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The second floor was mostly a straight, long, tunnel with single rooms occasionally ‘drilled’ on its sides; within those, we found either incubation rooms where few monsters were looking over dozens of eggs, monsters nests - where some beasts were sleeping, or… something we called “feeding rooms”. The last ones were filled with small ponds of water, lots of regular plants, and weird, colossal vines. From these long, thick vines a thick dark-red sap was slowly dripping and we noticed monsters drinking it up greedily. Those who feasted on it would suddenly become much more violent - just a few drops were enough to change them from ‘regular member of the pack’ into a violent monster-fighting one another for access to blood-like sap.

 

Not only that - we noticed that a few wounded creatures, after feasting on it, would start healing: grievous wounds would close right in front of our eyes. Normally, we would just presume that the sap had healing effects, but, what we actually witnessed was the wound ‘growing’ plants on it, which forcefully shut the wounds, much to the monster's discomfort vocalized by its pained yelps and cries. As the process progressed, from the monster's body another flower, thorn, or vine would grow until it was “healed”.

 

The mages discussed loudly about this peculiar event, of course only after all the monsters in the mentioned room were killed and dissected, for ‘researchers’ of the House were very curious to see how the tissue acted right after growing onto the body. Unfortunately, they couldn’t tell much about it without using the proper tools found only in their workshops back in Boltward. Because of that, they gathered as much monster materials as they could, before trying to take some samples of the ‘dark amber’, yet, as soon as they touched it, the enormous vines twitched and withdrew back into the dungeon's floor as if not wishing to have contact with humans. Oh, that caused even greater uproars between mages than all their recent discoveries combined. To me, all their concerns and thoughts were useless, as I couldn’t ‘weaponize’ them for the sake of this particular quest, so I allowed myself to let the ‘wise men’ wonder and ponder about mysteries of parasitic/symbiotic plants, as I idly gathered essence from dead creatures.

 

[225/3000] ➝ [1372/3000]

 

The first line was always the one who kept on fighting most of the battles, as very few creatures were skilled or smart enough to attack us from the flank or rear, because of that, the soldiers who marched on the front of the attack force were getting tired pretty quickly. Due to this, after crossing several more rooms, the Captain ordered a ‘change of guards’ - everyone who until now was in our front guard moved to the middle of the formation, letting them rest, those who were already well-rested moved to the back, and soldiers until now protecting our rear took over positions of front guards. Thanks to that, well-rested moved to the back of formation where they “wouldn’t be occupied” much, but had time to slowly sharpen up their senses because of the danger of getting attacked from behind, while those already warmed up but not tired took the most vital role at the front of the squad.

 

Simple, but efficient and clever.

 

Because of this maneuver, I was moved to the rear guard, finally being given some opportunity to fight! Ah! My bones cracked joyfully! Watching people fight while being forced to not interfere, idly witnessing as other people were risking their lives was giving me anxiety. Now, my heart burned with sheer motivation and purpose. Pushing my ‘mana’ and ‘life’ vision into overdrive, I decided to protect the attack force from every threat which would dare to threaten my comrades!

 

… And I may have overdone it a little.

 

  • “Hey, can you sense this bloodlust?” one of the fellow knights whispered to another.

 

  • “Yeah, this death-aura is almost visible…” their eyes followed toward the source of this eerie feeling - towards me “... fuck, he literally rode on a dragon and still burns with raw bloodlust. What a monster.”

 

  • “I call it youth, old man, and the new passionate cadets sometimes emit it.” his conversation partner mocked it.

 

I decided to ‘tone down’ my passion by a notch before resuming gazing from left to right and right to left. As we kept marching on, our main force encountered another group. And another. And yet another. And after that, two more.

 

[1372/3000] ➝ [2193/3000]

 

As for us on the rear…

 

There was nothing. Not a single monster in sight that might be trying to creep and attack us from the side. Nothing. Once again, I was about to lose my mind because of the feeling of being so useless.

 

And only then I did sense it - few small sparks of life from behind.

 

  • “Behi…” one of the other soldiers of the rear guard tried to raise an alarm, but I was already there.

 

Gradually, these small sparks started growing in size as they were getting closer and closer. The dungeon’s floor was rupturing as it moved underground, a few spikes that protruded out of the ground betrayed its location as it ‘swam’ through the ground like a land-shark.

 

  • “Sand Divers!” someone yelled as one of the creatures jumped out of the ground trying to pounce at the closest target - me.

 

It seemed to be quite massive, with a ridiculously long tail and it had a nasty thick, sharp like armor on its head. It opened its maw showing rows of needle-sharp teeth and a long, thin, tongue.

 

I quickly moved to the right, getting out of the creature's trajectory, trying to hit it with my shield, yet, the blow seemed to damage me more than the actual target of my strike. I felt it within my armor, all of my bones shook, resonating from the blow.

 

[User] is under the effect of [Stun] status effect
[User] will not be able to move for: [00h00m02s]

 

Bastard would prove to be a bit more problematic.

 

Still, not hitting me directly, the monster landed on the dungeon’s floor, awkwardly crawled away, and started digging back into the ground, pressing its head over the floor and forcing its absurdly muscular body into rotating movement.

 

  • “Alabaster! What are you waiting for! Attack it before it dives back underground! It’s extremely clumsy on the surface!” Another warrior yelled, busy with his own opponent.

 

Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to get there on time as the beast had already managed to create another crack in the ground into which it slipped through.

 

Few of the monsters died, a few - mine included - once again hid in the ground and started to encircle us once more.

 

  • “Don’t move! These creatures sense vibrations!” the same man yelled, unstrapping the dagger off his belt “...get ready kid!” he shouted, throwing it on the ground one meter away from me.

 

The beast twisted a few times, before charging at the place onto which the dagger was thrown at full speed, jumping from the side, aiming at empty terrain.

 

This time, I was ready. With an already raised blade, I waited for the right moment before forcing my blade into its softer underside, making a huge, red opening on its stomach and wounding its inner organs. After the last monster was killed, the more experienced knight who lectured me during the battle spat on the corpses.

 

  • “Annoying cunts!...” he mumbled “... we were lucky. Usually, they come lured by vibrations of battle, aiding another monster that you were already fighting with. Y’know, then you need to avoid both attacks from the monster ON the surface as well as below. Despite not being THAT strong or smart, they can be hella’ dangerous… I lost a few good friends because of em’. Fucking shits.” he spat one more time before turning in place and raising his hand with thumb up towards other members of the House which were waiting for information whenever we could continue our march onward.

 

I quickly ‘inhaled’ the essence before once again forming the rear party and following the rest of the attack group.

 

You have gathered [Sand Diver]'s the essence [71]
[2193/3000] → [2264/3000]

 

You have gathered [Sand Diver]'s the essence [73]
[2264/3000] → [2337/3000]

 

You have gathered [Sand Diver]'s the essence [68]
[2337/3000] → [2405/3000]

 

You have gathered [Sand Diver]'s the essence [65]
[2405/3000] → [2470/3000]

 

You have gathered [Sand Diver]'s the essence [67]
[2470/3000] → [2537/3000]

 

For the next four or so hours, we didn’t encounter any other attempt of a rear-attack, leaving me free to idly gather the essence from monsters that the front group had slaughtered, further feasting my inner frustration. Only after all this time had passed and Godric once again yelled ‘CHANGE’, did I fully feel as if I was once again alive.

 

‘Adrenaline’ hit my mind as the attack group started moving onward, this time with me at the front. With all my senses sharpened, I awaited for the first real encounter. And, may the heavens be praised for that, I didn’t have to wait long.

 

  • “MONSTERS INCOMING!” yelled one of the scouts. From behind a corridor, another group of mutated lizards ran charging, ready to fight to the death, not wanting to let us go any further.

 

And so, we raised our shields high as archers behind our backs unleashed a tempest of arrows, decimating an approaching wave of green and brown creatures. Two volleys later I could feel the first mass of bodies starting to press on my shield, pushing my feet deeper into the ground.

 

Duelists jumped over our wall of shields, massacring the monsters who mindlessly scratched and bit on our defense. As soon as we felt that the creatures were no longer pressing on our shields, we lowered them down and started running forward, once again moving in front of duelists, ready to shield them with our own bodies. I managed just in time, pushing the duelist behind me, I hit the first monster that jumped on me with my shield, throwing it stunned behind me so the duelist could finish it off, as I raised my sword and impaled another one on the tip of my blade. Swiping my right arm to the side, I threw off the corpse of the beast once again releasing my weapon, readying to slash. To cut. To pierce.

 

This battle was a mess. Non-stop pressing onward. No footwork, only mindless waving of my blade left and right. Butchering a seemingly never-ending mass of monsters.

 

Another smash with my shield, another slash of the sword as two small beasts ran at me. I wouldn’t manage to raise my shield to defend myself nor retrieve my weapon from the body of its companion in time, so I decided to leave my sword in the body of the beast. Stretching my arm forward, I grabbed one of the beasts by the neck as I kicked the other, making it fall on the ground.

 

I raised my iron boot and smashed the head of the now tripped beast, slowly strangling the one in my grip.

 

Weird. Its neck was soft. Its tiny body was squirming in my grip as its essence was leaving its body.

 

The taste was… better. Thicker. More fulfilling. It’s pain and agony added a new flavor to an already delicious meal. This taste was not only filling the bottomless ‘hole’ in my chest but also spread wonderful warmness over my bones.

 

It tried fighting for life which I kept on stealing from it. It craved to maintain its life just as much as I wanted to devour it, and this desperation… This fear and pain was something that I adored! I couldn’t get enough of its scared gaze, of its trembling limbs and...

 

… I snapped out, realizing what I was doing and what kind of grim thoughts occupied my mind.

 

With a quick twist, I broke its neck, letting its lifeless body fall on the floor.

 

Maybe… I devoured too much essence in too short a period of time? When I first consumed too much essence in one go I also became mad in a similar way, wanting to attack Captain Friedrich. By now, my body had gotten used to being almost constantly soaked in a ridiculous amount of essence but…

 

… for the past few days, I didn’t hunger even once. With much more essence than I required, did my body suffer due to...overeating? Was that the right word for this?

 

Maybe, I should slow down a little? Don't eat for a day or two?...

 

… No. I can’t allow myself that. I don’t live just for myself. Leading-Commander Nicolai has high expectations of me. On top of that, I am still weaker than any experienced warrior, and I simply knew that a certain noble was a skilled duelist. At this rate I won't be able to threaten Michael before he gets old!

 

May the hell swallow it all! - I cursed in my mind, watching over the chamber, now filled with dozens of corpses of lesser monsters.

 

Deciding to ignore all my worries and common sense, I focused on the essence, once again imbuing it into my body.

 

You are now gathering essence from the environment around you. Calculating the total yield.
Warning!
Maximum essence capacity reached. Impossible to gather essence further.
Max Level Reached

 

Requirements have been met
Generating Ascension Dossier

 

Great. For now, I need to wait. I will take a closer look at it once we would set another camp.

Do you feel it, Michael? I just took another step in your direction. Haha - ironic, isn't it? The two of us used to live in completely different worlds. But it doesn't matter, with dead bodies of creatures that I am going to slay I shall build a bridge, stairs, lift or whatever! - That would lead me to you. I shall build it, one step at a time.

Skill proficiency increased
Skills:

[Sword Usage - Journeyman level 10 ➝ 11]
[Shield Usage - Journeyman level 7 ➝ 8]
[Bow Usage - Apprentice level 1]
[Nature Magic - Novice level 1]
[Mana Sense - Low - Passive]
[Life Sense - Low - Passive]
[Combat Maneuver/Team tactic - Apprentice level 2 ➝ 3]
[Heavy Armor Usage - Apprentice level 5 ➝ 6]
[Hand-to-hand Combat - Novice level 4]
[Stealth - Apprentice level 2]
[Mind Magic Resistance - Low level 1]
[Dark Arts - Curse Words - Novice Level 8]
[Dark Arts - Necromancy - Novice Level 4]
[Tracking - Novice Level 2]

 

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A note from Anuel

To whom it concerns:
"I know. I know. I still remember about the correction you have made in the previous chapter, and I know that I have said I would get em done once I'd return from the dog walk. I didn't forget nor ignored it. Just, life happened. I will definitely go see em' all once I would find some time to sit peacefully on my ass. I love what you did ere' and wll not ignore it for sure!"

As for the rest of you, folks.  I hope you liked it, I think that we will speed up dungeon exploration a little. Tomorrow will get past second floor, enter third, and that would be the last floor of the dungeon (previous I wanted it for this dungeon to have 5 floors, but taking into consideration how they "waste" 2-4 story days to walk through the floor, and that  they also need 2 days to travel to the dungeon and then 2 more to get back, and as I want for Alabaster to have few more adventurers before the duel <- that's what i decided upon.

As for you, you can go back to "chapter" 17 and see "the previous dossier". He will be once again presented with similar options, so you can tell which one he should have got. I DO HAVE MY OWN PICK ready to roll on with, but - BUT - in case you were really convincing, i could change it a little.


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About the author

Anuel

Bio: Some people want me to write with Style, some people want me to write with Passion, some people wish to see me using logic, yet I... I find madness to be much more alluring.

Srsl tho, I am kinda crazy, ya know?

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