The Dungeon Core in Chris’ hand pulsed, its many faces and facets rearranged and reoriented themselves in his palm like a crystal Rubik’s Cube. Light welled up from deep within to encompass the Core, binding it in a sheath of radiance.
The Core hummed and whirred, then began to levitate. It pulsed softly in the air, flashed once, then fell back into his hand—the size of a small marble, and with a greenish tint. Then it sank into his skin, unbidden, leaving behind a tattoo of a small castle.
Chris tried to resummon the tattoo, but felt his efforts blocked, as if the conditions for its re-emergence hadn’t been met. He waved the hand about, wrist flapping, but it remained in place. Sighing, he stood and looked down at the town from the roof.
It was time to get to work.
The demons rampaged through the Undead town and it was only the lack of organization of their opponents that prevented the shambling Enlightened from being overrun entirely.
They gathered in the town center, the few remaining warriors protecting the workers from the roving demons, fending off individual monsters with their spears. Numbers and organization that kept the demons at bay, but as the sky darkened and the shadows lengthened, a new shadow found itself in their midst.
For the second night, a shadow slipped among the sleepless, steel flashing silver in the fading light. The shadow struck and the risen dead fell for a final time. The warriors at the edges, the warriors who held the demons at bay, turned too late. The workers fell in spite of them, in spite of their protection, and in a silence only their fellow Undead could hear.
And as the warriors turned, the demons fell upon them and thus the town of Nathak—a name the shadow had seen, but never bothered to learn—ended. No great deeds, no undying love, no tales for bed-time stories or history books—just shadows and demons in the evening.
And maybe it was the season; the place; the manner; the method; maybe even just a trick of the twilight, a vagary of shade, but the two were more similar than they seemed.
Chris stood panting around the bodies. Demons still circulated through the town, but those in its center had been vanquished. Corpses were piled high, and the way the bodies fell told a story. In all honesty, it looked like the site of a massacre, and it might indeed have been, if the bodies were not already dead, and instead found themselves reverted to their natural state.
He stripped off his ruined breastplate and replaced it with one from a downed warrior.
The Undead had died in blood and silence, and some of that silence had stuck with him. Tired though he was, he needed to clear his head. He swung his mace and went in search for some more demons to kill.
He found the first crouched in an alley, the brains of an Undead dripping from between its claws. Chris snickered. Ironic. The demon howled toward him, but a mace strike silenced it. The monster’s head exploded, coating him in black blood. Chris didn’t mind so much anymore, the black tar-like substance that coated from him when he consumed the body pill was far worse.
He flowed like oil from street to street, house to unused house. Throughout the Undead town, demons hunched like vultures over their victims. They were all put down, their cries of pain and fury too short to really abate the memory of silence that sat around the town.
Demons died, as they were meant to, and Chris was an odd reaper. No scythe, no cloak of shadows, no lantern to guide the dead—not even any shoes—just a mace and an arm to swing it. It was all he needed.
The tension of the Dungeon had been draining. He’d only killed four demons—six, if you counted the first two—all while fearing for his life. In the Undead town, that tension found an outlet and an already dead town found itself burdened with more bodies. And the Undead town was quiet, empty.
Chris strode through the Undead town, the only living thing inside, satisfied with the carnage he had wrought. He ducked into several houses before coming out with a new set of shoes on his feet—sure, his Constitution would protect him from most things on the ground, but it still wasn’t comfortable. He pulled up his quests and checked his progress, then he handed in his Undead killing quest.
(Optional – Monster) Conquer Tutorial Town #409008 (Nathak) (1/1)
Reward: 5,000 System Coins, Rank F-1 Building Token, Right to Tutorial Town #409008 (Nathak)
(Optional – Monster/Human – Variable Reward) Defeat Enlightened (Undead) (220/X)
Reward: Rank F-2 Skill Token x2
Right to the town? Sweet!
There was a tug on his being as he felt himself drawn to a nearby building—small and unobtrusive. He moved to open the door, but it unlocked the moment before his palm touched the surface. The doors swung open, revealing an empty interior, except for a pedestal at the center.
He looked around, as he did, he realized this was the only building that wasn’t in disrepair. Its walls looked solid and sturdy. The roof was thatch, but seemed stable and tightly packed. Not a speck of dust lay inside, in stark contrast to the rest of the town.
The pedestal was cold and smooth when he touched it and a screen appeared in front of him.
Take control of Nathak?
Align Nathak with Race: Human; Slime; or both?
Chris paused. If he selected Human, would he be kicked out of his own town? If he was, he could just reconquer it. But what if he selected both? Would he get more options? It was tempting.
If only the tutorial was more helpful, he could have made an informed decision, instead he was fumbling around in the dark. Tentatively, he selected both options.
Change the name of Nathak?
Chris smiled. Kingscastle.
More screens popped up in front of him, he scrolled through, and saw options to sell the contents of the town, buy new buildings, and so much more.
He rubbed his chin, then opened the new buildings list. Many of the options were grayed out. In fact, almost all the options were grayed out. They were arranged by rank, starting from F-1, ascending first by number, up to F-9, then proceeding alphabetically, to E-0, and repeating all the way up to S-9.
He couldn’t afford any of the higher ranked ones, and there were a large number of buildings with appellation and prefixes he didn’t even understand. They had lists of requirements next to them, ranging from simple coin to absurd feats, and prerequisites, up to and including utterly eradicating an enemy race. The only ones that were actually available were the basic Slime buildings, the System buildings, and buildings with the ‘Tutorial’ prefix. The higher ranked ones were all prohibitively expensive, but the lower options only verged on unreasonable. Some of the Tutorial buildings were free, though.
Chris closed down the window, then flicked back to the option to sell the town’s contents. There were walls and buildings galore to sell, even roads, but most of the buildings were in a grievous state of disrepair, so much so that each would sell for several dozen, to one or two hundred System Coins each.
At the bottom were prices for various corpses, as well as the four remaining bone knights, which turned out to be called Ossian Juggernauts. The latter turned out to be worth several thousand each. The Undead corpses weren’t priced so highly, due to most missing their heads—thank to Chris’ mace—but the demons seemed to be in demand, at two hundred per corpse, regardless of condition.
He selected all the corpses and internal buildings, then clicked ‘Sell’, only to find the button was grayed out. This was getting very tiring. What did he need? He clicked over to the buildings tab and bought a rank F-1 System Settlement Shop for 3000 Coins, then switched back to the sell menu as the pedestal in front of him shone for a moment. The button was now green, and all of his selections had been unselected.
Seriously? Not only had the System made him pay to sell to his spoils, it was going to make him select everything all over again.
After a few more more minutes, he selected and sold his items, then checked his balance.
Chris’ eyes went wide.