Chapter 17: Heard It Through The Grapevines
I was filled with absolute regret seeing the farmhouse get closer and closer each step I took. It’s a constant reminder of where I could be. Cutting hay, Sipping sweet tea after a good day’s work, and eating bbq or whatever the country folks did in this world.
Tell Ronald I changed my mind tell him to expect me soon.
I was only joking, of course, I knew Eurval had no signal to call for help and I knew I would not be getting out of this dungeon anytime soon.
I sighed. The grape ordeal has me spooked. Their plumpness was gone, and they looked like the normal grapes I had seen when I first started making the whole thing much creepier.
What was that scene in that kids movie where that girl ate a blueberry and inflated to become one? I shivered imagining myself blow-up and pop, shooting my blood and entrails all over the field.
The front door came into view. It really looked like a plain cedar farmhouse even the fly screen and the window shutters looked well-worn but still functional.
“Hello?” I called out from the border between the yard and the end, or should I say the start, of the grapevines.
Only a soft breeze made itself heard shaking the shutters a little bit and creaking a rusty rooster wind vane at the top.
I looked around. Mounted on the side of the left outer wall there was a stone cobbled chimney pouring out a little white smoke.
Fuck, now I wish it really was abandoned.
“Hello! Anyone in there~” I called out like wandering traveler looking for a barn to stay in.
No one answered my call. I walked up to the look there was no doorknock or bell. I opened the flyscreen then knocked three times.
“Hello, I got thrown into the dungeon. I don’t think I’m strong enough to get out alone.”
The windows and blinds were shut at least the ones by the front porch not letting me see inside.
I grabbed the doorknob.
Oh, it’s unlocked. I felt no resistance.
“I’m coming in.”
Slowly the door creaked open letting the eternal daylight seep into the house showing me the wood floor and immediate entryway. A breeze brushed past me into the house.
I stood there for a good minute. Nothing attacked so my anxiety dropped. Really must be empty.
“Sorry for the intrusion.”
Seems like the chimney is just a fluke. Maybe its always on, who knows, everything inside a dungeon is out to get the invaders anyways.
I looked around the inside of the old farmhouse, the worn-in hardwood floors, the simple construction of the entryway table, and the rather homely looking carpet strewn on the floor told me this was just an ordinary farmhouse.
Obviously, in reality, it wasn’t.
Leading directly to the living room I could see a couch with a quilt draped above it facing the little fireplace.
What a cute place, someone could make a bed and breakfast out of it. There was even pretty china on display in the small kitchen to add to the realness this ‘fake’ home.
I made rounds to all the rooms. No one upstairs or downstairs. Like a show house down the most minute details like the squeaks the stairs or specific parts of the hallway made. Even the scent of animals seemed to be coated everywhere, not that I minded.
Now what? I threw myself on the couch.
[We wait? There seems to be plenty of food in the pantry and fridge. Even the faucets have running water Lucid.]
Wait? Until someone else conquers the dungeon and we get thrown out?
Not a bad idea, better than risking it and looking for the next floor. It’s obvious this one won’t have the exit.
The exit or entrance, however you want to see it, always contains a dungeon or floor keeper, a hyre pumped on steroids basically.
[This is probably one of the sub-floors Lucid. Maybe a party will pass through and can lead us forward to the route where the exit is located.]
Yeah, not without significant compensation I’m sure.
[It is not like you wouldn’t ask for compensation either.]
I had no rebuttal Eurval knows me too well for me to even try and deny it.
I moved the subject.
“It’s kinda chilly without the sun maybe I should light the fire?”
I’m sure the passage to the next sub-floor or actual floor is somewhere in this house, but you know what? I don’t want to find it.
My eyes shot wide.
Someone is here. I heard some footsteps.
Thank goodness essence training boosts all bodily functions.
I jumped to my feet hearing a voice come from outside preparing myself.
“Anyone in there?” I quick four knocks felt like they shook the whole house.
That voice it sounds familiar.
Isn’t that Eu-
[I’ve analyzed the voice waveform it is 96% identical to Eugene.]
“I’m coming in. Oh.” The doorknob rattled.
Pfft. I had locked the door.
“Eugene its Lucid! I’m opening the door don’t attack!” I yelled out.
Eugene seemed surprised to hear my voice from the other side. I sent a little breeze of wind twisting the lock to the side. After it clicked Eugene entered through the door.
“RAAAAAAA” Eugene burst through slashing the air in the entryway with his two daggers. I watched from the couch.
“Oh, it is you Lucid.” He stopped his attack.
This little shit was really going to kill me this time. Not that I blamed him, I relaxed my draw and pointed the nocked arrow to the ground.
Much like Eugene, I was suspicious too.
“You got thrown in here last night too, huh? Where did you wake up?” I looked over at Eugene. Who had put his daggers away.
Eugene let out a breath and nodded his head.
“I think it happened just as I had just fallen asleep thinking about your body when the entrance ritual began. I woke on the side of a mountain and had to fight a pack of shadow vultures to enter the next floor behind their nest. The passageway led me here.”
Hmm, some people had it worse it seems. Also, what was that about my body?
I looked at his eyes. His gaze didn’t look lecherous so I was sure it was more of a scientific curiosity about my astral body.
I didn’t say anything more but still found my arms cross over my chest.
“By the way, how is your astral body doing?”
His eyes moved up and down my body. I could see his fingers be restless as he looked at me.
I turned my body slightly away.
“It’s fine, actually, better than fine I’ve never felt this in sync with this body. All thanks to you.”
He really did help me out.
“Good, good. Can you go into more details? Did you wake up to any pains? Any out of body visions in sleep? Any stiffness or soreness anywhere?”
“No… I feel more nimble you know? Like a time lag I didn’t know was there is gone. No pain but I do feel more awake than ever. No visions either.”
Eugene was missing a clipboard and a lab coat t make this feel like a routine checkup.
“That’s good, it will take more time for such a vast discrepancy to fully fix though. Like I asked before, how about it become a subject for my families pharmaceutical company? I promise to keep it as minimal as possible maybe a few scans a week and small tests. I’ll make sure to compensate you well name it anything you want and I’ll get it.”
His voice turned strained as he let it out in one breath.
“I-ill think about it.”
“Okay, but please. Consider.” He gave a dry cough.
Anything though? I scratched my chin. He’s probably insanely wealthy and well connected. I could get so much free stuff.
[Why do you say free Lucid? Isn’t this just selling your body?]
Shhh, it’s free.
“Ahem, please sit down.”
I pointed at the little seat beside the sofa. He nodded and sat. I sat down after him noticing two beautiful rings on his hands. His real daggers must be really nice. I didn’t get to catch a good look at them while he slashed the air apart earlier.
Eugene looked at me.
“Now that I think about it, I’m surprised you made it this far Lucid. No offense but I think you should have died on the last floor no? I don’t think you have the strength to combat shadow vultures on your own.”
I took no offense. Maybe with my new movement magic, I could have made it through. A testament to being as strong as I can be no matter how little at every moment was important to my survival in this world.
“I woke up on this sub-floor actually.”
Eugene’s head lifted in understanding. It was random and most dungeon floors did not contain hyres only the floors on important routes did.
“Still, you didn’t get lost in the mental interference? Do you have mental fortitude equipment?”
I shook my head. I wish.
Eugene looked surprised at my answer.
“A strong soul due to the gap between the astral body maybe? That could be possible…”
Eugene looked down in thought muttering something more. I couldn’t hear from my seat.
I took what I did hear as a possible explanation. He seemed pretty knowledgeable in the medical field. The dangers I faced here are exactly the reason why I do not want to continue an further unless I have to.
“Well, I was close to being fully affected. I almost ate the grapes outside, I still don’t know what would have happened if I did.”
“Is that what you are seeing? I was in a grove of mist ivy. Tell me, outside the window right now is it day or night ?”
I looked at him oddly mist ivy? Day or night?
“It’s day no?…” I asked confused.
He shook his head.
“Yes and no. For me, it’s night with a full moon the only time when mist ivy can be dense enough to be gathered.”
My eyes moved to the window where the soft daylight flooded in.
“You seem pretty calm too?” I looked over. Neither of us had the strength to really explore on our own. He was lucky the last floor wasn’t too difficult.
“I could say the same for you maybe you. You could have died yet you seem alright. Maybe you possess a powerful will instead which could explain why the mental didn’t work, hmmm I need to know more. Please, consider becoming a subject?”
Eugene accepted the answer again, but it seems he was going to be persistent.
“To your other point, my family was probably alerted and knows I’ve been sucked in. They’ve already sent a rescue party, I’m sure, to look for me.”
Tch I clicked my tongue in envy. The wealthy and powerful always have an out.
“Your welcome to come with me as a show of good faith between us.” Eugene looked over to me calmly. His face a different than what I’ve seen before.
I met his gaze and studied his face.
This young master Eugene is scary compared to the infatuated scientist Eugene. It was hard to read his expression now, and I always considered myself decent at reading people especially ones in high society.
“I’ll take you up that offer.” I gave a glance at Eugene. I wasn’t going to say no. Even if he did lie it was better than being here.
But it seemed sincere.
“Then it’s settled. So, how about an employee instead. You can choose your title I can even get my father to back you. You could probably enter any guild, clan, circle whatever you want.”
It was getting harder and harder to refuse.
He shrugged again.
“Are you planning on going deeper?” I changed the subject.
Following Eugene might be my best bet now. While waiting here was the best choice earlier I do have things to do outside the dungeon. It could take years maybe centuries to be conquered.
“Yeah. Haven’t you noticed the mana in the air drying up? We can’t stay here for longer than a month.”
I hadn’t noticed yet. That fast? Usually, these places can take decades to disperse, reform, and then reappear altered. The physical plane rejects phenomena caused by forces outside its control. Meaning mana is the battery keeping this place together.
It’s also why increasingly powerful magic requires spell formulations and mana requirements at an increasly harder scale.
I sighed and closed my eyes. He was right.
Maybe I didn’t want to notice was the actual reality. I could feel it now.
“Do you know where the passageway way is? ” Eugene looked at me.
“I haven’t been looking for it. Probably somewhere inside the house. I haven’t checked the attic.”
“I see, my guess would be through the chimney. You saw the smoke right? Yet nothing is burning unless you turned it off earlier..”
“Ah.” I felt it click in my mind. Of course, it was the chimney.
I looked over to the little log sitting on the steel rack pristine and un-burnt.
“I’m going to try it now and see.” Eugene stood up and walked over.
“No, no wait. Give me a few days to prepare.” Eugene stopped his hand.
I wanted to practice the dash a little more and hopefully, the spread shot too.
“Sure it’s fine. What do you need to prepare?”
Eugene had a bit of a surprised face then nodded as if he understood something.
At the minimum, I wanted to have good control on the dash. I sat back down and pulled out the kettle. Before I started anything I needed my coffee.
I threw a handful of roasted clacka roots, filled it with water, and put it on the tiny stove in the kitchen.
I saw Eugene watch from over my shoulder.
“Why are you preparing clackaroot tea? Ceremony? I didn’t take you as so religious.”
“No… its because I like to drink it?”
Eugene’s eye twitched a little as if holding back a shock.
“Oh yeah, you come from an unprotected city. I hear those people drink this. It’s a poor thing right?”
A poor thing?
Eugene said it so innocently with no maliciousness attached. It reminded me a bit of Kevin. I looked at Eugene and gave him a smile.
“Nothing.” I looked away and poured a little milk from the fridge into my coffee.
Dungeon milk is okay to consume right?
[It should be fine Lucid, it’s even considered lustrating material albeit weak since the original isn’t.]
I sat down sipping on the coffee drinking it in the fine china that had been collecting dust.
I looked at the pretty teacup.
This is really nice. I should ransack this place for free tableware.
[Nice idea, it is going to be destroyed forever if we don’t take it out anyways~]
I grinned at Eurval’s agreement and began throwing anything I could get my hands on in the kitchen into my spatial ring.
Eugene looked up from his seat.
”How poor are you?… I’ll add a salary of 200,000 scales a year if you accept my offer along with everything else.”
“I’m still thinking about it,” I called out from the kitchen. Two-hundred big ones though, I won’t say I wasn’t a little swayed. Still, I did not want to risk exposing the fact I’m not from this world any more than I had to.
Eurval, on the other hand, has become the exception.
I sat back down and continued sipping coffee happy with my gains. The teaware and the utensils were really nice quality albeit a little old styled.
Eugene gave me a questioning look, but I think it was over the coffee more than the kitchen I ransacked.
I finished the final sip. Looking up I saw Eugene had fallen asleep on the plush chair.
“It must really be night for you.”
Or he must be exhausted from the battle he just finished.
Isn’t he a little too easy going for a young master? He looked defenseless. I wasn’t planning on doing anything, of course, but we only go to the same academy.
[As I gather more reference points with your interactions on how people function Lucid, I’m starting to think you are overly paranoid about people. It has caused me to be overly wary of others also.]
Paranoid? I see it as being cautious.
[But why? Are you hiding from people? Something to do with that Earth place?]
[Hmmm, If you told me more I could help~]
In time~ I shot back and walked to the front door and left the farm house into the yard.
Okay, time to practice Eurval.
With a thought Eurval instantly appeared in my hand, it would be best to get used to the weight while performing high-speed movements.
I stepped outside to the temperate weather. I did a couple of simple stretches then took in a deep breath.
“The air in this fake space is so pure.” I looked around to the infinite expanse of the grape vineyard.
Although the mana was being used up, there was plenty still in it seeping into my being.
A good place to essence train.
I cast Rainer’s movement spell.
“So my mana has turned white too…of course.” I could see speckles of snow like mana fly up from my body.
As my manabody began developing it would change from blue, its natural state, into a color depending on the caster.
I won’t be leaving almost tangible streaks like Elizabeth, but this is good. It means my synchronization with my mana and the spell is increasing.
A red X-mark appeared in my vision a dozen or so meters away from me in the large yard.
My body turned into a blur as I began zipping across the yard from one x to the next. One after the other I was stopping closer and closer to the mark. The ones that were especially hard where the ones that suddenly appeared behind me. However, it is good practice building a mental map of my surroundings when in combat.
With the sun stationary, it was hard to keep track of time, but I continued. I was motivated.
I will not be dying in this dungeon. I will be doing everything in my power to survive.
My accuracy was becoming pinpoint and each subsequent movement more fluid.
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