The Dungeon Expedition — Part 1
“You seem happy, Nell,” said Carlotta, as the two walked side by side down one of the church’s corridors. “Did something happen?”
“Mhm.” The hero nodded with a cheerful, ear to ear smile. “Something really nice happened last night.”
“Did you have a run in with your fiance?”
“H-how did you know!?”
“…I didn’t. I said it as a joke.” The knight smiled, awkwardly, before clearing her throat. “I understand that you’re happy, but the meeting we’re about to participate in is of utmost importance. Make sure you conduct yourself appropriately.”
“O-of course.” Nell closed her eyes, took a deep breath. Once she reopened them, her smile was gone, replaced by a neutral, serious look.
Seeing that her friend and subordinate was now ready, the more experienced paladin nodded in satisfaction.
“Good. Then let’s head to the conference room immediately. All the others are already present and waiting.”
Upon entering the conference room, Nell found herself greeted by the usual sight. Ten-odd paladins were present in the hall, each wearing a piece of armour with an identical insignia, one that marked its members as of the Order of the Faldien Holy Knights.
“I’ve gathered all here today in order to brief you on our next mission.” Carlotta, the commander, addressed her unit in a loud but clear voice. “The brass has placed us in charge of destroying a dungeon near the coast. In other words, we’ve been ordered to put down a demon lord.”
For a moment, the hero felt her heart lurch in her chest, but placed a hand on her chest and heaved a relieved sigh once she gave her captain’s words another thought. The Wicked Forest was nowhere near any coast.
“That mean we’ll be heading off to the Lohn Region?” asked a knight.
“It does,” said Carlotta. “Our objective is approximately four hours away from Poezhar Port.”
“Only four hours!?” The paladin’s eyes almost seemed to bulge out of their sockets. “Why’s it that this is only getting addressed now!? That damn thing’s way too close to town!”
“The guild has had its adventurers investigating it for quite some time. They’ve been making steady progress through the dungeon,” answered Carlotta.
“Why’re we getting called to action if they’re making steady progress?” asked another paladin. “Conquering dungeons ain’t part of what we normally do, is it?”
Paladins rarely ever took the initiative in engaging monsters in combat. Their duties typically consisted of maintaining public order, aiding the armed forces in making arrests, and guarding VIPs. They would occasionally seek out dungeons that popped up near the regions they policed, but it was unheard of for them to be sent to conquer a dungeon based in another region. The paladin who had posed the question reasoned that the scenario at hand was likely linked to some sort of extenuating circumstance.
“It isn’t,” agreed Carlotta. “The adventurers sent to subjugate the demon lord made it through its dungeon and confronted it, but were forced to escape because it was too much for them to handle. As you all know, a more skilled group of adventurers would normally be sent in to eliminate the demon lord as soon as possible, but none happen to be available right now. The army’s a bit too busy to deal with it, so the task fell to the church. Our order was selected because we happened to be one of the most skilled.”
Carlotta paused for a moment to frown in disinterest.
“Or at least that’s what they’re putting on paper. The real reason is politics. Arresting the two senile old bastards we called cardinals and rooting corruption out from our ranks was good for us, as an organisation, but it caused too big of a change. The public noticed immediately, and is starting to lose faith in us, so the higher ups want us to put on a bit of a show so they can prove to the people that we’re still standing strong.” She snorted in annoyance. “Normally, I would’ve told them to screw off with their ridiculous demands, but the political situation they’re in is a direct result of our actions. Someone’s got to fix it, and I trust none of you are senile enough to need someone else to wipe your asses just yet.”
Her sarcasm-laced words caused a series of laughs to echo through the conference hall.
“Unfortunately, we can’t all go.” She spoke after allowing her troops a few moments to relax. The well-trained brigade quieted right back down the instant they heard her voice. Every last man managed to regain control of himself and redirect his attention to the commander. “The higher ups will soon be hosting a ritual in order to select a new pair of cardinals to replace the buffoons we arrested. Over half of you are going to have to remain in Alshir in order to guard anyone the brass marks as a VIP. The rest of you are coming with me. But, as I’m sure you understand, we can’t just march on a dungeon that a group of adventurers failed to conquer with only half our numbers. We’ll be looking for a little bit of outside help to ensure our success.” Carlotta’s gaze slowly panned across the room before finally stopping as she locked eyes with a certain specific individual. “Nell.”
“H-huh? U-uhm… I mean, Yes, captain?”
The hero hadn’t thought that the ball would suddenly be passed into her court, so she reacted with a bit of a start before correcting herself.
“You’ll be playing a pivotal role in securing us the help we need. You see, the person the brass has in mind happens to be…”
“And we’re not even doing it for free! We’re going to make mad bank!”
Shii jumped for joy and cheered right after I did; the slime had parrotted both my words and my actions. I’m pretty sure she doesn’t actually know what I’m talking about, seeing as how she’s kinda struggling with some of the words, but whatever. It’s cute.
Copying everyone else was something that the aqua-coloured monster did relatively often, and I was pretty much convinced that she only sometimes fully understood the things that came out of her own mouth.
“Were you not fiddling with an enchanted orb just a moment prior? Why have you suddenly broken into cheer?” asked Lefi, with a raised brow.
“Nell just invited me to help her conquer a dungeon,” I said. “I’m super hyped.”
“You are conquering a dungeon? Does that not entail… defeating a demon lord?” she asked, hesitantly. “Would you not feel remorse for having to slaughter one of your brethren?”
“Brethren?” I chuckled. “Lefi, please, what are you saying? I’m a demon lord. We don’t give two shits about each other. For us, the only distinction that matters is friend or foe.”
The only friends, per se, that I had were the dungeon’s residents, Nell, and a few others here and there. And for the most part, basically everyone else, demon lord or not, was a foe.
“If you have no particular concerns on the matter, then I suppose there is no longer any reason for me to worry.”
I almost couldn’t contain my excitement. Visiting another demon lord’s dungeon was something I’d been wanting to do for a long time. Nothing I’d heard about any other demon lord had been anywhere even remotely close to positive. I was told that they were full of themselves and basically out to get the races. In other words, they were basically just evil scumbags. If that was true of the demon lord whose door I was about to knock on, then I saw absolutely no issue with offing him. Not that I’m any less hostile or evil, I guess, if my titles are to be taken into consideration.
“Will you be gone for long?”
“Maybe. It should at least be a shorter trip than my last trip” I said. “Oh yeah, the dungeon’s apparently near the beach so I’ll try to bring back some seafood or something. You know, as souvenirs.”
“Seafood!” repeated Shii with a big smile.
“Yup, seafood. Seafood is super tasty, so look forward to it.”
As I continued talking to and entertaining Shii, I got everything I needed together to make sure my trip would end in success.