The group steps through the portal and enters the third floor. Jeremy steps in front of the others and nods. “So you should all remember my briefing on how the last run here went? We should follow the same path just because the room with the monsters was a dead end. A chance to fight them without any interruptions is quite useful for us at the moment. Now let’s move. The sooner we finish here, the sooner I can play with the new samples we get.”
With great enthusiasm he leads them through the next room, down the stairs, through the next room, and into the room with the small stream of water running from the right to the left. Jeremy points to the tunnel on the right. “Right through there should be the myconids. Me and my wife will lead the way. I want the rest of you to stay back at the room’s entrance so you don’t get caught in the spores.”
With that he enters the room, followed closely behind by his wife. Everything inside looks about the same, except the mushrooms are different. Jeremy does a quick count and shakes his head, “The number of myconids might have changed. Everyone be careful and Doctor, keep an eye on our backs.”
Jeremy isn’t going to let this stop him though, and he continues on to the center pillar. Of course, as expected, the myconids attack when he gets close enough. A cloud of spores puffs out and the sprouts charge at him. Specifically him because Susan has let him be the main tank while she swings around the side to flank them.
Not the best plan. It turns out as the myconids just throw themselves at Jeremy. He dodges them, of course, but as the mushroom men land headfirst on the ground, even greater clouds of spores fly up. While Jeremy is to an extent resistant to poisons, his body isn’t able to handle such a massive attack and freezes up.
Susan reacts first but her efforts to get into the thick of things to help isn’t the first assistance to arrive. Doctor had assumed something stupid would happen, so when he saw the myconids throw themselves he cast an antidote spell at Jeremy as a precaution. This preemptive assist proves valuable as it allows Jeremy to get control of his body back before the myconids manage to pile on him.
Of course once the cheeky pre-fire was finished Susan barreled into the mess. The short lived spores already cleared up enough to not paralyze her as she crashes into the nearest myconid. While not quite a tackle, the myconid is small enough for it to be blasted away. Not facing any resistance, she keeps her momentum up and passes right through a new giant cloud of spores her collision had released from the myconid.
A shame for the myconids that her resistance is a good bit higher than her husband. While the poison went to work on her it only slowed her down. Learning her lesson, Susan stomps on the ground to force herself out of the way of the next myconid. Still she didn’t let it go. With a backhand slash, she opens up the main stem.
With a spin she resumes her forward movement towards her husband, but the slowdown from the poison means someone else gets there first. Not in person, of course. Rather, Kelly has cast out numerous fire ribbons. Each of them looks weak, weaker than even a mage’s first attempt at the spell.
It was enough though as her sloppy quick cast spells eviscerates the myconids closest to Jeremy. Those that were farther away survive this but by just a thread. Almost as an afterthought, Susan sweeps through with her daggers. Then as the last myconid falls her body freezes up as her relaxing lets the poison finish its job.
Doctor walks over and with a glowing hand taps her shoulder. As her body relaxes he nods, “Healing magic does seem to be easier through touch. Silly restriction, and I need to look into why. After all, ranged attack spells work just as well as touch ones. Now lets see how much these myconids have dropped.”
Susan shakes the last dregs of the poison off and looks around with him. Though what catches her eye first is that Jeremy is over by the mushrooms but not harvesting anything. “Saving the harvest for me?”
Jeremy looks up and shakes his head. “The mushrooms here are fakes. They look like real species but come over here and take a look at this.” He uses his knife to slice into the mushroom. “The look is only skin deep as it were. This specific type of shroom should have a much tougher flesh but it is exactly the same as the myconids.”
Jeremy holds up three mushrooms. “These are the only real mushrooms out of the lot. Or rather, I guess I should say these are the only real mushrooms of any worth. The rest are just the usual, not quite edible, yet not really poisonous enough to be worth it. I figure either the dungeon has put most of them as decoration or the myconids spawn their own shrooms to hide in. That last one is what I would angle towards being the case. After all, the spores they keep releasing have to go somewhere. Not all of them are summons that go poof once the magic runs out.”
Doctor walks over and looks at the mushrooms he had picked. “So yeah, I guess I should have expected it from you, but those mushrooms are quite deadly. I hope there are some more edible ones on the floor. The myconids drop blocks of edible mushrooms, but they aren’t exactly flavorful. Some nice flavors would be a pleasant addition to our diets. Oh, and we finished picking up the drops.”
“Only got two packets of spores, but six mushroom blocks. As I said, flavorless but a good edition to our diet. Though the nearby forest should be a good source of mushrooms, it isn’t exactly safe at the moment. Not that I believe the forest is likely to ever be safe again either.”
Jeremy grabs the spore packs and shakes his head. “Our forest may or may not end up being safe, but I don’t doubt some will be safe in the future. While with how I understand it there is the possibility of monsters popping up out of thin air, it isn’t common. Just gotta clear the dangerous monsters out and patrol the border. Not likely to happen all that often, though. Forests are just too good a place to let monsters gather at.” The others nod at this.
Jeremy shrugs at this, “Well, we need to head towards the other direction now. Two packets is very much not enough for our research.”
The group heads back to the previous room and keeps heading down. In the next room there are more mushrooms growing along the edge of the stream, but no myconids. Still, the Barrais were able to find more mushrooms to harvest. What was of actual interest was the rock stairs going upward.
Jeremy stealths up the stairs and peaks his head into the room above. And once there is promptly attacked by an assassin vine without a chance to look around. He lets himself fall backward. Just before he hits the stairs, Jeremy breaks his fall and rolls the rest of the way down without a single bruise. He looks up and shrugs, “Well, there’s an assassin vine up there. I don’t think the room goes anywhere. But that just seems weird, so we should probably take care of the monster and take a closer look.”
Kelly shakes her head, “There isn’t a good way to assault the room.”
Susan smiles, “Of all the people you should have been the one to think of the straightforward answer. Assassin vines are a plant monster, and they have an obvious weakness. You just need to dump a bunch of fire magic up the staircase till it dies.”
Kelly blinks and scrunches her eyes shut as she massages the bridge of her nose. “I guess that is a bit obvious. Let me give it a try.”
She walks up under the stairs and starts tossing small explosive balls of fire. Not quite big enough to be called a fireball, though the assassin vine above would have liked to debate that. Past tense because before it has a chance to file a complaint, the monster dies.
Ambush predator gone, Jeremy and Susan head up the stairs and sorts the room out. Though besides the berry drops from the vine nothing else is found. No extra monsters, no more rewards, and not a single hidden doorway.
They come down the stairs and Jeremy shakes his head. “Literally just a dead end. I have no clue what is up with that. Up till now most of the dungeon design has been decent, but this is just stupid. It isn’t even maze-like. It should have had at least another room beyond the first for that. As it is if it wasn’t for the assassin vine I could have checked the place out without fully entering.”
Kelly shrugs, “Probably just doesn’t realize no one else will ever go up those stairs. No matter how good the floors so far have been, it is still a new dungeon. Maybe the system tweaked things or some such.”
Bell shakes her head, “Meh, from what I heard that shouldn’t be the case.”
Kelly sighs, “True, but I would like an explanation for why this floor sucks so much. There has to be a reason for it. Now I don’t need a good reason, just a reason.”
Jeremy laughs, “Neither life nor the system owe you that right now. Maybe in the future you will get a skill that will change that with the system, but life isn’t going to change. Even now in the after system times people have fallen back into their comfortable rut. Our core people are basically those who buck the trend.”
“Sure, some of the people that left tried to better themselves. Most of them though just figured out what job we expected them to do and did the minimum needed for it. The old nine-to-five grind. Did you know? Some of the people actually stalled out at level ten in their main skill. Level ten! I would put money on everyone left, our core members, all got to level ten in their main skill before we even left the old towns.”
“If it wasn’t for the fact we didn’t have any pre-existing stuff, I doubt most of them would have hit ten in a skill. So much nonsense! As the wolves should have shown, you need to grow in our new world. Even if they didn’t want to fight their non-combat skills should be growing.”
Zach raises an eyebrow, “Bit of a rant there. Let me guess, you’ve had to deal with slackers before?”
Jeremy shrugs, “You find those types of people everywhere. Though I expect most of them to die out until society has stabilized again. A little harsh, but I really do have to wonder how many of those who left are still alive. I give it a fifty-fifty shot that fifty percent of them are still alive.”
Zach sighs, “Yes, that is harsh. But I have to agree with you. Though I would put it more at them coming back with three fourths of them surviving. I suspect that while they won’t necessarily learn their lesson, any hardship will cause them to stop in their tracks and turtle down.”
Bell bonks Zach on the head. “Be more optimistic! I’m sure a good 80 percent of them can survive. They are way too cowardly to move fast enough to lose more than that.”
Jeremy laughs, “Well, however many survive doesn’t matter to use right now. We need to solidify our base here. Our base, not theirs.”