AN: So hello all, here I am back again with another chapter! What can I say, I've been watching the new season of the anime and have been getting hyped!
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Disclaimer: I do not own Danmachi or the Elder Scrolls.
( - )
It was all a game to him, a shortcut he could use to advance his position in his Familia, and to get all the attention and fame that came with that advancement.
Lili clicked her tongue at that, even as she once again gave him a fake smile and gave him a simple answer to yet another one of her probing questions.
Yes, despite his easy-going outer façade, she could see who he really was.
She didn't like Azoth.
He was a rude and arrogant show off.
An Adventurer through and through.
That said, he did have a very expensive looking magic sword...
Lili's eyes locked onto the glowing hilt of the blade, even as she followed the white haired elf into the Dungeon.
Her lips curved up into a smile.
Not that it would be his sword for that much longer.
( - )
( - )
(With Lili in the Dungeon)
No one had any respect for supporters.
They were the lowest of the low.
In terms of those gifted with the Falna, supporters ranked lowest on the hierarchy.
For Liliruca Arde this was an immutable fact of life, one that had been beaten into her more than once over the years.
A supporter's job was to carry items and equipment for proper adventurers, and to harvest the crystals left behind in the corpses of slain monsters.
They were nothing more than pack mules and dogsbodies.
A servant class.
From what she had seen, most Adventurer's deemed them to be little more than parasites. They were blessed individuals that were considered too to be Adventurers, and so instead had to leech off other, stronger, individuals, to eke out a living.
Their job was not a respected one, now one that anyone aspired to do.
In fact because of the reputation surrounding the role of Supporter, no one in their right mind wanted to do the job. After all, who wanted to be a servant?
No, instead most of those that gained a Falna wanted to be an Adventurer, or rather they wanted to be heroes. They wanted to live up to the ancient legends many were brought on, like the Legend of the Argonaut, or the Tales of Heron.
Unfortunately, not everyone was able to live out their dreams.
Supporters might not be respected, but they were still a necessity. One which made life easier for Adventurers, especially those that delved into the deepest depths of the Dungeon.
This meant that the weak and desperate were often forced into fulfilling the role; either through bullying and peer pressure from within their Familias, or through the sheer necessity of them having to find a way to live.
This was especially true for her.
She'd had no real choice in the matter.
Or rather, she had been given a choice, just not a good one.
Either she became a good little Supporter and paid her way within the Familia, or she got sold off to the Pleasure Quarter to provide income in a… different manner.
Which for someone like her wasn't even an option.
Luckily, she was adaptive by nature.
A true survivor in every sense of the word.
Where others broke down under the pressure, or allowed their will to fight to be beaten out of them, she persevered.
She took the duff hand life had dealt her, and said 'fuck you' and did the best she could with it.
It didn't matter that she had to throw away her morals and become a petty thief.
It was a necessity for her survival.
In her fifteen years of life, she had changed a lot from the excitable, naive girl that had wanted to be an Adventurer.
That airheaded idiot had died the day her feckless parents had.
Instead, nowadays, she was a bitter, jaded, selfish realist.
Someone that recognised how shit, corrupt and unequal the world was, and how selfish and fake the people in it were.
Looking back, she suspected her younger-self would flinch away in horror if she were to see the kind of person she was destined to become.
But then again, her younger-self was a childish, ignorant fool.
In a world where no one was born equal and where might made right, you either adapt or you die, and she refused to just lie down and die.
Instead, she would take every opportunity she had to survive and thrive. She would do whatever it took to crawl to the top of the shit pile called society.
Taking a deep breath at that thought, she slowly exhaled and opened her eyes.
She knew what she had to do.
Forcing a stupid smile on her face, she adjusted the large pack on her back and followed after her current mark.
Shifting her gaze around cautiously as they continued their descent into the Dungeon, her eyes quickly came to rest on the elf's armoured back.
Her smile slipped for a moment.
The white haired elf was an oddity.
On the surface, he seemed quite laid back and calm.
He was nowhere as stiff or cold as the other elves she had met.
No, he was far more human in the way he acted.
It was strange.
Where an elf was closed off and reserved, he was open and friendly.
It made her suspect that he was a half-breed, which would probably explain why his pointed ears were a bit on the short side for an elf.
That, or he was an orphan that was raised by humans.
Either way, he stood out from the crowd and not just became of his white hair, violet eyes and pale skin.
No, it was his presence and the way he exuded amusement and friendliness.
It was sickening.
Especially since it was so obviously fake.
No one could be that naturally easy going when preparing to delve into the Dungeon, especially not a seasoned Adventurer.
Her eyes narrowed at that thought, even as her gaze once again trailed down to the glowing sword at his hip.
He was an anomaly.
The armour he wore was cheap, scratched, probably only meant for level ones. Over the years, she'd gotten good at evaluating weapons and other equipment. It was a skill which leant itself well to thievery.
As such, the quality of his armour made her think he was a newbie.
But at the same time, he also wielded a magic sword. One which was admittedly gaudy, but otherwise looked pretty powerful. Which made her revaluate his level.
No one would trust a Level One Adventurer with a magic weapon, especially an Adventurer that would outwardly advertise that he possessed one. After all, the chances of a Level One venturing into the Dungeon and returning with their magic weapon was nil. In the end, they would either have it stolen off them by a greedy Level One or Two Adventurer, or would be killed for it by a higher level Adventurer.
Either way, she doubted Azoth was just Level One, despite the quality of his armour and his happy-go-lucky disposition.
From what she could infer, he was at least Level Two.
Frowning, her eyes narrowed as she pondered on what she had learned of him.
For one, she remembered her telling her that he had come from outside of Orario. Which meant he was almost certainly low level, as it was almost unheard of for any Adventurer outside of Orario to break past Level Two.
Sure, there were a few examples she had heard rumours of, but they were exceptions to the rule. The Hiryute twins for example were amazons who had, according to rumour, been Level Three before they entered Orario. But the moment they did, they became the main topic of gossip for at least a week.
Azoth though, was an unknown.
She hadn't heard even a whisper of him yet.
She nodded to herself at that thought, even as she withheld a sigh.
She was beginning to stress herself out.
Then again, could she be blamed?
Going after an unknown, and possibly Level Two Adventurer was already risky enough, but going after an Adventurer with an unknown Level from a powerful Familia like the Hephaestus Familia, was bordering on stupid.
It was a foolish gambit.
Looking back, she could see that now.
Unfortunately she'd seen the weapon, and noted his armour and allowed herself to be overcome with greed.
She bit her lip at that thought, her gaze shifting to the sheathed sword at Azoth's hip.
She didn't normally like taking risks.
She had been fucked over too many times for her not to have learned caution.
At the same time, though, the sword represented a massive payday.
If it was as valuable as she suspected, then it could be her way out of the Soma Familia, and out of Orario entirely.
In many ways, the sword represented her freedom.
In that it was so close, she could almost grab it, but still just out of reach.
All she had to do was take that last step, and put herself at risk, and her life, her living nightmare, would all be over.
Her hands clenched into balls at her side.
Azoth seemed nice and friendly on the surface.
But it was a lie, in reality he was just as selfish and arrogant as all the other Adventurers in Orario.
She nodded to herself at that thought, bracing herself for what was to come.
From what she had seen so far, Azoth was quick and well-armed.
But in the end he was still just a blacksmith, a person more suited to creating weapons than wielding them.
That, and he was a healer.
She felt her heart steady at that thought.
From what she had both seen and heard while around other Adventurers. Frontline fighters, as a rule, didn't tend to have healing spells, especially since such magic was a rarity. Which once again led credence to her initial theory on the elf's level and skills.
But at the same time, there was something about him that unnerved her.
Something about the way he walked and talked.
Something lurking within his friendly violet eyes that sent a chill down her spine, and made her hackles raise.
She'd had that feeling before around first class Adventurers, that aura of power, confidence and authority.
Yet at the same time, first class adventurers had significantly better armour than the elf wore.
That, and they didn't come from outside of the city.
On top of which, High Class Adventurers were household names.
There were so few of them, that everyone in the city knew who they were, what they looked like, and what their names were.
Which meant he couldn't be a High Class Adventurer.
The elf was still a walking contradiction, though, and it made her nervous.
Gnawing at her lower lip, Lili shook her head.
She was overthinking things and allowing herself to get distracted, which was a cardinal sin when it came to dungeon diving, even while on the upper levels.
They'd only been in the Dungeon for around half an hour – it was difficult to keep track within the labyrinthine caverns that made up the upper floors – but they'd already made good progress.
She hadn't even needed to load her wrist mounted crossbow once, as Azoth had been able to take care of the few goblins and kobolds they'd come across with a contemptuous amount of ease.
Then again, any half decent Level One would've been able to do the same.
The first four floors were generally pretty easy to deal with.
They only became a problem when the monsters swarmed, and even then a halfway competent Level One Adventurer could still kite and pick off the monsters until they were trimmed down to a more manageable number.
It was actually part of the reason why she had been letting her mind wander. She was bored. Cutting out monster crystals and picking up the occasional drop was pretty monotonous work, and considering the ease with which Azoth dealt with the scrubs on the upper levels, she didn't even have any entertaining fights which she could watch to break up the time.
Letting out a sigh as she continued to trail after Azoth, Lili began to tense slightly as they made it down to the fifth floor.
She wasn't scared, as she'd gone lower in the past.
In fact, she'd gone as far as the eleventh floor, but admittedly that had been when she was supporting a much larger party.
Now though, she was supporting just a single Adventurer.
An Adventurer that she now remembered mentioning his desire to make it down to Floor Twelve.
Deeper than she'd ever gone before.
Pulling a bolt out of her robe and loading it in her wrist mounted crossbow, Lili kept her eyes open as the two of them began to make their way through the gloom, her back stiff and her posture tense as she listened out for any sign of monsters.
The monsters on the Fifth Floor were tougher than the ones on the upper floor.
On the Fifth Floor, there were monsters like War Shadows and Orcs to deal with.
None of which were particularly easy, or at least not for a Level One like her.
Thankfully, Azoth was likely a Level Two. He'd have to be if he truly wanted to make it down to Level Twelve alive.
Taking comfort in that thought, she watched as the white haired Adventurer came upon the first group of monsters.
There were three warshadows. Their forms were mostly dark, wispy and indistinct, but their wickedly sharp claws were very visible, even as all three of the monsters charged out of the shadows and towards the two of them.
Flinching in spite of herself, Lili could only watch as Azoth shifted to face the monsters, his sword held lazily down at his side.
She couldn't see his face, but from his stance she imagined he looked bored.
At the sight of his reaction, a part of her wanted to desperately cry out and shout at him to get ready.
Before she had the chance to do so, however, he took a step forward and swung his longsword through the air in a blur of silver.
Staring frozen in shock, Lili could only watch as the three warshadows literally fell to pieces in front of their, their top halves hitting the ground with a chorus of thuds, only for their bottom halves to follow soon after.
All it took was a second, and the battle was done.
Stepping over the remains, Azoth spared her an amused smile, even as she shook herself out of her stupor and quickly got to work harvesting the crystals.
"You alright there?" He asked, a slight smile gracing his angular features.
"F-Fine," Lili nodded, her heart still thudding away quickly in her chest. "I mean yes, Lili is fine, Mister Azoth. That was really, impressive! Lili could barely see you move!"
"Aw, you're too kind, Lili. These things are weak though. Barely even worth the effort of drawing a sword." Azoth smiled.
Lowering her head as she got to work cutting out the stones, Lili had to withhold a sneer at the Adventurer's arrogance.
Instead, as she finished cutting out the last stone and started storing them in her backpack, she forced a look of nauseating awe on her face, even as she continued to lay the compliments and adulations on thick.
Despite their supposed power and superiority, Adventurers for the most part were very easy to deal with. All you needed to do was butter them up with compliments and stoke their ego, and they would happily put aside any suspicion and let their guards down.
Keeping the stupid smile on her face, she continued her meaningless tirade of compliments and awe filled nonsense as the two of them continued to descend into the Dungeon.
Following along in his path, she could only stand by and watch as Azoth made quick work of the Fifth Floor, his stance still lazy as he easily cut a path straight to the entrance to the sixth floor, only for him to do the same there. With him only pausing long enough for her to collect the monster crystals and drops, before he continued on his way. His sword either laying on his shoulder or hanging lazily at his side as he tore his way through the seventh floor too.
He didn't look at all tired, nor had he moved to draw his magic sword.
Instead, he just used his plain sword to cut through any monster foolish enough to cross his path, even as he continued to make the occasional small talk with her.
With an odd smile slowly shifting across his face the more they conversed. Additionally, she had noticed his gaze invariably flicking over to with barely hidden amusement, as they continued their way down into the Dungeon's depths.
The knowing look he kept sending her was beginning to piss her off.
Not that she said such a thing.
Instead, she continued to play nice, even as they passed through the seventh floor.
Then the eighth floor.
After which he made quick work of the ninth and tenth floor.
Before finally they made it to the Eleventh Floor.
With every floor they completed, her consternation and nervousness grew.
Azoth was much more skilled than she gave him credit for.
He was moving through the floors with almost unbelievable ease. Faster in fact than the party she had joined a few months back that had also made it to the Eleventh Floor.
Each time he encountered a group of monsters, he defeated them all with just a few swings of his sword.
There was no pause in his movements, nor any hesitation.
Instead, he moved with a practiced ease, his simple blade a blur as he butchered any and every threat he came across. He hadn't even accidentally damaged a single crystal, either, not once in the hour or so they had been travelling.
Perhaps most surprisingly of all, however, was the fact that he didn't even look tired.
In fact, from what she could see, she was more tired than he was, and all she had been doing was cleaning up the mess he left behind. Then again, she was probably taking longer to harvest the questions, then he took to kill the monster.
It was galling.
She'd joined up with Azoth in the hopes of luring him to a more dangerous part of the Dungeon, before robbing him and leaving him to fight his way out.
But with every group of monsters he cut through, and every floor he cleared, her confidence waned.
He was definitely Level Two at the least.
If not Level Three, maybe.
He was far too fast, powerful and sure of himself to be anything else.
More than that, he was too focussed.
Several times he had quickly pulled her out of danger when a monster just appeared from the gloom, including a time when several monsters burst out of the wall behind her.
Not once had he lost track of her, not while fighting, nor while basking in her slowly diminishing adulation.
A part of her was beginning to second guess her initial plan.
She had badly misjudged the situation.
She wouldn't be able to lure him into danger.
Instead, she'd either have to give up, or be craftier.
With her magic, she would be able to easily hide from him if needed.
All she needed was a moment where he wasn't paying attention, and then enough time to get away from him.
She needed him distracted.
Or at least distracted enough that he wouldn't catch on to her stealing his sword before it was too late.
After which she would just run for the surface, stash the sword, and change her appearance on route.
Her first plan might've failed, but all was not yet lost.
She bit her lip again.
A part of her was worried about the risk.
That was her cautious side.
But the ambitious part of her still had its eyes on the prize.
Licking her lips, she shifted closer to Azoth, even as they continued their way through the Eleventh Floor.
She would need to make a choice sooner rather than later.
Did she take the risk, or play it safe?
The choice would likely be easier to make if she could actually come to a conclusion on just who Azoth was, which was not easy, as she hadn't heard a thing about him before.
( - )
(With Freya in the Tower of Babel)
Holding back a smirk, Freya watched on in amusement as the other gods continued to chatter and squabble.
Her fellow deities really were like children sometimes.
They were in the midst of a Denatus, a meeting of the Gods held once every three months, where many things were discussed including both the running of Orario, news from the Dungeon, news from beyond Orario's walls, and finally, and most important for some, the aliases which were to be given to Adventurers that levelled up.
Only this Denatus was a special once, as it was not taking place within the three monthly cycle, but instead had been called several weeks early.
Which in itself was a rarity, and one that piqued her interest enough to attend.
After all, throughout the centuries, Hephaestus had never called for one to take place. In fact she only really even attended the meetings when one of her children were the topic of discussion, or when something big was happening in Orario.
It was enough to pique anyone's interest.
Especially hers, after all, unlike most of the gods present, she was almost certain she knew why Hephaestus had called the meeting.
For all that the red haired goddess played at being reserved and mysterious, she was still predictable.
Lending her ear to some of the ongoing discussion, she quickly noted that most of those present were idly chattering about inconsequential things.
That, or they were gossiping about other gods and Adventurers behind their backs.
Still others, like Loki and Apollo, were loudly bragging about their children to anyone who would listen.
It was all so tedious.
Just a bunch of vain fools posturing and showing off.
Perhaps worst of all was the bickering, as some gods and goddess just started throwing snide comments and insults at one another, taking any and every opportunity they could to get in their digs, and humble their contemporaries.
Rolling her eyes, Freya settled back in her chair and continued to spectate, her lips twitching slightly as she saw Loki and Hestia once again engage in a verbal jousts, even as Loki threw her Familia's successes in Hestia's face, while the other goddess quickly got personal and began to pick at Loki's insecurities around her human form.
At times their feuding was amusing, but for the most part, it was an annoying sideshow, and a distraction from what truly interested her, such as the prime reason she had deigned to come to this Denatus.
Glancing over at Hermes, she easily caught the blonde haired god's eye, her lips twitching down slightly, even as she gave him a pointed look.
Coughing nervously into his hand, the foppish blonde god nodded his understanding. He often acted the fool, but the Messenger of the Gods was more perceptive, and far craftier, than many gave him credit for.
"Come on, settle down, settle down," Hermes stood up, a bright smile on his face as he doffed his Bycocket hat. "We've got to get this last order of business sorted out sooner or later…!"
It took a while, and a few more shouts for quiet from both Hermes and some of the more impatient deities, but eventually they did indeed settle down.
"Right, thank you! Now, for the last order of business today, we have a new child to introduce," Hermes pressed.
Almost at once, the interest in the room peaked.
All of those present knew that a new child would be getting introduced today, a rumour had been circulating in the upper echelons of Orario's society for several weeks.
But just who it was, was still a mystery.
Or at least to most.
For several of those present, the Adventurer's identity was already known or at least heavily suspected.
After all, there was only one unknown newcomer that had been making waves over the last couple of weeks, and it just so happened that this newcomer was a part of Hephaestus's Familia, the exact same goddess who had announced they had a new member of their Familia to introduce.
It did not take a genius to work out, just someone marginally in tune to the goings-on within the city.
Loki and Hermes definitely knew who it was, and Hestia for all she appeared ditsy, probably did as well. As for the others, she suspected Dionysus - ever the crafty one - to know who it was, along with his regular partner in crime, Demeter. Those two had become as thick as thieves over the last few years.
"Hephaestus, if you would," Hermes smirked, his eyes now alight with mischief as he gave the red haired goddess a short bow, before he gestured for her to take the stage.
Bracing herself for what was to come, Hephaestus stiffly rose to her feet.
A tense excitement filled the room.
Several gods were now leaning forward in anticipation of the upcoming chaos.
For her own part, she had to restrain the urge to roll her eyes.
"Yes, a new child recently joined my Familia. His name, is Azoth," Hephaestus said curtly, her single eye narrowed as she looked around at the rest of the room.
Unconsciously licking her lips, Freya couldn't help the thrill of desire that ran through her body at the mention of the elf.
She hadn't been able to stop thinking about the man since she'd first seen his chaotic, multicoloured soul.
It was like nothing she had ever seen before.
A maelstrom of colour, and fury.
She had to have him.
"He is new to the city, and comes from another Familia, the Meridia Familia…" The red-haired smith pressed on gamely, her posture stiff.
Hephaestus had never been one for public speaking. It was one of the reasons she shied away from being the centre of attention, that and the fact she was insecure about her facial deformity. Which her opinion was a shame, after all ugliness had its own form of unique beauty, and for as much as she might think her missing eye made her hideous, it was instead part of what made her interesting.
Her lips shifted downwards at the thought of such potential being wasted by petty insecurities, even as she listened in on the murmur that followed Hephaestus's words.
"Never heard of it, have you?"
"No idea, is Meridia a man or a woman?"
"More importantly, is she hot?"
"With a name like that, of course she is!"
"Yeah, I bet she has got a great big pair of-"
Holding back a sneer of derision, Freya gently coughed into her hand.
Those closest to her flinched at the sound and quickly quieted down, with the others soon following their lead, even as she favoured them with a gentle smile.
Sometimes words were not needed.
"Yes, thank you," Hephaestus said stiffly. "As I was saying, Azoth is a new member of my Familia, and has been recently registered with the Guild."
"What Level do you think he is?"
"Can't be that high if he came from outside the city."
"I don't know, do you remember those sexy Amazon twins, they were both like Level Three when they joined Loki's Familia."
"I'm pretty sure they were only ten years old when they joined her Familia though…"
"Hey, when I said sexy, I'm talking about what they look like now."
"Whatever you say…"
"You're totally taking what I said out of context!"
"Course we are…"
"Oi, shut up, you gossiping harpies!" Loki exploded from across the room, her sharp gaze on the perpetrators.
Holding back a chuckle, Hermes smiled. "Thank you, Loki."
"Yes, well anyway," Hephaestus pressed on, her posture still stiff and her hands clenched into fists at her side. "In light of Azoth's inclusion in the Loki Familia's upcoming expedition, I thought it was necessary to call a special Denatus to announce him."
More mutters followed that.
Only these mumblings weren't filled with surprise.
The news of Loki Familia's latest expedition had been doing the circuit for the last few days now.
"Yes, and may I give my congratulations to Hephaestus for snagging such a powerful child," Hermes jumped in again, taking over from Hephaestus now that she had introduced Azoth. "Especially a Level Six Adventurer like Azoth. It's not every day another one of those turns up…"
"Another Level Six!" One of the gods shouted.
"I've never even heard of this guy!"
"Has Hephaestus been hiding him? We should have the Guild investigate?"
"That's impossible! It's impossible for anyone outside of Orario to get to that level!"
"What about those two psychotic Amazon twins Kali has? They're both Level Fives, from what I've heard!"
"Yeah, but haven't you heard how they got that way…"
"You're talking about Kali's blood games, right? Like how she forces her children to fight each other to build up their extalia?"
"Fight? They fucking kill each other, it's in the name…"
"But then does that mean-"
"Nah, if he's a member of the Hephaestus Familia, he's only a smith-"
"No, it means that for this guy to have got to that level outside Orario, he will have had to have done some real shady shit!"
"I don't think I'd want any of my children near him!"
"Hey, wait a minute, is she talking about that white haired elf that killed all those monsters in the square the other day?"
"You mean the one with healing magic?"
"Yeah, I didn't think about it at the time. But I didn't recognise him!"
"Could be, I guess."
"I reckon it is."
Listening to the ongoing babble, she had to resist the urge to roll her eyes.
Freya held back another sigh at the all the inane chatter. The other gods, they were all just so tedious and judgemental.
"Azoth is not some monster." Hephaestus snapped suddenly, her red eye alight with anger. "Nor is he a murderer, or anything else. He is just a kind, talented elf that managed to level up outside of the city. Is it strange how high his level is, yes. But I've spoken to him, and got his measure, and I trust him implicitly."
"Yeah, I've met him too, he seems pretty decent. A bit loud and rough around the edges for an elf, but otherwise a good guy." Loki piped up. "Besides, my girl's like him, so you all best fuck off if you're thinkin' about causin' him trouble, you hear! I don't want any of you shitstains upsetting my Lefiya now that she's made her first friend outside of the Familia!"
Smiling at the interruption, Freya sat back and did nothing.
A part of her wanted to speak up on his behalf, after all it wouldn't do to have the other jealous petty god's turning the city against her Azoth. At the same time, though, she didn't want to alert some of the other gods to her interest yet. Their knowing of her interest would endanger her plans, especially if Loki, or worst of all, Ishtar, found out. The two goddesses were irritating enough at the best of times. Both because of their competitiveness, and their narcissistic belief that they were in any way equal to her, but they would likely be many times worse, if given the opportunity to foil her plans.
"So, now you've all stopped gossiping like milkmaids, do you want to get to giving young Azoth his alias?" Hermes spoke up, drawing an end to the lively discussion, as instead excitement began to build up once more.
Hephaestus's expression became pained, as she retook her seat.
A part of Freya empathised with her fellow goddess.
This part of the proceedings was always the worst, and considering how worked up the other gods had already gotten after renaming the recently levelled up Adventurers earlier in the meeting, she doubted Hephaestus would like what was to come.
Still, it was tradition, as was the patron's duty to defend their child as much as possible.
"He used ice and healing magic in the square, didn't he? So how about 'the Frozen Saint'?"
"No, the Iceblade Sorcerer!"
"He used fire too, so what about, Icy Hot?"
"He has white hair, so White Fire? Or maybe, White Lightning?"
"Nah, they're not bad. Hey, I know, we don't know much about him, so how about, the Unknown!"
"Or, the Outsider!"
"The Elven Thug!"
"The Cold Guardian!"
With every name that was shouted, Hephaestus's expression grew more and more pained.
The Adventurers themselves loved the epithets the gods gave them, and bore them with pride.
But that was because they were ignorant as to the true reasons and meaning behind their aliases.
The reality was their monikers were given for the sake of mockery, and to humiliate their divine patron.
Their children, however, were just too naive and oblivious to see that, and instead took their given alias at face value, under the belief that their new titles were sincere.
It was very cute the way they reacted.
But also very painful for their divine patron, as they then had to sit back and watch as their children paraded around with their new titles, oblivious to the real intent and mockery behind said titles.
She was just glad that her influence and power were enough to quell the worst of the suggestions for her children. It had taken a lot of political force, manipulations, and subtle threats, but she had managed to secure her children mostly normal epithets.
Unfortunately, Hephaestus did not know how to properly leverage her own growing influence within the city, and also lacked the political and social graces needed to properly manage and direct the other gods.
"Can't you just give him a normal name?" Hephaestus asked, her tone strained, and her fists clenched at her sides.
"No!" Several people shouted gleefully.
"The White Dragon!"
"No, the White Fury'!"
"The Elven Bandit!"
"He doesn't even use a hammer!"
"He's a smith though, and they use hammers!"
"How about, the Harbringer!"
"The Harbringer of what?"
"I don't know, it just sounds stupid and mysterious!"
"You're all the worst!" Hestia shouted up suddenly. "Leave Hephaestus alone!"
Hestia quailed as several gods shouted her down.
Deciding to both take pity on her fellow goddess – with the side benefit being that she could ensure her future Familia member had a half decent name – Freya rose to her feet.
Silence fell and anticipation built as those around her looked up at her with awe, desire, and in some cases caution or irritation.
"I have an idea," Her lips curved up into a smirk, even as she saw the expressions of those around her crumple as they heard the finality in her words, and realised that their fun was coming to an end. "How about…"
( - )
The Eleventh Floor was quite similar to the Tenth Floor in many ways. The walls were made of the same dark rock, and the area seemed to be little more than a catacomb of tight tunnels leading to the occasional large open cavern, all of which was covered in a thin layer of white mist.
It gave the area a spooky, quiet appearance.
As he walked, he could see the mist around him occasionally shifting, as dark shapes appeared, and then moments later disappeared.
Gripping his sword tighter, Azoth frowned as he looked around.
He wasn't worried.
Or at least not about his surroundings.
So far, the going had been easy.
Almost embarrassingly easy, really.
None of the monsters he had faced had put up much of a challenge.
In fact, he'd fought tougher skeever than some of the monsters he'd come across so far.
Most of them could be dealt with, with only a single swing of his plain, steel sword
Quite frankly, it was a bit boring.
But then again, so was farming, which was what he was essentially doing.
Wait for their drops and soul gems to be collected.
And then repeat.
That was all he was doing.
Most of the materials he was collecting were low level and poor quality, but could all probably still be sold to Level One and Two alchemists or smiths if necessary. As for the soul gems, the smaller ones could be traded in at the Guild for money, the larger ones, the larger ones he would be using for his experiments in the forge.
It wasn't fun work, but it was necessary.
He needed money to buy new types of ore and better materials to experiment with. After all he would be deep diving soon with the Loki Familia, which meant he would either need to patch up his old armour as best as he could, or buy and adapt a new set to hold him over until he could get his hands on some of the rarer material and ore like mithril and dragonbone, and craft himself a new, higher quality set.
That, and he thought killing some monsters would be a good way to waste some time before the feast at the Twilight Manor.
Plus, he had also acquired a new Supporter and wanted to run her through her paces to see whether she was worthwhile keeping around.
So far she had been doing a good job.
She knew to stay back when he was fighting, and was quick and deft with a dagger when it came to collecting the monster's soul gems.
Unfortunately, despite her competence, he did have one issue with the younger girl.
She was up to something.
Exactly what, he wasn't sure.
But one thing he knew for sure was that she was a thief.
Having been one himself, he could recognise that much in her.
It was the way she constantly scoped out her surroundings and kept an eye on him at all times.
Or rather, the way she kept eyeing Dawnbreaker.
He could see the covetous gleam in her eyes, and the way she kept track of her escape routes.
Though whether she was planning a snatch and grab while he was distracted fighting monsters, or whether she was waiting for him to get in over his head and get killed, he wasn't sure.
Either way, she was not a violent thief. She wasn't the kind that hunted their mark, and then mugged them at sword point. She had neither the physical presence, nor temperament for that kind of work.
Instead, she reminded him a lot of himself as a child.
After all, he had been the runt of his little gang of pickpockets – the Black Dragons they had called themselves, a subsidiary gang of street level thieves within the Riften Thieves Guild.
Despite his diminutive size, though, he had been both quick and crafty. Which in turn had allowed him to steal/ acquire more money than the other street rats, which meant he had also been able to squirrel away more of it when the gang leader had come round demanding his dues.
Quick hands, and a strategic mind were far more dangerous than brute strength and viciousness, and Lili very much seemed to have those qualities.
Though she could probably tone down her mummery when it came to being subservient and simple.
She was overdoing it a bit, or at least in his opinion.
But otherwise she was playing a clever game, one that he had not quite worked out yet.
She wasn't skimming the soul gems of monster drops she was collecting.
He hadn't seen any of them disappearing into any hidden pockets in her bag, nor into her pockets.
Nor had she tried to direct him to a certain area, like to a known monster pantry.
No, instead she had just quietly followed his lead, all while buttering him up and stoking his ego.
Which was especially amusing considering he could see the barely hidden disdain in her large, hazel eyes whenever their gazes met.
For all that she thought she was subtle, her overly expressive eyes were an obvious tell.
Then again, considering what she had told him of Supporters and their relationship with Adventurers, he wouldn't be surprised if this was the first time one of her marks had ever paid her enough attention to see the contemptuous gleam in her eyes.
That, or maybe he was better at reading people than he thought?
A familiar, loud roar suddenly pierced through the fog, echoing throughout the mist-cavern they were both standing in.
Spinning around in an instant, his grip tightened as he raised his sword.
"Get behind me, Lili!" He said calmly, his gaze shifting to the short pallum for a moment, before he then turned his attention to the surrounding mist.
The roar was similar to the one he had heard only a short time ago on the streets of Orario.
Moments later, a huge monster burst out of the fog, with another of its fellows following soon after.
Their long necks were extended, and their giant maws were open in a twin set of roars.
He could already see thick, globules of saliva dripping down from their dagger-like teeth.
The monsters were both at least a metre and a half tall at the shoulder, and probably three times that in length.
They were small though compared to the others of their kind he had faced, not that he could really compare these dumb, wingless dungeon lizards with the dragons he had faced off with before in Skyrim.
Shifting his footing, Azoth glanced back and saw Lili's frightened face.
The girl had fallen to the floor in fear, her pale face twisting into an expression of pure, unadulterated terror at the sight of the two infant dragons, even as she scrambled backwards on her hands.
"Stay calm, Lili, I'm here." Azoth said, sending the smaller girl a gentle smile.
From around him, he could hear the clamour of more clawed fleet as other monsters surged forward through the murky mists.
He could see half a dozen dumb looking Orcs looming from the fog.
The huge pig headed monsters were as large and stupid looking as he remembered.
Darting about above his head were some bad bats.
These monsters he'd only heard of in passing, but seeing them now, he could see how they had gotten their names. After all, they were large, pitch black monsters with sharp fangs, large pointed ears, and dark bat-like wings.
From what he had been told by Welf, they also had the ability to create sound waves that could induce powerful headaches.
Crawling forward behind some of the other monsters, he could see a number of odd looking, quadrupedal monsters joining the growing horde. They were large and squat, walking on four thick, sturdy legs, with three blunt claws on the end of each appendage. Their heads were angular and triangle shaped, and ended in a dark grey beak. But the most noticeable thing about them were the thick, segmented grey shells that covered their backs, heads and limbs.
Taking a step back, he inhaled, his gaze roving around the mass of monsters.
From what he could see, they had stumbled into a monster pantry… what were the chances…
His violet eyes momentarily shifted back to Lili, even as he took note of the fact that they were surrounded on all sides.
There were two infant dragons in front of him, with a number of snarling orcs backing them up. Behind him he could see some of what he believed were called hard armours blocking his path, with some warshadows and imps crawling out of the shadows to join the hard-shelled monsters. Overhead, he could see dark shapes flitting back and forth as the swarming bad bats readied themselves to strike.
He didn't like being surrounded in unfamiliar territory by significantly greater numbers.
But at the same time, he wasn't scared.
He had faced far worse than this.
Perhaps in answer to that thought, a massive roar sounded out from above.
Glancing up, he felt his stomach clench as he saw a large, dragon-like monster detach itself from the shadowy roof of the cavern.
It was big, more than five metres long including its spiked tail, and had a pair of big, bat-like wings with claws at the end, both of which were currently hooked around two stalagmites as it crawled out of the wall, its draconic face twisted in a vicious snarl as it gazed down at him.
Licking his lips, he felt his heart begin to race.
This was more like it.
It was still a bit on the small side, but this was the closest thing to a dragon he'd seen since arriving in Orario.
Behind him, he could hear Lili whimper.
Unlike him, she didn't seem at all excited.
That was a shame, but still, she wouldn't be the one fighting.
"Come get some!" Azoth shouted gleefully, as he sheathed his plain sword, and drew Dawnbreaker.
He couldn't charge into their midst like he wanted too, not without leaving Lili unprotected, but he could still try and taunt them into charging him.
"Stay close, Lili," Azoth said as the collective mass of monsters roared their own challenge back at him. "Whatever you do, don't run. If you do, they'll chase."
Before anything else could be said, the monsters rushed him en masse from every side.
A mid-powered blast of blue energy tore apart a half dozen orcs and several bad bats, their remains flying back and spattering the other monsters behind them.
Twisting, Dawnbreaker was a blur as he cut another bad bat in half, his other hand already moving as he then grabbed its now flaming corpse and hurled it into one of its screeching fellows.
He could feel his ears screaming in protest, as the remnants of the shriek hit him.
"Fuck off!" He shouted, his bloody freehand still extended, as he followed his toss with an explosive blast of fire.
His vision blurred for built a moment, before it sharpened again as heat and flame exploded in all directions, consuming several more bad bats, and setting a number of nearby orcs on fire.
Turning on his heel, his eyes locked on the fast moving imps and warshadows as they rushed him.
One of the warshadows were merely a foot away, their claws extended as they made to rake them across his face.
"FUS ROH DAH!"
A full powered Unrelenting Force shout blew the warshadows and imps into bloody chunks, scattered the lumbering hard armours, and partly shattered the wall behind them.
Furrowing his brow, he turned and grabbed Lili's oversized backpack and hurled both it and her forward and into the now barren space behind him.
With a shrill cry, the pallum landed in a tumble of limbs, her bag now stained with monsters guts, and her back now to the partly broken wall.
Hazarding a glance back, Azoth was just in time to see a large claw smacking into him, as the first infant dragon reached his position.
His breastplate shattered on impact with the claw.
But otherwise he was fine, as he absorbed the force of the blow and allowed it to carry him back, and towards Lili.
The surrounding monsters weren't tough, but their numbers were annoying.
Rolling with the force of the infant dragon's blow, Azoth quickly regained his feet, his freehand already raised and covered in misty hoarfrost.
Three short spikes of ice struck the mini-dragon as it descended from the roof, shredding the thin membrane on one of its wings and knocking it off its flight path as it instead hurtled to the ground and crushed one of the remaining orcs.
Shifting his attention, he batted one of the infant dragon's claws aside as it lunged for him, creating enough room for him to dart forward, his freehand now clenched and chambered, before with a grunt he punched the overgrown lizard in the chest.
His armoured gauntlet shattered on impact with the monster's hide, even as he felt his fist push through the broken metal and hide, and penetrate the dragon's chest cavity.
Hot black blood poured down his arm, as he reached into its core, his hand clenching around a familiar object within.
Looking up, he saw the other infant dragon lunging forward, its eyes blazing with fury, and its teeth bared, even as the dragon he was elbow deep in howled in anger and pain.
To his side, he could see Lili firing off a bolt from her wrist mounted crossbow.
The bolt bounced off of one of the charging hard armour's beaks.
Ripping the first infant dragon's stone out of its chest, Azoth dropped the stone and in the same motion grabbed his dagger in his now bloodied hand, his eyes narrowing as the remains of the infant dragon in front of him exploded into black dust.
Twisting, he hurled the dagger up and into the eye of the remaining dragon as it got within biting distance of him, his violet eyes already on the hard armour as he deftly avoided the now dead and falling dragon, as he instead interspersed himself between the nearest hard armour and Lili, his sword already move as he lashed out and cut its head clean in two before it had a chance to react to his presence.
Behind him, he could hear a thud as the now deceased infant dragon hit the ground, dead.
"GAAN LAH HAAS!"
At that same moment, a wave of purple energy erupted from his mouth, as he roared at the remaining hard armours.
The moment the crackling purple energy hit them the hard armours ground to a halt, their forms quivering and shaking as his Shout took hold, before seconds later they started to let out shrill wailing sounds, black blood oozing from their eyes and peaks as they thrashed around, their forms now enshrouded in the wispy purple light as it ate away at their vitality and life-forces.
"Now some chained lightning!" Azoth muttered, summoning the remains of his magicka reserves, as he turned again.
His freehand was wreathed in lightning, as he pulled it back building up more of a charge, before seconds later he unleashed it on the now land bound wyvern as it rushed him.
The creature was so close he could almost smell the stench of its fetid breath, and see the mindless savagery in its golden eyes.
Watching as the lightning arc through the air, his lips twisted into a vicious smile as he blasted it away, lighting crackling through its form, popping its bulbous golden eyes like ripe berries, before it arced off and tore several remaining imps and warshadows.
Several thuds followed as the now electrocuted monster fell to the ground in smoking heaps.
Taking a step forward, Azoth didn't pause for a moment as he swung Dawnbreaker down and beheaded the injured but still living wyvern.
Fire and heat followed, as its corpse burst into flames, only for him to kick its fire covered body aside.
Turning on his heel, Azoth took in his surroundings.
It had only been a few minutes, but the fight was already over, and monster bodies now littered the entire area.
Most of them were in pieces, save for one of the infant dragons, the still smoking remains of the larger winged dragon, and the hard armours, all of which were now curled up and contorted in unmoving like dead insects.
Sheathing Dawnbreaker, Azoth took a step forward and wrenched his dagger out of the dead infant dragon's eye socket with a wet squelch.
His attention was now only partly on his surroundings, as he instead took note of the shattered remains of his armour.
The gear Welf had loaned him had been decent enough for a low level Adventurer, but its quality hadn't been enough to surpass the Tenth Floor.
"Well," He said, shaking off the remains of the ruined armour as he turned back to the still cowering Lili. "That was fun, wasn't it?"
In response, Lili could only stare at him, her eyes wide and fearful.
"So, do you want to continue on, or do you fancy heading back up to the surface?" He continued, with a winning smile now on his face.
A part of him suspected that things hadn't gone the way she had been expecting them too.
( - )
AN: So not gonna lie, I can't think of a good alias, one that is suitable edgy/ cringey enough, without being so cringe that I would struggle to write it without dying inside. Any ideas or suggestions would be appreciated!?
Other than that, this is a fairly action heavy chapter. Suffice to say I don't think Lili will be pulling any fast ones anytime soon, not after being so traumatized. That said, she won't be disappearing either, as I like her character. Next chapter will end this trip to the Dungeon, cover a meal at the Twlight Manor, a meet and greet at the Hostess with some Familia members, and the final setup before the big trip into the dungeons depths.
So yeah, I hope you enjoyed the chapter as there is more to come.
Also I am on a discord with a load of other writers, so if you fancy popping over to ask questions or offer suggestions about this story, or any of my other ones, or to find new authors you might not have come across yet, please feel free to use the link in my bio.
Thanks for reading and if you have any suggestions or questions feel free to PM me or find me on Discord.
Catch you later.