“Well, that was easier than I thought.”
Aura said to Zhou, who was guiding our way as we continued to venture deeper into the dungeon.
The battle was definitely a lot simpler than we had imagined. Their attacks were uncoordinated and in disarray. Zhou had no problem catching their attention while Aura and I dealt the finishing blow when the opportunity arrived.
We came out of that battle successful and unscathed. I was prepared to face them the same way I faced the demon wolves where I would have to sacrifice a weapon or two, or maybe drop a few blood from some attacks. Surprisingly, the battle was easier than I thought.
“Goblins aren’t the smartest monsters. They may be smarter than demon wolves but without a proper leader… let’s just say they would get ahead of themselves.”
“Are you saying that there also move in groups?”
As soon as I asked him the question. Zhou stopped and looked around the dungeon, surveying every corner, ensuring our safety. He then signalled us to a corner and then walked towards it. Zhou then surveyed the area again and then told us to take a break as he pulled out some rations from his backpack.
“I guess this is a really good time to give you a bit more information about dungeons. Don’t worry, it’s safe here. Sort of.”
“Sort of?” Aura questioned.
“Don’t mind. Don’t mind. Anyways. Dungeons are kind of like a monster’s home. Just like us, monsters need shelter for themselves and also a place to keep their stuff. Since people had occupied most of the land above, dungeons are the next best thing for them to hide themselves. At the same time, since dungeons are dark and have a lot of forks in their paths, it is also a really good place to trap and ambush anyone that dared enter their domain.”
As I took a bite off the bread in my hand, I looked around the area and realized that the surroundings were different from the ones we had walked through. Initially the dungeon felt more like a very narrow cave with lots of forks. However, as we ventured deeper and deeper, stone bricks begun to appear around the walls. The roof that was once low enough to have us bend our bodies as we walk, eventually had gotten further from our heads.
The place we were resting at looked to like a doorless room. It was as big as Zhou’s hut back in the village. It may not have an open-air roof but there were proper air ventilation coming from above, ensuring that we weren’t too far underground. The floor was also made out of stone bricks, just like the stone walls. Judging by the holes and broken walls and flooring around the room, it was clear that the dungeon had existed for a very long time.
Did I mention that the room was dusty? Like, super dusty?
There were only two entrances to the room we were in. One of the entrance was where we came from and the other directly opposite from it. With that, I began to understand what Zhou meant by when he said that this place was ‘sort of’ safe as we have enough vision to prepare ourselves for ambushes.
“I’m assuming those monsters are ‘Goblins’?”
“Goblins are just one of the humanoid monsters. But this dungeon is indeed a goblin’s breeding ground. Goblins are mostly known for pillaging villages and kidnapping women to breed. Since all goblins are male, they need women from other races to breed.”
As soon as Zhou finished that sentence, Aura’s skin began to crawl. It was definitely a disturbing image to think about. Zhou continued on while he finished up his share of the rations.
“They are a huge problem for us since they are a lot of them around the world. Back when I was a part of the ‘Travelers’ Guild’, four out of ten of the missions are goblin subjugation missions. These missions may be considered lower-ranked but the casualties are usually very high as not many new ‘Travelers’ know how to go up against goblins.”
“Are you sure? Cause from what I’ve experienced, they didn’t put up a good fight.” Aura said as she smirked away with a smug face.
“That was only because we were prepared. If I wasn’t here, you all probably have been killed or kidnapped by now.”
“He has a point…” I said as I thought about the image of us going up against them without knowing we could’ve been surrounded.
After that retort, Aura shied away as she continued munching on her food, clearly pissed off over the fact she was proven wrong.
“Dungeons are usually occupied by one of the two most populated humanoid monsters,” Zhou said as he continued his explanation. ‘Goblins’ and ‘Kobolds’. Well, there are also ‘Draconians’, but they are not as problematic as the other two. With that said, we should probably reach our destination and back before the sun sets.”
I slashed across the goblin’s belly with my sword in hand. The goblin realized his wounds and cried in pain. It was long until the goblin had run out of breath. It fell to the ground and stopped moving.
We spent some more time traversing deeper into the dungeon. I wasn’t sure how long had past since we first entered the dungeon but we did encounter a lot more goblins. Occasionally there were some lesser creatures such as demon wolves or large rats that appeared as their pets.
There were many varieties of goblins during our encounters. Most of them were armed with cheap daggers, but there were some that could use basic magic and coat their weapons with poison. Those battles tend to be trickier.
Zhou had to tank through their magic attacks by using his sword as a shield. And since most combat magic cannot be cast consecutively, Aura and I had to use what little window of opportunity we had and quickly take down those magic casters before they could release another attack.
It was my first time seeing magic skills. Well, technically not my first time as I have seen Elka and the villagers use magic skills back in the village for general needs. But that was the first time I have seen combat magic.
According to Elka, the basis of magic is using mana and convert them into an element of choice in order to materialize them. Every living creature in this world has mana within them and in theory, everyone can use magic as long as they know how to control their mana.
Thus based on that theory, goblins can use magic too.
However, goblins don’t exactly have an abundance of mana. Thus, they could only use low-level magic. However, that didn’t make them any less of a threat then they are.
The combat magic that the goblins were using were a form of <Fire Magic> known as <Fire Bolt>. From the name clearly stated itself, casting <Fire Bolt> would create a fireball to be hurled onto a target or area to deal fire damage. It was a very common combat magic that was used universally around the world, including monsters. It would make sense that the goblins would be able to pick up such magic as their choice.
Nevertheless, the battles were still pretty easy.
Zhou also explained to us that even though he had cleared these paths before, eventually the dungeon will repopulate itself as more goblins would find shelter in it. So technically the dungeon would never run out of monsters to fight against. Thus, solidifying the fact why ‘Travelers’ and ‘Adventures’ love to train and hunt in dungeons. It’s a hell of a good place to improve their combat skills and to also loot for treasures.
Speaking of treasures, goblins were the type to keep loots for themselves as they’re a very selfish race. They would hide whatever they had pillaged from villages somewhere in their garments. Which would mean upon subjugating goblins, we would be able to loot their bodies and keep them for ourselves.
Since, we would never know if the original owners were still alive or not.
Technically what we were doing was no different from the monsters. It’s still stealing and the owners might still be alive and looking for their belongings. However, Zhou said it was fine to keep them, and so we did.
It’s not wrong, right?
If anyone was to lecture me about this, I’m just going to point it out and say it is Zhou’s fault. He was the one who said it was fine after all. I just got here. I’m still trying to get to know the cultures and traditions of the world. So, I’m just going to listen to my senior who was been in this world longer than I did.
Then again, this world is very loose with their laws and regulations about morality. After all, looting corpses and keeping them to ourselves is fine. Men being able to have multiple wives is fine. Slavery is fine. And even murder is fine as long as there was a reason.
It would seem there were many more things I don’t know about this new life of mine.
Anyways, back to the main topic in hand.
I looted the corpse of the goblin in front of me and picked up a few silver coins from its small pouch that was attached to its garments. The dagger in its hand wasn’t that well made and it looked as if it had rusted to the point that it was about to break soon.
Thus, my loot thus far was a gold tooth, a small ring, a bottle of unidentified liquid and a collection of copper and silver coins. There were some other things that they had carry but it was just a couple of junk.
“So how goes there?”
A voice called out to me as I kept the coins I picked up into a pouch. It gave me a jump as it suddenly broke my concentration while looting the goblin. But it didn’t take long before I knew that the voice belonged to Aura.
“C-Coins as usual. How about you?”
“Same here. I guess goblins really are only attracted to shiny things after all. Which would explain this necklace I picked up earlier, even though it doesn’t look that nice.”
“I thought you would be interested in stuff like that?”
“Well, excuse you for not being interested in girly stuff. To be honest, I was about to toss it away and not even bother to bring it back.”
“Just pulling your leg. It could probably worth a bit of money so I’m just going to bring it along.”
Aura said as she looked at the necklace with glimmering eyes, probably thinking about the cost of the necklace instead of keeping it for herself. However, Zhou, who was keeping watch as we were looting the goblins, spoke out.
“Don’t think about selling those pieces of jewellery you found that quickly. They could be magic items.”
“Magic items?” Aura asked as she turned her attention to our senior, with even more glimmering eyes.
“Just like the time the kid channelled mana into his sword during the duel you two had, you can channel mana into other items. However, instead of mana, you can channel magic into an item and imbue them with special abilities. Upon equipping those items, you could receive some special perk.”
“But how do I know for sure that this is one of those magic items?”
“You need someone with a skill that could identify magic items. Don’t worry, I know someone that has such a skill. He lives in a town near our village. I can bring you two there tomorrow. Even if they weren’t magic items, at least we can sell them off there.”
“Oh really? I guess there is worth in these bad boys after all.”
With that, Aura’s smirk only got even creepier. I think I’ve begun to miss the Aura I’ve first met. She used to be a lot more… gentle.
“Well, anyways. Whenever you two are ready. Let’s keep moving. We are almost towards the deepest part of the dungeon. Well, as of now at least.”
With that, as soon as we double-checked our loot, we kept the move on.
As we walked along the path, I could see an old wooden door towards the end of the path. The door was made of sturdy hardwood and had a single iron bar nailed across the door to keep the wooden planks together. I was genuinely surprised that the door was still intact after realizing the entire dungeon must have been very ancient. The door was small and it could only fit one person at a time. I began to slow down my walk and was about to ask Zhou about the door but he continued to move forward. He then placed his hand on the door and told us that we had reached our destination.
He then pushed the door open.
Beyond that door, the entire area looked like a castle’s hallway, rather than the usual rocky path that we just walked out of. I said ‘castle’ because these hallways were huge and the roof was way above our heads. The hallway may not be as dark as the cave we were from but it was still relatively dark. I could see some light seeping into the hallway from the cracks of the stone walls.
There were also huge pillars supporting the hallway. At the top of all of the pillars had stone carvings of a certain monster that I have never seen before. The floor had torn cloth and broken stone bricks laying across the hallway. From the looks of it, this entire place looked to be an actual castle’s hallway. The first thing that popped into my head was that the hallway looked endless.
However, there was an end to this hallway after all.
After a few more steps along the dark hallway, I could start to see the end of it. However, it wasn’t as if it was a dead end. No way, that would be a huge cuck to what Zhou had described about his discovery here. What was in front of me was a door.
A huge door.
No, forget that. It was a gigantic gate.
The gate spanned from one end of the hallway to another and was almost as tall as the roof of the hallway. The gate was generally dark blue in colour. It had some weird patterns of lines swirling around the gate. All of these lines were made out of actual gold and had some sort of zig-zag pattern on them. The lines also seemed to be going towards the middle of the gate. And right in the middle of the gate was a giant ball that looked to be like a giant glass ball.
Upon closer look, the was more like an orb that was made out of a transparent material. Knowing that dungeons have been around for many centuries, I would assume that this was no ordinary glass. However, inside the orb was hollow.
So there it was, a giant gate in the middle of the hallway, blocking our way to proceed any further and putting an end to our dungeon crawling experience. However, the view of the giant gate that was in front of us was indeed a sight to behold.
“So this is it. The end of our journey.”
“What… is this?” I asked as I continued to be in awe of the giant gate in front of me. I went ahead and hesitantly touched the gate with my own hands, feeling the texture of the gate as Zhou explained the reason.
“As you can see, it’s a huge ass gate that I had no idea how to get to the other side. I have tried many things, pushing, slashing it with my sword, finding a switch and even tried using countless magic skills to try to open it. But they didn’t bear any fruit.”
“So, what do you plan to do about this?” Aura asked as she followed my lead.
“Well, I plan to contact the ‘Travelers’ Guild’ but I don’t think its a good idea.”
“Let’s just say, I did something rather unforgivable to them and things would be awkward if I go back.”
Aura gave a strange look to Zhou, wondering what those words meant. Well, for me, I know damn well what those words meant.
“So I thought that once you two are ready, you two could do that for me.”
“Huh?” Aura said as she raised her eyebrow, giving an even stranger look.
“I thought long and hard about this. But in the end, I think it’s best that you two start to think about it.”
“What do you mean?” I asked as I turned my focus onto Zhou.
“You two. What is it that you want to do? What is your goal?”
There was no response. Both of us just stared into each others faces and no words could surface out from our lips.
We did say that we would want to be a proper ‘Traveler’ and join a ‘Travelers’ Guild’ eventually. But I don’t think that was what Zhou meant. I think what Zhou meant was that he wanted to know what do we want to do with our lives, what our goals were or what was it that we should persuade.
As people who were brought into this world with almost zero knowledge and common sense, we were technically unknown around the world and had no real place to call a home. We had no purpose and if it wasn’t for Zhou and Elka’s hospitality, we would have been abandoned in the middle of nowhere, ready to be eaten by some demon wolves, or worse.
If anything, we had no actual purpose or will to continue living. Nothing to drive us further to achieve anything in life. We were just some people brought into the world and had no choice but to just, go with the flow.
The thought of it was scary. Knowing that there was nothing in it for us. If we want to live a proper life, we need to come up with something to do with ourselves.
However, when Zhou just threw a question like that out of nowhere, the words just couldn’t come out properly. The only words I could think of was…
“I- I don’t know.”
I muttered out as I continue to remain in thoughts. However, my minds were blank. I couldn’t think of anything to do with my life properly. Sure, joining a guild is one thing but what do I do after that?
“When you say it so suddenly… Nothing really comes to mind…” Aura said as she also starting to feel the immense pressure from the thoughts alone.
“I know it’s a lot to think about and I don’t want to pressure you any further. However, I have a mission for you.”
“Your mission lasts for one year. You two can stay here, I will train the both of you in the ways of combat and Elka will continue to aide you in your knowledge of the world. However, once you two reached your second traveler’s year, you two will need to give me your answers. I can’t keep you two here forever and not let you two experience the world after all.”
Those words came out from him without hesitance. Zhou must have given it a lot of thought. He wanted us to grow up as proper people without having us to rely on him forever. He didn’t want us to take things for granted and be pampered by the things he had provided us. It wasn’t as if we were a nuisance or he wanted us out of his life. It felt more like because he cared for us, he wanted us to have our own life and spread our wings.
When Zhou said those words, he gave us a huge smile that showed his shiny white teeth with glee. However, behind that wide smile, I’m sure there was a side of him that he didn’t want us to see. The side of a father who loved their kids. A father that was afraid of losing them. A father that wanted his children to grow but also wanted them to stay by his side.
It may sound like I’m thinking too much into it but I can’t stop thinking about it.
Not after seeing the tear in his eyes when he said those words.
At first, I couldn’t understand why would he care about us this much. I mean, we haven’t known each other long enough to explain why he would shed a tear and yet he would tear over the thought of losing two strangers. However, that thought was quickly replaced by something else I’ve just thought about.
Zhou and Elka had known each other for many years, they had many chances of getting kids for themselves. However, they didn’t have any.
They didn’t seem like the type to not want children either. Zhou and Elka loved the kids in the village and they cared deeply for our safety and well-being, to the point I couldn’t imagine them not having any kids of their own.
There must be something that they were hiding from us. A reason to why they didn’t have kids of their own. A reason to why they would shed a tear for us. However, I was in no position to pry any further into their private life.
“Anyways. Let’s get back. Elka is waiting for us with another delicious dinner after all.”
I said as I watch Zhou walked back towards the entrance of the dungeon. It was then I’ve realised that Aura was quiet the entire time. Well, it didn’t last very long.
“Meet me after dinner, in my tent. There is something I want to talk about with you, alone.”