Operation Dungeon Conquest Begins! — Part 2
Editor(s): Speedphoenix, Joker
Nell’s stiff, tense expression softened into one of confusion upon noticing that I’d stopped paying attention to the ships we were headed towards in favour of sifting through my inventory.
“What are you doi—wait, are those what I think they are!?”
Her eyes widened as she realized that I’d pulled out a series of mithril knives. As she happened to be in possession of several identical specimens, she recognized them immediately, but remained a bit skeptical due to the possibility that they happened to bear a different enchantment.
“You’ll see.” I gave her a bit of a grin as I cut the engines and shouted at the two other boats accompanying us. “Hey Carlotta, hit the brakes for a second! And get the other guy to do it too!”
“Hit the brakes?” She raised a brow, but quickly decided to comply with the request and issued orders for everyone to stop.
Once I made sure all three had it in park, I poured mana into the fan of knives I held in hand and, after a brief pause, chucked it straight into the armada’s flank.
Several shouts of fear and surprise rang out from amongst the expedition’s members as the knives made contact with their intended targets. Accompanying a loud roar was a flash of light so intense that it dyed the fleet, the ocean, and everything beyond a mix of red and black. The blast was so large that even we were affected by the heat and the shock waves so strong that it caused our tiny little boats to be violently rocked by a series of stomach-churning waves.
The result was only to be expected. Each of the disposable weapons I’d launched were engraved with Bursting Embers, the magic circuit that I’d unlocked upon completely maxing out the Enchant skill. It would, in theory, explode with such force upon piercing a target that it would leave literally nothing behind—not even a speck of dust.
In other words, the magic circuit was able to turn anything enchanted with it into the type of incendiary weapon that international treaties sought to ban. Further evidencing it’s no-joke nature was its mana consumption. While the requirement wasn’t enough to make Lefi react, let alone bat an eyelid, it was far beyond the scope of what the average human could realistically provide. A sustained barrage was sure to drain even my mana; I could only throw a dozen or so fans before needing to refuel. But that didn’t mean Bursting Embers was inefficient. If anything, it was the opposite.
The number of enemy reactions had plummeted, to say the least. My map, which had previously been covered with red, had only a few hostile blips remaining. I wanted to confirm the results with my eyes as well, but there was still too much smoke for me to make out much of anything at all. The bits and pieces I could see, however, allowed me to visually confirm that I’d torn through a number of hulls and caused several ships to straight up burst into flames. The amount of damage caused was nothing short of catastrophic. Man, I’ve gotten so much better at aiming these things, if I do say so myself. The old me would’ve been lucky to hit two outta ten.
“Heh. Too bad for you, asshole! You stand no chance against a dem, er, mysterious masked warrior like me! Read and weep, bitch, ‘cause I got you a one way ticket straight to h—wait, what?”
I was under the impression that any ship I hit would eventually burn down and sink, but apparently, I was wrong. The other demon lord had made use of his authority to ensure that wouldn’t happen.
The wooden material that surrounded the holes I created came to life. It began wriggling and stretching towards the center of each impact. And before long, most of the damage I’d dealt was gone with the wind. That wasn’t to say that my efforts had been futile. The fire was still going, and as far as I could tell, all the monsters I’d killed had stayed dead. He was going to have to replace them if he didn’t want a fair chunk of his dungeon to remain unguarded. Moreover, as someone acquainted with dungeons and their mechanics, I was well aware that the repairs had cost the enemy demon lord plenty of DP.
Hmm… what now? While I knew that the attack was effective, I wasn’t actually sure whether there was any point in repeating it. Starving the demon lord out by draining his DP with a barrage certainly was an option, one that effectively boiled down to a contest of resources. The winner would be decided on the relative difference between my mana pool and the DP he had in reserve. Well, kind of. Technically, I have infinite mana since I can just back off and regen it. And that’s not even taking my huge ass cache of mana potions into consideration.
Still, I couldn’t help but feel that conserving my magical energies and going about this as would a normal person seemed equally as—if not more—appealing. Seeing another demon lord’s dungeon had been one of the driving forces behind my visit. Failing to do so and cheesing my way to victory seemed more like a wasted opportunity than a clever workaround.
In the end, I was unable to decide which of the options to go for, as I was wrenched from my thoughts by a weary sigh.
“…I would have really appreciated you mentioning this plan of yours in the meeting we just wrapped up,” said Carlotta, as she massaged the bridge of her nose.
Yeah… my bad. I kinda just thought it up just now, so I swear it’s not my fault. As much as I was able to justify myself internally, I didn’t actually express any of my ramblings out loud. The more rational part of me was well aware that I was in the wrong.
“D-damn brother, that was crazy. You’ve got some mad power up your sleeve, mate,” said Reyus.
I returned his compliment with a wave of acknowledgement. He couldn’t see it since I’d been wearing my mask all day at Carlotta’s behest, but I was grinning.
“Is it possible for you to do that again?” asked Carlotta. The commander had already shaken off any of the initial shock and returned to a level headed mindset.
“Probably, but I doubt much more will come of it. We’d be locking ourselves into a battle of attrition, so taking my mana pool into consideration, it’d probably be better to do things the usual way.”
“Reasonable. An attack like that certainly would require an incredible amount of magical energy. I can’t really imagine it being used rapidly in succession,” she said. “Frankly, it’s already done enough. We won’t have to deal with anywhere near as many enemies. It’d be greedy for me to ask for more.”
Errr… I guess I probably worded that poorly. Oh well, whatever. I’m fine with this. Time to put Operation Set Your Heart Ablaze on hold and opt for a more traditional approach. Woohoo! A whole new adventure awaits!
“Wow… talk about needing to tread carefully.” I pulled my foot out from the deck. One of the wooden boards that the ship’s uppermost floor was composed of had collapsed under its weight.
Boarding had been fairly uneventful. We’d gotten off our motorboats, climbed our way up a slanted, half-sunk ship, and then made our way over to a much larger ship in the middle of the fleet. By larger, I meant larger. Its size was so much greater than that of everything around it that I was able to immediately recognize it as the fleet’s flagship at a glance. And according to the adventurers, boarding it was the easiest way for us to get to the demon lord.
“Hmmm… It appears that the footing here is every bit as bad as described,” said Carlotta. “Alright men, keep an eye on your feet and try not to trip. Let’s move.”
At her command, we moved beyond the deck and entered the ship’s interior. Unsurprisingly, the inside was just as decrepit as the outside. Traces of what the mighty dreadnought had once been were scattered all around. Mugs, plates, cabinets, and shelves, all made of wood, could be seen just about wherever, but none of it was in serviceable condition any longer. One of the chairs had even dramatically crumbled to pieces the moment I lightly touched its backrest.
What I found more interesting was that this dungeon, like mine, was not to scale. The amount of space within it was far greater than what was possible based on a glance at its exterior. So uhh… yeah, this probably would’ve taken literally forever to explore if we didn’t have anyone to show us the way…
The occasional ray of light flickered through the ship’s tattered walls. There was just enough of it to illuminate a few bits and pieces here and there, but not enough to really see. We’d only become able to really look around after the paladins began using magic to light everything up.
“We’ve barely been attacked…” said Carlotta, as she casually dispatched the lone skeleton that came charging her way. “Was it like this the last few times you came here?”
“In my dreams,” said Griffa. “I wish we was havin’ it this easy before. Y’all’d be surprised to see the size of the hordes we was dealin’ with.”
The occasional thematically accurate but also incredibly weak skeleton or zombie aside, we’d barely encountered any resistance, no doubt in part due to the bursting embers incident that I may or may not have caused. The few individuals we had fought were so easy to plough through that they may as well not have existed in the first place.
As an aside, Nell was actually doing pretty well despite the eerie atmosphere. She was more or less able to keep her shit together, and probably would continue to be fine so long as no one popped out of thin air just to say hi.
For a while progress was so smooth that it was almost not worth noting.
“Wait… is that what I think it is?”
The first attention grabbing incident occured when I happened to spot a treasure chest hidden away in the corner of a room that was otherwise filled with nothing but boxes and barrels. Two armoured skeletons with stats higher than those of their peers stood by the room’s entrance, as if to keep guard over the loot stash, but, as far as I was concerned, their relevance as obstacles was non-existent. A single light swing with EoD was all I needed to turn each to dust. Oh man, maces are great. They’re basically super effective against anything that’s more or less a pile of bones.
“Careful, brother. Chests are usually just traps, or there to distract you from other traps. I doubt it’s got anything valuable enough in it for it to be worth checking, if it’s got anything in it at all,” said Reyus, upon realizing that I was eyeing the chest. “I don’t remember seeing any rooms like this last time either, so it’s prolly just bait, eh?”
I could certainly see where he was coming from. We weren’t in a game. There was no reason for any sane demon lord to randomly give the people coming after him free stuff, and there was no point in placing a chest that wasn’t a trap. Yeah, iunno. I’d literally never leave valuables lying around, though in my case that’s in part because we’ve got kids running around, and there’s no reason not to prevent an accident ahead of time, so I make sure everything important is put away.
“I’ll be careful,” I said. “But I’m still going for it. I’ve got a good feeling about this one.”
Frankly, I didn’t care how poor a choice opening the treasure chest was, nor if it was empty. It was the first I’d ever encountered, and I was dead set on opening it. What kind of monster doesn’t open their first chest? Like, honestly, who cares if it’s a trap? You gotta do what you gotta do.
With that said, I didn’t decide to be a complete idiot about it. I at least made sure to go get permission from Carlotta ahead of time. Fortunately, she responded positively and stated that she didn’t mind, as she felt that I of all people was unlikely to get caught by a trap. I’d also focused on the chest and ensured that enemy detection wasn’t giving me any red flags, which meant it wasn’t a mimic or anything to that end.
Magic eye did confirm that it was rigged with a pair of magical mechanisms, one within the lock, and another inside the chest. I was going to have to disarm it if I wanted to proceed. And while I myself didn’t have the technique to do so, I had prepared a secret weapon in advance because I’d expected this exact scenario.
“Uhmm… what’s that?” asked Nell, as she looked upon my newly acquired contraption. “It seems a bit sinister.”
“An enchanted item, I presume,” said Carlotta. “But I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything else like it.”
The thing I’d retrieved from my inventory was a “hand.” It was, for the most, made of what seemed to be bone, and featured five narrow fingers, each of which was jagged and knife-like in appearance. Magical veins ran all the way through to the tips of each of its digits, as to make it easier for magical energy to move through its body.
It was a so-called Evil Hand, and like every other entry in its series, a golem born of the dungeon’s essence. Its abilities consisted of disabling traps, picking locks, and everything in between. It did this by exuding mana from its fingertips in order to scan whatever it would be dealing with, determining a solution, and then executing it. As far as I was concerned, it was the perfect tool for any would-be dungeon clearer.
The amount of time that it consumed to perform its duties was proportional to the difficulty of its task, but as far as my experiments went, it was capable of dealing with just about anything in a matter of moments. I’d even bought a lock from my previous world just to test it, only to find it picked in a literal instant. The Evil Hand performed so well I began wishing that I’d gotten myself one earlier—but I couldn’t have. It was apparently a rather high-tier item, as it had only appeared after the Spirit Lord powered me up.
It came preloaded with mana, so it immediately got to work once I tossed it in the chest’s direction. After landing on top of the box, the golem held itself up with its pinky and thumb as it began investigating it with its three other fingers. Once it managed to determine the nature of the item it was working with, it scuttled over to the keyhole, wriggled itself inside, and did its magic.
“Alright, it’s done!” I shouted gleefully as soon as I heard a click come from within the chest.
A couple woahs and wows came from the peanut gallery as I skipped over and flipped the lid.
One of the most memorable things I’d ever watched, in both my lives, came from a movie by the name of Ghost Ship. I had the tendency to be okay with horror movies in general, but this one in particular happened to feature a scene that left me completely and utterly traumatized. In that scene, the characters found some food by opening up a couple tin cans. Except they didn’t.
So you might be thinking, what the fuck Yuki? Why are you bringing this up all of a sudden? Well… you see…
The chest was full. Of maggots. And as I opened it, some of the creepy crawlies stuck to the lid ended up all over my fingers.
I let go of the lid and let the chest fall as I desperately flung every insect on my hand off of it, scrambled to retreat. I immediately found myself Nell, whose waist I desperately clung to whilst trembling in terror. Shit shit shit shit! Did I get them all off? Please say yes. Like, seriously. Fuck.
“W-wow uhm… that was awful,” she said, as she patted me on the head, as if to console me like a child. “It’s okay, they’re gone now.”
“I-I’m sorry Nell… I think this is it for me. I’ve got maybe a few moments left at best.”
“Don’t be ridiculous. Getting freaked out by a few bugs isn’t going to kill you.”
The combination of her warmth and her wry but affectionate smile managed to help with my state of mind. But despite becoming aware that I was putting on a pathetic display, I continued clinging to her regardless. I couldn’t let go. At least not yet. I was still too busy hyperventilating to stand on my own.
“Alright… Alright… I’m alright. Man… that scared the shit out of me. Holy fuck. The goosebumps were real.” Though I tried, I still felt too far out of it to really talk. Shit, it doesn’t even feel like I can actually think. Goddamn. The only thing I’m really sure of right now is that I have some crazy goosebumps. Man, holy shit. I just went from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows. Fuck that, man. Traps targeting your psyche are absolutely fucking awful. That one caught me completely off guard. And the worst part of it all is that there’s literally nothing but maggots inside! Like, fuck! All that, and it still didn’t pay off? God damn it! Curse you, Demon Lord! You can bet your ass I’m going to remember this, ‘cause I’mma kick it into high heaven!
“He just went from talking smack to screaming like a wuss…” said Griffa.
“…I know what you’re thinking, but in combat, he’s probably the strongest of us all by far,” said Carlotta, whose words led the holy knights standing behind her to chuckle awkwardly.
O-oh come on… I’m pretty sure you guys would’ve freaked out too if you were in my boots. There’s literally no way I could’ve possibly feigned composure with maggots all over my hands! Fuck that!