102 Boss Room
Samuel felt horrible, this was the second time he was taken advantage of by that skeleton.
He had allowed this to happen a second time. The skeleton killed people right under his nose. Last time it was daggers and now giant chunks of earth. He felt immense disappointment. Of course, it was all targeted towards himself.
"Calm down!" Samuel shouted to the large group. He could scorn himself at another time, it was almost impossible to have zero casualties when exploring unknown dungeons. As the leader, he had to take charge.
"Those in the middle! Only act as support! Front line fighters! Deal with the small fry! Switch out with those behind you when tired!" Samuel yelled from the top of his lungs. He needed to make sure his message got across to each and every one of those present.
"It's unfortunate but mistakes are unavoidable. Nobody is perfect after all" Said Christian who was beside him expressing his compassion.
Those words of condolence sounded especially painful to Samuel though. Especially the way Christian mentioned and emphasized mistakes. To him, it sounded like he insinuated this was his fault as the leader.
"...Right" Samuel resentfully agreed. It was mainly because he concurred with the idea. It was just a bit hurtful to be so indirectly attacked.
Under Samuel's new orders, the large horde of seemingly 200 or so skeletons was easily decimated. The tired adventurers had small smiles of victory. Well, all except the ones in charge.
"We lost 17 people...:" Clarys said darkly.
"Is it possible to send the bodies back?" Samuel asked, expecting a negative reply.
"No…" Clarys returned. The bodies were crushed and no one was willing to touch it. As a matter of fact, many of the C-class adventurers, especially the beginners, puked upon sight of the crushed corpses.
"I understand. Let's let them settle down for a bit before we keep moving then…" Samuel said somewhat reluctantly.
Following his instructions, the adventurers took a quick break before quickly continuing along their intended path.
Most of them had quickly gotten over the death of their comrades while others acted like they didn't have any relation to them in the first place. Which was expected, one couldn't just put together a large group of strangers and expect them to immediately care about each other. There was no incentive.
In no time at all, they had entered the merging corridors. Their march continued and the boss gate laid in front of them.
Samuel didn't wait for a second longer and approached it. As usual, he couldn't tell if there was anything behind that door.
He cast the pointless worry aside and pushed open the gate. The doors creaked in welcome and before the adventurers' eyes was a giant empty room. There wasn't any trace of an enemy.
Samuel then paused. He scanned the room and noticed a black dot off in the distance. This black dot was located far in the back of the room.
He became both curious and wary. He had experienced all sorts of dungeons, each dungeon could have their own unique method to travel up and down floors. This one might also be unique.
"There isn't anything here." Said Drake who was also scanning the room.
"There's something back there, let's go." Samuel pointed towards the dot and motioned for Drake to follow him. Drake squinted his eyes as he followed behind him.
The other adventurers also followed behind them except for some that chose to instead snoop around the large room. It wasn't impossible to find some goods inside of it after all. Especially the loot of fallen adventurers, it could even sometimes be found in piles. Nobody minded this group and left them to their own devices.
"What is it…? Is it a portal?" Christian muttered as he followed behind the two men. Clarys was also close behind.
"It seems so…" Drake absentmindedly replied.
They were finally close enough to analyze the black object. Just as Christian had guessed, it seemed to be a portal. It floated unnaturally above the ground and apart from evidently sucking in all light that touched it, it had no special features.
"Do we have to use this to go deeper…?" Clarys unwillingly suggested. The issue was that this was just too risky. For all, they knew it could be a trap.
"I have never seen a portal being used to go to another floor but… there might not be another way." Samuel responded.
"But let's look around for an alternative first." Samuel told the others. He also relayed this to the curious adventurers that had followed after them, they readily agreed. Who would turn down the right to snoop?
They searched and searched but apart from old equipment, there was nothing distinct or of use. Some dungeons employed hidden doors or other puzzling methods but this one seemed to just straight up use a portal. Samuel wasn't really willing to proceed under such circumstances.
"It would be nice to have Eon here right now" Clarys commented after they returned to face the void-like portal.
There was a short bout of silence that followed her comment. The others were simply pondering on how to handle this.
"I'll just go in then" Drake raised one hand and casually said. The others were shocked by his sudden volunteer. They all looked at him oddly.
"What? Is there something wrong?" Drake retorted in response to the weird stares.
"...There isn't" Samuel replied. He was actually curious as to why Drake would do such a thing but chose not to pry.
"Alright then. If I don't come back in 10 minutes you can consider other options." Drake said solemnly.
The family man Samuel. The talented and beautiful Clarys. The young and charming Christian. Who else is left? The talented beginners they brought along? ...Or the failures? The people who toiled away for years on end only to be stuck at their current rank.
Were they fitter to brave this danger? They who amounted to nothing? Drake wouldn't know. He did know one thing. He knew that he was courageous, adventurous, and indomitable.
But he also knew that he was lonely and self-critical. Aside from his adventuring achievements, he had nothing. If his traits were really what he believed them to be then why shouldn't he venture into the portal?
"I'll be waiting on the other side fellas" Drake said with a daring smile as he walked towards the black portal.
He was nervous but instead of deliberating over the matter, he sunk his arm right in.
His first sensation was cold, after that it was loss. As if he lost contact with his arm. Not a good feeling he thought with a wry smile before sinking in his entire body.
The others could only wait with solemn expressions after seeing Drake's body disappear into the black void.
Some time went by before Ed finally felt awake. His groggy state of mind quickly recovered and the boundless sea of black was once more in his field of vision
He saw a familiar icon on his peripheral, it was the envelope with the exclamation mark, He unhesitantly thought to open it up, multiple messages swiftly appeared.
[The system has observed your actions up until this point, selecting a suitable reward...]
[\u003cCraftsperson lvl. 0\u003e Acquired]
[Champion has leveled up]
Puzzled. Ed felt puzzled.
'Are your eyes alright?' Ed wanted to ask the dungeon. What had he crafted? All of the things he made were done with magic! And to top it all off, his dexterity attribute is actually one of the lowest!
But on second thought... Maybe he was too quick to anger.
'Unless this skill can help me resolve that' If it wasn't for the fact that he didn't have a body his eyes would shine with resolution.
The second thing that puzzled him greatly was the missing skill. Where was it?!
Or does he only receive skills with the first four level ups? Did this mean he needed to wait for the next one or…? Was this all?
Ed felt that it was most likely that the gap between earning skills would widen with each level up. The reason? Maybe it was just because he was a 'growing consciousness,' if you will.
Babies for example learn to crawl, talk, draw, play, etc. After those skills, there isn't much else that one inherently learns. Your parents would teach you how to write and then… and then...
Ed's mind drew a blank. That's as far as that analogy goes. he thought before moving on. If he were to take a game approach then the reason was simply that noobs get skills and level up faster at the start.
But regardless of the reason, this was how things turned out. His current set of skills was realistically plenty so Ed had no real complaints. He mostly felt disappointment.
[10 minutes before respawning]
The message promptly appeared after he resolved the issues in his mind. The only thing left for him to do now was wait.
After seeing the adventurers and their party Ed was certain of victory. Their preparations might not be flawless but they would likely emerge victoriously. This was enough for him.