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1.52% Rupegia / Chapter 3: Royd's Kerfuffle

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Chapter 3: Royd's Kerfuffle

I'm not really shocked, you know? My "Sanity" didn't go down so I guess this is proof I'm adapting to the situation. It also didn't go up, so I guess this is my limit. I'm just fated to remain half-sane in this shitty world.

Being introduced to magic and monsters so abruptly certainly shocked me and didn't help with my mental state. Though the biggest shock I had so far was the message from God. It was incredibly cryptic and suspicious, but there's nothing I can do about it besides dealing with it and moving on.

Oh wait, it's morning already? Did I sleep? I don't remember sleeping, so maybe I just fainted and then suddenly woke up.

My thoughts are drifting endlessly, preventing me from reflecting upon anything important. I simply can't focus because my mind is swimming with the possibilities.

It's like I'm living inside an isekai novel. There are so many tropes being thrown at me that I can just predict what's going to ha-…

I hear a knock on the door, then a female voice says, "Breakfast is ready!"

That must be the innkeeper's daughter. She's a really cute girl with blonde hair in a ponytail and a very feminine small face. She seems to be very bubbly and kind, and she looks like she's my age, by that I mean this-world-age, not original-world-age. She has a brother, and they kinda look like twins. I've caught a few patrons and even myself staring at her absentmindedly. She's just a bright spirit. But did she notice us? She always comes to us with a warm smile, ma-…

No, wait, I can't run from this, I need to finish that train of thought. I can predict some developments about my reason for being here and what could happen next. Ciel said that the God of Creation is not in this cycle, so the God of Destruction must've followed him, and because of that, this realm is more or less stable. This means that if in the future The God of Creation comes back, or if something calls his or the God of Destruction's attention, then shit will hit the fan.

So, I think I need to prepare and get stronger while not messing with the balance of this world. But am I really supposed to be a "hero"? The message that God sent me is suspicious, why not tell the reason I'm sent here? Why apologize? Did something go wrong? Was I not supposed to come here? I guess that doesn't really matter in the end. In the isekai stories, a "hero" is sent for whatever bullshit reason just to create a story. It's used as an impetus to return to the previous world or save the current world, but in the end, the "why" doesn't matter, what matters is what I do next.

There are too many possibilities and zero answers or evidence. The best I can do is simply prepare while trying to keep the balance of the world. There's a possibility that I might have to fight the Monster King, so information on him is essential.

The possibility of a realm transfer is another thing I need more information on. Maybe my original world is part of this cycle, so it might be best for me to raise my "Piety" and communicate with a humanoid god.

Lastly, there's a possibility that this is all just an ultra-realistic VR game. If I die, will I return to Earth? Well… there's just no way to test that, so I think I should ignore this line of thinking.

Now, let's get back to the present. Training at the hunter's guild is going to take a long time to yield results, so I want to enter Royd's Kerfuffle to gain a few levels. Those skill points can turn me into a master swordsman whenever I want, so I need levels more than anything right now. But before I leave town, I'm going to buy some equipment and supplies, then take a look at the dungeoneering guild for tools.

--

Today breakfast is a simple vegetable soup with a small piece of mutton and some sweet bread. Honestly, it's kinda nice.

After eating, I go to the Crafter's Corner. Walking around town is rather tiring. I wasn't sedentary before, but I'm not used to this amount of exercise. Yesterday I fought until I collapsed, so my muscles are still a little bit sore. Maybe I should rest, but I can't stay still due to my anxiety. I need a stable source of income before I can relax properly.

I see a few pieces of Gray Berserker leather armor on the market. They're, unsurprisingly, gray, and they're three gold pieces each. It seems expensive, but considering how that bear is known for being tough, I decide to part with my money. I get a jacket and pants.

There are more expensive pieces, like Hell Wyvern, Kite Dragon, troll, ogre, and Dragon Lord, but I feel like this one should do for a small dungeon. I let the merchant appraise my armor and he tells me that it's made from Hobgoblin. It's a good low-budget armor, but it doesn't last long, so an adventurer shouldn't bet their life on it.

After observing the merchant, I switch my skills to Armor and [Weapon Appraisal]. There are two forms of appraisal, [Appraise] or [Appraisal Eyes]. The former is the more common method, but it's flashy and I don't want people to know I'm using it. The latter shows me the information of the equipment on a black screen after I stare at it for a few seconds, though it continuously consumes mana, so I can only use it for a very short time.

With 10 points in Appraisal, it seems that it only shows me the "Material" and "Quality" info of the equipment. There are still a few instances of "???" on each equipment.

I choose a "high" quality steel one-handed sword with the same design as my current one, which is made of iron. I also choose a "high" quality small round shield made of iron, it's painted entirely in black color. I'll use this shield by holding a handle instead of strapping it to my arm so that I have more flexibility with it. Finally, I pick a pair of Hobgoblin leather mittens, a Hobgoblin cap, the cheapest bow, a quiver, and twenty arrows.

Even if I don't know how to use a bow yet, I can put some points in archery once I level up. All of this costs me three gold. I see much more "fashionable" versions of the same equipment I'm buying, but they cost a lot more, of course.

I notice that good padding is quite expensive, and most of it comes from monster fur. It seems like cotton is comparatively weak in comparison to the more durable stuff. I don't have much money left, so I'll have to go with cheap padding for now. Hopefully, it won't hurt much.

Then I go look for supplies like blankets, cloth, cutlery, plates, bowls, rope, lantern, food that's easy to eat, spare clothes, whetstone, and finally, oil for equipment maintenance. There is straw pail for use as toilet paper, but it seems like even children are trained to learn [Conjuring Magic] and [Light Magic] level 1. With that, they can use the [Conjure Water] and [Clean] spells to clean themselves after heeding the call of nature. I guess this is what the entrance guard meant when he said I had no "life skills."

I also buy a few of the lowest-grade health, mana, and antidote potions. They aren't for use during combat since they only act after five minutes and work up to thirty minutes. I notice that the HP and MP potions have a small shine to them, so I guess that the standard way of knowing if something is magical or not in this world is to see if it shines.

Then I go to the dungeoneering guild for tools for the expedition. All adventurers need items that keep them safe from monsters while they sleep, eat, or answer the call of nature, especially if they're alone. The most common item is scented candles to keep monsters away, but there's the danger of the wind snuffing them while someone sleeps, which would make them vulnerable to being attacked while sleeping, so at least a [Monster Repellent] magic tool is necessary. This magic tool is a crystal that uses mana to reproduce the effect of a scented candle, so there's no risk of it being snuffed out, but the downside is that it's more expensive and requires mana to recharge. To use it I need to put 1 point into [Mana Control], then I can turn it on or off, or recharge it.

Another important tool is the Escape Bomb. It's a more concentrated version of the scented candle and it's used to run away from monsters. The seller tells me it stinks horribly, so I should throw it on the monster or the ground and not on myself if I don't want to pass out from the smell.

Then there are the [Proximity Warning] crystals. Thieves occasionally prey on adventurers, so monsters aren't the only danger in a dungeon. If I'm going to sleep inside the dungeon alone, then I need something to warn me if something or someone is getting close.

And finally, I buy the map of the ten first floors of Royd's Kerfuffle. I don't plan on going to the eleventh floor anytime soon.

The stone and crystals were expensive, five gold total, but it's something I'll never have to buy again.

A huge hole opened in my funds, and more than half of my gold coins are gone. I still have the rose coin, but I have no idea what is the exchange rate to gold coins. I'm also afraid to exchange it because I still haven't seen anyone use it, so I might get scammed. Perhaps another day I should go to the merchant guilds or bankers and see if there's a place for money exchange.

The dungeoneering books mentioned that Space magicians normally ferry people between the dungeons entrances and the town. I noticed a few huts spread around town with "[Gate] services" written above the entrance, so I guess that's where I can get a teleport. But teleportation gets more expensive depending on the contents of your [Item Box], so I don't wanna expose that I have nothing in my [Item Box] to random people. It's suspicious to walk around without an [Item Box] because this spell seems to be another thing that everyone learns when they're a child so that they can at least carry coins in it.

I don't think everybody has level 20 [Space Magic], so it must be possible to learn spells before you have the required level. Must be why the [Item Box] starts small and why magicians are normally the ones that carry the most supplies. Even if the magician isn't an offensive one, the dungeoneering book always recommends having one just for the [Item Box]. They're basically pack mules.

I don't wanna hire a magician yet, so I'll go to the dungeon on foot with the crude map that I got from the dungeoneering guild. It shows me that the Sea of Trees is to the south of the town, the farms are to the north, and to the northwest is the entrance to the dungeon. It takes one hour on foot, so I'm going to arrive there around two hours before noon.

--

I put all my points in [Space Magic] so that I can use [Item Box], then I put my silver and copper coins, and some things like the sleeping bag and some food into it.

I walk to the west gate, the same one that I came in from, then I start customs. I show my ID and the guard at the gate uses a crystal ball to read the contents of my [Item Box].

I take a look at his crystal table and see that they at least can't see the number of coins that I have. Looks like it's an anti-smuggling measure. Since trade goods are taxed, they don't let people just put anything they want in their [Item Box] and then travel to wherever.

I don't have to pay for anything because of my adventurer ID. I walk out of town and see a line of multiple wagons with groups of between in between, all waiting to enter the town. Most of the groups seem to be composed of adventurers. It seems like this is quite a busy town.

--

After I'm a little ways away, I put everything back into my "Items" and spec my skills for fast movement and stamina. I have 31 points, so I put them like this:

-

Wolf Ryder Skill Report

Physical

Skill Name: Level | Skill Name: Level | Skill Name: Level

Sword Use: 5+1 | Dodge: 0+1 | Parry : 2+1

Block: 0+1 | Sense Presence: 3+0 | Enhanced Stamina: 5+0

-

Magical

Skill Name: Level | Skill Name: Level | Skill Name: Level

Electric Magic: 5+0 | Nature Magic: 5+0 | Blessing Magic: 10+0

-

Miscellaneous

Skill Name: Level

Andraste Language: 10+0

-

With 10 points in [Blessing Magic], I can use [Swift Foot] on myself, and with [Enhanced Stamina], I can walk much faster without tiring.

--

I enjoy the sights as I follow the cobbled road west. To my right, there are the farms, and to my left, there's the Sea of Trees.

I recognize that most plantations are of beans. The plants are short sprouts, and if you look carefully, you can see the bean pods. Further away I can see water wheels, so there's a river that runs close to the town. I can't see any sheep, so maybe they're deeper in because this area could be in danger being so close to the Sea of Trees. Very, very far away beyond the plantations, I see the snowy peaks of a mountain range. I know that before them there's a valley with quite a few dungeons, so one day I might go there.

On the side of the Sea of Trees, the trees are so tall that I can't even see what's beyond. The area around the town is a plateau surrounded by mountains, but nobody fully mapped the Sea of Trees, so it's unknown what's beyond there.

Soon, the road turns north, which means I'm close to the dungeon.

Far ahead, a small forest starts to peek above the farms, the sign that I'm close to the dungeon. The trees surrounding the dungeon grow fast, so the area is never completely deforested.

As I approach, I see that a small wall surrounds this forest, and a single squad of guards protects the entrance to the small grove in the rare chance a monster comes out of this dungeon.

When I get close, they just nod at me, uninterested in the common adventurer passing by.

Then I finally reach the entrance to Royd's Kerfuffle. It's an ominous black vertical rectangle that glows slightly, a dimensional door. I change my skills towards combat and make them as follow:

-

Wolf Ryder Skill Report

Physical

Skill Name: Level | Skill Name: Level | Skill Name: Level

Sword Use: 5+1 | Dodge: 3+1 | Parry: 0+1

Block: 3+1 | Sense Presence: 5+0

-

Magical

Skill Name: Level | Skill Name: Level | Skill Name: Level

Mana Efficiency: 4+0 | Mana Recovery: 4+0 | Electric Magic: 1+0

Nature Magic: 5+0

-

Miscellaneous

Nothing

-

This way, my main attack is the sword, [Lightning Bolt] is a backup, [Entangling Vines] is for utility, and [Regeneration] for healing.

With that, there's only one choice here, I step inside the black door.

--

I enter an eerie dark room. I can see myself, but I can't see anything else, and there isn't even an exit behind me. As if I opened my "Menu," a small black window appears in front of me. It has only two lines written on it: "1st floor" and "Exit." I choose "1st floor."

A familiar feeling strikes me. Like when I first got transported to this world, the ground vanishes under my feet, then I feel like I'm free-falling, but this time I remain conscious. After a second, the ground reappears under me, then the darkness around me is lifted slowly.

I'm in an empty room with gray square tiles and black seams as the only decoration. There's only one exit out of this room, and behind me, the same ominous black door is present. Every few tiles, there's a small gem that glows faintly, illuminating the dungeon. There are areas and even entire levels without light higher up, so it's another reason to keep on the low levels for now.

There are three types of enemies found here. The first are the goblins, which carry a variety of conjured weapons. These weapons disappear when the caster dies, and most equipment is like that inside dungeons. The goblins are so weak that even a greenhorn like me can take them down in a duel.

The second enemy is the Mandrake, a small walking root that looks like a baby. It'll scream while attacking to disturb the enemy, but it's a very weak monster. Its feet are used for potions or cooking, but the rest of the body isn't valuable. Though, the more mature ones have leaves growing out of their heads that have some value for potions.

The third enemy is the Bush Baby. It's not the animal Bush Baby, but an actual baby-looking monster that has a bush on its head. It's a relative to the Mandrake that doesn't scream. It attacks with piercing vines, and there's a chance to be poisoned by them if the wound is deep enough. It's even less valuable than the Mandrake, but it's more dangerous.

These are the enemies on the first ten floors. They're horrible for making money, but I'm here only to acquire Experience and levels.

It's time to start exploring.

After locating myself on the map, I start walking around the labyrinth while keeping a close watch to it. It'd be very embarrassing to get myself lost in the first dungeon that I've entered. I also don't want to stumble upon one of the stairs to the next level, so I keep near the border of the maze. The size of this floor is actually surprising, it's about half the size of Rabanara.

The mazes in this dungeon are made of multiple corridors and small rooms, with most of them leading to dead ends with a monster waiting, but there's still plenty of paths that I can take to navigate the floor. Occasionally, there's a monster roaming the paths, but they generally don't enter a path that leads to a dead-end, so the dead ends are the most common safe spot for resting after killing the monster waiting there.

--

I detect a goblin with [Sense Presence]. There's no way for me to sneak behind it in these tight corridors, so I decide to face it from the front.

I hear its first footsteps, then it comes around the corner and I wrinkle my nose in disgust. The first thing I notice is that it's naked, and it's a male. He's a green ugly thing around one meter tall yielding a crude spear. He doesn't have any clothes or armor, so his genital is exposed, free to dangle about. I feel sick just looking at him.

Once he notices me, he immediately charges with his spear, but he shows no emotion.

There's no room for hesitation, I have to fight him, to kill him. My sword is shorter than his spear, so I decide to fight cautiously.

He seemingly doesn't know how to use his weapon as he thrusts and keeps moving closer to me, getting into range of my sword. I deflect with my shield, then I counter and the blade sinks into his chest with little resistance.

He drops his spear and tries to grab my sword. I kick him with the sole of my boot and send him backward towards the floor.

He falls on his back and immediately tries to grab his spear again, but it's too late. I chop downwards and my sword gets stuck midway through his skull.

He immediately goes limp, and the red dot in my [Sense Presence] fades away. It's dead.

I use my foot to dislodge my sword and brain matter drips out of the wound.

Fucking hell.

Now there's blood on my boots, but I'll just have to deal with it for now.

That was easy. This sword cuts cleaner than the previous one, so it's like a hot knife through butter. I'm also not so afraid of taking a hit after Toga taught me how to defend myself. The wonders of healing magic may be affecting how I think about wounds, though.

I'm feeling kind of hot with the leather mittens, cap, and pants, but considering how safe I feel, I can't complain.

I cut the ear as proof of extermination and wipe my blade on a piece of cloth. The reward is only five copper if there's no corpse, but I can't really appear with dozens of goblin corpses in my [Item Box]. Appearing with the Gray Berserker might have been a mistake in the first place, and I won't repeat that again so soon. Though, I think that Sonny and Gordon were so happy with the Berserker that they've ignored my strangeness.

In a few minutes, the dungeon will completely reabsorb the goblin corpse, so just leave it behind and move forward.

Another naked goblin appears, this one yielding a dagger. I kill it before it reaches me with a single chop to the head and move on. A second appears soon after, and this time it's a female with small breasts. She also yields a dagger, so I dispatch her with ease.

The gore coupled with the free nudity is making me feel sick.

The fourth goblin appears. It has a spear and a loincloth.

Finally, some decency. But does this mean that he's more experienced?

He charges at me and his spear slides off my shield. I try to counter, but he keeps his distance this time.

Question answered, he really is smarter.

It takes a few hits, but I manage to deflect his spear with my shield in a way that he opens up his guard, so I lunge forward and slash his face.

He falls and tries to bring his spear back, but I put my foot on his arm, then I pierce his heart. With his free hand, he grabs the blade of my sword and his face distorts in pain.

"Grah…" He lets a small moan and dies.

That was odd, the first three didn't show any emotion, but this one did.

I'm getting creeped out by the flashbacks of the goblin drowning in his own blood.

I cut the goblin's ear and quickly move on.

Soon after, I meet another naked goblin, this one with a sword. I try something out and let him hit my shield with, then I riposte and kill him.

The hits don't hurt, but they tire me out. The spear doesn't have much weight behind it, but the sword does. If I want to last in this dungeon, I can't let myself get tired after every fight. Just because I can block, doesn't mean that I know the best way to block.

I wander about without meeting anything for a while, then I finally encounter a Mandrake. It's am ugly thing about half a meter tall, just like the books said.

Immediately after seeing it, I get dizzy and almost fall as my ears get attacked by an extremely high pitched buzzing.

This is fucking terrible I don't want to meet this little shit ever again.

The monster immediately charges, and I can see it pointing its two spear-like arms towards me.

I barely regain my footing in time to desperately slash at it before it collides with me. I feel the sword sliding along its chest, but it doesn't sink as deep as before. Its skin is much tougher than a goblin's.

With the slash, I send it back to the ground, then a greenish, transparent fluid starts pouring out of its chest wound.

The little fucker is tenacious, it immediately gets up again and points its arms towards me. In my rage, I do a savage chop, and my sword gets embedded into its head, then it goes limp.

"You are now level 6," says the familiar female announcer.

--

Haha, what the fuck. I have an ugly baby head in my hand, dripping with green blood.

A sigh escapes my lips.

Fuck this world.

I suck it up and cut off its two ugly distorted yellow feet because they're valuable as ingredients. I open my skill window and I put the 4 points into [Mental Resistance]. This way, the next Mandrake will be more bearable.

I could put those points into [Sword Use], but the benefits seem to be decreasing drastically. Just knowing "how" to swing a sword won't help me if I can't physically swing it the way I want. I have to raise my "Stats" some more, I think.

I continue forward and meet another goblin with a dagger. This time, I try my [Lightning Bolt] on it, and it takes four hits before it dies.

Took too long and used too much mana. I need to put more points into magic before I can use it as a main source of damage.

--

It has been a few hours, so I'm starting to become hungry. I sit down and pull out some meat and vegetable sticks to eat.

Afterward, I heed nature's call. The dungeon absorbs anything you leave around, so it's going to be okay. It's really embarrassing to be so vulnerable in the open like this, but with [Sense Presence], I know when someone is coming.

I temporarily put a point into [Conjuring Magic] and [Light Magic], then I use them to clean myself. It takes one-fourth of my mana, so the mana cost is kinda high.

After moving a good distance away, I decide to sit down and wait for a little until my mana is back to full.

--

While resting, another goblin appears. This one has a loincloth and a sword.

He screams while charging, but his skill can't compare to mine, and I easily decapitate him. I wasn't fully rested, so I change resting places again.

I notice that the enemies are giving less experience than before. I guess I'll have to go to the next floor once I level up.

The next monster is Bush Baby appears. Its vines are long, about three times the length of a spear, so the strategy is to cut the vines multiple times until I can approach it safely. If I rush it, the vines will bend and pierce me from the back.

This monster is quite annoying to deal with. The attacks are fast and start to tire me out. My [Block] isn't good enough, so my body starts hurting from the exertion. It's taking me too long to cut the vines, so I cast [Lightning Bolt] three times, and on the third, it gets stunned.

An opportunity!

I jump forward and cut off the first vine, but the second barely escapes. Now I just have to deal with one vine until its body is in range of my sword.

The vine slams against my shield once and I slash the air, then it slams a second time and I miss again. On the third slam, I get the timing right and cut it off. Now I can reach it with my sword.

I dash towards it, then I slash its head and a long cut appears. It loses its balance, and that's enough of an opening for me, so I chop, and my sword gets stuck midway into its head.

It's a bit of a shame that the leaves got damaged, but I have no time to care for it. I cut off its head and apply [Regeneration] to myself, easing the pain from the tiredness.

I look at my stats and see that the monster did one point of damage to my health. That's rather surprising since it didn't even draw blood.

After a minute, the pain stops and I move on. I go towards the stairs to the next floor because the monsters around it are stronger.

--

Two Mandrakes appear side-by-side.

Fuck.

I think I got a little too confident. Even with [Mental Resistance] I'm just barely able to remain standing up. This is a problematic situation.

I instinctively cast [Lightning Bolt], and it hits one of the monsters, slowing down its charge. The other jumps and aims for my heart with its pointy arms.

Good thing that they're dumb. I just slash at the first one, then the second comes right behind, and it slams against my shield. Its attack packs more punch than the Bush Baby, so I grit my teeth and hold my ground.

The first one falls back due to the push from the slash, and the second one falls on my feet. Feeling the danger, I kick the second one and it flies away a few meters. The little shit is tough as fuck, so the kick hurts my toes.

The first one gets up and jumps again, then I bash its head with my shield. It falls backward on the ground, then I pierce its face with my sword. It wriggles for a few seconds then stops moving.

I look forward and the other Mandrake is mid-jump, so all I can do is block with my shield. The impact makes me step backward, and I lose the grip of my sword that's still stuck on the body of the Mandrake.

This is bad.

I kick the Mandrake again and feel an immense pain on my toes. This time it doesn't fly far.

I cast [Lightning Bolt] twice, and on the second time, it gets stunned. That's enough of an opening for me to get my sword back.

It stops convulsing for a moment, then it starts to move again, but it's too slow. I chop down with all my strength before it can react, and my sword sinks into its skull until it touches the nose.

I dislodge my sword and sit on the ground while trying to avoid looking at all the gore. My head is spinning and my arm is tired from the impact, so I cast [Regeneration] again.

That was brutal. My heart is racing and fear courses through every inch of my body.

Mandrakes are a weak enemy, but two at the same time is no joke. I need to go back near the entrance and keep killing goblins. If it wasn't for my [Mental Resistance], I think I'd be dead by now.

I harvest the enemies and notice something change within me. I open my "Skills" and see that I got [Dismantling] level 1.

That was easy, shouldn't I need to practice more? Or was it because I had already acquired some knowledge through books? Eh, whatever…

--

I hurry back to the entrance and keep killing goblins. After the sixth one I hear, "You are now level 7."

I put all my points into [Sword Use] (now 9+1), then I decide to take a break and rest.

A few minutes later, I get three large hits on my [Sense Presence], but these aren't monsters. Soon enough, I start to hear footsteps, then I see three adventurers coming towards me from down the corridor. I quickly put points in [Andraste Language].

"Oh? Greetings," the man in the front says. He seems young, perhaps slightly older than me. He has neatly combed brown short hair, giving him a refined air. He carries a shiny short sword, a pristine large kite shield, and he's wearing some really-well made black leather armor with thick padding. He seems wealthy.

Beside him, there's a rough-looking man wearing chainmail and a bastard sword. He looks a few years older than us. I see short light brown hair peeking from below his chain coif.

Behind them, there's a woman in a dark blue robe yielding a simple wooden staff with a blue gem at the tip. She's a fully grown woman with straight brown hair that reaches her shoulders. She has a cute and calm face with a button nose and a small chin.

"Hello," I answer. I get up and do a full nod.

"You're here for training?" The young man asks.

"Yes, I'm practicing my sword," I respond calmly.

He smiles gently. "Well then, be careful when you meet more than one monster. It's easier to just run away because it's really hard to fight while alone. Be well." He waves and moves on.

"T-thank you. Goodbye," I answer meekly, then I roll my eyes at my own awkwardness.

What an odd exchange, but I also wish had I met him about an hour ago.

Are they planning on staying here for the night? It's going be dusk soon, so starting to explore now is a waste.

I shrug and continue hunting goblins.

--

I meet another Mandrake, and it's alone this time. [Mental Resistance] helps a lot when it's just one. I'm no longer dizzy, but my ears still hurt a lot.

It seems that the extra points in [Sword Use] make it much easier to slit its throat in a single slice. This takes some aim, but at least this way it's much harder to get my sword stuck on its body like what happened last time.

Then I meet another Bush Baby. This time I make steady progress and shave away its vines until I can bury my sword in its head. It's still tiring, but at least I don't need to use magic.

This is considerable progress for just a day. It's very motivating, but I feel like this isn't how things are supposed to be done.

I kill two goblins and rest again.

The Experience is very low now. I need to kill forty goblins just to level up. My best chance to level up is to find Mandrakes or Bush Babies. But it's already late, and I'm way too tired to continue hunting.

I go back towards the dimensional door, then I exit the dungeon, and I'm teleported right beside the entrance. I see that it's already night, so at least my sense of time wasn't completely screwed by staying so long inside the dungeon.

--

The squad of guards has changed. There are five of them and they mostly stay inside their small hut while a single one stays outside, near the entrance to the dungeon.

I give him a nod, then go towards the grove to find a secluded corner. I find a pair of adventurers making a tent in a small clearing, then I move away from them and set up my camp.

I pull out of my "Items" a ready-made meal. Near the Crafter's Corner there are plenty of stalls that sell small boxes with food that's easy to eat, so I bought a few. This one has a loaf of bread with bean paste inside, a handful of a vegetable that reminds me of broccoli, and a few pieces of fried Rabid Rabbit meat. I feel a little uncomfortable with eating anything with "Rabid" on the name, but it actually tastes good. It's slightly marbled, which makes me surprised that it's so cheap.

I brush my teeth, I put a lot of points into Conjuring so that I can fill a bucket of water to wash, turn on my [Monster Repellent] crystal, position my [Proximity Warning] crystals around me, bring out my sleeping bag, and finally, I try to sleep. Let's put emphasis on try, because this bag is really uncomfortable. I should've bought a tent and a better sleeping bag.

The dungeoneering guide says to sleep with your armor on, or at least have leather armor if you can't sleep in your plate or chain. So I guess this can't be helped, adventurers are just fated to sleep badly.

I stare up at the sky, but I only see clouds, not even a single star. Eventually, my tiredness overwhelms my anxiety and I fall asleep.

--

I dream again of the goblin drowning in its own blood.

--

The sun wakes me, and I feel that my body is sore and stiff. This was a terrible night.

Fuck, is this going to become a trauma? I'm already uncomfortable sleeping in the open like this, I don't need recurring nightmares screwing with me.

I break fast with a goblin meat stick. It's very salty and dry, but I only have water to drink. I need to buy some fruit juice when I go back to town.

I miss coffee, I miss chocolate milk, I miss tea, I miss soft drinks (diet only).

I look into my stats and notice that my "Magic Power" and MP have risen by five. It seems that using spells slowly builds up your mana and power. Unfortunately, no other stat has risen, so I guess I need to nearly kill myself every day to raise my "Strength" or "Endurance."

I stretch a little; recover my crystals; store my tent; and turn off my repellent stone; then I get ready to go back inside the dungeon.

--

I decide to get closer to the stairs again. Mandrakes or Bush Babies are too rare, and it's taking too long to level up, so I'm getting greedy.

I meet two Mandrakes in sequence and easily dispatch them. I'm really getting used to handling their shrieking. My strategy to deal with more than one is also ready, but I'm a little dubious about how to deal with two Bush Babies.

My theory-crafting is cut because I detect a goblin coming towards me. I meet it head-on and see that it's wearing a full set of padded leather armor: jacket, pants, mittens, boots, and a cap. It yields a small round metal shield and a shortsword.

I need to aim for the neck or face, trying to cut through that armor just won't be possible.

"GYEEEH!" The goblin screams and charges forward.

I deflect the first blow and attack with my sword, but it dodges backward and evades. I try to follow up with an upwards slash, but it blocks my attack with the edge of his shield.

It tries to slash sideways towards my face, but I evade by jerking my body backward. The goblin is short, so his sword barely reaches me, but still, it was dangerously close.

The goblin overcommits and swings wide, creating an opening for me. I bash its shield and it loses its balance, then I follow up and thrust at its neck.

It jerks its body and avoids a fatal wound, but I still manage to inflict a nasty cut on its neck, and blood starts pouring profusely over its shoulder.

It jumps backward and tries to regain its balance, but I cast [Lightning Bolt] and immediately slash towards its face. The bolt hits and its entire body twitches. The goblin didn't get stunned, but its reaction is dulled enough that my slash cuts at its cheek deeply.

"GAAAAH!" The goblin screams and loses its balance again.

This time, its guard is fully open, so I lunge and jam my sword into its eye socket. It groans as its body twitches, then goes limp and dies.

"You are now level 8."

Now, what do I need, exactly?

I clean my sword and sit down to think.

Perhaps more [Mental Resistance]? The two Mandrakes were rough to deal with, but maybe there's another way to deal with them that doesn't involve Resistance. Mandrakes are vulnerable to fire, so maybe one point in Fire and then the rest in [Mental Resistance]? Also, [Blessing Magic] level 1 sounds good. I'm not using a lot of spells, so maybe I could spare some MP for a self-buff.

Hm… Blessing will be left for later. I'll put one point in [Fire Magic], and the other three in [Mental Resistance] (now 7). The biggest threat to me right now is reduced mental capacity during a fight with a Mandrake leading me to make a bad decision. There's also what the wealthy adventurer said, I can just run if I meet two dangerous enemies, but I have to be capable of making a correct decision. In the lower levels, monsters don't generally work together, so it was a coincidence that they were walking together.

With that done, now I need a target to test my [Fireball].

The first guinea pig to volunteer is a naked goblin with a dagger. I cast [Fireball] and I hit it right on the face, then he falls backward and screams in pain.

Weren't the naked ones supposed to be emotionless? I need to revise this theory.

Ah, exposed flesh is more vulnerable to fire than lighting, so [Fire Magic] is more useful here than lightning. If the stunning effect of [Fireball] on the Mandrakes and Bush Babies is stronger or equal to [Lightning Bolt], then I will take the point in [Electric Magic] and put it in [Blessing Magic].

I thought that fire damage only did more damage to enemies in comparison to [Electric Magic], but I ignored the physical aspect of burning something alive. I didn't think about it because the book spent more time talking about harvesting and the fact that the monsters are vulnerable to [Fire Magic] was only mentioned in passing. Perhaps it's because it's an easy enemy. Magic seems pretty powerful here, so I find it difficult to believe mages would spend their precious mana killing such small fry when the front line could effortlessly hack their way through.

I think this sort of information would likely be found in magic books, but I didn't look too deep into the ones at the guild because they were a bit too esoteric. I need to go to the university's library for that.

I keep grinding monsters, and after half a dozen goblins, I finally find a Mandrake. Its scream was really painful before, but now it's completely bearable. I think now I'm ready to fight two Mandrakes without much risk.

I immediately cast [Fireball] at the monster.

The ball hits its face and the screaming reduces in intensity. It's super effective! The Mandrake slows down and almost stops. It pats its head with its pointy hands in a desperate attempt to stop the small fire that the spell created.

A perfect opportunity. I charge and easily decapitate it.

Also testing this spell on a Bush Baby might be prudent, but I'm feeling confident it's going to be even more effective. The Bush Baby leaves seemed very dry, so I believe them to be a weak point against [Fire Magic].

I remove [Electric Magic], put a point into [Blessing Magic], and cast [Wind Armor] on myself. The magic creates a ball of light on my palm, then I touch myself, and the spell is cast on me. This magic creates a sort of wind-based "kinetic shield" that protects my entire body, slowing down physical attacks by using air resistance. Every few seconds, I can see small distortions around my body, and also a slight breeze whenever that happens.

Unfortunately, the spell has a huge cost, and half of my MP is gone. Coupled with the two [Fireballs] I used, I barely have any mana left, so spend some time resting.

I notice that meditating really does increase the rate that my mana recovers, but I need to make sure that I don't fall asleep since I have to keep my eyes closed.

--

I get up and move forward. I think I'm ready for the next level, so I move steadily towards the closest stairs and kill a few goblins on the way.

The stairs are just a simple downward set of steps that end in the same ominous black rectangle like the one of the entrance and exit. I cross it, and the same floor select menu appears, but now it has a "2nd floor" option, so I press it and I'm teleported to the new floor.

It looks exactly the same as the previous one: drab and boring. The goblins aren't naked anymore, but the Mandrakes and Bush Babies are still the same.

After a few kills, I see that even the Mandrakes and the Bush Babies are giving little experience. So it seems that the enemies ramp up in power little by little.

I'm thinking that now that I have [Fire Magic] I'll be okay on the third floor.

After a few more kills, I find another armored goblin. I think it's a male, the females seem to have a slightly smoother skin and fewer wrinkles.

He's wearing the same leather armor as the one from before, but the shield is bigger and he's taller, so now he's just a little bit shorter than me. I'm 165cm, by the way.

I'll have to be more careful with this one since it looks like he has much more skill and intelligence than the others. Just to confirm my theory, he smiles before he charges towards me.

We trade even blows, but his attacks are heavier than the Bush Baby vines, so I have to focus on deflecting more to tire me less. This leaves me with little openings to strike back, so I start to get pushed back.

I have to do something.

I notice his attacks follow an obvious timing, so I prepare myself, then I bash his shield right before he winds up his slash. He wasn't expecting me to counter with such power, so I manage to break his posture. I bash again, putting all my body into it, and he loses his balance, then falls on his ass.

I strike his shield repeatedly while he desperately tries to crawl away backward. His sword hand is busy supporting his body while he defends himself with his shield, so he can't get up, and his smile turns into an angry frown.

I step on his sword hand, making him drop it, then I drop my shield, grab his, and open his guard. He tries to wrench free, but I have the physical and mechanical advantage, so I stab him in the face until he dies.

This one tired me out, so I need time to catch my breath and apply [Regeneration] to my arms.

Curiously, his shield doesn't disappear like the rest of his equipment did. I put some points into Appraisal, and it tells me it's a medium-sized iron shield. It has no painting or decorations on it, and it's of "medium" quality. Average at everything, but I guess it might be worthy of something, so I put it into my "Items."

I have to kill at least another ten of these goblins to level up. My Experience gain seems to be dropping really fast, or is it actually my growth that is too fast? Perhaps killing the same monster has diminishing returns, rewarding me less Experience each time I kill them.

--

I eat my lunch away from the goblin corpse, then I move on and reach the entrance to the third floor. I'm getting a little nervous, but I decide it's worth the risk.

On this new floor, the first mature Mandrake. It has valuable green leaves on its head, and it's nearly a meter tall. The pain from the scream is slightly stronger, but only slightly, so it's still bearable. It's a good thing that their power seems to increase slowly, or else I'd have to put all my points into [Mental Resistance].

It charges forward like the other Mandrakes, but it's faster than the younger ones. I steel myself, grit my teeth, and ready my shield. Like I had predicted, it jumps towards my chest with its pointy arms aiming towards me. Once it's in the air, I wait for the perfect moment to bash it with my shield.

*Dooon!* I hear the loud sound of metal resonating even while under the effects of the Mandrake's scream, but it's intensity slowly fades away. My hand hurts from the sudden strike, but this was an effective attack. The Mandrake flies far away and one of its arms breaks.

Considering how the scream stopped, I guess I succeeded in stunning it. I give chase and slash at the downed Mandrake. Its head falls out and a fluid greener than the one from the younger Mandrakes spews out.

I look at my shield and notice that the tip of one of the Mandrake's pointy arms stuck is stuck in it.

Holy shit, I guess I need a better shield now.

There's also a small dent in it from the other arm. That bash sure packed a good punch, but I don't think it's the best choice. If they charge and jump, the best options still seems to be to just slash.

Maybe a spear is the most effective tool here against these charging enemies, but if you meet more than one, you need a backup weapon in case it gets stuck in an enemy. Thinking about this, I pull out a dagger I got from a goblin, then I hang it on my belt behind my back. Even with a sword, it's useful to have a backup weapon.

I feel something changed within me, so I open my status screen. I've gained the skill [Shield Bash] with 1 point.

Hm, shield bashes seem effective at stunning enemies, so I guess this is another skill that's important to have.

--

I move on and notice that the goblins are stronger and require more effort on this level. They all graduated from loincloths and are now using basic woolen clothes. A few even have one or two pieces of leather armor.

So, the ones fully armored are rare occurrences? The dungeoneering book didn't tell me much about these abnormalities, and the only thing I remember is that monsters can go up a level of the dungeon in rare instances. Maybe they're from a lower level, then? "Lower" as in a level deeper "down" that has stronger monsters. The fact that the stairs go "down," but the floor select screen goes "up" is a bit confusing.

The mature Mandrake is still rare, and the Bush Babies didn't increase in power, so my experience gain isn't increasing, making me rather frustrated. The speed of my progress is dropping sharply.

It's annoying not having an idea about what's the proper rate of progress in this world. There's a skill called [Increased Growth], and another called [Inspire Growth], but I don't have the skill points to spare. Perhaps they help with level gain? Though the name is ambiguous.

I don't really have the time and the points to test those skills, so I just ignore them.

I can't remove my mana enhancements because I'm starting to use [Fireball] more often to make fighting less tiring. I can't remove my physical combat skills, otherwise, I feel like I'll lose the skill advantage against the goblins.

Is it my best choice to find a partner? I've only sensed pairs of adventurers coming here, and no solo explorers like me. The problem is that I can't really trust just about anybody to pair up. I think that my adaptability and rapid growth will be extremely suspicious.

My body gets increasingly tired, and I decide it's time to leave the dungeon. My legs are aching, my arms are hurting, and I feel like my body is swaying. I've been fighting all day, after all, and at the rate that I'm gaining experience, tomorrow before noon I might get another level.

When I get out, I see the sun and understand that there are still a few hours until dusk.

Now, what do I do while I wait? I don't really want to talk to the guards, and adventurers normally don't interact with others.

I should've bought a book. There's no internet or computers here, so my two main sources of entertainment are gone. Can I maintain my sanity without my games? This might be the true trial of the hero in this world.

--

I pass the time by maintaining my weapon, and exploring the other magic skills, making a note of every spell and their effects. "Notes" is a rather terrible interface to use, so I think I'll keep most of my notes on actual paper.

Most magic skills only show me spells up to 15 points, but after that, I can only see "???". The only level 20 spells I can see are [Item Box] from [Space Magic] and [Purify Body] from [Light Magic], so I guess I'm missing something. Is it mana pool? Is it the "Intelligence" or "Wisdom" stats?

Dusk comes, and I suddenly feel a small breeze on my whole body. I look at my "Status Effects" and see that the entry "Wind Armor" has disappeared, so my [Wind Armor] has run out.

I decide that I'll put four points into [Blessing Magic] the next time I level so that I can get the [Sharp Blades] spell. It might help me with cutting the armor of the goblins or ensuring a one-hit kill on the Mandrakes and Bush Babies. There are no other immediately useful spells, and I'm scared to put points into certain dangerous sounding magic schools like, [Cursing Magic], so I'll make it do with only those I know are safe.

Night falls and I look up, but I only see a cloudy sky again. I can't even see the moon.

Wait, is there even a moon here? I think there are stars, but I didn't pay attention to the moon.

I turn off my lights, but it takes a few hours of restless tossing and turning until I finally start to feel sleepy. The uncomfortable sleeping bag makes it harder to sleep, but I'm going back to town tomorrow, so I'll just deal with it again today.

--

This night I don't see the Gargling Goblin again, but I have a very unpleasant dream. I only remember the disturbing sensation of slicing flesh with my sword.

--

I wake up feeling stiff, but at least I don't wake up as tired as yesterday. I get up, stretch, eat breakfast, recover my things, brush my teeth, and put on some anti-scent powder. This powder is essential to prevent the Mossy Fangpine from tracking someone's scent, so my first meeting with it was just inevitable. Curiously, there's a magical anti-scent powder that has a faint perfume, but of course, I wouldn't waste money with that, I can still endure the smell of leather.

I wash my dirty clothes with magic, but I don't think that this was a good idea. With the [Mana Control] skill, I can hold a [Fireball] in my hand and slightly change its size, so I use it for fast drying, but it seems like that this has damaged the fabric.

After that, I return to the dungeon at the same time as another adventuring duo. They kind of look like a couple, and I start to feel very uncomfortable.

I feel so lonely… I don't even want to think about how are things back on Earth. I just… don't want to think about it.

Whenever I think about Earth, I start to feel depressed and I lose my motivation, so I think that it's best to bury those thoughts until I can deal with them better.

I slap my cheeks and enter the ominous black rectangle, then I choose "3rd Floor." I appear in the same drab room as before, but I'm completely alone. Fortunately, it seems that the couple didn't go to the same floor as me.

--

Progress is smooth, but slow since I don't encounter any armored goblins or mature Mandrakes for bursts of Experience.

"You are now level 9," the announcer finally says after half of my morning is gone.

I put my new four skill points all in [Blessing Magic] (now 5) and cast [Sharp Blades]. Like [Wind Armor], a glowing ball appears on my palm, so I push it into my sword. The blade subtly changes and looks like it's been polished. At least it doesn't shine ridiculously.

I touch the edge with my finger and feel that it's dangerously sharp. It's impressive, really.

I take a short rest because the spell used half MP, then I move on again and butcher my way through the monsters.

It makes me happy how easy it is to decapitate the monsters, now. I can basically kill anything with one good hit. I even manage to cut a goblin in half at the waist!

Ok, the sight of his guts spilling on the floor is gruesome and traumatizing, and now there's just blood everywhere, but holy shit, I cut a goblin in half.

Fuck, am I enjoying this? I either have a mental problem or a natural talent, depends on which world you are from.

Unfortunately, the experience gain continues to drop. It becomes a waste to fight monsters on this level, so I decide to go to the fourth floor.

The mature Mandrakes are much more common now, though not all of them have leaves that can be harvested, which is a shame since it's their most valuable part. Unfortunately, the goblins and Bush Babies didn't get stronger, so I decide to keep going down levels until at least the goblins improve… or is it "up" a level…?

After lunch, I get to the fifth floor, but it isn't much better. The Bush Babies are now 1-meter tall and hit harder, but my strategy is polished, and I cut their vines easily.

I decide to risk it and go to the sixth floor.

--

Finally, the goblins are now giving good experience. Since they're still the most common enemy by far, they need to give considerable experience, or else it's a waste of my time. Now most of them are wearing at least two pieces of armor.

It seems that monsters increase their power in a very predictable pattern.

The rate of experience gain is steady, but I'm getting tired much more often now, so I have to take multiple breaks.

While I'm waiting at a dead end, I get three familiar hits on my [Sense Presence]. I immediately remove [Mental Resistance] and trade it for [Andraste Language]. I need to research the difference between each level of the language proficiency, I always go for 10 but 7 will have to do this time.

The three adventurers enter my room and notice me.

"Hoho, greetings again. You progressed a lot haven't you?" The wealthy adventurer casually asks.

His party is the same, but I can see dirt, blood, and tired eyes on him and the other two members. Though the woman is the only one without a drop of blood on her clothes.

I respond with a faint smile, "Yeah, I got the hang of dealing with these monsters. They're quite dumb and weak, so I had to come to this floor for a challenge."

He nods and smiles back. "Indeed, my teacher instructed me to come to this level because anything below is just too weak. We went much deeper into the dungeon, but after this level, the goblins get stronger much faster, so we came back here for an easier time." He puts a hand over his chest and says, "I'm called Nour, what's your name?"

"Wolf Ryder."

He nods and respectfully and asks, "Then, Mr. Ryder, would you mind if we take a rest with you? Is this area safe?"

Again with the "Mister." Also, he didn't say his last name, so was it a blunder to say mine? Do normal people not have a second name?

I get a little nervous, but I decide to be friendly and respond, "Y-yeah, no problem. I killed the monster at the dead-end."

The three of them sit down near the wall, Nour sits by a wall facing me while the woman and the other man sits at the corner, then they pull out canteens and start to drink.

"This woman is my sister, Rania. The man is my slave guard, Liam."

"Hello," Rania says in a monotone.

"Greetings, Grand Ryder," the man says with a nod.

"Grand" Ryder? That feels even weirder, but I assume this is how a slave respectfully addresses others.

The words that I hear are foreign, but because of the language skill, everything is being translated to its closest meaning in English. The words they speak also sound slightly garbled, so I need to focus to understand what they're saying. This must be the effect of not having 10 points in the language.

I wave my hand to them and smile.

"You know [Blessing Magic]? I didn't see you using [Wind Armor] the first time we met."

Oh shit. Quick, time to lie.

"I didn't want to… train with enhancements on. I thought it'd be best to train my sword without using magic first, and then use it when I'm comfortable I'm skilled enough."

"Bahahah! That's the same advice teacher gave!" Nour roars.

"Told ya it's good advice," Rania says while smiling wryly.

"Agreed, master. The path to glory is a long journey," says Liam in a serious tone.

He sounds like a sage.

Nour raises his hands and lowers his head in defeat and says, "Alright, alright. I'm not going to rush out into a dungeon or anything like that. I learned my lesson…" He lifts his head and crosses his arms. "But anyway… exploring dungeons alone is uncommon, why don't you partner with somebody? [Blessing Magic] is valuable in a team."

"Don't pry into the business of others," Rania warns.

He flinches and smiles wryly. "Geh... I'm sorry. Mr. Ryder just piqued my interest."

Rania turns to me and smiles wryly. "Forgive my brother, Mr. Ryder. He's far too curious and carefree."

"That's not a problem… " I answer and awkwardly rub my neck. "I don't mind answering. I'm traveling alone because I'm new around here, and I… pick my partners carefully."

"Rania, I think he's teacher's son," Nour says and chuckles softly.

"That just means that teacher's mentality leads to a longer life," she replies flatly.

There's nothing I can do but smile at this exchange. Nour might be a little nosy for me, but it's hard to be mad at him because he seems good-natured.

"Well, okay… but Mr. Ryder, have you thought about buying a slave as a companion? Blood Slaves can be more loyal than even sworn knights."

"Blood Slave?" I blurt a question.

Is this related to [Blood Magic]? I remember that there was some forbidden magic like that.

Nour raises a curious eyebrow at me, so I try to salvage my question, "I mean, how can a Blood Slave be that loyal?"

He smiles subtly at my awkwardness and responds, "Well, you can use [Slavery Magic] to make sure that they always obey, but that doesn't inspire loyalty. The important thing is that the Gods watch over the Blood Slaves, so you can be certain that they're always the best servants. Just like my companion, Liam."

So it's not [Blood Magic]? Then why call it "Blood Slave"?

"Hmmm… can you ex-…"

My question gets cut short. I get two hits on my [Sense Presence], one small and one huge, both monsters.

Just what the hell is this.

I instinctively get up and draw my sword. "Monsters are coming," I say.

All three of them look confused, but they stand up and draw their weapons. Liam looks at me suspiciously.

"I didn't hear anything," he says.

Oh no... This enemy is dangerous, extremely dangerous.

The monsters suddenly start sprinting. They've detected us. We start to hear a jingling in the distance.

Liam turns his head towards the noise and questions in confusion, "Chain mail?"

"Run!" I exclaim and dart towards the corridor. It dawns on them what's coming and they immediately follow me.

I run as fast as I can, but it's too late. When we get near the entrance to the corridor, the monsters are already at the doorway, trapping us inside. We stop and our blood runs cold as we see the two figures coming to kill us. These monsters are the reason I don't want to go to the eleventh floor: the Orc Headhunter and the Swamp Goblin.

There's a trap on the eleventh floor, a roaming duo of monsters much more powerful than the ones normally found in the area. They hunt weaker adventurers and prey on them, so this is why nobody spends any time on that floor. The worst thing is that the Escape Bomb doesn't work on the orc, its endurance is too high. The duo is a terrifying combo.

The Swamp Goblin is a brown, filthy goblin that wears simple rags. It uses a blowgun that shoots poisoned darts that weaken the physical capabilities of adventurers. It's physically weak, so it's the priority target.

The orc is a green ugly monstrosity around two-meters tall. It has a pig snout, large eyes, and huge tusks coming out of his mouth; its strength is superhuman; it yields claymore that he uses with a single hand, and a large kite shield; and it wears a hauberk with a metal cuirass, vambraces, schynbalds, and cuisses. I'll be lucky if I survive a single strike from it.

"MASTER! RUN!" Liam screams while he charges the orc.

That was the wrong move. Nour and I have shields, so we can defend against the goblin and dodge the orc while Rania snipes the goblin, but we never agreed on cooperating, so Liam must be thinking on sacrificing himself instead on betting on defeating him.

I just can't let him suicide charge, so I charge behind him. I cast [Entangling Vines] at the goblin's feet and hide behind my shield.

Perfect timing. The orc is occupied with Liam, so its reaction is slow, and I manage to duck under its slash, slipping past him.

As I pass, I feel the orc gaze on me. I think it knows what I'm doing. I completely hide behind my shield, blocking my vision of what's ahead.

*Ptoon*, a dart hits my shield and bounces off.

Good, now that goblin is dead.

The vines grab both of its legs and hold it in place. It fired its blowgun and didn't dodge, so now I'm going to make it pay for it.

The goblin screams in terror and anger, then I reach it and savagely slash down diagonally. My sword slides through its skull and lops off a part of its head.

For a moment, I see its brain matter, then I immediately turn around and see Liam getting blown away several meters.

"NOOO!" Nour screams. He's striking the orc, but the monster is just effortlessly defending with its shield.

The orc has one big weakness, it's metal armor, it's vulnerable to electricity. I frantically remove a point from [Sword Use] and put it into [Electric Magic] while praying that Nour doesn't die in the next attack.

Now with a free hand, the orc savagely slashes sideways. Nour defends with his shield, then he gets splattered on the wall and all the air from his lungs gets expelled.

The orc doesn't finish him and instead jumps towards Rania. I cast [Lightning Bolt] and hit the orc's back. It immediately stops moving, then its body starts convulsing. It's stunned, but for how long?

I do a mad dash towards it and prepare to strike. I try to slash its neck but, it turns towards me at the same time and I only wound it. His shield suddenly comes towards my face and all I can do is meet it with my own.

A loud noise of metal hitting metal fills the dungeon, then pain flares on my shield arm and shoulder from the impact.

I'm forced to take a few steps back to maintain my footing, then I cast [Lightning Bolt] and the orc gets stunned again.

"[ICE LANCE]!" Rania screams with a cracked voice.

I see the orc jerk away with a speed I didn't think was possible, then a spear of ice suddenly pierces the orc's shield shoulder. It's a complete penetration right in the bone joint, and the spear is a good 10cm wide, so that arm is useless.

From behind the orc, I see Rania fall to her knees.

Was that an advanced spell? It certainly did a lot of damage to the orc.

Maybe she's inexperienced and is now suffering from mana drain like I did once, so this means I can't rely on her anymore. I need to kill the orc myself.

The orc roars in pain and anger, then he grabs the lance and pulls it out without hesitation.

I get up and cast [Lightning Bolt] again. The monster twitches, and even though it doesn't get stunned, that's enough of an opening.

I stab the orc in the groin, and I feel my sword sinking into flesh. It seems like this is a vulnerable area where the chain and plate mail don't have proper coverage.

The orc screams again and gives me a weak blow with his claymore that I defend with my shield, but it's enough to push me backward.

My sword gets jerked around, but I don't lose my grip on it, so it does even more damage to the orc as it's violently ripped out of its body.

"RAAAAAAH!" Liam screams.

A dagger flies towards the orc's face, but it deflects it with its claymore. Liam reaches the orc a second later and slashes towards it. The orc defends against the slash, but that's another opening for me.

I jump and slash towards its throat, but it evades again with an impossibly high speed, so I only manage to wound it.

The orc is bloody. Its chest is completely stained from the blood that's pouring from its two wounds on its neck, its legs are bloody with a large amount of blood flowing from its groin, its shoulder has a large gaping hole that bleeds even more than the other wounds. But even with all this, it's still fighting like a barbarian.

It kicks Liam again, who seems to be too slow to react, and he gets blown away a few meters, then the orc tries to counter my attack with its claymore, but I manage to parry it!

Is it losing strength? It did counter from an awkward angle, though.

"[SHOCKING TOUCH]!" Rania screams again with an even more cracked voice. That's a level 10 [Electric Magic] spell.

Suddenly, the orc starts to convulse, and I see Rania fall behind him. She must've run out of mana.

I'm too far to immediately slash at its neck again, but it's enough for me to aim for the groin. This time my sword pierces deeply, and I quickly try to pull it out, but it's stuck.

The orc screams while still convulsing from the spell. I give up on the sword and grab my dagger, then I jump and aim for its neck.

The monster is stinky and filthy, my right hand grabs onto the back of its huge head feels something sticky, and then its smelly breath hits my face. I ignore my disgust and savagely stab his neck. The skin is incredibly tough, and the dagger's blade isn't sharp enough to penetrate deeply, but I keep stabbing into the previous wound to widen it.

The orc stops convulsing.

Oh no, he's going to hit me. Is it going to be a punch? Or a stab? Or a slash? Or is he going to just grab my head and crush it?

I have no time to get away, so I can just bet I can it bleed enough before I'm killed.

"STOOOP!" Nour screams, and with the corner of my eye, I see him throwing himself on the sword arm of the orc, then hugging it with all his strength.

Thank you, Nour. You've bound the monster for me, so I'll use your opening.

I stab the orc's neck even more savagely, causing blood to spurt all over my face and chest. The orc's roar starts to die down as I split its neck open, then it falls on its knees. Its angry expression goes blank, and it starts to fall backward.

Oh no! Not that way, you'll crush Rania!

Both Nour and I pull the monster towards us, then it falls face down on its own pool of blood.

"You are now level 10."

Nour and I stare at him for a few seconds as we catch our breaths, then reality comes back to me and I rush towards Liam.

I kneel before him and apply [Regeneration]. He's alive, but unconscious. I have no idea if he's bleeding internally, so I'm just going to heal him until he wakes up, then I should try to wake up Rania next. It's best that everyone is awake, even if in pain.

Nour goes to Rania and pours a glowing blue potion into her mouth.

Isn't she going to choke on that?

She wakes up and coughs a few times, then she opens her eyes weakly and starts swallowing the potion properly. After she finishes drinking, her body starts shivering, and Nour hugs her tight.

Oh, okay. I guess that worked.

Liam wakes up a few seconds after, but he's too weak to get up. He slowly turns to me and mutters, "Poison…"

I think he got hit by the Swamp Goblin. This is why that monster is killed first while everyone hides behind their shields. Liam got poisoned during the fight and lost most of his physical strength.

I pull out a metal flask from one of my chest pockets and pour the thick dark liquid into his mouth. These metal flasks are for battle-potions. They're hardened so that they don't break during normal battle unless directly hit. This one contains an antidote. I got a little scared of the Mossy Fangpine and the Bush Babies, so I bought three. It's going to take around ten minutes for it to work, though, so I'm gonna keep healing Liam until then.

I drink a mana potion and continue the healing. My shoulder hurts, and Nour could be wounded too, but Liam is much worse, so he gets priority.

Rania stops shaking and Nour helps her sit, then he comes over to me.

"Is that [Regeneration]?" He asks.

"Yeah. I don't have a lot of mana and I'm not very experienced, so this is going to take some time," I respond.

He shakes his head gently. "Oh no, you already did a lot. Here, let me give Liam one of my potions." He kneels and helps Liam drink a red potion. I see that its glow is much stronger than the ones I have.

Nour returns to Rania, then a few silent minutes pass, and Liam gets strong enough to sit. "Thank you, kind Sir, but it's enough for now. Please heal yourself," he says.

I don't want to argue since my shoulder is hurting, so I just do as he says and use the last of my mana to ease my pain. The potion is still acting, so my mana is recovering faster than normal.

Once I stop healing myself, Nour turns to me and says, "Thank you, Mr. Ryder." His voice is shaky and his face is pale. " You could've run after killing the goblin, but you didn't. You certainly saved us, but especially Liam, who was going to sacrifice himself for us."

True… throwing myself on the orc's chest was certainly reckless.

I awkwardly rub my neck and respond, "I just… I didn't think I should run away."

"You have a noble soul," Nour softly says.

"Thank you..." Rania says with a hoarse voice.

"Indeed, I owe you my life," Liam says solemnly.

I'm getting a little overwhelmed, and I have no idea how to react, so I just smile weakly and nod.

The adrenaline is running out and the reality is sinking in. The orc should be on the eleventh floor, I don't know why the orc came here. I'm scared I'll meet another one, so I just want to go home as fast as possible.

"We need to leave this place. fast. These two monsters shouldn't be here; there's something wrong with this dungeon," I say.

"He must have entered the exit… multiple times," Rania says.

"And crossed multiple floors?! That's insane, how could such a rare thing happen repeatedly?" I question.

A monster could indeed enter the exit door on a dimensional dungeon like this one and appear on a lower floor, but that's something rare to happen even once, so for it to happen multiple times is a miracle. We won the lottery of bad luck to find him.

"Perhaps the lord has been skimping on his duties," Liam suggests.

The Lord manages the dungeons. If the monsters are not culled often, then dangerous monsters can appear, or like in this case, an extremely dangerous monster goes to a floor it's not supposed to be on.

"We need to report this," Nour says, then he stares at me intensely. "Mr. Ryder, do you have space in your [Item Box]? We need to bring these corpses to the guild. Since you did the most, the least we can do is to let you take all the rewards for these kills."

I raise my eyebrows in surprise and ask, "Is that really okay? I didn't kill them alone."

Nour nods and insists, "Yes, it's the least we could do for now."

I don't want to argue, so I just collect both corpses, then Liam and Rania stand up, and we start walking towards the exit. Fortunately, the exit is near.

Since I'm the one in the best condition, I lead the vanguard with Nour at my side. Liam is still too weakened from the poison to lead.

We kill two goblins on the way effortlessly. Having two people in the vanguard means that one tanks the attack while the other flanks. Our swords are also sharp enough that we can kill the goblins in a single hit.

We get to the exit soon after that. The guard near the entrance jumps in place when two completely bloodied adventures and two exhausted looking ones come out of the exit.

Nour does the talking. He mentions to the guards what happened, and their faces pale. Meeting the Orc Headhunter is a nightmare for the people around here.

--

Two guards escort us back to town. We wipe ourselves while walking, but enough blood seeped through our clothes that even a [Clean] can't remove it.

Luckily, the customs officers don't ask to look into my [Item Box] since I made a blunder and put the corpses into my "Items."

When we get into the hunters guild, one of the guards run towards the closest attendant and murmurs something, then they both hurry up the stairs. The presence of the guards and the bloodied adventurers attracts quite a bit of attention. Liam and Rania are looking better now, but they still look tired, while Nour and I look quite ghastly because we couldn't fully clean our armor.

A minute later, an old man and Sonny come down. The old man is short and skinny, his pure white beard protrudes from his jaw and makes men envious with its magnificence, and he lacks hair on the top of his head, but the pure white hair on the sides is well maintained. He wears simple velvet clothing, the same color as the uniform, with only the guild symbol embroidered on his chest as decoration.

The guards signal to us, and we all go towards the dismantling area. Over there, Gordon and his assistant are processing some meat and look our way with surprise on their faces when we enter.

"Well then, could you show us the corpses?" The old man asks. He gently motions with his hand towards the large, empty tables.

I pull out the bodies, and I hear a few gasps of surprise. The orc and goblin lost their equipment, but they're still recognizable as the dangerous duo due to their physique.

Curiosity gets the best of me and I take a look. The orcs genitals are completely shredded, and I feel pain between my legs just from looking at it.

"So, it's true. We really need to send a complaint to the Lord," the old man says, then he turns to me and smiles gently. "Now, then. My name is Silas, and I'm the guildmaster. Could you all take a seat and tell us the story in detail?" He motions us towards the benches on the wall.

We obey and retell our fight.

--

"Quite the predicament, Sir Nour," Silas says.

"Sir"? So it's really true that Nour is an important person. I just wonder why he didn't use his last name.

Silas turns to me and smiles as he says, "And we all benefit from having someone like Mr. Ryder among us."

I'm bad at being praised. Should I say something in response?

Sonny smiles wryly and says, "A Gray Berserker, and now an Orc Headhunter. You're giving us a surprise after surprise. Though I wish it was of a different kind when talking about the orc."

I chuckle and respond, "I think I just have bad luck."

The fact that I've been isekai'd should be evidence enough of my bad luck.

"Depends on the perspective. Those two monsters are really valuable, and the prestige that comes from killing them is not small," Sonny replies.

"I just want a calm life," I say in a low tone.

Gordon laughs while butchering the orc, then Sonny murmurs something and casts a spell. I don't know what spell it is, but he starts talking towards nobody while looking at the orc. He suddenly turns around and says, "The spirit confirms it, he was killed at the sixth floor."

So mages can talk to monster spirits, too? I know that I only need a few points in [Spirit Magic] to be able to weakly communicate with spirits, but a monster spirit being able to talk is new to me. I guess this is really useful for information gathering.

"Have you decided how the bounty is to be shared?" Sonny asks.

Nour shakes his head and replies immediately, "Oh, we aren't taking the money. Mr. Ryder saved us, so all the reward goes to him. Now, if the talk is over, we'll take our leave. We're all extremely tired, and we all we want is to rest."

"Oh, it's done. The rest is with us," Silas responds with a nod.

They didn't even let me reply.

Nour turns to me and smiles gently as he says, "Then we'll be off. Mr. Ryder, one last thing. Could you come here to the guild tomorrow before noon? I'd like to properly give you my thanks and reward you."

I'm taken aback, and I stumble a little during my response, "I-Is that right? Sh-shouldn't the bounty reward be enough?"

His handsome face looks at me warmly and humbly. "That's just money. You saved our lives, so I should at least reward you a bit more. Please, just come tomorrow."

I sigh and nod. "Alright then. I'll come."

He grins, pleased with my response. "Thank you. Then I'll see you tomorrow. Goodbye, Mr. Silas."

Nour and his companions give Silas a quick bow and leave.

Sonny comes towards me and says, "Now, then. The reward for a runaway monster of threat level five is five gold. His corpse is going to sell for three gold and the goblin for one gold."

That's a huge amount because runaway monsters are a serious threat to everybody. The orc skin sells for a lot, and this one, especially, is way tougher than normal.

I also take this opportunity and bring out all my remaining proofs of extermination. It all sums up to four silver and a bunch of copper coins. A pittance in comparison to the orc, but at least I recouped the loss from the days that I didn't sleep at the inn.

Silas spends this short time simply observing me. It seems that I've already caught the eye of the guildmaster, but I'll be laying low for the week, so no grand feat will come while I simply relax and train safe and sound inside these walls. I also don't believe in jinxing, so I can say this with confidence.

After I take my money, I say my goodbyes and leave.

--

It's almost night, so I go towards the inn's bathhouse and get a few concerned glances when they see my bloodied armor. I'll leave the cleaning of the blood for later, so I take out a fresh set of spare clothes after I take a wash.

Today, I order a drink while eating. They only have something similar to apple cider currently since the juice ran out, and there's not much wine in the town.

I eat my meal with happiness, not necessarily because it's good, but because I'm happy to be alive. Once I left the guild, I felt like a huge weight was lifted from my shoulders. All I want is some comfort and love, away from being in situations where I have to frantically stab a disgusting orc in the neck.

The innkeeper's daughter seems to be extra lovely to me this dinner. I learn that her name is Selina, and starts some small talk, but it doesn't last long because she's too busy.

Once she leaves I just decide to enjoy my meal: a vegetable salad with a lot of cooked beans and some chicken sauce. The vegetables of this season seem to be slightly sweet, similar to carrots and pumpkins. They go well with the beans and extra well with mutton, but today there's none. Instead, I have marbled Rabid Rabbit meat, and it's of a much higher quality cut than the one sold at a stall.

After eating, I drop on my bed and go to sleep immediately.

--

--

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