Dungeon Born: End of the Tutorial

Chapter 12

<People are on the stairs, Dani. Get ready for an incursion! This is gonna be awe-soome.> I nearly sang, enthusiasm dancing in my mental voice.

Hey, Dani, remember how an adventuring party stomped in here and completely wrecked my shit? Well it’s happening again, but this time, I have rabbits!

It’s entirely unclear what kind of party we’ve got entering the dungeon this time. Seems like we’re probably looking at Fighter-y fellows just on the grounds that only those types of guys appear to have arrived right now, but numbers are unstated and it’s not clear how many of them are properly geared up and how many are using hand-me-down chain or leather armor or whatever.

Taking direct control of the largest [rabbit], I launched my new body at the back of someone’s knee. A direct hit in the tender pressure point, and the man fell. The attacks on the other humans had varying degrees of success, with a few landing decent hits against legs, some bouncing off armor, and one even being knocked away by a shield that moved when the guy wasn’t even looking!

So, yeah, they’re not Monty Python style killer rabbits, they don’t have any special powers or anything. Cal is seriously just taking totally ordinary rabbits and using them to try and bludgeon his opponents. And he seems super stoked that this is gonna be super effective. His thorn-spitting, fang-mawed mushrooms are way more threatening, and to the extent that the rabbits are helpful at all, it’s that they might keep a target busy while a thorn ‘shroom lines up a shot.

The men had been taken by surprise, but were an efficient team and quickly turned the tides against me. A sword dropped down, slaying some Bashers, but most of my creatures were nimble enough to avoid it. A few of the fighters used weapons that required less skill, such as a staff, while another struck with his fists, and these quickly decimated my ranks.

The amount of time it takes to teach basic strikes with a staff as opposed to a sword is basically identical. The reason staves are easier to learn is all to do with parries and reach and other more complicated details of martial arts (both eastern and western). When you’re not really fighting a competent enemy, just trying to swipe at a rabbit, none of that makes a difference.

Also, did that one sword swipe kill multiple rabbits? That’s pretty impressive just for lining them all up like that.

They enter the second room, and basically the same thing happens:

[B]y the time they had killed half of the prolific Bashers, their legs had to be in great pain. Take that! Minor inconveniences! Even with the armor, each hit was as strong as a decent mace blow landing, and must have been doing some damage.

“A decent mace blow landing” is not a minor inconvenience. Also, Newton’s laws presumably still apply, such actions cause equal and opposite reactions, which means if these rabbits are hitting with the force of a mace, then they should themselves be reacting as though hit by a mace. Unlike actual maces, they are not made of steel, which means if they actually were hitting hard enough to mimic a decent mace blow – which would be hard enough to snap bones, easily – then they’d break their own bones and possibly splatter on impact, depending on how decent we’re talking here. If these things were actually landing like mace blows, then we’d be looking at some broken bones at minimum.

I studied them as they entered the next tunnel, and could see that most of them were C-ranked, but the one with the shield was F-ranked! I decided to focus on him as my most likely meal.

Now, that guy there is Dale, so I’m pretty confident in saying that Cal will not successfully do him in. However, Cal is setting out to murder a guy for no reason except power, so here we get back into that fucked up “it’s their fault for wanting the treasure I created specifically to lure them here” morality. While the self-defense justification could have been used to make Cal the good guy, the fact that the elves have a clearly stated and clearly respected threat to kill anyone who harms Cal with extra death (if only as an extension of keeping the silvertree’s ecosystem in one piece) means that this justification has officially expired. These adventurers are not here to kill Cal. They’re just here as a training exercise. Cal’s gonna murder them because apparently anyone willing to risk their life has no value as a human being and murdering them is not considered villainous.

Cal is unsuccessful, and instead the group of adventurers gets to work showing Dale how to purge his corrupt essence. We also transition to chapter 12-Dale in the middle of that last sentence, and I don’t want to break it up to put in a bolded mid-chapter break.

Craig exhaled through his nose, and turned toward Dale, “Remember how we said we were going to get rid of that corruption?”

“Well, yeah. That was the whole point of this right? That’s why we had to be near that Silverwood tree. . . right?” Dale looked at the men nervously while pointing at the small sapling.

The men had surrounded him now, and Craig continued in an eerily calm voice, “Not quite, for one thing that tree is too immature still, but mainly that is a higher level technique. It helps people break into the B ranks, and convert their Essence to Mana. No, we are going to actually remove all the Essence from your center. . . by force.”

Wait, so why are we doing this in the middle of the dungeon, then? Particularly considering that Craig goes onto explain that Dale is going to swallow a beast core which will then attempt to suck his essence dry and kill him in the process, with the plan being to induce vomiting to get the core out of him after it’s sucked up all the corrupt essence but before Dale, y’know, dies, why didn’t we do this back at camp where it was safe rather than here, surrounded by all of Cal’s remnant forces? He’s actually got a ton of rabbits left over, and while those aren’t particularly dangerous, they’re still more dangerous than the middle of an armed camp of allied adventurers.

The energy ripped at his Core suddenly, taking in the Essence like a starving man eating cake. The pain came then, feeling like acid washing through his blood, destroying the tissue and knitting it together by grasping his flayed flesh and nailing it back down with salt covered spikes. Darker Essence flowed like blood from a ruptured artery into the Core, which was also growing muddy. Dale was gasping, on his knees as he watched this unfold inside himself. Eyes wild, he saw the last few wisps of Essence leave his center, emptying it completely.

It occurs to me that if Frank just wants to assassinate Dale, only Craig would have to be in on the scheme. So far as the other guys here know, this is just Craig legitimately attempting a risky medical procedure (of sorts) to prevent Dale from dying a very early death.

For a brief, shining moment, the pain abated again, as the gem looked for a new source of Essence to fill itself. Dale knew this relief was a lie, and began cultivating. Having never done it intentionally before, but knowing how, the energy stalled a bit at first, then started to flow into him steadily.

So this procedure relies on Dale being able to pull in enough essence to keep the core fed so it doesn’t eat him alive while the other guys get him to vomit up the core, and yet they didn’t think it might be wise to let Dale actually practice cultivation first? I wouldn’t mind this if it was because the memory stone they gave Dale worked well enough that he’d be able to cultivate as though he’d done it before, but the text here clearly states that it takes him a bit to get it working since he’s never actually done it in practice.

It all works out in the end, though. Dale vomits up the gem, cultivates himself a new reserve of significantly more pure essence, and isn’t assassinated by Frank or Cal.

Quick side note, why do so many characters’ names start near the beginning of the alphabet? Cal, Dani, Craig, Frank. I’m almost expecting it to be a theme thing, like, tied to the cultivation ranks or something. Only exceptions so far have been Tim and Kantor, neither of whom stuck around for long. I can’t find any actual pattern that would link different characters to different ranks, and it seems unlikely to have been the author just naming characters in alphabetical order as he came up with them, both because the idea that Dakota Krout planned this whole book out in advance and filled in character names piecemeal as he came up with them, rather than writing it as he went and coming up with character names as they appear in the story, seems kinda far-fetched, but also because we’re doubled up on C names.

Chapter 13

“Most infernal users have to go into hiding if they want to get stronger, as most places frown upon demon summoning and Necromancy.” <Can’t imagine why.> I dryly stated.

I can imagine why, but I have no idea if any of my imaginings would be correct. Apparently infernal dungeons can influence people’s minds somehow, but celestial dungeons do that, too, so other than the meta reason of “because that’s how it went down in Catholic theology” I don’t see why that would make infernal dungeons any worse than celestial dungeons. Those priest guys use celestial energy and are apparently on team good guys, although maybe they dislike celestial dungeons even though they’re totally down with celestial essence? Seems unlikely, but it hasn’t been explicitly stated to be false so far.

Necromancers do need corpses to do their work, and one that’s greedy or impatient might choose to make some fresh ones out of any village full of raw materials that may be handy, but, I mean, most people want to make money, and could theoretically get it by robbing banks, but that doesn’t mean someone who wants to make money is assumed to be a bank robber. Generally speaking, when presented with a means of advancing their goals that makes everyone hate them and try to kill them and another method that is slower but also doesn’t force them into a life or death struggle with their neighbors and local law enforcement, people choose the latter.

<I’m about half full, but with the Chi spiral that is a lot more Essence than I’ve had at one time before. Oh, and something odd happened earlier. When those guys started cultivating, I was able to take a bit of the loose energy for myself, is that normal?> I wanted her to say ‘no, you are super amazing and special’ but. . .

“I… think so? That is one of the reasons you let the air get dense with the extra unrefined Essence, instead of focusing it all on a task, I believe. We are approaching the end of my knowledge of dungeon habits though. It should have taken you near fifty years to get to this point!” She stated almost accusingly.

Hey, look, we’re just about to the end of the tutorial. We’re 31% of the way through the book, so this is approaching Final Fantasy XIII levels of taking way the Hell too long to get to the main gameplay. Granted, books have different needs from video games, but this book has mostly just been watching a guy play a dungeon heart video game anyway. Like, what’s Cal’s character arc? Or Dani’s? There’s nothing literary here, we’re just watching them be a dungeon, so there’s no excuse for the dungeon gameplay to suck.

I still think it’s a huge missed opportunity that Dani was a tutorial NPC at all, when pretty much all the information she gave to Cal could’ve been discovered through Cal just experimenting. It would’ve made Cal seem curious and proactive, it would’ve given him a sort of “man vs. nature” conflict to grapple with, since he’d be trying to figure out how things work instead of just following directions, and it would’ve avoided a bunch of text dumps, most of which only half-explained their subjects anyway, leaving crucial details out that Cal had to figure out on his own anyway.

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