Is it wrong to crawl my way back home, one dungeon floor at a time?
My eyes snap open. The first red rays of the Sun peek outside, shining through my thin dirty window and into my small dusty room. It takes a moment to adjust my eyes to the low light of the morning and I see something hanging above me.
[Good morning! Because you've slept in a bed that you own, your HP and MP have-!]
I swipe my hand across the cobalt blue screen that hangs over me and it fizzles out of existence. I quickly sit up on my creaky wooden bed and give my surroundings a look over.
It was a small room. Could barely fit my bed, a wardrobe and a desk with a chair. It wasn't clean either. Almost every surface besides my bed covers is covered in a thick layer of dust and every breath I had felt heavy and musky.
That's more my fault though. I don't bother cleaning and this place was cheap, after some haggling.
It's not like I plan to stay long enough to care anyway.
Like every other morning, I look over my room and find everything as it's supposed to be. No one had come in the middle of the night to steal anything, but it's not like there's anything to steal. I don't keep anything important outside of my inventory anyway.
With that out of the way, I stress my ears and I could hear some footsteps outside my room along with some high pitch chatter. Nothing out of the ordinary, just the girls probably getting to work.
Just as soon as the word leaves my mouth, a cobalt blue screen like before pops up into existence before my very eyes. With a big title that says Stats and containing a set of big, bold numbers and words:
So that still works, unfortunately.
Rubbing my face, I let out a sigh as my shoulders sag. I open my mouth and say:
The blue screen stays the same, but the words shift and sway until the Stats title is replaced with Traits and the sets of numbers and letters are gone and in their place are lines of bold white text with a single trait:
[Outsider: You, who came from nothing and will return to nothing, are emancipated. The Gods hold no sway over you. Their words, empty. Their powers, meaningless. Their appearances, worthless.]
Weird to think that Gods exist here, but I haven't met one yet so it's not like this does a whole lot for me. Suddenly finding myself in a different world for no reason kinda makes a person open up to a lot of possibilities.
And I hope I never meet one either. I know for a fact that the 'Loki Familia' is a thing here and I really don't want to meet the man that fathered Fenrir of all things.
Or any of the Greek Gods. Especially the Greek Gods.
The whole 'no soul' thing is a bit worrying honestly but considering everything else that has happened to me during the days I've been here, I'm not going to lose sleep over it.
My Stats and Traits haven't changed so I doubt my Spells have either so no point checking those.
Just one last thing to check then.
As the word leaves my mouth, I can feel my chest tighten and shoulders set. My heart hammers against my chest like a rabid animal in a cage and my eyes zero in on the blue screen.
Like before, the blue screen shifts and changes until the lines of text are replaced with a single box of text.
[Welcome to the world of Danmachi! A world of Gods, women and adventure! Sometimes all three together! 'Why am I here?! What about back home?! How did I get here!?' I hear you asking and more. Let me answer those for you!
Who cares! You're here now and that's all that matters! The taste of adventure, the tale of Gods and maybe even the possibility of having a woman or two by your side and in your bed! All of that and more can be yours! With the help of this 'Gamer Mode' you don't have to sweat about the small stuff like food or drink!
But...if you're that boring of a person and want to go home, well, that's easy:
Just reach the end of the Dungeon.]
Of course that hasn't changed. Why would it? I feel my hammering heart rate drops like an anvil and my shoulders go back to their sad sagging state.
I still have no idea what a 'Danmachi' is. It sounds like something you eat, but I'm renting out a room in a pub and no one here has heard of it.
I swipe my hand across the cobalt blue screen and push myself off my bed. Just in case, I give myself a look over, making sure my clothes are all in the right order.
Not like anything I met could damage them though.
Trousers, a black hoodie and steel toe capped boots are what I wore when I…'arrived' here and what I wore when I go to sleep. The only things that I own from home.
My heavy boots make a deep thudding noise against the creaky floorboards as I make my way to my door. Taking out the key in my hoodie's pouch, I unlock the door. I walk through the door into an empty hallway and securely lock the door behind me, giving it a few tugs to see that it doesn't open.
My room secured and locked, I take a deep breath as I prepare myself to face the rest of the day.
Time to crawl.
Loud thunks of wood meeting my boots could be heard as I step down the stairs and I hear the chatter of the waitresses coming from inside the kitchen along with the clatter of dishes being washed.
They could probably hear my heavy footsteps, but it wasn't like I was trying to be sneaky or anything. Maybe I could just leave without-
A head of light grey, almost silver, hair pops around the corner to look at me with a wide smile, her eyes, same shade as her hair, crinkle up with her smile.
"Good morning, John! Up early as always, huh?"
"Good morning, Syr," I give her a polite nod and I make my way to the bottom of the stairs, "It's not like I'm getting anything done by staying in my room, so I thought of going for a walk."
Not technically a lie. I do indeed walk in the Dungeon.
Well, I run mostly but I sometimes walk.
"A walk?" Syr says with a frown, probably expecting my usual answer, "You're not going to the Dungeon today?"
"I have enough Valis for this month's rent. I don't have a lot planned for today, so I'm going to spend it doing what I want."
Syr's eyes widen for a moment and I make my way past her-
Before she fully jumps out in front of me, wearing her green waitress uniform with a white frilly apron on the front.
And with what I could only call a conniving yet genuine smile.
"Well, in that case, there's no hurry for you to leave, is there?"
I can see a certain elf with dyed green hair along with a certain girl with a pair of cat ears and tail start to look at the both of us, one with a wide grin and the other with a stoic stare. Both of them were working behind Syr, cleaning and setting up tables.
"If you wait for just a minute, I can make some breakfast for you! It wouldn't be proper to have a guest of ours leave on an empty stomach! Or...do you not like my cooking?" She punctuates the end of the statement by looking up to me with a surprisingly convincing timid stare, complete with quivering lips.
Every morning, like clockwork. I get up, Syr finds me somehow and tries to either guilt trip me or convince me to eat something.
Which makes sense, given how we first met.
After a day or two of being homeless and Dungeon crawling, I had enough money or Valis as it's called here, to hopefully rent a place for a bit so I wouldn't sleep outside in a dirty alleyway again.
Cue Syr running up to me and saying that I've dropped a magic stone.
Which was complete bullshit as all my magic stones that I don't exchange for Valis are kept safely in my inventory and I know for a fact nothing goes in or out without me knowing about it.
But, hey. A free magic stone which basically means free Valis. I took it from her with a quick 'thank you' and went on my merry way with an extra magic stone in my pocket.
Or I should have if I didn't have a waitress chasing after me.
She started to shill her workplace to me, saying such things like how nice it would be for me to visit and basically trying to con me into paying her pub lots of money for food and drinks because she did a good deed.
It was honestly adorable.
Too bad for her I didn't care.
I explained to her, in no uncertain terms, that I see through her bullshit and that I wasn't looking for anything that she was offering and that I needed my money for a place to stay.
God, how I wish I just kept my mouth shut.
After some haggling with the scariest woman I've ever met and laying down some ground rules between me and the waitresses, I found myself the current occupant and rentee of a room in the pub known as the Hostess of Fertility for only 2,000 Valis a month.
It was originally 4,000 with free breakfast and dinner, but I manage to cut it down to half because the food was unneeded despite how good it smelt.
And now, every morning and night, Syr tries to cook me a meal to squeeze more money out of me.
I didn't hate her for it and it's kinda turned into a game at this point. Wanting to make money is hardly evil and I can think of worse ways to con people than to just guilt-trip them and cook them a meal.
And I have to commend her if anything. She is quite cute and I've no doubt she's beguiled a many a man with her feminine wiles like she's trying to do now.
I give her a smile.
"Thank you, Syr-"
Her eyes go wide and her quivering lips are suddenly replaced with a bright smile. She opens her mouth to say something:
"But no. I'm not feeling particularly hungry at the moment."
Syr's hopeful smile smashes into a brittle grin before transforming into a full-on pout with cute puffed up cheeks.
"You should still eat something, John. It isn't healthy to skip breakfast, especially as a new Adventurer, you should do your best to keep up your strength."
A calm voice grabs both of my and Syr's attention and we turn our heads to see a green haired woman with long, pointed ears and wearing the same green outfit as Syr along with a girl with brown cat ears and tail.
"You're not wrong, Ryu but it also isn't healthy to force yourself to eat when you're not hungry. I appreciate your advice, but if I get hungry, I'll-"
"You'll eat in the Dungeon, yes you've told us that already," Ryu interrupts me with a frown, "That still doesn't change the fact you keep skipping out on breakfast."
"Eh, I wouldn't worry about it, Ryu!" The small and energetic cat girl known as Anya Fromel speaks up, pointing at my rotund stomach, "John's gut may be big, but I don't think he could survive Syr's cooking yet!"
Syr looks at Anya, shocked with wide eyes and a gaping mouth, her cheeks starting to flush red. Anya, whether on purpose or by accident, just looks at Syr and me with a silly little smile.
"Anya, I think it would be prudent of you if you didn't insult our guest," Ryu lets out a suffering sigh and gives me an apologetic look which I just gave a shrug.
Honestly, I think she insulted Syr more than me but whatever.
Syr goes to say something, but something stops her. She and her co-workers suddenly look behind me and I feel something heavy and meaty fall upon my shoulder.
"Flirting awfully loud this morning, aren't ya?"
"M-Mama Mia!" Syr squeaks out and I turn my head to come face to face with a stiffly smiling woman with long brown hair and squinting eyes. Her uniform was almost identical to Syr's but it was blue instead of green and her sleeves were rolled up, showing off her thick tree trunk-like arms.
Oh good, now this is happening.
"If this is what you call flirting, I hate to see what a date with you look likes."
I feel Ryu's stare bore into my head while Syr and Anya make some sort of noise that sounds like a mix of squeak and a scream.
"Ha!" Mias' stiff smile gives way to a grin and she lifts her hand off my shoulder, her eyes opening fully to reveal brown eyes that sparkled with amusement, "That mouth of yers is gonna get ya trouble one of these days."
"And girls," I move out of the burly grinning woman as she stands in front of her employees and staring them down, Syr and Anya basically hugging each other while Ryu remains stone-faced, "I hope ya aren't slacking off to bother our guest, now are ya?"
"Of course not, Mama Mia," Ryu bows to Mia, all prim and proper like while Syr and Anya bow as well, though not nearly with as much grace, "It's just that John has refused to eat anything. Again."
"Bah, leave him and get back to work already. If he ain't eating, he ain't eating. It's your job to look after this pub, not try to babysit him."
For a second, I could've sworn that Ryu that glanced at me with a worried look but in a flash, she bows to Mia and drags off her two coworkers to places unknown.
Well I say that, but she's just making them wash the dishes from last night in the kitchen.
Truly, a fate worse than death. Or unemployment.
"So, off for a 'walk' eh?" Mia makes her behind the bar and I make my way towards the double doors, "Hmph, I've heard better lies come from a plastered gnome. Ya off to the Dungeon again."
"Well, I don't see how else I'm going to pay you rent," I turn around to look at Mia wiping down the bar, not bothering to look at me, "Unless you want me to put on an apron and start serving?"
"And when I want to run my pub into the ground, I'll hire ya," Mia lets out an unladylike snort.
Taking her eyes off the bar for a moment, Mia gives me a look that goes straight through me, a chill tingling down my spine.
Mia Grand is a tall woman, about the same height as me at 5.11ft but by god, does she make me feel small sometimes. The first time I met her, she made it crystal clear what would happen to me if I acted untowards her waitresses or made any attempt to seduce them.
Doesn't help that she's built like a shit brick house and had bigger muscles than me. Pretty sure she could suplex me through the floor without much issue. Or worse.
"John, do ya know how much a meal here costs?"
I'm sorry, what?
"Uh…" I couldn't help but look around as if trying to find cameras or maybe someone hiding away like some sort of prank.
I've been in this world for about a week now and I've lived in this pub for about 4 days now without any issues. The first couple of days living in this pub were...cold, to say the least. I think the women here just wanted to see if I would make a move on them or not. After that though, I think they started taking notice of my eating habits or lack thereof. I don't know why they care so much though, it isn't any of their business.
"No? Should I?"
"Hmph," Mia snorts again and shakes her head, going back to rubbing down her bar "If ya have to ask, there's no point. Be careful on your 'walk' now."
"I don't plan to be anything but," I say to her, confused about her attitude but shoving it out of my mind for now.
I put my hood up and walk out to the slowly filling streets of the city known as Orario.
I have some Dungeon crawling to do.
With my hands tucked in my hoodie's pouch and my hood up, I probably looked exactly like someone about to run some drugs or sell them to some unknowing adolescents.
Doesn't help that Orario itself is still waking up and the only people out right now are shopkeepers opening up their wares and stores or very early bird risers like me. I feel some stares on me like needles on the back of my neck, but I just ignore it. I don't blame them for staring, hell, I would probably do the same thing.
Orario and I presume the world at large, isn't nearly as advance in technology like my home is, but it's weird. Stuff, like freezing food, lighting lamps or even cooking meals, isn't done with technology like it's done back home but with magic instead. Magic stones to be precise.
So 'technology' in this world isn't so much as electricity, gas or even something simple like a windmill as it is about using magic to create new things.
And in return, instead of the sprawling metropolises of home, you get these large, medieval cities but without people's shit being thrown out of the windows. Though, fashion in this place can be a bit weird although I may have to chalk that up to the city being home to the Dungeon and Adventurers as a result of that.
People at the Guild wear actual suits and I've seen all sorts of people, human or not, wear some pretty outrageous things that can barely be called outfits. Hell, I once saw the most ripped man ever, basically Conan but on drugs, wear literally nothing but a loincloth.
With no pants.
God, what a weird day that was. I still remember Eina trying not to blow her top off at that guy.
So thankfully my clothes don't stand out too much but I suppose it's a bit like uncanny valley. They're normal enough to seem like clothes people would wear but they're not common enough to actually be 'normal'.
Or maybe it's just because I'm walking around like a literal thug and I'm overthinking it.
I take a deep breath of the mild air, a stark contrast to the cold mornings of my home, and slowly let it out through my nose. I look up to see my destination up ahead, spearing towards the sky.
A mighty tower, bigger than anything I've seen, stands tall and proud in the centre of Orario. All roads lead to it as if it pulled everything towards it like some sort of black hole.
The Tower of Babel.
Won't lie, I almost choked to death on my spit when I heard that was actually a thing here and that the Gods had built themselves because they destroyed the other one.
Which made sense. Only something like Gods could make something so unnecessarily big that it didn't collapse in on itself.
Not just one God. Plural. Multiple Gods.
From multiple regions nonetheless. I've heard about the 'Loki Familia' who I can only guess is ran by the Norse God of trickery and mischief.
But I've also heard about 'Hephaestus Familia', the Greek God of fire, metalworking and forges and even sculpting.
As if that wasn't enough, I once heard a rowdy Adventurer talking about another Familia by the name of Miach.
Miach, a son of Dian Cécht and a Celtic God of healing. So much better than his father, a famous healing God himself, that Miach was able to regrow a severed limb for the king of Gods, Nuadu, whose hand had been cut off in the battle of Mag Tuired which Dian Cécht couldn't do, only able to replace the lost hand with a silver one.
And then Dian Cécht proceeded to kill his own son in a fit of jealousy. Took a couple of tries, but he did it.
I'm torn between actually wanting to speak to a God and wanting to not involve myself with them at all. The stuff they must know, the history they must've been witnessed to…
Of course, I don't know if they would even talk to a 'mortal' or how they actually are, but the thought is there nonetheless.
But my objective takes priority. And if the Gods are anything like from what I've studied back home, it might just be better to avoid them.
The Hostess of Fertility isn't that far away from Babel, where the Dungeon is located and probably the main reason I stayed there including the cheapness of it. It takes about 20 minutes to walk there, maybe less if I hurry. Not as short as I would like, but it beats sleeping in a dirty alleyway at least even if I was sleeping quite literally next to the Dungeon.
A familiar sign up ahead catches my attention. It's one of the shops that I pass by every day on route to the Dungeon.
The sign itself was a simple piece of wood that had an open book engraved onto it with some letter beneath it.
Thoth's book shop and materials.
Thoth. The Ancient Egyptian God of magic, writing and the moon. One of the wisest Gods of Egypt and so powerful that the Egyptians believe he wrote a book that would make whoever read it the most powerful magician on earth.
That God is having someone run a bookstore in their name.
And not even a big one at that.
Compared to the other stores, this one was almost cute in comparison. Snuggly tugged away between two much larger shops, a smithy and a produce shop. Unlike the other two which had opened upfronts, this one had a single wooden door and two framed windows that had closed purple curtains, stopping me from looking indoors.
I stop for a brief moment as a sudden thought crosses my mind:
What kind of books do they have here?
With all these Gods, with all these fantastical and deadly creatures, would kind of stories would people write? Would it be about worlds of magic and sword or maybe something else? Hell, what would the history books look like?
"Oh my, can I help you?"
A voice breaks me out of my stupor and I turn my head to see a woman standing behind me.
She had chocolate brown skin and long silky black hair that reached all the way down to her back and warm but wary brown eyes. Her clothes were a mixture of a librarian outfit and casual that seemed to hug her figure.
And she is incredibly beautiful. Her skin was smooth without a single blemish and her face had a distinctly exotic look, her cute nose small but sharp.
I've met beautiful women before, but I've met more ever since coming here. I have no idea why, but every man is either a hunk or a pretty boy and every woman has something going for her.
This is...different though. This woman was different, though I couldn't figure out why.
"Sorry," I bow my head to the woman who blinks at me, "I didn't mean to stand around in front of your store, but I was just kinda curious about the name."
"Oh? What about it?" The woman walks closer to me, no longer afraid for some reason, and only coming up to my shoulders.
"Well...it's not so much the name as whose name it is that caught my attention. I just thought it would be bigger if it was owned by someone like Thoth, is all."
"Hmph," The tanned woman puffs up her cheeks and gives me a mild glare, "Well, sorry for not living up to your expectations."
"Why are you saying sorry?" I frown at the woman who just blankly stares back at me, "I was talking about Thoth."
The woman, who I can only guess is the store owner, just blankly stares up at me with half open eyes.
Then her eyes start to squint and her eyebrows crease into a thoughtful frown.
"How much do you know about m-Thoth?"
What the hell kind of question is that all of a sudden? Why does she even care?
"Well, I know that he's a God of wisdom," The woman's eyes suddenly snap open and her mouth gapes open, "And magic, writing and the moon fall under his purview. He was even called a scribe of the Gods so I'm not surprised that he owns a bookshop. Just that it's so small. I mean, he's a God, right? A library or something seems more appropriate."
For a moment, the woman doesn't say anything and just stares at me with that gaping mouth of her and wide eyes.
"Yes?" I raise my brow at her, "Thoth is a man."
Well, I'm sure that he is at least. He does have a head of an Ibis but I'm pretty sure he's a guy.
Apparently, that was too much for the woman.
"Snrk!" She covers her mouth with her hand and her shoulders start to shake violently.
And there I stood next to a woman who was currently in a mad fit of giggles due to whatever I said.
I don't have time for this.
"Well, in any case, I need to get going to the Dungeon. Have a good day, Miss."
Putting my hands back into my pouch, I turn and leave-
"W-wait, I'm sorry!" The giggling mad woman grabs onto my sleeve, her smile bright and wide, "I'm n-not laughing at you."
"Then what are you laughing at?" I ask the now softly giggling woman with a raised brow.
"Just what you said about...Thoth, is all," She smiles at me, her pearly white teeth on display for me to see, "You said you're off to the Dungeon right? What Familia are you a part of? I don't see an emblem on you or your peculiar clothes."
A bit weird to ask me that all of a sudden, but I suppose it doesn't matter.
"I'm part of Yahweh's Familia."
Not like my Familia exists anyway. And I'm so bloody glad for that, I don't think I could take it if Yahweh was a thing here.
"Yeah...way?" The woman rolls the word around her tongue, mispronouncing the name like everyone else, "I don't believe I've heard of such a God before…"
"He's pretty secretive," I shrug my shoulders at her frown, "Miss, if you don't mind, I do really need to get to the Dungeon. I'm already later than I would like to be."
"Oh! Of course, my apologies. The best of luck to you…?"
"John. No surname."
The woman raises her brow briefly before flashing me a smile, "Then the best of luck, John. If you ever in need of any reading material, do come by and give my store a look."
How many women are going to shill me their workplaces? What's next, a brothel?
"If I have the time, I'll come by," I lie through my teeth and nod to the woman again, "Good day, Miss."
With that, I turn around with my hands in my pouch and my hood up. The Tower of Babel loomed there in the distance, stoic and still, as if waiting for me.
What a strange woman.
The first thing I learned about the Dungeon is that's alive.
Not alive as in a creature that breathes, sleeps and eats.
But more in the sense, the entire thing is 'aware' of both itself, of me and anyone else that enters it.
The saying "In the Belly of the Beast," is scarily accurate for the Dungeon and how it works.
It took me a while, but ever since I first came here, I had this niggling feeling at the back of my head whenever I fought against a group of Goblins or a Kobold.
Until it struck me.
The Dungeon, at its very core, acts as an immune system.
Foreign bodies enter in the veins of the main body and in retaliation, it sends in the antibodies to get rid of or even eat in some cases the potential viruses.
Belly of the Beast in fucking deed.
That's not even taking into account that parts of the Dungeon that get damaged are repaired next morning. Or the fact that I've literally seen Kobolds birthed from the walls of the Dungeon itself in some sort disturbing caricature of something being born.
Too bad this immune system is my one-way ticket home when I reach the bottom.
The first floor of the Dungeon had dark blue walls, the colour reminding me of the sky that hanged above my head not moments ago. Despite being deep underground, I could see just as clearly as I could in the day due to the sparkling specks on the ceiling, far above me. I don't know if they're gems or just the Dungeons way of making sure I don't trip over and die.
I had taken my hands out of my pouch and they hang listlessly at my side, though my hands are clenched tightly into balled fists. My hood was taken down and I kept glancing at the dark blue walls every second, my eyes never resting once.
I had my hood up the first time I came here, but I didn't realise how much that thing actually limits my vision.
Something blinks to life in the corner of my vision.
A small cobalt blue box with a green bar on top of a blue bar. The green bar had the letters HP next to it and the number 60 in the middle. The blue bar was the same except that had MP and the number 120.
And here we go.
From ahead of me, I heard various yelps and yips coming from the deep darkness of the Dungeon. In no time at all, the first monsters of the day finally appeared.
Three Kobolds, monsters that looked like a mix of a man and dog, run towards me on all fours. Pure red glowing eyes zero in on me and dog-like snouts growl at me, showing off their razor-sharp teeth.
I raise my hand towards the three sprinting Kobolds, the distance between us getting shorter and shorter in a frightening display of speed.
Out of the corner of my eye, my MP bar trickles down to 110 before steadily trickling back up.
From around me, three stakes of rock break off from the walls of the Dungeon with loud cracks that echo out throughout the hallway. The three floating sharp stalagmites shoot off like bullets, one for each Kobold.
A spurt of blood, a high pitched yelp and three thuds could be heard as the Kobold's dead bodies hit the floor.
I put my hand down and I look around on the dark blue walls of the Dungeon, searching for any signs or tall tale noises of monsters being born.
Nothing. The only sound that I could hear is the sound of my steady heartbeat.
That was easy.
Kobolds aren't the hardest thing I had to deal with down here, but they are fast and they usually run with a group or a pair from what I've seen. Running away and spamming Earth Spikes usually does the trick if there is more than three.
Like before, a blue screen pops up in front of me, larger than any other. In the screen were multiple boxes, probably more than I'll ever need. Only two boxes had something in them. A key for my room back at the Hostess of Fertility and a knife that I bought from the Guild when Eina browbeat me into buying it. It had also had some lines of text at the very top that read:
Magic stones(small): 0
Gotta love having the world's most secure bank quite literally in the back of my mind.
I point my finger at the knife and another but smaller blue box filled with white text springs to life in front of me.
A knife you bought because you can't say no to a woman. Surprisingly well made and durable for a stock standard knife. Essential for any Adventurer, whether for combat or for cutting up monsters for their stones.]
Ignoring the stuff about a woman, I click the knife again and the small box blinks out of existence and I feel a sudden weight appear in my right hand.
Gripping the knife until my knuckles turn white, I walk through the blue screens and they fizzle out of existence.
The bodies aren't going anywhere. There's no need to rush for some fingernail-sized magic stones.
I slowly make my way towards the still bodies of the Kobolds, knife clutched in my hand like a lifeline.
2 of the 3 Kobolds had the stone spikes pierced through their eyes and coming out in the back of their head, but the third one had a spike in their chest, piercing what should be their heart.
Another three rocks break off the dark blue walls of the Dungeon, another three sharp stalagmites shoot towards the Kobold. Two pierce through their ribs while one goes through their head.
I could feel myself let out a sigh as I basically double tapped the Kobold and my grip loosens on my knife if only a little bit.
"Time to get to work," I mutter grimly to myself.
Kneeling over the bodies, I bring my knife down onto its chest and warm blood spurts everywhere.
My body goes on autopilot as I work on extracting the magic stones in the Kobold's chest and my brain wanders.
Specifically onto this whole "Gamer" thing.
I have no idea how it even works.
It basically turns me into an RPG video game character and…
And that's it. That's all I got.
I have my own inventory, I have an HP and MP bar, I have my own stats which I can only guess to what they actually do because this stupid thing doesn't come with a manual and there's no 'menu' or 'options' that I can just open up and read. Hell, I even have bloody magic, but that was rather...lackluster all things considered.
I just say the words and the spell actives. Sometimes I move my hands to direct it, but it's rather cut and dry for something like magic.
Like a video game.
Shame I couldn't just pick up a sword and start swinging, but I'm not going to fool myself. I have no idea how to fight in melee besides wildly swinging and I started out with these spells anyway and my WIS has increased because of that, so no point fixing what ain't broke.
Turns out, being quite literally dropped right into another world that has a completely different currency system makes it quite difficult to buy weapons and armour. Who would've thought?
At least spells don't cost money to use, thank God.
"And that's three."
As the last Kobold turns to ash I shove its magic stone, more of a shard than a stone, into my pouch and a notification pops up by my 'HUD' I guess I could call it.
Acquired three magic stones(small)! Automatically moved to inventory.
Swiping away the annoying blue box, I look at my HUD once again, scanning it for something.
My bright blue bar is slowly but surely trickling back up to 120 and my green bar remained unchanged.
It didn't have anything else on it. Not my name, real or fake.
And certainly not an experience bar.
I've heard other Adventurers mention something about 'Level 2' and 'Level 1' but I don't think they have the same thing that I do. Something about a 'Falna' whatever the hell that is.
It seems like common knowledge and I couldn't risk outing myself as a complete outsider, at least not this early, so when Eina asked me if I had a 'Falna' I just lied through my teeth like I usually do.
This thing didn't call itself a 'Falna' though, it called itself 'Gamer Mode'.
I suppose I should stop worrying about this stuff, at least for now. I'm in the Dungeon right now, I should just concentrate on getting past Floor Six today.
A Floor a day.
That's the goal I set myself. The one I'm currently failing at.
It's the goal that'll get me closer to home, after all.
I'm thrown back against the wall by the great scaled beast known as a Dungeon Lizard rams me and pins me against the wall with its great big thick hide, my arms pathetically trying to push it away.
It doesn't budge.
With slithering turn of its head, a crossbreed between a Komodo dragon and a snake, the Dungeon Lizard hisses at me, its glowing red eyes glaring at me and blood dripping from its mouth. As if taking its sweet time, the thing slowly opens its bloody gaping maw, blood coloured slime drip onto my arms. No sound was made as it dislocates its jaw big enough to swallow my head whole and then some.
So of course, I do the smart thing.
I stick my hand down its throat.
I ignore the slimy and constricting throat of the Dungeon Lizard and I notice my MP bar goes from 80 to 20. The human-sized lizard doesn't have a moment to react as it bursts into flames and its whole body quickly turns into ash as its magic stone is destroyed in the blaze.
I'm dropped onto the ground and onto my knees, gasping for air. The rancid smell of blood permeates the air and with it, I feel the tangy taste of cling to the back of my throat.
A half-eaten corpse of a man stares at me with dead, glassy eyes, his whole lower half nothing more than guts and organs that had fallen out and around him were the corpses of 5 Goblins, untouched besides the large slashes on their bodies.
It wasn't the first time I've seen a dead body.
The first time was my first day here.
It was a girl with short brown hair. Her face and throat had been torn to shreds by a Kobold.
I think that was the first time I killed anything as well.
After that, I had asked Eina about the policy on finding dead bodies of Adventurers. Eina, sweet thing that she is, gave to me gently but the message was clear:
It's not the Guild's problem and it's not my problem unless I make it my problem.
Adventurers die. That's just a simple fact that I or anyone else in my line of work have to deal with. As I stare at the glassy-eyed corpse, one of the first things that Eina ever told me and subsequently the first piece of advice I've received upon arriving in this world:
"Adventurers shouldn't go on adventures."
I slowly make my way over to the dead body, the glassy eyes almost tracking me as I close in on the corpse.
I kneel down and, as gently as I could, I flip him over onto his back, his face set in a perpetual scream. I ignore the sounds his organs make as I twist him around. The sword in his grasp falls away, his fingers loosely holding it despite his death.
The first time, I didn't bother looking. I just killed the monster and ran as fast as I could.
The next day, the girl was gone.
The stairway to the Fifth Floor is just up ahead. If I go down, this guy probably won't be here when I come back.
With slow movements, I close his screaming, silent mouth and gently close his eyelids, making it seem like he went asleep more than anything else despite his lower half effectively gone.
I pick up his sword, giving it a good look over. I could probably sell this or even use it if I really wanted to. It's a simple longsword, but clean and sharp.
I gently lay the sword down onto his chest.
I know no one will know if I take it. But this guy went down fighting. He should at least be given that much.
And then it strikes me.
How old is this kid? He looked older before I closed his eyelids, but now…
He couldn't be older than 17. Maybe 18 at most.
"Who sends a kid down here?"
I could feel something akin to acidic bile rise in my throat with every word I spoke and every moment I spent looking at the kid in front of me, I could feel my heart hammer against my chest in rapid angry beats.
From what I know, Familia's are groups run by Gods and everyone in a Familia has something called a 'Falna' which the God in question bestows upon their followers or 'children' as I've heard some call it. I don't know how a 'Falna' works but it's more or less required to go into the Dungeon.
Apparently, something bestowed upon by the Gods wasn't enough to save this poor kid.
Gods. I hope I never meet one for as long as I'm here.
Shaking my head, I slowly stepped over the body and made my way towards the staircase lower into the Dungeon.
I can't get distracted for too long. I don't know how long it'll take for the monsters to respawn, but I know it won't be any time soon. This kid seems to have exhausted this bit of the Dungeon before the Dungeon Lizard got the drop on him.
I take a quick glance at my HUD:
Probably due to my high WIS stat, but my MP regenerates fairly quickly compared to my HP. If I had to guess, that might have to do with my low END stat.
I wonder if that would increase the regen rate of my HP or my HP in total? I'll probably never know though. I have no interest in experimenting with my HP of all things.
Raising my hand over my arm, I open my mouth and say:
My MP starts going down steadily as if being drained. At that moment, a large globule of water forms into existence and splashes itself onto my arm.
I try not to hiss at the sensation of the cold water seeping through my clothes and my skin, chilling me down to the bone. A quick glance told me that my HP had started going back up, already hitting 30 and that my MP had gone down to 20.
I don't know why I only have these three spells. I didn't make them or thought them up. I only realised that I had them during my first day of being here which was…
Well, I rather not think about that day.
I force myself to move forward, leaving the body of another dead Adventurer behind me.
"That should be good enough," I mutter to myself and pull myself up from the stone cold floor. I check over myself once last time before I set off.
My clothes are just as clean as when I got here despite what I've put them through. No crusty blood marks or soaking patches due to Soothing Waters. One of the benefits of being a video game character I suppose along with a couple of others.
Unlike the Floors above me, the Sixth Floor is a drastic change. Unlike the dark blue walls and wide corridors, the stone walls had changed to a light green colour and the wide corridors are absent in exchange for twists, turns and multiple paths. It would be easy to get lost and end up in a dead end. At which point Goblins start to spawn from the ceiling and literally drop on your head.
That was a fun day.
A blue box appears in front of me with the numbers 13:43.
I get up at 6 sharp, so I've been down here about 7 hours, more or less. Probably would've been here faster but that Dungeon Lizard from before kinda shocked me.
Most Adventurers don't go in as early as I do which is precisely why I go in so early. If I go in late mornings or early afternoons like most people do, I wouldn't have a solid grasp on the respawns of the monsters.
I've seen some very seedy Adventurers. Some I wouldn't want to meet in a dark alley let alone the Dungeon. I suppose one benefit of living in a well-known pub is that you can get a pretty good grasp on whose trustworthy or not simply by how much they drink and what they say or do around attractive women.
In wine lies truth. Or beer in this case.
As I walk among the closing, light green corridors of the Dungeon, the only sounds that I can hear are the sounds of my footsteps reverbing against the stone walls ever so slightly. Every step is accompanied by another one, a phantom echo that makes it seem like someone was walking with me.
Or walking towards me.
My heart goes thump thump, pumping blood in my veins that rush to my ears. My eyes dart wildly onto every surface, on every wall and never keeping still on just one light green wall.
Then I see something up ahead.
"Oh, what the fuck."
An intersection that splits off to three hallways. One to the left, right and straight on.
Was this here yesterday? Last time, it was mostly a straight path with a few split off hallways here and there. I never bothered going off exploring and just focused on going deeper into the Dungeon. Did I just not notice or have I twisted myself around?
Actually, how far have I been walking? I've only encountered the odd Goblin group or Kobold so far.
No War Shadows to almost kill me again.
"Bloody bollocks," I mutter under my breath. I twist my head to each direction, raking my brain for something.
This isn't good. I don't have anything to mark the hallways with and they all look the same. If I didn't have my back to where I came, I'm pretty sure I would get lost in an inst-
The sound of stone cracking open like an egg echoes out as a rattle that shoves itself into my brain.
The sound came from behind me.
I snap around to see a figure shuffle its way out of the green Dungeon wall as if being birthed by the very stone itself. The messy 'afterbirth' is heralded as the figure turns its face to stare up at me.
Except it doesn't have a face. The whole figure is completely smooth pitch black with a single large silver oval thing in its head that could be called its 'face'. Its head is in the shape of a cross and its arms, almost as long as its lanky black body that ended in three sharp talons. It was like a living shadow built to kill.
Though I have to stare down to look at the War Shadow, I feel my body take a step back all by itself.
Then the wall starts to crack again.
From the opposite wall, another War Shadow slithers out, a picture-perfect copy of its 'brother'.
The two War Shadows look at me with their emotionless silver disks. Their only movement being the stretching of their three sharp talons on each long, black arms.
I don't hesitate.
Three sharp stakes of rock snap off from the walls of the Dungeon and spear through the air as if shot from a gun, straight towards one of the War Shadows.
Movements that resembled more like swimming rather than running, the War Shadow weaves under the three rock spear tips while the second one leaps towards me with nary a sound, its talons outstretched in a massive downward swing.
It barely misses me as I force all the strength in my legs to leap backwards, my muscles firing off all unison as the black claw swings downward and slices into the stone.
The other one from behind, the first War Shadow, rushes me like a rabid animal with its arms outstretched.
From behind me, three sharp rocks fire off yet again and race towards the sprinting War Shadow. It leaps towards the side, but the spray of black oily liquid that squirts out of its shoulder tells me that enough.
The two War Shadows go back to standing up to their full height and just stare at me blankly with those silver disk. The one with a bleeding shoulder ignores it, a somewhat large gash currently bleeding some sort of black liquid. The flexing of its talons though told me the wound either wasn't that fatal or it just didn't care.
I resist the urge to cast Earth Spikes again. I need to let my MP regen as much as it can before I start flinging that spell again.
I run out of MP, I die.
God, I hate being a spell caster some times.
With only a sudden stiffness to alert me, the uninjured War Shadow shoots off to my left.
I snap my body around and like last time, my legs shoot off the ground-
Something displaces the air behind me with a quiet whoosh.
I don't get the chance to look as I feel something smash against my ribs and I'm lifted off the ground by the force. My vision swims swirls and spins wildly as my body is forced careering against the stone cold floor until I feel myself smash against a wall.
Well, that isn't good.
I lie motionless on the ground, feeling little more than just a numbness that spreads throughout my body. The War Shadow that I had lost sight of slowly shambles its way towards me while the other one at the end of the corridor follows suit.
"Inventory," I whisper under my breath and a familiar blue screen filled with boxes pops in front of me. The bleeding War Shadow looms over me, its emotionless silver disk staring down at me for but a moment.
It raises its shadowy talons.
I was already moving when two stalagmites of rocks stake the War Shadow through the shoulders and the third one goes right through the raised talon and pinned it against the wall opposite me.
Shoving my hand through the knife in my inventory, I feel its comforting weight on my hand and my tight grip turns my knuckles white.
Spurts of black oily blood splash onto my face as I roughly thrust my knife through the smooth neck of the War Shadow and the sharp tip poking out the end of its neck, oily liquid bubbling forth like a broken tap.
Out of the corner my vision, I see the other War Shadow suddenly sprint towards me, its black knife-like talons reaching to gut me like a fish.
Grabbing the dead War Shadow's body, a disgusting wet rip of flesh invades my ears as I separate the body from its pinned talon, thick black oil sprays showers down onto me.
With as much force as I could muster, I throw the handless corpse of its brother at the War Shadow who, just like last time, leaps to the left.
But unlike last time, it was already in motion when three sharp stalagmites of rock shot towards it.
Three satisfying thuds of flesh being stabbed ring like music to my ears as I look at the War Shadow, unable to do anything, its chest is pierced with two Earth Spikes with the third one going straight through its blank silver disk of a face. Oily black blood pours forth with some sort of glug glug noise.
It didn't even hit the ground as its whole body disintegrates to ash, dropping a pebble size magic stone.
My lungs feel like they're going to explode with each breath that I take. Every beat of my rapid heart bangs against my rib cage and rings out in my ears, my face feeling like it's been ignited.
I could only take two more gasps as my legs give way to underneath me and I land on my arse right onto the rocky ground.
With a shaky breath, I cast Soothing Waters twice in a row and the bone-chilling sensation calms down my raging heart if only a little. With a sigh, I watch my green bar slowly filling up to safe levels again but my MP to almost drop down to 0.
I scan my surroundings wildly in case of any more openings and keep my ears open despite the ringing in them.
...Wait a minute.
I look down one hallway.
And then the next.
And the next.
And the next.
"...Which way did I come from?"
None of the walls had any of the tall tale markings when the War Shadows were birthed from. The Dungeon always closes the tears when it does that and I can't find any of my Earth Spikes.
Forcing myself up with a grunt, I walk to the centre of the intersection and kneel down to pick up the two pebble size magic stones.
Only to find something extra as well.
With a frown, I reach down and pick up a thin, small black...talon?
The talon of a War Shadow?
Is this suppose to happen? I thought if the body was damaged enough or the magic stone was severed, the monster would turn into ash. Why would it leave something behind?
Opening up my inventory, I click on a box with the black talon and I watch as the monster piece quite literally disappears into thin air and a small image of it shows up in a box. I click on the box and a blue screen spring to life in front of me:
[War Shadow's Finger Blade.
A finger blade of a War Shadow you killed. Sharp and black as night, you very nearly didn't see it coming until it was too late.
Thanks, that's exactly what I needed to know.
Damn, is this a normal thing to happen? Did Eina mention this during one of her lectures?
I really should've listened to her more outside of what the Dungeon is and its monster spawn.
Oh, she is going to have my arse after this. She already blew her fucking top when I off handly mentioned to her that I went down to the Third Floor on my second day.
Speaking of which…
I stand up fully and I scan my surroundings to find myself presented with four hallways.
Four identical hallways.
"...Which way did I come from?"
A one in two chance for it to either be another room or a dead end.
A Floor a day.
That's the goal I've set myself. The goal that'll get me back home.
I don't know how many Floors this Dungeon has.
No one does.
The lowest anyone has gone in recent times are the Floors that number in the 50s by the Loki Familia, which is why I know about them.
If I go down a Floor a day, I can get home sooner rather than later. There can't be more than a hundred floors in this fucking thing.
I don't belong here. I will never belong here. The faster I get home, the better.
I have one Earth Spike left in me, maybe two if I let my MP regenerate.
I can feel my grip tighten around my knife dripping with black ichor.
A Floor a day.
I'll have to visit Eina tomorrow then and make up some bullshit then. Maybe I'll just keep my magic stones in secret for now and cash them in when she isn't working. Maybe start asking around about that talon I picked up and see what I can use it for.
The star-filled night glitters above me like the finest jewels ever made. It truly was something to see a night sky without a hint of a cloud. The moon itself shined the biggest and brightest like a lightbulb in the sky that could never be turned off.
I wonder if the night sky back home is like this? I never bothered to take a look because why would I? It happens every night so why would it be special like now?
I wonder if Gods ever wonder about the stars above their heads. Do they wonder what life might be out there? Do they even know what the diamonds of the night sky actually are?
I would think they don't. If a person is born in Heaven, why would they bother looking up when all they have left is down?
I pull up my hood and shove my hands into my pouch. As I walk down the long stone steps of Babylon, my HUD blinks out of existence at long last and I release a breath I didn't know I was holding.
I'm the only one walking down these stone steps, the sound of my heavy footfalls echo around me, joining the muffled cheers and parties that Adventurers tend to have at this time of night in the various lit up buildings of Oriaro, like candles in the night.
The hallway I chose was the wrong one, but it wasn't that bad. Just a group of Goblins and a Frog Shooter that spawned from a dead end the hallway led me to. No War Shadows that time.
Then I went back after fighting another group of Goblins that had hidden in an alcove I didn't see before and ambushed me which is always fun.
Then I chose another hallway.
This time, it was the right one. I was practically in running distance of the stairway to Floor Seven.
Then four War Shadows spawned from the walls, three in front and one behind me.
The only reason I'm still alive is because of the one attack that I tanked didn't cripple me.
Or rather, couldn't cripple me.
I instantly started to run from the War Shadows in front of me and charge the one behind me, flinging Earth Spikes at it like crazy.
It slashed my back and my HP took a massive hit that brought me down to the single digits.
But it didn't take me down to zero.
And so I run like the hounds of Hell were at my heels.
Because I'm pretty sure they were.
I don't know when they stopped chasing me, but it might have been when I got lucky and found the staircase back up to Floor Five.
That Fireball I threw might've helped though.
Going back up the Dungeon is about as fun as going down it.
Which is to say not at all.
At least the monsters don't get stronger the further I go up.
I just ignore the way my chest gets tighter each time I go up a Floor rather than down a Floor.
Walking through the moonlit streets, the sounds of cheering rowdy Adventurers could almost be heard throughout the city. It wouldn't inaccurate to say that the night belongs to them as most, if not all Adventurers spend most of the morning in the Dungeon, making money and killing monsters.
Maybe it's because I've never really lived in a city before but it's kinda weird seeing two sides to a place. The village that I lived in was a pretty cut and dry place with the occasional drunkard.
The bookstore from before is shut, its curtains drawn.
I don't bother to look at it.
Eventually, I come to the loudest and most lit up building in the city, various voices cry out in laughs, in cheers and the smashing and clinking of mugs could practically be felt. The faint whiff of different cooked foods draft on by my nose.
Busy tonight. Maybe I can just sneak past the girls and Mia?
Pulling down my hood, I walk up the wooden steps of the Hostess of Fertility and push open the large ornate wooden doors.
The yells from before suddenly rise to almost unbearable levels as the cheers, shouts and the banging of mugs beat against my eardrums non-stop. The overpowering smell of food and beer assault me from every direction and I couldn't help but cringe as both my sight, sound and smell are attacked from every direction.
As soon as I open the doors, an elf with light green hair who was standing by the door at that moment turns to me.
So much for sneaking.
"-To the Host-," Ryu stops bowing her head to look up and finally gets a good look at my face, giving me a single blink.
"Oh, John. It's you. Enjoy your walk?"
Crisp and cool, a direct contrast to the rowdy atmosphere of the pub, Ryu gave me her usual stoic stare.
The clipped tone is new though.
"No, I didn't," I tell the elf bluntly, "I think I'm just going to go to bed for toda-"
"Take a seat and eat something," Ryu suddenly steps in front of me, swifter than I thought someone should be with a plate of full mugs.
Despite only coming up to my shoulders, the intense stare that Ryu gave me actually caused me to stop though I did look down at her with a raised brow.
"John, Adventurers higher level than you have been in here for hours at least. You have been the Dungeon for over 10 hours by yourself," Ryu meets my silent stare with her own unrelenting one, the din of loud cheers and swishing mugs unable to overcome Ryu's crisp, neutral voice though we were starting to attract attention from others.
I really don't need this right now.
But I don't want to make a scene, especially not when I'm living under someone else's roof.
"Fine," I shrug at the insistent elf who just blinks in surprise, "Show me to a table then and I'll order something."
For a moment, I could've sworn that Ryu's shoulders sag ever so slightly but just as quickly, she does a light bow and wordlessly walks off and I follow after her, dodging and weaving through the crowds of drowsy, drunk and loud Adventurers
"Busy night tonight," I say to Ryu over the din of noise and she glances back to me, "What's the occasion?"
"One of the Adventurers in the Loki Familia recently levelled up so most of them came here to celebrate. Here's your table."
Apparently going up a Level is a big deal. Good to know.
The table that Ryu led me to was a lonely little thing. With only one chair left, it was left empty next to a group of a peculiar looking Adventurers, at least compared to the rest but just as rowdy.
A red-headed girl is downing a mug of alcohol while the elf with long jade hair is calmly sipping something. A woman with long blond hair and a blank look, a really small guy with messy blond hair and a guy with light grey hair and dog ears, who's currently red in the face and shouting something or other.
Don't know why they just left this one empty though. Seems like a waste to host a party and not just take the chair.
I pull out the chair and sit down on it, the wooden chair creaking beneath my weight and I look up at Ryu with a raised brow.
"If you'll wait just a moment, I'm sure Syr will come by to take your order."
...Oh, you bitch.
"Ryu, don't you da-"
The elf didn't say anything or even smirk at me, but the glint in her sky blue eyes told me enough.
Then she walks off without another word.
"Fuck me," I mutter under my breath and rub my forehead even though it doesn't ache.
I'll accept that I just walked straight into that. I should've known better than to just hope it would be someone else.
Oh well. I have some time before Syr finds out I'm here and try to squeeze me dry.
"Inventory," I whisper under my breath and the familiar box filled screen flickers to life and laying almost flat against the table. I lay my hands onto the table.
Making it seem like I was just tapping the table in impatience, I click on the black finger blade of that War Shadow and I feel a weight of something underneath my hands. Removing my hands, a familiar black talon is laying there on the table.
Grabbing the black talon with both hands, I tune out the din of the partying Adventurers and the yells of that dog eared guy and stare at the small black blade in my hands.
This is the first time something has happened like this to me and I just can't find out whether this is a normal thing or not.
If I work like a video game character and an item drops from a monster, what would that item be used for?
The first thing that comes to mind is a consumable like a health potion or something but I'm sure as fuck not going to eat something that came from a monster in the Dungeon. Especially something so sharp.
Giving it a few tugs and pulls tells me the blade is inflexible anyway and pretty solid despite coming from a living shadow.
The second is selling it for money. Money itself isn't really a big deal for me, my budget consists of 2000 Valis a month and because of all my trips to the Dungeon, I've saved up quite a lot of money, probably more than I'll ever need.
The third and final thing is crafting.
Except that I'm not a crafter. Hell, I don't even know the first step to being a blacksmith or anything like that.
I guess I'll just have to ask Eina tomorrow then. Maybe I'll just say I left it in the Dungeon because I didn't know what it was and I didn't want to risk it.
She might not yell at me again then.
Playing around with the pitch black talon amongst the revelry of Adventurers, apparently all from the same Familia, I sat there surrounded by the noises of cheers and the din of conversation.
What am I doing?
Why did I let Ryu talk me into this so easily? I don't want to eat and I don't want to drink. I just want to sleep so I can try to reach the Seventh Floor again tomorrow.
Why do they care so much that some weird nobody isn't eating their food? I'm already paying them for a room to sleep in, why are they so insistent on something so little?
"John!" A chipper voice breaks me out of my stupor and I turn my head to see Syr making her way to me with a warm smile on her face and a parchment and pencil in her hand. I quickly cover the talon with a hand.
"Syr," I give the smiling grey-haired waitress a nod, "Having fun tonight?"
"You bet!" Syr taps her pencil on the paper, a grin permanently plastered on her face, "But, enough about that! I want to know what you'll be having for your first meal!"
You truly are too easy at times.
"I think I'll have some water."
Syr quickly starts writing down on her notepad while giving me an odd look, "Uh...okay! What else?"
"That'll be it, thank you," I say the words that shatter her happiness like glass. Syr's smile turns amazingly brittle and her scribbling stops dead in its track.
"...Are you sure?" Syr asks me in a tone of voice I couldn't quite place.
If we're going to play this game, my dear Syr, I'm playing to win.
Maybe you'll finally just drop it then.
"I am quite sure that I want a mug of water, yes."
"Okay then!" Syr tells me in a voice that is anything but, "That'll be a thousand Valis!"
As soon as the words leave her mouth, I could hear sputters and chokes on the table beside me but I don't bother looking back at them.
I'm far too busy trying not to break out in laughter.
"S-Syr, are you even allowed to do that?" I glance at Mia behind the counter who just gives me a look with a raised brow as if daring me.
Daring me to question or daring me to pay, I don't know.
I can feel a piercing glare bore on the side of my head. I don't have to look to know who that is.
"Water is a very precious commodity, John!" Syr tells me the worst lie I've ever heard, her pencil practically already writing, "If you want something so...outlandish, you have to pay the price, you know?"
"And food and beer aren't a 'precious commodity'?"
Syr just gives me a vulpine grin.
She thinks she's caught me.
Oh, you poor thing. Don't act as if you know me after 5 days.
"You know, on second thought, I'll change my order."
"I'm quite parched so I'll take two mugs of water, thank you very much."
Syr's face doesn't change, but I see her fingers grip the pencil in her hand hard enough to make her knuckles turn white.
"...Okay then! Two mugs of water, coming up!"
With a brusque turn, Syr walks off, not even bothering to look back at me and that brittle smile glued onto her face.
She wanted money, didn't she? Hell, she tried shilling this place to me in the first place.
Well, whatever. I'm not here to make friends. I'm here to go back home.
Ryu Lion scrubs one dirty plate with rolled up sleeves before quickly and smoothly moving over to one side and grabbing another dirty plate to scrub.
Rinse and repeat, monotonous work no doubt but she didn't mind. It let her thoughts wander while her body was on autopilot.
And her thoughts wander to John, the current renter and rookie Adventurer.
What an infuriating man.
When she first heard that Syr had managed to convince Mama Mia to take on a tenant, a man of all people, she thought that her friend and saviour had finally lost her mind.
When she first met John, she didn't think much of him.
Weird clothes that clearly show him to be a foreigner, a fat body not anywhere near suited for going into the Dungeon and a slouch that showed all to see how much of a stranger he really is to combat.
He didn't even own a weapon.
The only good thing she got from their meeting if it could be called that, is that he clearly wasn't interested in her or in any of her coworkers. Instead of their bodies, his eyes first wandered to her ears with that raised brow of his before quickly looking away.
If she had to guess, he's probably never seen someone from a different race before. At least he didn't try and touch her, though she wonders if he even knew about that certain Elf custom.
The first day of living here, she and the others were surprised to see him get up so early. With barely more than a grunt of acknowledgement, he left for the Dungeon.
They didn't see him again until almost 18 hours had passed.
They had almost locked up the Hostess of Fertility for the night until he suddenly knocked on the door, admittedly causing some of the others to scream.
With an admonishment from Mama Mia, John apologised for almost missing his curfew and went straight to bed.
The next day, John got up at the same exact time.
This time, Syr stopped him and offered him something to eat. Though John had, for some reason, negotiated to not eat a free breakfast and free dinner for cutting down the rent, she very much doubts it would've been outside his price range.
And at that point, Ryu noticed something weird things.
His clothes are always pristine. They never smell of blood, they don't have any marks or signs of battle, not even a speck of dirt.
He never ate or drank. No breakfast or dinner. He was never around for lunch. Every time, he would weasel his way out of eating anything.
She wondered if he even entered the Dungeon and was just masquerading as an Adventurer.
Until she heard some others mutter about 'some guy in weird clothes flinging rocks in the Dungeon'."
So, a spell caster then.
But that made even less sense.
Spellcasters, while powerful, are frail. They work the best in a team or a group at least. Any Familia with half a brain would know this.
So she approached him directly and got her answer:
"Why would my God care about me?"
She didn't know what was worse; That he didn't have any anger in his voice when he said it or that he asked her with genuine curiosity as if he couldn't even begin to understand the concept of a God caring about their child.
That answer along with the utter desperation that John had for being in the Dungeon spoke volumes of his current situation.
To have a single Familia member work alone in the Dungeon with no one to back them up, especially for a spellcaster, is beyond cruel where a single bad encounter or an Ignis Fatuus would easily kill him.
After this, she and the others tried to at least get him to eat something. At this rate, he will die from malnutrition than anything else the Dungeon could throw at him.
And yet he refuses.
Like a machine, he gets up and leaves for the Dungeon and doesn't come back until the morning has passed into the night.
"Ohhhhhhhhhh! That big idiot!"
Breaking out of her thoughts, Ryu turns her head to see Syr stomping her way back into the kitchen, her pout out in full force.
Ah. Of course it wouldn't be that easy.
"What did he order?" Ryu asks, already knowing who the 'big idiot' in question is. She puts the last of the dirty plates away and turns around to face her friend.
"Ryu!" Syr snaps towards her, her puffed up cheeks reminding her of a child, "I'm convinced John is just doing this to make me angry at this point!"
"All he wanted was a mug of water! No food, no beer! What kind of Adventurer doesn't eat and drink after a hard day of work!?"
What kind, indeed.
"And what did you say to him?"
"I said…" Syr points her two fingers together with the wind taken out of her sails and gives Ryu an awkward smile, "I kinda said that it would cost him a thousand Valis?"
"I see," Ryu says, her voice unnaturally calm, "And did he accept?"
"...He asked for two mugs of water."
Ryu blinks at Syr.
"I-it's not like I expected him to accept!" Syr hastily waves her arms about, "I was just bluffing! How-!?"
Without a word, Ryu turns and grabs two clean mugs, filling them with water.
"Errr...Ryu, you shouldn't get so upset."
"I'm not upset," Ryu states coolly, "I just want to make sure he pays. That's all."
"Oh dear…" Syr mutters under her breath as she watches her friend carry the two water-filled mugs with a brusque walk.
Moving easily among the rowdy members of the Loki Familia, Ryu finds her mark sitting alone on the table closest to Loki and her Executives, his back to her and playing with something on the table.
Ryu wonders if John knew how famous the people by his side actually were, but for some reason, she doubts he knows or cares.
Walking up behind him, she finally sees what he was fiddling with:
A finger blade of a War Shadow.
For just a moment, Ryu couldn't believe what she's seeing.
Floor Six? John has managed to get to the Sixth Floor solo after a week?
Instead of feeling impressed, she felt something sink in her stomach.
Was this man in front of her trying to get himself killed? Did he value his life so little that he would throw himself over and over into the Dungeon with no regard for himself?
"John," She spoke up and he turns around to look up at her with a frown, his brown eyes with blackish bags underneath squinting at her and quickly hides the finger blade he was holding.
"Ryu? Where did you come from?"
"The kitchen. Here, your order," She places the two mugs on the table and looks at him, sparks practically firing off between her sky blue eyes and his brown eyes.
"That'll be two thousand Valis."
Ryu tries to not let Johns' smirk annoy and he reaches into that strange pouch of his only to pull out four gold coins.
"Keep the change," John told her in a voice that each word dripped with smugness.
Snatching the four coins of the table, she counted them out.
And then she looked back at John, with a stupid grin on his face stretching out his annoying face like no other.
She felt her ears twitch ever so slightly.
"Mama Mia, I'm taking my break."
"Wait, what?" John drops his smirk and they both look to Mama Mia who gives Ryu a grin and a nod.
"Ya got 5 minutes, don't waste 'em."
With just a nod, Ryu goes to the other side of John's table and snatches out an empty chair that one of the other Adventurers had left, sitting it to the opposite of John and sitting down.
"Is there a reason you're doing this?"
Without answering, Ryu quickly grabs one of the water-filled mugs and takes a small drink of it.
John simply looks at her with a raised brow.
"You looked pathetic and sad sitting here by yourself while others around you are celebrating, so I simply thought to keep you company."
To her slight surprise, John smirks and lets out a chuckle, "Well, you see, this nosy woman forced me to sit here and I didn't want to disappoint her."
"Then you must not very be good with dealing with women."
"Hahahaha!" John lets out a short laugh, giving Ryu a wide smile, "Trust me, I won't make the same mistake."
"Hmmm," Ryu hums and looks at the closed first where John held the finger blade, "I heard you use magic. Is that true?"
John gives her a shrug, "Don't know where you heard that from, but yeah. I'm a spell caster. Thought it was obvious really, considering my lack of armour and weapons."
"You also lack a staff," Ryu points out to which John just shrugs, "If you are a mage, you should have a staff."
"I make do without one," John shrugs before giving Ryu a curious look, "Why are you so interested now?"
Ryu lifts up her mug to her lips, the cool water flowing down her throat before setting it back down and giving John a glare.
"Because you've been on the Sixth Floor and you have only been an Adventurer for a week."
Though she said it quietly, she noticed the Goddess on the other table suddenly zero in on John, though he doesn't seem to notice or care.
"And you know that how exactly?"
Though his tone of voice was of casual dismissiveness, Ryu notices his shoulders suddenly becoming stiff and his closed fist tightens until his knuckles turn white.
"In your fist is a black finger blade that only drops from a War Shadow that spawns on the Sixth Floor," John's brown eyes dart towards said closed fist, "I stood behind you while you played around with it."
John bites his bottom lip, his eyes darting madly to his tightly closed fist before letting out a big sigh. Opening up his fist, he holds up the black finger blade that Ryu saw moments ago.
"You caught me," John shrugs, his shoulders now sagging, "This thing dropped from a War Shadow that ambushed me near the start of the Sixth Floor. You know what I can use it for?"
"...You mean to tell me you don't know?"
"Yes," Ryu bluntly says to the idiot in front of her, "I know you aren't from around here, but do you really know so little? Do you not have an adviser at the Guild?"
"I do, but...I may have just listened on how to kill the monsters and the Floors than anything else. My bad on that part, I'll admit."
A lucky idiot.
The person in front of her is nothing but more than a lucky idiot spell caster.
Even if his God didn't care about him, should they at least not explain the basics of being an Adventurer to him before sending him to the Dungeon every day, non-stop?
Letting out a tremendous sigh, Ryu drinks the last of her water and glares at John.
"Monsters can drop certain parts of their bodies if they have an unusually high concentration of energy in said body part. For War Shadows, that would be a finger blade. If you want my suggestion, exchange it for Valis at the Guild or Babel."
"Hmmm...thanks for telling me," John gives her a small smile, "Maybe I'll make back the four thousand I paid?"
"That is your own fault," Ryu tells John who just smirks at her, "And I have one last suggestion for you."
"Oh? And what is that?"
"Join a better Familia."
For the first time since Ryu met John, she saw his whole body freeze solid, but only for a moment.
"And what makes you think I'll do that, exactly?"
Ryu Lion thought of many reasons. But what little she knew of John, she knows that those reasons would matter little to him.
Except for one.
"Because whatever Familia you're currently a part of is just holding you back."
John blinks at her, not having expected such an answer. He leans back on his chair, making it creak loudly.
"You do know I'm the only member of my Familia, right? By that logic, is the one not holding me back is just me?"
"Exactly," Ryu bluntly tells John, her piercing eyes going right through him, "I don't think I've met someone so arrogant and full of themselves that they think they can take on the Dungeon by themselves."
Unphased by the insults, John simply raises his brow, "Can you even switch over to another Familia? Is that a thing that happens?"
"I can answer that!"
Ryu tries not to smirk as John jumps so hard, he nearly falls out of his chair and snaps his head towards the third person that had suddenly barged in on their conversation and had swung a chair down to sit at their side.
With bright red hair tied up into a small ponytail and closed eyes, Ryu knew who this Goddess was, a mischievous smile seemingly plastered permanently onto her face.
"Yes? Can I help you?" John asks Loki, Goddess of trickery and mischief, a frown on his face meeting her permeant grin.
"Sorry for buttin' in, but I couldn't help but overhear ya conversation and got really curious! Hey, can I just see that finger blade? Just for a teensy tiny bit?"
"Ryu, yer breaks over!" Mama Mia suddenly shouts over the din of Adventurers, cooking numerous meals.
Ryu felt like there was some sort of joke at work.
But she had no choice.
Getting up and saying her goodbyes, she left John alone with Loki.
With the hopes of John realising who he's dealing with.
Who the hell is this chick?
I think she was on the table next to me? Maybe?
I glance over to her table where they were currently busying drinking or glancing over to me.
One girl with long blond hair was just staring blankly at me outright.
I feel like this gonna end badly for me.
Maybe a shiv in my ribs, at best.
The weird red-headed woman sitting next to me just grins at me, waiting for me to show her the finger blade.
Something about her is...off. It's the same kinda feeling from the woman this morning by the book shop.
Are they related? They look nothing alike though.
"And if I do show you? What do I get out of it?" I ask the red-headed woman with closed eyes. As if it was somehow possible, her grin widens.
"Oh~? You wanna make a deal then? Then how about this," The woman leans in closer, her eyes widening slightly, "Along with telling ya how to change Familia's, I'll tell ya something else as well!"
...I don't really like this. At all.
Maybe I'm just not a people person, but this seems shady as fuck.
How can it hurt?
Putting the black talon on the table, I slide it across to the somewhat scary woman and she eagerly picks it up with childlike glee and holds it up to the light.
She tries pulls and bend it to no avail, but the talon remains rigid.
"Just one last test! Don't worry, I'll be right back!"
Before I could react, the woman stands up and goes back to her table, waving the thing around.
Oh God I just got robbed.
Keeping an eye on the black talon, the small blond guy takes a hold of it and gives it a look over before glancing at me. He gives the woman a nod and says some words I can't make out.
The woman, with a wider grin, turns back and walks over to my table, throwing my finger blade back on the table.
"This isn't some elaborate ruse to rob me is it?" I ask the woman who laughs in my face as she plops back down onto the chair and I grab the black talon back.
"Hahaha! No, no, that thing ain't worth the trouble," The woman waves me off with a grin, "My children find more valuable stuff daily than that thing-"
"-But I have to give ya props. Reaching the Sixth Floor in a week, well...That's pretty impressive."
There was...something in her voice. Something I couldn't for the life of me place. And her grin was different.
It was like looking at a shark.
"Where are you going with this exactly? And who are you?"
"Name's Loki," The woman grins at me like there was nothing wrong, "Nice to meetcha John."
The Norse God of trickery, mischief and guile. The God who fathered Fenrir and Jourmangander and brought about Ragnarok.
Is sitting in front of me, currently grinning at me.
As a woman.
"Oh, that's a pretty intense stare, John~" The woman who calls herself Loki laughs at my face, "Sorry to shatter ya hopes, but yer not my type~"
"You still haven't told me what you want," I tell her, trying to keep the quiver out of my voice but it comes out unnatural and stilted.
"Ah, well, let's rewind a bit then. There are three main ways for a person to switch Familias: The first one is a mutual agreement between the Adventurers and Gods in question, second is a War Game between Familias with the Adventurers in question on the line."
I have no idea what a War Game is, but I can take a pretty good guess.
"And the third?"
"Well, ya see, that's a bit more interestin'," The trickster God grins at me, "If an Adventurer wants to jump ship to another Familia, for whatever reason, all that's really needed is consent, ya see. Not by the God, but by the person with the Falna. So, if say a certain Adventurer that's been thrown away by their God wants to join another Familia…"
"Hmm," I let out a grunt, "And what was the other thing you said you would tell me?"
Loki's grin dips ever so slightly before perking right back up.
"How do ya plan on paying the Familia Tax without ya God?"
"...What?" I say aloud as the word as the world turns grey around me.
Tax? There's a fucking tax?!
Come to think about it, Eina has been asking about my 'God' recently…
My 'God' that doesn't exist.
"The Familia Tax is what a Familia pays to the Guild for their services," Loki's grin stretches as every word that slithers out of her mouth like some sort of snake, "If ya don't pay it, ya gonna get blacklisted by the Guild and ya won't be allowed in the Dungeon any more."
"How much does it cost?" The words spill out in the haste as my heart feel like it is beating a hundred miles a minute, "If it isn't that much I can-"
"Ah ah ah," Loki wags her finger at me, "It doesn't work like that. Ya God has to sort out this stuff. I mean, the God runs the Familia, ya know? Even if ya the only member of your Familia, maybe even the Captain, it's ya God that runs it and handles the administrative side. If they can't handle that much, what's the point of them even having a Familia in the first place?"
...This is it.
This is what I get for lying non-stop.
How long do I have left? Eina has already asked about 'Yahweh'. I thought she was being nosy, I didn't realise she was talking about fucking taxes!
"So," Loki breaks me out of my stupor and shift my unfocused eyes onto her stupid grin, "What's the name of ya God?"
"...Why do you care?"
I hate how quiet my voice was.
"Because I wanna shit talk the idiot who's sending ya to die," Loki tells me, her ever-present grin stretching, "And can't even run a Familia properly. Ya know, I've heard about ya magic."
"Nice segue," I mutter scornfully to the grinning trickster Goddess.
"Now, I've only heard a few rumours but tell me this; Do ya really use the rock of the Dungeon for a spell of yers?"
Again, there was that...something in her voice.
But I can place it now.
It's greed. Pure, simple, greed. Her eyes are kept shut but I'm sure if they were open, the way she would look at me would be no different than a wolf watching a sheep.
At this point, I don't have anything to lose. Worst comes to worst?
I just go and live in the Dungeon and run like fuck.
"Yes, what about it?"
"Heh, ya don't have any idea, do ya?" Loki chuckles and leans back on her chair, "So...are ya gonna tell me their name or not?"
I remain silent though whether by choice or because my throat was tightening each moment, I don't know.
Do I lie again? Lying is what got me into this mess to begin with. And I won't be lying to a human, an elf or whatever.
I'll be lying to a Goddess about a God that I fucking made up because I didn't want to join a Familia.
"...You wouldn't know them."
"Because they don't exist?"
I snap my head to stare at Loki so fast, I'm pretty sure it could be heard all over the pub.
"Let me tell ya something, brat," Loki's shark-like grin sends a chill down my spine, "Gods can tell when ya lying and ya not nearly good enough to lie to me."
"I haven't said a single lie-"
"That's a lie and we both know that," Loki points her finger at me, "But if ya want an example...ya said yer the only member of your Familia. That was a lie, wasn't it? How can ya be a member of a Familia that doesn't exist?"
I could feel sweat drip on my back and pool in my palms as they open and close. I don't say anything, my lips thin and shut.
"Want another?" Loki grins and leans in so very uncomfortably close to me.
"We both know that John isn't yer name."
My mind goes blank. The cheers of the Adventurers fade into the background, into nothingness. The only sound that I could hear is the rapid racing of my heart, my quick shallow breathes. The world spins as I feel a sort dizziness take over me.
"Now, don't get me wrong," Loki finally gets away from me and I begin to get my breath under control, "Everyone has their secrets and that's fine, but~ Ya need a better cover story if ya wanna do whatever it is you want in the Dungeon. It's kinda lucky that ya met me first and not someone like Freya. Trust me, she would've torn you apart."
"Get to the fucking point already," I spat out towards her though her grin remained unchanged.
"How about ya join my Familia?"
"And if I refuse? You'll, what, blackmail me? Out me to the rest of Orario?"
"Pfft, of course not," Loki waves off my accusation like nothing, "I wouldn't ever stoop that low and If I go around telling people, other Gods are gonna take notice and that'll be a pain. Nah, trust me when I say that yer secrets are safe with me. Can't vouch for the other Gods though."
Great, that's really fucking comforting.
"...Why do you even care? Just because I reached Floor Six in a week?"
"Heh, 'in a week' he says. Ya really must be out of town if ya don't get why that's so insane and I mean that in every sense of the word. It should've taken you months to reach those floors solo. But it didn't, something you admitted yourself and that little finger proves it, whether ya want it to or not. Looks like ya reached yer peak though."
I hate to admit, but she has a point. And so does Ryu. If I want to get deeper into the Dungeon, I have but two choices:
Either join a Familia. Or get stronger.
And that's not even getting into being blacklisted by the Guild because of that fucking tax.
I glare at the infuriating grin on her stupid fucking face. I feel heat raise up within my face and I grip the table edge hard.
Loki's grin drops and it drops fast. Her eyes widen enough for me to see her red pupils albeit barely.
"If I join a Familia," I spat out every word like bile at the God, "It will be because I want to join that Familia. Not because you or anyone coercing me to join their little group just because of a secret that I have."
"At the rate ya goin', you'll die," Loki states flatly, none of her levity from before and her grin from before now gone, "Do ya-"
"That's my problem, not yours," I spat out towards the Goddess who eyes open slightly at my words, covered in spite and bile, "This conversation is over."
Without waiting for her answer, I stand up from my chair and send it careering back.
I don't look at anyone as I walk back upstairs.
In a daze, I make my way to my room. It took me a while to take the key out of my inventory and shove it into the keyhole of my door.
Dragging my feet behind me, I walk through to my small room and securely locking my door.
My heavy body plops down onto the bed. I stare at the wooden floorboards, the inside of my head swirling around like a sloshing glass full of swamp water.
"Oh, I am so fucked."
I put my heavy head in my hands and I try to think of something, anything, for some way out of this.
The first thing is that if Loki was lying to me or not.
But...if the Loki of this world is like anything of my world, then I don't think they would lie.
Loki is a trickster God, but I don't think they've ever outright lied. Play around with words and with rules, yes, but never stooping so low as to outright lie.
Of course, that's presuming my Loki and this Loki is anything alike.
This Loki being...female caught me off guard, but Loki has been known to shapeshift into different genders and even different species.
Hell, that's how Sleipnir came about.
I don't think this will be a common occurrence. I hope.
Should I have taken her offer? She isn't wrong.
I know when I'm beaten. These War Shadows are just too fast for me to deal with en masse. I can take one, maybe two, but that's only because I let myself get so close to death.
If it wasn't for this 'Gamer' thing, I would be dead before I even set foot in Floor Two.
And there's this tax…
I thought of myself working for the Guild by putting my life at risk and getting these stupid magic stones and in a way, I am.
Except this tax isn't for me. It's for my 'Familia'.
This 'Familia Tax' must be so Familia's don't become richer than the Guild they're supposed to be working for and if they don't pay for it, they're blacklisted from the Guild and from the Dungeon so they don't make any more money from it.
I slam my fist hard against my knee though I don't feel any pain. The thought of running away inside the Dungeon cross my mind…
But I'll die then. Loki is right, if I push any further, I will die.
Then I won't see home again.
My brothers, mom and dad…
They'll be okay without me. They're strong people.
Doesn't change how I feel about never seeing them again.
But what choice do I have?
Join Loki's Familia? As much as I hate to admit, that would solve nearly all my problems in a neat little package.
The image of ever-present grin flashes through my head. My hand clasped my knee in a death grip.
No. I refuse to slink back like a fucking dog just because she found out I was lying about everything. I refuse to let someone like her dictate to me about my choices.
Cutting off my nose to spite my face, as my dear old brother would say.
Though in this case, it's more of putting a barrel of a gun in my mouth and pulling the trigger to spite the other person saying I won't do it.
Slowly and gently, I lay down on the bed, my head still swirling around.
First thing, I have to see Eina again. I need to talk to her about this tax and see what I can do about it.
If worst comes to worst…
Guess I'm moving.
A couple of weeks later, I got a letter from the Guild asking for me to make an appearance and talk about regarding my 'Familia'.
"John, I need to speak with you."
That was the first thing my adviser, Eina, said to me when I walked into the Guild.
And though I may have no experience with women in a romantic capacity, I do know enough that those words are words that no man wants to hear.
Eina led me to out back and ushered me into an empty room with two sofas and a small tea table in between. I sat down on one sofa and Eina sat opposite me with a letter in her hand.
"Before we start, would you like anything to drink? It is still quite early in the morning,"
Eina is a cute thing, an elf with shorter ears than Ryu though and shoulder-length brown hair. Her slim body went nicely with the suit she wore as someone that worked at the Guild and behind her thin-rimmed glasses, warm forest green eyes stare at me.
Though now, considering how worried she looks so worried, it didn't really have the same effect and I'm still reeling from last night with my encounter with Loki.
"No thank you," I weakly smile at Eina, "Come on, Eina. Hit me with the bad news already."
She bites her bottom lip but gives me a nod nonetheless. She takes the letter and slides it towards me on the table.
I grab it and open up the letter.
It's a notice.
It doesn't say anything that I wasn't prepared for.
Except for one thing.
"I have a day?"
"I'm sorry John," Eina shifts her eyes away from mine, "But, it's been a almost a month now and your God has yet to send us anything. If they don't show up or send us a letter about the state of their Familia, even if it is just you as the only member, we can't allow them the services of the Guild if they don't abide by our rules."
Today is my last day.
My last day I'll be allowed in the Dungeon.
"And...there is another thing."
Letting out a sigh, my shoulders sag as I feel something heavy press upon them. I just give Eina a wordless nod.
"As of now...I'm afraid I'm no longer your adviser."
"...Because of this?" I wave my notice around.
Eina just gives me a nod.
I suppose that makes sense. Advisers are supposed to advise new Adventurers.
Of which I only have a day left.
"Don't be," I hold my hand up to stop her, "This...this isn't your fault."
It's mine. This is all my fault.
Eina bites her bottom lip, her eyes darting across my face and the letter on the table. She lets out a little sigh and pushes up her glasses, her face writ with determination.
"There is another way for you to still be an Adventurer, John."
"...Join another Familia?"
Eina looks surprised for a second, but she quickly gives me a nod, "Yes, if you join another Familia, then this notice will become void and you won't be blacklisted. It doesn't have to be a big famous Familia, any will do but they have to be registered with the Guild which almost every Familia is."
"But…" I feel cold sweats roll down my back, "But what about my God now? If I just upped and left, won't that just cause trouble if he comes here?"
"Normally yes, but if there is consent between you and your new God, you can just leave," Eina looks at me with her forest green eyes, her back straight and narrow, "John, your God isn't even in Orario, are they?"
"...If I say no, will that get me into even more trouble?" I grumble though Eina just smiles at me.
"At this point, I very much doubt it. But still, if your God doesn't care enough to be in Orario, then even if he does come here and raise trouble, it is very likely the other Gods will just laugh him out. You're the only member of your Familia so he won't even be able to propose a War Game if he wanted to."
Loki's grin bites at the back of my mind like a shark eating chum. If I go there, I have no doubt she'll take me. Being under her thumb after basically telling her to go and fuck herself will no doubt get her jollies off.
I ignore it.
"I thought you weren't supposed to be my adviser anymore? Seems like you're giving me an awful lot of advice now."
"Hmph," Eina smiles and pushes up her glasses, "Technically no. But an advisers job is about advising about the Dungeon. This is about Familia's, not the Dungeon."
"Heh, sure whatever," I roll my eyes and smile at Eina, "If it isn't too much trouble, can you tell me if you're advising someone else now?"
"Well...I can't tell you much now," Eina frowns at me, "But his name is Bell Cranel. He signed up as an Adventurer a couple of weeks ago after you did...You two actually quite similar, come to think about it."
"Oh? In what way?"
"You both ignore my advice and go down on lower floors than you're meant to," Eina tells me dryly and I couldn't stop the laughter that bubbled within me.
"Ha! Now that's funny," I let out a sigh as I felt myself smile for the first time in ages, "...I'm sorry for causing you so much trouble, Eina. Thanks for all your help."
"You're welcome, John. Do you plan on…?"
"...We'll see. If I do change Familia's, you'll be the first to know."
We stand up from the sofa's and we make our way outside but I feel something grab my shoulder just before I open the door.
I look behind me to see Eina looking up at me, biting her bottom lip.
"John, don't do anything stupid in the Dungeon. I won't say I understand how you feel, but please don't get yourself killed in there."
I feel my lips curl into a smile and give Eina a nod, "Don't worry Eina. I don't plan on dying anytime soon."
All I get in return is just a sigh.
Three stakes of stone shoot towards the ugly green Goblins, each piercing through their skulls. The Kolobod runs towards me, it's maw opening up and showing off its teeth.
It gets an Earth Spike down its throat along with two others in the eyes. Its body instantly turns to ash and its magic stone drops.
Letting out a sigh, I get my knife out of my inventory and start cutting open the Goblins.
I shouldn't be in the Dungeon today. My mind isn't where it should be and if I plan on going down to the Sixth Floor, I need to be at 100%.
Which I'm most certainly not.
I suppose this it then.
Without anyone noticing, I left the key on the bar along with 6000 Valis for the troubles. Barely stayed there for a month so it's only fair that I pay what I'm due.
I don't think anyone noticed, but at this rate, I don't think it matters if they do.
I don't need to eat. I don't need to drink. I don't need to sleep.
I can, in theory, live in the Dungeon.
In reality, I'll probably die from a War Shadow.
The image of Loki grinning flashes through my mind before I force it back.
Wiping away the blood on my knife, I shove the magic stones from the Goblins into my pouch and ignore the notification I received.
What in the unholy name of fuck was that.
A girl? Is a girl being chased by a monster?
What am I saying, of course they're being chased by a fucking monster! This is the Dungeon!
And going how by the sounds of colossal footsteps that sounds like they're shaking the whole bloody Dungeon, it's coming from straight ahead.
With each bone shaking footstep and girly screaming, I feel myself freeze up, my every hair is standing up stiff.
Then I see it.
It was the person being chased I saw first.
They weren't a girl. At least, I don't think they are.
What they are though, is a fucking kid.
Younger than most people I've seen, his head is full of pure snow white hair and his young, almost child-like face is currently written with nothing but terror. His ruby eyes are wide and round like dinner plates, filled with horror.
Then I saw what was chasing him.
Must've been 3-4 meters tall, maybe taller. It almost reached the ceiling with its towering height and its two bull horns could scrape against it. It has the head of a bull with glowing red eyes and cloven feet, its whole body little more than rippling inhuman muscle and coarse brown fur.
A fucking Minotaur is here.
And right in front of me.
In a split second, the kid with white hair and the rampaging monster behind him run across the hallway and out of my sight, though their screams and roars are still ringing out across the walls of the Dungeon.
I should hide. I should run.
I should do literally anything that will get me away from this thing.
"John, don't do anything stupid in the Dungeon. I won't say I understand how you feel, but please don't get yourself killed in there."
It doesn't involve me. I can't help every person that comes across my way and I need to look out for myself if I want to get back home.
"At the rate ya goin', you'll die,"
I can barely kill a War Shadow. What can I do against a Minotaur? I'll be doing nothing but putting myself in danger.
That was the kid again.
My body was already moving before my brain caught up to what I was doing.
I come sprinting across the corner, almost losing my footing, and finally getting a good look at the situation.
The kid had backed himself into a dead end, flat on his ass and his back against the wall. The Minotaur loomed over him like a spectre of fury and death, clouds billowing out of its flaring nostrils.
The thought of running away comes across my mind for a fleeting moment.
The kid with ruby red pupils looks at me, wild and pleading. His whole body shook like nothing else.
He's so young. Too young to be here.
I thrust out my hand at the back of the head of the Minotaur and a ball of blazing fire comes shooting out like a bullet of flame.
A loud explosion rocks my bones and the heat sears across my face as the black smoke obscures my vision.
The Minotaur turns to me, no worse for wear. Its glowing red eyes, devoid of anything but rage and bloodthirst. All directed to me.
I lock eyes with the kid. His mouth is agape and his eyes wide.
His body wasn't shaking nearly as bad as before.
That was my cue to start running down the hallway. I don't wait for the kid to say something.
I run with death nipping and roaring at my heels.
And here is the Danmachi Fic that I promised and what won the poll. Now, before anything, I should probably set up a few things:
The SI will be joining a Familia and getting a Falna. This is NOT a power-up for him in a certain sense. It won't increase his stats or make his spells hit harder or anything like that.
The reason for this is pretty simple. While I did plan for the SI to be solo, doing research and reading through the Novels, it came to me that quite a few things crop up that it really wouldn't work. The Lower Floors are insane and the SI has very little ways to deal with them by himself, even with the Gamer Mode. You could argue that he needs a party more than a Familia and I would agree, but the SI joining a Familia ties in nicely with what I want to do with this fic.
And let's talk about the Gamer Mode. This was probably the hardest thing about making this fic.
I wanted to show how beneficial such a thing is but also how much trouble it can cause. He doesn't need to eat, sleep or drink and people tend to take notice if you go four days without doing 2 of those things. His inability to feel pain is a massive burden as the SI can't really grasp the concept of how close to death he is except for a number on a screen.
All this allows him to reach the Sixth Floor but it also makes him think he can just bum rush the Dungeon which you just can't do. And with that all combined, you have someone with a very nearly suicidal attitude.
In any case, this is the first time I've written something like this. Tell me what you think, if I did it bad or good or whatever.
If any of you reading this are wondering about my other stories, don't worry. Nothing is cancelled. I'm just deciding to write what I want rather than what I feel obligated to do.
Have a good one you guys.
UPDATE: Some glaring plot holes involving the timeline were pointed out to me, I've now increased the amount of time between Loki's party and when the SI got to the Guild.