Chapter 13. Part 2.
The guide suddenly chimed in, “Oh? Hahaha. Summoned heroes? Too funny, too funny. You’re talking about those weaklings who are presently struggling on the 21st floor, right? We’ve actually got wagers going on right now betting on things like how long it will take for those fledgling human heroes to make it to the 30th floor as well as how many will die in the process. There are even some extreme high stakes wagers betting that none of them will die or even none of them will live. In case you were interested in joining the bet, none of them surviving is the majority at the moment.”
“Presently, there are about twenty five people altogether. Initially there were thirty three at the beginning, however, two of them broke off from the group and ventured down deeper, while six of them went back to the surface and never came back.”
The guide glanced at my niece with a strange look for a moment when he mentioned the two that broke off from the group before he averted his gaze away. It was obvious she was one of the aforementioned two.
“How do you know so accurately the details of the summoned heroes’ present condition?”
“Oh that? There are observation devices set up all throughout the dungeon. We use them as a form of passing the time by betting on the lives of adventurers who come down to try and strike it big. Your group of two are the first two to actually make it this far. After the fiftieth floor, monsters have much higher intelligence and although very strong, they’re more peaceful in nature. Those on floors lower than the 20th are what we call the tutorial stage to the dungeon. The 21st to 40th floors would be the beginner levels. And 40th to 50th would be the intermediate level. The 50th to 70th floors are the hard level. As for the 71st floor to the 99th floor... hehe, let’s just say you’d be lucky to survive for even a second on those floors if you tried to stir up trouble. On a side note some refer to floors from the 71st to 99th as the impossible level.”
“Typically we grade heroes by the floor they can clear up to. We also make bets on the summoned heroes when they first show up as to what rank of hero they will reach during their time in the dungeon.”
“The ranks are rather simple and easy to understand and range from F, E, D, C, B, A, S, SS, SSS, and SSS+. Respectively, each rank coincides with ten floors of the dungeon. An F ranker would be someone who’s fighting monsters on the 1st to 10th floors while an SSS+ hero would be fighting monsters on the 90th to 99th floor. There is a special rank dedicated for a hero who can fight on par with the big boss who resides on the 100th floor, they would be considered as an Undefined rank hero or U rank for short.”
“You know, my Guy, you’re really starting to feel like a true dungeon guide now.”
He just awkwardly laughed off my remark and continued with his explanation.
“Oh, that’s right, I almost forgot. Miss Akua, was it? You, although you reached the 70th floor, that does not make you an S rank hero. You took the teleportation circle from the 50th floor to get here and didn’t bother to fight any of the monsters from there to here, so you are still just a B rank hero.”
“Haha, how cute, my little niece Akua is a B rank hero.”
“Hmmp! Uncle, like you’re one to talk, you’re weaker than me.”
“Oh really now? I’ll have you know Akua, your mighty uncle has been fighting with the big boss on the 100th floor since I first arrived. I’m far from a pushover.”
Her eyes widened a bit like she couldn’t believe what I’d said. She let out a shocked exclamation, “You fought that monstrous vampire and you’re alive?! No freaking way. I don’t believe it. There is no way that can possibly be true. What level are you right now? Wait, only level 45? Hah! Yeah right, as if you’ve fought her head on and survived. From the brief encounter I had with her, I could easily tell she was an existence that I can’t even hope to rival in a short amount of time, forget about the insignificant one hundred years I’ve lived in other worlds, I’m unsure that even after a thousand years I’d be her opponent. Yet you want to tell me at level 45 you can fight on par with her?”
“My niece, please don’t underestimate your mighty unrivalled uncle. Even at level 45, I’m a peerless god of war who has no match. Not once have I ever lost to her.”
In board games of course.
“I am a man who can not be killed. Not just that, just between you and me, I’ll have you know, I’m actually her husband.”
“Huh? My good niece... Akua, why’s your expression so scary?”
“That slutty vampire really thinks she can have my Uncle without my consent?”
“Wait. Akua? What was that?”
“Nothing Uncle, please make sure to introduce me to her the next time we meet. I’ll be the one who determines whether she is suitable to be your wife or not.”
I broke out in a sweat because I was just messing around and didn’t think she’d take me seriously. You want me to introduce you? She’ll kill me if she found out about all the nonsensical baseless rumors I’ve been spreading lately.
“Haha, my niece, I was just joking. Just joking. Right Kana?”
“Hmm? Why are you trying to hide the truth now, I’m sure master Yueliang would be more than happy to meet her and discuss such matters.”
“Yeah Uncle, why are you trying to hide the truth now?”
Because I don’t know how many times she’ll kill me later. Not only that, having to fake the pain in front of Yueliang every time is starting to get embarrassing. If she found out I’d already developed 100% pain resistance, she might use a cursed weapon that can neutralize resistances like the one Kana mentioned before. There is also the chance she might target my Achilles heel if she got bored with those fake pained expressions I put on for her.
“By the way Akua, it was mentioned before, but there were two of you that ventured further into the dungeon, right? What happened to the other person?”
“Oh, that traitorous so-called best friend of mine? We took up jobs as waitresses in the city on the 50th floor and she attracted a lot of attention from female dhampirs. She grew accustomed to all the attention from them and didn’t want to leave a month ago. She’s probably still ushering in all the attention they’re giving her right about now and living the good life while I’m on my journey of redemption and revenge. There is someone that I must defeat at all costs. I couldn’t bear the humiliation of being forced to serve that person every single night.”
“My niece, you’ve been serving someone every night?! When did my innocent little niece fall into such a life of debauchery? Where are they?! Who are they?! I’ll make sure to make them pay!”
Well, it’s more like I’ll tell Yueliang they plotted to steal and hide me away from her. I’m sure her food being targeted would get under her skin and make her thrash whoever dared to pick on and make things difficult for my little niece.
However, beyond my expectations, my niece wore an awkward look on her face like she was hiding something. She didn’t elaborate and said, “Uncle it’s fine. This is my problem, I can’t have you step in like when I was still a child.”
Her declaration of her independence, rather than calming me down, only made me more concerned. “My niece, just what is this person to you? What kind of dirt do they have on you that makes it so you cannot tell your uncle? Could it be you are actually in love with them, but can’t bring yourself to acknowledge it? Take me to that bastard that dares take my niece without my permission!”
“Aren’t the two of you too similar?”
““What kind of crazy things are you saying -woman -Kana?””
Babbling back and forth like this, the guide eventually stopped in front of us and brought our attention to the front.
Like he pointed out, we’d arrived in front of the inn at the end of the street. There were two fountains to the left and right of the entrance which added a rather luxurious feel to it.
At the center of the fountain on the left was a sculpture of Yueliang with that nostalgic cold expressionless face. There was red tinged water spouting out of her outstretched right hand’s wrist over the pool of bloodied water in the fountain. There were several small sculptures depicting demons prostrating along the outer edge of the fountain. The same red water flowed out of their eyes. They shed a stream of crimson bloodied tears, revering the saviour who’d given her blood for her people. It was a rather moving scene, to say the least.
On the other hand, the fountain on the right depicted what appeared to be a human at the center. He was spouting a similar dark crimson tinted liquid from his neck and chest. There was a crimson spear that held the human’s body in place slightly off the ground plunged directly through his heart. His look of shock and fear was depicted perfectly by the artist as he looked up towards the heavens. Blood shot up from where the spear pierced him through his heart while the blood from his neck shot in a downward arch from his neck. The two streams of blood formed a curved X in the air where the intersected.
There were also humans depicted along the edge of this fountain. Instead of prostrating like the previous fountain, they were instead looking up blankly at the sky while the same crimson water flowed out from all parts of their body into the fountain. It gave off a heavy feeling of despair, helplessness, remorse and regret.
“These two fountains hold a very deep symbolic meaning and represent a historic moment in demonkind’s past.”
The guide casually explained it like that without going into much detail. He didn’t really need to explain it to me either since I’d already heard most of the story from Yueliang before, filling in the missing pieces of the puzzle wasn’t too difficult.
I found it surprisingly difficult to pry my eyes away from it. I instinctively thought that looking away from it too soon was a sign of disrespect. Since my eyes first landed on these two fountains, the ancient air it radiated had shaken me deeply. It felt like it’d been here since the time the city had first been founded. Seeing it was enough to feel like you were there in the flesh to witness that moment in the flesh. The moment an empress, cold, but who deeply cared for her own kind was born.
The frustration of her people that she took upon her back, she shed her own blood and in return her people worshipped her for her acts.
On the other side was the humans betrayed by the corrupt system their society purported. Their emperor slayed directly before their eyes. A man who cared only for his own gain forsook the very same people that propped him up to live such a lavish lifestyle. With the hierarchical system at the time broken the people were afraid of their uncertain futures.
The fountain's message alone sent a stream of shivers down my back. The Yueliang depicted here felt world’s apart from the Yueliang I’d gotten close to. She felt like an untouchable goddess here. A far cry from how the two of us interacted on a daily basis.