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27. Are You Evil?

A Dungeon.

I wasn’t exactly sure what that was; I asked questions, but I mostly glossed over everything that had been explained to me except for the first thing I had been told. And that was how fast you could level in a Dungeon.

That was amazing! I was elated! I wanted to go to one right away. If I could quickly go from Level 25 to Level 50— become a Greater Demon like Lucerna— I would surely be able to beat him on my own. But it didn’t work that way.

Daniel elaborated for me as Edithe sold off some of the loot she took off the bandits bodies.

“There’s nothing special about a Dungeon that specifically makes you level faster. There’s no bonus experience awarded for killing a monster in one versus outside of one. The only reason why it’s sought after is because it’s a place where monsters gather.”

I cocked my head questioningly.

“Why do monsters gather in a Dungeon?”

“Dungeons are simply a collection of monster Lairs, and monsters form Lairs where there is high ambient mana. They’re attracted to it. In a way, every living being is. But there’s an instinctual drive for monsters to go to it. And so there are plenty of monsters to kill in a Dungeon. To train on.”

The Human man wagged a finger as he explained. I frowned and looked up at him accusingly.

“So you go find and attack them just to level?”

“Yes— I mean, kind of? We do go out of our way to exterminate them, but it’s not because we want to level. Well, most Humans do it to level. And for the monster parts they can sell, or for the money they can earn. But it’s mostly due to the nature of how Dungeons work.”

“And that is?”

“If a Dungeon gets too big, monster hordes will form. And those can and have destroyed towns and cities in the past. So we have a need to cull their population.”

I nodded.

“I see.”

“Still trying to understand how Dungeons work? Or have you already figured it out?”

Edithe walked over, pocketing a bag of coins into her pants pocket. Daniel looked at me, raising an eyebrow.

“I don’t know. Do you still have questions, Salvos?”

“Nope— actually, yes. Where can we find a Dungeon?”

I piped up excitedly. The two didn’t look at each other like I expected them too. Instead, Edithe rolled her eyes and Daniel sighed.

“That’s what we’re trying to figure out right now, right?”

“My team was sent here to do just that. The Iron Champions Company has a history of keeping a monopoly on Dungeons. In fact, their first Dungeon was the Millcliff Iron Mines, which was how they got their name. They profited off selling the iron from the [Iron Golems] while they leveled. We wanted to expose the location of this newly found Dungeon around Falisfield, but…”

The Human woman didn’t exactly clench her fist or grit her teeth as before, but she still trailed off.

“Well, you know what happened.”

“Why did you even want to do that, anyway? Does your company have something to gain from it?”

Daniel asked, raising a hand hesitantly.

“We’re the Valiant Dreamers Company. We’re kind of idealistic— it’s even in our name. We believe that even companies did not always squabble for influence or resources— such as Dungeons— it would be better for everybody. Adventurers, cities, countries. Everyone.”

“Oh. That’s very nice— uh, noble of you guys.”

“It is.”

I nodded along, listening to their conversation. I had wanted to speak up for a bit, but chose not to say anything, remembering how they didn’t like it when I interrupted them when they were speaking. But now, I saw my chance.

“Let’s ask them!”

Edithe glanced back at me.

“...pardon?”

I grinned happily underneath my hood.

“You said the Iron Champions Company knows where this Dungeon is, right?”

I received two slow nods in return.

“Then let’s ask them!”

“Uh, Salvos, I don’t think they’ll just tell us…”

Daniel spoke as he scratched the back of his head. Edithe murmured an agreement from behind him.

“Why not?”

I scoffed, shaking my head. Everyone I have questioned so far eventually answered, as long as they didn’t think I was a Demon. I had gone around Hazelbury with Daniel and spoken to a lot of people— they would always give a response, even if they didn’t know.

And according to Edithe, they knew where the Dungeon was. So they would surely tell us where it was!

“They’ll tell us, trust me. Even Blake offered to show it to me, and he was part of the Iron Champions Company, right? We just have to ask them and we’ll get our answer!”

 

—--

 

“Absolutely not.”

Blake leaned back on his chair, a scowl forming on his face. I placed one hand on the table, protesting.

“Why not? You said you would let me see your Dungeon!”

“That was before you hit me in the balls!”

The adventurer stood up, knocking his chair back to the ground; a few faces turned and stared as the tall Human man jabbed a finger in my direction.

“I should make you pay for what you did— do you really think there will be no consequences for your actions? Not only did you reject my generous offer for you to join the Iron Champions Company, you attacked me too.”

I crossed my arms, staring defiantly up at him.

“Try it.”

“Ok, Salvos. That’s enough.”

Daniel stepped in, placing a hand on my shoulder. I turned to him, an annoyed look on my face.

“Why are you defending Blake? Isn’t he the one you didn’t like?”

“Yes, but we have no reason to start a fight here. Look, people are already staring at you.”

I glanced around, seeing more faces now watching on with keen interest as Blake tried to loom over me. I was about to retort, but then I remembered how I was supposed to keep a low profile. I scowled, whirling around and stalking away from him.

“Fine.”

Daniel followed me as we joined Edithe who opted to stay out of the entire confrontation; Blake turned and resumed a conversation with a group of adventurers that had been with him, pointing in our direction as he laughed. Sighing, I looked at the Human woman.

“What do we do now?”

“That didn’t work out exactly as planned— as I thought it would. So that just means we do things the hard way.”

“And what is that?”

Edithe pushed herself off the wall of the guild, glancing between Daniel and I.

“We search for it.”

I nodded, but the Human man immediately took a step back.

“Wait, you want us to search all of Falisfield for it? You do realize that this province stretches from Silverdale to Bouldergarde, right? That’d be days just to travel between those two cities in a straight line. It would take us months to stumble upon a random Dungeon.”

“We have no other choice. At least we’ll be moving and possibly exterminating any monsters we come across, rather than just sitting in this city doing nothing. Only the Iron Champions Company has a map to the Dungeon, and they won’t share it with us. It’s far more efficient than camping out the city and following every one of their adventuring teams that goes out, hoping it’s not a mundane mission and they’re trying out the Dungeon.”

“But—”

I raised a hand, imitating Daniel earlier. The two immediately closed their mouths shut, looking over at me warily. I tilted my head, frowning.

“I’m not going to attack you, don’t react that way. I just had a question.”

“Oh, uh, go ahead and ask it then.”

I faced Edithe, slowly lowering my clawed hand as she eyed the movement.

“You said the Iron Champions Company has a map?”

“Yes.”

“To the Dungeon?”

“Uh, yeah.”

Daniel answered for her.

“They have to keep track of its location, otherwise they’ll be just as lost as we are.”

I nodded eagerly, looking between both of them.

“Then why don’t we just take the map?”

The two looked at each other, hesitation clearly written on their faces. I folded my arms. Why don’t they like this idea?

“Salvos… we can’t just do that.”

“Why not?”

“Because— listen… us Humans think it’s bad to take things that aren't yours. It’s considered stealing. It breaks the law. It’s… evil. Do you want to be evil, Salvos?”

She spoke softly, trying to convince me against my ingenious plan. I shrugged.

“Sure.”

Edithe blinked a few times.

“Didn’t you say you’re not an evil creature?”

“I am not, yes. I am Salvos.”

“But doing that would make you evil.”

“That makes sense to me.”

The Human woman was rubbing her forehead now, almost as confused— if not more confused— than I was.

“If you’re evil, wouldn’t you just be an evil creature?”

“I wouldn’t! I’d be an evil Salvos, but not an evil creature!”

“I— I see…”

“Besides, it’s not like I’d be a wild Demon if I took something that isn’t mine. They ignored the Spear of Flames even though it was right there in front of them. They don’t care about anything but leveling. They just want to use others— and me to evolve. I don’t do that.”

It made sense to me; I didn’t understand Edithe was staring at me wide eyed, or why Daniel had his face buried in his hands. I opened my mouth to question them further, but the Human man spoke first.

“Salvos.”

He looked up, face turning serious. I cocked my head as he leaned closer, speaking at almost a whisper.

“If you want to do this, then fine. We can’t stop you. But promise me this: you won’t kill anyone no matter what happens.”

I looked at him. I met his brown eyes as they stared pleadingly at me. I nodded, smiling as I answered as truthfully as I could.

“I promise!”

 

—--

 

I wasn’t sure why the two Humans expressed as much apprehension as they did. I was fast. I was quick. I would just go into the Iron Champions Company’s building, grab the map, then go out.

It was so simple. But they complicated things even more.

They made me wait until night came before I could do any of that. They reminded me that I was not to kill anyone, to which I reassured them I wouldn’t. Normally, I would kill those who attacked me first. But I only did so to level and evolve myself, which going to a Dungeon would aid in tremendously. So I made an exception here. Then they made me wear a piece of cloth on my face— a mask— telling me not to get caught.

It was a lot of planning; I didn’t understand any of it.

I was just glad I could finally just get this over with. I climbed up a tree, reaching to the side of the building with three floors. I hung on a branch, eyeing a room through the second floor window. I slowly pulled it open, keeping quiet as I was told to by Daniel, before lowering myself in front of a desk with pieces of paper strewn across it.

Map? Any map here?

I paused, realizing I had no idea what a map looked like. I understood what they meant when they talked about maps, but I hadn’t actually seen one. It was… a diagram of the land? A diagram of the land leading to a Dungeon?

I wasn’t entirely sure. All I knew was that I didn’t see anything resembling what I thought what one would look like lying on the table.

I don’t know what it looks like or where it is. What do I do? I know!

I softly pushed the door open, looking down either end of the dark hallway. I caught a glimpse of a figure moving down the other side. I ran up to them, grabbing them from behind, quietly tripping him and pinning him to the ground.

“Wha— ha—”

“Shhh.”

I covered his mouth.

“I’m supposed to be quiet, so don’t shout. Or else.”

His eyes widened as the fire dagger slowly lowered onto his face.

“Tell me what I want, and I won’t kill you.”

He frantically nodded and I grinned. He thinks I will actually kill him! He doesn’t know that I’m lying!

“Where’s the map?”

“W-what map?”

“The map to your Dungeon. The one you guys are keeping from everyone.”

The man blinked.

“To the Silkfall’s Crevice? It’s in that room over there. First cabinet from the bottom!”

He exclaimed, but I held his mouth shut. I nodded slowly, smiling.

“Thanks.”

I got up, pushing the door open and entered the room. The man stared after me, confused.

“Wait, I can go?”

“Of course. I won’t kill you. I’m not allowed to— I lied, see?”

“Oh…”

I shook my head, feeling satisfied with myself as he immediately disappeared. What an idiot. He actually thought I was telling the truth, even when I had already let him go. In the first place, he didn’t attack me. In the second, I had no plans of killing anyone here.

I pulled open the cabinet, finding the map which I had identified as a map. I lifted it up, reading the word ‘Dungeon’ written on it before folding it under my arms. I’ve got it, now I just have to—

There was a clamoring, then footsteps rushing down the hallway.

Time to go, I don’t want to get caught.

I flung the window open and jumped outside as a few figures turned the corner. They called after me but I ignored them, quickly lowering myself down to the ground. I could see their shadows rushing down after me, but they were too slow. Far too slow. They would not catch me.

I ran off, running to the two Humans that I had left behind.

“Salvos— what’s going on?”

Edithe looked at me with panic in her eyes as I ran around the corner to the alley she had been waiting in. Daniel was with her, a nervous look on his face as the chatter coming from the Iron Champions Company building grew louder.

“Did you get caught?”

“I didn’t get caught. See?”

I gestured at myself, then held up the thing I was holding.

“And I have the map with me. Come on, let’s go!”

Shouts broke out behind me as I showed the map to them.

“Then why are they after you?”

“Because the man I asked called his companions. But it’s fine, they move slow. I outran them so they couldn’t catch me.”

Neither Humans said anything. They both just had a resigned look on their faces. Edithe placed a hand on Daniel’s shoulder.

“How did you deal with her by yourself before this?”

“That’s the thing: I did not.”

“Ah.”

“Yeah.”

 

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A note from MelasD

I feel like this chapter might be a little bit contentious because of its ending. To me however, Salvos misinterpreting their words to take it literally was not her fault, but the fault of Daniel and Edithe who still don't fully understand her just yet as evinced by the conversation about being evil. 


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MelasD

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