Chapter 140. The Third Explorer (4)
Occasionally, Orc Lords dropped their meat. With a bit of expectation, I checked the meat's description. After finding out that eating it won't raise my stats, I burnt it decisively. After all, why would I eat orc meat if it didn't raise my stats? My inventory already had a hefty amount of food! The Orc Lord meat was likely there for explorers that didn't prepare food beforehand. If it wasn't, it was just that.
Compared to the First Dungeon, Beyond was incredibly big. Plus, other than the attack reflecting walls, there were tons of other traps, making it much different than the First Dungeon, where I could simply charge forward on Ruyue's back. Here, I had to constantly observe my surroundings, look for traps, and hunt Orc Lords.
New pathways and Orc Lords appeared endlessly. Because I had to keep the maze's map in mind and accurately calculate the trajectory of the crossbow bolts bouncing around, I felt like I was overtaxing my brain.
Of course, I got some benefits as well. Crossbow Marksmanship broke through low-rank and became mid-ranked. Perhaps because calculating the bolts trajectory gave a lot of experience, it was already level 2. My Elementalist skills also grew greatly. More difficult situations led to increased experience. Whoever thought of this system had to be a sadist.
I shot a bolt forward.
In the blink of an eye, the bolt bounced around from wall to wall, collecting more power, before it pierced the head of an Orc Lord that just made its appearance. As it had not used Warcry, it became paralyzed after taking lightning damage. I leisurely swung my spear and killed it. I had fought Orc Lords here for 2 weeks. Now, they were no longer my match.
It was the result of repeated learning. Once I understood the dungeon's structure and Orc Lords, it wasn't that hard to conquer them. When I heard an Ord Lord's footsteps, I would shoot my bolt out preemptively. As they all had the same size, as long as I knew where the footsteps were coming from, I could figure out where and when they would pop out. Using the volume of their footsteps, I calculated the distance between us and shot my bolt out so that it would hit their face. The result was as I just showed with that Orc Lord.
Hunting a single Orc Lord was very easy. When there were two or three, the calculations got a bit trickier, but I could still manage it.
The problem was when there were over 20 of them.
"Agh, those bastards are doing that shit again."
On the 1st floor, there were spacious areas, which were always filled with dozens of Orc Lords. It wasn't even big enough for them to all lie down and sleep, so I didn't know what the hell they were gathered for. Almost as if they were suffering from insomnia, they all waited with their eyes wide open. Once they saw me, they waved their hands in greeting and shouted. Seeing the Orc Lords swinging their glaives, which never dropped, was infuriating to say the least.
"Tsk, like I'd let myself be hit by your crappy spears!"
However, if I fought them straight on, it would only be my vitality that is reduced to zero. I fell back, dodging their charges. Just like I had been doing for the past 2 weeks, I raised my crossbow and shot out hundreds of bolts towards the walls, as I continuously moved.
The troll bone bolts ran out on the third day, and I was subsisting on skeleton bones. But now, I was running low on those as well. Once I completely ran out, I would have to resort to elemental magic, which took three times as much mana. Considering the number of Mana Potions I had left, it wasn't a wise choice.
The bolts I shot out bounced around without hitting each other, then assaulted the Orc Lords. I ducked or moved to the side to dodge the flying crossbow bolts as I shot even more bolts. Ruyue was, of course, dematerialized. It wouldn't be funny if she was hit by my bolts.
[Mid-rank Crossbow Marksmanship became level 3. Even without imbuing mana, you can damage spiritual bodies.]
After continuously shooting bolts and cutting down Orc Lords for 5 minutes, the Orc Lords were wiped out. My Crossbow Marksmanship also leveled up.
I couldn't remember exactly when, but I became able to hit spiritual bodies with my spear when my Spear Technique became high-ranked. I didn't know whether my Spear Technique affected it in any way, but I became able to attack spiritual bodies with crossbows at just mid-rank level 3. In truth, it was quite unexpected. It meant I had already become skillful enough to apply the principles of Spear Technique in marksmanship.
Damn it, somebody, somebody find my identity! I'm a spearman!
It was then. I heard the ground tremor from far away. It gave me a sense of unease. Here, other than me, only the Orc Lords were able to make the ground tremor.
At the same time, the dungeon walls shook and began to transform. The twisted pathways became straight, and new pathway opened up. It seemed to be about... 2 kilometers long? It was a distance I could easily cover within 30 seconds, but that wasn't what was important.
There, I saw the same gate I used to cross over to Beyond. I tried to regain my composure, as I felt the mana emanating from the gate. At the same time, I dispersed my mana out to check for any traps on the way. The result - they were both clean. The gate was real, and there were no traps.
Mana detection and mana dispersion were both things I learned in the past 2 weeks. I had naturally developed a habit for them as I constantly used them to locate the damned Orc Lords and to check for traps. Although they were so basic that they didn't even register as skills, they were probably my biggest gain.
In any case, now that I knew the gate was real, I knew what to do.
"I have to kill all the Orc Lords...!"
"This is the only chance to eat it!"
There was a simple reason that the pathway became straight. It was to make me unable to dodge the Orc Lord's rush. About a hundred Orc Lords came from behind, and there were even more coming from the front.
As expected, they all shouted Warcries as if they were competing, and in this narrow space, they amplified each other to a horrifying extent. My ear rang from their repeated shouting, and their endlessly amplified spirit almost made my body stiffen.
"Kuu... I didn't think I would have trouble moving my body...!"
Could it be? Was the reason that the maze continued endlessly to help me grow my ability to handle them all at once? Looking at the walls that still had their reflect and amplification property, I became certain. However, as the pathway changed shape, I had to recalculate the trajectory from the beginning.
That said, once I defeated all the Orc Lords and arrived at the gate, I could proudly say that I completely cleared this place.
Even though I had gotten used to Crossbow Marksmanship in the past two weeks, I didn't think there would be such an annoying final hurdle. Thinking how sadistic the person that made this dungeon is, I shouted.
As the Orc Lords were all clumped up together, I easily sent them to their death with Crimson Roar. Then, I jumped into the gate and left Beyond. Hehe, with such an easy method of getting through, why would I trouble myself and use my brain!?
[You conquered Beyond's 1st floor. You can challenge the dungeon's 52nd floor.]
[Your maximum HP and MP increase by 2%. You obtained 5 bonus stats.]
[Experience has been added to skills you frequently used to progress through Beyond's 1st floor.]
[Mid-rank Crossbow Marksmanship became level 4. Your bolts piercing power becomes greater, and they can pierce through two enemies at once.]
[Mid-rank Spirit Mastery became level 9. Taking a step forward in handling all souls connected to you, it becomes easier to feel a sense of unity with them and their destructive power increases.]
[Mid-rank Spirit Aura became level 7. Spirit Aura's power increases and less mana is required to maintain it.]
[Mid-rank Elemental Control became level 7. You can draw out the power of your contracted elementals almost perfectly.]
[Mid-rank Elemental Contract became level 7. Your contracted elementals become even more powerful.]
Just by clearing Beyond's 1st floor, I gained incredible rewards. First, I obtained the same amount of stat points as when I leveled up. Then, the skills I used to fight the Orc Lords jumped up in experience. I could feel that I was much stronger than I was just a moment ago.
Beyond was truly amazing. Of course, as great as the rewards were, Beyond was huge, the monsters were stronger, and the traps were annoying. It would only get harder as well. However, now that I tasted the fruit of my efforts, I vowed to conquer this place. There was someone fanning my resolution. It was Loretta, who was sweating and fanning me with a folding fan.
"Shin-nim, don't be mad, please?"
"I'm not mad. I just think that you could have explained more about Beyond in the time you spent fooling around."
"F-Fooling around!? That was the most important thing to me!"
I had to restock on Mana Potions and repair my weapon, but I decided to put it off for later.
"I'll be off then. Because of a certain someone, I didn't go home for two weeks, so my parents must be mad."
"Ah, aaah! Shin-nim, I'm sorry! I'm sorrrry! Forgive me!"
Although I couldn't go outside while I was trapped in Beyond, the explorers' communication channel still worked. More importantly, phones still worked. It was a mystery I would never solve.
Although my parents and friends were shocked when I told them I couldn't go back for a while, since I could call them, they didn't worry about me that much.
Except Ludia, that is.
After returning, I said hello to mother and father, took a shower, and got changed. Immediately afterwards, Ludia came back from the dungeon in a hurry and embraced me. Because her pale expression scared me, I couldn't force her off of me.
Because I disappeared for two weeks, I couldn't make any excuses either. Especially because I didn't say anything beforehand. In Ludia's perspective, it could be seen as me leaving her behind. Tsk, just when her condition was getting better...!
"You won't get off, right?"
Like a kitten, Ludia rubbed her face against my arm and marked her territory. 'How did that proud princess become like this...?' With that thought, I patted her head in pity. Mother, who suddenly appeared in that timing, gave me a thumbs up. I became certain that mother had an ability I wasn't aware of.
After a spending a somewhat comfortable and somewhat itchy time together, Ludia regained her composure and suddenly said something absurd.
"Ah, our guild house's environment changed."
"What? The environment changed?"
"Un. If you go out, it's dark, regardless of whether it's day or night. But the area I walked became a bit brighter. Also, there was a message that said something like 0.5% of Beyond's Residential Area being explored."
After listening to her, I remembered. When I became a Beyond explorer, I had heard a message saying that my residence and resort had changed their affiliation to Beyond. My guild house had been sent to a strange place!
Beyond's 1st floor, clear! The next chapter will show Marianne's Garden, flying through unidentified space!
PS - I added some information on Crossbow Marksmanship. Skills' level up messages don't only show the result of the skills' growth. They also show effects shared between skills. That is, without high-rank Spear Technique, Crossbow Marksmanship being level 3 wouldn't be able to attack spiritual bodies!