Five fights. Consecutive fights. Saiman doubted there would be time to wait around for his mana or health to recover. And with no experience from defeating monsters, he couldn heal from leveling up. Maybe he should accept his quest reward. He needed a weapon. He hesitated. What if he chose the wrong thing? With enemies getting stronger the longer he fought, it would get more and more deadly. This was a battle of attrition. The more battles he took, the more health and mana he would lose. Saimans stomach fluttered in anticipation. Or maybe fear. Wasn anticipation just fear mixed with excitement?
Saiman pressed the giant Yes. Immediately the wrought-iron door burst open and golden-orange sunlight poured through the entrance. He shielded his eyes as he approached the door. The view of the landscape took his Breath away. The setting sun bathed the land in orange light, small hills rolled as far as he could see. Grass greener than any hed seen waved in a gentle breeze, not a tree in sight in any direction. The air smelled of freshly cut grass and moisture, it was the cleanest air Saiman ever tasted. It was as if mankind had never touched this land. Nothing burned, nothing polluted. Not a titanspawn in the sky. The whole sight was stunning, like it was handcrafted just for him.
Off in the distance, a small cave disappeared beneath the earth. Signs from his level-up program floated in his vision with red arrows that pointed toward the cave. Saiman was grateful the arrows were in his program and didn mar the landscape. Just where was this place? Where had his program taken him? Saiman looked to the sky for something familiar, anything. But there was nothing but blue sky. Nothing at all. Not even the creeping oil-like titanspawn hed become so accustomed to seeing.
No use delaying. Without another thought, Saiman sprinted toward the cave. His muscles ached with each stride as he propelled himself to a speed hed never enjoyed before. His enhanced dexterity pushed him faster and faster. His discomfort increased the longer his sprint went on. He expected himself to trip, or slip, but his feet found sure footholds. Despite his muscular pain, only by the end of the sprint did he even get winded. At full sprint, Saiman could feel his deficiencies. His low strength score would become a problem in an extended fight. His speed was decent, and his endurance was great. How much faster could he become? Eventually with enough constitution, could he run a whole marathon at a full sprint? The possibilities made him a little dizzy.
Despite the lack of trees on the landscape, sharp wooden pikes jutted from the ground outside the small cave. On each of the pikes, a strange-looking head sat impaled as a warning. Were these failed challengers like him? If Saiman lost the fight would his head be the next one on the pike?
Drawn by the severed heads, Saiman drew closer to inspect their features. The heads looked alien, different from any creature hed ever seen. Their ears made of some rough leathery material, like bat-wings. There was no nose on their squished, prune-like faces. Their pit-like mouths hung open, revealing sharp jagged teeth, but the teeth weren bone. Translucent spirals of razor sharp glass covered every surface inside of their mouths. He couldn imagine these creatures could ever close their own mouths, even in life.
There were too many teeth at odd angles.
They would stab themselves.
The eyes, however, were eerily human.
They looked out of place on such an abomination, but the glazed over dead eyes stared off into the distance. The dead creatures looked fierce. Had they been trying to rank up to soldier as well? Or were they just denizens of this strange place who had stumbled into the cave? Either way, Saiman had to fight whatever had killed them.
Saiman took a deep breath to calm his beating heart, then descended into the cave below. He hunched so his head didn brush the damp cave ceiling. Not ideal fighting conditions. At least he didn have to crawl. He advanced slowly, listening to the sounds of the underground as he strained his ears for potential dangers.
The cave descended farther into pitch-darkness. Saiman slowed his pace and groped ahead blindly, using the cavern walls as a guide. The walls had a dank and spongy texture, not earthen like hed expected. Just what was he feeling? One of those light spheres Becca used for the boss fight would sure be useful right about now. Whenever he got his profits from the last dungeon, a light sphere would be his first purchase.
Saiman strained his eyes as black shapes formed. Shadows within shadows. After a moment, he let out a relieved sigh as he realized what was happening. A gentle glow from violet luminescence covered every surface of the inky black darkness of the cave.
It was so subtle that at first glance, everything seemed dark. Tiny mushroom-like fungi covered the walls, the floor, and the roof of the cave. A small footpath was the only place devoid of the mushrooms. Saiman suddenly got the feeling he would soon meet the creature who made the path. The footprints were tiny, like a childs. Above the toes of the impressions were deep puncture marks.
Claws. A bead of sweat dripped down the side of his face. Hed have to watch out for those.
His heart pounded in his ears with each step he took. The first fight wouldn be that bad. It couldn be that bad. Right? It was the first fight hed have to do alone. His first solo battle. His stats distribution wasn ideal for this battle. His physical abilities lagged far behind his magical ones. The darkness of the cave made him uneasy, unsure. If only he had a source of light.
Wait…. he had a source of light! He could cast his firewall spell for ten minutes to light-
The smell of rotting flesh stopped Saiman dead in his tracks. The windy cave tunnel opened into a larger cavern. The violet light of the mushrooms did not extend into the void beyond. Hazy darkness was the only thing to meet him. The smell of rot and feces made Saimans stomach churn as he took a hesitant step into the room. His back groaned in protest as he stood straight for the first time since he entered the cave. The ceiling was higher here. Whatever he was to fight, no doubt lived here. It likely brought its kills back to this place to devour.
Saiman hoped maybe, just maybe, the creature wasn home.
Two glowing brown eyes appeared in the darkness. Humanoid, but feral, evil. Even though Saiman couldn see the face of the creature, he knew it was smiling. Saimans stomach jumped into his throat and he envisioned himself casting a wall of fire. Green fire sprang up as he positioned it deeper into the cavern.