“Were the next two monsters supposed to be children?” Alice asked.
“According to the knights, they’re supposed to be, yes,” Tafel said.
Alice frowned. “It doesn’t feel right to beat up kids even though I know they’re monsters.”
“Just think of them as adult goblins.” Tafel shrugged. “We know for a fact they respawn anyway. It’s not like we can actually kill them. And doesn’t it seem like they don’t have brains or thoughts? We can just think of it as harvesting vegetables.”
“The logic you go through to justify beating up kids…,” Alice said and shook her head.
Tafel rolled her eyes. “What? So you think we shouldn’t conquer the dungeon?”
“I didn’t say that.” Alice readied her shield as she walked up to the door on the opposite end of the bathroom. “I’m starting.”
“What’s wrong with beating up kids?” Vur whispered to Mr. Skelly.
Mr. Skelly tilted his head. “There’s nothing in Grimmy’s code of honor about that?”
“Hmm. Well, some people think children are small and helpless and shouldn’t be harmed,” Mr. Skelly said, nodding his head as Alice shoved open the door to the next room. “But those same people hunt and eat small and helpless and cute animals like pigs and rabbits and chickens, so take what they say with a grain of salt.”
Vur scratched his head. “Then it’s okay to beat up kids?”
“I didn’t say that,” Mr. Skelly said. “But I didn’t not say that either. You’re smart. It’s up to you to decide.” He patted Vur’s back and followed Tafel into the next room. It was an empty one with two children made of blood sitting on the floor, facing each other. They were drawing lines on the floor tiles with their fingers, leaving red streaks behind. There were a few ‘X’s and ‘O’s drawn in the spaces between the lines. The room looked like it had been furnished before, but the knights probably took everything away judging by the scuff marks on the walls and ground. In the back, behind the two kids, there was another door.
The two kids raised their heads at the same time and turned towards the approaching party. Their mouths open and closed, but no sounds came out. They huddled together and stood up, retreating to a corner of the room, crouching while shutting their eyes and hugging each other.
Alice’s expression darkened. “Yeah, this doesn’t feel right.”
Tafel’s eyes wavered as she bit her lower lip. “Maybe we can … go around them?”
“Just because they’re taking the shape of children doesn’t mean they’re actually children,” Mr. Skelly said. “Look, it seems like that one is ready to cast a spell.” Alice, Tafel, and Vur stared at the huddled over children. There were no movements other than a few tremors that rippled across the bloody surface as the children sobbed. Mr. Skelly shrugged. “Or so I thought. Looks like I was wrong.”
Tafel sighed as she lowered her staff. “When we leave this dungeon, I’m going to give those knights a stern talking to. Look at how badly they terrorized these two.”
Images of Alice and Tafel bashing and slashing the sobbing bloody woman in the bathtub surfaced in Mr. Skelly’s mind. “These two are a serious threat to our progression, you know? What if we’re ambushed from behind at a crucial moment if you leave them alone? What if we’re forced to retreat by the boss of this dungeon, and one of us dies when one of these kids attacks us on the way back?”
“I don’t like killing kids pressed into a corner, alright?” Tafel asked, gritting her teeth. “I already have bad experiences with—”
A roaring sound cut Tafel off as an icy breath blew past her head. The breath struck the two children in the corner, freezing them inside a solid block of ice. “There,” Vur said as he wiped away an icicle from his lips with his hand. “Now we don’t have to worry. We can just unfreeze them later if you want.”
“What if they null-magic the ice away?” Mr. Skelly asked as Tafel’s mouth open and closed, her expression changing repeatedly.
Vur snorted. “There’s nothing magical about a dragon’s breath like there’s nothing magical about a snake’s venom. It’s all natural. You can’t null-magic something that isn’t magic.”
“And you know this because…?” Alice asked, raising an eyebrow.
Vur’s eyes half-closed and his head lowered while as if he was looking at an idiot. “It’s in the name. Null-magic. Cancels magic. It’s not null-everything. Duh.”
“That’s not what I was referring to!” Alice shouted. “How do you know a dragon’s breath isn’t magic? How did you spit out a dragon’s breath in your human form if not through magic!?”
Vur shrugged. “I’m a dragon, so it’s natural.”
“…Let’s move on,” Tafel said, grabbing Alice’s shoulder before she could bicker more with Vur. The demon dragged the guild master over to the door and pointed at it, her gaze avoiding the giant block of ice in the corner.
“My party’s insane,” Alice muttered as she kicked open the door to the next room before positioning herself behind her shield. When there weren’t any attacks, she peeked her head around the side of the shield. Four bloody people were sitting at a square table. Their hands were stretched towards the center of the table, scrambling red tiles between them. Loud clacking sounds echoed through the room as the tiles knocked against each other. A few moments of tile scrambling passed before the bloody people stopped. Then they rearranged the tiles into neat rows that they placed into the shape of a square. One of the bloody people made eye contact with Alice after setting up the tiles on the table. The two stared at each other, and the other three bloody people turned their heads to look as well. A long moment of silence passed. Alice swallowed as she reached forward and grabbed the door’s handle, slowly pulling the door shut as the four people watched.
“What happened?” Tafel asked. She wasn’t able to see anything in the other room from behind Alice’s shield.
“I don’t know,” Alice said, her brow tightly furrowed. “It felt like I was interrupting something. Can we conquer a different dungeon instead? One with ogres or goblins or things I wouldn’t feel bad about beating to death.”
Tafel raised an eyebrow. “Weren’t you the one who wanted to come here?”
“Yes, but I mean, ugh, fine, whatever,” Alice said, shrinking under the gazes of Vur, Tafel, and Mr. Skelly. “Fine, fine, fine. Sorry about this, red guys.” She readied her shield and kicked open the door to the room before charging inside.