Chapter 790: Pride

Though it had only been six days since he started venturing into the Dungeon, Bell was already on the Twelfth Floor, much to the frustration of Line and the lamentation of Plum. Because she didn’t want to let him run off on his own, Line had been spending an average of fourteen hours a day in the Dungeon with Bell, something that wasn’t that difficult for her but was very taxing for the Level 1 Plum. Unlike Bell, who seemed to have an inexhaustible supply of energy, even when fighting in the frontlines for hours, Plum wasn’t really a combatant and had taken on more of a support role. She had even started apprenticing with Line and was building up her stamina while slowly growing accustomed to carrying greater loads…

As for Bell, he currently had a fierce expression on his face as she stood just a few meters away from a large red armadillo-like monster, a variant version of a Hard Armored. The fight had already been going on for nearly ten minutes and, though Bell had been able to outmaneuver the rather simple creature, none of his attacks had been able to penetrate the thick red barb-like scales along its back. Every attempt to do so would cause a small amount of pain to spread through his hand as the tear between his thumb and index finger had gotten progressively worse. Even so, his expression didn’t waver in the slightest and, the moment the monster released a loud roar and curled up into a ball, rolling towards him a fierce momentum, Bell’s eyes shone with a resolute light as he leaped towards the monster.

Seeing this, Plum covered her eyes in panic while Line screamed out, “You idiot, dodge!” while running forward with a stark white dagger of her own. It was a baselard-type dagger simply named [Armor Piercer], a weapon that had cost her 1300KV of her hard earned savings. Though she didn’t fight on the frontlines much, Line was still a Level 2 Adventurer and it wouldn’t take her too much effort to kill a Hard Armored, even if it was a variant. Unfortunately, she hadn’t expected Bell to be stupid enough to charge directly at the sharp spines of the monster and now she could only regret allowing him to try and accumulate experience in a difficult battle…

Completely immersed in his own unique state of mind, Bell hadn’t even heard Line’s voice as he lunged forward and, just as the razor-sharp spines were about to grind into him, he jumped to the side while aiming towards the monster’s soft underbelly. His dagger pierced directly into the exposed skin as the monster continued forward, twisting his arm with its momentum and causing Bell’s shoulder to dislocate. Even so, he managed to evade the larger attack and even had a satisfied grin on his face, seemingly proud of himself for giving up an arm in exchange for lightly wounding a monster.

As the Variant Hard Armored turned around and released a primal roar from deep within its throat, Line dropped down from above and buried her dagger through the hard scales of its head, accurately piercing its medulla and instantly killing the monster. Its death caused an explosion of dust, leaving behind a few red scales and a horribly bent dagger as the only indicator of its prior existence. Seeing this, Bell released an impressed ‘oooooooh~’ before smiling radiantly and saying, “Wow, Line, that was amazing~!”

Line, finding her balance, turned her hazel-brown eyes towards the smiling boy, frowning when she felt her own heart throb. Ignoring the giddy feeling, she walked over towards him and, seemingly against his expectation, used the pommel of her dagger to bonk him on the head, shouting, “You idiot! What is the point of losing an arm and one of your weapons just to deal such a small amount of damage! Geez! Stupid Bell!”

Bell had plopped onto the ground, teary-eyed as he nursed the growing bump on his head and instinctually assumed a seiza-like position. He was completely prepared for another lecture but, before Line could choose between lecturing him or mending his wounds, Plum had run over with a worried expression, exclaiming, “Bell, your arm, are you okay!?” Since she had also been worried about Bell’s arm, Line suddenly felt very awkward and inadvertently turned her head to the side with a small blush as she moved over to pick up the Drop Items. She left Plum to use a potion on Bell’s arm while picking up the scales and safely storing them away before inspecting the now bent dagger.

This was actually the second weapon that Bell had broken, the first being the one she had gifted him just four days prior. Though it previously had an incredible make, Bell’s unskilled use of the dagger, combined with his failure to properly maintain it, had resulted in the B-Grade item already losing it function. If anyone else were to learn of this, they would have looked at Bell like he was a wasteful idiot but, seeing how much he had been fighting to grow stronger, Line couldn’t really blame the weapon for giving out. Bell was very earnest in trying to increase his strength, having a natural talent that was far beyond the norm, but there was a distinct lack of skill in his movements.

Line had already suggested that he try to ask some of the more skilled Adventurers to help train him but Bell had refused, saying he wanted to forge his path alone. She was hoping that, now that he was without any weapons, Bell would seriously consider her advice and slow down a bit. In all honesty, she also wanted a break from constantly staying within the Dungeon and felt it would be nice to relax after a week of hard Dungeoneering. His dagger breaking was like a small grace to their team, as it should make Bell reflect on his actions a bit and actually listen to her advice for once…

Carrying over the broken dagger, Line held it up for Bell to see and said, “Now that your weapons are destroyed, we should take a break from the Dungeon and purchase some new equipment for you. This is also a good opportunity for you to get some training in and, even if you don’t want to learn from other people, you can still benefit a lot from sparring against them. Right now, your only experience is in fighting monsters and you should familiarize yourself with fighting against people. When we get to the lower floors, there are numerous enemies that can even fight with weapons so you will be at a significant disadvantage as things stand…”

Bell was listening attentively, at least he appeared to be, but it was Plum who ended up answering as she jumped up, spreading her arms in a defensive manner as she shouted, “Line, you can’t be so hard on Bell! You’ve seen how hard he is working, so why are you always lecturing him!? Can’t you say anything nice for once!?” Unlike Line, who had only been tasked to support Bell, Plum had been saved by him, resulting in her tiny Pallum heart falling for the young Hero almost instantly. Though she was also very tired of spending her time in the Dungeon, as she wanted to go on a date with Bell, it bothered her that Line was always telling Bell what to do. Initially, she hadn’t minded that much, even finding Bell’s reactions when being lectured to be very cute. Now, likely as a result of her fatigue, it was starting to become very annoying hearing Line constantly badger the boy she liked…

Line was very surprised by Plum’s sudden outburst, causing her somewhat large eyes to become even wider, glasses dropping slightly from the bridge of her nose. She didn’t think she was being that hard on Bell and, if he had actually listened to her advice, many of the troubles they had faced would have been avoided. Thus, though she knew it was a little harsh, Line pushed up her glasses and assumed a serious expression as she said, “Plum, this kind of childish mentality is exactly why so many rookie Adventurers lose their lives in the Dungeon. You might not like the fact that I’m always telling Bell what to do but, even if it made both of you hate me, I’d rather tolerate your ire than watch both of you die…”

For a few seconds, Line let her words linger in the air, causing Plum to shrink back slightly while Bell’s expression became more serious. Then, with a small nod, she added, “You might not be aware of it, but it is actually very rare for a rookie Adventurer to even have a veteran Supporter look after them. Now, imagine for a moment that it had just been the two of you this week, what do you think would have happened…?” This time, all of Plum’s previous flair had completely faded away and she couldn’t help but hang her head as several memories of Line bailing them out of sticky situations played through her mind. Even now, as Bell had clearly lost his weapon and crippled an arm, there was almost no way they would have been able to come out of the fight without serious injury…or even death.

Just as Plum was beginning to doubt the choices she had made, a warm hand landed on her shoulder as Bell rose to his feet, an air of confidence radiating from his body as he said, “Line, you’re right…I have been relying on you a lot this week and, without your help, I may have already died. Truly, thank you…” Following his words, Bell bowed low for a few seconds before raising his head and saying, “It is my dream to one day become a powerful Hero that can protect the people he cares about…if I end up pursuing that path at the expense of those very people, I would never become the hero I aspire to be. Thank you for opening my eyes…I will do better in the future. I promise.”

At the end of his words, Bell smiled radiantly, this time causing Line’s glasses to almost completely slip off her face as she stared blankly towards the young boy left in her charge. After inadvertently swallowing, Line suddenly felt very embarrassed and had to turn her face away as Bell’s words somewhat replayed themselves in her mind. He had essentially said they were people he wanted to protect and, though it wasn’t that clear, his words also made it seem like he wanted to stay with them for a long period of time. Though it wasn’t uncommon for people to form teams that stuck together for years, especially within the same Familia, Line somehow felt this was a little different and had to pat her chest a little to calm her rapidly beating heart…

Suddenly, just as the atmosphere was becoming a little strange, the sound of footsteps emerged from a nearby corridor. Line pulled out a small dagger that was used for harvesting specific monster drops and passed it over to Bell while she tightly gripped her own dagger in a ready position. Plum immediately moved to position herself behind Bell and pulled out her crossbow, seating two bolts into the spring channels and waiting for the identity of the new arrivals to be revealed. As for Bell himself, he held the rather small dagger in his right hand in a backhand grip since his left arm still ached a little from the previous injury.

After a tense few seconds had passed, a group of four people appeared, two showing expressions of surprise while the others strengthened the grip on their weapons. The group was comprised of a man with messy red hair, possessing of a lanky but muscular figure while a large black plank-like sword rested on his back. As for his three companions, they were all very attractive women with healthy brown skin, dark hair, and similarly dark eyes. Each had rather unique weapons that were uncommon amongst other Adventurers based on their sheer size and structure. The woman at the very front even had a large curved blade that also looked similar to a battleax. It was actually longer than she was tall and, even ballparking the weight, it must have been close to 100kg.

The other two women also had rather unique weapons, with the smallest of the three using two mace-like weapons that were nearly 110cm long and had vicious looking spikes along the ends. As for the final of the three, a woman with a strangely predatory expression, her weapon of choice was a strange crescent blade that curved in the opposite direction like a sickle. The thing that made it stand out the most, however, was the fact that it was nearly 150cm long while the blade’s thickness was around 5cm. It wasn’t as large as the weapon of the more mature looking woman, but the difference in their weight couldn’t have been that different from each other…

Just as Line was about to engage in introductions, the red-haired man behind the mature woman suddenly opened his eyes wide, exclaiming, “Hey, that dagger! Where did you get that!?” Without minding the tense atmosphere, the man came forward with a look of intrigue as he stared at the bent dagger still held by Line. She was a little off-put by his excitement but, seeing as how he didn’t seem hostile, gave an awkward smile and said, “We’re members of the Loki Familia…who are you?” At the same time, she moved to wrap the dagger’s blade with a piece of leather and store it away.

The man watched her actions with slightly furrowed brows but eventually showed a wry smile and scratched the back of his head as he said, “Hey, we’re actually allies, you know? The names Welf, from the Hephaestus Familia. These three beautiful Amazonesses are Sonia, Maia, and Vesta, my fiancees. They’re actually from the Loki Familia, just like you, though they’ve been staying at my place for the last year and a half, ahahahahaha~!” The red-haired man, Welf, seemed very proud of himself as he was speaking while the three Amazonesses behind him all relaxed a little and walked over to join him.

Line was surprised that the three powerful looking girls were actually in her same Familia but, hearing the boy’s introduction, she knew it was the truth. Though he wasn’t nearly as famous as someone like Vahn, Welf had also garnered himself a bit of fame after forging a few pieces of magical equipment. Within the Alliance, his wears were rather popular among some of the lower Level Adventurers, as the gear was high-quality while being relatively cheap. In fact, in exchange for entering a contract to field test some of his equipment, Welf often produced equipment free of charge for some of the newer Adventurers.

With a more relaxed smile on her face, Line bowed slightly and said, “My name is Line, a Level 2 Supporter in the Loki Familia. This boy with the white hair is Bell, a rookie Adventurer who just started entering into the Dungeon six days ago. As for the Pallum girl with purple hair, her name is Plum, and apprenticing Supporter who had started venturing into the journey around the same time as Bell. All three of us are in the Loki Familia…” Upon being introduced, Bell, who had been somewhat dazed and embarrassed at seeing the incredibly skimpy outfits of Sonia, Maia, and Vesta, immediately bowed low, stammering as he said, “H-H-Hello, my name is Bell Cranel, it is nice to meet you!”

While Bell lowered his head, he could see the panty-like bottoms of the three girls and there plump and full thighs, glistening slightly in the Dungeon’s low light. Then, from his left, a painful sensation spread from his waist as Plum pinched him as hard as she could while saying, “My name is Plum Vino…” At the same time as she was introducing herself, Plum tried to stand in between Bell and the three Amazonesses, causing Maia and Vesta to have amused expressions. However, though they wanted to tease Bell and annoy the little Pallum girl, they didn’t want to upset Welf and just bowed slightly and introduced themselves instead.

Once all the introductions were out of the way, Welf immediately focused his gaze on Line and asked, “That broken dagger, where did you get it…?” Though Line had already placed the dagger in her pack, Welf’s intrigue hadn’t faded in the slightest. He had only gotten a glimpse at it but his instincts were telling him that he wouldn’t have been able to forge such a dagger without an incredible amount of effort. Even in its damaged state, Welf felt like it was a masterpiece in its simplicity and, if they were willing to part with it, he intended to purchase it off of them.

Since she knew Welf was a capable Blacksmith, Line didn’t see any harm in allowing him to inspect the dagger. There was even a chance he might be able to repair it for them, which would save them the effort of having to purchase a new weapon. This, combined with the fact that Welf might actually forge some armor for Bell, caused Line to hand it over willingly. When Welf took it into his hands and unwrapped the leather bindings, his blue-grey eyes began to glimmer excitedly as he turned to Line and asked, “Where did you get this dagger!? How did you end up breaking it!?”

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At this point, Bell had recovered a bit and, even though his eyes would wander towards the scantily clad Amazonesses, he managed to focus long enough to make eye contact with Welf and explain, “That dagger belongs to me. It was a gift when I first joined the Loki Familia and…I’m ashamed to say that I broke it…” When Welf heard this, even with Bell explaining in greater detail, he understood the origins of the dagger. If Bell had received it when he first joined the Loki Familia, it had to have been a gift from Vahn as, though she did favor her ‘children’ a great deal, Loki wouldn’t simply give gifts to young boys that joined her Familia. She had become ‘famously’ loyal towards Vahn over the last two years and would have gotten someone else to pass off such things, if not outright requiring the members of her Familia to earn their equipment themselves.

Confident in his analysis, Welf turned over the dagger a few times and noticed there wasn’t a maker’s mark, meaning Vahn had likely just made this as a ‘casual’ weapon to give away. The fact such a simple dagger was beyond his current means made Welf feel a strange emptiness in his chest, though it faded away very quickly as he handed the dagger back to Bell and said, “I can tell from the wear and tear that you haven’t been maintaining your equipment properly. In the future, you’ll need to take better care of your gear, as it will save your life in a sticky situation. If you don’t want to learn how to do it yourself, it’s best that you find a blacksmith and pay a fee to have them repair it for you. It’ll be much cheaper than having to purchase new equipment every time yours breaks.”

Hearing this, Bell was apologetic for a moment but, with Welf’s words as a catalyst, his expression immediately became more vibrant as he asked, “I know! Since you’re a Blacksmith, will you help me out, Welf!? I promise to take better care of my equipment in the future!” Not only Bell, but Line and Plum also had expectant and hopeful looks on their faces, causing Welf to feel a little awkward but proud at the same time. However, just as they were thinking he would agree, Welf’s expression turned slightly fierce as he looked into Bell’s eyes and said, “I wouldn’t have minded helping you out if you had asked previously, but…you can’t really expect me to help out a guy that thinks he can just eye my fiancees whenever he wants, right? Honestly, I’m already resisting an urge to pummel you, hahahahaha~!”

Though Welf was laughing, it didn’t quite reach his eyes and, though Bell had already been embarrassed about his earlier actions, he now lowered his head in shame. Fortunately, the more mature looking Amazoness stepped in and grabbed Welf’s arm and said, “Welf…thank you for defending us, but we wouldn’t dress like this if we cared about the gazes of other men. Be more confident, after all, aren’t you the one that managed to conquer our hearts~?” Though he was still weaker than them, Welf had managed to just reach Level 3 a month prior, making his growth very fast for a Blacksmith. In order to try and become a man worthy of his lovers’ respect, Welf had been doing his best to increase his strength while also working hard to improve his [Blacksmith] Development Ability.

After taking a deep breath to calm himself, Welf’s fierce expression softened a little as he smiled and said, “Consider yourself lucky this time, kid…I’ll help you out for now but, if you ever ogle my girls in front of me again, don’t blame me for knocking some sense into you!” Then, turning to Sona, Maia, and Vesta, Welf puffed out his chest slightly and said, “Even if you girls are fine with other people looking, it is my pride as a man to protect your dignity! Though I might still be weaker than the three of you, I’m still a man, and I won’t throw away my pride so easily!” Welf held up his fist, a firm and resolute look in his eyes that caused all three Amazonesses to look at him with gentle and appreciative expressions…

At the same time that Welf was giving his speech, Line had looked over to Bell was a lazy and judgmental expression on her face as she muttered, “That is what you get for looking at other women…” Though she had intended to say ‘women that were already in a relationship’, Line had misspoken her words, seemingly unaware of her own slip as Plum nodded her head, completely agreeing with her companion’s words. As for Bell, he kept his head lowered and had become somewhat pale as he muttered, “I’m sorry…” in a small voice…

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