Cotton-elka Line of Defense – Part 05
Hikaru stopped and looked around warily. He sensed a large, powerful presence unlike anything he’d encountered before. It didn’t actually trip his Detection; it was simply his human instinct warning him. Hikaru didn’t have the ability to sense others in his previous life, but this was clearly different. The aura was so overwhelming that he could feel the presence so clearly.
He could hear something being torn to pieces. It sounded as if an airplane had flown close overhead. A noise so violent that even if he screamed out loud, no one would probably hear him.
Hikaru sensed the entity coming up from deep underground. It passed through the second level where Hikaru was and flew straight up into the sky.
Hikaru wiped away the sweat from his forehead. He wasn’t briefed about this. The strongest monster he had heard of so far was Rank C. The monster just now was more than just a rank above the Lost Man or Treant. To make matters worse, it had taken to the skies—it had been released from the dungeon.
“I hope it’s not heading for the village. If I had a cell phone, I could contact Lavia. No, wait. I guess there’s no reception underground. Now’s not the time for this. Gotta move fast.”
His plan was to take it slow and steady, but after seeing that monster, he had to kill the Dungeon Master as soon as possible. He prayed it was not headed for Cotton-elka, but foreboding premonitions at times like this usually came true.
“Would killing the Dungeon Master get rid of all the monsters? I didn’t see that mentioned anywhere.”
It would. He had no choice but to believe that. He also hoped the Dungeon Master was smaller.
“Looks like we’ve got ourselves a customer.”
Something was closing in from ahead, shaking the ground. Even though it was about a hundred meters away, Hikaru could see the monster approaching. It was that huge.
It was about five meters tall, just barely touching the ceiling. Its belly was mottled yellow and red, and its back was covered with brown scales. It advanced on its two hind legs—the inferior version of a dragon.
“A Rank C monster: the Lesser Wyvern.”
Hikaru struggled to find the part that earned its name “Lesser”. Its gaping mouth was lined with sharp teeth, and flames spewed from its mouth. It could spit out fireballs. Its scales were said to be so hard that only a skilled adventurer could break through them and wound it.
This monster shouldn’t be on the second level. Otherwise no adventurers would come near the dungeon.
However, Hikaru, who was in the path of the Lesser Wyvern, remained calm. Rank C meant that even the Four Eastern Stars could kill it, and he had already witnessed their fighting style. This was important as he could easily imagine what the monster was like.
The Lesser Wyvern, lumbering along smoothly, suddenly let out a shriek and fell forward. Blood gushed from its torn ankle.
Its eyes closed, and it stopped moving. The body of the Lesser Wyvern turned to ashes from one end to the other. There was a dagger stuck into its brain.
“If it falls, my blade can reach it. And if I can reach it, I can kill it with my Assassination.”
Hikaru clutched his chest to calm his rapid heartbeat. His Soul Rank had increased.
“Thanks to that terrifying monster from earlier, I wasn’t that nervous.”
The Lesser Wyvern was a dangerous enemy, and not something you fought alone. Monster rank corresponded with the overall rank of an adventurer party, but Hikaru was not one to lose against a mere Rank C creature.
“So killing dungeon monsters does increase Soul Rank. It just takes a little bit more time.”
Hikaru had several theories about the Soul Rank. Increasing it involved more than just sucking the soul of a being you killed. It might also be a matter of the soul’s quality and quantity. Monsters in dungeons did not have souls, but a life-and-death battle improved the quality.
Buried in the huge pile of ash that was the Lesser Wyvern was a thumb-sized red gem.
“A ruby? I can’t sense any mana from it, so I guess it’s just an ordinary gemstone.”
Hikaru put the ruby in his pocket.
“Speaking of which. When you kill monsters in this dungeon, you get Spirit Magic stones, Spirit stones that can be used as catalysts for magic items, gems, and metals like this one. But Freya…”
When Hikaru was enumerating the things that could be obtained from the dungeon, Freya gave him a puzzled look. He wasn’t wrong, but her reaction was baffling.
“No use thinking about it now. I wonder what Freya’s up to right now. I just hope she thinks I’m staying put.”
“He didn’t come today…. Hikaru didn’t come to the guild today.”
It was nighttime, and the Adventurers’ Guild had closed for the day. At the counter was Freya, at her wits’ end. She was thinking about the boy with the black hair and black eyes. He had just become an adventurer, and with the lowest rank of G, she didn’t think he would do anything reckless. But Paula, who was on her way to Cotton-elka, was an acquaintance of his, and he had apparently saved her life once.
“He didn’t follow Paula and her friends to Cotton-elka, did he?”
She heard today that the Rank B party Four Eastern Stars had also headed for Cotton-elka. Although the news made her feel somewhat relieved, Freya could not shake off the unease completely.
Hikaru had planned to take enough time to rest, but he couldn’t take it easy once he saw the huge Lesser Wyvern and the other fearsome monster that took off into the sky.
He continued on even through the night.
The third and fourth levels were called the Wood Floors. The floor itself was made of wood, the walls of tree bark, and the ceiling of overlapping branches. Light was streaming in through the branches, though it was dimmer than when he was on the Green Floors.
He spotted a few Lesser Wyverns here and there, which he decided to kill. It consumed a bit of his precious time, but even just a few of them advancing to Cotton-elka could produce a considerable number of casualties. Hikaru’s Stealth worked wondrous, allowing him to take down Lesser Wyverns without any problem.
An Executioner, also a Rank C monster, appeared as well. It was a humanoid about three meters tall, with gray skin. Its arms were all blades that were sharper than ordinary swords. There wasn’t any sort of covering on its smooth body. Its long, unkempt hair hanging down gave it a bit of a horrific vibe.
The monster’s blades were dangerous, but unless it saw an enemy, it wouldn’t swing them. Hikaru stabbed the Executioner in the chest from behind. His Mana Detection saw mana concentrated there. His blade pierced through skin and flesh easily thanks to the buff from Assassination. The Executioner collapsed, leaving behind a Spirit stone.
One shot for the Executioner as well…
Hikaru breathed a sigh of relief. He assumed that his foe was unaware of him, but he couldn’t really check the Soul Boards of monsters. He could run into a monster that could see through his Stealth at any moment. His Imperceptibility stat was maxed out, but Life Cloaking and Mana Cloaking only had 3 points each.
Hikaru’s Soul Rank increased after killing the Executioner. After a moment of hesitation, he decided to put his two points into both Life and Mana Cloaking, bringing the total to 4 points each. One more and they would be maxed out. He also wanted Sharpshooter, but safety came first.
Eventually he reached the end of the fourth level. It should be dawn right now, but it was difficult to tell the passage of time inside the dungeon. Hikaru had killed three more Lesser Wyverns and three Executioners, but his Soul Rank had not increased.
And he made it to the fifth level—the deepest floor that adventurers had been able to reach so far.
This level, called the Root Floor, had floors covered in dirt. The walls were half roots and half soil, while the ceiling seemed to be only roots.
“I guess this dungeon doesn’t have any treasure chests, or doors that only open once you solve a puzzle, or anything like that.”
It was simply a labyrinth filled with roaming monsters. The fact that you could obtain valuable items like Spirit Magic stones made it worthwhile for adventurers to enter it.
The fifth level was dark, so Hikaru turned on his magic lamp. He was worried about monsters noticing the light, but had no other choice if he wanted to proceed. The light from the lamp revealed the skeletons of two adventurers.
They were huddled close by the wall, one in metal armor and the other in leather armor. The dust, rust, and decaying leather indicated that they died quite some time ago. Other adventurers should have reached the fifth level. Perhaps no one had been here for a year or so.
They seemed to have been holding hands.
“By the looks of it, they made it back here, but they ran out of strength.”
There was a bag lying right next to the corpses. Hikaru was aware of the adventurer’s rule of a dead person’s gear belonging to the person who found it, but he couldn’t bring himself to pick it up.
“If I could use fire magic, I could burn their bones and offer a quick memorial. Oh, I guess they bury the dead in this world.”
Two adventurers. Undiscovered for a long time until Hikaru arrived. He saw Lavia and himself in them, and he quickened his pace.
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