In the week after the gate had been investigated, the village was moving like an anthill set on fire.
At the end of the day when it was discovered, the chief made another pronouncement, elaborating on what Li Gong found, the curious, but most likely quite lucrative state of the bizarre Qi Realm right underneath their feet. After that, there was much more work that needed to be done.
Zhi Yu, the village’s sole merchant, took the gold recovered from the dungeon and rushed to the nearest large town on horseback, tasked with the mission of coming back having swapped the gold for weapons for the village to gain more fighting force for the sake of exploration.
Back there, all those with the strength of spirit to volunteer for said fighting force sparred with wooden arming weapons, sterling themselves under the martial instructions of Li Gong and the village’s few hunters, whose power and formal training might be less than that of a cultivator, but who also knew some measure of practical fighting, having to contend with the other hunters out in the wilderness- many of which were monstrous beasts.
And last, but definitely not least, the farmers rejoiced, as the rice fields, especially those nearest the opening, thirstily drank in the Qi that flowed out of the dungeon. In a few months, the harvest would be not of normal rice, but of Ling Qi Grains- a very basic and common form of magical plant, but one that was still supernaturally nutritious and could improve one’s cultivation by a small amount, and would be a great boon to the village nontheless.
And like that, a rudimentary one week after having started their preparations, the village sent an expedition into the dungeon. The fighting force, consisting of the Chief, Li Gong, roughly a dozen and a half promising, vigorous men and women armed with a mix of wooden and iron weapons, and a few farming implements, escorting along a handful of non-fighting villagers whose talent for cultivation had been judged to “Probably be pretty decent” by Li Gong in a cursory check. They planned to use the more-powerful-the-deeper-you-go energy to grow stronger, leaving stay the non-combatants in the main hall, just meditating, while the fighters would cultivate alongside martial training, and fight off the dungeon’s denizens should it prove necessary.
Preparations ready, they set out.
———In the Dungeon———
Last week has been pretty productive. The layout of the dungeon itself probably won’t need any upgrades for a good while, but I’ll readily admit that the stuff inside it is really lacking. The monsters got easily torn apart by some unarmed dude, even if he did seem to be a quite good martial artist, the treasure is mostly just cash or regular arms and armor, and the traps are... improvisational to say the least.
The three big things I really should pick up are better monsters, making magic items, and actual traps. So I actually went after Lana to ask for help first this time. She looked at me with a mildly amused smile, but then indulged, as “It’s what I’m here for!”
Magic items, oddly enough, turned out to be the easiest of these three. Similar to casting a spell, it requires a solid image of the item’s intent, and to then infuse it with energy until it’s completely saturated. It’s quite a bit harder, however, since the magic isn’t a single effect, it needs to be imprinted in it. This requires not only a solid image and a much larger amount of energy, but also something to anchor this effect- typically either runes, glyphs or other formulae of some sort, or design elements incorporated into the design of item were common forms of doing this. There didn’t seem to be an universal rule, but as long as the image was included in the item somehow, it should work.
It took me a number of tries, but after a few day’s work, I managed to make something! Sure, a pair of winged sandals that slightly increased the wearer’s speed was, as I understood from the fairy’s explanation, amateur material, needing a massively prominent image to work and with very simple effects, but, hey, at least I did something. I made some other basic items as practice and to spread around the treasure loads: A pair of extra-tough armored bracelets, a flaming- well, slightly hot to the touch- sword, a wand of sparks... yeah, some very basic stuff.
Anyways! Monsters. According to Lana’s long, long explanation, the summoning of monsters was a mystical and intricate process, involving drawing the sprits of the earth to breathe animation into one’s creations, and, in order to breathe true life, a hallowed ingredient was required... and a bunch more long-winded, esoteric-sounding stuff. As I deciphered it, basically: To summon a monster, you pluck out these spirit things that there are around, and stuff then into some specially-made, mildly magical bodies, the two of which then interact and meld together into a true monsters. These spirits each have elements and some other special properties, and they are what determines what kind of monster you can create. Stumbling upon a particularly extraordinary spirit wasn’t a shortcut to a massively strong monster, as powerful spirits would require an equally powerful body, created from expensive magical materials to hold, and that would be out of the reach of a new dungeon like me, so no cheats that way. There’s also a limit to the amount of spirits I can draw from the world in a certain area, so monster quantities are limited by dungeon size.
The monsters, spirit and body, will just melt away into the background of the dungeon and then naturally ‘respawn’ after a while when slain, so I don’t have to be making new bodies manually all the time, which is convenient. However, and this is probably important regular monsters are very explicitly NOT living beings, and as such, have a few caveats to them. Namely, they don’t have an actual, complete soul, which I’m not really means, and they cannot learn new skills beyond those the spirit already possesses, which is a bit more of a tangible bummer.
However however! ‘Life Energy’ is gained slowly by a natural pace, faster by having living beings inside the dungeon’s domain, and left behind by the soul in a certain quantity every time something dies there. This Life Energy is an extremely valuable resource, as the more I have, the larger I can expand the dungeon, and I can use up a certain amount of it to grant a monster a true soul- it will still respawn, as long as my core is intact, as the soul is bound to it, but the spirit gains more power and potential, and the monster becomes a true, living being, capable of learning, improving, and growing into a unique and powerful beast. This is how I make boss monsters, more or less.
Well! All that information out of the way, the actual monsters I made weren’t all that exciting. Following the helpful dungeon fairy’s guidance, I sensed that there was a good quantity of Earth-elemental spirits around this area, so I almost immediately decided to make some monstrous versions of my favorite fantasy creatures, who happen to be quite earth-aligned. Dwarves! Swinging axes and hammers, drinking ale, smithing ores, delving the depths of the dangerous underground darkness, all that stuff. Dwarves are cool.
I spent some time moulding a short, burly humanoid body out of stone and clay, not paying much attention to the fine details, as the spirit should breathe some life into the image, but still making sure to capture all the broad elements and infuse my mana into the image. Short and strong? Check. Big, heavy hammer? Next to him, but check. Magnificent beard? Double check. Alright, let’s make it a monster now.
Closing my metaphorical eyes, I concentrated on the spirits that I could feel around me, sensing the thrumming energies of nature that courses around me, how this particular place felt rough, solid, the energies unbending and forceful, yet teeming with the unbridled potential of fertile soil. The element of Earth. Sending out a grasp of my own will, I drew in a particular chunk of that primal, natural energy that I recognized as a spirit, and pulled it into the statue in front of me.
Energy coursed through the earthen facsimile of the dwarf, the clay rippling as if it was real skin, as the newly made creature took a step forward with flesh of stone and bones of iron. Deep, orange and red eyes started to glow like two smouldering coals set in the creature’s face.
Despite it’s short stature, with rough, brownish-grey clay skin spread into a bulky, powerful frame, a shiny copper strand beard glistening on its face, stony armor, and those meancing coal eyes, the monster dwarf painted an imposing figure. My first monster was a success!
I ended up making as many of those as I could. Each one a tad different, as creating nothing but identical statues would have been boring and made for a repetitive dungeon. Some of them wielded a large two-handed warhammer like the first, others, a battle axe, others, a one-handed axe or hammer along with a shield, and a couple even two axes. Each was slightly different in size and sometimes used some different rocks in its composition. Some were designed to look female, with luxurious copper braids instead of beards and slightly more curved bodies- though still as bulky and strong-looking as the rest.
And, above all, not a single one had the same kind of braid in their beards or hair.
All in all, I think there’s twenty something of these monster dwarves that I made spread around the dungeon in total. A decent number, but I can’t wait for it to increase and to add some other stuff when I get more life energy. Hopefully those people who dug in will check back soon.
...Oh, yeah, and it turns out Lana knows just as much about traps as I do, which is to say, almost nothing. It’s still jury-rigged blades and crappy ceiling rocks.