We left the side room and moved back into the main entrance hall for the dungeon. I didn’t mention what had just happened. The man who attacked me had managed to slip past two seasoned adventurers and neither of them had noticed any sign of his presence, or at least they didn’t mention it if they did.
Three separate passages led off from the hall, each with a large image carved above which hinted at what they contained. John and Bryan ignored the doorways under the slime and wolf images and pulled me towards the one that had a picture of an armed warrior above it.
“Created dungeons are intelligent, each wing has a set enemy type.” John said as he pushed open the heavy wooden door. “You haven’t fought any people, so we decided it would be a good experience for you.”
Bryan nodded as he followed John into the passage. My stomach clenched as I stepped into the tunnel. The man's threat rang out in my brain once more as the door closed behind me. John and Bryan had given up their time to help me and in return, I had to lie to their faces, but it wasn’t like I had any other choice. Even if I told them the truth right then and there, we would have to finish the dungeon first.
And that would give the masked man time to launch his revenge attack against the weakened members of the group. I knew it wasn't Bryan or John, as the man was taller than both of them. The chances of it being Susan or Claire were slim to none. I knew both of their attributes and classes, and neither matched the attackers.
This is only temporary. I just need to get strong enough to defend myself, and then I can hunt him like the dog he is... and save the others in the process.
It didn’t take long to get to the first room. John explained the usage of dungeons for the entire trip but it didn’t sink in at all. Luckily, they didn’t seem to notice any issues with my behaviour, or they put my stilted responses down to nerves. Either way, we walked into the first room and closed the door behind us.
“Ten seconds. Balanced group, you take on their Supporter and we’ll hold off the others.” Bryan drew his swords and smiled at me. “Keep calm, we’ve got your back.”
I nodded at him and pulled out my staff. We had to get through the dungeon. From what I understood, the basic dungeon consisted of three rooms, one of which was a boss room. If we quit early we would have to wait a certain time before we could leave, which also might be a sign to the hidden forces that I hadn’t held up my end of the bargain.
"Don't use your skills too much, Rook. From your level, you'll need most of it for the last fight." John spoke out of the blue as I was about to use my abilities. I gave him a confused look, but he ignored my unspoken question as he pointed at the far side of the room.
Before my thoughts spiralled out of control once more, a flash of light lit up the room. Three people stepped out into the open and drew their weapons. Their equipment mirrored our own, one armed with a bow, the other with dual swords and the last with a long staff. Their faces were blurred, as though a heat haze had formed an inch from their skin. John pulled out his bow and aimed at the distant archer before he glanced at me.
"These things are basically summoned creatures, so don't hold back-"
I didn’t wait for the others as I dashed forward and swung my staff towards the Supporter. A quick attack would end the fight before it had even begun.
At least, that was the plan.
The staff user blocked my strike and countered with his own. I barely managed to deflect the blow before a kick sent me back several feet. As I regained my footing the ranged opponent fired his first shot of the battle.
Directly at my face.
Before it could hit, Bryan leapt past me and knocked it aside with a casual swipe. He gave me a grimace before he turned and ran towards the group. His form dodged past the Supporter and knocked the melee fighter back in one smooth motion whilst John traded blows with the bow user, which left me to fight the Supporter uninterrupted.
The rough wood of my staff dug into my hands. My first attack had failed, but now I had a chance to regain some ground. The summoned opponents were skilled, but not so much it was an impossible challenge for me. I ignored the other members of the group and focused on my own target.
Simple, direct blows. Fancy moves were off the table until I could use my weapon without a thought. If I rushed and lost, John and Bryan might call an early end to our little trip. I lifted my staff and waited in a defensive stance with both my hands palm down on top of the staff. The idea to try a reverse grip did peek its head, but that was quickly dismissed.
Keep it simple, stupid…
It was difficult to tell what my opponent planned to do. His face was hidden, so the only clues were how he moved his body. The only knowledge I had of staff combat was the occasional glimpses from the many movies my friends had pulled me to in the past. The basics were obvious, but the challenge to put it into practice was on a different level.
But still, I wanted to practice with the weapon as much as I could. Though I didn't fully trust the old man who had sent me to this world, for obvious reasons, he had said it would be the main player in my upcoming fight. Though there were downsides to the staff, they were far outweighed by the possible benefits in the future.
The man darted forwards and swung his staff down towards my head. I lifted my staff and blocked the blow, but the impact still ran through my arms as the weapons connected. Before he could retreat, I tilted my staff to the side and deflected his weapon before I shoved him back a step with a shoulder-charge.
Now his staff was out of the way, it was time for my counter-attack.
My staff swished through the air and caught him on the side of the head. I’d swung it backhanded, which left my grip a little awkward at best. It didn’t matter too much as I didn’t plan to give him time to recover.
He had dropped to one knee, though he still tried to push himself to his feet. Whilst he reeled in pain I shifted my grip. My staff was under my arm at that point, which left me ready for the final blow.
It only took a second for me to close the gap. My opponent swung his staff wildly, which reminded me of myself when I fought the wolf in the forest. I had been prepared for the blow and kicked his staff away at the midpoint. Pain shot up my foot, but at least my ribs weren’t broken. My defensive strike ended his attack before it had even begun.
I gathered up all the power in my hand and thrust my staff towards his head once more. It wasn’t a nice move, or a fair one, but it would end the fight.
His head was blasted back as my staff slammed into it. A sharp crack echoed out as he crashed into the floor. His staff clattered to the floor as his body went limp, which proved he was either unconscious or worse. After a few seconds, his body blurred and turned to smoke before my eyes. Whilst I had defeated my opponent, I didn’t feel any happiness.
I felt sick.
“Good job, Rook. You can take this one.” Bryan dodged away from his opponent. I didn’t see any strain on his face, which showed how easy my companions found these fights. The blurry faced swordsman swung in search of a new target and locked onto me a moment later.
A chill ran through my spine. A staff was one thing, but swords were a completely different ballgame. One wrong move and I could lose an arm, and no amount of potions would fix that. At least Bryan had removed part of the threat. The swordsman now only held one blade, which lowered the danger a little.
Not enough to comfort me, though.
“Don’t worry, Rook.” John waved to me from the side. He had taken out the ranged member and had swung his bow to face my new opponent. “I’ll keep you safe if you mess up. Do your best.”
His reassurance didn’t do much for my confidence.
The swordsman ran towards me with his sword held high. It was easy to tell what his plan was, but their simple nature could have been due to the difficulty we selected for the dungeon. His sword slammed into the centre of my staff as I blocked the strike. Now all I had to do was copy my first battle blow for blow.
My opponent didn’t give me the chance.
He turned his sword to the side and scraped it along the length of my staff. I managed to pull my hand away in time to avoid the loss of my fingers, but the loss of support let him push my staff into the floor on one side.
This was karma for what I had done to his group member before.
He grabbed his sword hilt with both hands and prepared to push against my staff. At most I would be able to stop his assault temporarily before got past my defences. There was only one option.
I had to attack.
My foot snapped out and landed on his leg. A sharp crack rang out as he sunk to one knee. He barely managed to look up before I shoved the staff down onto his head with my entire weight. The blow sent him across the floor as his sword skittered off to the side.
My heart raced as I lifted my staff up once more. The end that had been pushed into the floor was now free, so I lifted it into the air and swung it with all my might. The two-handed blow caught my opponent on the side of his head, which again rewarded me with a sickening crack.
I’d won, again.
“Bit wild, but you won.” Bryan walked over to me and patted my shoulder. “We’ll move on in a bit, so take a rest-”
“No!” I shook my head and moved towards the door at the far side of the room. “Let’s go, we can’t wait around all day.”
John opened his mouth to ask what was wrong before he closed it once more. The pair followed me into the next room in silence as all of the joy of victory left the air. I couldn’t explain why we needed to rush, not without risking the other's lives.
For now, they would just have to swallow their irritation. In the end, it was for their own good.