After a few more hours of effort, the party finally found the stairs leading down to the thirty-ninth floor of the dungeon. The moment they arrived within the saferoom, they all teleported to the surface. Night had already fallen thanks to how long it took them to get out. Everyone was exhausted from the effort they had to put in to get out of there so they stayed silent as they made their way to the inn to get their dinner. No one said anything until dinner was finished. Thomas looked at the others, "Tomorrow we'll look for the entrance to the fortieth floor and defeat the boss. After that, we'll just farm the thirty-ninth floor until I have enough experience to reach King class."
Once he and Snowlily were in their room he flopped down on the bed with a sigh. At least his efforts for the day had earned him another large sum of experience. After rolling onto his back he opened his character sheet and started spending his experience. He was too worn out to do anything else before getting some sleep. He spent all but twenty-eight of his experience points to increase all of his attributes up to four hundred and sixty-three. Just one or two more days of this slog and he would have enough experience to reach King class. He confirmed the increase to his attributes and let the feeling of energy flowing through his body push him toward sleep. As it was he had a sudden idea that might give him enough experience to reach his goal!
After breakfast the following morning, Thomas led the group to the Adventurer's Guild. He had a simple idea to gain a large amount of experience all at once. Turn in his metric ton of mana crystals and complete the quests for them! He had no idea how much experience he would get for it but it just might be enough for him to reach his goal. As they approached the building, Selena looked at Thomas, "What are we doing here?"
"My inventory is getting too full of mana crystals. I'm going to turn in a bunch and cash them out for gold. I don't need so many of them for my work and I can always get more of them." was his simple reply.
Selena and Lexiana nodded in understanding while Lexiana spoke, "Good idea, I'll turn in all of mine too."
There were no complaints from anyone in the group as they entered the guild and waited in a short line. When Thomas finally got to the front of the line he smiled at the cute receptionist, "Hi there, I'm looking to turn in some mana crystals and complete a few quests."
The receptionist smiled at him, "Not a problem. I'll just need your guild card and the mana crystals so I can take care of it right away."
Thomas chuckled, "Ah, well, the thing is there's a few thousand of them." He pointed at Lexiana, "She has the same amount to turn in."
The receptionist blinked before nodding slowly, "Alright." She got up from her seat and got another receptionist to come over, "Please follow Maria, she'll take care of both of you."
The new receptionist, Maria, led Thomas and Lexiana into individual back rooms. When she dropped Thomas off she gestured to the table in the middle of the room, "Please place all the mana crystals you wish to turn in on the table."
After she left to show Lexiana to another room, Thomas started unloading all the mana crystals he didn't want to keep from his inventory. From floors five to thirty-eight he'd been collecting mana crystals. He had literally thousands of them. He carefully stacked them on the table so they wouldn't fall to the floor. He kept the largest mana crystals from floor thirty-eight and the bosses. As he was going through the mana crystals he was surprised to find that he'd inadvertently collected two Skill Crystal Shards. That gave him four in total.
After a few minutes, Maria returned to the room. Her eyes widened when she saw the giant pile of mana crystals sitting on the table, "Ah... Sir... This might take a while to go through." He looked over the pile and then focused her attention on Thomas, "With how long it will take, I'd like to write down your name and ask you to return tomorrow to collect your rewards."
He took a glance at the pile and nodded. It would take a long time to tally everything up and he didn't want to waste time sitting around doing nothing while waiting. He handed his card over to Maria so she could write his name down. Once he got it back, "I'll be back tomorrow morning then."
He left the room to rejoin the others. Shortly after, Lexiana rejoined them as well. Her pile of mana crystals was pretty much the same as his own, probably larger since she had no reason to keep any. Like him, she was asked to return tomorrow. Thomas smiled as he moved with the group toward the dungeon. He had no idea how much experience or gold he would earn tomorrow but he was looking forward to finding out!
They teleported down to the thirty-ninth floor together and started their grind. The monsters they had to fight on this floor were identified as Great Apes. They looked like a hybrid of a human and a gorilla as they stood on two legs at just under three meters tall. Their bodies were solid muscle covered in thick coats of fur. Each of them carried primitive weapons such as wooden spears with stone tips or clubs covered in teeth. Normally that wouldn't be all that impressive but the sheer size of the monsters and the weapons they used was pretty impressive.
The group moved with purpose and worked efficiently as a team. The Great Apes were slightly easier to deal with that the Gnolls since they didn't work as a team. They didn't come off as much weaker though due to their sheer strength and durability. To fight them, Thomas stuck with the back row to deal magical damage while protecting Snowlily and Selena from the monsters. The Great Apes specialized in melee damage making his protection job pretty easy. The group took their time and took care to not get injured.
They made good progress moving through the dungeon until they came across a group with a different Great Ape within it. The new Great Ape was a meter shorter than the others putting it at about the same height as a tall human. In addition to it's shorter height, the Great Ape wore clothing made out of the skins of animals, dozens of necklaces made of bones, and held a gnarled staff in its fur-covered hands. Clearly, it was a shaman and led the monsters residing in the room.
As soon as the fight began the entire group targeted the shaman. The other Great Ape's moved in to block the attacks. Some blocked the three melee fighters while others jumped in front of the magic attacks of the ranged fighters. They literally used their bodies to protect the shaman while it cast its spell. When it muttered out the last word of its spell a malevolent green glow wrapped around the larger Great Apes. All of them let out furious roars as their muscles expanded significantly.
The Great Ape closest to Minerva suddenly slammed his toothed club into her shield. Before the buff they received a solid blow like that would be hard-pressed to push her back a single step. With the buff going the blow lightly dented her shield and sent her stumbling back a dozen feet. She barely managed to remain standing. Once she regained her footing she shouted out, "Everyone be careful! They're much stronger now! We need to kill that shaman!"
Despite the buff, Lexiana and Aria were still far too quick for the Apes to land a solid blow on. Thomas wasn't the only one getting stronger and with so much experience gained, the two speed-focused women had become even faster. Those three kept the roided out Apes busy while Thomas, Snowlily, and Selena focused on sending spells at the shaman hiding in the back. Snowlily stuck with her trademark ice attacks and created slick sheets of ice on the ground to destabilize the Apes footing. Selena conjured wind blades and use them to slice at the Apes legs to help knock them down.
As for Thomas, he got annoyed with the Apes guarding the shaman so closely. Without thinking about it too much, he pulled The Destroyer out of his inventory. After cocking the rifle he started channeling a large amount of mana into it causing the mana lines to glow blue while the five magnetic rings glowed red. Selena looked over to see what the light show was about. Seeing the massive rifle in his hands caused her jaw to drop. Thomas had told her what it was and it seemed like complete overkill for the current situation. It probably was. Thomas didn't seem to care as he leveled the rifle directly at the shaman.
As he aimed at the shaman, two of the other Apes moved in front of it to protect it from him. Thomas didn't care and pulled the trigger. There was a loud thundercrack as the bullet easily and instantly broke through the sound barrier. The sudden noise shocked everyone and everything inside the room with the exception of Thomas. The bullet obliterated everything in its path until it slammed into the dungeon wall. The impact shook the entire room and sent out a massive cloud of dust and rocks as the bullet blasted a deep crater into the wall. The bullet had destroyed half of one of the guard's chests before ripping a gaping hole through the chest of the shaman.
Both monsters collapsed to the ground and began to disintegrate while the other Apes suddenly lost the source of their buffs. They didn't lose the one the shaman had already managed to cast on them leaving them stronger but they wouldn't get anything else. Without having to worry about the Apes getting any additional buffs and without the group having to try to focus on the shaman, dismantling the Apes became a lot less work. Only after all of the Apes were defeated did the stares happen. All four women stared at him as if awaiting answers.
Thomas looked between all four of them and smiled, "What?"
Selena punched him in the chest with as much strength as she could muster physically. Thomas grunted from the blow and raised his hand defensively, "Okay. Okay. Sorry. Sorry. I'll talk!"
He took a deep breath while rubbing his chest with his free hand, "I know it was a bit overkill but that shaman was annoying. I just wanted to get rid of him so I pulled out the one weapon I knew would kill it with ease. I didn't mean to cause a big commotion."
Selena continued to glare at him, "How strong was that shot?"
Thomas stored The Destroyer back inside of his inventory and did some quick math, "Around twenty-four hundred Power."
Everyone's jaws dropped. Selena stuttered, "T-that's deep into the Emperor realm!"
Thomas nodded, "Yeah and it will only get stronger as I do. Unfortunately, my ammunition for it is rather limited until I take some time to make more."
Selena sighed and shook her head, "I swear, one of these days I'm going to stop being surprised by the things you do."
Thomas laughed and then spoke in a playful tone, "Oh? I'll see what I can do about that. After all, what's life without a few surprises?"
Selena spun around and punched him in the chest again, "Shut it you!"
Thomas laughed while Aria chuckled off to the side. With that taken care of, the group moved on and continued to kill the Great Apes that filled the rooms on this floor of the dungeon. Eventually, they came to a stop to take a break. As they sat down, Thomas pulled out the plans he'd been given for his first commission. Honestly, it wasn't all that impressive to look at. The sword was an uninspiring cliche of a bad guy weapon.
The sword was a straight longsword with a tapered point that had a handle long enough to fit two hands. The crossguard was a simple straight bar that was tipped with long spikes that curved toward the blade. The only 'artistic' parts of the sword were the skulls placed on the cross-section and pommel of the weapon. The skull on the cross-section was set so that the skull was upside down, it would look proper with the tip of the blade pointed toward the ground. It was also mirrored so that it looked like a skull from either side and had red gems similar to rubies in its eye sockets. The skull pommel was just a regular human skull on a small scale.
The sword itself was boring as hell. The materials it was supposed to be made of though, they caught his interest. The main material for the full blade and crossguard was a metal called Blacksoul Steel. The decorative skulls on the cross-guard and pommel were made of Infernal Lavametal. The ruby-like gems that went in the eyes of the skull were something called Osmil. The last interesting material for the sword was the leather for the handle wrap, it came from a Murk Wyvern.
Well, the sword might be boring but the materials all seemed really interesting. He couldn't wait to get a closer look at them later when he and Snowlily were alone in their room. He wasn't about to start pulling such ominous-sounding materials in mixed company. With the simple design of the sword, he didn't have any doubts that he could easily complete it on the first try leaving him with two complete sets of the materials left over. He grinned as he pictured what he could do with them once he knew their properties. It would need to wait until they got done down here in the dungeon though.