“Rule # 1 – The dungeon is trying to kill you, don’t die. Dead adventurers don’t spend gold.”
- 50 Rules For Dungeon Divers
For a moment Caden was struck dumb with surprise, too shocked to even think a proper reply.
No. I Exsan. Who you?
No, I meant… never-mind. I am Caden.
You Caden. I Exsan. Core Exsan Caden. Caden mine.
Caden took a moment to think. He supposed that he did belong to Exsan in a way, and in the same way Exsan belonged to him. Caden had been in charge before, but now he was reasonably sure it was going to be a partnership.
Yes. And you belong to me. How did you learn to speak and think?
We broken. Repaired. Put together. Made better. Felt Caden. Lost in core. New thoughts. Too much. Saw you inside. Learned. Skill English. Tried understand. New Skill. New Language. New way think. Can speak.
A Hidden Skill has been Revealed!
Language: English IX
The language you brought with you from another world. A language of artistry, poetry, and insanely long novels. Too bad you don’t remember most of them. No you won’t get any rewards for being the best English speaker on the planet.
Well that was odd. Both Exsan and that rather snarky message. The message was, sadly, probably easier to understand than Exsan. The system had told him that it was customizing the interface. Given his own general sarcasm he shouldn’t be surprised if the system mirrored his tastes to some extent. And apparently by failing to think about his old life in terms of the new system he was under he had missed a few things.
Exsan. Well it looked like he had been changed a great deal by whatever repair had been done. And Exsan had learned using Caden’s own skill. He guessed that learning about emblems helped put things in context too. The next question was the truly important one though. What now?
Before he could think of a good way to ask this, he noticed Exsan was doing something. Exsan was extending out aura and removing the rock to create tunnels in two separate directions. The tunnels were a little more than ninety degrees apart and were gently sloping downwards.
Exsan? Why are you making those tunnels?
They come. Must prepare. Need path.
Who is coming?
They heard song. Lure. Prey comes.
What song? What kind of prey?
He found himself imagining creatures being lured into the dungeon. Was that how dungeons grew here? Did creatures enter the dungeon and get eaten by the dungeon? Or maybe they stayed and became a part of the dungeon, or some of both.
Dungeon sings. Prey is prey. Figures by core. They prey.
Caden tried to understand what he meant. There was the constant flow of mana back and forth across the aura web of the dungeon. Did that create a song that could be heard?
As for prey… he focused on his core and then saw the statues of Tam. Oh… prey. Right. He had a sudden ridiculous image of him trying to get Exsan to swear “Humans are friends, not food.” Yeah… that wasn’t going to work.
Why bother with prey, humans? We have plenty of mana.
Not enough. We grow good. Eat mana. Only mana, stop growing.
Caden was prepared to take Exsan’s word for it. Apparently mana would not be enough. He still was not quite sure what Exsan meant though. Why would anyone come if the dungeon only ate them? Wasn’t a dungeon supposed to offer loot?
You don’t eat all of them right?
No. Let escape. Offer bait. More come. Some escape. Grow stronger.
Right. Caden was not particularly keen to kill anyone, but this was literally the purpose of dungeons. People were going to come seeking treasure and the dungeon would do its best to kill them. Actually… how was the dungeon planning on killing them? They had no monsters and while Exsan was learning he did not seem like he knew enough to make decent traps yet.
How are you going to offer bait and test them?
Caden have bait. Good bait. Grow very strong. Test? Exsan see. Test with monsters. Strong survive, weak fail.
What monsters? Where will you get them from?
He felt like he was playing the most frustrating game of twenty questions ever. He supposed that Exsan was trying his best to answer, but that was not helping. Actually, for speaking English for a very brief time he was doing amazingly well, but it was obvious that he and Caden were working from different perspectives. He wondered if Exsan found his lack of understanding equally frustrating. Exsan was taking certain facts of the universe as givens, and Caden had no idea what they were. At least he was reasonably sure that the bait was the gold and other materials he had absorbed in the sewers.
Monsters. Monsters here. Dungeon make monsters.
He was not sure what to make of that. Did a dungeon simply create monsters automatically when people entered? It was no stranger than the rest of the dungeon’s abilities. He scanned through the dungeon again. The usual life still filled it, but there was no sign of monsters as of yet. What was the point of buying the various creatures in the AP store then? Maybe they created more variety of what was produced, or they could make stronger monsters. At this point, it was just guesswork. Hopefully Exsan would learn more English fast enough that he wouldn’t need to translate too many caveman conversations.
Exsan failed to speak up when he went silent for a few minutes. For the moment he decided that this was probably for the best. At least he now knew some crucial information. Humans were coming to the dungeon, drawn by some kind of signal the dungeon put out. There would be monsters in the dungeon. He was not sure how there were going to be monsters, but there were.
He also knew that Exsan wanted to kill some of the people coming. This was not too much of a surprise. It fit with the instincts he had felt from him before. He saw the approaching people as food and bait for more food. Until Exsan could speak at a higher level he doubted he was going to be able to actually have a proper discourse with him. Exsan seemed content simply to know that they belonged to each other. He could recall the intense possessiveness he had felt of all the space that belonged to him when he still had those instincts pressing in on him.
He continued his current projects of extending aura, but now knew that he needed to prepare for visitors. Apparently they would be getting those far sooner than he had expected. For the moment the best he could do was open up space.
Where Exsan’s tunnels met he began to create a large room. This was where people would be entering the main area he currently controlled, so he wanted it to impress. He wanted anyone who came here to believe that this dungeon was special. He figured the more unique the dungeon, the less risk anyone would try to destroy it. He honestly had no idea how common dungeons were and what people would do about a new one. He was hoping for a symbiotic type relationship, but he did need to be practical and prepare for the worst.
He considered trying to stop Exsan to get more time, but while he might be able to stalemate him, he also might make him angry. He was literally attached to him, so making him an enemy was a horrible idea. He was not going to cause problems when he still had so little information. For now he needed to bide his time and wait.
The amount of mana Exsan and he were using was close to their total natural mana recharge rate. However, as the hours passed their total mana rose due to the feeder slowly chugging away. The moment their combined total rose over sixty mana he got a prompt.
Exsan is attempting to level up.
Total mana required: 60
Current mana totals:
Would you like to level up?
Caden was glad to see that he could still level up and that it was fairly easy for them to combine mana to level. He briefly read over the message and willed yes. A small notification icon appeared and he opened it.
Your status has changed – Level Up
Dungeon Name: None
Name 1: Caden
Name 2: Exsan
Species Type: Dungeon Core
Subspecies: Twin Souled
Crystal Integrity: 100% – Undamaged
Status Effects: Location Bound – 495 Days
Available Mana – Caden: 0/100
Available Mana – Exsan: 0/100
Passive Mana Generation: 84/Day
Next level: Costs 120 Mana
Subsections Available: 2 (New – increased by +1)
Ability Points: 2515 (New – increased by +440)
Skills: Directed Mana Absorption II,
Limited Omniscience (Dungeon)
Soul Mana II
Dungeon Aura Expansion II
Manipulate Earth II
Enhanced Aura Perception II
Ambient Mana Manipulation II
Soul Meditation II
Interdimensional Repository II
Aura Mobility II
Destructive Assimilation II
Matter Fabrication II
Emblem Symbology II
Language: English IX
Life Affinity II (New)
First of its Kind
Mana Specialist I
Escape Artist IV (Deception)
Dungeon Martyr III (First)
Touch of the Grave I
Seen the Infinite Void
Back from the Brink I
Life Affinity II
Increased effectiveness with life magic. Matter Fabrication is now much easier for materials from a living source.
Honestly he wasn’t certain what qualified as life magic. Maybe there were certain skills or spells that used it? Or maybe it was when he broke down or created living materials, though that seemed a bit redundant since it specifically mentioned Matter Fabrication. For the moment he could simply label it as something else to learn later. That list was certainly growing longer…
He had made decent progress on clearing out and reinforcing a large room. He was not sure how he wanted to decorate it in the end, though having the option to use organic materials cheaply added an entire new dimension to consider.
Part of the problem he was running into was that he had no frame of reference for how many people to expect. Should he be expecting a few people each day to enter the dungeon, or hundreds? He had no idea how far away he was from civilization. He could be a mile from a city and he would have no idea at this point. Well, there was a reason he wanted to reach the surface above him, knowledge was key. He had felt the temperature growing colder where his aura was extending up for a while now. His aura reached the surface not long after leveling up.
More accurately he reached the end of the rock and dirt. Calling it the surface was a stretch, since his aura was buried beneath ice and snow. Caden now also knew exactly how far his aura would stretch beyond the rock. About a whole three feet, definitely less than he was hoping.
He stored the ice and compacted snow. More fell and he stored that away too. Eventually no more snow fell into his aura, but he had yet to feel any light or wind move. He guessed that snow was still above his aura and he had simply cleared away a pocket of it. There was no hope for it, he would need to be more proactive.
Blindly he extended out a drill of stone five feet wide and extruded more from the bottom. Even as he extruded more he twisted it. He continued until he stopped feeling resistance when he turned the drill. He tried to extend his aura up the drill of stone, but nothing happened. Apparently, for whatever esoteric rules governed him, it did not count as being non-surface. Since that was so, he reabsorbed the drill until it was gone. More snow promptly fell into his aura. He wasn’t surprised. With a sigh he absorbed the snow until no more fell in. Now he could feel the air moving, and sense a dim light.
Now that he knew he could get the information he wanted he extended his aura out along the surface in every direction. As he did he absorbed all the snow and ice. More and more snow and ice fell, but eventually he had cleared a large area enough that he should be able to see, even with the ridiculous amount of snow. He had reached the surface, and as soon as his aura up there converted to dungeon, he was going to find out where he was.