The Only Thing I Can Upgrade is Strength chapter 211

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Taking our time to carefully examine every wall could have helped us find the core, but we couldn’t afford to just stand around. While there might not be any more monsters immediately in the area they could be coming. We also didn’t know how long it would be before the dungeon could create more walls or poisonous gas. Presumably it had expended quite a burst of energy for its actions, but who knew what could happen in an hour or so. 

Halette and Sera looked everywhere, though of course everyone else helped. It was just that nobody with the possible exception of Socks had a great chance of finding anything. We did have one advantage- Socks had been at the other dungeon core so if there was a smell involved she might be able to help. When asked if she remembered the smell of the core, Socks gave a half whimper… but she was clearly trying to sniff it out, so perhaps it was something difficult to pick out more than not well remembered.

I wasn’t of much help, but Alhorn and Yalgreck supplied light magic to make it possible to ‘see’ the walls at all. Their magic could slips into the cracks even if they didn’t know they were there- and it was up to us to notice them. 

“Here.” Kantrilla suddenly stopped and said.

“What is it?” I stopped next to her as well.

“The core. I feel the magic.” She looked around the area. Even if she hadn’t said she felt the magic, I would have trusted her instincts… but feeling something was good too. I tried to sense the magic, but all I got was the same feeling as everywhere else- I couldn’t pick out anything stronger or weaker about this part of the dungeon.

“You’re right…” Yalgreck was the first to confirm it, “Something is off here.” He looked around, almost pressing his nose against the walls- his beard did brush against them.

Kasner touched the other wall, frowning. “It doesn’t feel like it’s over here.”

Halette and Sera started searching. Alhorn concentrated on the light spell- his ability to keep that up honestly made him the most important member of our party- and Varragra and I looked around and tried to be useful.

Carlos just waited patiently, but Socks started sniffing around the walls and floor- and the ceiling, because she could nearly reach that high, even though they were more than ten feet up. Then Socks pawed at the floor and barked. “What is it?” Halette asked. After seeing what she was doing, she continued, “You smell something underneath?” Socks nodded. “Right there?” Socks nodded again, tracing a path around a section of floor. Halette and Sera looked it over.

Sera shook her head, “It doesn’t seem to have a way to open.” She looked up at Varragra and me, “Llyr and Varragra, this is your job, right guys?”

Varragra had a maul as well- it might be more difficult for her to carry without our party since Carlos also carried that, but she had to admit it was useful. They’d figure something out- maybe just a magic bag. You didn’t have to worry about a hammer poking a hole in one. They weren’t cheap though.

The two of us lined up on either side of the area. “I’ll go first,” I said. I took the first swing, cracking the bricks below slightly. Then Varragra took a swing, then me. At that point, I would have honestly given up. All we had were a bunch of broken bricks, but Socks noticed something so… “Stop.” After making sure Varragra wasn’t going to smash my hand, I pulled out the bricks and brick dust we were pummeling, clearing the way for more swinging. We’d gotten through several layers, and there seemed to be more. On the very edges of dungeons, it could be several feet thick- which could be a dozen layers of brick. Sera and Halette went down the hallway in either direction to watch for approaching enemies. If the core was here, we needed to work quickly. I suddenly felt a bit stronger as Kantrilla gave me a blessing spell. Normally it was superfluous to add more Strength to me, or even Varragra, but this was a good time for it.

Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Alhorn took up the job of clearing bits of brick. Kasner helped with that until his arms couldn’t reach anymore. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. In a way, this was harder work than battle… though battle took a lot more energy more quickly for the most part. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Clatter. There was the sound of something falling onto something that wasn’t brick. Thud. Thud. More clattering, and now we could see the core… or cores.

“Hurry up!” Halette shouted, “Enemies approaching!”

“Same over here!” Sera called out, “We need to go!”

“We got it!” I yelled. Then I looked at it.

The core was as completely dark as the walls- it reflected no light at all, but we could see it shape from the light behind it. Unlike the other one, this had two protrusions… indicating it really was fused from two different cores. There wasn’t room for Varragra to fit down there, so I jumped down. “Should I destroy it?”

“Split it!” Kantrilla said. “Then smash half of it.”

I looked around to the other for objections, but I only heard footsteps of people running back to us. So I took Kantrilla’s advice. Whether it was backed by Luck or not, it sounded good. I stabbed my adamantine dagger into the floating crystal, and it split more or less in half. Then I smashed one of the halves.

“Let’s go!” Alhorn reached down to pull me up, and just before I took his hand I grabbed most of the remains of one of the shattered bits of core. It might not be valuable- we hadn’t taken the other bits of core- but I didn’t want it to possibly reform. Could it do that? I wasn’t sure, but I also hadn’t known if they could fuse. It was better to not worry about it. I took Alhorn’s hand and he saw what I had. “Why do you have that?”

Everyone started running down a corridor- as Varragra, Alhorn and I hacked our way through goblins and a minotaur, I tried to explain. There was no resting after battles as we rushed back towards the stairs. The other groups would know to head back to the surface as well. 

“What if it lets the dungeon track us?” Kasner brought up a good point after he caused a minotaur to crash into a wall with some well placed ice.

“Better than letting it reform…” Yalgreck spoke his mind.

“It shouldn’t… I think…” Kantrilla grabbed the bag that I’d put the pieces in, then covered it in a barrier, “I think the magic is mostly gone, but this should hide it… from the rest.”

We didn’t have much time to talk as we smashed our way through goblins and minotaurs. Fortunately they really didn’t seem to know where we were- they were, however, heading towards the stairways.

“Wall up ahead!” Halette shouted, “That wasn’t there before right?”

“It should be right in front of the stairs!” Sera said.

That was our cue- Varragra and I. Alhorn and Socks guarded the corridor behind us, though Yalgreck threw up a wall- which was actually just an illusion of nothing at all. “I don’t know if this will work…” he said, “I’ll try to stop the sound as well, but everyone who can, be quiet please!” Of course, that didn’t include me… since I would soon be making loud thumping noises. Hopefully this wall was one of the thin ones.

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