Dungeon Born: Late Explanations

EDIT: I forgot to add this to the queue when it was finished editing and didn’t notice that it didn’t publish until late in the evening. Well, I accidentally published a post 12 hours early a few weeks ago, so I figure if I schedule this one for 12 hours late that’s a wash. Also, the title of “late explanations” was actually picked out before this happened. Maybe I should avoid putting the word “late” in future blog post titles to avoid the curse going forward.

Chapter 8

Once again we begin with Cal’s abbreviated perspective on the raid.

I should never have made it so easy to get down. I just really had a thing for the spiral staircase ever since Dani had suggested it.

I am kind of surprised to see the story admitting this is a bad idea. On a similar subject, it’s kind of surprising to have the story let Cal be completely overwhelmed by this crack team of veteran adventurers, even if the delivery was very much underwhelming. This story isn’t without good ideas, although they are unfortunately very often crippled by the execution. For example:

<Dani… I think they are going to kill me.> I uttered slowly when the strange looking man talked about my bloodmoss.

“It’ll be ok Cal; can you tell what rank they are?” Dani replied soothingly.

<No, I just visualize an ‘X’ when I try to analyze them. I can’t analyze their gear either… What is going on?> I demanded, voice low and scared. I liked to understand things.

“The gear makes sense; their aura would protect it unless it got too far away from them. Oh! I never told you about auras! You see, when an aura is present you can’t affect things in the same way.[“]

You can tell from the bracketed close-quote that this isn’t even the end of the lecture. Much like the Cleric shrieking out a calm analysis of the situation, Cal is very likely going to die here and Dani’s all “oh, hey, now’s a great time for a lecture.” Think maybe Dani is acting like this party is a non-threat to try and calm Cal down? Think again:

<What can we do?> I was determined to make it through this trial.

Her voice was lowered to an almost-whisper, “Hope they get bored and go home?”

I growled at her, <Not super useful, thanks.>

“I. . . wish I were joking. They could kill us without any effort at all.[“]

So, yeah. Dani’s not doing a thing where she pretends everything is normal to ease Cal’s nerves. She just felt like the best time for a lecture on auras was while Cal was in mortal peril.

And holy shit is Cal scared:

I heard them talking, but couldn’t focus past my terror.

Granted, this is from a few minutes later when the party has reached the boss room and Cal is presumably even more terrified now that they’re hacking his boss to shreds with barely even an inconvenience, but still, it goes to show that if you want Cal to remember something, probably best to tell him when he’s not in life-threatening danger.

Let’s back up a bit to that lecture we skipped, though. The basic takeaway is just that Cal is bad at reading auras but Dani is better at it. The reason why I bring it up, though, is that the elf is B-ranked but the other guys are all C-ranked. At the end of their raid, the elf alone had all three of the other guys absolutely petrified at the thought he might turn on them. Bear in mind a few chapters ago “practical men” were completely willing to risk their lives for an unknown chance of an unknown payout, so I find it unlikely that these three guys were scared of the elf because they were worried that one or two of them might die. I doubt they were scared of the elf just because there was a chance one of them might die. No, I’m pretty sure they were scared of the elf because that one B-ranked elf would be enough to pretty much guarantee that all three of those C-ranked adventurers would die. Which means Longes prediction #3 is at the very least implicitly confirmed.

For context on below quote, there’s a bit I didn’t comment on where the Cleric dropped his holy symbol into Cal’s stalagmite pool to see if it would freak out and try to zap him, which would happen were he infernal powered.

<Done. Whew. I wasn’t able to activate the thing, but he seemed really sad that I ate his necklace. I gave them all a copy of what they gave me in tribute.> I felt really weak right now. Their auras had made it difficult for me to put the mushroom back in the room, especially when they were getting so close to it. “. . . You never cease to amaze me, Cal.” Dani declared. “For a dungeon, you are surprisingly giving[“]

Apparently the author isn’t averse to having Cal do genuinely nice things, so this again raises the question of why he’s explicitly endorsing such bloodthirsty, borderline sociopathic morals when he could just be acting in self-defense. I’m guessing that at some point he is going to go out of his way to lure people into his dungeon and subsequently murder them so that he can make copies, and the narrative will want to pretend this isn’t just self-serving amorality. Y’know what’d be a cooler way to handle that, though? Just have Cal make some friends from the village, like, for example: Maybe Dale somehow ends up in communication with Cal, and after working out lingering fear/anger for killing Dale’s good friends “the swarthy man” and “those two other guys,” they can become at least friendly enough that Dale keeps him in the loop. Then when a bunch of orcs show up to pillage the village, they concoct a scheme to get the orcs into the dungeon where Cal then kills them all, and kabam, orc templates for saving a village.

‘Course, Cal has yet to do anything that is actually reprehensible, because again, the first party of invaders may not have been at all aware of what they were doing, but they were in fact coming to kill Cal.

Dani continues to ponder how weird Cal is:

[“]Also, for being a low level, you are really adept at making monsters perform better than their rank should allow.[“]

Which sounds like Cal might be headed for Longes prediction 5, although instead of a specific gimmick it might just be Cal leaning on the same “brilliant strategy” schtick that Jason did. We’ll see if 1) that actually happens, and 2) if this story is actually good at making its protagonist seem brilliant rather than just making everyone else seem dumb.

“There is no way.” She muttered, “Cal, were you a… human?”

I considered. The Elf had seemed too foreign so. . . <Yeah. I think so at least.>

“Oh wow. Oh boy, oh boy.” Swooping around the room, Dani was trying to process this new development. “Cal, how did this never come up? This explains so much.”

So apparently most dungeons aren’t formerly sapient creatures.

I was watching her insane flying and weaving with a bit of concern for her mental well-being. <Dani, you need to tell me why this is such a big deal.>

“You are unique! That’s why! Remember how I told you dungeon Cores were usually naturally occurring? The gem always forms first, and usually a Beast who dies nearby, or maybe a strong animal, gets pulled in entirely by accident.”

So did this mad wizard (“mad” in a “does whatever the plot needs him to without explanation” way, not in any way that would resemble an actual depiction of mental disorder) invent the ability to craft dungeon hearts (or find them when they occur and before they acquire a host)? Certainly the only way to acquire dungeon hearts appears to be storming a dungeon to kill the poor bastard running the show, so that would make sense. And it would mean that people ooing and ahing at Cal’s intelligence are oohing and ahing at him because he is smarter than a dog, which makes things like “how could a dungeon of this low a rank possibly know how sneak attacks work” way easier to swallow. There’s still kind of an issue here in that it took us until after that scene to learn this, but there is an explanation at all, which is more than I was expecting. And it means that scenes going forward won’t suffer from that problem, which is neat. It also explains why Cal was referred to as a “Beast Core” earlier – because it’s assumed that he used to be one.

The order in which information was delivered needs work, especially given how often Dani infodumps anyway, so it’s not like the narrative is having information be discovered organically in general. But there do appear to be actual explanations for a lot of weird things earlier in the narrative. There’s some real thought – or at the very least quick-witted and resourceful retconning – going into this.

She was almost too riled up to answer me directly, “Humans never get pulled into Beast Cores! It doesn’t happen! It never has, Cal!”

<I… Don’t think I was pulled into a Beast Core. Do the words ‘Soul gem’ mean anything to you? I think I was trapped in one by those disgusting Necromancers.>

She squealed a bit, “That makes perfect sense! Oh. My. Gosh, Cal! We have so much to learn! Imagine, ME being the first wisp to be bonded with a cunning, human-soul dungeon! We are going to get SO famous.”

Well, when she puts it like that… I ‘grinned’. <You know it.>

Sounds like we can go ahead and tick Longed prediction 6 off of our list. For those of you keeping track at home:

1) Protagonist will find a variety of gimmicks and/or single innate gimmick that will help them skip massive chunks of Cultivation

Cal has an unknown means of clearing out his corruption which allows him to rapidly cycle essence in a way that is normally impossible. Check.

2) There will be a bunch of time skips because Cultivation takes forever

We’re looking at days or weeks rather than months or years (so far), and also this is usually done to expand dungeons rather than to increase rank, but if you’re willing to be really strict on the exact phrasing of there being a bunch of time skips but really lenient on the reason why, this counts. Which is obviously cheating, but I’m guessing there’ll be cultivation time skips in the future.

4) Different levels of Cultivation equate to MASSIVE power differences and absolute curbstomping

Technically not confirmed, but very strongly implied.

6) Being the very best like no one ever was is the protagonist’s primary motivation

Cal has just barely expressed this motivation. It isn’t really “primary” based off that one expression, but I expect it to be prominent from now on. He already had a desire to get stronger in general, the only thing that’s getting added is that he is now specifically trying to be powerful enough to stand out.

10) Cultivation requires or is greatly sped up by some magic potions or eating monster parts or something like that

Silvertree. Check.

11) Protagonist will subvert that, skullfucking the economy in the process

There hasn’t been any skullfucking yet, but the silvertree gives Cal the tools to do this, so it’s pretty strongly on the table for the future.

Predictions which haven’t come true (yet) even if you tilt your head and squint:

3) Protagonist will level up to kill and replace God
5) Protagonist may find a gimmick that helps them fight people on higher Cultivation level
7) There’ll be a bizarre economy and people will interact with it in a very bizarre way
8) Skills or their equivalent (minions?) will be bought and sold via bizarre economy
9) Protagonist will find a way to completely skullfuck said economy

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