“Let’s proceed a bit more and check the situation. Depending on what we find, we might have to go back to the Institute and make a report.”
The training dungeon was different than expected and not normal: this was Shin’s hunch, so he wanted to go on a bit more to see if he was correct, thinking that either he or the Institute would take care of it.
If he had to make a report to the institute, he needed more information. He regretted not taking a screenshot before. He had barely used that function in the game too, so he engaged in fighting right away. As an instructor for Lecus and the others, it wasn’t a good decision, he told himself.
“I wonder what’s happening? I never heard of monsters with ‘Avarice’ in their name.”
“You’ve never fought against Deadly Sin monsters, right Schnee? If I remember well, all monsters under Greed’s command have it in their names. Which means what we’re dealing with here is not just the appearance of rare monsters.”
For added safety, Shin took the lead and Schnee took the rear, putting Lecus’ party in charge of defense. They were all Chosen Ones, so they wouldn’t be defeated easily.
Shin, who had taken the front, whispered.
“Did something happen?”
“There’s a lot of monster presences up here. I’m talking about triple digits.”
Shin answered Lecus’ question and thought about what to do. About 200 mel from their position there was a fairly large hall, dotted with so many monster icons as to appear dyed in red. Only one of the corridors leading out of the hall showed red, so Shin guessed that it was the way to the floor below.
Based on what he heard from Lecus and the others about the previous battle, Shin predicted that it was a swarm of ant-type monsters.
“If those escape from here, things will get nasty fast. Do monsters ever come out of this training dungeon?”
“No, not that I know of. If that could happen, they wouldn’t leave it near the institute, not even at its edges like now.”
“Right. This disaster is just a matter of time though. They could spill out at any moment.”
Shin agreed with Lecus’ opinion, but knew he couldn’t leave such a large mob of monsters alone. According to his detection skill, what was happening in the room before them was a prelude to the monsters spilling out of the dungeon.
In the game era, Shin had experienced such events a number of times. A large group of monsters gathers in one place, but they do not fight each other. Just like a balloon pumped with air to its limits, they wait and finally explode out.
“Should we go back and report?”
“This situation is going to rupture while we do that. Okay then, Lecus, Myu, Gian: you three go back up and tell Bermann what’s going on. From the guards’ post they can probably use a fast horse or an item to contact the institute quickly.”
“But we can fight too….sir!”
“No, what we’re going to do is not fighting, but it is more like an extermination. We’ll use magic to annihilate them all at once, it’s not going to be one on one.”
Myu was eager to do battle, but Shin dashed her hopes calmly. He was going to perform a sort of mass slaughter via magic. While the opponents were monsters, it wasn’t something he would have liked to show them.
“…let’s go back, Myu.”
Gian grabbed Myu’s shoulders and stopped her attempts of getting Shin to let them go with him.
“We’d just be in the way.”
“That’s right. It would be different if the monster count was just 10 or 20, but there are too many this time.”
They hadn’t seen the enemies with their own eyes, but none of the students doubted Shin’s words. The time they had spent with him was still short, but they knew that Shin wouldn’t joke or lie in a situation like that.
“Nnh…okay. I’m sorry.”
Stopped by her companions, Myu calmed down too. She was a bit reckless, but to not lose her fighting spirit despite knowing about a very large swarm of monsters was something positive. If she could learn to make calm decisions, her fearlessness would be a strong point for her in the future.
“We’ll come back up after exterminating the monsters. There’s still the chance of monsters spilling out after we leave this floor, so when you come back down, teleport to a higher floor.”
“Understood. Please be careful.”
Shin nodded in response and proceeded deeper in the training dungeon, accompanied by Schnee. The monsters they had encountered before were probably a few scout units which had run ahead: there was no trace of monsters in the corridor they were crossing now.
“This is really something.”
“It’s almost a mystery that they don’t come out, even amassed like that.”
Shin and Schnee, hidden behind a corner of the corridor, peeked into the hall. Inside, various types of Mob Ants crowded together. On the floor, on the walls, on the ceiling, simply everywhere. On the floor, some Mob Ants were even piled one on top of the other, while the Mob Ants on the floor joined legs to form a net that acted as another layer. On the walls, too, the Mob Ants stacked one on top of the other.
The various types of Mob Ants present were many, but mostly composed of lesser variants, such as Searchers, Archers, and Soldiers. Sometimes they saw superior kinds such as Knights or Generals walking on top of the stacked lesser types.
Shin knew what they looked like, so he could tell which types they were, but all of them had “Avarice” in their names.
“Is Greed plotting something here? Luxuria didn’t say anything though…”
“Maybe she didn’t notice, or hid it on purpose…it’s hard to say.”
Shin whispered while taking a screenshot and Schnee replied. He doubted that Luxuria was hiding anything. Lust could coexist with people, while Greed could not: there was nothing to gain for them to join their forces.
“Anyway, let’s take them down and ponder the situation later. We can’t just leave them alone like this.”
“That’s right, there is no reason to ignore them.”
The monsters’ numbers were great, but they were so densely packed together that destroying them all at once would be easy. Schnee would seal the exits from the hall to the corridors, while Shin would burn the mob down.
They couldn’t reach the units in the corridors or beyond them, but if they checked the map and picked up any remaining presences, it wouldn’t be difficult to get rid of the Mob Ants completely.
Thanks to his map and detection skills, an almost cheat-like combination, Shin could tell how many Mob Ants were left on the floor, without any doubt.
“Let’s do it.”
Shin formed a bluish-white flame in his palm, about the size of a softball. At the same time, Schnee used ice magic to block the entrances to the hall. The Mob Ants noticed the bizarre phenomenon and tried charging and biting the barrier, but the beautifully transparent ice wall did not budge.
In a very short time, all the tunnels leading out of the hall had been sealed except for the entrance Shin and Schnee had come from.
Schnee glanced at Shin to give him the signal: he nodded back and pointed the bullet of fire hovering over his palm towards the center of the hall.
Walls of ice extended from the floor and the ceiling, to seal off their exit. An instant before the barrier was fully formed, Shin let go of the fire bullet, which flew straight towards the middle of the hall.
Blue and white flames rampaged throughout the hall, turning the Mob Ants into cinders in a matter of seconds. Level and type did not matter. Searchers, Archers, Soldiers, Knights and Generals turned equally into ashes.
Shin’s magic attack was so powerful that some of the ice barriers blocking the exits started cracking. Even so, they had been created by Schnee: the ice walls fulfilled their sealing duty until the flames died down.
Shin and Schnee waited for the heat to decrease, then entered the hall. The floor was covered in ash and scorched Mob Ant remains, making it hard to walk. There would be no way to look for items, so Shin used Earth magic to create a path for them to walk along.
“There’s a few left in the corridors. Guess we’ll have to take them down individually.”
“Shall we move separately?”
“No, there’s not so many left, besides it still worries me that they were under a Seven Deadly Sin devil’s command…let’s not split up.”
Shin had never faced Greed directly, but he had heard from an acquaintance that while its HP was among the lowest between all the Seven Deadly Sins, its many drain-type skills made it seem like it had much more.
If its stats were the same as it had in the game, Schnee could easily bring down Greed by herself, but if it had absorbed other Deadly Sin devils, things would be much different. It would be much more powerful and capable of using the abilities of other Seven Deadly Sins, making the battle unpredictable.
Shin thought that Greed might have been in hiding, waiting for the right opportunity to strike, so he judged it unsafe to act separately.
Shin and Schnee quickly took care of the remaining Mob Ants: the real problem was the many Mob Ants in the lower floors, which were likely to come up as well. There were still three floors to go before reaching the location where Lecus and the others said they had spotted the rare monsters.
“Even if we went back now, they’d petition for our help, right?”
“Yes. It would be fine if there were just rare monsters, but there’s the possibility of Greed, a Deadly Sin like Luxuria, being involved, so Hilamee will not rely only on their own fighting strength.”
Even a former player like Hilamee could not handle a grown Deadly Sin by herself. If it also had other monsters under its command, she would need all the help she could get.
“First of all, let’s proceed while checking if there are any swarms of monsters like the one we encountered just now. If there are just rare monsters on floor 200, the cause could be a different one, so we’ll leave them alone for the moment. If not, we’ll take them down. Well, I seriously doubt the cause behind this will be something other than rare monsters spawning, though.”
“Yes. If they are planning to do something in this dungeon, we’d better get rid of them quickly.”
The training dungeon was on the institute grounds, close to a city. It would be a disaster for monsters to break out of it.
It was probably a coincidence for such a thing to happen while Shin and Schnee were there, but even so, Shin thought they couldn’t ignore the situation. As far as Shin knew, the devil Greed was very belligerent towards people.
Shin and Schnee continued deeper into the dungeon, wary of their surroundings. Using their detection skills, they filled the map as quickly as possible and proceeded to the floor below.
On every floor, however, there were no monsters in the corridors, just swarms of them packed in larger areas.
“In a game, situations like this are clear signs that something’s going on, usually a trap.”
“But even if you know that, you go on all the same, right?”
While relaxing a bit with some light banter, Shin and Schnee reached the location where the rare monsters were supposed to be, and found a very different sight.
“Well, this is pretty amazing.”
“The monsters in the halls were probably getting ready to welcome the Queen.”
Floor 200 was completely covered with Mob Ants, up to the entrance. There were Mob Ants all over the floor, walls and ceiling.
They were not piled on top of each other like in the previous halls, but they completely covered the corridors, so much that it was rather disgusting to look at.
Shin’s detection skill showed that, like in the floors above, the Mob Ants were especially amassed in the halls.
“We can’t just burn them all down this time.”
“I suppose freezing them would be better.”
Blowing them up all together presented the risk of blowing away the mastermind behind the incident too, preventing them from knowing who or what caused it.
Because of this, Schnee, more adept in water-related magic, stepped forward. She held a hand forward and the corridor before them started turning white. The Mob Ants on the floor, walls and ceiling froze instantly, a crackle-like sound being the sole echo in the corridor.
A white wave swept through the corridor, as if flooding the dungeon.
After a while, all sound disappeared from the corridor. The Mob Ants’ screeching noises, the sounds of their claws scratching the walls and ceiling, the dull sound of the Mob Ants bumping into each other, all disappeared.
“We’ve defeated them all, in the end.”
“When we were above, I would have never thought that the situation would be this awful on floor 200.”
If all they found were just rare monsters, they would leave it to the institute, but they didn’t have the time to deliberate on what was the proper course of action: the monsters were just too many.
“Just in case, let’s check the final hall, where the boss was supposed to be.”
Shin and Schnee walked down the corridor lined with Mob Ant ice sculptures. As the corridors were filled with them, they shattered the statues to open a path. Nothing was standing in their way anymore, so they quickly reached the corridor before the largest hall.
“Amazing, there’s only higher types here.”
In the hall, frozen still, there were Knights, Generals, Commanders and other advanced kinds of Mob Ants. What attracted the attention most of all was a large monster, protected by Generals.
It was about 10 times larger than the Mob Ant Generals, which were already fairly large compared to other Mob Ants: the Mob Ant Queen, the mother that gave birth to other Mob Ants.
As Shin expected, the patterns drawn on her body were more complex than other Mob Ants.
“So this is the culprit behind it all. Let’s take a screenshot.”
Compared to other Mob Ants, the Queen’s large body was easily distinguishable. After capturing the image, Shin checked if the item drops had changed.
“Queen Ant Fangs and Claws. Magic stones and shells. Let’s skip what we know already…and this one?”
Among the drop items, Shin found something clearly unrelated to ant-related goods. It was a palm-sized yellow crystal, called 『Piece of Avarice』. It was a very precious rare item, especially for artisans, dropped my monsters that Seven Deadly Sin devils had shared their power with.
“Now we have proof that Greed’s involved.”
“Could it be in the city?”
“Hmm, I wonder. Even players can use this item, after all.”
Shin spoke while fiddling with the 『Piece of Avarice』. If it was used on a monster, it would be changed to a much superior counterpart. The monster did not only grow stronger, but the experience points and items it awarded increased too, so some players used them on purpose to farm items and exp.
The 『Piece of Avarice』 was a rare item dropped by the Greed devil, so it was rare to find it on sale anywhere. Even if it was, larger organizations would buy it quickly.
“Do you mean that there might be someone in league with the devil?”
“In the game, there were people that sided with them. It isn’t that strange for people to give in to greed, anyway.”
Luxuria was even working in a school at present; it wouldn’t be unthinkable for the greed devil to lure in people and manipulate them. Rather, it sounded like a realistic strategy.
“I see…though it is quite sad.”
“Anyway, we’ve defeated the ones that were prowling here, things should be okay for the time being. Besides…with due apologies to the people in this town, this works great for me.”
“How does this ‘work great’, exactly…?”
“Because I can get a 『Drop of Avarice』 from Greed’s body. If you use it, the skill cost on equipment is lowered, which means that we can add more skills to the ring.”
Schnee’s expression had clouded, but Shin turned the topic in a brighter direction.
It might sound egotistical, but judging from the current situation, it looked just like Greed had waited for them to arrive to make its move. If so, they might as well use the situation to their own advantage, so Shin mentioned the drop item.
Thanks to the new technique he was learning, the equipment created by Shin would become even more powerful. If he could also use items to increase skill slots, the ring would become much more than a simple proof of wedding vows.
Shin said to Schnee, with a cheerful grin, that they might as well think of the Greed devil as a sort of “bonus” for them.
“…who else but you could see things like that, I wonder.”
You’re just beyond help, or so Schnee’s expression seemed to say, as she showed a small smile.
“Let’s catch it quick and turn it into an item even quicker. It might go like with Luxuria, so there’s the chance that we won’t fight right off the bat. If this dungeon turned out like this because of Greed’s will, however, things will surely turn rough. Depending on the opponent, we could use it to see just how much Lecus and the others have grown.”
Shin’s clear intention of using the enemy as a test subject made Schnee smile even more. Rare monsters were like treasure chests filled with rare items. Shin’s unchanging stance probably reminded her of the game era.
“No monster presences on this floor. Let’s check the next just in case, then go back up.”
“Understood. What should we do with all these Mob Ant materials?”
Schnee asked Shin while looking at the frozen Mob Ants all around them. They were frozen till their insides, so unless they were turned into cards, the only items they could extract were magic stones.
“We have to turn them into cards, there’s no other way. We could get Hilamee to help us, but there’s just so many. Besides, some researchers might get strange ideas…”
Normal Mob Ants could be left alone, but the ones Schnee froze had 『Piece of Avarice』 items in their bodies. Shin felt it would be risky to leave them to their fates.
All floors except the 200th had been scorched to the ground, so there was nothing to worry about.
“We don’t really need the parts, so let’s wrap them all up together.”
When the monsters’ quantity was too large to pick up items one by one, players used a technique to turn all monsters in a set range into cards.
In such a case, however, the items recovered would be random, with the exception of magic stones and unique items. The players didn’t use it often, so some even forgot such a method existed.
Shin was only interested in the 『Piece of Avarice』 items, so he chose to use this technique.
“Let’s be quick, we don’t know when the institute’s people will arrive.”
Even if Hilamee was on Shin’s side, the institute side would probably not find it too pleasant that Shin kept all the 『Piece of Avarice』 items for himself: thus they would pick them all up first, then report about them to Hilamee only.
The institute inspection and support squad arrived when Shin and Schnee had finished collecting the items and checking the floor below. Lecus, Gian and Myu lead a group of 6 security guards, with Bermann among them.
“Might we assume that the situation is already under control?”
“As far as we can see, yes. We were looking for stragglers, so we haven’t checked the floor below yet.”
Shin and Schnee had explored the 200th floor for the items, but they had no intention of saying that honestly, so they said that they just went around killing monsters.
“So that is why we have not encountered a single monster until here. The students told us that you met monsters never seen before…or should we say, mutated monsters?”
“We have taken photographic proof of those. Please give these to the headmistress.”
Shin took the screenshots and gave them to Bermann. He seemed to be aware of their existence, as he received them without showing any surprise.
“They show bizarre patterns, unlike normal Mob Ants. I’ve seen my share of the world in my adventuring days, but I have never seen or heard about such patterns. This Queen too is much larger than normal, judging from its size compared to the Mob Ants around it.”
“There’s something I want to confirm, so please tell the headmistress that whenever she has time, there is something I would like to discuss with her.”
“Understood. We will leave a message for you at the hotel.”
The institute forces would inspect the 200th floor and below, so Shin and Schnee left the dungeon. The dungeon was their territory, so Shin and Schnee -since they had also confirmed that there was no danger anymore- chose not to overstep their bounds.
“The previous inspection just finished, but now I guess that they’ll close it again…”
“They didn’t find anything in the previous inspection, right?”
“So I heard.”
Students like Lecus and the others had partial access to information about the dungeon. As Shin and Schnee were part of the cause of the first inspection, Lecus probably thought that it was okay to share the information with them. Either the inspection party had really not found anything, or something happened during the inspection.
“Let’s just do normal training today.”
“Sigh, just when we could finally go in the dungeon…”
Myu was eager to test the results of their training, so Shin’s proposal made her shoulders drop in disappointment.
“Since you seem still full of energy, I suppose today’s training will have to be stricter.”
Schnee’s calm smile delivered a sneak attack to the sullen Myu. The dragnil girl was happy, but Gian and Lecus’ shocked response clearly reflected how strict training was going to be.