“Is it really that bad?” Vysan asks after Snow finishes translating my warning to him.
I made sure that he knows ahead of time how tight some of the upcoming tunnels are going to be.
I also made sure to tell him about the demons.
And the spiders.
And about how being found by a giant spider while stuck in a cramped tunnel is probably going to result in death since their fangs are very, very large and capable of biting through steel.
“We’ll be fine,” I bark at him as sweat drips down his forehead.
“He says we’ll be fine,” Snow repeats for me.
“My last group… they – they never told me about what these floors are like. Maybe that’s why…” He takes a deep breath. “How am I supposed to fight if I can’t swing my arms?”
“Keep your sword held out in front of ya to stab any bastards wanting to stab ya, and hope that they don’t come from behind,” I bark.
Snow repeats my words, causing Vysan to gulp and nod.
His reaction is already pretty entertaining.
“Snow, you’re going to have even more trouble than him, so watch out,” I bark.
“What about me?” Elanah asks.
“You’re small enough that it shouldn’t be a problem.”
“He says you are small enough that you will be fine,” Snow translates.
Elanah looks like she doesn’t know whether to be insulted or complimented, so she nods her head and looks down the stairs instead.
I’m kind of excited.
Demons – well, tower demons aren’t anything special, but they’re still stronger than goblins and whatever other trash we were fighting up until now.
Plus I’m small enough that the cramped tunnels aren’t going to bother me now.
These floors should be a good challenge for me.
“Let’s go,” I bark.
The tight tunnels seriously don’t waste any time in trying to restrict our movement.
Each tunnel has a section that is wide and tall like normal – big enough to easily fight in without hitting the walls with every swing of a sword, but they are connected to each other by tight passages that either require people like Vysan and Snow to walk sideways, lean down, or walk with their arms straight at their sides.
“It’s – it’s not as bad as you made it sound… but I still don’t like this,” Vysan says, wiping more sweat off from his forehead before hesitantly looking into the next cramped passage we need to go through. “I wish I was as small as you right now.”
“Ya wouldn’t if ya understood that it means having a small cock, too,” I bark.
Snow looks away and covers her mouth, trying to hide her laughter.
And she does a good job at it aside from her shoulders moving.
She might be quiet, she might like to stay in the back while we do everything, and she might be traumatized by fire, but at least she finds me funny.
That alone is enough to keep her around.
I wonder if Elanah would find me funny if my jokes actually got translated to her.
Vysan is probably too stressed at the moment to find me funny. Or he might be so stressed that he would laugh at anything right now.
All I know is that it looks like we’ve got ourselves a fight coming up in the next room.
And… I’m really surprised that I can tell.
Wait, how can I tell?
It’s like… I can sense something up there. It’s kind of like that feeling I get whenever I’m around something strong enough to trigger that curse’s desires, but it’s not affecting me the same way. It’s just… letting me know that something is there.
I got this feeling a couple of times when up in the city, but I never thought anything of it. I figured it was just me getting used to having a better nose and ears now.
“Woofen?” Elanah asks, looking down at me.
Having such an expressive body is annoying, but it’s also useful since the others know that something is up.
All they have to do is look at my ears and tail and then they can tell that something might be wrong.
Something is ahead of us.
Dangerous? I don’t know.
But seeing as how this is the twenty-fifth floor of the tower… it’s almost definitely dangerous.
I take the lead with my sword ready.
I’ll just be nice and slow to try and peek around the corner to see what might be waiting for us.
I was right. Something is there.
But it’s an insignificant-fucking-something.
A fucking imp.
I was getting excited over an imp?!
It turns to face me even though I haven’t made any noises.
I think I get what’s going on here now.
The imp is a demon.
I’m technically part demon now.
I’ve never heard of demons being able to sense each other… but it makes sense and I can’t think of anything else that could explain this.
Why does the first demon that I’ve come across have to be an imp? They’re basically just shorter, redder, wing-ier goblins that can throw fireballs and have higher-pitched voices.
Speaking of fireballs, it throws one at me.
So I jump out of the way, onto the wall, and then off of the wall toward the imp.
My sword slices its small, vulnerable body in half.
[Tower Imp slain!]
[Instant Kill increased to rank 3!]
That feeling I had from before is gone, too.
That explains some things.
The brat – the… dead baby. I guess it doesn’t deserve to be called a brat since it never got the chance to become one. Either way, that mom and baby who were killed – I remember that Fane said the father was part demon. I didn’t sense anything around that baby since it was dead.
And even when facing this imp, the feeling wasn’t strong enough that I’d be able to pick it out in a group, so that was why it wasn’t more obvious what I was feeling up above in a crowded city.
Overall, I’d say it’s a pretty damn useful perk. It definitely is for the tower at least.
I’ll be able to detect any demonic monsters or people ahead of time.
“Is there anything useful we can take from this?” Elanah asks, looking down at the severed imp.
Good. She’s learning to try and make the most out of monsters.
Too bad there isn’t anything good to take from this little bastard.
I mean, its wings could be clipped and sold on the black market for some extra coin… but we don’t exactly need extra coin thanks to Zurie’s funding.
I shake my head and look into the next path.
Just as Vysan catches up to us, I’m heading into the next tunnel for him to squeeze his way through.
At least he has shut up.
After going through more cramped spaces, a few more imps, and even more goblins and orcs and snakes and rats, we’ve made it to the gathering zone of the twenty-fifth floor.
It’s time for us to take a break and rest.
Now, there is one particular reason why I am actually kind of excited for resting in this floor’s gathering zone.
One reason that was not present in the higher floors’ gathering zones.
There is not only a small pool of water large enough to fit a few people in it at once, but is heated to be the perfect temperature for relaxing in.
And there isn’t anybody else in this gathering zone, either. If there was anybody else, they would surely already be relaxing in the water.
I’m getting excited just thinking about submerging myself in there.
“Water? And there’s steam coming off of it,” Elanah points out, looking down at me afterward.
I nod my head and bark.
The water is the perfect temperature to give off a bit of steam here and there without being so hot that it would burn us.
I’ve never been inside of heated water as a puppy, but I’m sure that it’ll be just as good as when I was a human if not better.
I’ll even be able to swim in it now that I’m small enough!
I could just float on my back and focus on feeling all of the water underneath me…
Shit, that sounds nice. Seriously nice.
“Fi-finally,” Vysan says, finally getting through the cramped entrance to this room.
I think he might need the heated water more than I need it.
“Is that a hot spring?” he asks, looking over at it.
I nod and bark.
“I didn’t hear of what the tunnels would be like, but I was told that the gathering zones here had great baths!” he explains.
“Baths? Is that what it’s for?” Elanah asks me.
I mean, basically? Bathing in the water is close enough to what it’s actually for, anyways.
Bathing and relaxing are usually combined in the first place.
So, I nod. And I bark.
And now Elanah is glaring at Vysan.
“You’re not allowed in while we’re in,” Elanah explains.
“Don’t worry. I figured that Woofen and me wouldn’t be allowed in while you two are in there. We can take turns so that—”
“No, Woofen is allowed.”
“But he’s a guy just like me.”
“Don’t care. Woofen is allowed. You’re not.”
“Al-alright. I guess I’ll keep watch while you three take a dip?”
“You’re not allowed in the gathering zone while we’re in.”
“How am I going to keep watch then? If I can’t see you, not that I’d look over anyways, then how could I—”
“We don’t need you to keep watch. We need you to go wait outside.”
Harsh, but I don’t care enough to say anything.
Besides, I’m starting to imagine some nice things. Nice things like Elanah and Snow stripping down for the bath since I’m “just a puppy.”
Elanah tried taking a couple of baths with me while we were at Zurie’s, but that creepy butler somehow always separated us right before it could happen.
I wonder if he was purposely doing that.
Yeah, he was definitely doing that on purpose.
Then again, that might have been for my own safety.
Elanah alone with me, naked, in a bath, could in no way ever be trusted.
But if Snow is here with us then it should be fine.
There was that incident where Elanah’s hand got way too dangerously close to rubbing me in the wrong – well, the right place, but she didn’t go for it. Probably because the other two are here.
But as much as part of me might feel like being conflicted again regarding the whole, “but I’m only a fucking puppy, I have nothing to fuck with, it’s emasculating,” thing, I don’t really care right now.
All I care about is relaxing in that hot, peaceful water.
I was so focused on fighting demons for more entertainment that I forgot they are just as boring as the rest of the monsters in this tower. I also forgot about the heated pools.
While Elanah bosses Vysan around some more…
It’s time to dive in.
I toss my bone to the ground by Snow’s feet and charge toward the pool.
Soaring over the edge of the pool with my front legs sticking out in front of me and my back legs sticking out back, I fly through the air like an arrow for all of two seconds before falling straight down onto the water belly-first.
A wave of relaxing warmth washes over me as…
As I realize that I have no fucking idea how to swim as a puppy!
How do I do this?!
I had no problem swimming as a human, but this is something else!
Shit! I can’t see from the water in my eyes, it’s getting in my throat, and these short legs aren’t good for kicking the water!
What if I – alright, I’ll try rolling onto my back to float!
Damn it, I have no idea how to balance on my back in the water as a puppy!
Is this how I die?
Am I seriously going to drown in a shallow, small pool of heated water in a gathering zone inside of the tower?
Dying against a vampire was one thing. There wasn’t any shame in that. But this?
If I die like this… I would feel ashamed from whatever comes after life.
“Woofen!” Elanah shouts, jumping into the water and holding me up and out of it.
I spit out the water that got into my mouth and shake my head.
Elanah saved me. When it mattered the most, she was here to save me.
She saved me from such an embarrassing death.
I appreciate this damn board so much.
“Are you okay, Woofen?” she asks.
I start nodding before noticing something.
She got soaked from jumping into the water.
She has a tight, white shirt covering her chest.
A tight, wet, white shirt.
The water might have almost killed me, but it’s also showing me something beautiful right now.
I appreciate the damn water so much.
“You okay, Woofen?” Vysan asks.
Elanah snaps her head around to glare at him some more and order, “Out.”
Vysan sighs and stares at the tunnel he came in through before looking around the room at the other entrances to the gathering zone.
Each one is just as cramped as the one before it.
I kind of feel bad for him, but he’s not the one who almost just drowned.
Plus I want to enjoy this sight by myself.
Though, I want to enjoy it while preferably not almost drowning.
I wish there was an underwater breathing skill for me to learn.
Going by the world’s logic, there might be one if I continue to try and breathe underwater while subjecting myself to potentially drowning… but I’m not going to do that to try and unlock a skill that I don’t even know exists.
I’m just going to stick to the shallow edges of the pool where I can still stand while enjoying the water. And the views.