My search for that guy’s companions ends almost as quickly as it began.
It only took me a few minutes to find tracks that I could follow. From those tracks, I was lead to the stairs going up to the floor above us, and there was plenty of blood around their tracks.
Only, the blood wasn’t theirs.
The blood all belonged to the obvious monsters that they killed along the way.
If I had that Blood Reading skill that the red-haired servant of Zurie had then I could doublecheck the blood around here to make sure that it’s the monsters instead of any other adventurers’.
But that requires me getting my Tracking skill up to ten.
It got up to three on the way over here, so I’m making progress there, but it’s slow progress. Tracking is one of those skills that’s a pain in the ass to get to ten since it requires doing a whole lot of tracking.
A lot of tracking.
But it’s worth getting to ten for anybody who ever wants to be able to find anybody or anything.
The specialized skills that come after it are just way too useful.
And now there’s that Blood Reading skill.
Fane also said that it used blood magic. Am I going to have to learn how to use blood magic if I want to get Blood Reading?
He said that Zurie wants me to get the skill. So, if it does require blood magic, she probably has a plan for me to get it.
I already know fire magic.
How am I supposed to learn two, if I am supposed to?
Learning more than one kind of magic pretty much requires you to be a pure caster type who does nothing but cast spells all day. They’re too busy focusing on all of their magic-related skills to worry about anything else.
That vampire isn’t expecting me to become a pure caster, is she?
Sure, there are monsters who know multiple types of magic and do frontline fighting as well, but those are monsters.
I’m not a monster, I’m a…
I am a monster.
But is there an evolution ahead of this one that is meant for casting multiple schools of magic while being a frontliner? She wants me to become a cerberus and I know that those are legendary beasts and all that, but they’re known for their raw, overwhelming strength and the whole three heads thing.
I’ve never heard of a cerberus being able to use multiple types of magic before. One type, usually fire, sure. But not multiple types.
Am I going to get three heads?
What would that be like?
Is each one going to have its own thoughts? What if they have different personalities than me?
What if I get two more heads that are just like dogs? And I mean what if they actually behave like dogs?
I’ve still got a human soul in this body. I never give in to that annoying desire to… alright, I won’t lie to myself. I do give in to my dog-inspired desires at times.
But what if I get two more heads with their own personalities who always want to give in to those desires?
Would they be able to control the body as well as I can?
What if I want to run left to go chase some girl with a nice ass and they want to go right to sniff some horse shit on the street or something?
If I do have full control over all three heads… would I talk from all three at once or could I choose which one I’m using?
How would eyesight work? Would I only see out of the two eyes of my main head, which would probably be the middle one, or would I see through three different sets of eyes all looking in different directions?
Imagining the blind spots between the sets of eyes is already making me confused.
If I have three heads…
That means I could chew on three bones at once. Maybe this whole three heads thing won’t be too bad after all.
I wonder if I’d get to have three cocks. One cock per head sounds like a good ratio to me. Plus that means more to work with.
I mean, it’s not like I’ve ever been lacking in what I’ve had to work with… well, pre-reincarnation, but depending on how they’re positioned, I could go for the front and back door at the same time.
The third one might get left out unless I double up on one of the doors, but that would be like two fatasses trying to walk through the same doorway at once.
Would I feel three times the pleasure if I did that?
I think of some weird fucking shit when there’s nothing to do.
No monsters, no traps – this section of the floor has been cleared out other than some corpses of monsters here and there. Some were killed by us, others were killed by that other group.
And now I’m back at the gathering zone.
Just as I told Elanah and Snow to, that guy has been stripped down to his briefs and all of the other cuts around his body have been bandaged up.
But not by bandages.
Instead, it looks like his shirt got cut up into bandages to use instead of using the medical bandages we brought.
“What?” Elanah asks, looking at me.
I look at the bloodied “bandages” and then back at her.
“He isn’t worth wasting our good supplies on.”
I narrow my eyes.
“Be-besides, the cuts were shallow…”
I squint my eyes.
“I – I’m trying to save supplies… I promise that I only used his shirt because I honestly knew that he didn’t need our good bandages… I would have used them if I thought he needed them…”
“She is right,” Snow says.
“See?!” Elanah asks, perking right back up with a smile.
I sigh and look him over.
He’s fucking out.
And he’s drooling with some sort of stupid smile on his face.
He must be having a nice dream.
“Did you find them?” Snow asks me.
Between her eyes and her tone, it’s easy to tell that she’s worried.
I’ve got Elanah who couldn’t be assed to give a single fuck and Snow who’s worried about people she’s never even met before.
“All I found was a trail going upstairs. Lots of blood, but it looked to all be from the dead monsters everywhere. They’re fine. Probably,” I explain.
“I wish you could have found them.”
“Things are noisy enough with just the two of ya.”
The sleeping bastard snores.
“Three of ya.”
Snow cracks a smile and asks, “What will we do with him?”
“Let him go or something. I don’t care.”
“Wouldn’t that defeat the purpose of saving him?”
She must be speaking in her native tongue because: one, I can understand her perfectly and she’s not struggling with talking at all; and two, Elanah is sitting off to the side pouting at us.
I don’t think she can understand what Snow is saying.
“How would it defeat the point?” I ask.
“Because you would be sending an injured man out on his own,” Snow explains.
“So? He’d be fine.”
“It would defeat the purpose if he dies right after you saved him.”
“Then what do ya suggest? Escort him to a floor where he’ll be able to handle things on his own all nice and safely? We’d lose a day and we have limited time.”
“I could take him.”
“And we’d still lose time.”
“Zurie won’t be mad if we fail.”
“Just hearing ya say ‘fail’ has pissed me off and made me not want to fail.”
“What does it matter if we are late?”
“It matters because…”
Why does it matter?
Sure, the vampire told us to reach the thirtieth floor by the end of the month…
But why within that near-impossible timeframe?
What’s going to happen if we don’t make it before the end of the month? It’s not like she’s going to kill us or turn us into food or anything.
Seriously, what’s the point in trying to rush so much?
Well, there is the fact that just the idea of failing is pissing me off.
I’ve always known when to turn and run away for the sake of survival, but – I don’t know.
Something is different this time. It’s like – it’s not the feeling from that curse making me want to be suicidal and take on stronger bosses, but I guess I just don’t want to fail.
There are other reasons, too, like growing stronger so that I can evolve and have a good body to fuck with the next time I get transformed.
Or earning praise and pampering from that vampire… not that I’d ever admit that one out loud. And I only want this because it feels good. It would feel even better in a good, mature body.
Then there’s just wanting to do something so that I’m not feeling like a lazy piece of shit lounging around doing nothing all day.
And I guess… there’s the fact that this tower now is more familiar to me than the city up above. With all the changes that the city went through, this tower is more of a home to me now than it is.
The city changed.
This tower hasn’t.
But if that’s the case, spending more time down here would be what I’d want to do instead of rushing to finish our goal.
In the end, it comes back down to me just not wanting to fail.
I don’t want to let Zurie down. Why I don’t want to let her down, I’m not even sure myself. I just… maybe it’s the fucking puppy’s soul mixed with mine again, but I want to do what she says solely for the sake of doing what she says.
I want to make her happy?
There’s no damn way I’m that submissive now toward somebody who killed me and reincarnated me into the body of a puppy.
This is pissing me off!
I can’t even understand my own damn feelings!
I just want to bite and tear apart some bastard monster now to do something about all of this frustration!
Maybe she put a spell or something on me that I don’t know about which is making me submissive to her.
But if that’s the case, she wouldn’t have made such a big deal about me choosing to do all of this on my own – about me choosing to change.
Change who I am.
Change my life.
It wouldn’t mean anything if I didn’t have any choice to begin with.
So then why—
“Woofen?” Snow asks.
Both her and Elanah are staring at me and I’m only just now noticing how angrily I’m gnawing on this bone.
I’m just going to clear my mind and wait for this bastard to wake up so that we can see what he wants to do.
“When’s the translation? I want to know everything Woofen said,” Elanah says, not even caring about what Snow was saying.
One translation and short, post-rest rest later, the sleepy bastard finally wakes up.
“Where am I?” Vysan asks.
Both me and Elanah look at Snow.
Elanah doesn’t want to talk to him and I’m a damn puppy who can only speak in barks and whines.
“Gathering zone,” Snow answers.
“Who carried me here?”
“Thanks. I guess I must have passed out.”
“Looks like I’m going to need a new shirt,” he says. “I appreciate it, though.”
This bastard is so damn grateful.
“You are welcome,” Snow says.
“Tell him about his partners,” I bark.
Snow nods and goes over my findings.
“I’m just glad they got off of this floor,” he says with a relieved sigh. “We covered a few floors in the past few hours, so they’ll know where to go as long as the tower doesn’t shuffle.”
“Will they leave without you?” Snow asks.
“Yeah, probably. I wished they were there to help me during the fight, but now that the adrenaline has worn off, I’m just happy that I’m alive.”
“Were you friends?”
“Eh. Kind of. One of the guys lived across the street from me. He was the one who invited me join up with his group for this trip into the tower.”
“Maybe they are waiting for you.”
“Not so sure about that. They made it clear before we came down here that, if anybody acted stupid and got lost or separated, then it would be up to them to get out on their own. They were really professional about the whole thing.”
Zurie might have made the city, but adventurers are still going to be adventurers.
Going into the tower and coming out with fewer people than you went into it with is just a part of life.
No matter how nice the city might become, people aren’t going to suddenly start sacrificing themselves to make sure that everybody is fine and dandy in the tower.
They know the risks when they come down here.
“Are you sure?” Snow asks.
“Yeah,” Vysan answers. “You’re adventurers. You know what it’s like. You’re friends with who you come down with until it gets tough. Then you’re friends with whoever’s left standing around you. All that matters is that you get out at the end of the day so that you can come back in the next day,” he says with a chuckle.
He’s right. It’s always been like that in the tower. The only people who think otherwise are the dumbasses who come down with their lovers instead of just living happy, normal lives outside of the tower.
“Anyways, I guess I’ll get going. I’d appreciate it if you could point me in the direction of the stairs. As long as I can make it to the stairs, I should be able to make it back up the tower on my own.”
“Tell him he’ll die if he’s stupid and tries going back on his own with how injured he is,” I bark.
Snow repeats and—
The ground rumbles beneath us.
The tower has started shuffling its floors.
Fortunately, gathering zones are always the same, so the room that we’re in stays in one piece.
It’s all the other rooms and tunnels around us that are getting moved around.
A few minutes later, once the rumbling has ended, I look up at Elanah and glare at her.
She picked me up during the rumbling to make sure that I wouldn’t “fall.”
Who fucking cares if I lose my balance and trip to fall over?! I wouldn’t even get hurt from that!
Damn it, she used something like that as an excuse to hold me so tightly and I know it.
And she knows that I know it which is why she’s giving me one of those, “Ehehe,” giggles now.
Try to laugh and act innocent, you damn abyssal. It won’t work.
“Well… shit,” Vysan says.
Even if he was healed up enough to ascend the tower on his own, he’d be lost, have no idea where to go, all the monsters would be back, traps would be in new positions—
“I uh – I’ve got to admit that I don’t really know what to do now. Shit,” he says.
That cool demeanor of his is starting to slip away now.
He went from looking all relieved and confident to nervous and shaking.
Though, he’s trying his best not to look so nervous.
I can’t really blame him for it. It might not be too manly shaking and looking all nervous like he is, but he’s one injured person with no supplies on his own in the tower.
I guess he’s not on his own yet. He’s still with us.
And… if the tower just shuffled its floors, then that means the boss at the twentieth floor has respawned.
Unless there’s already a group there that’s been waiting for the respawn, the boss should be there when we get there.
But we’re going to have to hurry if we want to get to it before anybody else.
I doubt that it’s going to be getting kept alive like the tenth floor’s boss was.
If we want to kill the boss, we’re going to have to compete with other adventurers for it.
We should be able to get there in a few hours if we prioritize descending the tower as quickly as possible. Avoiding monsters and letting me handle all the trap detection instead of waiting for them to do it, too, will speed things up.
As for this unfortunate bastard whose situation just got significantly worse…
He’s going to die if we leave him alone. There are only two ways that he’ll be able to survive.
The first way is that he stays in this room doing the bare minimum of gathering to survive. There’s a small pond with some fish in it and edible plants here and there for him. He can survive in here for as long as he needs to. All he’d have to do is make sure to instantly kill any monsters that try to spawn from him gathering and hope that some other group comes down here and is willing to escort him back.
At the very least, even if a group refuses to take him back, they can pass on the word that he’s down here and have a quest put up to retrieve him.
The second way is to leave and get extremely lucky. Like, be the luckiest damn man alive. Not run into any monsters, detect every trap, find a group willing to help him, find the gathering zones and stairs without any effort – if all of that can happen, he could get out of this tower within the next couple of days.
Unless he’s actually some genius “hero” or something with a ton of untapped potential just waiting to save his ass when he needs it the most, he’s fucked.
And I know that he doesn’t have that because, if he did, I wouldn’t have had to save him from that goblin.
“You’re fucked, kid,” I bark.
“I don’t speak dog but I think that I understood you,” he says. “I’m screwed.”
Well, there is one other option available to him, but it’s only open to him if we offer it.
We could let him come with us.
One more body will help with the boss. Plus he’s a frontliner with the Tank title.
I have that title, but I’m not using it.
Snow is also basically a frontlining tank.
Three “tanks” in one party… crowd control would be made way easier. Even if he alone does all of the tanking, that would make my job and Elanah’s job way easier since Snow isn’t really that active in combat. She defends herself and us and that’s it.
If we have a real tank blocking attacks, drawing attention to him, and dealing damage while he does it, then—
“I uh… don’t suppose that you three are looking for a fourth, are you?” he asks.
The bastard beat me to it.
And Zurie never said anything about not getting help along the way.
“No,” Elanah answers.
Snow looks down at me.
“Tell him that if he’ll be our main tank and settle for just enough food and drink to stay alive then he can stick with us until we make it to the thirtieth floor and back,” I bark.
Snow repeats what I said much.
Meanwhile, Elanah leans over on all fours to whisper into my ear, “Are we going to keep him as a sacrifice if we need one?”
I turn to face her and place one paw on her face between her eyes.
“Is – is that a yes?” she asks.
I shake my head.
She sighs and turns her attention to Vysan, glaring at him.
“The thirtieth floor? I guess you really do need a fourth if you’re planning on going that far,” he says.
“No we don’t. Woofen is strong enough that he could get there on his own,” Elanah says.
“Well… who’s the party leader?”
“The puppy is? I mean, I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised, but I have to admit that I’ve never heard of a puppy party leader before.”
To make him believe it, I send party invites to all three of them since the party still hasn’t been reformed yet.
But now it has been.
With four members.
Leader: Talented Woofen
Member: Thief Elanah
Member: Sealed Daughter Lixue
Member: Tank Vysan
“A level thirty-eight? Wow. First time being in a party with anybody over twenty-five. I’d say that I’ll be in your care, but I’m the main tank now, so I’ll do my best to protect all of you!” Vysan declares with a salute.
Elanah rolls her eyes while Snow gives him a little clap.
I don’t know if that’s a genuine clap or a pity clap.
If he’s got the injured status then his health is somewhere between fifty and seventy-five percent of its maximum.
He might be our tank now, but he’s still going to have to be careful.
“And our puppy party leader has got the Talented title. That’s really impressive,” he says.
“His name is Woofen,” Elanah says.
“Right. Sorry. Woofen, I’m looking forward to a party with you!”
His kind and enthusiastic behavior is back in full force now that he’s got a party to stick with.
Damn, I hate these overly positive types. It was refreshing at first but now I’m reminded of how annoying this kind of personality is.
He’s even holding a hand out to me.
I give him my paw to shake.
This guy is accepting a puppy party leader way too easily…
Vysan might be annoying but damn if he doesn’t make a good tank. Snow stepped in whenever she thought that we needed help, but he’s here to block every attack for us. None of his injuries are slowing him down, so he might have been able to make it out of here on his own after all.
It’s kind of annoying how in-the-way he is all the time during combat, but that’s what makes him a good tank. That’s a natural part of fighting in a party with new members until you get used to their style.
Whether we’re fighting one monster, two monsters, or four monsters, he manages to keep all of their attention on himself. That allows me and Elanah to get behind them and hurt them where it hurts the most.
The few times that one of the monsters do manage to swing an attack at us, he’s right there ready to intercept it.
In fact, he’s a bit unnaturally good at it.
It’s like he is predicting every single attack of his enemies. He struggles against hidden enemies but, if he can see them, he can read what their next attack will be.
Seems like he’s got Attack Prediction.
I had that back as a human. Most people get it over time just from being in enough fights. I never got the specialized skill, but I know that it leads into Attack Intuition which lets you passively detect hidden attacks, ranged attacks, and magic attacks.
That was an extremely useful skill that I always wanted but never did get.
Probably because my Attack Prediction skill was always so low due to me never dragging out fights to try and improve it.
I wonder if it would have helped at all against Zurie if it was a higher rank when we fought.
“Ask him if he’s got Attack Prediction,” I bark at Snow.
Snow nods and asks, “Do you have… Attack… Pre-… the word… Estimate? Attack Estimate?”
“Attack Prediction?” Vysan guesses.
I nod at him.
“Yeah. It’s at rank eight. Trying to get it up to ten since I’ve heard that it has a really useful specialized skill. These stealthy monsters won’t be a problem for me anymore once I get that skill.”
That explains why he’s such a competent tank but fucked up against the goblin earlier as soon as it hid itself.
Maybe I should start trying to read my enemies’ movements during battle so that I can get Attack Prediction again. It is a useful skill with even a single rank in it.
Elanah could also use it.
And Snow if she doesn’t already.
But we don’t have the time for that. We need to hurry to the twentieth floor.
Spending our time in battles to try and predict monsters’ moves can be done after we kill the twentieth floor’s boss.
With Vysan’s help, we get to the nineteenth floor’s downward stairs in just about half of a day.
Not half bad considering that we had no idea where we were going.
Too bad we’ve missed out on a ton of potential experience and untapped resources in the gathering zones on the way here.
But the good news is that I know the boss is still alive.
The sensation from the curse is pulling me toward the left stairs – the twentieth floor, instead of the right stairs that would take us to the twenty-first floor.
“The boss is alive,” I bark.
Snow repeats the news.
“You said you want the thirtieth floor, right? You sure you want to stop for this boss?” Vysan asks.
“Don’t question him,” Elanah orders.
“Tell Elanah to stop answering for me. And tell her that she was questioning me earlier,” I bark.
Snow repeats my words which causes Elanah to glare at Vysan.
I almost feel bad for him. He didn’t even do anything wrong but he’s getting her glare.
Now, down to the twentieth floor.
Unlike the tenth floor where, basically, the entire floor was the boss room, the twentieth floor has a few tunnels in it. They’re more than easy enough to navigate toward the boss since I just have to follow the feeling I’ve got thanks to the curse skill, but there’s something I want to see if I can find before we head there.
And I almost immediately find it.
Lady Luck is on my side today!
At the end of this tunnel is a poison dart trap.
“Tell everybody to duck,” I bark at Snow.
They all duck.
I walk right up to the edge of the pressure plate and then hop onto it with all four legs at once to make sure that it activates.
Ten poison darts shoot from the wall in five bursts of two at a time fly through the air going over all of our bodies.
“Tell Elanah to take the tips off of two of the darts to mix them into our venom and to pocket the rest so that we can use them during the fight. They’ll disappear if they leave the tower, but they can be used for as long as they’re in here,” I bark.
Too bad the same trap can’t be activated more than once an hour. Don’t want to stay around and wait for anybody else to potentially come and take out the boss.
We could always check out the other tunnels for this same trap, but this trap is rare and I doubt that we’d have the opportunity to throw more than eight of those darts in a battle. If we coat our blades in the poison that Elanah is mixing up right now, the darts are basically useless anyways since our blades will be delivering it.
But they might still be useful for any reinforcements that spawn in the distance.
But not more-than-eight-darts useful.
Thinking of poison, we might as well coat our weapons in it while we’re here and it’s already out.
Then we’ve got a boss to kill.
And since I’ve got this feeling leading me to it… that means it’s strong enough for me to increase the cursed skill from killing and eating it.
Increasing that skill will make the next ten floors significantly safer for me – way safer than if I were to just level a few more times.
Now, with our blades given a fresh coating of the combined venom and poison that we’ve been collecting for the past ten floors, it’s time to test out just how effective it’ll be on the boss.
Even our new tank coated his weapon.
With four party members, a dedicated tank, poisoned weapons, Snow to step in if shit gets really bad – we’ve got this.
This boss is fucked.