bonus damage against goblins
Rat Queen Slayer
Non-boss rats flee, bonus damage against rats
Resistant
Increases effect of all resistance skills
Skilled
Increases rate of raising skill ranks
Survivor
Cannot be killed without being at 1 HP first
Talented
Decreases effect of not learning new skills
Tank
Take 10% less damage
The Reborn
+500% experience gained

There’s one more thing I’m curious about now to pass the time while Elanah does her Elanah thing.

Information: Magic, Fire?

School of Fire Magic
Attunement: 29%
Skills
Rank
Fire Bite
3
Fire Attack
1
Elite Variants
Hellfire

So, just using Fire Bite – well, Hellfire Bite, has been increasing the attunement.

I think that’s good.

I think?

Seems like I was right about Fire Attack, too. That skill is for magic whereas Burn Attack is just for burning damage in general.

Anyways. By the time I’m done looking through all of that, Elanah has placed the pickaxe and the ores we mined into her bag.

She’s also got a weird, pleased expression on her face.

I have no idea what she did, but it made her happy whatever it was.

 

Back over with Snow in the gathering zone’s corner, I figure that I should go over some information with them.

We honestly might be able to reach the twentieth floor tomorrow. If we do, and the boss is alive, we should probably go for it.

I don’t know if I’ll even be able to resist going for it if it’s alive. If it triggers the curse skill then I might not be able to resist going after it.

Therefore, since I’d rather not have to pause and explain it all then when I might feel motivated to rush through the information, I’ll go over it now.

“Listen up,” I bark at Snow. “Pay attention to what I’ve got to say since the board is going to need to know all of this.”

Snow sits up, nods, and stares at me while Elanah looks between the two of us.

“The twentieth floor is either going to have a boss similar to these floors, in which case it’s going to be like a sneaky bastard in a room full of traps, or it’s going to be a boss similar to the first five floors of these ten, so the room will be full of annoying plants and the bastard will probably have tentacles. Either way, the boss is probably going to have powerful venom or poison to help it out. If I’m remembering correctly, if it’s a tentacle bastard with plants all over the place, it shouldn’t have any help. But if it’s a stealthy bastard, it’s going to have traps and other monsters backing it up.”

Snow looks confused already.

I repeat everything that I just said but more slowly and in smaller chunks so that she can more easily translate it all to Elanah.

“Now. If it’s a tentacle bastard with plants then I won’t be able to use my fire magic since it would set the whole damn room on fire and there’d be no way for us to escape. It would also probably have high magic resistance, so your void magic would be useless again. Probably. But as long as ya remember how I taught ya to deal with tentacles, it should be fine with the three of us. Right, and if it’s a tentacle bastard, it’s probably going to be a treant of sorts. The stronger evolutions of treants tend to have a uh… what’s it called… a ‘heart.’ It’s a weak spot somewhere on their body that’s usually exposed and, while it might not die if ya stab it there like with a normal heart, ya would still deal a ton of damage by focusing your attacks there. Might even be able to apply some venom from attacking there. So, if ya see a pulsating part anywhere on its body, attack there.”

I made the same mistake as before, resulting in having to repeat everything.

Again.

“If it’s a stealthy bastard,” I pause to look at Snow.

She nods.

“Then one of us needs to focus on the boss while the other watches their back. The other monsters will try to backstab whoever’s fighting the boss. Snow, this would be perfect for ya. If ya won’t fight than ya could at least guard the back of whoever is fighting. Then either me or Elanah will kill the bastards you’re blocking against. We’ll backstab the backstabbers.”

“What kind of monster will it be?” Elanah asks after getting the translation.

“Anything from whatever an evolved darkhound is – I forget the name, to a shadowlord goblin, a gnoll chieftain, or something else. Just hope that it isn’t a gnoll. We’ve already been lucky enough not to see any yet on these last two floors.”

“I’ve never seen a gnoll before. Are they strong?”

“They’re as vicious as starved hounds with the cunning of goblins and are able to actually use weapons and armor. Ya don’t want to get into a fight against multiple gnolls. Even just one of them would be a harder challenge than any of the monsters we’ve fought since coming back in here.”

I don’t think I’ve talked this much since… I have no idea.

It’s nice. Sure, it might be annoying having to wait for Snow to translate everything, but being able to ramble about all of this is and know that at least one person will understand me is nice.

All that’s missing is some alcohol.

Alcohol makes all rambling better.

“Couldn’t we skip the boss at the twentieth floor if it’s there? She only said we need to reach the thirtieth floor,” Elanah says.

“Ya want to get stronger, don’t ya? That means if the boss is there when we reach it tomorrow, we should kill it. If the floors get shuffled before then, we’ll definitely get the chance to fight it. It’s probably dead this late in the week though unless a certain somebody’s been keeping it alive again.”

“Okay, Woofen. I know we can kill it if we’re fighting together.”

“Yeah, yeah. Anyways, there are going to be some strong traps on the twentieth floor. Traps with poison darts. We’ll trigger the traps, dodge the darts, extract the poison, and mix it into what we’ve got. Ya could even take the darts and hold onto them yourself if you’re any good at throwing them.”

Elanah nods along with Snow’s translation.

“And we’ll try to get at least another level each before actually fighting the boss. That way we’ll be fully restored and ready to fight at our best. Gives us a chance to increase our skills some more, too.”

More nodding.

“So, we’ll wake up early, train while we’re heading down there, and then see if it’s alive or not. If it is, we’ll take the bastard out before anybody else gets a chance to. If it’s not… we might just want to stay around and wait for the tower to shuffle. It should be shuffling any day now, so the bastard will respawn and we can be the first to get it without having to wait too long. Would give us more time to train, too. Lots of monsters spawn on the nineteenth and twentieth floors.”

Snow has gone from simply translating to also looking interested in my plans.

Seeing how they’re both listening so intently to everything that I have to say, even if Elanah doesn’t actually understand it when I’m saying it, is kind of nice.

This whole teaching and party leader thing isn’t too bad after all.

Though, I’m technically not a party leader right now.

Should probably fix that now that we’ve had a day of increasing our Trap Detection skills.

“And there’s one more thing I want to know about. Board, tell me every single one of your skills, their ranks, and your attributes,” I bark.

I’d ask the same of Snow but hers don’t matter with how much higher of a level she is. Plus, all I need her to do is block attacks with her shield.

Elanah is going to be more actively involved in the battle so I need to know everything that she’s got to offer.

I should be able to come up with a better plan for us that way.

Shit. I wonder what the old human me would think if he saw me right now.

I’ve gone from being a loner to actually getting kind of excited about organizing and strategizing with these girls.

It’s just that… thinking about how fucking easy we could make the boss battle with some planning is exciting.

Maybe it’s that curse affecting me. Maybe it knows that I’m thinking about fighting something far stronger than me, so it might be what’s making me excited and willing to go through all of this planning.

Maybe.

Or maybe—

It doesn’t matter.

Lately, I've had more people unpledge from Patreon because they don't want to support Patreon as a business and have had people asking me about alternatives such as SubscribeStar. Would anybody actually be willing to sign up on SubscribeStar if I made one?

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Concept art of Snow/Lixue will be done before the next chapter, so look forward to that!

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