Rows and rows of monsters marched down the broken streets of the Brilsun Ruins far below us. They walked in haphazard groups— throngs of the gargantuan Gatho Mammoths lumbered alongside the far smaller Ground Cravers, accidentally crushing a few of them once in a while. But the Ground Cravers didn’t mind.
These accidents didn’t even register in the minds of the monsters. Because, to them, they were not doing anything out of the ordinary. Perhaps they thought they were still in their Lairs or in their homes in the Mothatis Mountain Range. It didn’t matter what they thought— their real senses were shut off as they were kept asleep by the Mindreapers leading them.
The powerful Platinum Rank monsters. The Level 70 creatures made of mana, which had powerful mind magic that could even keep a Level… whatever Daniel’s level was… [Hero] sleeping in the midst of combat. They were with these monsters, keeping them from waking and breaking free from whatever spell they were under.
I stared at these mindless masses, eyes wide. Daniel stood next to me, his face furrowed, and his hand tightly gripping the hilt of his sword. He spoke through clenched teeth.
“They’re… gathering an army?”
I nodded. The Human man shook his head and just sat down. Rubbing at his temples, he let out a tired sigh.
“Seems like I might not be getting any sleep tonight, huh?”
“Or the night after. And the night after. And…”
He trailed off. He glanced over at me hesitantly, trying to peer at my shadowed face.
“...do you think we should go back?”
“What do you mean?”
“Report this to the Valiant Dreamers Company. No matter how you look at this, this isn’t normal. Mindreapers… they don’t do this. They’re monsters. And this?”
He gestured at a group of [Rancor Mites]. They had been hopping along at a meandering pace until the Mindreaper stopped. Then the creature of magic turned around and pointed at them. Their movements ceased and they dropped to the ground, asleep.
Suddenly, all the other monsters surrounding the sleeping [Rancor Mites] charged at the lower leveled bug-like creatures. They tore them apart where they lay, gaining experience and levels without any resistance or effort. Narrowing my eyes, I turned back to Daniel.
“This isn’t normal. They’re trying to level up the stronger monsters. And they’re gathering them too. That’s why the canyon was so empty. I don’t know what’s going on, Salvos. And we need to go back.”
He stared at me with a grim look on his face; he was pleading, hoping for me to see his reason. I opened my mouth—
Daniel began to protest but stopped. He blinked.
I felt my shoulders sag as the words left my mouth.
“You’re right. This is clearly too much for us to handle. I was expecting to fight… a few dozen Minotaurs when we reached this Dungeon. Even if they were higher leveled than me, I knew I could probably move faster than them. The reports we were given at the Adventurers Guild told us they typically had high [Strength] and [Vitality] over all else.”
Shaking my head, I glanced back at the floating Mindreapers, spread throughout the vast, sprawling sunken city.
“Mindreapers on the other hand… I can’t dodge their attacks. Not at all. And they can hit me from a distance, we saw that with the one we just fought. Even though he had been far away from us, his mind magic reached us in an instant, making my head feel like it wanted to burst.”
I took a step forward and crouched down on one knee. Placing a clawed hand on the ground, I admitted I was out of my depth.
“This Platinum Rank Dungeon… it’s not at all what I imagined. I expected monsters fighting each other. Minotaurs. Some Platinum Rank monsters. But I don’t see any Minotaurs. I don’t see any Platinum Rank monsters. I only see too many Gold Rank monsters for us to fight. And dangerous Mindreapers that would control you in your sleep.”
Daniel stared at me with joy in his eyes. He brightened and spoke excitedly.
“So you’re saying we should go back—”
I cut him off before he could get his hopes up. I met his gaze and spoke slowly.
“We came here for a reason. I… wanted to level up too. Maybe become an Archdemon at Level 70— although I’m now not really sure if my next evolution will make me one— but the main reason we came here is to find the Fairies.”
My Human companion chewed his lower lip, his eyes darting between me and the Dungeon below. Before he could protest, I laid out my plan for him.
“We don’t have to fight any of these monsters. Not unless it’s necessary. All we have to do is sneak through the city without them realizing we’re there.”
“That’s dangerous, Salvos. If we’re found out, we could have a horde of monsters chasing after us.”
“I’m sure we could take on one of the smaller groups of Mindreapers.”
There were a lot of monsters gathered below, and from what I noticed, many of them weren’t even Gold Rank threats. Sure, there were still hundreds of monsters like the Saeves or the Drakes. But they were clearly in the minority here.
“In fact, if we planned an attack on one of them nicely, I think we could kill a Mindreaper and free the monsters under whatever mind magic they have them under, making them fight the other monsters in the area. And that could serve as our distraction to escape.”
Trailing off, Daniel still looked uncertain about this. He took a deep breath and sighed.
“I don’t think this is a bad idea, Salvos. Or at least, not a terrible one. But I will only agree to it under one condition.”
I cocked my head.
“And that is?”
“I need to get some sleep.”
Now leaving [Dungeon: Brilsum Ruins].
My Human companion and I made our way back through the canyon, making sure to mark a clear path to the Dungeon so we could get there much quicker next time. I remained out of my Mortal Form, feeling more secure with the extra 6 [Vitality] I had when I was out of it.
I knew that switching back and forth from my Mortal Form would level it up more; that was what I had surmised and assumed from the one level up I got for it. However, if a Mindreaper attacked me from far away, I might not survive to reach it even if I used both [Self Haste] and [Charge of Embers] combined.
Agreeing that it was the best move to leave the canyons for now, I followed Daniel until we were at the very edge of the orange rocky cliffs. Then my Human companion collapsed and got to work— sleeping.
Sitting down next to him, I let [Rest] fully take over me and let my wounds recover and close up. Once I was fully healed, I got up and received a surprise notification.
General Skill [Rest] Level Up!
[Rest - Lvl. 2] -> [Rest - Lvl. 3]!
Experience is awarded for the leveling of a General Skill!
I hadn’t got a level in that for a while; it made sense since I was relying on healing potions more than anything now. Plus, I tried my hardest not to get hit in every battle. So, it was leveling far slower than I had hoped.
Feeling energized, I began working on my [Advanced Mana Manipulation] as I always did until Daniel awoke from his slumber. It had been daytime when he went to sleep. Now it was dusk, and the sun was setting, burning the horizon with a brilliant orange hue.
I walked up to my companion as he rubbed at his eyes, blinking.
“You know, seeing a scary Demon first thing in the morning is a bit… frightening.”
“It isn’t morning. And…”
I bared my teeth at him.
“I prefer it if you’re scared.”
Sighing, the Human man stood up and stretched his back.
“So, what should we do now? We can’t just try scouring only tiny parts of the Brilsum Ruins every night before returning here for the rest of the day. It’s not feasible. It will take too much time.”
I nodded enthusiastically and lifted my chin proudly.
“That’s why I’ve been thinking. About a way to tackle this Dungeon. See, we both know that you don’t immediately get taken over by the Mindreapers and whatever other magic is working alongside it when you fall asleep. It takes a while. And the Mindreaper has to leave the Dungeon first.”
“Do we test the range of the Mindreapers before we try to find a good spot to rest and set up as a checkpoint?”
“Exactly! And we should also observe them. See what they’re doing at different times of the day.”
“They just seem like they’re amassing an army to me.”
I scoffed and folded my arms across my chest.
“We don’t know that. That was something you assumed when you saw it. For all we know, they could just be gathering a bunch of high leveled monsters to sacrifice to level up for themselves.”
“That’s… a possibility. A bit unlikely. But it is.”
Raising a clawed finger, I explained myself.
“I think the best thing for us to do now is to observe them. Pay attention to what they’re doing. Then once we’re at least a little bit familiar with their patterns and movements at different times of day, we can try and sneak past them. Search for the Fairies or draw them out.”
Daniel nodded slowly. He reached into his fake Bag of Holding and produced a few sheets of paper.
“These are the notes Edithe gave us. The ones she got from researching herself and speaking to Mistshard. Apparently, while Fairies are reportedly sighted by adventurers who have delved into the Brilsum Ruins, they are incredibly rare. And it is completely random.”
“So we can’t just do some kind of ritual here to summon them?”
“No. But I do have a bit of an idea on where they can be found.”
I gave him a curious look, peering over at the notes. He placed it on the ground for me to see and sighed.
“It’s not written here by Edithe. It’s just something I was told when I was first… summoned into this world, I guess. When I was told of the tales about the previous [Heroes].”
I spoke her name reverently. If only Daniel were like her— we wouldn’t have any issue dealing with these Mindreapers. Or better yet, if she replaces Daniel, I won’t complain either. I made the teasing jibe to myself and snickered.
Daniel did not notice it, instead recounting what he thought was important.
“You see, all the temples out there— the Sanctuary of Fauna, the Sanctum of Elements, the Den of Souls, and even the Court of the Fae— they were all founded by Humans and only Humans. They came long before the Spirit Lord made a pact with Alexander as a result of Human’s fascination with the Spirit Plane. Many Humans, especially those who were uneducated, even worshipped the Spirits as some kind of deity.”
“Huh. That sounds nice. I’d like that to be me.
Ignoring me, he raised a finger.
“But the Fairy Queen didn’t like that. The Fairies tried to chase the Humans away, but they always returned, worshipping them. If she could, she would have ordered her Fairies to destroy all Humans that approached them. But after the Spirit Lord made a deal with Humanity, she could no longer do so as she did not want to draw his ire. If Spirits— even if they were Fairies— acted against Humans on their own, the pact would have been at risk.”
“So she asked one of your own [Heroes] to do it instead?”
He shifted uncomfortably.
“I don’t know why Melissa agreed to do it. But she did. And now all the Fairy temples are gone. Except for whatever remains of them in the old and destroyed cities that had them. Such as the Brilsum Ruins. I think… I think that’s our best place to search for Fairies.”
“But hasn’t it been destroyed?”
I tapped a finger on my chin.
“Why would the Fairies remain there when it’s gone?”
“Because I think that Fairies have a reason to be there. That’s why they couldn’t just up and leave when Humans kept forming places of worship around them. And that’s why they’re being spotted in the Brilsum Ruins even now.”
I paused, considering this. Daniel gave me a helpless shrug.
“That’s the first place we should start looking for, at least. I don’t think it would hurt to try.”
I nodded and shot him a grin.
“I think that’s the best suggestion you’ve made so far. We should do exactly that!”
We locked gazes. This is what we need to do, I thought. Daniel looked at me for a moment, his feet shuffling under him. He hesitated, bobbing his mouth like a fish. Until finally, he spoke.
“Why are you being so mean to me recently, Salvos? Also, your grin as a Demon… isn’t exactly reassuring.”
“Fine, I’ll stop!”
“When you say you’ll stop, are you saying you’ll stop smirking at me in this form or are you saying you’ll stop making fun of me? Salvos…? Hey, Salvos stop ignoring me!”