Polymath Redux Annex
Chapter 31 – Mission: Obtain the Crystal Flower from the Manatite Forest (1)
[Manatite Forest: First Floor (Surface Forest)]
The Labyrinth: ‘Manatite Forest’.
As they approached its perimeter, Mordred finally understood the origins of the purple tint in the sky. Like a factory that constantly oozed pollution, so too did this forest pump out a hazardous stream of purple haze. All trees that were met by this phantasmal smog turned deciduous and burnt with magenta ashes.
An awful magical autumn. Dead purple leaves littered across the floor. “Be careful not to step into those,” Cecilia warned. Yet, out of curiosity Mordred tossed a small pebble into it. Upon contact the pile of dead leaves rustled by the stone disintegrated while leaving behind a trail of noxious purple gas. “What are you doing? Didn’t I just tell you to be careful of them?”
Mordred nodded, “you did. However, I believe learning can be accelerated by seeing the effects of an action rather than being told a theory. Case in point,” he pointed to the nearby trees that were scared by the lavender haze. Like searing acid had been thrown onto them. “Environmental hazards,” he commented. It was a concept he had been all too familiar with since the days of early gaming. Often, dungeon-crawler type games would have these kinds of non-traversable terrain filled with traps or poison.
“Whatever. For greenhorns like you, this place might be a little overwhelming but once you’ve been in here for any length of time you’ll learn to get used to it.” As she said, there had been a constant wave of pressure that pressed down at him. Gravity felt like it had doubled. Breathing became difficult, as if his body was actively fighting against the urge. There had been a general sense of discomfort all around. The feeling that someone, or something, was watching from a distance. A feeling of drowning. His very essence being dragged to the depths of the abyss.
When things were behind a screen, this kind of description was never shown to the players. The actual damage to his body was extremely minimal, negligible in fact- most likely due to his high magical defence stat. However, as this has become reality the adverse effects of poison and pressure had gotten another layer of complexity; ‘mental disruption’. That said, it was a rather simple fix. Subtly, Mordred cast a thin layer of protection magic upon himself. A passive, shielding ability known as ‘Anti-magic Cocoon’, listed under the ‘Templar’ skill-tree. It was straight forward spell that protected the user from one magical attack as well as giving temporary immunity to environmental effects. Once the magic shield was popped however, the skill would be put into a long cooldown and normal environmental damage would resume. With this, normal functionality returned to his body. “I’ll manage.”
Perhaps due to her experience in this place, Cecilia appeared to suffer no adverse effects from this place. “I wonder about that… hah~” she sighed and tossed a small golden locket to him, deeply ornate and gave off a faint glowing effect. “That’s a protective charm. Well, it’s valuable so I hope you don’t actually use the effects, but it will protect you from one fatal attack. Of course, there are some limitations to it but just keep that on you for now.”
Since they had targeted midday as the point of entry, much of the forest had been moderately illuminated. There had been occasional areas where it was dark and some environmental traps resided between those gaps of light. Even then, Mordred’s ‘night vision’ skill compounded by ‘intuition’ and ‘trap detection’ was enough to avoid everything.
Despite its status as a ‘Labyrinth’, the overall atmosphere had a certain tranquillity to it. The sometimes twinkling of the purple gas gave it a rather mysterious and magical vibe but other than that, it was more akin to a peaceful walk through the woods. “So, I presume that this place has an underground level? Seeing as you did mention ‘lower floors’.”
“Something like that. Below us is a cavernous area that leads to an open underground arena. There’s another forest there, much darker and harsher than this place so be sure to keep up your guard. At the centre of that second forest is where the ‘boss room’ resides.”
“Exactly how big, or rather, how long does the completion of this Labyrinth take?”
“Depends on how organized and prepared your party is. If you have all the right talents with the right preparation, then this kind of place can be traversed in as little as half a day. However, with you and I… maybe the better part of a day and a half? We should be done by tomorrow’s evening.”
The trek to the centre of the forest only took a bit of time but was otherwise uneventful. Not a single monster had shown up, whether that was due to Cecilia’s skilful tracking or their luck was unknown but one thing was sure. ‘Rather dull…’ Mordred thought. This wasn’t a phenomenon limited to this world but also existed in the game. When the participants to a particular dungeon or Labyrinth were already high levelled, something was lost. There was no ‘adventure’ to this. Since they could always avoid traps and monsters, there was no sense of peril. That heart rushing feeling that he had felt the first time behind a monitor was not present here.
“Or perhaps I spoke too soon,” Mordred muttered under his breath. As they drew nearer to the inner portion of the forest the number of environmental traps increased. There were several hostile signatures that circled around them from a distance. Occasionally, when Mordred peered to the sides of the forest he could see golden eyes staring back at him hungrily. “Cecilia?”
“I know,” she responded without lowering her speed. “We’re going to continue moving forward for a bit more. If we fight whatever is chasing us right now, it’d only be to our disadvantage due to the terrain.”