The Only Thing I Can Upgrade is Strength chapter 209

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Functioning only off of magical light was draining, emotionally and mentally. The deep blackness of dungeons was oppressive, with monsters actually being a refreshing change in scenery. Of course, exploring a dungeon was also physically tiring. Our pair of parties had now explored most of the bottom floor of the dungeon, and we had a pretty good idea of its layout- and where the core would be. Or cores, if they actually merged or moved near to each other. The dungeon could change its layout a bit, but the cores wouldn’t move far or fast. Today we were taking a break all day, even from training, and tomorrow we planned to actually investigate the core situation, which might involve trying to destroy it. That meant we needed to keep extra careful track of our movements so we could leave the dungeon- and that applied to the other parties that would be entering as well. We wouldn’t have any of the other groups come with us because then the dungeon might panic with so many people approaching the core, but they could clear out some monsters and make traversal of the dungeon easier. It wasn’t guaranteed we would be destroying a core either, but once we did everyone would know it had happened and be able to retreat.

—–

We trudged through the dungeon one step at a time. We’d fought a few packs of enemies on the way down, but nothing particularly exciting. Not that there was much variety to be had- which was good- just goblins and their armored, mage, and archer varieties as well as minotaurs. Minotaurs didn’t have mages or archers- the only differences they had was how much armor they wore.

As we walked along, Socks whined. “What’s that?” Halette asked, “You smell…” Socks gestured by standing up on her hind legs, “Minotaurs?” Halette looked around. “I don’t see any side passages or doors that could open. Sera?”

Sera shook her head, “No, but perhaps we should look more closely.”

“Do you think they might have just passed through here?” Halette asked Socks. Socks shook her head, then tilted it back and forth. “No… or… it still smells like they’re nearby but some also passed through?” Socks nodded to confirm that last guess. “Right. We’ll look more closely then.”

The two scouts did that, and for my part I kept my eyes open as well. Just because I wasn’t as high in Awareness as them didn’t mean I might not get lucky and find something. Alhorn slightly increased his light level, spreading the motes of light out to try to fit into any hidden crevices or otherwise show any secret doors. He was so good at that… I needed to practice a bit more with light, but at least I could maintain some light magic during battle if I needed it. I also had a little magic rod I could pull out- kind of like a glowstick, except magical powered instead of chemical. They could also be recharged with light magic, though only a few times.

“Everyone quiet!” Sera called out as we were walking along. Everyone listened intently, and a moment later Sera called out, “Poison gas!” She probably couldn’t know it was poison- but we could guess. After she pointed it out, I could just hear a faint hiss.

I immediately felt wind- Yalgreck was using wind magic, and pushing air away from us, creating a sort of bubble around our parties. Calum shouted, “The walls closed behind us!”

“But- we looked for collapsing doors!” Hallette flicked her head around- and I looked too. Indeed, the light cut off further back down the corridor showing it now ended. Then the walls started to open. Minotaurs poured out- really only a handful of them, in front and behind, but that was already a lot. However, instead of a door that fell moved away, the walls actually opened. From the light, I could see they faded away like the middle of a burning piece of paper.

We didn’t have time to discuss the details of what was happening, because we had minotaurs to fight. Fortunately we’d adopted the pattern with me at the back, because I could immediately take out one of the minotaurs. One swing to its knee and one to its head as it fell killed it. Sometimes, it was nice to have ridiculous amounts of Strength. Of course, without proper technique it wouldn’t have gone so well. 

Carlos shifted forward slightly and the battle really started. Alhorn and Varragra were facing off against the minotaurs in front of us, and Sera moved to support me at the rear. If a minotaur focused on me, she could take the opportunity to stab it somewhere important- a joint, usually. If they focused on her, she could dodge their attacks and I had free reign to swing at them with my full might. The corridor was wide enough for two minotaurs at a time, but they didn’t come exactly together. Magic and arrows flew out as well- though they were somewhat off course because of the wind magic.

Somehow, the minotaurs didn’t seem bothered by the poison gas. Once they were near us they would be safe of course, but beyond that they would be in it. Even if they weren’t necessarily fully real, they still had to follow the rules of something being alive. They couldn’t be completely immune to poison, though there were some monsters that had that trait, so something else must have been going on.

Sera and I took out two of the minotaurs at the back in a few moments, before a loud roar got our attention. There was a much bigger minotaur coming down the corridor from the other side. Meanwhile, Yalgreck was fully occupied keeping the poison gas away, and that wasn’t his specialty magic. It was much harder for him to maintain than even a large number of illusions.

“Damn, we need to deal with this gas!” Halette shouted, “Llyr, can you break down that wall back there?”

“I can, but I’d have to go through the gas! My wind magic isn’t good enough to form this sort of bubble and bring it with me… but if I hurry…”

“I can’t move this bubble either…” Yalgreck shook his head, “It’s too big and I’d lose control.” As he spoke, Socks tore the throat out of a minotaur- though more were appearing further down the corridor behind the boss. Then she stood on her hind legs and howled. “Get your nose back in the bubble!” Yalgreck shouted. “Ah…” Socks maintained her position, howling, for a few moments, “Is it… safe up there?” Socks landed back on her front paws and wagged her tail for a moment before pouncing on the nearest minotaur.

“That explains why there are no goblins!” Kasner called out as he froze the minotaur boss’ axe to the ceiling momentarily, “They’re all taller and the gas is heavy and stays more towards the ground…”

It was hard to keep track of all the conversation but fortunately there had only been a couple more minotaurs behind us. The corridor wasn’t that long behind us, and thus there had only been so many places to hide the minotaurs. It also seemed like they might have been in unfinished side passages, from what I could see. “I’ll go!” I moved to Carlos and grabbed my maul- which was basically just a sledgehammer. Since we’d run into a situation where I needed to break things before, I had gotten a tool more suited to it. I wasn’t quite confident that I could completely supply myself air, but I started pulling air down from above and pushing everything else to the side as I approached the wall that had suddenly appeared from nowhere.

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