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33. Led into a Trap

We strode in silence through the dark, stone tunnel lit only by the fire hammer I held; our party of three— five including the Spirits— walked deeper and deeper into the Dungeon. I was rather used to the quiet, having not even been able to speak until relatively recently.

But apparently the lack of noise made Humans uncomfortable. I noticed how Edithe and Daniel looked— they warily glanced around, their gazes darting to every shadowed corner not illuminated by my flame. I tried being considerate of how Humans acted and said nothing after the Human woman told me her reasoning for wanting revenge. But I was bored now!

“So… want to clear another Lair?”

I spoke up, ending the veil of silence hanging over our heads. The two Humans exchanged a glance as I continued.

“That Shade Swarmers Lair gave me more experience. It helped me level! I want to level some more before we face Lucerna. This Dungeon isn’t as fast as you made it out to be!”

“We never said it would be fast, Salvos. We just said it would be faster than hunting every rampaging monster outside of Dungeons. And besides, you’ve already leveled plenty since coming here.”

I scowled and crossed my arms.

“It’s not enough. Lucerna leveled 8 times from when I last saw him to when he attacked Maplewell. He is leveling far faster than me, even at a higher level. We need to get stronger.”

I wasn’t going to get beaten up and thrown around like the first two times I fought him; I refused to lose this time. Mostly because I needed to beat him to tell me what I wanted to know.

“What do you suggest, then?”

Daniel gave me a hesitant, but not doubting, look.

“We’ve already cleared out probably half of the Dungeon. The Shade Swarmers Lair is gone, and we don’t know where the Ground Cravers are coming from. They’re probably burrowed in a little hole somewhere, hiding away. And the Giant Spiders aren’t exactly showing themselves to us en masse.”

“But they are.”

I grinned as Edithe’s eyes widened.

“Wait, you’re not saying…”

“We attack their Lair.”

I spoke simply. The two Humans didn’t seem to get it though as they gave me confused looks.

“Salvos— those monsters are far above our level. It’s not just two or three Giant Spiders like we’ve been encountering. But hundreds. It’s a Lair— just like a Shade Swarmers nest— it probably has a hundred of those Level 40 [Weaving Spiders] or [Drop Spiders]... each. We can’t fight that, let alone the hundreds of babies or lower leveled Subspecies in there.”

“We don’t have to fight them all though.”

“What do you mean?”

I remembered the [Hellhounds] chasing Haec and I. I recalled how the pack would split off when other wild Demons showed up. How some would just stray away. And how others would simply give up.

It was the same principle here; there was no reason to draw the wrath of the entire Lair of Giant Spiders. All we had to do was get some of them.

I smiled.

“Daniel, Edithe, Mistshard, Druma— wait, you can’t speak… just nod or shake your head— how fast do you think I am?”

The four of them considered this as I explained the strategy I had in mind. They were apprehensive; they pointed out the flaws in it. But they went with it. Because they knew it was the best chance we got at outleveling Lucerna.

 

—--

 

I walked past the destroyed spiderwebs. The ones I had torn and burned no longer barred my path. I approached the last remaining layer of the white substance, covering a hole in the wall that held behind it a monster’s nest.

Slowly, I created the fiery weapon in my one hand as I walked up to the final web. It was thick; it had been woven over itself again and again, making it difficult to even cut through. But I did not need to cut it.

I brought a clawed finger to the spiderweb and activated [Flame Coat]. I tapped its surface and it burned, the silky excrement of the Giant Spiders quickly fading away with the flames that ran through it. I readied myself, preparing for a wave of Giant Spiders to come at me. But none came.

I watched as the solid veil disappeared, revealing what was behind it. Stretching down into a pit was the Lair of the Giant Spiders. It was not just a single chamber with a nest somewhere hidden away. The entire Lair was a nest, with floor after floor made of webs descending to the bottommost layer of the Dungeon.

Instantly, all eyes in the floors nearest to me snapped in my direction. Giant Spiders— those of the Subspecies I had seen and hadn’t seen— immediately swarmed in my direction. There were dozens of them. Some were as low as Level 10, while others were close to Level 50. They were all too much for us to handle, and yet, it was not all of them.

Those further down the Lair did not react; they did not follow their fellow Giant Spiders in their charge because they did not see what they were charging at. So they lay dormant as only a few dozen Giant Spiders came my way.

I immediately backed up, putting as much distance from myself and the hole in the wall as possible. The Giant Spiders quickly began funneling through it, chasing after me as I raised my weapon. I nocked the Explosive Bolt onto the fire bow and released it at the first wave.

The enchanted munition blasted apart the lower leveled monsters, and even killed a Level 40 [Weaving Spider]. But that was only seven out of all those that came. I hurled a crudely made fireball at them before spinning around and running as fast as I could.

The highest leveled of the Giant Spiders closed the distance, reaching me before long, but I grinned and used [Double Step] to widen the gap once more as I turned the first corner. The stone walls blurred around me as I focused only on staying alive. My feet carried me away from the monsters as the slowest of them disappeared from my line of sight, leaving only the fastest of them on my tail as I entered the large cave room.

A [Drop Spider] leapt at me as I whirled around. I sent a [Fire Blast] at him, which only bounced off his carapace—

Then a large wooden limb struck him down midair. He fell to the ground as a thin layer of ice spread throughout his body. He tried getting up, breaking himself free, only to be met by a sword slicing off his head.

“More are coming! Focus on the highest leveled ones first!”

I shouted at my party as I created fire spikes to throw at an angry [Weaving Spider]. Out of the dozens of Giant Spiders that initially pursued me, only a dozen remained. Many of them were higher leveled than me, but compared to earlier, this was a much fairer fight. It was maybe even lopsided in our favor as unlike the monsters, we worked and coordinated with each other.

I saved Daniel from a [Weaving Spider]’s threads, only to be protected from a group of lower leveled Giant Spiders by Mistshard. Edithe stayed behind Druma who worked with her to easily dispatch any monster that approached them, as I rushed in and out of the groups of Giant Spiders.

Eventually, we killed them all.

 

Defeated [Weaving Spider - Lvl. 40]!

Experience is awarded for defeating an enemy!

 

 

Defeated [Skittering Spider - Lvl. 21]!

Less experience is awarded for defeating an enemy at least 10 levels under you!

 

I didn’t level from the fight, although I noticed Daniel was unusually quiet for a few moments after the battle ended. Edithe wiped the beads of water forming on her forehead as she exhaled.

“That was… a crazy plan. I can’t believe it actually worked.”

I gave the Human woman a triumphant look as she turned to me.

“I told you. I’m fast.”

“And apparently mad.”

Then she paused, as if remembering something.

“But I guess I’m mad too for even agreeing with that plan. And it’s not too different from what my team would have suggested.”

“What would they have suggested?”

Daniel finally joined in the conversation as he was finished with distributing his Stat and Skill Points. Edithe had a thoughtful look on her face.

“Eloy was a [Geomancer], and Silvia a [Rogue]. They would have probably suggested the same thing Salvos did, but instead of fighting them head on once the Giant Spiders reached this room, we would drop them down a pit. And attack them as they tried to clamber up with magic and projectiles. Paul would have complained that he barely got any kills, but deep down he would be glad that no one got hurt.”

“What about Hana?”

I cocked my head. A small smile slipped onto Edithe’s face as she remembered her Spirit.

“Hana would have been ecstatic about the plan. She would get to kill so many monsters— gain so many levels— and barely be in danger. She would have wanted us to do it again and again for weeks, until the experience each Giant Spider gave her was a pittance, and only then would she want to leave the Dungeon.”

The Human woman paused as her face twisted. But before the grim look could spread any further, I spoke up.

“I like Hana. She seems nice.”

Edithe glanced up, the shadow disappearing off the arches of her brow; her lips relaxing as it released the frown it had been holding in.

“She was very nice indeed.”

I nodded eagerly.

“And smart. We should do just that. We fight, again!”

I turned around to provoke more Giant Spiders into chasing after us, but Daniel and Edithe grabbed me by my shoulders and pulled me back.

“You do that—”

“— but only after we [Rest], alright?”

I sighed, letting them take me.

“Fine.”

 

—--

 

We repeated the strategy twice more that day, before retiring to the same alcove as before for the night. I did not go out and do any exploration of my own, instead choosing to relax in the camp. I chatted with Daniel and Edithe before they went to sleep, then stayed up to keep watch.

The two Spirits were not here, having been sent back to the Spirit Plane by Edithe with [Return Summon]. Other than the initial few nights we spent in the Dungeon, only Mistshard had remained summoned for the night; the Human woman found it too taxing to keep Druma around when we were not exploring the Dungeon. And after the exhausting fights we had earlier, she couldn’t maintain Mistshard’s mana supply either tonight. So for the first time since I met her, Edithe was trusting me to keep watch as she slept.

I didn’t mind it too much. I hadn’t planned to go out on my own, so this gave me something to do. Plus, I could distribute my Stat and Skill Points from hitting Level 34 in the meantime. Eventually however, the two Humans woke up. Edithe re-summoned her Spirits, and we were off to fight more Giant Spiders for another day.

“You know, each time we do this, it becomes more dangerous, right?”

The Human woman commented as we prepared ourselves in the same room as before. We were at the bottom of the crevice— the place that had been littered with Human and animal bones. It was now also littered with dead Giant Spider bodies.

“Why is that?”

I inquisitively turned to Edithe as I waited for her explanation. Apparently, monsters were not exactly mindless— they would adapt to such traps over time. She said that many adventurers would try a trick too many times, only for it to backfire eventually. So the use of this strategy should be limited.

“But you said Hana would do it as many times as possible!”

“I did not say we would have listened to her though. Honestly Salvos, as much as I like the idea of gaining a dozen levels from doing this, it is not sustainable. I suggest we only try this for another two more days before we leave this Dungeon. It is not a Gold Ranked Dungeon like my company had thought. High Silver, but not Gold.”

Certainly, other than the Giant Spiders, this Dungeon did not feel dangerous. At least, compared to the Netherworld whenever I was attacked by wild Demons— I nearly died many times! But I survived.

And now I was going once again to a potentially deadly situation. I walked up to the hole in the wall— the spiderweb concealing the Lair now gone. I peered through it, expecting to draw the attention of dozens of Giant Spiders at once again—

But nothing came.

I looked around, realizing that there were no Giant Spiders on the webbed floor closest to me. Even the ceiling above was empty of any [Drop Spiders]. Their intricate webbing was clear, with only the egg sacs left behind.

I glanced further back down as I heard a clamoring from below. It sounded indistinct at first— like an array of noise joined together to make something incomprehensible. However I quickly recognized what it was.

It’s the sound of fighting.

Down, past the layers of webs closest to me, I saw figures moving. Hundreds of Giant Spiders were swarming at something at the bottommost area of their Lair. No, not something. Some things.

There were long, undulating creatures mixed with the fighting below. They were fast— they skittered around and through the mass of Giant Spiders, sending clumps of them flying to the air. I leaned closer and narrowed my eyes, trying to get a glimpse of what it was that was assailing this Lair.

Then I felt something hit me from behind. A small rock dropped from the ceiling, bouncing off the back of my head and to the monsters below.

I glanced up, confused as to what made it fall. And the stone wall above burst open. Elongated creatures with segmented bodies came pouring through the earth, raining down onto the sea of Giant Spiders. They charged at the faraway monsters, streaming down the walls— before pausing.

These monsters caught a glimpse of a closer target. Something that was not a Giant Spider, but as much as a target as they were.

I stepped back, eyes widening as I identified these new monsters.

[Junior Centinel - Lvl. 56]

[Junior Centinel - Lvl. 53]

[Junior Centinel - Lvl. 61]

The ones closest to me— the ones running down the walls— turned. And they rushed me.

 

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MelasD

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