Chapter 1:

Beyond the Final Boss

Beyond the Dungeon

“Hey! Sorry I’m late!” I yelled to the senior investigator. She stood in front of the dungeon entrance a bit too casually dressed, but that was to be expected for an Expert-class skill holder. There was something a bit off, but I could question her about it later.

I put my hand out. “The name’s Sly Abbot. Pleasure to be working with you.”

In response, the senior investigator put her hand up, shooing me off. She raised a cigarette to her mouth, inhaling deeply to take another puff.

…seriously? I could only stand there and smile awkwardly.

She let out a puff of smoke, blowing it directly towards me. The cigarette dropped to the floor before getting crushed underneath her sole.

“<cough> <cough> What was that–”

“So, you’re Expert-class?” she interrupted. I was trying to remain cordial, but at this rate, I might sock her.

I kept my composure, though my smile was definitely twitching. “Yes…my dagger technique is expert-class.” Drawing one of my daggers, I showed it off to the senior investigator. It was made out of one of the strongest metals in existence: adamantite. It could cut through almost anything with ease.

The senior investigator glanced over before shrugging her shoulders. “I’ll find out whether your skills are real or not in the dungeon.”

Why you… “Hey! Wait a moment!” The senior investigator started walking into the dungeon. I holstered my dagger, jogging a bit to catch up. It seems like she’s going to be a pain to deal with…

The light from the entrance quickly diminished, replaced by the light of the lanterns hanging from our sides. Although we walked at a brisk pace, it only took about half a minute to clear each floor. We would make it to the final boss in a few more minutes. The dungeon would be a struggle for Intermediate-class skills, but for us, it was child’s play. We hadn’t even encountered any beasts yet. Our mana acted like a deterrent for beasts significantly weaker than us.



“Runa, why are two Expert-class investigators looking through an Intermediate dungeon anyway?” I asked, expecting her not to answer. Instead, I got an annoyed sigh. She was really starting to piss me off.

“Do you know what a dungeon investigator does?”

It’s literally my job! “As the name implies, dungeon investigators basically investigate dungeons. We document their ecosystems, make maps, and measure the ambient mana. Then, we provide that information to other regulatory bodies to handle everything else.”

“Usually, yes. However, dungeon investigators are also deployed in special circumstances. In our case, we’re taking over for someone else who was tasked with another dungeon to investigate.”

Special circumstances? This is the first time I’m hearing about it. Though, to be fair, the call for the job this morning was a bit unusual, switching the dungeon to investigate at the last moment.

“What special–”

“Beasts are coming. Get ready.” she interrupted again. Was this going to be a running theme? Why did she bother telling me about the beasts though? I could sense them too.

Ugh, whatever. Thinking about this is bad for my mental health. I drew my daggers, lowering my stance. Three deer-like beasts rushed out of the darkness towards me, their horns aimed directly for my heart. Some people might think a three-on-one wasn’t fair, but honestly, even twenty-on-one wouldn’t change the outcome. I took a deep breath just as the beasts ran within range.

And then I swung.

The bodies of the three deers continued running as their heads rolled off to the side. Then, the bodies collapsed on the ground. One deer turned to dust while the other two bled out. Still have no idea why they do that sometimes.

“<whistle> Nice job there Sly. You really are an expert class after all. Those cuts were clean, even after swinging your dagger a second time to get that third one.” I wasn’t surprised that Runa saw what happened. Five more deer-like beasts lay dead on the ground around her, charred beyond recognition. There were probably a few that disappeared as well.

“Let’s get a move on,” Runa waved before walking on, destroying any beasts that got too close in an instant. I couldn’t see what she did, which made even less sense as to why she was here.

“Hey!” I yelled before catching up again, killing another few beasts with my dagger. ‘Slice!’ “So, why couldn’t an Advanced or even three or four Intermediate-class inspectors handle this? There is no need for two Expert-class to be here.”

‘Whoosh!’ Another beast fell to Runa’s attack. “Like I said, there are special circumstances.”

‘Slice!’ “What special circumstances?”

Whoosh!’ “You’ll find out in a moment…oh look, here we are.” I looked ahead. A large door made of smoothed rock blocked the passageway forward. It had been a while since I was in a dungeon with a door blocking the boss room. “Now, would you please go beat the boss?” Runa said in a sultry manner, emphasizing her body. All I could do was sigh.

I pushed open the doors, walking into the boss room. A leopard-like beast stood in the center, growling and ready to pounce. Its mana was much greater than the other beasts in the dungeon.

And so, I quickly sliced off its head before the beast could do anything. The boss instantly turned to dust.

“Happy now? Now explain. What special circumstances?”

Clap! Clap! Clap! Wow, that was even more impressive than the deers!” Runa completely ignored me again, making no attempt to get closer.

“Explain.” I dropped all pleasantrees, using my mana to pressure Runa.

She backed off easily. “Ok ok. Quit being so impatient. It’s about time for it to show up anyway.”

“Time for what to–”


Huh? What was that?

‘Crack. Crack.’

I turned around. The wall on the far side of the boss room had numerous cracks running through.

‘Crack. Crack. Crack. Crack.’

Even more were appearing. The wall fell away, turning into dust similar to the beasts. I immediately jumped back, drawing my daggers, honing my instincts on the wall in front of me. There was no doubt in my mind.

That dark purple void behind the wall was oozing death.

“Sometimes,” Runa spoke, “when the conditions are just right, mana stagnates within a dungeon. Nobody understands why it happens, since a dungeon forms when mana stagnates, but it does. And when enough mana builds up…”
A hoof reached out from the purple void, burrowing itself into the ground.

“...the veil collapses.”

Another hoof reached out, clawing its way out of the purple void. Then another hoof came forward, and another, and another. Then followed the torso, made up of a collage of different beasts. Wings, shoulders, hips, and paws all attached in random places. Then came the heads, each one from a completely different beast but wearing the same disconcerting smile.

What is that thing? I couldn’t even begin to describe what I was looking at. My legs almost collapsed from under me as I felt the urge to vomit. The amount of mana surrounding this…monster was ridiculous. It was enough to make most Expert-class skill holders pass out.

“I’m impressed you can still stand.” All the while, Runa was completely fine, acting as if the thing in front of me didn’t even exist. “Your job is to defeat the amalgamation. Consider this a rite of passage. I’ll step in and help if you’re about to die.”

Huh? Amalgamation? No, I shouldn’t let her distract me. I need to focus my attention on this monster. Otherwise, I’ll die.

I took a single step forward, immediately ready to swing my daggers with all my strength.

And then everything went black.

Lucid Levia
Modern Crow
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