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Without hesitating, the car-sized toad lashes out at my defense force with its sticky tongue. In the blink of an eye it gobbles up a dozen ants and archer beetles. Taking control of the archer pods now lodged inside the beast’s gullet, I command them to pierce the beast with their venomous harpoons.

The amphibian quickly jerks back when a couple of the attacks land. Though it doesn’t seem to suffer too much, its reaction tells me one thing.

It can be killed.

An archer pod’s venom is unbelievably potent, that the toad managed to continue its assault even after being stung in the throat is truly impressive. Perhaps it has a minor immunity to this particular toxin, seeing as it lives in the same environment as the pods.

By the time all my minions had scuttled into the safety of the logistics tunnels, it had already racked up 600+ kills.

Introspectively, I consider; there’s nothings forcing me to fight it.

I mean, I know you (Me, but we’ve been over this.) want me to fight it head-on, because it’d be exciting, but I’m not a fool all the time. What am I, your entertainment?

I have little to gain from throwing my animals at the demon toad, killing it in that manner won’t justify the cost and simply leaving it to wander off on its own would be the best solution. Like I said, I’m in no rush to obtain the cavern.

I had decided to relocate my tunnel-sealing crew to the opposite side of the cavern so they could continue to work without the toad noticing, and for a time, everything went alright. After blocking off one more tunnel, it started to patrol the expanse, which brought it into contact with my workers once more. While I was able to recall everyone much faster this time around, now that the toad was patrolling the cavern, my efforts were severely hindered.

The toad can’t climb very well, so I set to work sealing the lava tubes which breach the ceiling. While I can’t pile stones directly on the threshold between the tunnels and cavern due to, well, their orientation and gravity, I have no trouble creating the barricade at the portion of each tunnel that levels off. There is a total of 6 tunnels on the ceiling, so I should be occupied for a while before I have to either wait for the toad to leave, or deal with it on my own.

After another two days I finish blocking the ceiling entrances, leaving only 4 tunnels left, all of which are in the toad beast’s territory. Water flows through one of the ceiling tunnels, which opens into a waterfall. All I had to do was ensure my barricade in that tunnel had minute fissures in it for the water to pass through. On the far side, I try to keep it as natural-looking as possible, lest any sapients get curious.

I’ve arrived at a crossroads; I could continue reading about magic whilst I wait for Mr. Toad to leave my future cavern, but with my limited mana manipulation skills (Which I have been practicing, don’t worry.) it will take a long time for me to get to the point where I can use it to protect myself. Alternatively, if can get my hands, or domain, I should say, on the powerful fauna who call the cavern home before finishing the magic books, I will receive an immediate power boost.

In other words, it’s important for me to secure my safety as soon as possible. Learning about magic and capturing the cavern can both accomplish this goal independently of each other, however, capturing the cavern has a sooner return on investment, which is essential when my life is at risk from unknown threats.

Am I being paranoid? Nope, there really are people “out to get me,” I’m being rational. I hope.

The gargantuan amphibian isn’t going anywhere. He looks quite comfortable, terrorizing the denizens of the underground expanse like he owns the place. Unfortunately for him, I’ve just filed a property dispute.

I am unable to directly use telekinesis, cut, or merge on foreign animals, and for larger creatures, I can’t even perform it in their vicinity. But I’m in luck, on average, the roof of the cavern is about 18 m above the floor, plenty high enough for me to drop a boulder on top of the irritating insectivore.

Yeah, yeah, it’s anticlimactic, but it’s smart.

He’s not always on the move, even monstrous beasts need to rest occasionally. At the moment he is standing still near a brook which flows out from the luminous pond of rainbow corals and into a chasm recessed in the cavern’s floor. Even if I miss on my first try, there’s nothing stopping me from trying over and over again. Still, I’m confident that I’ll be able to flatten him on my first try. After all, one of the unique aspects of life as a dungeon core is the ability to effortlessly gauge dimensions, alignment, and the like.

Working around the dangling blue-glowing mucus strands, which I now know to belong to massive carnivorous glow worms who’ve somehow burrowed into the solid stone that forms the ceiling, I carve out a, likely overkill, 3 m wide boulder.

Without hesitating, I free it from the ceiling and let gravity take care of the rest.

The boulder plummets downward and instantly flattens the toad. As it impacts the cavern’s verdant undergrowth, several birds take flight from the nearby fungus trees and I witness 2 dragonflies capitalizing on the pandemonium to score an easy airborne meal.

Mr. Toad is essentially soup. Amused by how easy it was, I begin to laugh maniacally. I am the greatest dungeon core ever!

Free at last to finish fortifying the remaining 4 lava tubes, I set the dungeon helpers to their task.

This time it only took a little over a day to finish, in large part because I’d worked ahead and accumulated excess rhyolite. There were 2 noteworthy observations I made. The first observation occurred a few meters down each of the tunnels that lead deeper into the crust; I noticed a layer transition from rhyolite to limestone, which is odd because I can’t fathom how a thick igneous layer of rhyolite could form on top of a sedimentary limestone layer. The geologic history of this world must’ve been chaotic. The second observation was in the same tunnel that serves as the outlet for the pond; lining its walls is a homogeneous mass of spongy living tissue that was laced with branching veins which pulsed in a manner reminiscent of a heartbeat. I definitely need to investigate this after I’m done claiming the cavern, but doing so any sooner could be risky, it’s giving me some creepy vibes.

Because it requires only very minimal focus, I can work on spreading my domain throughout my new territory while I work on other things. Unfortunately, I can’t take control of a creature unless it was born in my domain or has resided there for a long time, so for some of the larger creatures I’ll have to wait a week or two.

The area I’d carved out to supply the substrate for the tunnel sealing project was huge. It really isn’t anything more than a tangle of passages with no clear pattern other than minor features which serve to reduce the likelihood of a collapse. While the tunnels might be narrow, their total volume is nearly equal to that of my ember blossom room. Furthermore, they span an incredibly wide area which runs across the whole territory of my dungeon, such that all of my previous rooms now have multiple entrances.

With the cavern secured, and my domain spreading into it this very moment, it’s time to resume my magical studies. However, there’s something I want to look into first, it won’t take long.

I’ve yet to do anything with the ingots I’d purchased, in part because I haven’t made any metalworking tools yet. Even so, I have no excuses for not testing my cut and merge abilities on them for so long. According to “The Introduction to Arcane Principles” metals are extremely useful in runecrafting, apparently conducting “activated mana” in different manners depending on the type of metal, purity, temperature, relative motion, manufacturing quality, and several other factors. When mana is passing through a rune, it becomes “activated” and can be conducted by certain materials, which is supposedly essential for the rune to function. I don’t know why that is, or what it really even means on an intuitive level, so I’ll need to get my hands on some more advanced books.

Anyway, my point is, you need metal in order to create effective runes.

Wrapping my sense around a half-kilogram copper ingot, I attempt to make a cut.

While I do succeed in chopping it in half, rather than producing one of the clean cuts I’ve gotten so used to by now, I’m left with is a jagged edge. Trying again on a chunk of iron, I’m met with identical results.

This is troublesome, if I can’t cut metal precisely, making runes is going to become substantially more difficult. Well, difficult, but not impossible. Not to brag, but I have more than 85 years of experience as a machinist…

I attempt to merge the two halves of the selected copper ingot together, making sure that it’s the flat surfaces produced by the mold which are being conjoined, not the rough edges my cut yielded.

The outcome closely resembles one of the ugliest butt welds I’ve ever seen in my life. Still, it’s pretty impressive that I can even do this in the first place without melting anything. Again, there’s no difference on the iron either. On a whim, I merge the copper and iron together and am pleased to see that it worked as intended, though it’s still a shoddy weld.

Testing a cut and weld again, I make a new observation. If I use my mana manipulation ability while cutting/merging a material such as stone, the mana being used flows in an orderly fashion. When trying the same on an ingot, I can now see that the mana moves erratically as soon as it comes into contact with the metal. I can only conclude that the reason for my low precision when cutting/merging metals is its ability to conduct “activated mana.” Which I still don’t understand.

I’m a bit dismayed that working with metals and subsequently making runes is going to be more difficult than I’d originally expected, but I’m still determined to make it happen. Also, it’s not like I have much else that’s better to do than learn while I wait for the cavern to become fully claimed and its inhabitants to become controllable.

Before I start reading about the runecrafting discipline, I need to learn about the different kinds of runes, uses of magic, and how to actually perform magic.

The book I’m about to start on, “Theo Kant’s Book for Beginner Mages,” identifies some of the more common applications of magic and explains the basics of using it in its simplest forms. Thankfully Kant assumes the reader has already learned how to move mana at will and is completely new to using runic devices such as wands.

The blockage I built in the tunnel that serves as the brook’s outlet and which is lined with living tissue has minute crevices that allow water to pass unhindered. This also means I am able to maintain a connection to the portion of my domain situated on the other side. Just as I was about to start reading, I detect a presence on the, shall I say, wild side of the fortification. Rapidly shifting my focus in a panic, I do a double take when I notice a posse of 8 familiar human miners carrying ropes and the oil lamps I’d yet to see in use until now standing in the knee-deep flowing water in the lava tube.

Once again, I had neglected my spying on the humans, and this time, there might be repercussions.

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A note from Hoophy97

“Uninvited guests are often most welcome when they leave.”

Page 3 of Popular this Week!!! I never expected to make it this far, thank you so much!

Also, do people really like dungeon core stories so much? I can’t imagine anyone who hasn’t read a dungeon core story before would understand what’s going on in Dungeon Engineer considering how poorly I explained the genre in the earlier chapters.

Please raise your hand below if this is your first dungeon core story and also say if it makes sense or not. Thanks! 😊

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About the author

Hoophy97

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Bio: Enjoyer of technical fiction!

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Comments(64)
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Angela Campbell ago

first victory! I just kind of feel bad like what did the toad keep down in those caves to sustain such a huge monster than just bugs? well hopefully it is not are dungeon problem affecting the natural ecosystem for his benefit

      virtualkiller ago

      Isnt 600 insects a bit overkill though? Especially when theese ant are 11cm big... How big is the toad to even eat all of them?

      virtualkiller ago

      Its 4am and my brain isnt really capable of doing any proper calculations right now but kets assume the bettles + pods are also the same 11 cm as the ants (not sure if this is length but im going to assume so) so lets keep it simple 11cm length * 3 cm with * 2cm hight is around the appropriate dimensions for the ants thats approximately 66cm3. 66cm3 * 600 is around 396m3 that means the toad has at least 396m3 of stomach. lets assume the toads stomach is around a half of its size and that its height width and length are roughly the same. The cubed root of 396 is 7.3 So the toad is estimated 14.6m tall. I dont think the 3m rock droped on it it enough to reduce it to soup...

      Hoophy97 ago

      I actually made the estimate by using weight. Not saying I did so correctly, though.

      Assuming the average weight of a "unit" is 1 pound, (twice as much as the weight of the largest turantulas) that would be a 600 pound meal. Now the toad is the size of a car, so let's say it weighs somewhere around 3 times as much as a full-sized male polar bear, putting it at around 2700 lbs.

      Many toads can eat their entire body weight's worth of insects in a single day, so 600 lbs seems pretty light...

      Though I'm likely wrong. :)

      kjoatmon ago

      Perhaps the adaption for this one is a stronger stomach acid. Digests 12x as quick.

      Personally, I thought he was going to feed it rocks shaped roughly as bugs and tossed towards it.

      blub01 ago

      uh.. 66cm3 * 600 are about 39.6 cubic decimetres, or about 40 litres. the conversion rate is 1 000 000 cm3 <-> 1m3, or 1 000 cm3 <-> dm3. that's a large volume for a toad, but not that large.

      virtualkiller ago

      Based on your comment, the toad would assumed to be 1.46m tall rather than the initial 14.6m tall. Much more reasonable and quite possible to reduce to soup with a 3 m boulder.

Augustus ago

That is two DF references and no mention of Armok?!? I am starting to doubt your dwarfiness McHoophy97. I will be keeping my eyes peeled for any sign of alliance with the tree huggers even if you did clear a forest in the dwarfiess way possible.

Soulwager ago

I imagine he'd be able to make some granite reference surfaces pretty easily, for lapping and grinding, though it sounds like he might be able to cheat past measurement tools.

He's going to need a foundry, and he needs to look for some ore veins. Should be able to turn the wrought iron into a decent hardenable steel.

Hammers

chisels

files

trip hammer?

hydro powered lathe?

can telekinesis and abrasive dust replace a water jet?

kjoatmon ago

Granite, you are getting some gneiss rocks, but don't get too sedemental about things.

Oh, and marble makes some of the best concrete. It is really pure before the morph.

He could always cause the tube to collapse. Similar to how he had to deal with the toad. Though, not on the miners. Just get them to run.

K3l3K ago

Using rocks to flatten foes is an efficient way of going about things. Saves up on living resources for sure.

Nice

    Hoophy97 ago

    Frankly I'm surprised someone agrees.

    While I want to write a "good" story, I don't want to sacrifice logic to acheive that goal. Ike is a highly flawed character, he often makes stupid mistakes. Even so, I want to at least partially write this in a somewhat believeable way. Engaging the frog directly in typical dungeon fashion is certainly more "entertaining," but it's just not smart in Ike's current circumstances.

      Aristaeus ago

      Why would you be surprised? Isn't it just a rockfall trap that he created? The 'cheaty' thing compared to most dungeon core stories is that it was used to target something outside his domain.

      K3l3K ago

      Close but not quite.

      It wasn't a trap simply because it was neither passive nor required the frog to carelessly activate/stumble into a pre-made mechanism.

      The MC literally waited for the frog to sit still and ambushed him by cutting a block of the ceiling, letting gravity do the rest.

      The MC can only affect areas which are in his domain which is why he's been taking over tunnels and patches around the edges of the cavern. So, not cheaty just yet. Hopefully never.

      Hoophy97 mentions being surprised by my comment because the encounter (involving active participation by the MC ) didn't involve the core coming up with some Complicated battle formations/strategies/new modifications on insects etc just to take care of Frog as usualy happens in stories over here.

      Logic and efficiency over an exciting battle.

      Which is also what i prefer in kingdom building or resource management type of stories, thus my comment.

      Hope that answers your doubts.

Zethuron ago

Oh my, thats why its always important to not forget about the potentional problems you know of.

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