Chapter 45: “Ghastly!”
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“Well, at least this floor doesn’t smell as bad.” Evren said as he looked out at the dark dead forest with some tombstones here and there. “I wonder what the theme is now. People with masks and knives who suddenly appear?” As Evren moved deeper in, he felt a presence ahead. When he finally got sight of it, it was in a tree, climbing down head first. When it reached the bottom, it crawled forward for a little, its long tongue sticking out from beneath sharp teeth, then it rose to its feet. Its hands seemed larger than normal, its long fingers ending in sharp claws.

The creature charged at Evren. Evren stepped aside, but the creature’s long claws reached his upper arm, slicing through the leather and into his arm. “I’m beginning to wonder if this leather is doing anything other than making me sweat more.” Evren said as he looked at his arm. As Evren was about to heal the wound, he noticed the monster was swinging at him from the side. With an almost carefree swing of his sword, Evren hit the forearm of the creature, blocking the strike.

Evren took a step back and focused on the fight. He was surprised that the sword didn’t cut all the way through the arm, like it normally would with the monsters he had fought until this point. He realized he had gotten lax about fighting, after having gone through the easier levels to this point. He swung his sword to drive the monster back, but the monster blocked the sword with its long, arm and forced itself into a closer range. When Evren kicked its chest to knock it back, his leg got sliced. When Evren slashed it with a sword, the sword was blocked. The monster kept driving Evren back with its aggression.

Evren noticed the wounds on the monster were closing. It was slow, but after a time noticeable. Evren finally driving the monster back with a blast of telekinesis, his sword following up to slash at its chest, drawing an inky black line across it. Evren poured magic into his sword, and it glowed a faint blue, his next series of attacks illuminating the area with a blue glow. The first hit was on the monster’s right arm, which sliced it in half at the wrist. The next slash cut deep into the chest of the creature, it hissed in response.

Evren cut its left arm off just above the elbow, and ended the fight by decapitating it, although the creature didn’t die right away. Evren did a double take at the head that was still chomping as if trying to bite him. He stepped forward and stabbed it in the head, finally it dissolved away into nothing, and Evren stopped feeding magic to the sword. As he picked up the milky white mana gem, Evren stared at the sword in his hand, “This thing really sucks up the magic like a sponge. That must be what the magical conductivity was all about.” Evren pocketed the gem and sheathed his sword as he walked back to the wagon.

He healed the wounds on his leg and shoulder and mended the leather before continuing. He would have to treat all the fights from now on more seriously. Those claws were as sharp as blades, and its skin and bones much tougher than what he had come across before. They were similar to the fire breathing hounds he had fought in Plinth for as tough as they were. And, if he was going to have to use magic to enhance his sword just to cause significant damage, he had a feeling this floor was going to drain him considerably.

Now that he had an idea of how the monsters fight, he would try the next few fights without enhancing the sword. At least, that was the plan. The next fight lasted for half an hour before Evren poured magic into the sword to slice off the creature’s arms, and then through the throat into the head when it tried to bite him. The creature’s aggressive nature made it difficult to aim for the head each time. Evren had tried to kill it by stabbing it through the heart, but that didn’t even seem to slow the creature down.

The next fight, Evren tried to fight it using his dagger. It was a faster, more intense fight than when he was using the sword. He would parry the hands and move out of the way of the claws much quicker with this fighting style, but it took longer to get a strike to the head than with the sword. And, although the dagger was smaller than the sword, it seemed to draw the same amount of magic power from him when he poured magic into it. While it did give Evren a chance to use his knife fighting skills, which he had honed over years of practice in the military, infusing the weapons with magic drained him considerably more than casting spells.

Evren advanced slowly through the level, sometimes he would fight with the sword, and sometimes he would fight with the dagger. Once he tried to get a drop on the monster by shooting it with an arrow, but he the monster dodged, and it took half an hour of digging to get the arrow out of the tree. Evren thought the tree’s wood was pretty tough and would make a great shaft for an arrow, but when he would cut a branch off, it would dissolve shortly after, like the monsters would.

Having crossed the level for almost a full day, Evren came across a shallow cave. The rock the cave was made from seemed to have grown out of the dungeon floor as if it was done so with the purpose of making the cave. The cave walls were about a meter thick, and the cave itself was about ten meters in diameter. The entrance was wide enough for the wagon to fit through, if he took off the outside boxes. Evren thought that the cave was a resting point for explorers. If the dungeon could create an entire floor that was devoid of threats, a ten-meter patch of land in the middle of a floor as a safe point wasn’t much of a stretch of the imagination.

At least that’s what he told himself as he fell asleep at the far end of the chamber from the door. When he woke a few hours later, having no monsters visit him in his sleep, he was confident that his theory was sound. He would just have to keep his eyes open for other similar landmarks along the way. Evren had mended his armor, but it was beginning to look a bit ragged. Even though magic was used to mend the armor, it didn’t seem that it was a completely thorough repair. Some of the places where he had repaired had cracks in the leather. Cracks which could be further repaired with another use of ‘mend’ but would reform even after Evren oiled the leather.

Evren spent the next two days gong from cave to cave, fighting monsters on the way alternately with his sword and dagger. He had gotten used to the higher speed of the fights and was adjusting appropriately. He had improved his speed and became familiar with the attack styles of these monsters to the point where he began to anticipate their attacks and was able to react appropriately.

On the third day, Evren found the passage to the next floor. He took a small break in the passage on the way to the 32nd floor because even though only half a day had passed, he fights would be tougher. He got plenty of rest and food in him before starting on the next floor. The number of monsters changed from just a single one every now and then to two to three at a time, with the occasional single patrol that might join a fight. In order to conserve his magical energy, Evren would only put magic into the sword or dagger when he wanted to cut something.

With the fights becoming longer due to the increase in numbers, Evren felt more fatigue near the end of the day. He was grateful for the caves and the brief respite they offered. Those caves felt further and further away from each other though. Evren guessed that was because the fights were longer, but it could be that they were in fact further away as the level had probably gotten bigger. Evren’s sensory field would be stretched thin towards the end of the day to find the tell-tale signs of the caves.

Evren rested again when he reached the 33rd floor, wondering how many he would have to fight at a time now that he’s gone down again, or if there would be a new type of monster, like a bigger one or shaped like a different type of monster. He was wrong though, for all intents and purposes, the 33rd floor seemed to be just like the 32nd floor. However, Evren found the difference at the caves.  Instead of being empty and free from monsters, there was a group of 5 monsters inside.

Evren noticed the difference with his sensory field before he approached the cave. When he did approach, he used ‘explosion’ inside the cave, crippling a couple of the monsters in the process. Their rapid regeneration would keep them out of the fight for only a few minutes. Even then, they would still try to get to him in their frenzied madness.  After Evren cleared the cave of the monsters, he pulled his wagon in, and got some rest while sleeping with his back to the wall. Fortunately, it seemed the cavern wouldn’t respawn any monsters during the time he rested.

It took Evren five days to reach the passage to the 34th floor. When he entered the floor, he noticed the monsters were no longer in groups, they were all wandering around singularly, but they seemed to have a wider range at which they would sense Evren, so they kept coming once he started fighting. Each fight lasting no less than an hour each. Again, the caves were filled with five to seven monsters at a time, but the occasional wandering monster would still find him and attack him in the cave.

He would sacrifice his exterior boxes as an early warning system, by stacking them in front of the caves so the monsters would have to get through them before they could reach him. Evren’s time on the 34th floor was considerably longer than on the 33rd floor. It took him 8 days to find the entrance to the 35th floor, and when he did, it was a surprise. The entrance was not located on the far side of the cavernous space, it was located in the middle, and looked like the entrance to a large crypt. There were stairs leading to the next level, but fortunately they were shallow and didn’t force Evren to any extreme measures.

The stairs would stop at platforms on the way down and continue to the left as it ‘circled’ its way downward. Evren would have to spend some time at each of the corners turning the wagon so it wouldn’t go down at an angle and risk flipping over. When Evren finally reached the bottom, the feel of the dungeon had changed to be more of a subterranean crypt type of feel. There were alcoves on the left and right of the passage that contained mummified corpses, skeletons, or just skulls. Evren left his wagon on the ground floor and went up a few levels on the stairs to rest there instead of surrounded by the corpses in the alcoves, whether they were for decoration or not.

The entrance to the boss’ chamber was closed with a portcullis. There was a hand crank nearby that Evren had to use to raise the portcullis to a position where he could get himself and the wagon through. Once they were both on the other side, it closed by itself by releasing the chain holding it in place, letting it slam shut. In the center of the chamber were four coffins. Rising from the coffins were three of the creatures he had been fighting previously, and a fourth that was a different color, slightly larger and thinner. Instead of the pale blue of the others, this new monster was a sickly shade of yellow. When it arose from the coffin, the stench of the room increased so dramatically, Evren almost emptied his stomach.

The fight began like the previous encounters of these monsters, but with the yellow one staying back instead of fighting directly. When one lost its hand at its wrist, the yellow one gestured, causing the injured one to retreat. Until it grew its hand back, it would only step in to attack or distract Evren, pulling back before Evren could respond. “Damn! It’s guiding the other two.” Evren realized. He used telekinesis to push the yellow one further away from him, expecting it would give him a moment where he couldn’t command the blue ones, but even at that range, the monster still could command it.

Evren cast ‘explosion’ behind the yellow one, causing it to take damage and fall to the ground. One of the blue ones fell back to protect the yellow one, giving Evren a bit of freedom to finally kill one of the blue ones with a stab through the face. The corpse dissolved as Evren chased after the yellow one, the blue ones desperately trying to protect it. Evren noticed the yellow monster’s injuries were healing significantly better than the blue ones would and cast fire arrow at the creature’s back. A blue monster stepped in the way and caught on fire instead.

Evren switched target from the yellow one to the burning blue one and began aggressively attacking it to try to kill it before the yellow one could recover completely. The yellow one gestured for the blue one to fall back, which it did, but Evren followed along after it. The other blue one swiping at his back and injuring it. Evren looked over his shoulder and used telekinesis to knock the non-burning blue one back and kept chasing after the burning one, eventually cutting its head in half, killing it.

Evren turned to the rising yellow one as the blue one came charging back at him. He defended the attacks of the blue one, trying to get past it, but the yellow one directed its movements to keep it between it and Evren. Evren focused his attack on the blue one, slicing its right arm off, then slicing it from under its right arm to its left hip, cutting it in half. Evren knew this wouldn’t kill it, but it would give him time to work on the yellow one. As the blue one dragged its upper body towards Evren, he sent a flurry of blows at the yellow one, which the yellow one managed to block.

Evren cat ‘jet’ on the yellow one at close range. He maintained the spell, covering the yellow one in flames and driving it back until it fell. Evren used his sword to slice its head in half, finishing it. When he was done, he went over to the blue one still crawling towards him and killed it with a stab to the top of its head.

The fire died down as the monster dissolved, leaving behind a milky white mana gem and a sword. Evren picked up the sword and swung it a bit. It was longer than his current sword and he could grip the handle with two hands instead of one like with his own sword. Curious, Evren poured magic into the blade and hidden runes within the blade glowed a copper color. The sword didn’t take nearly as much magic as his own sword did, making Evren think the other weapons he had gotten previously would probably react to magic as efficiently as well. The door on the opposite side of the entrance opened up and revealed a passage on the other side that the passage maintained the crypt theme all the way to the next level.