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「Looks like we’ve finally arrived at the end of the first floor. I’m going to open the door, but make sure not to hastily enter the next place.」
There were four underground floors. Aur’s party smoothly continued the exploration of the first floor without coming across any real hindrance and arrived before a well-built door. As the Kobolds had been expanding the floors on their own day by day, even Aura had no more grasp on the structures of the first and second floors. However, he was aware of the monsters stationed in the floors. Aur gave a heavy nod, indicating to go ahead.
Faro opened the door upon confirming his gesture. The place past the door was an ordinary-looking, s.p.a.cious room, with several swords and armors lying around here and there.
「It seems that there’s no monsters here, right? But actually, the whole room is filled with a slime, you know.」
When Faro swung her dagger toward the open door, a part of the slime rolled down as it fell while making a squishy sound. The separated part was a colorless, transparent slime, which slowly crawled over to the door and eventually integrated with the body of the original slime.
「It’s Gelatinous Cube, a transparent slime with a holographic body. Since it does have a shape, it’s possible to cut its body even with a sword like I did just now, but the issue with this slime is that it quickly restores itself to the original state. You can see that door on the other side, correct?」
Faro’s finger pointed to a door similar to the one right before their eyes that was attached to the wall on the opposite side of the room.
「That’s the door to the second floor. In order to get over there, we’ve only got two options; to burn away the body of the cube on our way to there, or to swim through its body covered in a defensive membrane.」
In any case, it was impossible to burn away the entire body of such an enormous slime. They had no choice but to somehow get to the other side. Of course, that was precisely why Aur had Spina make such a slime. Even he couldn’t help but admire her skills to be able to make the slime so transparent that one could see the door on the other side of the huge room.
「Well then, I shall burn it.」
Aur made hand gestures and began to chant a spell. Wikia standing behind him lightly touched his body. It wasn’t possible to store up magical power in the body-subst.i.tute, so Aur needed to have the women with magical power stored in their bodies present beside him whenever he had to use magic with this body.
Arranging in order of the amount of magical power, Lilu had the most, followed by Wikia, Sharl, and Nadja. Their added magical power easily amounted to that of several first-rate magicians.
The magical power Aur poured into them and their original magical power had a relationship like fats and stomach. There’s a limit to how much one can stuff their stomach with food, but it soon turns into nutrition. And although it’s possible to store fats far exceeding the capacity of the stomach, one can’t use it on their own volition.
As soon as Aur finished chanting the spell, a flame extended in the shape of a spear and reached all the way to the door on the other side while tearing open a hole in the body of the Cube.
「Hurry up! It’s going to restore its original form soon!」
Faro ran as she took out a lockpick from the holder tied at his waist. She very quickly reached the door as expected of her small stature, and started tampering with the door lock making use of the lockpick.
During this time, the hole opened in the body of the Cube had already started to fill up gradually. It wasn’t happening because its injury was healing. A slime couldn’t grow its body parts unless it got something to eat. The reason the hole was restoring to the original state was due to the nature of the slimes to try to maintain their original forms even if it’d mean a decrease in their overall size.
「It has opened!」
The door opened with a clicking sound. The whole party rushed through the door to the other side. Faro slammed the door close after confirming everyone has gotten inside. A clicking sound could be heard once again as the door got locked automatically.
「Phew… The second floor starts from here. It’s a lot easier to go back as the door on the other end is unlocked. Also, make sure to close that door. Some time ago, an idiot used a wedge to keep the door open, which gave rise to a big trouble.」
Aur asked as he thought, “I see. The number of sacrifices will increase if I set the door to be in a locked state only when trying to open it from inside the room.” Faro nodded her head.
「A part of cube jumped out into the first floor and greatly enlarged his body by eating a lot of goblins. As a result, all the adventurers had to join hands to burn it away. Seriously, it really turned into a big trouble.」
Faro took out a stone resembling a paG.o.dite while speaking and used it to draw a circle on the ground. He quickly drew some sort of pattern at the edge of the circle before taking out a vial from his backpack and spilling a drop of the liquid inside at the center. The magic circle began to shine as it turned into a barrier to keep other creatures around the place from getting close to them.
「This is called a ” Camp”, you see. It’s quite a helpful thing for which you need to remember this magic circle in order to draw it with a paG.o.dite like this. Then, you only need to spill a drop of holy water on the circle and it’ll become a simplified barrier. They’re selling this Camp at 10 silver coins per set in the magic store. Now, let’s take a little break here.」
With that, Faro sat down inside the circle. Aur gazed fixedly at her as he followed suit. Faro wasn’t accomplished in magic and she didn’t use any magical power herself, either. She just employed the magical power overflowing in the dungeon to put up a defensive barrier.
Aur couldn’t help but admire the various ways adventurers could come up with to make things easier for them.
“Beware that the enemies are going to be even stronger starting this floor. Small fries like goblins and orcs won’t be appearing any more. The second floor is divided into external and internal block. Humanoid creatures like Lizardman and Hag appear in the external block, and you’ll find magical beasts like Wyvern, Harpy, and Griffon in the internal block. All of them are formidable enemies so don’t let your guard down.”
The area Faro called as the external block was none other than the “Grazing Section” of the floor that Aur had prepared for volant magical beats which frequently entered inside the dungeon from the several big holes directly connecting the second floor with the aboveground. Many big rooms were prepared for them to accommodate their large bodies.
「However, it’s not like there’s nothing good about this place. There’s also quite a few ” friendly ” monsters on this floor.」
「Friendly, you say?」
Aur couldn’t refrain from repeating Faro’s words in question form upon listening to the unexpected information she provided to him.
「Yeah. Especially, Lizardmen and Centaurs are relatively easier to communicate with. So long as you don’t provoke them, you can often avoid getting into a fight. If you’re lucky enough, then depending on the negotiations you could even get cursed items or some information about the dungeon from them. It seems wine and food are particularly welcomed.」
Aur inwardly clicked his tongued when he listened Faro’s explanation. Monsters that can understand words were comparatively obedient to him, but it also meant that not few of them would be open to make connections with adventurers. But it was not practical to try casting Curse of Subordination on each and every one of them. There wasn’t much he could do to prevent them from acting friendly with adventurers.
「Having said that, the majority of monsters on this floor are hostile to us, so don’t be careless around here. There’s even some monsters that pretend to be friendly only to catch you off guard. The magical beasts in the external block are pretty strong so I really don’t want to enter in there if possible, but this floor has been constructed in such a way that there’s no choice other than pa.s.sing through that area to keep on going downward.」
「Can’t we just teleport directly to the next floor?」
Aur asked her while being well-aware of the answer to his question. Faro shook her head in denial.
「It won’t work. There’s a teleportation barrier in place at the next floor, so it’s naturally not possible to teleport to the third floor and below. And although you can teleport till the second floor… I’d not recommend it.」
「Because the shape of the dungeon changes on a daily basis.」
Faro gave a concise answer to him.
「Residents of this dungeon like Kobolds, Dungeon Liches… and huge caterpillar-like monsters keep changing the shape of this dungeon as they please. Thanks to that, when people try to teleport to a safe place they end up right in the middle of a monster’s nest, or even get teleported inside a stone and lose their lives buried in there. Teleportation should be only used when going back aboveground.」
「Does a lot of people know about this information?」
Faro shook her head at his question.
「The people who are aware of it have shared the information with their comrades, but no one is ” kind” enough to go out of their way to tell others about it. We often hear parties comprised of decently skilled members using teleport to go down in high spirits and then never returning back from the dungeon.」
“This actually turned out to be a pleasant miscalculation. Though it’s the type of trap that would lose its effect after knowing about it, the fact remains that it’s effective to lessen the number of adventurers up to a certain extent.”
「… Now then, it’s time to go ahead.」
Faro stood up as she beat off the dust from her b.u.t.t. Aur wouldn’t feel any physical exhaustion while moving his body-subst.i.tute, which also meant he would recover nothing from taking rest. Lilu, who could recover her body’s exhaustion using the magical power of the Aur inside her womb, and veteran adventurers like Nadja and her former party members also had no problem in continuing the exploration.
Aur nodded in agreement as he dispelled the barrier and headed forward.
「External block starts from here. We’ll be facing many volant opponents so I’ll be looking forward to your cooperation.」
They arrived at a roofless place after walking through a narrow pa.s.sage. Looking above, they could see blue sky far in the distance. The air was more clear compared to any other place they had been until now, and bright rays of the sun illuminated the surroundings. It was the location point of one of the “vertical holes”.
Faro pulled back the bow string as she called out to the two magicians behind her. Magic was more effective than bow against enemies that could dance freely in the sky.
「I might not be able to do provide much help here… Sharl, I’m counting on you for defense.」
Nadja muttered while carrying her sword on the shoulder to which Sharl replied nodding energetically. Nadja still had the opportunity to counterattack griffons and wyverns as they had to descend closer to the ground to initiate their attacks, but magical beasts like Chimera and Manticore had the ability to attack from the sky through various methods like breathing fire and shooting poisonous needles. Therefore, she had no way to do deal any damage to them as sword was the only weapon she was able to use.
「… Looks like they’re already coming for us.」
Everyone looked up when Wikia warned them in a calm voice. Three magical beasts were hovering in the sky while letting out screams and making flapping sounds with their wings.
「Are they… Harpies?」
Faro murmured as she aimed her arrow at them. Harpy was a kind of magic beast with a woman’s face and wings of a bird. It wasn’t that strong of a magic beast but was intelligent enough to use various maneuvers, like skillfully holding stones with their legs and letting go of them on the opponent.
Seeing Faro taking a fighting stance, Aur stretched out his arm sideways to prevent Faro from shooting the arrow.
「Hold up. …They seem to be the “friendly” ones.」
Faro showed an exasperated expression on her face at his words as her shoulders drooped powerlessly.
『It’s the Demon King.』
『Eh? Really? Really?』
『Demon King, Demon King, h.e.l.lo!』
The harpies said their greetings to Aur one after another using words that would sound no different from noisy groans to other creatures.
「These are my comrades. Come down over here.」
When Aur gave instruction to them in Harpian, the three harpies flew in circles as they came down and stood before Aur.
『Demon King, Demon King, why’ve you come here, Demon King?』
『Demon King, I’m hungry. Do you have some meal, Demon King?”』
『Demon King, why’re you together with humans?』
The harpies were making awful noise talking incessantly in succession. Aur took out some food from his backpack and distributed it among them. They seemed to only stay silent when eating their meals.
「I’ve already seen you talking with Lizardman, Centaur, Cave Giant, Mermaid, and it was truly surprising to find out that you can even talk with a Hag, but… can you explain me just what’s going on? Are you a monster tamer or something?」
「Well, it’s something like that.」
The majority of monsters on the second floor were those that had directly made contracts with Aur. There was no magical beast that was hostile to Aur except for the ones with forms hardly different than a beast. As a result, they had reached midway through the second floor without fighting any real battle.
Faro was psyched up to fight magical beasts in the external block, but she never thought that she would instead get to watch harpies acting like pigeons, eating food from Aur’s hand. Her will to fight had completely withered and she was more dumbfounded than just being surprised.
『Demon King, Demon King, that was delicious. Thank you…』
『Demon King, Demon King, our grat.i.tude, our grat.i.tude.』
『Demon King, Demon King, come with us…』
The harpies grabbed Aur’s clothes and began to pull at them again and again.
「It appears that they want me express their grat.i.tude to me in some way. Wait for me here for a while.」
「This place is the territory of these harpies so no other monster would enter here. Get some rest.」
「Ah, wa-wait a sec!」
Aur grabbed the legs of one of the harpies and flew into the sky, leaving Faro and other party members behind in a daze.
「Say, isn’t that…」
「How nice… I’ll also… after finishing the exploration…」
Nadja spoke in a very low voice, and Wikia tightened her grip on the staff as a frown of displeasure appeared on her face. Sharl rubbed her thighs against one another in a fidgeting manner while sucking on her finger.
「Ah… I’ll go for a bit to see if he needs something.」
With that, Lilu expanded her wings to fly away but the other three former adventurers grabbed hold of her shoulders and wings in perfect coordination to restrain her.
「He told us to wait, right?」
「You shouldn’t try to steal a march on us…!」
「If you go there too, it’d just make him take even longer to come back.」
「Get your hands off me! Let me go…!」1
「I’m the one who’s dying to have him make me come, you know!」
Underneath the blue sky, Sharl’s shout resounded throughout the place.
TL note: The words she used here could also mean “make me come”. ↩