“Hey, Iris,” I greeted the Alder Corporation’s… CEO? President? I didn’t actually know what the equivalent here was. “I have a lot of questions.”
“I’m sure you do,” she said. Iris turned to the adventuring party, addressing them with her next words. “One moment. This is the external factor I informed you of. I understand you need resources, but you will need to wait a bit.”
“Got it, boss,” a boy a little younger than me said. A level 1 [Moon Cleric], by the looks of it. “We can wait as long as we need to.”
“Not too long, please?” a girl—a [Time Mage], this one—the same age added.
“Of course not,” Iris said. “Now if you’ll excuse us, I’d like to maintain some level of discretion when meeting with my partners.”
The four of them took the hint and exited the dungeon, walking just a bit beyond the boundary so that they wouldn’t be able to hear Iris if she didn’t speak too loudly.
“These adventurers are freshies,” I told her. “Didn’t you say that they were coming from another dungeon town?”
“They were in training for much of their time there,” Iris said. “By the time the dungeon broke, they still hadn’t cleared anything beyond its first room.”
I winced. “Their composition is so good, too…”
“It is,” Iris said. “As with anything, they need more training and more experience.”
“That aside,” I said, “how in the hell did you create such an expansive settlement in, what, twelve hours?”
“Closer to nine, actually,” Iris said, preening. “A more comprehensive build will come in the following days, weeks, and months. This is just the most basic setup, really.”
“And how did you manage that?” I asked. “It’s quite impressive.”
Even with my [Reshape], it would take me a while. Without much wood to work with inside the dungeon and without great wood manipulation skills beyond [Create Door], some of the settlement was actually beyond my reach to replicate. That said, I could probably recreate the brick buildings with rock, but still. It was an accomplishment.
“It’s standard for the Alder Corporation,” Iris said. “I have one of the world’s best [Artificer]s with me. He creates advanced technology that assists in the creation, and in combination with the [Fabricator] that we brought in and my support abilities as a [Tactician], creating simple buildings is trivial.”
“Interesting,” I said. “I’m not familiar with what [Tactician] does. Never saw it at the Guild.”
“It is very useful in times of war and times of peace,” Iris said. “Not much so for adventuring. As the kingdom is officially never at war, I have not utilized it in combat for decades now.”
That was new to me. I’d known there were classes that weren’t suited to adventuring directly—[Blacksmith], the aforementioned [Fabricator], and others like them—but I hadn’t seen a class meant for war like [Tactician] before. I wanted to ask how she’d gotten it, but I had more pertinent questions right now.
“Good to know,” I said, dropping the levity from my voice. “I do have something I need to discuss with you.”
“Go ahead,” Iris said, raising an eyebrow. “You seem serious about what you’re about to say, whatever it is.”
“What do I get out of our deal?” I asked. “Yeah, more people come by, and that’s always nice to have more adventurers coming here, but I can’t help but notice that I don’t get anything else.”
“You didn’t name any terms,” Iris said. “It was your first meeting, however, and I may prove amenable to other requests you have. If they exit the boundaries of reason, however, I will have to deny them.”
Don’t get magnanimous with me, I thought. It wasn’t like I had the weaker negotiating position here.
“I’m looking at it like this,” I said. “The dungeon provides a lot of loot. Sure, I can’t use any of it, but I can tell it to stop giving loot or give it less.”
“I won’t deny that,” Iris said. “If there wasn’t already enough coin in circulation, I would fear that this dungeon would destabilize the economy around these parts.”
“You know how much comes out?”
“I have my sources.”
That was a little unnerving, but it checked out. “What I’m saying here is that all the power is on my end. I don’t lose anything if I stop opening the dungeon.”
“You’d lose Rose’s companionship,” Iris said, her eyes boring into mine.
I didn’t react. I could recognize a barbed comment when I heard one, and I wasn’t going to let her provoke me off that.
“The only way I’d lose M-1 is if you stop them,” I said. “Which, remarkable shittiness of the idea aside, is unlikely. On the other hand, you’d lose however many tens of thousands would be coming out of this dungeon.”
I knew those words were a mistake from the moment they left my mouth. Thanks to my dungeon senses, I could register the ever-so-slight twitch in Iris’ mouth, the tiny shift in her posture.
Was that an underestimate? An overestimate?
“Roughly that, yes. Accomodations can be arranged,” Iris said. “Name your terms, and I will evaluate them.”
Underestimate. Fuck. She’d regained just a bit of confidence, which most likely meant she thought I was undervaluing my dungeon. If I’d overestimated, she almost definitely would’ve pressed the point, since as the leader of a corporation she was seeking profit.
Well, at least I’d caught that. If she started to deny my requests, I could bring it up.
“First,” I said, “the dungeon needs building material.”
“Your communication with it,” Iris replied. “It seeks more?”
“That’s what I interpreted it as, yes,” I said. “Wood, brick, steel, glass, all that.”
“I can arrange for those four,” Iris said. “So long as the quantities are reasonable, I can arrange for most materials.”
“If it needs more beyond those four, you better believe I’m sending you a list,” I said.
“That works,” Iris easily agreed.
Not a problem there, huh? I supposed that it was easier to get rare materials when you had a kingdom-spanning corporation.
“Second,” I said. “I need security.”
“Security?” That question actually caught her off guard. She was able to avoid breaking her facade of calmness, but I caught the momentary shift in her features as the businesswoman received the question. “What for?”
“I don’t know if you’ve noticed,” I said, deadpan, “but there’s been a rather marked increase in Kingsguard activity.”
“I’ve had three incursions into this dungeon,” I said. “The dungeon’s been helping fight them off, but I’m still risking my life every time. If you’re going to profit off this place, I’d like to take comfort in the idea that nothing will sneak up on me and stab me in the middle of the night.”
“We can post guards outside the dungeon,” she said. “There’s a safe room that I had intended to set up services in, but your presence invalidates them. I can have them posted outside that.”
“Have them inside,” I said. “There’s been cases in which something has teleported straight into that room. I don’t want guards to come here after something’s already inside the dungeon.”
Iris hid a wince. “That’s… also doable.”
Also, it’ll clue me into whether they’re Kingsguard.
“Thank you,” I said. “There may be more terms, but that should be it for now.”
She looked faintly relieved to me, and though I couldn’t tell if that was my imagination or not, it made me think that I hadn’t pushed her far enough.
“For now, would you like to have the party run the dungeon?” Iris asked. “I can make arrangements in the meantime.”
I nodded. “Let’s do it.”
When I’d told Iris that the party composition of the four level 1s had been good, I hadn’t been lying. They were all around the same age—sixteen, seventeen, maybe? Definitely on the younger end of adventurers. Even with that in mind, though, they shouldn’t have been stuck at level 1.
The two boys—the [Moon Cleric] and a [Swashbuckler]—covered the healer, blaster, support, scout, and striker roles. The girls, who had the [Time Mage] and [Arcane Archer] classes, respectively, covered utility, battlefield control, damage output, and ranged attack roles. While there were gaps that could’ve been filled by a fifth party member, they had super solid coverage.
That meant that there was probably something else that was stoppign them. Whether that was inexperience or incompetence, they hadn’t leveled up despite apparently attempting a dungeon before. Hopefully, I could change that.
“Welcome, everyone!” I said, giving them a sweeping wave. “This is the Ketz Dungeon—well, that’s what it’s called for now, there’s no true name yet—and I’m Lucas, your tour guide!”
“Nice to meet you, Lucas,” the [Swashbuckler] said, stepping forward and extending his hand.
I shook it. “Are you ready to begin? And could I get your names?”
“I’ve got my arrows,” the [Arcane Archer] said. “We’re ready.”
“All of our skills are set,” the [Moon Cleric] added. “I’d declare us prepared.”
“I can handle this,” the [Time Mage] said.
“It’s Arthur,” the [Swashbuckler] said, tapping the knives at his belt. “Sorry about the rest of the party. Let’s go.”
Well, there’s problem one. Aside from the fact that three of them had just straight up ignored my request for their names, the party wasn’t cohesive at all. I didn’t want to directly comment on their attitudes now, since they probably wouldn’t take me seriously if I brought it up before they even saw any monsters, but each of them was trying to take the leadership role in some way or another. None of them were considering the rest of their party as equals.
That wouldn’t lead anywhere good.
I tried for a more indirect approach instead, talking as I showed them the way through the first tunnel. “This is a challenging dungeon. It’ll test your own abilities as well as your ability to cooperate. Working well with your team and maintaining good communication with them is critically important to clearing any adventure unharmed, and this dungeon is no exception.”
“Got it, boss,” Arthur the [Swashbuckler] said.
“Can we hurry it up?” the [Moon Cleric] asked. He was a redhead, I saw, and he really pulled off the ‘annoyed teenager’ look. I wondered what his deal was.
“We’re just about to enter the first room,” I told him.
I opened the door, revealing the sculpted snake statues and the trapped path that lay ahead. For this run, I toned down the air vents and the number of earth constructs. Air cannons turned into pressurized cans of heavy wind and nine constructs became three.
“This room is dangerous,” I started, preparing to launch into my monologue. “Beware of—“
The four of them took off, each of them sprinting in a different direction. Two of them made to go towards the sculptures that had snakes slithering on them for some reason—well, I supposed there were coins and daggers hidden there, so they weren’t entirely wrong if they were loot-chasing—and the other two went towards the door.
“Or just piss off without saying anything,” I muttered.
No fucking wonder these guys were still level 1.
“Be careful!” I yelled. “You don’t know—“
They were being anything but, so it didn’t surprise me when I heard the hiss of an air vent activating, tossing the [Time Mage] into the air. At the exact same moment, the [Swashbuckler] slid to a stop as the room’s only three earth constructs rose from the ground in front of him.
Mana tinged with an unusual flavor flashed in the air, the [Time Mage] executing a [Minor Redo], and then the blonde-haired girl flickered. A moment later, she reappeared in the same position she’d been in just a second or two ago, feet firmly planted on the ground.
Meanwhile, the [Swashbuckler] was activating his own spell, initiating a [Duel]. From the feel of the mana, he was gaining a decent speed and strength boost against a single chosen enemy, which in this case was one of the constructs in front of him. To his credit, he was hurting it pretty badly.
At the sides of the room, the [Moon Cleric] and [Arcane Archer] were dealing with the snakes that had started slithering out from the sculptures that they’d been fishing around in.
They were engaging in the dumbest way possible. The [Moon Cleric] had burned his [Moonlit Clarity], a powerful support spell that significantly strengthened the body both offensively and defensively on himself, and he was beating at a handful of snakes with his staff. On the other hand, the [Arcane Archer] was killing the snakes with extreme precision, but every shot she fired was a [Exploding Arrow] when a regular arrow would’ve done. Each hit was massive overkill, reducing the snakes to ashes instead of just killing them and letting them fade back into the ground.
I massaged my temples with my hands.
This tour isn’t going to last very long.
At least none of them needed my healing.
I watched as they wasted more and more resources. The [Time Mage] used a second [Minor Redo] when a snake bit her, not even asking for a heal, and the [Swashbuckler] apparently was out of [Duel] uses after successfully downing the first construct.
As for the other two, the [Moon Cleric] had managed to kill a fair amount of snakes and find some of the loot hidden in the sculptures’ mouths, but he’d done it at the cost of two more [Moonlit Clarity] usages and his own [Healing Word]s. The [Arcane Archer] had probably used her role the most effectively, eventually realizing that the constructs probably warranted her [Exploding Arrow]s more.
Even after all three constructs went down, they kept going. Both primary casters used more mana, activating a [Detect Monsters] on the [Time Mage]’s part and a [Moonbeam] that I knew was a once-a-day type of deal at level 1 from the [Moon Cleric]. Both martial fighters wore themselves out chasing down the remaining snakes.
I hadn’t said another word. They hadn’t noticed.
At length, the room was clear. Every air vent had been triggered, every single snake killed, and then they were searching the room for loot. That took another ten minutes in itself as they examined every nook and cranny of the place, jostling for chances to look in and around every sculpture and crack in the ground. That made… twelve coins? I hadn’t hid all that much in this room.
By the time they were done, I could feel that at least one of them was on the cusp of a level-up, but I was pretty sure they were fresh out of mana to the last.
“Hey!” I called out, finally catching their attention. “I’d like to talk to you a bit about how you cleared that room.”
They did at least respect me enough to gather together to listen to me, so that was nice.
“That,” I said, “was fucking embarrassing.”
Support "Dungeon Tour Guide: A Dungeon Core LitRPG"
furball tiger ago
lol. Kids, can't stand 'em, can't drown 'em, ...well, actually. Huh. 😀 (jk) (maybe )
“You are collectively as bad at working together as I am at negotiating with Iris. The difference is, when I screw up, I get a raw deal until we can renegotiate. When you screw up, you are all dead.”
On that note, he has a much stronger negotiating position than he thinks. He doesn’t need much beyond social interaction since the dungeon sustains him. He can go on strike and there isn’t much she can do besides trying to bar people from visiting. He doesn’t have to be the heavy here, but he shouldn’t act intimidated by her.
He... Pretty clearly knows all that and hasn't acted intimidated in the slightest?
It’s the unreliable narrator aspect which makes me think he has more tells than he thinks. He dramatically underestimated the profit this dungeon can bring her. He has made it pretty clear that he sees himself as a peer of Rose (and his apparent age lines up with that). That implicitly puts her in a position of authority over him.
He may have surprised her by asking for protection, but I am a little suspicious of that because Kingsguard + any discussion of Anderson with her daughter would make it clear that’s one of the few areas where he obviously needs help. Better for her if he thinks that he can surprise her: him underestimating her means she can keep taking advantage of his naïveté. He cut off his demands after two things, both of which are things she directly benefits from as well.
He ends by thinking that he could have asked for more, but even having prepared to try to negotiate, that was all he came up with. He can definitely go for more: he needs to figure out what he wants.
He could have asked for more, but that was all he wanted. It means next time he has something to ask for, he doesn't need to put too much thought into further incentives or threats.
public username ago
Considering the assimilation thing I’d ask for a few monster samples that would be of great use for the dungeon. No need to worry about getting the right ones through luck if you can just ask
If his assimilation ability becomes known to the guild his threat assessment is going to skyrocket. Into "too dangerous to allow continued existence" territory.
Andragon Lea ago
Well, no. That's not exactly true. Do keep in mind that she's heavily influential and has control over a multi-nation trading corp.
Depending on how much money she's willing to spend she can do anything from completely barring people from visiting his dungeon (which, while not fatal or anything, would probably be exceedingly boring) to influencing major decision makers to declare the dungeon a public risk and having it destroyed.
She could also easily have every adventurer that enters her little town informed that the dungeon guide is a malicious entity that ought o be ignored or killed.
While it is highly unlikely she would do any of those things if she has any morals or interest in the long-term gains of the dungeon, if she does decide it's a lost cause or gets angry enough, she might do some things they'd both regret... One more briefly than the other.
People have cut off their noses to spite someone else before, after all.
I mean, I suppose any contract negotiation could technically include one side attempting to murder the other side. It is possible Iris could be so offended by his deciding to stand up for himself that she exercises a nuclear option. I think it is unlikely, given the demonstration of sentience, but the MC hasn’t made real efforts to find out what rights he has.
The problem with his negotiating strategy is that now that they have figuratively shook on it, any further demands on his side are going to face an uphill struggle or be met with counterdemands from Iris. It was why I was shaking my head several chapters ago when he said “I don’t need money”. If he had been taking money then, it becomes a resource he can trade off for things he does want (such as those new materials). Iris definitely seems like the sort to take advantage of generosity.
Miles Sand ago
The resulting war would be hilarious. Actually, I'm not sure what she could do to him if he closed off the dungeon and focused on assimilating a narrow path to elsewhere for a while
Andragon Lea ago
Yeah, that was a bit of a dumb move. Even if he needs no money, he could've negotiated to have her act as his agent with the money he can't spend personally.
Let her be his Amazon Prime, so to speak.
Thomas Lawless ago
That meant that there was probably something else that was stoppignstopping them.
admonishment is okay if you just want to mock them but dont succumb to being a lifecoach please. if they burn out all their ressources on stage 1, just let them crash. he has tips and tricks to clearing a dungeon if they ask and the setting is appropriate but if someone is too stupid for it, just lean back and enjoy the show. he has no obligation to anyone to clear the dungeon or nag at them if someone doesnt want to listen.
Better for the wasted talent to die early before they become a linchpin that kills more people relying on them.
Better still to have said talent live up to itself, or retire before the aforementioned occurrence.
Yeah I really hope he doesn't baby people too much. If they insist on being twats and don't want to listen, and don't turn back when they are clearly wasted, then let them bash their heads into the wall, let them bleed, and if they just won't stop either toss them out on their arse or, if they're on the unguided tour, let them die. Keep the rooms at the level-appropriate setting, if it turns out to be too much for the party because they act like idiots that's on them.
Thanks for the chapter. I have a feeling this new group will be great for comedic relief.