31.2. Grinding and Learning
The alcove became our temporary place of stay while in the Dungeon. We— well, the Humans— would leave and return to the alcove every day as we explored and mapped out the Dungeon. Daniel had brought with him a piece of paper to draw out our routes on, which slowed our progress at first, but proved to be helpful later on.
Every night— or we thought it was night— Edithe and Daniel would rest in the alcove as I went out to level on my own. Even though I had been consistently doing this, it seemed that the gains I got in terms of experience and levels were quickly decreasing due to a number of reasons. The main one being how we encountered less and less Giant Spiders as time went on.
Defeated [Howre - Lvl. 27]!
Experience is awarded for defeating an enemy!
I shook my head, walking away from the dead monsters all around me. No levels today. I was Level 32 now, after a week of training in the Dungeon nonstop. I had maxed my [Flame Coat] at Level 10, now having a surplus of 3 Skill Points up from 2.
It was tiring, and I had nearly died on multiple occasions. The only thing that saved me was my party— that was what the two Humans had been calling us— and my increased [Vitality]. I was incredibly glad I focused on raising it just before entering the Dungeon, because I definitely would have died if not for that. The Ring of Lesser Protection had absorbed all the hits it could and was now recharging slowly. Supposedly, it would take a week before I could use it again unless I had a magic tool to directly pour mana into it; however, Daniel said it would probably be usable again soon since we were a Dungeon with plenty of ambient mana to speed up its process.
I stalked through the tunnels, returning to the little alcove with Druma and Mistshard standing guard over. The two Spirits were now Level 36 and 33 respectively, leveling far slower than me since I started at a lower level than them. Edithe had only gained a single level, and I still wasn’t sure what level Daniel was due to his Necklace of Obfuscation.
I found the Human man awake when I entered the alcove, sitting by the campfire and writing on a leatherbound book. He didn’t turn to me, even when I walked up next to him and peered over his shoulders.
Daniel jumped and whirled around.
“Salvos, don’t sneak up on me like that!”
“Sorry. I thought you noticed me but weren’t saying anything.”
“It’s fine. You don’t have to apologize. Just don’t do that again please.”
He exhaled deeply, a hand on his chest and his book slammed shut. I nodded.
“Good. I wasn’t actually sorry. I only said it because I assumed that was what you Humans would say in that situation.”
“You… wait— no. When did you come back? You usually return only a few hours from now.”
I raised my shoulders in a shrug.
“I was bored of killing monsters that couldn’t fight back. They attack me, but they can barely hurt me. Not like the Giant Spiders.”
I almost felt like a wild Demon when I actively searched for a small group of [Howres] or [Crimson Bats] to kill. Sure, they would charge at me almost mindlessly. But I was just so much stronger than them I had no reason to even fight them in the first place. Maybe if there were more of them that they would actually be a threat I wouldn’t have felt that way. However the groups I found were all small. So I came back early for tonight.
Daniel scooched away from me, holding his book close to himself. He waited, but I said nothing more. Eventually, he lifted the book back up and continued scribbling away on its paper. I turned away from him and stared at the campfire.
I watched the way the small flame danced in its little area; the way it flickered and snapped even without a wind to push it about. It seemed so weak. So I touched it.
“W-what are you doing, Salvos?”
I glanced up at the Human man as I felt a prickling sensation come over my finger. It was hot— burning, even. But not as much as other flames I had felt before. Daniel blinked.
“Do you have some sort of heat resistance or something?”
“You don’t have a Skill for it?”
I answered simply as I pulled my finger back. It started to hurt— it was burning me after all. The Human man murmured to himself.
“Hm, I guess it would make sense for a Demon to be more resilient to fire. But no resistance Skills? Or are you trying to gain one…”
I cocked my head, not really understanding what he said. I was only testing the heat of the flame; I wanted my [Basic Fire Creation] to get stronger— to produce deadlier fires. That was the only reason why I did it.
Daniel muttered a ‘nevermind’ under his breath before he continued writing on his book, making sure its plain cover was facing me. I just stared at him for a moment, until he put the book down and raised a brow.
“Uh, did you need something?”
“No. I was just thinking.”
I said nothing more and he gave me a confused look.
“...what were you thinking about?”
“You tried to kill me when we first met. You thought I was Lucerna. But after you found out that I was trying to go back to the Netherworld, you offered to help me. You’re still helping me, even now. Why?”
He paused. He slowly lowered his book down, placing it on the stone floor as he drew his knees to his chest. He hugged them tight as he spoke softly, his gaze boring into the red flames.
“You really ask the most annoying questions, don’t you?”
I cocked my head again but he turned to me. I met his hesitant brown eyes with very own curiosity, waiting for his answer to come out.
“At first, I had thought you were the Demon that destroyed Fairdale. The one who killed the innocent men, women, and children living there. I don’t know why, but at the time, I felt obligated to stop you. Even though you were higher leveled than me, I thought I could beat you. I tried to beat you.
“But I did not. I tried and failed to stop you, the destroyer of Fairdale. Even when you said you weren’t the one to do all that, I didn’t believe you. I mean, Demons are supposed to be evil creatures, right? You’re supposed to lie, cheat, and trick Humans to get what you want. Then— you spared me.
“You spared me. I thought I was going to die, but I lived. It made me realize you were telling the truth. That you really wanted to return to the Netherworld. And… I guess I empathize with that. The desire— the longing— to return to your home. So I decided to help you do just that.”
Daniel finished, slowly averting his gaze from me. He stared down at the palm of his hands as he softy repeated himself.
“To return home.”
There was a moment of silence; only the crackling of the campfire made any noise in the quiet Dungeon tunnel. Then I nodded.
The Human man blinked. He turned to me and frowned.
“Is that all you have to say— no more questions? Nothing?”
I shook my head simply. He sighed and leaned back on the rock wall.
“And here I thought you were going to prod me even more. Honestly I wasn't sure whether I could answer any more questions.”
“Don’t worry, I don’t care.”
“That kind of hurts, you know? I just poured out a lot of my personal thoughts for you, and your reply is that you don’t care.”
I shrugged nonchalantly.
“You answered my question. I’m satisfied.”
I replied bluntly; I was pretty sure I was supposed to be more delicate in my response here. However, Daniel clearly didn’t want to share more than he already did, so I thought this was the appropriate reaction. Maybe not. Humans are weird!
“That’s for the best, I guess.”
Daniel reached for his book.
I spoke up, remembering something else Humans said when someone did something for them.
“Oh, uh, no problem.”