It had been two weeks since Deon the Virtuous Guard got lost in the Fallen Wyvern’s Keep. No— he didn’t even think he was in that former Dungeon anymore. He stood in a labyrinth that trembled and moved around him, its passages shifting and the walls vanishing. There were runes etched onto the rock surface that glimmered dimly in the darkness. A luminescent mist swept over the many halls and corridors, hiding in it dangerous monsters he dared not fight.
Things weren’t supposed to be this way. This was supposed to be an easy mission. His partner, Skye the Silver Shade, had convinced him to take this job because it offered a massive reward for the amount of work required. It was a request for a pair of A-ranks to escort some civilian [Farmers] up the Frozar Mountains to a former B-rank Dungeon.
That sounded easy enough, right? The greatest danger came from the creatures lurking the Frozar Mountains. But this area wasn’t a designated region like the B-rank Briar Glen or the A-rank Umbra Swamp. While there were all kinds of monsters hiding in the vast mountain range— there was even an S-rank threat like the yeti, although they were mostly docile— a large majority of them were easy enough for a C-rank to deal with.
There needed to be an incredible amount of luck to run into a monster that was at least B-rank. And even then, avoiding them was easy enough as long as travelers stuck to the already-paved roads. Of course, this mission required Deon and Skye to stray off-road for a few miles. But they were an intelligent duo, and they managed to use their Skills to avoid getting detected by a single monster on their way to their destination.
It was supposed to be smooth sailing from there, but as it turned out, the problem arose when they did arrive here in the Fallen Wyvern’s Keep. Apparently, some [Necromancer] had turned this former Dungeon into a lair. That was when they should have turned back— Skye suggested they did so, but the two civilians were insistent they pressed on. And Deon, in his folly, lived up to his name as the Virtuous Guard and acquiesced.
They descended the floors to the bottom of the former Dungeon, only to stumble into a trap. It was right as they reached the second last floor, they noticed something amiss with the flooring. There were invisible runes etched into the stone tiles— a kind of protection field of sorts. Skye went to investigate it as Deon waited, keeping watch for any roaming undead. And that was when the entire room around him flashed, and that was how he ended up here.
[You have entered the Dungeon: The Ancient Minotaur’s Labyrinth!]
The blue box had flashed before his eyes before he could even ascertain what happened back then. But he saw the name of the Dungeon— he recognized the name of that monster.
It was an S-rank beast straight from legend. Not a natural creature by any means. Rather, one that was created by the most powerful [Fleshweavers] and [Golem Makers] at the time of the Grand Nova Empire when the Elder Dragons had ruled all of Vacuos.
A synthetic being. An artificial creature. It could never die— not from old age nor from damage. Its flesh would regenerate as long as a little bit of its body remained. And Deon was certain that this healing factor made it as dangerous as even an SS-rank threat, despite being lower-leveled.
It came with the mist, moving throughout the labyrinth like a machine, even ten thousand years after it was created. He always felt its presence thanks to his [Sentinel’s Senses]. He even saw it coming, noticing the white curtain of death encroaching on him, before he ran away as fast as he could. Each time, he barely escaped with his life. But after two weeks, his luck was finally going to end.
He felt it coming again. Its powerful presence drew closer, and his heart hammered in his chest. The labyrinth shifted, and he tried to escape. But he was caught in its moving rooms. The exit he was running for slammed shut before his very eyes. And now he was trapped.
The icy cold veil gathered around him, and he heaved slowly. He tightly grasped onto his diamond-encrusted halberd as his sweat dripped down onto his heavy plate armor. He turned stiffly, facing the figure hiding amidst the mist.
He waited for a moment. He listened and heard the footsteps. He saw the looming shadow move closer towards him, and he closed his eyes. This was it. It was over. There was no more running. He leapt into the mist, yelling as he raised his halberd.
“I will not go down without a fight— [Cleaving Diamond Crusher]!” His weapon shone, cutting through the mist. He slashed down with all his might as the figure in the mist shifted.
Deon knew it would be over quickly. But if he could even land a single blow, he would be satisfied with himself. But the halberd suddenly stopped. His attack dissipated, the flash of light shooting past the shadow. He blinked as a finger emerged from the mist, poking him hard on the head.
He recoiled and stumbled back, losing grip of his weapon. Blinking, he stared at the figure in the mist. As the veil peeled back. And he saw a brown-haired woman standing there, clutching the bladed edge of his halberd in one hand, while poking out using a single finger with her other hand.
“What are you doing?” she asked.
His eyes grew wide as he processed what just happened. “You…”
She tilted her head, tossing his halberd aside. And he frowned.
“Who the hell are you?!”
“I should be the one asking you that,” she said flatly.
Amelia was gone.
Noele watched as her mentor vanished, taken by a teleportation field. The blonde girl didn’t know where the spell led to— if the other side was even within the Frozar Mountains— and she had no time to investigate to find where the runic inscriptions were hidden to dissect them. She didn’t even have time to think, hearing the clamor of undead rush down the stairs towards the second floor.
Even worse still was the annoying voice that protested defensively, despite the situation they were in.
“I didn’t mean to do it!” Saros said as he gesticulated wildly. “I just— I thought…”
“That’s enough,” Noele cut him off, drawing her blade.
She eyed the stairway leading up— the footfalls echoed like a raging thunderstorm in the distance. The booming shaking the entirety of the Fallen Wyvern’s Keep. There had to be thousands of undead heading their way. Maybe even tens of thousands of them.
The first rank of undead emerged, and she pointed.
“[Grand Blaze].” The Noble Spellsword unleashed a plume of golden flames that engulfed them entirely. “They’re skeleton knights and skeleton! E-rank threats— they shouldn’t be too difficult to deal with!”
She dashed backwards as Saros blinked. The golden flames incinerated a hundred of them in an instant, with the residual flames catching and lighting up the rest that poured down the stairway. The entire chamber shook as the gnome clicked his tongue.
Noele conjured a golden fireball with her [Grand Blaze], The Skill was no longer a single-use attack. Rather, it depended on the intensity of the blast. If she created a small firebolt, she could’ve repeated it thousands of times before finally expending all of the Skill. But if she conjured a massive fireball, she could have used it all at once.
She wasn’t going to create the biggest attack she could, but she waited for more of the undead to fill the room as a tremor continued to rumble. Before she could unleash the attack, Saros pointed her way with a scroll.
“Greater Scroll of Dispel Magic!” he called out, and Noele blinked as the flames winked out of existence. “Stop! You’re going to collapse the entire castle!”
“What…?” She stared at the gnome, in utter shock.
For a single moment, she thought he was actively trying to sabotage her. The blonde girl thought he was the [Necromancer] behind all this. But then she saw the shaking— the way dust crumbled from the ceiling as the Fallen Wyvern’s Keep struggled to hold the weight of the mass of charging zombies.
Finally, she sighed and held a sword high as a pair of skeleton knights reached her. The Noble Spellsword closed her eyes and whispered.
And as the two skeleton knights swung out with their rusty blades, her body ignited into flames. Their swords immediately melted from the heat, and their fists burst into flame. Noele stepped past them as they collapsed into a pile of burning bones behind her, without her even raising a hand.
“I take it back,” she said as she walked towards the horde of undead. “Amelia was right— we shouldn’t let you keep any of the rewards.”
The gnome paused. He watched as she charged forward, tearing apart a rank of skeleton knights with a single slash.
He scratched his cheek sheepishly. “That’s… probably fair.”
And then he joined her in battle.
I stared at the man kneeling before me. He had his head lowered, practically touching the ground as he apologized profusely.
“I am so sorry!” he said through gritted teeth. “This was my mistake! I thought you were the minotaur so I foolishly attacked you without thinking!”
I narrowed my eyes and looked down at myself. “Do I look that bad? I know I haven’t done my makeup in over ten years, but still, that must be a bit of an exaggeration.”
“What? No— that’s not what I meant!” He looked up with his jaw held wide open. He tried to apologize once again. “I would never insult the appearance of a fine warrior such as yourself!”
“That was a joke. You don’t have to keep apologizing.” I crossed my arms, and he blinked. “Now, get up. What’s going on? Where are we? Who are you?”
He hurriedly nodded and scrambled to stand up. He cleared his throat, facing me with his hands on his side at attention.
“I am an A-rank adventurer who was here on an escort mission—”
“I don’t need your full introduction,” I cut him off simply. “Just answer the questions.”
He paused, shoulders sagging slightly in confusion. Slowly, he nodded and started again. “I am D—”
“I said: just answer the questions.” I glared at him, and he flinched.
“Trapped! Ancient Minotaur’s Labyrinth! Deon!” he said quickly.
“Good.” I gave him an approving look. “And where’s this labyrinth at?”
He straightened. “We’re deep beneath the Fallen Wyvern’s Keep. I believe this Dungeon was buried long before the dwarves even got here. I am unsure how it was uncovered or why that teleportation spell even led us here. I just know that we have to reach the center of the labyrinth to escape.”
I frowned. “How do you know that?”
“I… that’s what I heard about in stories.” Deon scratched the back of his head.
“So you don’t know shit,” I said dryly.
He just lowered his head in embarrassment. Honestly, I was probably being too brusque with him. But I was starting to get worried about Noele. I knew she was an A-rank adventurer who could handle herself just fine, but if something like that yeti showed up again, she wouldn’t be able to fend it off.
“Well, I’m not going to waste time doing that. I’m going to bust our way out.” I looked up towards the ceiling, raising my sword.
But Deon’s eyes grew wide. “You can’t do that!”
“Why not?” I stared at the ceiling.
“Look at these walls— the ceiling and the floor too. Do you see those runes? If you do break them, you’ll collapse everything around us! Not just the labyrinth’s walls, but the Fallen Wyvern’s Keep and the mountain above it too! We will be buried under an entire mountain of rubble!”
I paused, pursing my lips. I didn’t think Noele could survive that, even if I could get through it just fine. I lowered my blade as I sighed.
“That is a bit annoying. So we just have to search through all the passages to get out, right?”
“Yes.” Deon nodded grimly as I swept my gaze over the surroundings. I stepped forward and reached out for him. “It will probably take us weeks— months even— before we find the exit… what are you doing?”
He blinked as I picked him up. I eyed the A-rank adventurer, holding him in my arms. I smiled at him kindly.
“Try not to scream too much,” I said.
“Scream?” Deon furrowed his brows. “Why would I scream—”
Before he could finish, I sprinted forward. I sped down the corridor as fast as I could, passing through entire rooms in a single instant. I circled around the labyrinth, even as it moved and shifted. I covered every single inch of this transforming maze, searching for the way out, leaving behind a blurred image of my trail in my tracks.
And Deon? He screamed, of course. A lot.
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