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Chapter 11. Part 1.

Cling. Clang. Ting. Tintanton.

The crisp high pitched screeches of blades clashed together rapidly and reverberated throughout the room we’d entered.

I was shocked. I was truly shocked right now. Only a minute after I’d stepped foot inside the boss room on the 49th floor and I’d already been effortlessly pushed back into a corner.

“Umi! Now!”

With my signal a strong burst of water erupted from the ground directly in front of me. The vampire in front of me flew up to the ceiling from the water pressure. At least that's what I thought happened at first. The next moment, my danger instincts kicked in and I slammed my palm onto the ground. I immediately erected the strongest barrier of water I could form to my rear while I rolled forward.

Swish. 

A bloody red streak traced a curved path in the space where I previously stood, at the end of the crimson streak, a beautiful, delicate hand was positioned right beside where I’d just rolled away from.

If I was just a little bit slower I’d have undoubtedly been a goner. A bead of cold sweat dripped down my back.

“Tch.”

Behind the water barrier I’d erected, I heard the click of a tongue. Her most distinctive feature were the two blood moons for eyes that peered directly into my own. Her body was incorporeal, better said ethereal, like it was not her true body, but a phantom instead. I was unable to make out her features very well and the only easily discernible feature was that she was a vampire. However, she didn’t feel like any vampire I’d ever fought with before. She was far stronger than any vampires I’d fought against in the other worlds I’d been summoned to. In fact, it felt like she was toying and playing around with me to pass the time in her boredom. It didn’t feel like she’d tapped into an ounce of her full strength.

When I first entered this dungeon I was extremely disappointed by the level of monsters on the first twenty floors. However, when I ventured past that point, the monster’s levels drastically rose. By the time I arrived at the 49th floor I discovered they were actually on my level. I’d slaughtered all the floor bosses up to that point whereupon this terrifying vampire made her sudden appearance.

“Since I’d rather not squander my strength needlessly, I’ll let you off this time. However, don’t you dare cause a ruckus on the floors further down or I’ll really end you. It’d be best if you just turned back here and returned to the surface from where you came little girl.”

“Who do you think you are? The final boss? What gives you the right to lecture me?”

“It’s because I am the final boss that I'm telling you to scram and not bother me. This is just a specter of mine that I’m controlling remotely. It’s clumsy and nowhere near as satisfying as fighting in person so I’m letting you off the hook today. If you really want to die then feel free to come to the hundredth floor where I’ll really teach you a good lesson on respecting your elders.”

It’d only been about a week since we entered this place, but shockingly we’d reached the limit of what we could consistently fight off in this dungeon with only the two of us. If I brought the other shrine maidens along, I’m sure we could venture a bit further, but if I stirred anymore trouble, that vampire might really show up in the flesh and wipe us.

Just who is she and why the hell is she so overpowered? Is she supposed to be the demon lord that will descend upon this world within the next eight months? If she’s this powerful, isn’t it just about impossible for the humans in this world to stand a chance? Actually, even the monsters on these floors might be enough to bring about the downfall of humanity on the surface.

What’s with this abnormal world? Isn’t the balance too lopsided? No wonder they needed to summon so many heroes. Honestly, I’m starting to have second thoughts. Should I just join the demon's side? If they’re this strong, then the summoned heroes are practically useless. Eight months is nowhere enough time for them to reach this level of strength.

Well... I first need to interact with the demons to see whether joining them is even plausible though. If you can’t beat them, join them, right? If you can’t join them, then run away. That’s been the motto I’ve lived by since young and how I’ve survived to date. Of course, the one who taught me this way of life was none other than my uncle. They were truly the words of a wise man.

Of course there’s one entity in this particular world that I wasn’t able to evaluate on the human’s side. The church. They definitely weren’t normal and really shouldn’t be underestimated. I spent the second day in this world snooping around here and there gathering information and I found out about the so-called human gods the church worshiped.

When I tried to infiltrate the church’s domain, I actually felt as if there were some sort of unfathomable existence that had locked into me. Because I feared my life was endangered I escaped as quickly as possible and returned to the castle where I discussed with the shrine maidens what they’d like to do.

Eight out of nine of them said they wanted to leisurely enjoy their time interacting with others in this world. As they always had heavy restraints imposed on their freedom, they wanted to spread their wings a bit for a change and personally take in the sights of this new foreign world around them.

Of course, I accepted their wishes and allowed them to do as they pleased. The only one among them who wanted to follow me deeper into the dungeon was my good friend Umi. 

On our fourth day in this world, the instructors gathered us all and took us down into the dungeon for the first time. The newby heroes started to practice by fending off the lowest level 3 monsters on the first floor.

When the three instructors' attention was diverted towards demonstrating how to efficiently operate together as a party to slay a new monster that popped up, Umi and I slipped away and made our descent deeper into the dungeon. 

It didn’t take long before we reached the 21st floor where the level of the monsters had doubled from a bit over level 20 to the mid 40s. Of course, I was surprised by the sudden jump, but it really wasn’t a big deal for the two of us. 

Thus, we ventured even further into the depths of the dungeon while we shared the experience from each kill. The 40th floor had monsters that reached level 80. From then on, there was another large leap in levels. Monsters on the 41st floor were at level 110. It only got more ridiculous the further we went. Monsters on the 49th floor were level 145-150. Then the floor boss turned out to be this absolutely monstrous specter remotely controlled by a vampire that never even took us seriously.

I was still uncertain why she decided to let us off the hook so easily just now. Whether she really just got bored and lost interest quickly or whether she was disappointed that I was too weak and not a match for her, I was uncertain of the truth. It irked me a bit to be looked down upon like that, but there was nothing I could do about it. I’d clearly grown overconfident and complacent in my assumption that every world I went to was no longer a challenge for me. I didn’t expect this world would have such ridiculously powerful existences hidden in the dark like this. Usually there wasn’t such a large discrepancy in power in the world’s I was summoned to.

Both the church and this dungeon, there was more to this world than what first met the eye. Gods and a vampire of unknown origins. For the first time in a long time I felt anticipation towards what sort of story would play out in one of these worlds.

“Akua, maybe we should go back and rest.”

Right now I was really struggling. My curiosity towards this dungeon had really been piqued right now. Of course, going back to rest would probably be the best idea; but why the final boss appeared here prematurely to simply give me a warning to head back before she abruptly disappeared only shortly after she’d made her appearance left me puzzled. Was there something below that she was trying to protect or hide? If I took her words at face value, the 50th floor was already the halfway point through the dungeon.

“Let’s at least take a peek at the 50th floor before we head back. Aren’t you curious as well about what made the final boss appear here just to warn us to not make trouble further down below?”

“Of course I’m curious, but aren’t you worried? If the monsters on this level are this strong, what could be waiting on the 50th floor?”

“How would I know? Maybe it’s Shangri-La or something.”

“Akua, please don’t joke around with our lives.”

“I never joke about my life. If it turns out they’re too strong, l join them. If you can’t join them, we run away. That is my creed and secret to living a long life.”

“Akua, as much as I’m fond of you, I’ve always found your mannerisms are rather unheroic. Shouldn’t you set more of an example for those hatchling summoned heroes?”

“They already have instructors that are somewhat competent, they should be fine.”

“Shouldn’t you also work hard to protect humanity and thwart the demon lord?”

“Since I’m not the only summoned hero, isn’t it about time I take a vacation? Aren’t I at least entitled to some paid time off? It’s been thirty six worlds now you know! Thirty six! You hear me?!”

Do you even summoned to another world girl? Yeah that didn’t make any sense. So what, bite me! I’m just so freaking tired of it. I work my ass off every time with the expectation that I can  finally reap my reward and return to my original world, but it always, ALWAYS ends with me summoned to another stupid world with more stupid obnoxious demon lords to slay. 

This is her first time summoned to another world so the experience is fresh and new to her, but for me this shit is as unrewarding as lifting weights everyday and seeing no benefits. It’s literally hell. Just once, can I just do nothing and get my reward at a chance of being sent back to my world? Of course, I’ll probably still just get summoned to another unreasonable world that expects me to solve all their problems. I’m seriously too damn old for this garbage already. One day even I want to get married, settle down and start a family in my original world you know.

“I do understand that Akua must be tired and all, but what if because you slacked off, those poor, innocent, fledgling heroes that were dragged here against their will died a senseless death when you could have saved them?”

“If they die, they die. They just weren’t fortunate enough. Heroes rise and fall all the time. There are some worlds where heroes are treated as disposable pawns. Unlike your world where heroes were treated fairly, not all worlds have the same standards.”

“Even more so, you should at the very least guide them until they are strong enough to leave the nest.”

“That’s not my job. I’ll only do as much as required of me to live and survive so I can eventually return to my home world. In fact, if it wasn’t for you shrine maidens refusing to send me back until the so-called demon emperor, that stupid hack bastard was killed, would I be in this mess right now? Summoned once again right as I was about to return to my world?”

“That is… I’m sorry.”

“Haaaah. It’s fine. I’m used to it by now. With my luck, I would have probably been summoned against my will to another irresponsible world unable to solve its problems by itself regardless of when I tried to return to my world.”

“Haven’t you ever thought of just settling down in one of the worlds instead of returning? Like if it’s been 36 times already, aren’t you yourself at fault for not just giving up? Don’t you think it’s someone telling you that returning is just not meant for you? Don’t they also say it’s not you, it’s me? Maybe your world is trying to subtly tell you that?.

“You… that roast is a bit... never mind.“ I nearly had a fit, but somehow restrained my rage.

“Of course I‘ve thought about giving up. But I want to see my uncle again. Whether he’s alive or dead, I must pay my respects to him for saving and bringing up an orphan like me.” 

When I thought about how I couldn’t remember his name, it felt like there was a lump stuck in my throat. I wanted to cry whenever I thought about how unfilial I was towards that uncle of mine. To forget his name was an abhorrent sin.

However, as sad as I was about it, there was no point dwelling over it right now. I calmed my fluctuating emotions and took the stairs down to the 50th floor, Umi following closely in tow.

When we reached the bottom of the staircase, strangely enough there was another set of stairs with a sign beside it. In what appeared to be blood, the sign had written on it ‘51st floor ahead.’ I was skeptical about it and tempted to immediately proceed further down considering how it was practically a free pass, but I was determined to take a proper look at the 50th floor first. There was only a single long tunnel between the two staircases.

Umi and I looked at each other and nodded in mutual understanding. After we’d ventured together for such a long time we were perfectly in sync and fully understood each other’s thoughts. I walked towards the tunnel while Umi... walked towards the other staircase.

“Wait! Why’d you nod like we understood each other?!”

“Eh? Wasn’t that a nod to skip the tunnel and proceed further down?”

“No! It was obviously a nod to check out the tunnel on the 50th floor.”

“Akua, be more clear about it, it’s confusing when you just nod back at me without saying anything!”

“Fine, fine. Whatever, let’s just go check it out already. We can decide whether to proceed further after we scout out what’s on the 50th floor.”

She caught up to me and we ventured further into the tunnel until we saw a light originating at the end of it. When we reached the end of the tunnel, we were both left shocked by what we’d seen.

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Kira Minoru

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