Editors: Templar, Jack Vanatis, Orang
Author’s notes: Two chapters of CotE remaining. These few chapter have been/are considerably longer than the standard CotE chapter, so it took longer to write them. Despite only 8 chapters being written, it is already considerably long. At the rate these chapters are looking, CotE Vol. 2 will be my biggest book yet (again).
I’m feeling considerably tired. I had to go out to pick up mail and do food shopping, but I should be able to get out at least one more chapter today, maybe both of them. There is one chapter of End Online as well, but I need to rework a part of it near the end.
Chapter 6: Lost Water Caverns
Regal’s squad and the three guards led by Jerule continued travelling west from Greyhorn Townsend. After leaving the dusty area around their community, the sky seems to become a little brighter and the plants more abundant. The originally dry shrubs littering the desolate landscape become much greener and larger. The ground is no longer hard dirt and rocks, but a soft soil begins to reveal itself.
Trees even begin to appear with lush green leaves adorning them. The stale air becomes heavy with moisture, and the blazing sun causes the humidity to rise and stick to Regal and the other party members’ skin. A thin film of sweat forms beneath their leather armor, discomforting those who are unaccustomed to such weather.
The guards seem to be used to the moisture in the air and don’t show any signs of discomfort, but Regal and his squad take off any excess clothing and place it in their inventories as they try to cool off. The temperature around Greyhorn Townsend is extremely hot, but there is almost no moisture in the air so they don’t sweat as much as they currently are.
At lunch time, when the temperature is at its peak, the group finally arrives at the Lost Water Caverns. Regal is grateful that they made such good time, knowing that without the guidance of the guards it would have taken much longer to just get to the area and even more time to find the dungeon for the first time, despite having a map. The dungeon entrance is situated against a cliff and looks like a gaping mouth ready to swallow them. A thin trickle of water flows across the slate rock ground and enters the dungeon. The sound of dripping water echoes out from with the dungeon cavern in a steady rhythm.
A few green trees litter the area, and Regal notices that over the southern horizon is an enormous mountain range. It is the same one his squad passed through when leaving Grand Theore.
“This is the Lost Water Caverns dungeon,” Jerule says cheerfully to Regal and the others. “Everyone, watch your step, the ground can be a little slippery and falling over is terribly embarrassing.”
The guards, Jerule, Miner, and Lanore, move behind and merely watch from the rear as Regal’s squad including the two Mutant Stone Beasts venture into the cavern.
Entering Lost Water Caverns
As soon as Regal and the others step into the dungeon there is a rapid change in the atmosphere. The smell of water assaults their senses and the temperature drops drastically. The change is so severe that Regal begins to shiver before he has a chance to put back on the extra clothing that he took off earlier due to the heat.
The entrance is a stone cave of chipped slate rock, twenty feet wide and tall. Thin trickles of water flow down the walls and make everything slippery, which will make fighting mutant beasts with melee weapons dangerous. Losing their footing and falling in the middle of a fight is an error that can easily lead to death.
“Hold on,” Regal calmly says to his squad while bringing out a square parchment, quill, and ink from his personal inventory.
“Hmm?” Jerule curiously hums from behind and moves closer to Regal to see what he is doing.
“I don’t have a map of inside the dungeon or enough coin to purchase one so I plan on making one myself.”
“Ah, Of course,” Jerule says, glancing toward the rest of his squad, who all look toward their squad leader with pride.
Regal rapidly dips the tip of the quill into the ink and then moves it across the parchment, drawing symbols and terrain at a frightening speed. At first it appears he is doing a rough sketch, but the detail of the map is accurate to the smallest nearest measurement.
Jerule’s eyes widen in shock as he witnesses what he had previously thought to be an impossible speed of creating a map. Not only was the speed far beyond what he, or anyone he knew, was capable of, it was also precise down to the finest detail.
In under a minute the map is completed. The entrance of Lost Water Caverns is located in the center of the parchments, and line of detail outwards from the center depicts the area they passed through in complete detail.
“That’s incredible!” Jerule exclaims when the map is done, clapping Regal on the shoulder.
“Thanks!” Regal say proudly in response to the praise, placing the map away and preparing his weapons in case of a surprise attack.
The squad advances into the depth of the dungeon with Regal commanding from the center of the formation, occasionally taking the map out and adding to it as they move. They have no need for torches as illuminating crystals are embedded in the walls, filling the cave with a light that reflects off every watery stone surface. These crystals could be harvested to work as perpetual lighting in the community, but they are a natural resource that won’t replenish once they are taken so there aren’t anywhere near enough to complete such a job.
Regal directs everyone to continue walking deeper into the tunnel, eventually emerging in a large cavern where they find their first enemies. Small groups of three or four Rock Lizards laze on rocks protruding from the ground while other child- sized Mud Critters aimlessly wander around.
“Most are level 11, with a few level 12 beasts,” Jerule calmly analyzes the mutant beasts based on their size and informs Regal’s squad. “Watch out, the Mud Critters will attack anything that gets too close to them and have no blind spot. They don’t have a high attack, but they are very agile and can be difficult to hit. They will also alert the Rock Lizards, which have a much higher attack. Beware of their stone spit and tail lashes. Both can take you by surprise.”
With Jerule’s information on the habits and attack methods of the enemies, Regal quickly formulates a plan to attack them without attracting too many at once and being surrounded.
“Form our usual formation. Aqua, don’t worry about enemies attacking from behind and join Astore on the flank. We won’t give them a chance to get behind us.”
Regal also sends a mental image containing orders for Lande and Lore to each join one of the flanks. The Mutant Stone Beasts take it upon their own initiative to use their inherent skill to fuse with the earth, silencing their heavy movement and preventing the nearby mutant beasts from being alerted by them.
Jerule and the other two guards look on with approval from behind the squad, not finding any obvious flaws in the squad’s formation.
“Kilde, use your knife to attack the nearby Mud Critters. Draw them away from the others.”
“How many at a time?” Kilde turns his head and asks Regal.
“Between five and ten. We will be safe that way and can save on mana. The first floor of this dungeon should be quite large so we should save on recovery items where we can.”
Kilde charges forward without using any martial skills, his Jagged Severing Blade drawn.
“Don’t forget, they have no blind spots,” Jerule patiently reminds Regal and the others as Kilde attacks the nearest Mud Critter.
Just as Jerule reminded them, the Mud Critter that Kilde is approaching suddenly turns around and jumps at him without any hesitation. The two foot long brown lizard-like creature flies through the air at Kilde’s face with its mouth open wide, sharp teeth glistening under the faint radiance of the crystals embedded in the walls.
Kilde doesn’t panic by the sudden attack, quickly dodging to the side and slashing down with his large combat knife. His slash is a flawless movement, cutting open the side of the Mud Critter and knocking it to the ground at the same time. The beast lets out a gurgling cry which alerts ten Mud Critters nearby and three Rock Lizards.
“Quickly come back!” Regal commands when he sees the thirteen beasts quickly converging on Kilde. “Piora, use ‘Rapid Fireball Trace Array’.”
Piora hastily summons the octagonal alchemy circle in the air above her, complicated formulae filling up every section of it and showing it is a high tier Divine Art.
The air above the squad twists and a large collection of 26 fireballs, each the size of a human head, appear. As soon as they are materialized, each and every one flies out in a curved trajectory toward the mutant beasts.
The Mud Critters try to dodge the incoming fireballs, but the fireballs are locked onto them through Piora’s concentration and they alter course to hit them regardless. The Rock Lizards are somewhat slower and can’t avoid them in the first place, so they flick their tails and try to cancel out the attack. They may have been successful if the attacks were balls of rock, but they are fireballs which explode upon contacting the tails, enveloping the Rock Lizards in a concussive blow of raging flames.
If there were less enemies, there was the chance that a few of them might have died under a concentrated attack, but being hit by only two fireballs each, the enemies only lost around twenty percent of their health. Half of Piora’s mana is used up from that single attack as well, so she won’t be able to use it again or she will have no means of utilizing any more alchemy.
“Prepare to fire! Veronica, focus on the Rock Lizards, keep them back as long as possible. Everyone else, focus on your respective flanks! Don’t allow a single one to get behind us!” Regal commands as Kilde joins back with the squad and draws his Compact Revolver.
The sound of gunfire echoes out along with thin wisps of smoke from the tips of their guns. Veronica’s Deryu Ordinance Rift creates the loudest noise as the rifle fires larger bullets. Fortunately, they aren’t too close to the other mutant beasts in the room so it doesn’t attract their hostility.
Veronica also repeatedly casts a low tier wind based Divine Art that entraps the Rock Lizards and holds them back for a few seconds while she reloads her rifle. Her attacks don’t do a lot of damage to the mutant beasts, but it does maintain the distance while the rest of the squad fight the Mud Critters.
When everyone is out of ammo and about to reload, Regal mentally commands Lande and Lore to step forward and attack the critters. Ignoring the fact that they are five levels above, the Mutant Stone Beasts’ high defense is extremely useful against the Mud Critters who have a low attack, so they only take an insignificant amount of damage from the critters’ sharp claws.
Astore also begins employing earth element alchemy to attack the Mud Critters who are jumping around and dodging half of his bullets.
The Rock Lizards who are still being held back emit sharp hisses of anger and open their mouth, spitting fist sized rocks like bullets at Veronica, as she is the one who repeatedly hinders them. Veronica has no means to dodge the sudden attacks and is hit by all three rocks, knocking her back and allowing the Rock Lizards to close in at the same time.
Regal moves back in a panic and helps Veronica, who has lost half of her health, back to her feet. He looks at her worriedly and makes sure she is alright before turning around and returning to the battle.
At this point everyone is fighting the Mud Critters in close combat and the Rock Lizards have also joined the melee against Regal’s Mutant Stone Beasts, who are dominating the fight. Piora is the only one who hasn’t swapped to her combat knife, still using her twin Swift Cycle Revolvers and firing at point blank to ensure the Mud Critters can’t dodge.
Half of the Mud Critters are dead, but the squad begins taking damage at the same time, their health dropping at a steady rate.
“Do you need help?” Jerule calmly asks Regal from behind, only receiving a shake of the head as Regal focuses on the fight.
“Begin retreating, the beasts are starting to get behind us. Veronica, knockback the Rock Lizards away from Lande and Lore.”
The squad moves back as a whole and keeps fighting against the mutant beasts while preventing them from getting behind them. Mud Critters are dying one after another and while everyone still has seventy percent of their health, only three Rock Lizards are left with half health.
Regal uses ‘Foresight’ to see four seconds in the future. Rather than passing the sight on to Lande and Lore who wouldn’t understand, he processes the information and simultaneously commands the two stone beasts on where to dodge and counterattack from. This causes the two beast to perfectly dodge the next attack from the Rock Lizards and seize an absolute advantage over them.
With the two Mutant Stone Beasts quickly mauling and killing two of the Rock Lizards, Regal’s squad unleashes a barrage of bullets and alchemy to quickly kill the third.
“Sorry,” Kilde says once all the enemies are dead. He bows his head apologetically, showing his remorse.
“We all make mistakes. They are new enemies so it obviously won’t go perfectly.”
“Regal, that was excellent!” Jerule walks over and says with a friendly smile that makes everyone feel happy inside from his praise, “However, I do want to point out a few things you need to improve on. First of all is when Veronica was hit by the bullets. I understand you care for her and are in a relationship, but you can’t turn away from the battle because of one incident. You need to guide and protect the entire squad. If you hadn’t turned away, you could have changed the formation and prevented at least half of the damage everyone took.”
“I know, I’m sorry.”
“Haha, there is no need to apologize, especially to me. I am just giving you some friendly advice to help you grow. Your squad doesn’t seem to blame you either, so it is just an area you can improve on.”
“I understand. Thanks, Jerule.”
“You’re always welcome. Another area you can improve on is your planning in general. You attracted more mutant beasts than planned which led to a disadvantage in the battle. This is only your first battle and you already need to start consuming resources to recover. When planning an attack like this, you need to consider all contingencies and make countermeasures for them.”
Regal didn’t say anything in return, instead he started replaying the battle in his mind and calculating what he could have done if he had predicted more mutant beasts being lured at the start. In the end, he saw that there were truly many options available to him, but being in the midst of a battle, was barely able to create an adequate plan to adapt to the scenario.
Seeing Regal in deep thought while reflecting on the battle, Jerule nods with satisfaction and returns to Miner and Lanore, whispering to them in a voice neither Regal or his squad could hear.
Regal and his squad take out some prepared rations and quickly eat them, stimulating health recovery. Their mana has been expended to an extent, but they allow that to naturally restore itself while their health recovers. At the same time, Regal walks around and collects all the loot that the monsters dropped. He also doesn’t forget to strip the Rock Lizard corpses of their scales, hide, and meat before they vanish.
~ 16 Bronze Coins ~ 6 River Kelp (Low) ~ 1 River Kelp (Medium) ~ 3 Water Stone Fragments ~ 4 Rock Lizard Scales (Medium) ~ 1 Amber Flint (Low)
The mutant beasts in the first floor of the Lost Water Caverns truly dropped a generous amount of crafting materials, which makes Regal excited. As long as he can study and test the items, he should be able to learn the hidden qualities of them and incorporate them in his own crafting recipes. Even if the items are mainly of the ‘Low’ quality, once he reaches level 20 and learns ‘Compounding – Intermediate’, he can fuse them together to make higher quality ingredients.
The three guards wait patiently as Regal’s squad takes fifteen minutes for their health to replenish and mana to be over eighty percent. Lande and Lore, being mutant beasts, don’t require food for their health to recover, but still eat the stones off the ground to speed up their recovery.
When Regal is happy with everyone’s status, he orders them into a new formation that relies on Lande and Lore using their high defense to be the shield for the squad while everyone kills their foes with a barrage of bullets and alchemy. He also takes Jerule’s advice in hand and plans for situations where more enemies than planned attack, whether it happens at the beginning or in the middle of the fight.
Regal raises his arm and aims his Compound Revolver at a Mud Critter that is not near a large amount of enemies and fires an ‘Ice Bullet’ with pinpoint accuracy. The bullet hits the head of the mutant beast, creating a surprise critical hit and dealing twice the standard damage.
The Mud Critter cries out in pain and rage, attracting the attention of a small group of Rock Lizards and a number of Mud Critters. This time, Regal has prepared for any eventuality and commands his squad accordingly. The battle is over in half the time as the one before, and not only that, but Regal’s squad didn’t take any damage either. Lande and Lore lost a small portion of their health, but they easily restore that with a short rest and eating some of the stone in the room.
The beasts would normally take less damage on the front line, but they are restricted by not being able to use their lunging or sonic howl attacks, one of which would make them leave the squads defence and the other likely attracting more enemies by the enormous noise, which is louder than all the squad’s guns together.
Regal’s squad slowly advance through the large cavern while fighting groups of enemies, avoiding locations where shallow creeks run through the broken slate floor and areas where they can be easily surrounded. Despite luring more and more enemies at a time, each battle is faster than the last due to Regal efficiently adapting his tactics to maximize mana expenditure over killing the mutant beasts.
In a little over an hour, the entire large cavern is clear of monsters except for a single group of Rock Lizards and Mud Critters numbering nearly two dozen. The squad has already killed around forty Rock Lizards, earning them twelve ‘Amber Flints (Low)’. The drop rate of roughly one every three beasts means they will need to kill at least 300 of them in order to complete the quest. It is a large number of beasts to kill in one day considering Mud Critters are the prevailing mutant beasts on the first floor of Lost Water Caverns, but Regal believes they will be able to do it.
Not only does the amount of crafting materials Regal collects increase, but their experience points take a large jump toward level 12 as well. That one cavern worth of Mud Critters and Mutant Lizards increased their experience by a little over thirty percent. Regal and the others now only need another sixty or so percent experience before they level up.
Regal doesn’t order his squad to eliminate the final group of mutant beasts in the cavern but instead turns toward the guards and asks, “Jerule, how do you guards and other adventurers fight against the mutant beasts in this dungeon?”
Jerule seems surprised at first, but then ponders and replies, “It doesn’t really matter how we fight. Our levels are well beyond these small beasts, so usually we just wipe them out quickly while passing through. Why do you want to know?”
“Everything I know has been learned from the academy and my own deductions. I have been thinking that seeing how others fight may help me improve my own tactics and squad formations.”
“Hahaha, so that’s it. I see why you left that last group of Mud Critters and Rock Lizards now. There is no harm in showing you, but I don’t believe it will help much. Watch.”
As Jerule finishes talking, he raises his hand and points toward the group of mutant beasts and uses an alchemical Divine Art. A pair of static blue alchemy circles form in front of him in nearly an instant, overlapping on top of one another. Before Regal can analyse anything, a terrifying amount of lightning, each bolt the size of his arm, fires from the alchemy circle, lighting up the cavern and nearly blinding Regal’s entire squad.
The lightning reaches the mutant beasts in an instant and hits the ground in the center of them all. Arcs of lightning bounce off the ground and turn everything in that area into a field of thunder bolts, leaving no opportunity for the mutant beasts to dodge or escape. When the lightning finally vanishes, there is nothing left of the beasts that were attacked, not even corpses. The only things remaining are several translucent windows of loot where the mutant beasts used to be.
Jerule looks at Regal helplessly and says, “See, that’s what I mean. I don’t think overwhelming strength will be able to help you much.”
“Jerule, was that two alchemy Divine Arts at once?!” Regal asks in complete astonishment.
“No, it was just the one. As your level gets higher, you can learn more powerful skills that have stronger attacks. That just then was the Tier 5 Divine Art ‘Lightning Bank’ from the skill ‘Bright Night Storm’, a skill that you need to be at least level 40 to learn.”
“I wish I could learn something like that. I haven’t been able to advance any alchemy or martial skills beyond Tier 6, so I don’t have a lot of firepower. If I can learn something like that though, it would solve all my problems!”
“You can learn something like this quite easily. Our community is like a family, so the lord likes to help us out when he can. If you work hard for Lord Solace, he will surely reward you. Stand by his side for ten years and the benefits will be enormous.”
“Ah, that doesn’t actually sound like a bad idea.”
Just as Regal is nodding toward Jerule, Piora viciously elbows him in the side and angrily says, “Idiot, aren’t we leaving after a year. Don’t tell me you plan to give up creating our own grand community? If you do, I’ll beat you up here!”
“Sorry Jerule, it looks like I won’t be able to get too much of the lord’s favour,” Regal says as if it can’t be helped before whispering to the infuriated red haired girl beside him, “Piora, that’s going a bit far isn’t it? We were just talking, so there’s no need to get so angry.”
“Hmph, what do you know. I won’t follow someone who is so weak-minded. What are we going to do if you stay? Wait around for you like maids?”
“What? Who said anything about that?! Doesn’t it just mean we would all stay here together?”
“Stop thinking of yourself! We are all here for you, but you can’t just ignore us! I will be the first to kill you if you try!”
Just like that, Piora storms off from Regal, dragging Veronica away with her. Regal looks on at them confused and doesn’t understand where the sudden burst of rage came from, nor why she dragged Veronica away.
What Regal isn’t comprehending is that Piora isn’t actually angry at him, but instead concerned. She had been feeling something wasn’t right over the past few hours, only she didn’t know what. This sense of foreboding has been eating away at her and making her deeply frustrated with nowhere to vent it other than on the mutant beasts. It was at the moment Regal agreed with Jerule’s idea of staying by the Greyhorn Lord that she noticed the guard’s expression becoming cold and calculating, which set off an alarm bell inside of her and knew she had to do intervene because Jerule was up to something.
With all the frustration inside of her, she decided to abruptly barge into their conversation and completely derailed it while reminding Regal of what their goal truly was. As for dragging Veronica away, she was only grabbing the nearest person to have someone to complain to.
Jerule is also surprised by the sudden turn of events, only shrugging his shoulders while maintaining the smile on his face and saying, “I guess it can’t be helped then.”
Regal’s squad then resumes their original goal of exploring the first floor of the Lost Water Caverns and collecting ‘Amber Shards’ to complete their current request.
Regal stand in the center of their formation as they leave the now empty cavern and head into one of the many wide tunnels leading away. Regal has his quill and parchment in hand again as he continues to map out the first floor of the Lost Water Cavern as they go. He is tempted to use the Over Tier Divine Art ‘OT: Automap’ from ‘Cartography’, but it expends too much mana, and will leave him with a deficiency if they are surprised by mutant beasts.
The squad travels the first floor of the dungeon under the guidance and helpful hints of Jerule, which everyone in the party appreciates, apart from Piora, who has taken to ignoring him. Regal tried to mediate between the two, but Piora took a stubborn front toward Jerule and basically ordered Regal to focus on the dungeon instead.
Two more caverns after the first and Regal and his squad have finally all leveled up. Focusing on his talent for crafting and increasing his unique skill that lets him contract mutant beasts and monsters, Regal places one free point into dexterity and the other two in intelligence, making him slightly more dextrous and increasing his total mana by 4 points on top of the standard 10 points from the level up.
Name: Regal Havier Age: 18 Level: 12 Nxt Level: 4% Health: 446/446 Mana: 337/337 Stamina: 167/167 Class: Grand Crafter Str: 45 Dex: 50 Agi: 39 End: 37 Int: 34 Lck: 16
Barely an hour after levelling up, Regal and his squad meet a new mutant beast. The enemy isn’t a different type of mutant beast, but is instead a variant of the Rock Lizard, a Firestone Lizard. The beast is almost twice the size of a standard Rock Lizard, but the most noticeable difference is the razor sharp crimson scales.
“You are quite lucky,” Jerule says to the squad in surprise upon seeing the beast, “It isn’t often that variants appear in this dungeon, I myself haven’t seen one for over a month. You would have been even luckier if you came across the Flowing Lizard, a pure water element variant that is said to have a small chance of dropping one of the extremely rare healing skill book, ‘Cleansing Water’.”
“It drops a healing skill book?!” Regal asks in a mix of astonishment and disbelief.
It can’t be blamed on Regal, skills that have healing Divine Arts are extremely rare and viewed as precious treasures. They can allow a party to save a lot of coins on restorative items if just one member has one, but it is unfortunately extremely rare to find someone with the skill. Most people with who have these skills didn’t need to learn it from a skill book but instead have the skill as their inherent skill.
“Of course it is only a rumor, but I don’t believe it to be false.”
“I certainly hope to meet one of those Flowing Lizards someday. Jerule, what about the Firestone Lizard, does it drop anything good?”
“Hmm, it is a strong mutant beast, but it doesn’t drop anything special. It only gives some extra experience. This one is level 14, so it should give a big boost in your experience.”
“Actually, I have a different plan.”
When the rest of the area is cleared of Mutant Beasts, Regal calls back his squad and tells them to hold a defensive line when he approached the Firestone Lizard with Lande and Lore. Jerule watches this scene with interest, curious to see what Regal has planned for this situation.
Without hesitating, Regal fires six rounds of ‘Ice Bullets’ at the variant beast which isn’t paying attention to him. The Firestone Lizard turns around in a rage, flames hissing out its mouth. Regal uses ‘Foresight’ right at the beginning of the fight to see how it would attack, which luckily reveals it spitting out small bullets of flames much like the Rock Lizards stone spit attack, only with more projectiles and the small flame bullets travel at least three times as fast!
Regal commands Lande through their mental link to use its sonic roar attack, disrupting and dispersing the flame bullets the moment they are fired from the lizard’s mouth. He also commands Lore to do a lunging attack and distract the lizard variant.
Regal uses Lande and Lore as shield to protect against the Firestone Lizard’s attacks while he attacks it from a distance with only his gun to save on mana.
When the variant beast has only a fifth of its health left and both Lande and Lore are at half health, Regal mentally commands them to retreat and leave the Firestone Lizard to him.
Regal draws his Jagged Severing Blade and no longer attacks from a distance, instead closing in to subdue the variant beast in close combat. He doesn’t use ‘Radiant Enchant’ on the blade like he usually would, as the mutant beast has a fire attribute and it is likely to lower the damage from fire attacks. Instead he uses the Divine Arts from his martial skills.
Regal can’t use ‘Shadow Dash’ due to the stringent requirement of having his shadow behind him, but he uses the Tier 2 Martial Divine Art ‘Dark Evasion’, which makes him strafe away from an attack like a shadow. The Tier 5 Martial Divine Art ‘Moonlight Wisp’ would be the best for fighting in close combat as it greatly rises Regal’s agility, but that also had a strict requirement that he needs to be bathed in moonlight to activate.
Regal constantly dodges the Firestone Lizard’s rapid fireballs and its fiery tail whips with ‘Dark Evasion’ while using the Tier 1 and Tier 5 Martial Divine Arts ‘Twin Thrust’ and ‘Armor Pierce’ in succession.
Regal’s mana decreases much less as he uses his stamina for attacking, but the drain is still significant. There are also attacks from the variant beast that Regal can’t dodge even if he sees them ahead of time with ‘Foresight’, resulting in him taking heavy damage as well.
The battle between the two rages on for another ten minutes due to a combination of Regal’s low attack power and the Firestone Lizard not being able to connect many attacks. The end result is Regal’s victory, with him having 190 health remaining, a bit less than half, while the mutant beast only has a sliver of health left.
Regal distances himself from the stumbling beast and takes out a precious potion that instantly restores mana. He only has a few of these left and saves them for instances like these, when he needs his maximum mana to subdue and contract a mutant beast.
Regal’s mana fills up instantly due to the effects of the potion and he doesn’t waste time before casting the Divine Art ‘Soul Shackle’, the eerie purple alchemical circles forming on his hand and beneath the Firestone Lizard. The mutant beast is level 14 so Regal uses a total of 280 mana to cast this Divine Art.
Jerule and the other two guards look on in astonishment as thick chains bind the mutant beast, which struggles relentlessly against the chains until they sink into the beast as the Firestone Lizard submits.
After a successful contract, a new line of consciousness is added in Regal’s mind, stacking on top of the previous two. With the burden in his consciousness increased, Regal is glad to find that his mind is not strained and can manage. He can also tell that he should be able to accommodate two more contracts before he may reach his limit.
With the new connection between them, the thoughts of the Firestone Lizard flow into Regal’s mind like a raging flood. The mutant beast has a fiery temperament just like its nature and much of its anger is still present in it.
“I will call you Hades,” Regal says as he suppresses the initial overflowing thoughts of the variant beast.
Hades expresses some dissatisfaction, but the contract between them is absolute and it cannot reject Regal’s words. The only thing it can do is convey its unhappiness. Regal, however, can’t discern whether its gloom is due to the name or being forced into serving him. He assumes that it is the latter as he did just forcibly subdue the beast after all.
The Firestone Lizard moves over to Regal’s side wearily and stands guard despite it being nearly dead. Regal transmits for it to move behind the squad and remain protected until its health is restored enough to fight. Having just acquired the new beast, he doesn’t want it to die after putting in so much effort to get it under contract.
“Regal, what was that Divine Art?” Jerule asks curiously, his eyes still fixated on the subservient Hades.
“It is called ‘Soul Shackle’. It allows me to forcibly tame mutant beasts and monsters.”
“I’ve never heard of it before, but it seems quite incredible. To be able to subdue any beast regardless of temperament or strength.”
“That’s exaggerating it a bit. There are pretty strict requirements in the end. I have to subdue the beasts myself, and also have enough mana to use it which is directly in proportion to their level. Not only that, but I can’t have an unlimited number of them.”
“Didn’t you have the two Stone Mutant Beasts helping you though?”
“They are contracted to me, and are an extension of my strength. Using them is a part of my strength.”
“Haha, I don’t think you need to worry too much about the other rules of the skill then. You have already found a means to work around the rules using your other beasts as your strength. I’m sure you will discover other secrets as well if you look deep enough.”
Regal nods to Jerule, understanding the guard’s intention in his heart. Jerule was saying to Regal that there are many methods to become stronger, but it is up to him to look for them.
The squad resumes their exploration of Lost Water Caverns’ first floor, proceeding through the enormous tunnels at a rapid pace. Once Hades has recovered most of its health, Regal incorporates the beast into his tactics and the efficiency of the squad rapidly rises as a result. The Firestone Lizard, being a variant beast, is truly a king within the first floor of the dungeon.
Regal and the squad finally finish exploring the first floor of the Lost Water Caverns by late in the evening, long after the sun has set in the outside world. They collected a grand total of 132 ‘Amber Flints (Low)’, enough to complete their current request with some left over. They could turn in the additional materials for a slightly larger reward, but they also earned a large amount of 18 silver from all the loot so Regal decides to keep the extra materials for use in his crafting.
“It’s a shame we didn’t get a single skill book, that would have been quite valuable,” Regal dejectedly mumbles to himself once they are finished.
“What are you saying?” Jerule happens to overhear Regal and says to him in good humor. “Skill books are extremely rare you know. Even if you killed ten times this number, there still might not be a single one. If they were that easy to get they wouldn’t be so expensive.”
“He’s right, they are the true treasures in a dungeon,.” Piora surprises Regal as she suddenly appears beside him.
“I know, but I can still want them. We got a lot of materials today at least, so everyone earned a fair bit.”
“Hmph, who earned a fair bit?” Piora snorts as if Regal said something idiotic. “You are the crafter among us, so you earned. Keep the materials because they are useless to me. What am I going to use them for?”
“Wouldn’t you sell them?” Regal asks innocently, unsure why Piora would claim they have no use for them.
“The traders only come once a month, and even then they may not buy such cheap and low quality goods, especially not in a quantity like this. The local merchants will give a much lower price and we will have lost potential coin if selling there. You are our leader, so use these items to create something more useful to us instead.”
Regal checks with the other members of his squad and they agree with Piora’s words, leaving all the crafting materials to Regal. Regal on the other hand decides they can’t leave the dungeon with next to nothing, so he only keeps a small portion of the coins earned for himself and gives the others the majority. They are all in the squad together after all, so there is no need to be stingy with coin.
Everyone benefited in other ways in the dungeon as well. A few members had some of their skills rise a level, and everyone gained a large amount of experience even beyond leveling up to 12. They had some difficulty against groups of level 14 or 15 mutant beasts, but the compensation was larger amounts of experience. Regal and the others now only need another twenty percent experience before reaching level 12.
Hades must have been close to levelling up when Regal contracted it, because it also grew to level 15. Becoming larger by one unit of size and in the process gaining a small increase to all its stats.
Regal unfortunately can’t tell how much experience his beasts have, or how much they need, so he doesn’t know if Lande or Lore are close to level 17 or not.
“Jerule, Miner, Lenore, thank you for accompanying us today,” Regal politely says to the guards following behind their squad. “Especially you Jerule. Without your advice, I know we wouldn’t have been able to become accustomed to the dungeon and complete our request in a single day.”
“Haha, think little of it, it is something we decided to do to help a few fellow members of our community.”
“I, no, we are still thankful for your help.”
“Why don’t we connect our transmission plates? I can’t always come help, but this way you can still get in contact with me if you ever have any questions.”
“That would be great!”
Regal enthusiastically takes out his transmission plate and touches it to the one Jerule reveals. He also signals for the rest of his squad to join in and not be left out. Aqua ends up creating a contact with Miner, while Lenore approaches Veronica, Astore, and Kilde offering to be their guide if they ever need assistance. Unable to refute the guards, everyone makes a contact with one of them except for Piora.
Piora looks between the friendly guards and Regal’s squad and finds something imperceptibly amiss. She warily keeps her distance from them and refuses to share her transmission plate with any of them.