“We’re starting to see results of your training, and you’ve gotten better at fighting together too. I think it’s time for a trip to the dungeon.”
Almost two weeks had passed since Shin began training Lecus’ party. Thanks to training with Shin as an opponent, they had been able to give it their all without reserves, so they had already improved a lot. The dungeon’s inspection had concluded too, so Shin decided that it was about time to go.
“By the way, how far have you been in the dungeon?”
“The deepest part, floor 200. Rare monsters appeared and took residence there. We challenged them, but there were just too many, so we retreated before they overwhelmed us. Because of those monsters, no one has gone beyond floor 200.”
Among the monsters that spawned in dungeons there were also rare ones that dropped valuable items and equipment. They appeared in a few spots, and it was not easy to encounter them, but as all players knew, if you found them you had to take them down.
Rare monsters, however, had higher stats and levels than normal ones: sometimes even superior versions of the regular monsters appeared. Such monsters appeared ignoring any and all “suggested levels” for the dungeon, naturally, so sometimes the situation would reverse, with the players becoming monster prey.
Shin recalled that rare encounters seldom happened in training dungeons, but the possibility was still not zero, so he simply thought it wasn’t such a strange occurrence.
“It’s a large mob of enemies, I see. Do you know the monsters’ names?”
“As far as I could tell, there were Mob Ant Soldiers, Knights, Searchers and Archers. I think there were others in the back too, but I couldn’t identify them.”
Among all insect type monsters, ant and bee types were known for their large numbers. Hearing this, however, Shin had a bad feeling about the situation.
“I see, the typical large mob monster, that’s for sure. Those aren’t rare monsters, though, so the ones in the back must be. How did all the Mob Ants look?”
“Well, they were much stronger than the Mob Ants we were familiar with. Both attack and defense power were far higher than normal. Even the Searchers, who aren’t supposed to be strong, withstood Myu and Gian’s attacks, and retaliated.”
“They were that different? Even if there were Queens or Commanders around, you guys should be strong enough to take out most ant-type monsters in one blow, though.”
The monsters Shin mentioned had the ability to boost the abilities of Ant-type monsters under their command. Commanders could boost their subordinates’ abilities more, but Queens had the ability to increase their numbers.
Mob Ants, however, were the lowest rung of Ant-type monsters. Unless there was an immense quantity of them, Lecus’ party should hardly have difficulty defeating them.
“Any other particular details?”
“No, not that I remember…what about you, Myu? Gian?”
“…no, I can’t recall anything special.”
“Me neither…but! I remember something weird when I fought them!”
Myu continued explaining the source of her weird feeling.
“Some of them felt different than the others. Their fangs and features were sharper, like they had more thorns too…”
When Mob Ant Soldiers were attacked, some had their carapace split open, while others just suffered some cracks, or so Myu said.
Myu’s 【Analysis】 was not as thorough as Shin’s, of course, so she couldn’t see the monsters’ characteristics in detail, but even so she clearly stated that there weren’t large differences between each monster’s level.
“A difference in strength despite no difference in level…I can’t say it’s impossible, but what Myu said about what happened after attacking bothers me.”
One blow from Myu should suffice to defeat any monster up to level 200. Monsters without carapace or armor would be blown away too.
Monsters in training dungeons had levels corresponding to the floors they were in: while there might be some variations, the max level in this dungeon would be 200.
Based on Shin’s experience, there had to be at least a 100 level difference between the monsters who had their carapaces split apart and the ones who just had it crack. For Myu and the others, it was a pretty important gap.
“They can boost their allies’ stats, so…there might be Commanders.”
There was the possibility of rare versions of Mob Ant Commanders, which had the ability to buff their allies, to have appeared.
Some rare monsters sometimes gained unique abilities, at the expense of reduced stats compared to their regular counterparts.
“By the way, why is the institute not doing anything about them? Won’t people start doubting they can properly manage the dungeon?”
“If the monsters turn out to be impossible for us to overcome, a teacher from the battle department is dispatched. In cases like this, they just monitor the situation for at least six months.”
They could afford to not do anything about the monsters for such a long time thanks to the status being a training type one. Fighting monsters different than the regular ones would be beneficial for the students: rare monsters too, were part of the subjects taught in the institute.
“I see. Well, let’s go fight in a floor a bit higher, for starters. If there aren’t any problems, let’s take a crack at them.”
If the “test” battle didn’t seem to go anywhere, they’d just retreat. Shin thought that he could help them that much.
“Hehehe…we’re not the same anymore! Time for revenge!”
“Sure, if we have to run away again, we’ll be faster too.”
“Come on, Gian! Don’t say stuff like that!”
Myu, feeling the improvements from their training, very eagerly punched and kicked the air. Gian dampened her enthusiasms with a sarcastic remark, so she pouted back at him.
“Come on, you two, you’ll be left behind at this rate.”
Prodded by Lecus, Myu and Gian followed behind Shin and Schnee.
“Hm? You are…”
“Thanks for your assistance last time. We have proper permission today.”
“Who would think we’d meet again like this. I heard about it already, just write your names here.”
At the entrance of the training dungeon, Shin found a man he had met before: the security guard Bermann, whom they had met when they were first transported into the training dungeon.
This time, Shin and Schnee’s identities were verified, so there was no room for suspicion. Lecus and the others also knew him, so his demeanor was more relaxed.
Shin and Schnee had limited access to the institute’s facilities, so it was only their second time meeting Bermann.
The training dungeon was located at the edge of the institute’s grounds, so even if Shin walked around the institute, they would probably never meet.
“You won’t die inside this dungeon, but let me say this all the same. Make sure you stay on your toes!”
This wasn’t probably the first time they had this exchange. Gian, Myu and Lecus answered Bermann in unison.
Shin and Schnee nodded to Bermann, then entered the dungeon. In training dungeons, you could teleport directly to floors you had already visited as soon as you entered.
Shin judged it too rushed to go straight to floor 200, so he decided to start from five floors above, floor 195, which looked just like an average cave, the same where Shin and Schnee were first transported to.
“By the way, those Red Caps were a lot more than the usual too. What was that about?”
“Er, well, that…”
“That bimbo over there opened a chest without paying attention and triggered a monster house.”
“Aaah!! You didn’t have to say it!!”
Chests in dungeons are often armed with booby traps. Disarming them would allow the explorers to obtain the contents, but if they failed they would trigger the trap, which was more dangerous the more valuable the chest’s contents were.
As far as Shin could remember, in training dungeons it was possible to tell if the chests were armed with traps even without trap disarming skills.
If what Gian said was true, Myu had probably opened the chest without watching for the trap, thinking that things would somehow turn out okay.
“If this wasn’t a training dungeon, you might have all died, you know?”
“Yes…I’ll be more careful…”
Myu was aware that she had messed up, so she answered feebly to Shin’s rebuke. She seemed to understand her mistake, so Shin didn’t say anything else. Honestly accepting a scolding, without rebelling or talking back, was one of Myu’s good points.
Her movements were larger than usual, probably because there were no monsters around. Among the three, Myu had the highest detection skill.
“Is this floor always like this? The floor we were transported to had more monsters, if I recall.”
Shin mentioned this as he could not pick up any monster presences in the dungeon. This continued in the 195th and 196th floors too, which was clearly unnatural.
“It’s the first time for us too.”
“Yes, like Gian said, it has never happened to not encounter even one monster like this.”
Lecus and the others, who used this training dungeon daily, found the situation bizarre too.
“Mngh!! Monster presence detected!”
Finally, on floor 197 they picked up a monster presence. Myu, who had the highest detection skills of the three, pointed in a direction in the cave. She didn’t know what kind of monster it was, so she quietly called for the others’ attention.
Myu, Lecus and Gian would mainly engage in fighting. Shin and Schnee would assist them in case of an emergency and look for ways for the students to improve their battle abilities.
A few seconds after Myu’s warning, a one-mel tall Mob Ant Searcher appeared in the corridor.
Mob Ants were the lowest level of ant-type monsters. They looked like normal ants, just larger, with thicker antennae. Their major characteristics were shells with high defense and durability and the ability to summon their brethren if the fighting continued for a long time.
“It’s different from before…”
“Yeah, it didn’t have a pattern like that on the shell.”
“Maybe the monsters below came up. Mr. Shin, Ms. Yuki, I think that is one of the monsters related to the rare ones. What should we do?”
Shin first used 【Analyze】 on the Mob Ant Searcher, to find out what level it was, but the displayed name was different than what Shin expected.
【Mob Ant – Avarice Level 206】
The monster looked like a Searcher, but the patterns on its shell and the displayed name suggested it was a different monster. The patterns were red lines running all over the monster’s body, like the tribal markings native Americans or shamans would use, or so was the impression Shin had.
“The monster changed? This and the lack of monsters above are giving me a nasty feeling.”
Things were taking a turn for the worse, without anyone realizing it: so Shin felt when he saw the Mob Ant – Avarice.
Lecus and the others wanted to fight, but the name change concerned Shin, so he decided to fight first. He told the kids to stand back and watch, then stepped in closer to the monster. A flash of 『Kakura』 and the monster was cleaved in two, completely cut down.
The Mob Ants in the back too were defeated in quick succession.
For Shin, the Mob Ant – Avarice was just like any other small fry monster: maybe because he remembered what Myu said, though, he thought that their shell was a bit harder than normal.
What surprised Shin’s group the most, however, was what happened after the monsters were neutralized. Monsters inside dungeons normally never left their remains behind. The Mob Ants’ corpses, however, showed no signs of disappearing.
After a few moments of observation, Shin noticed that the Mob Ants’ remains started vibrating.
“Parts of the corpses still have HP?”
According to 【Analyze】, the shaking monster parts all showed to have HP, which meant that they were still alive. It was bizarre, however, for the scattered corpse parts to each have HP left.
Insect-type monsters could sometimes survive even if their torso was cut off, but there was no way that just one of their legs was programmed to have an HP bar.
“Mr. Shin, please look at that!”
Shin was trying to make sense of the situation, when Lecus’ voice, indicating surprise, reached his ears.
“…I see, so that’s why even a single leg has separate HP.”
The corpse Lecus pointed at melted in a puddle and formed a Mob Ant. Its shell had the same patterns as the Mob Ant had before being defeated.
The only difference was the size: maybe because it was born from part of the original monster’s body, just one leg too, it was just about 30 cemel long.
However, in place of one Mob Ant, now 10 of them, of various sizes, had appeared. If they had different sizes, but shared the same strength, they would be quite a menace.
“Even if they’re defeated, their corpses come back to life? This doesn’t make sense.”
“Could they increase in numbers the more they’re defeated?”
Looking at the Mob Ants increasing in quantity, Lecus and the others retained their will to fight but were very confused. They had experienced Shin’s strength directly, so it was shocking to see that the monsters were not defeated by his attack.
“It’s still too early to get nervous. Luckily, there are still few of them. Let’s see if there’s an effective way of defeating them.”
In contrast, Shin’s tone was calm.
“But won’t they just increase more?”
“We’ll test that too. To what size they change, if there’s a limit to the times they can change, what happens if we burn or freeze them with magic, there’s still plenty of things we can try. We won’t get overwhelmed by numbers just yet, so it’s our best chance to find out how to fight them.”
Shin grinned to show his confidence, and Lecus’ party calmed down a bit. They looked at the Mob Ants: in terms of individual fighting strength, Shin’s party was definitely superior, so as long they were careful of the enemy numbers, they would still be okay.
“First, the size. Let’s see if they can come back even if they get turned to pinky size. After that, we’ll burn them up and freeze them with magic, bury them, shatter them, see if anything changes. When you find unknown monsters, never charge in without a plan.”
With stats like Shin’s, it would be different, but the basic ironclad rule was to never push oneself too far and to test which attacks or elements were the most effective.
Too many players had been punished harshly for just charging in the enemies’ ranks.
“Here we go!!”
“Don’t overdo it.”
“Make sure you don’t get in Mr. Shin and Ms. Yuki’s way.”
Following Shin’s orders, Lecus’ party attacked the smaller Mob Ants: Myu with punches and kicks, Gian with slashes, Lecus with lightning attacks.
Lecus’ magic was the most effective, followed by Myu’s blows. Thrusts and slashes like Gian’s were not very effective against monsters with shells or carapace: it depended on the user and the weapon’s rank too, but players normally defeated such enemies by breaking down their armor first.
“Magic slows them down, but apart from that, it’s the same as before.”
“I’ll go around crushing ants, so we can see if there’s limit to how many times they came back.”
“There’s no other way, I guess. I’ll make sure none escape.”
Shin watched the students, deciding what strategy each of them would take, nodding as he turned the Mob Ants to cinders. Most insect-type monsters were weak to fire: Mob Ants too were weak to fire in the game.
Shin tried shooting a 【Fireball】, but there was too much of a level gap between him and the Mob Ants, so he couldn’t tell if it had been effective or its attack power was that high.
“I guess I should turn the power down a notch.”
Shin adjusted his 【Limiter】 and magic power control as he continued to burn down the Mob Ants. Even at very low firepower, the effects were present: if they were burned down, the monsters wouldn’t come back to life.
“So fire works, after all.”
“Freezing them does too, apparently.”
Schnee added her own information to Shin’s assessment: she had been freezing the ants close to him. If they were frozen till their insides shattered, they would not come back to life.
“Lightning can work too, depending on the power. It’d be harder with wind or earth though, I guess.”
Wind and earth magic often involved slicing and stabbing, so they would be hardly effective. Magic skills that caused status effects or petrification would work, though.
“Light and darkness are…just as expected.”
High firepower beam attacks and attacks that made the opponent disappear altogether, typical of light and darkness magic, did not leave physical remains behind, so resurrection was impossible.
“Looks like they need to retain their original form, at least partly, and their tissue intact to be able to resurrect.”
After using both physical and magical attacks to test the Mob Ants’ reactions, Schnee made a conclusion. If they used elements in their attacks, Lecus and the others would be able to deal with the Mob Ants as well.
With 【Flame Kata – Crimson Lotus】, 【Tri-Edge】 and other skills practiced during Shin’s training, they defeated the ants one after the other.
The Mob Ants they had initially encountered were not many, so Shin’s group overwhelmed them from start to finish.
“Wow, I feel so light!!”
Myu expressed her glee at realizing the fruits of her training.
“Yes, both of you move much better than before, I think.”
“We got beaten down so many times, of course we’d get better at fighting together.”
Lecus also seemed to have noticed their progress. Gian’s tone was spiteful, but he seemed happy too.
Not everyone could move in the same way during training and actual fighting, but there was nothing to worry about with Lecus’ group, apparently.
“No trouble if this is all we have to expect. The problem is further below.”
Shin had heard of monsters with “Avarice” in their name. He had never heard that they could regenerate from their body parts to increase their numbers, though. Having them roam around a training dungeon was extremely dangerous, he thought.