Chapter 181. Meeting Edmond

Snap, snap.

The giant scorpion, Mecalpion, clacked its pincers together.

It was clearly a warning that it'd grab hold of anyone who dared approach! Of course, its tail, and by extension its poisonous stinger, was pointed at them as well.

"Eder," Kang Oh called.

"Yes?"

"It's weak to fire."

After all, it'd been shocked by the fire, so much so that it had dropped its camouflage.

"I'm sorry?"

"So you'll be the main damage dealer this time."

"Are you saying..."

"I'll be in front tanking this time."

"Understood."

"Mr. Sephiro, you know what to do, right?"

"I'll use fire arrows."

"Let's go."

Mecalpion's body was protected by a thick exoskeleton, acting much like a layer of steel armor.

It was clearly a monster with high defense.

If that's the case, then Ubist was better than Blood, as there was a fixed chance that it would ignore its defenses.

Kang Oh rushed at it with Ubist in hand.

Mecalpion's right pincer came flying at him.

'Its speed is normal. In terms of strength...' Kang Oh blocked its pincer with his jet-black sword. 'It's not weak.'

Of course, that didn't mean it was strong. Thus, Kang Oh pushed the pincer away with ease.

"Huahp!" Kang Oh swung his sword at the area that connected its pincer to its body.

Clang!

'As I thought.'

Upon impact, both his sword and body vibrated. As he'd anticipated, its exoskeleton was the very definition of 'tough'.

Whoosh!

Mecalpion swung its left claw. Kang Oh leapt back, avoiding the claw.

Crackle!

Sephiro quickly notched a flaming arrow.

Aim, fire!

The flaming arrow left his grasp and struck Mecalpion's head.

Though the arrow bounced off, its exoskeleton was blackened from the impact.

'It really is weak to fire.'

This was also expected.

Snap, snap, snap!

Mecalpion clacked its pincers together and swung its tail.

Kang Oh knew that Eder was quietly making his way to its side, so he took the attack head-on. 

Clang, clang, clang!

Demon Sword Ubist clashed with its tail, which was as tough as steel, several times.

"Peekaboo!"

Eder used that opportunity to get right beside it.

Heavy Blow!

Eder forcefully whacked one of its legs with his flame-wreathed mace.

Bam!

Heavy Blow created a small explosion, and the Hellfire Mace's flames blazed ferociously.

Roar!

Red shards of light burst from within the flame.

"Red shards! You really are weak to fire, aren't ya?" Eder eyes gleamed. 

He wielded the Hellfire Mace, the very weapon that the scorpion was weak against! It was clear that he was its natural enemy.

Kya!

Mecalpion wailed for the first time. 

Then, it spun its body like a top.

Spinning Slash!

Of course, it was no normal Spinning Slash. Spinning increased the power of its tail significantly!  

"Be careful of its tail!" Kang Oh yelled.

Eder raised his square shield.

Bam!

A weighty force smashed into Eder's shield, causing him to stagger. However, he quickly got back into position.

'This much is nothing!' Eder then swung his mace.

However, Mecalpion quickly moved its legs and got completely out of range!

Whack!

His mace struck nothing but dirt.

But it hadn't expected Kang Oh to be there waiting for him. Mecalpion swung both its pincers and tail.

Kang Oh avoided its tail and swung his sword twice, deflecting its pincers.

Then, Sephiro shot three fire arrows at once.

Triple Shot (Fire Arrow Version)!

Thwock! Thwock! Thwock!

The fire arrows pierced Mecalpion's back.

Kya!

'As expected.'

Mecalpion would react violently whenever it was struck by flame.

Rustle, rustle!

It sounded like the floor was getting swept! Mecalpion threw itself at him. Was this what it felt to have something/someone charge at you all of a sudden?

'I have to dodge it.' Kang Oh threw himself to the side.

Mecalpion swept through where Kang Oh had once been, and left behind a long scar on the ground beneath it.

"Where do you think you're going!?" Eder, who'd run over as fast as he could, kicked off the floor and leapt into the air.

Whoosh!

Bam!

Eder struck Mekalpion's back with a weighty blow. 

At that moment, Mecalpion used another Spinning Slash. It didn't give Eder the chance to either dodge or block its attack.

However...!

Mecalpion's giant pincer passed right through him.

"Heh, I'm not the same as before."

In an instant, Eder's body turned into transparent gray light.

The set effect of the rings and necklace he'd obtained from Kainshell's Noble Spirits was Spiritization.

Spiritization changed one's body into that of a spirit's for 10 seconds! Of course, he'd gained their imperviousness to physical attacks as well!

In exchange, his attacks would have no effect during those 10 seconds, but it was great to use in a pinch.

"Don't let down your guard. Push it back," Kang Oh yelled.

"Ok. I'll attack right after Spiritization wears off."

Whizz, whizz.

Meanwhile, Sephiro kept shooting fire arrows.

Kang Oh rushed at it head-on and kept it completely focused on him. Once the Spiritization had worn off, Eder joined in too.

At some point, Kang Oh's party one-sidedly beat down on Mecalpion. At this rate, it would be dead soon. 

However, it still had a trick up its sleeve.

It used Spinning Slash to push Kang Oh and Eder away from it, and then instantaneously burrowed into the ground.

"Spread out! We don't know where it'll pop out from or what skills it'll use, so keep your eyes peeled!"

Kang Oh, Eder, and Sephiro spaced themselves out. Then, they anxiously stared at the floor.

A short while later...

Spurt!

The ground was torn asunder and out came Mecalpion.

Absolute Evasion!

Sephiro avoided it using Absolute Evasion, which allowed him to avoid any attack just once.

It briefly popped out, and then burrowed into the ground just as quickly.

After that, the same sequence repeated again and again!

Kang Oh, Eder, and Sephiro would strike whenever it popped out, but it wasn't really that effective. After all, it would pop out very briefly and then burrow back into the ground.

'We need to lure it out.' Kang Oh dashed towards the passageway. 

It had been guarding the passageway, so there must be something of importance inside. 

Mecalpion's mission hadn't changed.

Spurt!

As expected, Mecalion appeared right behind him. It was trying to keep him from going through the passageway!

"You fell for it!" Kang Oh turned around and smoothly swung his sword.

Tempest Tiger!

Boom!

The golden aura hit it right in the stomach.

It tumbled backwards, taking immense damage.

Whoosh.

Once the raging whirlwind subsided, it laboriously tried turning itself over with its tail.

"This is our chance to finish it!"

"Ooh!"

Kang Oh and Eder dashed towards Mecalpion. Sephiro had already drawn his bowstring about halfway.

Then...

"Stop!" a robust, old man's voice rang out. 

Kang Oh, Eder, and Sephiro ceased their hostilities, and turned their heads to the source.

An old man wearing a straw hat walked out of the passageway.

"You can stop now," the old man said.

"Who are you? Why are you coming out from there?" Kang Oh asked.

"Hoo, give me a second. I'll explain everything."

The old man passed Kang Oh, Eder, and Sephiro, and approached Mecalpion, which had barely righted itself with its tail.

"It's dangerous!" Sephiro yelled.

But before him, Mecalpion stood there like a gentle sheep.

"W-What's going on?"

"Mm."

Eder and Sephiro couldn't understand what was happening. Who exactly is that old man? Kang Oh had the same feelings as the other two.

The old man pulled out a bottle containing red liquid from his breast pocket and sprayed it onto Mecalpion. Then, Mecalpion's wounds began to heal.

"You did good. I'll take care of this, so go rest underground."

Purr. 

It seemingly understood him, as it burrowed into the ground.

"Hmm. You must have a lot of questions for me. Follow me. I'll serve you some tea."

The old man began walking briskly towards the passageway!

"We have to go, don't we?" Sephiro said.

It seemed like they would have to go with the flow.

"We do."

Kang Oh, Eder, and Sephiro followed the old man.

* * *

There was a room through the passageway that was habitable by humans. It contained a bed, a bookshelf filled with books, and a table and chair; lab equipment was set aside on one side of the room.

"I grew the tea leaves myself. Try it." The old man served them tea.

Kang Oh sipped the tea and nodded his head. "It's good."

"Is it really?"

The old man turned his attention to Eder and Sephiro, and they too said it was delicious.

"Now then, is there anything you'd like to ask me?" the old man asked.

"Yes, I have so many questions," Kang Oh said.

"Ask away. In exchange for sparing Mecalpion, I'll answer whatever I can."

"Let's introduce ourselves first. My name is Kang Oh. I'm a Dungeon Hunter, so I've been going through several dungeons."

"I am Eder."

"My name is Sephiro. I'm an Archer."

"My name is Edmond. I'm an Insect Scholar."

"Edmond... Are you the Doctor Edmond, the one who wrote The Evolution of Insects?" Eder looked shocked.

Of the countless books he'd read, there were only a handful of books that he could call masterpieces; one of them was The Evolution of Insects!

"You've heard of me?"

"Of course. It's an honor to meet you in person." Eder clasped Edmond's hands and bowed his head.

"Is he famous?" Kang Oh asked.

"Yes. He's one of ten that was bestowed the title of Doctor."

"It's not such a big deal," Edmond said serenely.

"If you're a renowned Insect Scholar, then... Were you the one who trained Mecalpion?" Kang Oh asked.

"I didn't train him. That child is a guardian that protects me and this dungeon."

"It protects you and this dungeon?" Kang Oh tilted his head. 'Why?'

"Do you know what a soul stone is?"

Kang Oh glanced at Sephiro. 'Do you know?' he seemed to ask.

Sephiro shook his head.

"Let me explain from the beginning. Dungeons that contain soul stones began appearing about 10 years ago."

Kang Oh, Eder, and Sephiro listened attentively, as if they were students listening to their professor.

"Surprisingly, you can own dungeons that possess a soul stone."

"You can own a dungeon?"

"If you own a dungeon, then its geographical features, the monsters that spawn within it, the ecology, etc. can be changed. Of course, it's not free. There's a cost associated with the changes."

Kang Oh thought over the matter. 'Did Dreamgate make this for the players?'

This world was undoubtedly a world within a game. If that's the case, then these soul stone dungeons might've been implemented for player enjoyment.  

"At first, the Mysterious Grove was teeming with much more powerful monsters. However, I changed it to my liking."

'Aha. So that's why it's filled with nothing but weak bugs. And it's also why it felt so artificial.'

"If the soul stone breaks, then the dungeon disappears," Edmond said.

"The soul stone is, in essence, the dungeon itself."

"Exactly."

"What are the advantages of owning a dungeon?" Kang Oh asked.

"You can change the dungeon however you wish."

"Is that it?"

"Every month, you receive a large quantity of gold, materials, and precious items that can only be obtained within that specific dungeon."

Kang Oh's eyes glinted. 'Nice! A dungeon with a soul stone is like a building that pays me monthly rent!'

Even if he did nothing, he'd turn a profit every month! In other words, it was a gold mine!

"T-Then... What do you have to do to become a dungeon's master?" Kang Oh asked yearningly. 'I'd really like to become a dungeon master!'

Edmond replied, "It's simple. You become a dungeon master by..." 

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