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A note from KingKennit

If you're looking for something to read try Enduring Good!

This one is a bit difficult to describe.

The elevator pitch is this:

A wacky world being explored by a not so wacky protagonist.

Maybe wacky is the wrong word for a just short of grimdark dystopia, with the main protagonist being one of the few tiny beacons of hope?

As always character is key, but I'm not sure how to explain this one, other than to say I personally like her. As a plus there's a ton of professional artwork attached to almost every chapter, and by profession I mean I started reading it because I saw the cover when I was posting my own story, and clicked on it solely because of that. 

Anyway, try it, the litrpg part starts at chapter 10, but its done fantastically, and doesn't suffer from the "here are over 200 skills, and you will use only 2 of them." It keeps it simple, compact, and the author is a fulltime author so it isn't going to be getting dropped anytime soon.

That's all folks.

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Ch124-Maze Walker

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Sylver’s robe extended outwards and pulled him towards the left wall. His feet hit the wall and he used a small amount of mana to glue himself to it.

Bigs flicked his hands and landed on top of an extremely thin hammock, but quite quickly stood up.

Runnel reacted the slowest and created his bridge of ice a fair bit lower than Sylver or Bigs.

Estus landed on Runnel’s bridge or more accurately fell face-first onto it. Thankfully Runnel helped him stand up, instead of sliding off it and falling into the deep dark drop directly below them.

Sylver tapped his foot while standing perpendicular to the wall and got a brilliant idea as he saw a small piece of ice break off the bridge and fall down. The others gathered on Funnel’s bridge, while Sylver just walked down to their level so they could hear him. Bigs was about to open his mouth, but Sylver spoke first.

“Make the thickest wall of ice you possibly can around yourself. As thick as you can make it, reinforce it as much as possible,” Sylver explained, as he released his grip on the wall and fell down a few meters until he was below the bridge of ice.

“How many are there?” Bigs asked, as Runnel wordlessly started extending his ice bridge out into a cylinder with Estus and Bigs inside.

“Didn’t bother counting, they can split and merge. But we’re fine, I have a secret weapon,” Sylver explained, as one of the [Splinter] shades split into 128 separate shades and got ready in Sylver’s sleeve.

“Some sort of advanced fire magic?” Estus guessed as a small grey colored sphere appeared in Sylver’s hand.

“If you’re willing to stretch your definition of “fire” and “magic”, yes,” Sylver said, as he let the bomb go and watched it fall down into the darkness below.

Bigs was about to ask something, but when the bombs started flowing like sand out of Sylver’s hand, he quickly followed Runnel’s lead and crouched down to take up as little space as possible.

Sylver’s robe grabbed the bombs appearing on his back and flung them towards the other wall and towards the corners. According to Spring, there was a thin layer of spherical explosives sitting on the floor of the extremely tall and long corridor.

Sylver imagined it to be a bit like a ball pit, but a tiny bit deadlier.

He jumped up onto the gigantic block of ice, so dense and dark that Sylver couldn’t even see the flashlights inside of it. Sylver crouched down into the fetal position, as his robe pulled itself over his head and moved the bulletproof layer around so it encased Sylver from every angle. Every available gram of floating [Coat Of Carrion] was used to reinforce the ice and Sylver’s robe.

One of the worm-infested creatures was a little faster than the others and reached the bottom of the giant block of ice and started to chip away at it.

Sylver unclenched his jaw and forced his body to become as lax as possible, as his robe further compressed him. Sylver created a layer of a vacuum around himself and his robe and sent a single spark down at the waiting shades below through [Shadow’s Agent].

Spring informed him that three blobs had climbed up onto the ice and were merging into one.

Due to the near-perfect vacuum around him, Sylver couldn’t hear what it sounded like. But having had experienced countless explosions in his life, Sylver imagined it was a very soft and distant pop.

Followed by the sound of rushing air, followed by the sound of compressed fire smashing itself apart as it forced itself against every available surface. He felt every single drop of [Coat Of Carrion] wrapped around the ice and Sylver disappear in a single wave of superheated air.

Sylver was surprised, and oddly a little proud, as his robe didn’t get so much as singed during the process. The superheated fire turned the ice into vapor and created a very basic, but effective, layer of insulation, and stopped the ice from melting.

Sadly, the metallic walls conducted heat rather well, and slowly but surely melted the area where the ice touched metal to hold itself in place. Sylver had his robe slither his compressed body towards one of the walls, in hope of counteracting the melting, but even with physical contact with the ice, the wall was simply too hot for Sylver’s meager mana to handle.

If he wasn’t spending a good chunk of his mana on keeping his robe in shape and fireproof, it would have been easy. Sadly, before Sylver could figure out a way to communicate with Runnel inside the tube of ice, or found some sort of clever way of keeping several tons of ice from sliding down the nearly red hot walls, everything dropped.

Or fell, but it certainly didn’t feel like falling. Falling entailed some sort of consistent speed, but what happened instead was that the shockwave of superheated compressed air traveled upwards and melted some of the ice, and then bounced off the top area, and shoved the cylinder of wet ice downward.

Thankfully though, because Sylver wasn’t in a position to try and time jumping to prevent his spine from breaking, the impact was significantly softened by the giant amount of ash, worms, chunks of stuff, and more ash.

Sylver’s robe lost its grip on the ice and he slid down into the ash and worms. His vacuum barrier lost form and disappeared, but thankfully the ash was still quite fluffy and prevented Sylver from being burned to death by the hot air.

Instead of sitting around doing nothing, although he was doing that too, Sylver had his robe release its hold on his body and uncurled to his full height. Using a few choice openings near his mouth Sylver started to leak out a pitch-black smoke that slithered its way through the loose ash and killed everything smaller than an apple as it did so.

[Skill [Draining Touch] has been removed!]

[Skill: Draining Blight (V)]
Skill level can be increased by draining HP, MP, and Stamina. (Skill level will only increase if the creature being drained is killed.)
I – Create a cloud that will absorb Health, Mana, and Stamina from the target creature.
II – Absorb through solid materials. *Efficiency decreases by 50% for every centimeter of material.
III – Channel a drained attribute into a willing creature.
IV – Drained creatures can be chained together to increase range and efficiency.
*May not work on targets with a high enough resistance.
*May not work on targets without mana channels.

Sylver was doing quite well before the notification popped up, but the new skill made his progress go from “quite well” to “fucking incredible”. Every single teeny tiny worm felt like one of Sylver’s shades when he used [Shadow’s Agent], but on a much smaller scale.

And limited to draining their life force and stamina.

About the only thing Sylver could complain about was the fact that he was out of things to drain a little too quickly for his taste. He also found that there was a limit to how long he could use a corpse as part of his chain, but that was something to test and explore at a later date.

Sadly, none of the worms had any mana in them, and neither did any of the bodies they had infected, so Sylver was limited to just sitting inside his robe and waiting for enough hot air to dissipate for him to come out of his cocoon.

Given that this was a dungeon that couldn’t have dead ends, the burning hot air disappeared down the only available passageway, and Sylver hoped, fucked up even more of these worm-infested monsters.

He didn’t get a single notification regarding them dying, but even with that Sylver was feeling especially optimistic about everything today.

To say it was lucky that the system misinterpreted a weak instant death spell being combined with a spell that caused corpses to leak out life energy for a spell that killed and drained a living creature, would be a massive understatement.

But then again, Sylver had been nothing but lucky since coming to this realm, he wasn’t going to complain about the woman in white being a little bit too obvious with her “coin flip” sized help.

Does getting trapped in a dungeon that is filled with monsters that are technically both high level in terms of combat and low level in terms of experience count as lucky?

Sylver wanted to say “no” but right now he was just busy spreading out his excess HP around his body, and almost had toes. He had a little bit left until all of his tarsals were completely healed, but in just a few more hours, assuming he had things to kill and drain, he would finally have his left foot back.

Sylver had gorged himself on calcium and protein-rich foods and ate a large number of raw chemicals, so now it was a case of speeding up his recovery. In hindsight, he should have killed a few of the gangsters that attacked him to heal himself, but Sylver had a whole thing planned with them, and it’s just bad luck his efforts had ended up being wasted.

Sylver wasn’t the best at estimating time, so he couldn’t say for certain how long he sat in his bulletproof cocoon, wiggling his soon-to-be toes, and healing up all the shades that had been popped in the fire. Normally they would have been completely unharmed, but inside a dungeon, the only safe spot for them was inside Sylver’s shadow.

Sylver heard a loud crack sound, followed by a thick lump of ice landing a little to Sylver’s left. Sylver’s robe slithered out of the ash and dead worms and turned him right side up before it released his head and arms and retreated back into the shape of a regular robe.

“What. The. Fuck. Was. That?” Estus asked with a completely calm voice, but with wild eyes that didn’t match.

“My secret weapon, that I’m going to have to ask you all keep to yourselves and take with you to your graves,” Sylver explained, as he touched his healed-up face and flinched when he found a patch of exposed muscle on the bottom of his jaw.

Foot first, then everything else.

“Can you do that again?” Bigs asked. Sylver wasn’t sure how to read the look in his eyes, but he didn’t get the feeling Bigs was afraid.

Tempted? He looked greedy, but Sylver couldn’t say for certain.

“I can, but I don’t have a whole lot of them left,” Sylver lied, as his robe spread out from his feet and made it so he wouldn’t fall into the ash.

“We can get to the heart of the dungeon with this. Runnel defends us with his ice, and you just blast whatever is in our way,” Bigs said somewhat quietly, almost to himself.

“That’s not… I need to wait 9 hours until I can make ice strong enough that won’t instantly shatter. If I was another second late with using the effect, we would all be dead right now. Or well, you all would be, I have a big resistance to fire,” Runnel said uncertainly and with noticeable fear in his eyes.

“Big enough to survive a point-blank explosion?” Sylver asked curiously.

Runnel seemed to genuinely consider the question before he answered.

“No.”

“That’s a shame. But on the bright side… sort of… I think we’re at the lowest level right now anyway,” Sylver said as the flashlights all moved onto him and temporarily blinded him.

“What?” Bigs asked.

“Well, it’s either that or this is the weirdest dungeon in the world, where the core isn’t at the lowest possible point. I’m only saying this because the mana density feels about right,” Sylver explained, as Bigs and Estus turned to look at Runnel.

“I don’t know. I’ve never been-”

Sylver turned around when he thought he felt something but no one was there.

Except when he turned back no one was there either.

He was completely alone, Estus, Bigs, and Runnel were gone.

Something snuck up and teleported them away?

With all the interference the shades can’t see shit, and my soul sense is all over the place because of the hundreds of dead souls floating around.

Sylver gave his eye time to adjust as he looked around the faintly glowing walls, and saw some of the ash sinking near one wall. Sylver waddled over towards that wall and could see a very faint light coming through the ash.

A single blast of wind pushed enough ash through the doorway for Sylver to slide down through and get into the corridor.

Previously all of the dungeon was covered in a thick layer of rust and grime that sort of kept the rust from falling off the walls.

But now Sylver was walking on a perfectly clean and perfectly smooth polished metallic floor, with walls that had distinct sections, and there were even working lamps.

There were doors every couple of steps, each labeled with an extremely clear and readable English sign.

Lab-073, Lab-074, Dr. L Pauling’s Office, Dr. H. Krebs, and so on and so forth as Sylver walked through the well-lit corridor.

The interference the dungeon’s mana caused was intense, down to the point Sylver was having to spend his precious mana to keep his robe from becoming saturated with mana and turning against him.

Sylver arrived at an intersection and saw a brightly lit corridor going left, forward, and right, with absolutely no discernable features to help him make a choice. Sylver decided to turn back but there was a wall directly behind him.

It wasn’t there a second ago, but no matter how hard Sylver pushed or how many pulses of mana he sent through it, he couldn’t get the thing to budge. Sylver chose not to dwell on the details and picked the left passage. As soon as he stepped out of the junction, a wall appeared to stop him from going back.

It didn’t slide out of the floor, fall from the ceiling, it was simply not there one moment, and was there the next. Sylver walked up to one of the lamps and very gently placed his hand on it.

Even though it was only a thin piece of glass, Sylver bent a dagger trying to break through it to see what was inside.

He took his time and walked down the long corridor while surrounded by a wall of floating daggers and darts.

Sylver wasn’t an expert on dungeons. Not by a long shot.

But he was familiar enough with them that he could say this was weird.

Dungeons had, for lack of a better word, rules.

The first rule was that a dungeon couldn’t make its core unreachable. In fact, a dungeon couldn’t make an area that didn’t somehow connect to the outside world and the core.

Why?

Sylver had been told it was to do with the flow of mana inside of a dungeon, and that an inaccessible area would be the equivalent of a blood clot, that would kill the core in a matter of seconds.

Other rules made less sense to Sylver, but the base principle was the same as with demons and gods.

An area with a rich enough source of mana would eventually attract a powerful monster to act as a core, or more often would give birth to a core made from various souls and bodies.

Some rules were universal.

Others depended on the core and were largely self-imposed. Similar to gods, those usually followed a theme, but Sylver wasn’t well enough acquainted with this realm to figure out what the theme here was.

Estus, Runnel, and Bigs were dead.

Even if the curse Sylver had placed on them did work as intended and managed to dilute the curse the worms carried, they still had to deal with the worms themselves. Or more accurately whatever monster the worms were inhabiting.

Parasites? Is that the theme?

It could even be that the worms were just 1 monster that simply got out of hand and infected all the other monsters.

A monster is rarely able to defeat the dungeon core and replace it, but it’s not exactly unheard of…

I should have asked Estus about all of this when I had the chance…

Well, they’re dead now, not a whole lot I can do about it.

Sylver kept the shades in place out of the fear of having them get separated from him, so he was walking blind and drawing a mental map with each turn he took and each closed door that he passed.

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*

The dungeon wasn’t even trying to be subtle about it.

It was slowly but surely leading Sylver towards the gigantic soul he felt that connected, and supposedly controlled, the worms.

And it did so while making sure Sylver didn’t meet any monsters on the way towards the core. Dungeons couldn’t lock a room away, but they could make the only accessible passage so long that the room was effectively inaccessible.

Although normally dungeons needed weeks, or even months, to change their layout. But this one seemed to be a little too flexible with the speed at which it could make walls and doors appear to force the intruder down an extremely specific path.

Which would be fine if there was at least a trap or something to distract Sylver, but this was just boring.

And the worst part was that he knew that the moment he let down his guard he would get decapitated by a trap.

Boring your enemy into making a mistake was an extremely effective strategy. Sylver had utilized it countless times. What better use is there for a bunch of undead than forcing a man to do nothing but defend himself against the same 20 warriors he’d already killed over 1,000 times?

Even if his stamina recovered faster than he used it, and the undead had 0 chance of killing him, everyone fucked up eventually given enough time.

Thankfully Sylver’s boring wait was over.

The door he was standing in front of right now was massive. Easily taller than a 2 story house, and just as wide. It was painted a dark red colour and had an enormous “1” carved into the very middle.

The door made a hissing sound and with a painful slowness moved into the wall.

There was an identical second door behind that door. But with a “2” carved into it.

It somehow managed to move out of the way even slower. But when it did it revealed…

A third door… Which revealed…

A fourth door…

Am I being punished for getting a new skill? Is the dungeon pissed off that I brute-forced my way through its “clever” trap?

Is it just buying time so I starve to death?

Sylver turned around and away from the door and looked down the corridor he had walked through earlier. He took a single step towards it and away from the door, and flinched when the sudden gust of air made a whining sound.

Sylver turned around and saw that the door had opened and…

Was thankfully the last.

Although considering what Sylver was seeing in front of him, thankfully might have been the wrong words to use.

There were 3 perfectly identical Estus’, 3 Runnels, and 3 Bigs’.

Each with visible worms sticking out of their skin and faces, and dressed in their armor and armed with their weapons.

But they weren’t that much of a threat, they were only human.

Estus, Runnel and Bigs, Sylver could handle no problem…

But what about himself?

[??? (Mage+Mage) – 104]
[HP-N/A]
[MP-N/A]

“Let’s talk,” Sylver, the real Sylver, offered.

His worm-infested counterpart just gave him his, Sylver’s, signature grin, and pulled out one of Salgok’s daggers.

Sylver did the same, as his mirror image began to walk to the left without breaking eye contact.

Been a while since I killed myself.

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KingKennit

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