Chapter 613: Beneath the Surface

As numerous nethrak began to prepare for a migration to the ocean following their god’s words, the two curious slimes went deeper and deeper into the city. Though, to call such a massive space a single city did not seem fitting. There were nations smaller than the city provided by Tower.

Only after walking for fifteen minutes did the two of them come across the building marked with the sign of the map. Upon entering, they found another green-skinned individual, this one a lithe man standing behind the counter. “Here to browse the map?” He asked in a knowing tone, catching the two by surprise.

“It’s nothing to be shocked about. You should have seen the announcement, so you know that you can’t buy anything here. It’s too soon for you to have any mana stones. The only thing you could do here is study the map.” The two slimes seemed pensive, but were ultimately convinced by his words.

After they walked over, they found that there were five entry points to the dungeon below the city. Each point was marked with between one and five stars, which appeared to dictate both their difficulty and location. Four of the five entry points were located halfway between the central tower and the edge of the city in the four ordinal directions, starting north-west and continuing clockwise.

Finally, the five-star entry point was marked as the tower itself. However, the stars for this point were not yellow, but rather crimson. From their position, they were currently closest to the three-star entry point at the south-east of the city.

After making a mental note of the path that they needed to take, as well as a few oddities marked on the map, Shin looked towards his partner. “Shall we give it a test-run?” He asked, no small amount of excitement in his tone.

“Will we be allowed to, if we are not nethrak?” He muttered, though his voice seemed to have been heard by the worker of the establishment.

“That’s nothing to worry about.” The green-skinned man answered with a chuckle. “Anyone can participate in the lord’s dungeons, regardless of their race.”

Hearing that seemed to relieve the worries of the two, causing them to exchange silent glances. Shin left the building alone to begin walking towards the dungeon, while his partner stepped out and made a call. As the spell diagram appeared in front of him, the image of a golden slime emerged within it.

“Shlor, have there been any unusual developments?” The golden slime asked, seeming surprised that he was called.

“Have any of the guardians reported the situation occurring within the nethrak world?” The white slime, Shlor, asked the apparent leader.

“We have received reports of a revelation from the local god. Do you have any additional news to report?”

Shlor gave a small nod. “We have arrived on the scene after seeing the city emerging from the surface of the ocean. Its diameter is roughly one hundred and fifty kilometers, and it appears to be populated by a green-skinned race of servants. Shin and I are investigating the dungeon, after which we will return to our post in orbit.”

“He’s not going to eat the mana stones, is he..?” The golden slime asked in exasperation.

“…I make no promises. The dungeon entrance that we are using is listed as a mid-tier dungeon. Once we’ve assessed the dangers, we will return and make another report.” After saying that, the spell was cut off, and the white slime began to chase after Shin.

With his speed, it only took him a moment to catch his darker partner, at which point the two of them walked the streets together. At a casual walking speed, it took the two of them three hours to reach the dungeon entrance, at which point Shin couldn’t help but grumble.

“If this was made for the convenience of the people, aren’t the entrances too far apart? Just getting to the dungeon takes so long… and we weren’t that far away!”

“We also didn’t rush.” Shlor countered. “But you raise a valid point. If the dungeons were designed for those that were able to arrive quickly, it would innately require a higher level. Perhaps there is some other trick to it…?”

“Pardon me, but I can answer that.” A man spoke up, standing near the dungeon entrance and looking at the two with a smile.

“Are you a dungeon guide, or something?” Shin asked in confusion, looking to the green-skinned man that had suddenly called out to them.

“Something of the sort. I can supply information on specific floors of this dungeon, so long as the price is paid. However, for information like what you spoke of, I can also simply offer it on my own. After all, it would be inconvenient if people made improper assumptions about these dungeons, especially as a first impression.”

The two slimes looked to one another, before nodding for the man to continue. “You see, there is a nearby transit system, a portal nexus that connects to various districts of the city. Using these portals costs a small fee, so they are currently not in operation.”

“Directly outside the dungeon is the low-income residential housing. This is to help those unable to access the portal live closer to the primary source of income. However, there is also another reason behind this decision, as purchasing a house further away from the dungeon provides not only more lavish conditions, but also increased safety.”

“You’re saying it’s not safe to live near the dungeons?” Shin asked in surprise, looking towards the man with curiosity quite literally bubbling up inside of him.

“Quite! In fact, if the mana stones are not harvested at a steady rate, there is a chance for what is known as a Dungeon Break. This is an event in which dungeon monsters will either move up from a lower floor, or escape the dungeon entirely. During a Dungeon Break, it will be up to the local civilians to protect their own lives.”

Shlor looked at the man, seeming suspicious of something. “Wouldn’t the god of this world have created servants like yourself to resolve these events?”

However, the man simply returned a small smile. “If we were to resolve all of the problems for the inhabitants of this world, they would have no drive to improve themselves. This is also a setting provided by Lord Tower. During a Dungeon Break, the monsters will not attack those of the Servant Race.”

“I see.” Shlor nodded his head faintly, before walking towards the entrance, which was a grand stone arch connecting to a tunnel leading downwards. Atop the arch was a carving of three stars, just like it had indicated on the map.

“There aren’t any required items we need to enter the dungeon, right?” Shin asked curiously, seeing his friend already walking off.

The man shook his head. “There are bonus items that can be rented or purchased. However, those are purely supplementary items, and are by no means required to explore the dungeon.”

Hearing that, Shin gave an almost liquid nod, his head sloshing back and forth before he chased after Shlor. Inside the dungeon, the first room appeared to be a safe area, void of any monsters. There was no discernible gate or barrier to separate the path from the dungeon proper, so it would seem that there was some other method keeping the monsters contained.

Shin found his friend waiting within this safe zone, looking into the path beyond. The underground tunnels seemed to be lit by evenly spaced glowing stones, which offered only minimal lighting to help individuals see the path. As for identifying more specific details like monsters or traps, the adventurers would need to rely on other means.

“Something bothering you?” Shin asked, to which Shlor nodded his head.

“This dungeon… I can’t tell if it’s designed to help the nethrak, or thin the herd.” He answered in a quiet tone.

“Why would a god need to reduce the number of his followers?” Shin asked in confusion, his head sloshing to the side as the two entered the dungeon.

“I don’t know, it’s just a feeling. The city has a capacity of a hundred million, but if it is popular, people will build satellite cities around it to increase that number. This could become the center of civilization for this world. But those dungeon breaks… why include an obviously hazardous mechanic like that to something designed purely to be a boon?”

“Maybe it’s like what the guy up top said! Just a bit of encouragement from the local god.” Seeing how optimistic Shin was about the situation, Shlor simply shook his head. Despite the dim lighting of the tunnels, the two of them could perfectly perceive the details around them.

When the first monster attacked, it was Shlor that dealt with it by firing a ray of condensed light, accurately piercing through its head. On closer inspection, the monster was a wolf covered in a hard, stone carapace. Shlor took a moment to study it, testing the strength of its armor before finding the purple, jagged stone placed where its heart should have been. The stone was small, barely two centimeters and shaped like a broken crystal.

When he extracted the crystal, he studied the body of the monster for several long moments, as if waiting for something. However, after over a minute passed with no change, he let out a gurgle of relief. “Meat and other materials can still be harvested from the monster corpses. That means that it should be possible to sell them to the shops in the city, or keep them to eat personally.”

Shin didn’t seem to understand what his partner was looking for, simply shrugging his shoulders. “It didn’t seem all that strong, at least. Even if a pack of them broke out, wouldn’t your typical nethrak hunter be able to deal with them?”

Shlor thought about that for a moment, before nodding in agreement. “This is only the first floor. We can expect more dangerous encounters later on.”

As I watched through the ‘first exploration’ of the dungeon, I couldn’t help but praise Tower for what he had done. It certainly was not as simple as it had looked on the surface. He did not simply create a new dungeon, but an entirely new style of dungeon.

The spawning mechanic for the monsters was rather interesting, as they outwardly appeared to sprout from the walls of the dungeon. In truth, that was because of the ‘mana stones’ that were buried within the walls. These stones were a special type of monster themselves that could be triggered by specific pulses of mana to grow into their full monster form.

Tower had littered the walls of his dungeons with monster stones containing a wide variety of different species. Furthermore, he had worked together with Aurivy to make it a divine law for dungeons to be capable of producing this type of stone through their mana. As such, I was certain that this feature would be spread to other dungeons, after being tested by Tower.

These monster stones grew within the dungeon’s walls at a fixed rate, which was the cause for the Dungeon Break system. If they were not harvested faster than they were produced, the monsters would overflow.

As for why they didn’t attack the ‘Servant Race’? That was… perhaps the most simplistic answer of all. Why would the monsters attack other dungeon monsters? Especially ones controlled by avatars of the dungeon itself.

It took me a moment to recall that Tower was no ordinary god. He was a Union God, created through the combined will of the Dungeon Core race. That race already had a knack for ‘piloting’ multiple bodies at once, after all. So, it was no problem for him to delegate control of the Servant Race individuals to the other dungeon cores that made his being.

Finally, I noticed a few other secrets about the dungeon he created. Certain underground businesses secreted away in hidden paths of the dungeon, such as an information guild or thieves’ guild. Similarly, strange phenomena on the surface that would inspire caution and curiosity from the inhabitants.

It could not be said that these phenomena came without warning, as they had been clearly marked on the maps in every guidepost. For instance, on the western side of the city, there was an alleyway with a strange fog. Entering that fog would transport any individual to a different random alleyway in the city. Following the potential paths, I noticed that there was a secret location that could only be entered through this method, as well. I was somewhat curious how long it would take someone to stumble upon the Lost Treasury.

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