The rusty scent of blood hit me first; the pain hit me shortly after. With a groan, I almost panicked when I couldn’t open my eyes, but then the dried blood sealing my eyelids broke and I forced my eyes open to see the mountain of corpses lying all around me. My body was still aching and my headache was… tolerable, but far from gone.
Another groan and I managed to push myself into a sitting position, my back resting against the tunnel wall. Scratching the trail of blood from my face, I closed my eyes again for a few moments and finally started to take stock of my situation.
There were still a lot of corpses around me, but they were far less than I expected, only less than a hundred, when I was expecting a thousand or more. Movement to my right immediately drew my attention and I grabbed for my missing weapons, only finding one last throwing dagger.
Suddenly, a war shadow body in the bottom of a pile dissolved into dust, causing the entire thing to collapse forward and revealing the… dungeon lizard? The creature was nearly twice the size of a normal dungeon lizard, with black stripes along its body and muscle filled limbs, it actually looked more like a leathery crocodile than a gecko.
“Yep, it’s been doing that for a few hours now,” said the female voice from my side, drawing my attention to the Amazon sitting in front of a few dead killer ants. “I was gonna kill it too, but I kinda felt bad since it helped out so much.”
Looking at the young Amazon, I considered my options, the girl looked to be only 15 or so, with an innocent look on her face despite the blood on her clothes, but she had seen me use just about every trump card I had, and had watched me control two adventurers, forcing them to fight until they collapsed dead.
Speaking of the adventurers, both of their bodies were laid on the girl’s side, their eyes closed and their remaining arms crossed in front of their chests. They were horribly mangled and just looking at them gave me a bad taste in my mouth.
At the time, I did what I thought necessary, but it didn’t mean I liked it. Could they have survived if I had let them rest? Or maybe if I had sacrificed an eye to regain my strength? No, it had already been too late to activate it by then.
Resting my head against the wall for a second, I asked. “How long was I out?”
“Only four hours or so, I’d have woken you up soon anyway,” the amazoness said while hugging her knees close to her chest. “I think I heard someone checking up on the collapsed tunnel from the other side.”
So, it was already night time then, and the daily delvers were probably already back on Orario for rest, that meant anybody still in the dungeon was probably up to no good… or just late.
“Fuck, you think it’s those assholes that caused this?” I grunted, trying to push myself back to my feet. “What’s your name anyway?”
From the side, Yoshi hissed at me, but I really didn’t feel like dealing with a rebellious monster right now. Turning towards him, I fixed him with a glare, my sharingan almost shining with magic.
Yoshi quickly lowered his head and whimpered, so I turned back towards the Amazon.
“Lena Tally. Are you gonna try to kill me now?” She asked, tilting her head sideways and staring at me.
“Why’d I kill you? Better yet, if you thought I was gonna kill you, why the heck didn’t you finish me off before I woke up?” I asked, honestly curious.
I don’t know if I could have killed a helpless person, but I wasn’t really born in this world, and I would certainly consider it the right choice.
“Didn’t think I could make it out of here alone, and the dungeon lizard would probably attack me too,” she answered honestly. Pushing herself to her feet, she grabbed her scimitar from the ground and lifted it to her shoulder. “So, are you gonna try to kill me? I promise to make it up for you later if you don’t!”
I shuddered, imagining the FBI bursting through the door at my current home. The girl was beautiful, but far too young, even if her breasts looked fully grown.
NO! Bad Roland! I mean, it wasn’t like I was too much older than her, and Tiona herself was probably only a year or two older, but ugh, there was a huge difference between 14~15 and 16~17 in my mind, and even the later was kind of pushing it.
“No, just… no,” looking at the devastated hallway, I had to ask. “Did Yoshi eat all the magic crystals?”
“Nope,” She lowered the scimitar and sheathed it, “I gave you one of your potions, then took one myself and rested a little before starting to harvest them. Made a killing too.”
Staring at her smile, I almost fell for it, but my sharingan caught the signs easily. She was clearly forcing herself to act natural, but her eyes kept glancing at her dead companion, and they were slightly red from crying.
With a sigh, I pushed myself to my feet and looked around for my weapons. My spear was fucked, but I still tied it to Yoshi’s back, and also grabbed my hammer. With some hesitation, I also picked up the Tank’s mace and shield; they were battered, but still functional.
Lena approached me carrying her friend’s bow and I nodded, letting her tie it to Yoshi’s back with the rest of the loot.
“So, what’s ‘your’ name?” the girl asked after she was done. “I told you mine, but I still don’t know yours.”
“Roland Synclair,” I answered, taking one last look at the whole mess. “So, do you think they’re waiting for us in the next room?”
I’d like to loot everything else but, if some of those assholes were already coming over to check on things, it was best we didn’t waste any more time. Using my illusions right, I could probably take a single level two if he wasn’t too strong, maybe.
Well, Bell couldn’t really deal with one, even after he defeated a fucking minotaur but, even if I was much weaker, I only really needed a single moment of distraction, and I could probably follow their movements with my eyes.
Unfortunately, fighting more than one at the same time, or even just one after the other, probably wouldn’t end up well for me.
“I don’t think so, wait,” opening her bag, the girl searched for a small piece of parchment amongst a dozen, then spread it in the air. Staring at it, I took the chance to memorize the floor’s map, even if it did cause me a spike of pain. “I guess they could have more than one party but, if not, the next room isn’t really connected to the previous one by any nearby hallways.”
“Yes, I see it. They’d need to go through at least five rooms to reach it,” I nodded. Now I just had to decide what to do from here. “We’re going to go towards the entrance to the next floor, then we turn back and use the outer path to circle this spot. I don’t want to risk them catching us on the way back if we try for a shorter path.”
“You sure? I don’t think we can fight that many more monsters,” Lena said, digging a hole on the floor with her toes.
“Well, I prefer to fight the monsters than risk a level two adventurer,” I didn’t really know if our ambushers had any, but level two wasn’t as uncommon here in Orario. “You think the dungeon already managed to replenish all the monsters we killed?”
In truth, I was considering taking the time to update my falna right here in the dungeon, but I had already revealed so much to the girl… Fuck, I could justify the skill; I bet such powerful skill was rare, but not unheard of, not after thousands of years and probably millions of adventurers. But being capable of updating a Falna by myself?
“No way, we must have emptied half the floor, it’s gonna take a day at least,” she answered, looking back at her friend once again.
I followed her gaze, seeing the bloodied woman resting against the floor. She had a calm expression now, but I remember her dying with a snarl on her face, still trying to crawl towards more enemies.
Swallowing hard, I turned my head away and ordered Yoshi to walk ahead of me. The large dungeon lizard licked its lips, bit off one last magic crystal from a frog shooter and walked by us, a few pouches filled with our loot tied to its back.
The next room really was empty. In the distance, I saw a Kobold breaking out from the ground, but the creature was far away and alone, the room was still completely depopulated.
“So, what was that hand?” Lena caught up with me. “Because that sent shivers down my spine, it was so hot! I didn’t think level 1 adventurers had skills like that.”
“Well, some do,” I answered, remembering Bell’s growth cheat.
“Really…?” The girl trailed off, kicking a rock up, she grabbed it in her hand and measured its weight, then threw it when we approached the Kobold and it noticed us. The poor beast was hit in the head and fell forward, causing Yoshi to dart ahead and kill it with a well aimed bite. “You know, I won’t tell anyone if you go out with me.”
I stumbled; then glared at her with my red eyes, causing her to catch her breath. “Really, after what you saw me do to your friend?”
“It’s the dungeon… and I’m kinda used to death, I’m an Amazon born outside Orario you know?” she answered, catching up to me and walking at my side towards the next corridor. “Hey, hey, wanna hold my hand?”
“No, no, I don’t want to have one of my hands occupied inside the dungeon- while being hunted by some maniacal assholes, mind you- Now, stay quiet least those assholes find us,” I glared at her again, but it only caused her to shiver a little and blush, ugh, what was wrong with this girl?
The next two rooms were almost empty, but I found the remains of a dead adventurer on the third. The poor guy was more than half eaten and there was almost nothing there to recognize him, but I grabbed his sword, and a half chewed collar some monster had spit out. Someone in the guild could probably recognize him and tell his family, or at least his familia.
Eventually, the silence started bothering me, so I couldn’t help starting a conversation. “Why would being born outside Orario cause you to be used to death? Honestly, I’d think it was the other way around.”
“Well, I’m an Amazon, being strong is pretty important for us, you know?” She said, eager to start talking again. “I was born far from the dungeon, so we didn’t have, like, a lot of strong monsters there. Instead, sometimes, we did it like in Telskyura and fought each other to get stronger.”
“How does that translate to being used to death?” I lifted an eyebrow glancing at her.
“Well, you don’t get a lot of attributes if there’s no danger, and getting stronger requires like, risking your life,” she shrugged as if that explained everything. “Plus, fighting other adventurers is far more dangerous than fighting monsters, so it’s better for leveling up!”
In a way, I guess it did explain. Despite what had just happened, I was just unused to whole countries accepting death like that. Once again I had to remind myself that I wasn’t in a modern society; life just didn’t have the same value here.
Still, I didn't expect such a dark turn for the world. I was under the impression that even asshole gods somewhat valued their familias, how foolish.
“So, you left to escape from there?”
“Nope, I wasn’t even a member of a familia, and I was getting old, so I had to leave to find a man. Then Ishtar-sama offered to take me with her and I accepted.”
Ugh, if this was an anime, there would be a huge sweatdrop on my forehead right now. Leaning back, I watched a frog shooter’s tongue fly by my face, before it could retract, my wrist flashed and I cut it off with the sword.
With a screech of pain, the creature jumped away from me, followed closely behind by a hissing Yoshi. Having a strong tamed beast was so convenient.
“So, what else do you want to know?” the girl happily said as she jumped on my back and hugged my neck. “I’m so happy you’re interested in me, Roland Synclair.”
“First, just call me Roland,” I said, prying an arm from around my throat. With my free hand, I grabbed her mouth and forced her face away from mine when she attempted to steal a kiss, “second, what about Ishtar? She’s some kind of sex goddess right?”
I didn’t remember much about Mesopotamian gods, but Ishtar was pretty well known.
“Ishtar-sama is a goddess of beauty. She rules the red-light district, so I get a lot of chances to catch a strong man,” she nodded, as she managed to get free from my grab, “but the Berbera were always ahead of me, and I didn’t want any of the leftovers. Still, now I have Roland, so I don’t care anymore.”
I had to pause at that, imagining a bunch of muscle-bound prostitutes kidnapping men to have their way with them. Ugh, thank the perverted gods that Falna seemed to make people hotter.
As we walked, Lena talked about the Ishtar familia, and I liked it less and less, it seemed much worse than even the Apollo familia from the anime. Did Bell have to deal with them in later seasons?
As she talked, the only thing I could think of was: Ishtar seemed like a perfect target to get mindfucked. One that wouldn’t leave me feeling any guilt.
“So, she forces her familia to be prostitutes?” I questioned again, just to make sure I had heard it right.
“Well, they’re mostly already prostitutes, and the Berbera are Amazons, but I guess there are a few slaves she buys that can’t fight,” Lena shrugs, as if it was normal. “Kinda feel bad for them, but Aisha does her best to take care of them. Hey, there’s even this one who’s still a virgin, she, likes, faints when she sees a man!”
“I see…” I said, gripping my new sword tightly. Feeling my muscles aching, I start limping again, the gash on my leg still not completely healed. “Say, do you think I can get a meeting with Ishtar, preferably alone?”
I wouldn’t call myself a saint, but I drew the line at forced prostitution and slavery… that line used to include murder but, well, shit happens. Still, there was probably no better use for mind control than trying to stop such abuse while getting control of a powerful familia.
“Hey! No fair, you shouldn’t be going after Ishtar with me here!” she pouted, then dashed ahead and jumped over the head of a goblin, slashing it open with a swing of her scimitar before piercing a second one with its tip. “Still, I guess… Ishtar-sama is pretty demanding on who she takes to bed.”
She gave me a strange look and I almost blushed when I realized it was because I was still a little out of shape. Not fat, not anymore, but I didn’t have the usual well cultivated muscles every level two had.
Noticing my discomfort, she quickly tried to cheer me up. “Don’t worry; I’m sure that, if I tell her about how strong your skill is, she’d be interested!”
“Ah, how about no?” I shook my head and glared at the girl, only making her blush harder. “I’d REALLY prefer to keep my skill quiet.”
Lena just shrugged again, causing me to sigh. Damn, now that I got a good look at her fighting, I couldn’t help being surprised. Despite her young age, she seemed stronger, status wise, than me, I bet she was gonna be leveling up once we got out of here.
“Then I don- wait, I think I heard something,” The girl gripped her scimitar, causing me to frown and concentrate on the noise.
A glance at Yoshi let me send it a quick illusion telling it what to do. Without a noise, the large lizard found a rock to hide behind, leaving Lena and me alone and without any tempting loot for possible thieves.
Finally, I heard running steps coming from the left hallway, taking a chance, I choose another rock to hide behind, and the damn Amazon took advantage of the situation to squeeze her body with mine,
I tried to push her away, but the three men burst into the room soon after, taking a quick look around before dashing towards the place we had come from. I kept my head down for some time, but finally peeked at their backs.
The three men weren’t wearing the same strange clothes as our attackers, and they didn’t have anything to indicate they were the ones responsible, but changing clothes was easy, and running towards where they had lured the monsters was a pretty big indication.
When I finally stopped hearing their steps, I pulled the girl by the arm and whispered a call to Yoshi before dashing away as fast as I could, my leg still hurting like a motherfucker.
“So you did want to hold my hand!” Lena smirked after we had left the men behind, causing me to release her arm, but she continued following by my side. “Say, want another health potion? I don’t think it will be very effective after you took so many, but it’s better than nothing?”
“Can I even drink another one?” I asked, trying hard to remember some of the books I had read. While I had them all in my visual memory and could remember every page, it was so much information that it still gave me a headache.
“Dunno, never had to use so many,” she handed me one of the last two health potions and closed her pouch.
I did my best to try and remember what I had read about the subject. Using the sharingan was complicated. With a single glance, I could copy a movement, but I still had to train in order to make sure to execute it right, truly making it mine.
By the same token, I could read something with a single glance of the sharingan, but I still had to think and process what I read to truly make the information inside the pages mine.
Damn, potion usage was a very complicated subject but, without rest and food, it was dangerous to use too many potions one after another, even more so when you mixed different effects.
Potions worked mostly on magic, but they did use some energy from the body they restored, potions of higher quality used less and had better effects, but even then, there was still a limit.
Still, I decided to take the risk and uncorked the vial, drinking it entirely, immediately feeling it start working on my body once again. The pain on my leg lessened, but a quick glance there told me it was less than a quarter as effective.
We reached the room right before the entrance to the next floor and circled back, taking the left path and continuing to hurry. A few monsters blocked our way, but Lena and Yoshi took care of them fairly quickly.
The Amazon did her best to appear on top form, but I could see the exhaustion in her movements, and the way she almost stumbled while fighting a kobold, her arm shaking just from holding her weapon.
Her fighting style was too mobile, like a fast dance, it was beautiful to watch, and very effective, but it also took a lot out of her. It was probably better for duels than a long delve into the dungeon, where stamina was necessary. At least until she reached a higher level and it became a moot point.
I heard some talking from ahead of us in the hallway, so I changed direction and took a small detour before hurrying on. It was a pity that Yoshi was still too small for me to ride on, even if he was already strong enough to support me.
Finally, after what felt like an eternity, we arrived at the entrance to the upper floor. Feeling relief flooding me, I almost dashed towards the entrance.
“Hey, friend, I see you’re late too,” said a thin man as he got up from a rock he had been sitting on.
Fuck, how the fuck did I miss him? Of course they’d be watching the exit of the motherfucking floor. Turning towards my companions, I thanked my luck that Yoshi wasn’t visible, I had dashed ahead of him when seeing the entrance, and he had decided to remain hidden when he noticed the adventurer.
“Lena, do you recognize the voice?” I quickly whispered, trying to see if the man was just an adventurer or one of our enemies. In front of me, the guy continued talking.
“Got held up in a fight on the 12th floor, so I’m taking a break here before going back to Orario,” the man commented while patting down his clothes and cracking his fingers, acting as if there was nothing wrong.
“No,” She whispered, making sure to grab at her scimitar.
“I guess it’s about time I move on, want to finish climbing together? It should make things faster,” the man commented, motioning towards the entrance with his neck. “Gods, I’m hungry from staying down here so long. I’d take anything that made this faster.”
Pretending that everything was fine, I couldn’t help but glance back at the hallway behind me. Would some of those bastards still be following us? How long did we have before they arrived?
Relaxing my posture, I smiled at the man and considered him. He was a skinny but well defined guy, with tiger ears on top of his head and a tail swirling behind his back, his clothes had nothing that indicated he was part of the ambush earlier.
Approaching him slowly, I did my best to appear calm. There really was nothing differentiating him from a normal adventurer, if I didn’t have the sharingan that is.
With my eyes, I never forgot anything I had seen and, while he didn’t have anything identifying him, I had stared at his eyes before, when he and his friends had trapped us in the monster train.
The asshole smiled at me, but I could see the signs of derision hidden behind it. When we were just a few steps away from each other, I activated the mangekyou and met his eyes, then attacked.
The asshole was much faster than me, his movements felt almost like Tiona’s while she was training with me, for a second, my heart froze as I thought of him being a match for my level 5 trainer, but I still attacked.
With almost contemptuous ease, the man lifted his sword and blocked an upward swing coming from his left… and the tip of my sword started piercing his chest right where his heart should be, my lunge hidden behind the illusion of a slash.
The pain, the lack of sensation as he clashed with my illusion or just his higher stats immediately caused my image to shatter, and the man reacted with lightning fast reflexes, twisting aside and kicking out.
Instead of his heart, my sword slashed open his chest, the wound deepening before piercing him all the way. His kick sent me flying back and forced me to release my weapon, leaving it sticking halfway out of his shoulder.
I hit the floor and rolled on my back, having some trouble drawing a breath as his kick almost smashed through my armor.
The man himself stumbled back with a roar of pain, his own sword dropping from his fingers and clattering to the ground as he lost the use of his arm. Using his left hand, he pulled the sword from his shoulders and actually roared at me.
Lena took the chance to attack him, but I hadn’t recovered enough to send another illusion, and the man was clearly far stronger than us. Even with only one hand, he managed to overpower the young girl and almost killed her in the first exchange, only her golden arm protector saved her life as he sent her flying back as well.
Rolling to my feet, I ignored everything else and focused fully on the weretiger in front of us. “So, what level do you think he is?” I asked my companion.
She gave me a strange look, but still answered. “He’s level two, anything higher and he’d have probably killed us already, how exciting!”
Ugh, I guess that made sense, he wasn’t moving much faster than Tiona did in our spars, but she was clearly holding back, a whole fucking lot. I had probably never really seen Tiona’s real speed.
Taking a few steps back from us, the weretiger looked over our shoulders towards the hallway we had come from, and I was afraid the ones following us would arrive, but I didn’t dare look, and I still couldn’t hear anything. Fuck, we had to do this fast.
Slowly, the man lowered his working hand to his waist and used a finger to pull out a red vial.
Oh, no you don’t! You bastard don’t get to heal in the middle of a fucking fight. With a snarl on my face, I gave the order, and the fight was on.