Operation Dungeon Conquest Begins! — Part 6
“W-what do we do, Yuki?” Nell frantically whispered to me whilst hugging on the hem of my shirt. The atmosphere, which had become much more like something out of a horror movie, had her on edge.
“I wouldn’t worry about it.” I rustled her hair and looked around. “There’s no need to go about manually disarming all his traps. That’d just be a waste of time.”
“I’m assuming you have a better idea in mind then?” asked Carlotta, who happened to overhear my response. “Are you planning on using the spell you cast before we boarded?” Her tone was one of interest. It was like she knew that she’d proposed the wrong answer, and was waiting with bated breath for me to provide one that would further entertain her.
“Nah.” I shook my head from side to side. “I mean, don’t get me wrong, I can do it again, and it is strong as shit, but it’s also not a good idea. There isn’t enough space in here to actually contain the blast. We’d just end up getting caught in it.” My expression warped into a cocky grin; there was no rhyme or reason in denying the lady knight her fun. “But if you think that was the only trick up my sleeve, then I’ve got no choice but to inform you that you’re gravely mistaken.”
Now listen closely. Here’s a little lesson in trickery. In order to be a villain number one, you can’t just sling your most badass spells for fun. After spending a few moments smirking, I turned towards the exit, which I had already used my Evil Eyes to discover, channeled my magical energies, and unleashed them in the form of a spell.
“Come,” I said, as I designated the massive range that the spell was meant to cover. Your job is going to be to till the fields.
A series of tremors rumbled throughout the cemetery, followed by cries of “What!?” and “How!?” from adventurers and holy knights alike as the “creature” I’d crafted arose from the dust. It was an earth dragon, one large enough to swallow a man whole in just one bite. Since it was made from the surrounding earth, it featured everything therewithin. Graves could be seen randomly protruding from its body, alongside a number of still-animate skeletons, which desperately trashed about in a futile attempt to free themselves.
The traps within the earth the dragon used to construct itself all went off at once. Gas leaks and magical explosions were pretty much everywhere. But none of it had any effect.
“Now go, go and consume.” I said, once it finished forming.
My earth dragon roared in affirmation before moving off in the direction I designated. It lowered its maw, took a bite out of the ground, stepped forward, rinsed, and repeated. It was a simple set of behaviours, but an effective one nonetheless. For in its way was a now trapless path straight to our destination.
Mines continued to trigger within it, going off and blowing away bits and pieces of its body, but any damage dealt was immediately repaired each time the magical construct took its next bite. It was an incredibly potent and effective spell, and frankly, to be expected. Earth was an element I was well versed in manipulating. My affinity for it was second only to my affinity for water. The confidence I had in my earth-based abilities was not unfounded. I was able to fully seize control of the soil in spite of it being an element of another demon lord’s dungeon, simply by channeling my magical energies within it.
All things considered, the drake-shaped creature was basically an otherworldly bulldozer. It helped us get rid of traps in the easiest way possible: triggering them in a manner that rendered them harmless and impotent.
“Well, would you look at that. It’s a way forward,” I said. My cocky grin was invisible underneath my mask, but present nonetheless. “Let’s go.”
“You know… you’d make for a really good construction worker,” said Nell.
“Hey, that’s not actually a bad idea. You know what? I might actually follow up on that thought and start my own construction company. I could call it something along the lines of De—er, Masked Constructions Inc.”
“That sounds like a great idea,” giggled the hero, “but can you actually do any building? I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t actually be able to put a house together.”
“Good point. Fuck it then, I’ll start a bulldozing and field-plowing service instead.”
“I’ll make sure that we call you whenever we happen to need your services then,” said Carlotta, with a laugh.
“Iunno about you, but I kinda doubt that’ll happen. What you see here is all you’ll ever get. Some dude’ll drop in, flatten an area, and call it a day. These aren’t exactly the type of services that are high in demand.”
“Don’t worry. All that means is that it’s easier for us to book your schedule full and force you onto the church’s payroll,” she said with a smirk. “Oh, and don’t worry. The money spent on you won’t be going to waste. We’ll have you work until you drop, every single day.”
“Wow uh… wow,” I blinked a few times, not that she could see it under the mask, before turning to Nell. “I think I’mma give up on my plans. Your boss is a bit too scary for me to commit to being an entrepreneur.”
“That might be for the best,” said Nell, with a chuckle.
The three of us continued to lead the charge down the earth dragon’s freshly paved road. Only after recovering from their shock did the others begin to follow.
“There ain’t no way I’m trusting that you lot ain’t got your heads screwed on wrong…” whispered Griffa, to a paladin. “He doesn’t even break a sweat casting a spell like that, and those two act like it wasn’t nothing but another everyday thing.”
“Please, don’t misunderstand,” replied the paladin. “As a whole, we’re fairly normal. Those three just happen to be oddballs.”
“Well… that, I can at least kinda get… S’better than assuming that you was all insane.”
On that note, the two looked at each other and exchanged a pair of firm nods, as if coming to a sort of unspoken understanding. Uhh… guys…? You do know I can still hear you, right?
“Turn a bit more to the right.” I issued the earth dragon an order as I double checked my map.
I knew exactly where the door leading to the demon lord was, but our progress remained slow nonetheless. The earth dragon could only move so quickly; plowing our way through the cemetery was going to take another two-odd hours. While a part of me was annoyed at the floor’s size, I was also somewhat grateful. Sure, it was literally double the size of the grasslands in which my castle resided, but the newfound lack of tight corridors was also the only reason I could get away with conjuring an oversized minesweeper. As could be readily assumed, keeping such a large-scale spell going for so long took a fair toll on my magical reserves, but the occasional mana potion I downed allowed me to stay topped up and ready for anything.
“Is that a treasure chest?” said Nell, teasingly.
“I’m… just going to ignore it.” I scowled. “I’m done with treasure chests.”
Hell, I doubt I’ll ever want to open one ever again. Fuck that. My own doubts aside, the chest’s location was awfully suspicious. It ended up being right beside the earth dragon, and effectively along the side of the road that it would create if it were to continue.
“It’s most likely a trap, isn’t it?” said Carlotta. “Why don’t we just ignore it?”
She turned to the three individuals most well versed in exploring dungeons, all of which promptly agreed in their own ways.
“Alright, in that case, I’mma just smash it and get rid of the temptation while we’re at it.” I had the earth dragon swallow it.
“Having the guy in the mask around is making everything so much easier than before… We was struggling last time…” said Griffa.
“Aye mate. That was a lesson he learned us well while we were split up,” agreed Reyus.
“My thoughts exactly,” added Lurolle. “He’s single-handedly made this raid a walk in the park. Asking for help turned out to be a really good decision on the guildmaster’s part.”
“Yeah, but we was supposed to be getting promoted for this. If it’s this easy, then it ain’t really gonna feel right,” said Griffa, self-derisively.
“Wait, what’s this about a promotion?” His mention of it had caught my attention, so I joined in on the conversation.
“I guess we never told y’all, but we’re mithril ranked,” said Griffa. “And the guildmaster was saying to us that if we was capable of clearing this dungeon, then he’d dill our pickles real good and promote us to adamantite.”
Huh… So beating the demon lord was supposed to be a way for them to prove themselves?
“I wouldn’t worry about that,” I said with a grin. “You guys are about to be worked like mules.”
“Hearing you of all people say that is starting to give me a really bad feeling about what’s to come…” said Reyus.
“What wonderful intuition you have, oh disciple of mine.” I hoisted Echo of Destruction off my shoulder and took up a stance as I readied myself for combat. “Something huge is heading our way—and it’s coming from underground.”
“…It seems like you’re right,” said Carlotta, after a momentary pause. “Combat positions! Now!”
The paladins immediately got into formation. They stood in a pair of lines, with the first seemingly positioned as a bulwark, and the second as the followup. Nell was the only one that stood apart from them. Her position seemed to allude to a function akin to that of a shortstop in baseball. She was to go where necessary and fill in the gaps, wherever they happened to be.
Like those in service of the church, the adventurers also switched to a sort of practiced battle formation and readied their weapons. It was as if the two parties’ actions served as a cue, as the earth split with a deafening rumble the very moment they finished getting ready.
“Woah! What the hell!?” shouted Reyus.
“It’s the floor master!” replied Griffa.
What emerged from the earth was a creature about the same size as my artificial dragon. Its body was not intact. Bits and pieces were missing here and there, and it was clear as day that it as a whole had long begun to rot. Analyzing the undead thing yielded the following results:
Name: Gigantic Undead Worm
Class: Decaying Draconic Insect
Evidently, the worm thought the earth dragon as its highest priority target, as it had burst out from the ground underneath it and tried to attack it whilst ignoring literally everyone else. Fortunately, my map allowed me to foresee this, so I’d managed to order the dragon to evade in time for it to actually dodge the bodyblow.
“Use your jaws!”
With a roar, my drake dug its fangs into the worm’s defenseless neck, tearing and hooking into the insect’s rotten flesh. Rather than letting go or ripping and tearing, it then proceeded to grab the terrestrial invertebrate’s trunk with its arms to prevent it from escaping, and held it above the earth to which it sought to escape. All of the undead’s attempts to break free of the dragon’s grip were meaningless. It simply wasn’t strong enough to do anything but writhe.
“Woooo! Good job, earth dragon, you got this! Now bite harder and tear off the damned things head!” I cheered it on excitedly, as would a child watching a pair of insects duke it.
“I-I ain’t sure this is the time to be cheering like that!” shouted Griffa.
“Give it up, boss! The grandmaster’s got a few screws loose. I barely know the guy, and I can already tell you you’re not going to be convincing him of much of anything when he’s like this!”
While I was enjoying myself a good old reenactment of Godzilla vs Ghidorah, the others weren’t so relaxed. The adventurers screamed their comments as they did their best not to get caught up in the titanic clash.
“Don’t worry guys, my dragon’s way better than some lame worm. It’ll kick its ass, just you watch.”
“I-I mean, yeah, sure man, but ain’t you got some way to keep it under control!?” shouted Girffa. “The worm going berserk like that nearly killed me!”
“No can do! Just keep dodging!”
“Bro!? come on!!!”
My hearty laugh almost seemed to be in perfect contrast with the desperate manner in which Griffa screamed as he kept doing his best to hang on for dear life.