After leaving the dungeon, both the church and the beast-men submitted their respective reports to the Adventurer Guild. Mary sent a brief note to the church to express her annoyance at such a large move, and the church returned the note with a polite apology.
Neither group made another dive into the dungeon for the next few days. The clergy focused all their efforts into completing their quarter and the beast-men were interested in exploring the town some more.
The only significant event that occurred during this time was that the elves neared completion of their area. They put up notices that they would have a large celebration when they were done, so everyone was looking forward to it.
In the meantime, a hooded figure made his way through town. He carefully avoided everyone as he made walked down the streets, and everyone didn’t seem to notice him either. Even passing the outer gate to the dungeon, the guards did not stop him to check on his identity.
When he reached the entrance, the figure took off his hood, revealing a kindly old mace and long, grey hair that was as long as his shoulder. An old man chuckled to himself as he entered the dungeon, his head stroking his grey beard.
"This is such a wonderful opportunity; the ability to go into such a profound dungeon and the security is light. I’ll be able to get a lot of good research done now." He shed his dark robes for an old leather enchanted armor and a smaller brown cloak he wore around his shoulders. For a weapon, he carried a simple wooden stave. It was an interesting staff because he hadn't brought a staff with him, just a cane.
As he walked down under the torches, he was surprised to find a central room with a group of people milling about. Some headed down the tunnels on the walls, while others went down the center hallway. There were even merchants milling around in stalls.
The old man scratched his head, “Hm, very different from the reports I read. Oh, I guess they sent in the new reports after I left. Well, learning first hand isn’t so bad either.”
Nodding to himself, he walked over to one of the merchants, "Excuse me sir, can you tell me what's going on here?" He asked softly, “I just arrived, but the dungeon is so different from the stories I heard.”
The merchant turned and looked the old man over. He sniffed and frowned.
The old man grinned and tossed the merchant a gold coin. He grabbed it and bit it, nodding his head in satisfaction.
“This here is the central room of the dungeon. Those tunnels lead to the mines, and that central tunnel leads to the first floor of the dungeon. The sigil next to that central tunnel can be used to move to specific floors after you have reached them. If there are too many people using the sigil, there are 3 others in this room scattered around.”
The old man nodded his head in thanks. Gazing around the room, his eyes feel on a lone warrior leaning against a wall. Grinning, the old man walked up to him.
“Are you interested in being an escort for this old man?”
The warrior turned and eyed the old man's outfit. He snorted and gestured with his shoulder, "Not sure why you're here old man, but whatever the reason I'd rethink it. The dungeon has been an active place since it changed, and there’s a lot more danger involved now. The farthest anyone has reached is the 11th floor, so do yourself a favor and go back to where you came from.”
"Ho ho ho, aren’t you being awfully considerate of this old man? While I appreciate your sentiments, will you guide me down there? There are many interesting slimes just waiting to be revealed you know." The old man declared in excitement, his hand shaking from his fervor. He was sure to see new slime evolutions down there!
The warrior snorted again, "Whatever old man, long as you can pay I really don’t give a damn. Just be careful and try not to die down there."
The old man grinned at the warrior, "How much to get to the 6th floor?"
The warrior raised an eyebrow, "As long as you have the silver, I can take you down as far as you want. I won’t go past the 10th floor though; I'm waiting for the new reports before I risk my life going further."
The disguised old man took a small pouch of silver and handed it the warrior. Getting up from the wall, he opened the bag and counted out the sixty silvers held within. The warrior smiled and nodded to the old man, "My name is Juan and it will be my pleasure to take you down to the second floor."
“I’m Magus Falcon,” The old man smiled and said, "Lead the way good sir."
Falcon clapped as Juan swung his massive sword down and cleaved an armor in half. "Most impressive young man." he complimented as he inspected the remains, "I heard it took a team of at least 3 to battle this boss effectively."
Yuan smirked as he hefted his sword onto his shoulder, "That's true for most adventurers, but I have confidence in my abilities and experience to match a group of three adventurers under my rank." He himself was rated a C ranked adventurer and was on bar with most of the strongest in the town.
"I see. Well, you do have a look of strength about you." The magus commented, eyeing the other man's muscles, "If you have this much confidence, why do limit yourself to escorting and not diving for yourself? Where are your teammates?"
Yuan shook his head, "I've never enjoyed working with others beyond a contract, and I'm not foolish enough to risk myself over pointless endeavors. I make enough to have a good meal every night and a warm bed, and that is enough for me."
"You lack ambition," Falcon observed.
"Maybe," Yuan admitted as he began walking to the staircase, "But I'm also alive, which is more than I can say about other solo adventurers."
The Magus nodded as he followed the warrior down the staircase. After a few minutes, they emerged into another large room that held people.
"Seems like we’ve reached the 7th floor," Yuan observed, "It seems my job is almost complete."
Magus Falcon shook his head, “No need young man; you’ve earned you pay by getting me this far. There is no need to accompany me any further.”
Juan raised an eyebrow, but gave the old man a sideways grin, “If you say so old guy. Let me know if you need any help in the future; you seem like a good employer.”
'What an interesting guy.' Falcon thought to himself as he watched the mercenary leave. He made a mental note to seek him out again later. “Now, I’ve taken some notes from watching the slimes fight, but I want to experience them with my own power.”
Passing some of the other adventurers in the room, Falcon noted that a group of three burly men were giving him evil grins from across the room.
“How foolish,” He shook his head at their smiles, “Well, to be young is to make mistakes I guess.” He ignored the other people as he entered the first tunnel and entered the 7th floor.
“Now,” The magus murmured to himself as he stroked his beard, “Where is a good place to start researching?”
He came to a fork and quickly took the right tunnel. There was a rumble, and three slimes fell from the ceiling behind him. Falcon turned his head slightly with a grin.
“Just what I was looking for.” He analyzed the slimes behind him, “A grey slime, a herb slime, and . . .ah a plant slime.” He clapped his hands together and rubbed them excitedly, “I’ve never had a chance to inspect a plant slime directly.”
The grey slime rushed him, while the herb slime and the plant slime controlled the vines to attack him from the ceiling.
“Too slow.” Falcon raised his staff and swiped it into the grey slime, sending it into the wall. With surprising strength, he threw himself forward, spinning like a top. His robe bellowed around him and deflected the vines with magical force.
“You should sleep for now.” He said as he cast an ice spell on the herb slime, freezing it solid. He landed, and rolled out of the way as the plant slime grew enraged.
“Whoops, I forgot plant slimes go berserk when their plant brethren are attacked. Must make a note of that later.” He murmured as he jumped from side to side as he retreated from vine blows. Just as he was clear, he bent forward as the grey slime went flying over his head, missing him with it’s tackle.
“Now, now, enough of that.” He said as he raised his staff. The staff shrunk down into a wand with a ruby crystal on the end, which glowed as three fire-balls flew and hit the two slimes.
The grey slime shrunk, but the plant slime wiggled as it burned away into it’s core. With a flick, the want turned into a spear which flew straight into the grey slime and killed it.
Falcon breathed a sigh and cracked his back, “I’m starting to feel my age. Oof, this is going to make those apprentices laugh if they find out about this later.” After verifying his body felt as good as it was going to get, he turned to the frozen herb slime, a maniacal grin growing over his previously wise face.
“Let’s begin the experiment.”
“WHAT!” Doc spit out all over the floor.
“Hey, what the heck Doc?” Claire sputtered in shock as slime particles flew across the room, “What are you doing Doc?”
“Oh, I saw adventurers react like this to show surprise. Well, they sent out whatever they were drinking, but since I don’t need water I thought it would work if I shot my own body.” He explained to her.
Claire shivered, “Don’t do that again Doc. Spitting out parts of your own body is something really, really bad. Also, it’s kinda gross.”
“Anyway,” Claire flew back over to him, “What’s with the surprise? Did something happen?”
“Yeah, one of my slimes got kidnapped!” Doc exclaimed in shock.
A moment of silence filled the room.
“What? How did that happen?” Claire asked him, confusion evident on her face.
“An old guy just froze one of herb slimes and is taking it through the 7th floor. He kinda scares me actually.”
“Well, let’s hurry up and follow him!”
Doc’s punishment ended a few days ago, so the two zoomed up to the second floor as they inspected the old man.
“Claire, what is he?” Doc asked her mentally.
Claire shrugged, “He’s levitating that ice block of slime, so he must be some kind of magic user. He looks old, so he must be stronger than a normal person too, especially since he is in so deep.”
They watched the old man reach a room of lesser mimic slimes, where he easily defeated them with a sweep of his wand.
“His weapon changes form.” Doc observed.
The old man sat the herb slime down in the middle of the room. He created a small flame and melted the top part of the ice, exposing the wiggling slime underneath.
“Now, now, no need to rush out. I just need you still for an experiment.” The old man said.
Claire looked over at Doc, “You going to let him do whatever he’s going to do?”
Doc shrugged, “Not like I cans top him directly. I might as well lend a hand; it looks interesting anyway.” Doc moved part of his will into the slime, making it stay still within its icy prison.
“Good, now let’s see what I have to work with.” From under his robe, the old man pulled out a small bag and began to rummage through it. He muttered faintly to himself before crying out in joy as he pulled a vial of purple liquid.
“Nightshade extract; just what I needed. The purple is a nice match too.”
“That’s a poison.” Claire explained, “Nightshade is a plant that can be made into poison. We don’t see many rogues, so you’ve never dealt with it before.”
They watched as the old man poured the poison on top of the herb slime. As he was doing that, however, three big men entered the room.
“Hey old man, it’s dangerous down here. For a small protection fee, we can make sure no one messes with you.” One of them called out.
“I’m quite fine, though I thank you for your offer.” The old man replied evenly.
The three men chuckled, “Thing is old man, it’s not an optional fee. Hand over everything you have now and we’ll make sure you’re in good enough shape to reach the exit sigil.”
The man grinned at them as he tilted his head sideways to look at them, “Alright, but you have to beat this slime first.” He flicked his wand, and the ice block flew closer to the men and melted away, revealing the herb slime.
“Screw off, it’s just a weak herb slime.” They laughed at him from across the room.
“Is it then?” The old man smiled, but this smile was much too big and evil for his kind face.
Doc widened his imaginary eyes, “Claire, it’s evolving!” Before everyone’s eyes, the herb slime turned a deep purple and grew to the size of a man’s knee.
“Kill it, kill it quickly!” The three men panicked as they ran forward to kill the slime.
In response, the slime spat out a purple liquid onto the rushing men. It hit two of them, and they screamed as their bodies began to smoke and dissolve.
The third man turned pale as he watched his friends die slowly in front of him. “You monster, you caused this!” He screamed at the old man.
The old man grinned, “Hope you have your talisman still. I wouldn’t wait too long.” He disappeared in a flash of light, leaving the dungeon.
The last man turned to run, but the purple slime snaked a tentacle around his leg and brought him down. As it burned him, the tentacle began to retract itself into the slime’s body.
Doc and Claire watched the new-born slime devour the men with open mouths.
“A poison slime; I can’t believe it that old man gave you a new evolution.” Claire finally gasped out.
Doc couldn’t even nod his head, “This is going to make the dungeon a lot more interesting.” They listened to the fading screams of pain as the poison slime jiggled in ecstasy.