I held back a frown as they approached. I could feel the judgment in all of them. The most obvious was the fellow who looked like a Warrior. His eyes were dark like thunderclouds as he stomped his way over, not even hiding his disappointment.
“Hello, are you Alder Grimsbane?” I asked the one wearing the tall, pointy hat.
She sighed. “That’s me. I take it you’re Basil, the one who responded to our post?”
I nodded my head and began to extend my hand to shake, but the Warrior broke in.
“You’ve gotta be kidding me. You’re just a kid. You can’t be more than 20 years old.” I took my hand back as he spoke. If they weren’t going to bother being polite then neither would I.
“I’m 22 actually. I just graduated from the Dungeon Maker course and --” He cut me off before I could go any further. “You’ve gotta be kidding me, you’re a new graduate? Are you even a level 2 Dungeon Maker?”
“Enough,” Alder gestured at him to stop and he did so, even if he looked like he resented the order.
Alder turned back to me. “Please forgive my party member’s rudeness. But the task on the mission board did specify that we were looking for someone who was at least a level 2 Dungeon Maker and had experience.”
I shook my head. “It’s been so long since you posted the task, but I bet I’m the first one to respond, right?”
Alder looked a bit surprised and hesitated to answer. I held up a hand, cutting her off. “Don’t bother answering, I already know. You don’t seem too familiar with Dungeon Makers, and based on your age I’d guess you had already gone through university when Janus came. You might not be aware of the current system, so let me tell you how it works.” I paused, waiting to see if she was going to cut me off. If she did then I could only chalk it up to bad luck that they had too high of expectations and were unwilling to budge.
However, she didn’t cut me off, and gestured for me to continue, her face reserved.
I nodded and spoke. “You must know that Dungeon Makers require resources to create dungeons. Moreover, as the only class without any combat potential, we can’t really venture into dungeons.” The Warrior sneered at this point, but I ignored him and continued. “Because of that, the career track of Dungeon Makers is a bit different. 99% of Dungeon Makers accept internships while still in college, whether with corporation or with the government.” I paused to make sure she was following me. She made an impatient noise at me and said, “Get to the point.”
“Well, do you think those corporations and the government are so charitable that they would give Dungeon Makers materials during the internship only for them to leave and take their skills to the highest bidder?”
Understanding seemed to dawn on her face, but I continued anyways. It wouldn’t hurt for the others in the party to hear it. Especially the Warrior who still seemed lost.
“All Dungeon Makers who accept internships end up bound in long term contracts. By the time they get out of them they’re usually at least level 5. They wouldn’t bother accepting a task like yours.”
Their faces began to change, and I continued.
“To the best of my knowledge, I’m the only one who didn’t accept an internship in the entire college, at least for the four years I’ve been there. All of the other Dungeon Makers are in long term contracts.” I thought about it and added, “I suppose there could be some who never went to college and relied on the support of their family to level and develop, but they wouldn’t accept tasks like this either.”
Alder nodded her head. “This explains a lot. I thought that Dungeon Makers received training in college.”
I shook my head. “At best we receive theoretical training. And most are lacking even in that, as they use internships to make up the majority of their credits. So far as I know I’m the only one who did independent studies to graduate. At least in terms of theory, I’m probably one of the most advanced Dungeon Makers you could find.”
The party’s faces relaxed slightly as I said this, though the Warrior still seemed unhappy.
“Well then, let’s talk about the task shall we?” Alder seemed satisfied with my explanation and turned the conversation back to the reason we had gathered.
I nodded and she continued. “We wanted a level 2 Dungeon Maker because we want to make sure our dungeon is as efficient as possible. Given the situation, we’re willing to accept a level 1 Dungeon Maker like you, but your compensation will be commensurate with your lack of experience. Is that acceptable to you?”
I thought about it. She had a point, in that I wasn’t a known quantity. That being said, I wasn’t lying when I said I had a better theoretical foundation than probably any other Dungeon Maker from the college. “You’re worried about taking a risk on me, basically.” I reasoned slowly. “Instead of unilaterally assuming the risk, how about we do something different? Instead of an up front fee, let’s agree to a percentage share of the dungeon earnings. That way, I only get paid if the dungeon works for you and your initial cost will only be the cost of the dungeon materials.”
Alder seemed to think about it. She looked at her other party members and they nodded one by one, the Warrior seemed to do so grudgingly.
“Very well, that’s acceptable. But only on the condition that future costs for restoring the dungeon will be on you.”
I ground my teeth. Truthfully, that was a pretty difficult condition. The cost of dungeon materials was no small thing, and as a Dungeon Maker I couldn’t just go in the dungeon and get them myself.
“In that case, I want 20% of the profit from the dungeon.” I countered.
Alder grimaced, but nodded. “Actually, I have an alternative to offer you. We plan on using the dungeon to farm Slimes and establish our own Slime Jelly company. There’s a craze for locally made dungeon produce at the moment. Would you accept 20 percent of the profits from the business? We really can’t afford to give away or sell the Slime materials if we want to keep our business supplied.”
I thought about it. On the one hand, it meant that if the business didn’t succeed I would be left destitute. On the other hand, even if it didn’t succeed, I would be able to level up and offer people the services of a level 2 Dungeon Maker. I hesitated a moment longer before nodding. “Very well, we have an agreement.” A window popped up in front of me.
“Do you wish to enter into this contract with the Grimsbane party?”
Below it listed the terms and conditions of the contract, and then had a place at the bottom where I could accept or reject.
I read through the terms to make sure it was all accurate, and then clicked accept. Alder must have done the same because suddenly a contract appeared in my character window under “tasks”.
I looked at it in fascination. This was the first time I’d signed a contract involving dungeons and my class. I had heard that Janus enforced such contracts, which is why no one dared to back out of the internship contracts, but I hadn’t realized it would be reflected in the character screen. It was kind of like a quest log.
Alder spoke jarring me out of my thoughts. “I suppose we’d better introduce ourselves properly now that we’ll be working together.”
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Bio: Author. My novels at the moment include Luxury Cafe Owner and Grave of Heroes. Luxury Cafe Owner is complete at 57 chapters and available to read on Amazon. The first book in the Grave of Heroes series, Evil Star, is on the back burner. I have decided not to do serialized releases for it, and to release it all at once on Amazon. My latest LitRPG series, Dungeon Ecology, is currently being released chapter by chapter here and on Moonquill!