The atmosphere was tense and silent, and it didn’t take long for the party to take the two turns that Conner had mentioned. The next turn was to the right again and the one after that seemed to go to the left, it was at this point that Kayden noticed a couple of things.
Firstly, there were way too many unnecessary turns and the map made zero sense. If you were to map out the direction that they had been going, right, right, right, left, then they should be behind the barrier at this point, back where the adventurer camps are. He could tell that the others were getting a little confused too, so it wasn’t just his imagination.
The second thing he noticed was that during the entire walk, they had been descending. The ground was angled in such a way that it was very subtle to anyone not paying attention, but sure enough, they had been going downwards for quite a while. Kayden was sure that he wasn’t the only one that noticed this as well.
It was a little bit unexpected, but not so surprising that their jaws would drop. One would expect that massive stone doors placed on the side of a mountain would mean that the dungeon would be in the mountains but no, everything would take place underneath the mountain instead. As if dungeons weren’t already dangerous enough.
“It seems that we’re going to be fighting underground. Be careful with your fire magic, we don’t know if we can spare much air for us to breathe down here.” Conner pointed out what Kayden was thinking.
“Don’t worry. My fire doesn’t even consume air.” Alice replied with a scoff.
Kayden swore he could hear Aisha sigh again and was slowly starting to put the pieces together. Unfortunately, he never got the chance to make sure, for it seemed that something had happened up front. Ezekiel raised his hand high, signaling for the party to stop.
“Once we turn this corner, there will be a fork in the road. One leads to a massive room of some kind, and the other has a very long and dark corridor that I cannot see the end of.” He slowly turned around to face the party. “Before we move forward, we should pick which route we want to take.”
“Well. I’m kinda tired of all these dank corridors. Let’s go explore a room!” Alice brought up the idea, and nobody had any objections. A room clearly meant that something was interesting ahead.
“Alright then, let’s go.”
As they slowly got closer and closer to the turning point, every last one of them could hear their footsteps echo around the corridor. Kayden just now noticed that the ceilings were extraordinarily high, yet the pathway was quite narrow, making this place unnaturally reverberant.
After a short while, the group met with the fork in the road like Ezekiel had mentioned, right after turning around the corner. Though, it was probably more apt to call this place just a long corridor with a wide doorway to the right. As they had planned, they passed through that doorway, and what they saw surprised them.
The dungeon that had been made out of rock until now was nowhere to be seen. In this cavernous room where they can’t even make out the ceiling, both the floor and walls were made out of a shiny metal that reflected the light from Alice’s staff.
“What is this material?” San tapped the ground with the heel of his foot, producing clanging sounds that were unpleasant to the ears. “Metal? Steel, perhaps? Maybe this place has something to do with Dragonsteel city. It’s the closest city by far and making this entire room by hand with metal is a very thankless task.”
“We don’t know. But we can worry about it later. We painstakingly provided ourselves with a head start, so it’ll be a huge waste if nothing came out of it. Let’s not waste our wits trying to figure out the history of this place.” Conner dismissed the question with a wave of his hand.
Soon after he finished his speech, the sound of shifting plates loudly reverberated throughout the massive room like the sounds of consecutive cannon fire. All around them, they could see metal plates sink slightly into the ground before slamming open with vigorous force.
Panic immediately set in, and it certainly didn’t help with how dark their surroundings were. Even with the light source from Alice, all of them couldn’t see what was about to come. Well, all of them except Ezekiel.
“Undead! They’re rising from the openings!” He shouted.
“Tsk! Being in the dark does us no good. I’m lighting this place up!” Alice shouted at the top of her lungs, before slamming her staff onto the ground.
“Show the world your blazing glory! Dazzling Inferno!”
Shoots a ball of fire that bursts into flames. The range of the explosion depends on the amount of mana used.
As soon as she finished chanting her spell, she pointed her staff upwards and released a white ball of fire into the sky. Weird purplish runes surrounded the ball, constantly shifting and morphing into unrecognizable symbols. This was the same spell she used to distract the adventurers when Kayden and his team were breaking through the barrier, although it wasn’t nearly as powerful as before.
Once more, the ball burst into a thousand brilliant sparks in the air, and from the light produced, the group finally got to see for themselves the foes they were facing.
Hundreds upon hundreds of pale-white skeletons clambered out of their holes and swarmed together, forming a legion of pearly-white soldiers, ready to attack at any moment’s time. It was the first time Kayden had seen so many enemies at once, even the largest of goblin hunting groups doesn’t even come close to this. It looked more like a flood than an army.
‘What in the world is this? There’s no way we can fight so many, and they’re completely worthless to sell! The price-to-value ratio is terrible! Get me out of here!’
Thankfully, the entrance behind them didn’t close, or else they would really be screwed. But with how narrow the passageway is, and how long it took for the stone doors to open, it was unlikely they would make it out in time.
“Everyone! There’s no avoiding this! Prepare to fight!” Ezekiel yelled, drawing his bow.
The party readied their weapons, and although all of them had their worries and fears, they still stood their ground. Many of them had ashen faces, and Cathy was even trembling in fear. But still, no one tried to run.
Seeing them like this, Kayden knew that he himself couldn’t run. If even Cathy, who was known to be a shy and cowardly person, didn’t run, how could he?
‘Run? What a joke!? My reputation will be in tatters! I can’t allow that! Not if I want to become the God of Thieves!’
Pulling two knives from his belt, Kayden prepared himself for a fight of a lifetime.
“It looks like we’re finally here…”
Glancing down from the peak of a mountain were two individuals, one who was short but stocky, and the other slim and tall. It was currently very early in the morning judging from how the sun just barely crested the hills, casting a long shadow over the valley. The mountain air was fresh, though both of them could feel a slight discomfort in the ambient mana.
“Death or Dark mana? Wait, is there even a distinction between the two?”
“Why in the world are you asking me? I know I look scary, but I’m not a necromancer.”
These two individuals were revealed to be Brandon and Ryan, and they have almost reached their destination. Brandon couldn’t wait to savor the sweet taste of revenge, all he had to do was serve it.
“Hahaha. I bet he thinks he got rid of me completely! Too bad! I’m gonna hunt you to the ends of Eden!”
Ryan could only shake his head at Brandon, his tongue flopping around as he did so. Glancing down on the other side of the hill where they had just spent quite a while climbing, he could see the members of their ‘party’ struggling to keep up.
“Hurry up! Just a little bit more and you’ll reach the top!” he shouted words of encouragement at the D-ranked adventurers before turning to Brandon. “This has to be one of the worst decisions you ever made.”
“S-shut up! I know what I’m doing! They might be weak, but they can at least serve as cannon fodder! Look at how many of them there are!” Brandon was indignant, but Ryan wasn’t having it.
“But look at how much time this cost us! We probably could have caught them when they were still on the way to the dungeon, but now they are with other adventuring groups! There’s no way we can deal with them secretly!”
“Well, it would be a shame if I got my revenge so easily! There’s no way he could beat me, so I at least need to give him this handicap to save me some face.”
Ryan sighed. There was just no convincing Brandon, for once he had made his choice, he would become childishly stubborn and defend his choice no matter what. He had tried several times to convince Brandon the abandon the D-ranks but to no avail.
Besides, Ryan wasn’t sure if cannon fodder would even affect their target in any way. There’s no stopping him from simply turning invisible and avoiding them altogether. As far as he knew, none of them had the ability to see through invisibility, which could spell the failure of this entire mission.
“Sigh. Why did I promise to come? I wasn’t thinking straight. Then there’s the A-ranked master too… Brandon, you sure we can’t turn back?”
“What? Of course not, we came all this way! If you’re so worried, you can sit this one out.”
Ryan slapped his reptilian forehead. “That’s exactly what I did last time, and look how it all turned out.”
He then pinched his nose in frustration. “It’s fine. I’ll fight too. But before you get too cocky again, let me tell you, this probably isn’t going to be easy.”
“What are you talking about? If both of us fight together, there’s no way that cheater could defeat us, even if he did cheat.” Brandon turned around to look at the D ranks still trying to scale the mountain. “We even have more people now too! There’s definitely no—Man they are slow! This is gonna take forever!”
“I’m glad you finally noticed.”
It was just as Brandon said, it did take forever. Scaling down the mountain wasn’t much better, and there were even times when Ryan had to jump in and save those who have stumbled. By the time they reached the bottom of the mountain, it was close to noon, which meant it took them nearly five hours. Ryan only grew more and more depressed as the hours crawled by.
Out of all the D-ranked adventurers, only a single one stood out to him, and it was the middle-aged man with the monocle. It was the person who had convinced Brandon to let the ever else join them, and although he wasn’t physically fit, he still left a favorable impression on him.
That was because while all the other adventurers complained and whined throughout the entire journey, this gentleman did not, and even cracked a few jokes and told a few stories that managed to get him to laugh. That was enough for Ryan.
‘It would be a shame to leave this man as cannon fodder, but he still has to pay for our protection. All of them do.’
The man with the monocle was currently tending to those that got a few scrapes and bruises from the long journey. From a glance, one could see that he was a compassionate gentleman, but Ryan had his doubts. That man was the one that saddled him with all these burdens in the first place, after all.
Ryan sighed once more.
‘If only they had at least once C-rank!’
If the group had a single C-rank, Ryan would be a little more ready to accept this position. The difference between C-ranks and D-ranks is like the difference between a fighter and an ordinary person. One can help while the other needed help.
D-ranks were pretty much normal people with abilities a little more suited to adventuring, or fighting, compared to others. They really aren’t all that special, and there was a good reason why they had been barred entry to the Kelekona mountains in the first place. They likely wouldn’t even survive the journey itself.
“Damn… These guys are nothing but cannon fodder…” Ryan glanced worriedly at the adventurer camps gathered around the barrier.
“I hope this goes smoothly…”