Within the command tent, Ken waited patiently as Leo walked into the room with the final update.
“All teams are ready in position,” Leo reported to Ken, “the adventurers have finished setting up their preparations in case of disaster. Our rangers are in position and ready to breach the treasury at any time. Everything is in place sir.”
“Good,” Ken nodded in satisfaction, “It has been a trying few days. Did the adventurers manage to retrieve any valuables in their scouting?”
“The adventurers have been quite skilled in locating the forgotten valuables the warlocks missed,” Leo said, “They’ve agreed to hand them over to the crown in exchange for ration tickets. Not only that, but they discovered one repository of rations.”
“Excellent,” Ken muttered as he moved to the window facing the city. He pulled out his magic spyglass and examined the decaying structures with a keen eye, “Let the adventurers know that bundle of rations will be reserved for them after we get back. Anything else?”
“No sir,” Leo shook his head, “They’re all ready to begin the retrieval.”
“In that case, activate the magic stones; I wish to address the troops,” Ken ordered.
Leo turned and waved at the three rangers gathered around a large white stone, about the size of a head, which was resting in the middle of the command tent. They began chanting at Leo’s signal, and the stone slowly changed from white to yellow.
Ken walked over to the stone and placed his hand on it. He closed his eyes as he felt the magic connect him to the receiver stones given to each squad.
“To all teams,” he began speaking, “you have your orders. Rangers are to break into the vault undetected. Adventurers are to stand-by and watch the patrols for signs of movement. Do not engage the enemy unless it is unavoidable. We are not here to fight a war. This Ranger Commander Ken, and you may begin the mission!”
“So, what do you think? Doc asked curiously.
Rowen, who was absorbing dungeon mana to heal his wounds, frowned and rubbed his head. “I think you should never carry be down a corridor again. Human, no, every other race in this world except slimes has a hard time dealing with impacting rock walls. I think that if I had been a normal human, I’d be injured enough to fall into a coma.”
“But you’re not, and you’re fine,” Doc argued, “Now please, tell me this isn’t a great practice floor! I worked hard in order to get everything right!”
Rowen examined the floor. Coined by Doc as the ‘Play floor’, the 26th floor was very spacious. It resembled the grey slime floors on the 15-20th floors, except without the giant drop off into the slime filled lower level. From the entrance, Rowen could see individual rooms scattered around the floor, three groups of five to be exact, and what looked like a long tunnel that had its own ceiling and walls not connected to the rest of the dungeon.
“So, what exactly am I looking at here Sir Doc?” Rowen asked.
“Oh, so now its Sir Doc?” Doc asked incredulously, “What happened to all the disrespect you were showing me a few minutes ago?”
Rowen chuckled, “Well, honestly? I’m feeling different after being pulled back in here. It’s as if I’m living two different lives as two different people. For some reason, my mind feels the same as when I first woke up.”
“Hmm,” Doc wondered, “Do you think it’s because the undead half of you hasn’t experienced living with the adventurers? Maybe after getting back near each other, your mind stabilizes. I don’t know though, but we should ask Claire later about it.”
“Alright,” Rowen smiled, “But let’s get back to your floor. I can see a few rooms from here, but why do they all look like individual houses? Why is your roof so high?”
“Aha,” Doc chortled in jubilation, “You noticed I see! Well, allow me to disclose all the wonders I have down here!” He began leading Rowen through the room toward the various sections.
He pointed a tentacle, “This first area is filled with slime trap rooms. I’m experimenting with the various things I can do with a slime to impact adventurers without actually fighting them. Claire began this train of thought by suggesting the use of a booze slime in the walls with an air duct above to allow the booze to drift into the room and intoxicate the adventurers. I’m currently trying out other slimes, but so far only the fire and water family slimes are showing any real progress. Though, all they do is control the room temperature I’m afraid. I’m moving to the herb family soon though, and I’m hoping I can get some poison or paralysis slimes in there.”
“Next group I have here contains all the trap rooms,” Doc continued, “Besides my standard pitfall and aerial traps, I’m also practicing the new traps like the slime launchers. I’ve recently discovered a new slime evolution to go with them, but more on that later. Recently, I’ve been having some luck moving the pitfalls on the floor to pitfalls on the ceiling. I’m not sure what to call them though, because all they do is rain rocks down. Just having falling rocks is boring, so I need to determine which slime would be of most use with this kind of the trap.”
“Don’t you have any earth type slimes?” Rowen pondered, “If I recall, one of those is a rumble slime correct? It already makes rocks fall from the ceiling, so why not have one be the trigger for the trap. Are you thinking a layer of rock ceiling falling, or individual stones of various sizes falling?”
Doc squirmed into a spiral before unraveling like a whirlwind, “You’ve given me a wonderful idea Rowen! I’ll divide the trap into two types: a death trap and a normal trap. The death trap will have the entire ceiling fall down and crush anyone inside and the normal trap will have normal stalagmites falling.”
“You mean stalactite,” Rowen corrected, “A stalagmite is a rock formation extending from the ground up. A stalactite is a rock formation on the ceiling.”
“You adventurers have some weird words in your language sometimes,” Doc grumbled, “Fine, I’ll have some stalactites fall in the normal trap. Both traps can be avoided if the adventurers are able to find and kill the rumble slime hidden in the room.”
“Just to make sure, you’re having Milly and I test all these traps correct?” Rowen pried, “How would one find a rumble slime hidden in a room?”
“Look for the rock that isn’t purple,” Doc told him, “They’re normally brown or grey, their color taken from the color of the stones they eat. Only thing is, my stones are some kind of purple tinge to them due to my magic, but the earth family slimes never seem to inherit the purple color.”
“Now where was I? Oh right, this last area is for me to test slime evolutions and have them fight over slimes to analyze their individual abilities. For example, having a breeze slime and a flaming slime work together to fight against an overslime.”
“What kind of overslime?” Rowen asked curiously.
“It’s just a normal slime,” Doc sighed, “For some reason, even though all slimes are supposed to grow into their overslime form after a time, I can only manage to create normal slime overslimes. I determined the root cause yet besides creating the original overslime boss.”
“Perhaps it’s a question of time,” Rowen offered, “After all, you said yourself that all slimes grow naturally into their overslime forms. However, you recycle all your slimes before they have a chance to live long enough to change.”
“Huh, I’d never thought of it that way,” Doc rubbed his slime in deep contemplation, “I can certainly give that a try later. Anyway, these rooms are where you and Claire will fight against slimes to practice your own fighting skills. Last, but certainly not least, is the tunnel.”
Doc hopped and squirmed over the floor to the beginning of the tunnel. He grandly waved his tentacles around like a young child with a new toy.
“This tunnel is where I’m trying out the latest in new slime trap technology; trap tunnels! This tunnel simulates the conditions a normal adventurer would expect to find in a typical slime dungeon. However, it’s filled with all kinds of trap goodies. Anadine and The Twins have been primarily helping me with this trap: trap height, density, frequency, etc.”
“What was their final mortality rate?” Rowen coaxed, a bad feeling settling in the back of his throat.
“Oh, uh, 100% death rate,” Doc admitted, “But that’s because they kept ignoring the various injuries and fake blood pouring out of their bodies as they walked through. Immortals are horrible trap testers because they have no sense of preservation! That’s why I needed you and Milly.”
“I’ll be honest Doc, this is really raising my danger instinct,” Rowen grimaced as he backed away from the entrance, “I mean, what did you even put in there?”
“Just some new toys, and this amazing new slime evolution! Behold,” Doc pointed his tentacles toward the ground, “The newest slime to grace the floors and bone pits of the dungeon, the mini-slime!”
A tiny slime the size of a fist appeared on the floor. It jumped in the air, less than a few inches, and wiggled its tentacles as if to say ‘tada!’.
Rowen was not sure how to feel. “Doc, how in the world did you make a slime this small, and why did you want a slime this small?”
“Actually, this is technically not a real slime evolution,” Doc admitted, “This is actually a stage of the slime lifecycle, just like the overslime. These are really baby slimes, freshly budded from a queen slime.”
“Queen slime,” Rowen grew shocked, “I’ve never heard of such a slime, even with all my studies from two time periods!”
“I don’t think anyone has,” Doc agreed, “I only found out through the dungeon analysis blue box. Supposedly, a queen slime is a legendary variant of the third stage of the slime lifecycle. While every other slime reproduces by, what’s it’s called again, meiosis a queen slime can reproduce by mitosis.”
“I have no idea what either of those terms are,” Rowen drew a blank.
“I don’t either,” Doc shrugged, “But for some reason, those words kept sticking in my head. The meiosis word means that the slime turns itself into many identical copies while eliminating the original. The mitosis words means the original can replicate itself forever, though some babies are variants.”
“So,” Rowen summarized, “You’re saying these mini-slimes are the copies of a queen slime. How are you able to get such a powerful creature?”
“I don’t have it,” Doc sulked, “and these mini-slimes are actually quite terrible at combat. Their slime isn’t corrosive enough to melt through armor, enchanted or not.”
“However,” Doc perked right back up, “I had an ingenious idea when considering the slime launchers! Allow me to demonstrate with a practice dummy.”
With a thought, Doc summoned forth an adventurer corpse from his astral bag. Rowen was surprised to not smell a strong scent of decay, even though this adventurer had clearly been dead for quite some time.
“Why are keeping corpses and body parts in your astral bag as loot?” Rowen deadpanned.
“For situations like these!” Doc retorted, “Now, watch closely.”
Summoning up an over slime, Doc took control and used his sting sized tentacles to control the corpse like a puppet.
“Doc, this is quite horrifying,” Rowen announced as goose-bumps sailed up his skin, “I’m having flashbacks to the zombie attacks from my kingdom.”
“Maybe I should make a puppeteer slime,” Doc murmured, completely ignoring Rowen, “I wonder which slime that would fall under. Wait, perhaps I should create a string slime first. Oh, I know! I’ll see if one of the bug slimes can evolve later.”
While Doc has in the thralls of evolution possibility, the corpse continued into the tunnel unabated. Within a few feet, however, the tunnel was filled with loud sound of buzzing as little wisps of something flew through the air. The corpse was punctured multiple times as it continued to move forward. After a short period of time, less than a minute, the corpse began to fall apart before Rowen’s eyes. First it was sloughs of skin, and then whole body parts fell free of the string’s control onto the floor. Soon, the tunnel was littered with body parts.
Rowen barely withheld the nausea that threatened to spill out of his mouth. “I’m going to be sick,” he muttered hoarsely.
“Oh, let me get you some slimes to throw up on! We might even discover a new evolution!” Doc exclaimed. In a few seconds, a poison slime, herb slime, and grey slime sat patiently in front of Rowen.
“Come on Rowen, you can do it,” Doc said encouragingly, “Here, take a whiff of these entrails. They’re fresh!”
Rowen couldn’t take it anymore and let loose his earlier dinner all over the three slimes.
While the grey and herb slimes eagerly, it seemed, absorbed the refuse, the poison slime shuddered and vibrated. Doc cheered as the previously dark purple slime changed color into a purple and grey slime.
“Wahoo, we made a sickness slime,” Doc cheered, “Let me see what it says. Hm, according to the magic blue box, the sickness slime is a slime that gives off a smell that renders opponents nauseous. It acts like the booze slime in afflicting status effects on prey to incapacitate them so it can eat them at its leisure. However, it lacks any strong attacks and can only attack like a regular slime. Wonderful, I can use this in the trap testing area!”
“I’m glad you’re happy,” Rowen muttered sarcastically as he wiped his mouth, “but can you please explain what just happened to that corpse?”
“See for yourself,” Doc used his tentacle to point down the tunnel. Rowen turned his head and, instead of seeing a floor covered in innards, saw a tunnel flow covered in mini-slimes.
“Those suckers are really gluttons,” Doc snickered, “see, even though the mini-slimes can’t eat their way into an adventurer, they can eat their way out and multiply along the way. I set up a dart hallway trap that launches mini-slimes. They bounce off most armor, but if they hit skin then their tiny stone magic core draws blood. The fist-sized mini-slimes feel the blood and follow it to its source, entering the body through the hole while the rest of the mini-slime waits its turn. Even if the adventurer wipes off most of the slime, if they fail to destroy the core then the slime continues to devour the adventurer from the inside. The only downside is that the mini-slime is so small it can easily be destroyed by any healing spell that targets foreign objects. What do you think?”
“I think I want nothing to do with that trap,” Rowen shook his head, “That’s way too dangerous for any beginner adventurer.”
“That’s why you’re here to help me get it right,” Doc said cheerfully, “and you even get to use it to strength your reflexes after we’re done adjusting it. Fun right?”
“Sure, now let me leave,” Rowen begged as slime tentacles once again wrapped around him.
“Nope. We start testing now!”