Chapter 38: In the Dungeon
Thomas reached for his daggers on his hips. With slow movement, he drew them from the sheaths created by Brandi. Looking at the disgusting insects creeping and crawling ahead of him, he tightened his grip on the weapons. Thomas’s thoughts were racing. So much so, that the boy himself could not keep track of them.
He was going to have to fight these things. Derek was only there to protect him from catastrophe. Thomas knew that there was almost no chance of him dying, but the chance of him being hurt or injured was great. In fact, looking at the bugs, he knew that he was going to be injured. He also knew that he would be healed, then injured again. Just thinking about what he had gotten himself into sent chills down his spine.
He looked over to Derek, who was still standing there with a smirk on his face. “A-are you r-really not going to help fight?” He asked, a small tinge of hope still in his voice. He was looking for reassurance, reassurance that Derek would help him before it came to injury, before he got hurt.
All he got in return was confirmation that he was basically on his own. “I told you before. This is your fight. Like I said, you will not die, but you will suffer. And, because of your choice of weapons, and ignoring my advice, you will suffer greater. You will not be able to rely on reach with your daggers, as you would have been able to with a spear. You will have to get in close, and with the way you swing your daggers and the bad habits you have when fighting close, you will get hurt. But, I will not allow you to die, and you will go in again, and again, until you clear the room.” Derek said.
“Now, I already think we will be in here for a long time. Who knows, if you take too long, all the work you do may respawn. You don’t want that, do you? Suck it up and fight. The quicker you fight, the quicker you get stronger, and the faster we get out of here.” Derek’s words made sense to Thomas, but he still had a hard time bringing himself to initiate the attack.
Thomas breathed in deep and let it out. He surveyed the room, looking for an opportunity to attack. Soon, he found it in an ant that had wandered away from the group. He used Identify, which was currently level 2, on the ant. The skill allowed him to see the insect’s basic information. Level 21 Soldier Ant. Thomas read the information.
If he could have gripped his daggers any tighter, he would have. The ant being 11 levels above his own did not seem like a giant hurdle when he thought about it, but when he thought about how it was over double his level, he was scared, no, he was terrified. He would be relying on his equipment and basic training, or beatings, that he had gone through with Derek.
“What are you waiting for.” Thomas jumped at the voice. It breaking him out of his thoughts.
Finally, Thomas summoned what courage he could and slowly paced towards the lone ant, not noticing Derek shaking his head in disappointment behind him.
Soon, he arrived at the insect that was almost 20 centimeters long, and half that in width. Up close in the dimly lit cavern, he could make out the fuzz covering the ant’s body. Luckily for Thomas, the ant seemed to have not noticed his approach.
This is a chance. Thomas lunged forward at the unaware monster. Thinking this the opportunity he was looking for, a slight smile formed on the boy’s face. Unfortunately, with Thomas’s lunge, came noise, and with noise came vibrations, which alerted the ant.
His dagger was centimeters away from the abdomen of the creature when it reacted. It turned faster than Thomas could imagine, and Thomas’s weapon, which was about to make contact, missed the abdomen of the ant and sliced through its antenna.
He was off balance after delivering the blow. Thomas had been expecting his dagger to bite into the creature, so when there was no tension with his blow, he lost his footing. Soon, Thomas was face down on the cold floor of the cavern. Realizing his mistake, and the ramifications, he quickly rolled to his side.
Then, staring directly at his face was the ant. The giant mandibles protruding from its head made Thomas scream internally. The ant dashed towards Thomas’s face. Again, caught off guard by the speed of the creature, Thomas was barely able to raise his arm up to block.
The ant did not care what it met. With its antenna cut and senses a mess, it was pissed. The bite found purchase on Thomas’s armored forearm. The armor did well in not allowing the mandible to break through, but it was not able to prevent the pressure of the mandibles coming together.
A crack was heard, and a blinding pain shot up Thomas’s arm. He screamed. Frantically, he gripped the dagger in his left hand and stabbed at the ant. He stabbed over and over, well past the notification appearing in his vision. He was still screaming when his body was lifted in the air and then dropped.
The pain was still blinding, but he finally was able to return to his senses. He surveyed the room. Both of his weapons were on the ground beside him, and Derek was leaning against the door with a frown on his face. That was when he noticed that he was in the room they first spawned in.
Embarrassed at his performance, but more concerned about his arm, Thomas grabbed at his injury. The armor on his forearm was coated in a greenish brown liquid, which confused Thomas. Still, he grabbed at the armor and loosened it, only to see a monstrously swollen forearm. He touched it and whimpered.
Derek was looking at the boy whimpering over his broken arm. He had expected an injury like this to happen sooner or later, but the speed at which Thomas accomplished it was mind blowing. In fact, he did not know where to begin when thinking about the ‘fight.’ On a scale of ‘A’ to ‘F,’ I would have to give the kid an ‘F.’ And that’s only because the scale doesn’t go any lower.
The boy chose the lone ant as his first opponent. This was the only good decision that he had made. The reason Derek was shaking his head as soon as the boy began his approach was because he had not even thought to activate his Stealth skill. If he would have done so, even with his clumsy lunge, there was a chance that Stealth would have reduced the vibration coming from him, and he still would have landed a blow.
Then, he thought about the placement of the blow, which was on the abdomen of the ant. Sure, the dagger was big enough to deal serious damage if he would have hit, but Derek did not believe that it would have been instantly fatal, Derek knew that some ants could live on for hours, even days after losing their abdomen. The ant still would have been able to turn and attack, unless Thomas got lucky and pinned the creature. Thomas should have gone for one of the connecting points of the ant.
If he would have aimed between the thorax and head, it would have died instantly if he connected. But none of that mattered, because the boy missed.
Thomas was so sure of his hit that he put everything he had into it. This was a fatal mistake which caused him to fall and allowed the ant a counterattack. Then, Thomas took too long on the ground and ended up being attacked in the head, by an ant that was not even 20 centimeters long. Derek just shook his head at this.
If the falling was not enough to get him killed, then the scream he released because of his injury was. What Thomas obviously did not see was the attention he attracted because of it. While the boy was stabbing away at the ant’s corpse, a dozen more ants, and even a few beetles, had begun gathering around him. That was when Derek finally decided to step in and save the boy.
The boy was still whimpering and holding his arm. A broken arm which barely caused him any damage to his overall health, it only crippled him a bit for the battle. Derek figured this had gone on long enough. “Stop crying.” He said. Then, he cast Rejuvenation on the kid and the bone healed right away. With Thomas’s current Vitality, it would have only taken 10 or so more minutes before it healed naturally, anyway.
The pain must have stopped, because the boy started moving his arm and stopped sobbing. He looked up at Derek. “Now, we are going to go over that spectacular performance you just gave. Really, it was to notch.”
Thomas furrowed his brows, but before he could say anything, Derek spoke again.
“What do you think is the first thing you did wrong?”
“Uhm… I put too much into my swing?” Thomas answered.
“Are you asking me or telling me?”
“T-telling you. Yes, I put too much in my swing which left me off balance when I missed.”
“You are wrong.” Replied Derek. “You were wrong before you even got to the ant. You have the Stealth skill, yes?” Derek waited for Thomas’s nod. “Then fucking use it. That’s what skills are for. You were approaching a single enemy from behind. There is no better opportunity to use the skill, but you just dove right in.”
Thomas’s jaw dropped. “I-I forgot I had it.”
“You forgot about the only real skill you have? From the class you chose against my suggestion? Are you serious?” Derek was indeed flabbergasted.
Thomas did not say anything, he just looked at the ground.
Derek shook his head and continued. “Well, you won’t forget about it again, will you? But yes, the other thing wrong was your swing and choice of attack. The ant’s abdomen is vital, but they can survive for a very long time without it, they can survive without a lot of things, so, with a sneak attack, you really need to make sure you go for the right place.”
“Finally, after you started screaming, do you know what happened?” Derek asked.
“No, I was just trying to get my arm back.” Thomas replied.
“Oh, then you didn’t see the dozen other insects coming to kill you then? Good vigilance, kid. Top marks.” Derek said sarcastically. “Okay, good review. Time to go again.”