“A secret……just what do you mean by that.”
-Melina presses for an answer, a hint of confusion could be heard.
“Maps for the deeper floors here aren’t in circulation. Do you have an idea why though?”
“Why, you say….It isn’t a well-known dungeon. Cartographers don’t like mapping places like this since it’s not profitable compared to the work put into it.”
“I suppose that’s a part of it too. But cartographers aren’t the only source of maps. High level parties that go on to raid the abyssal floors sometimes sell maps for pocket money. “
“What about it?”
“The reason there aren’t any maps available is because no party that went in to clear the dungeon has ever come back…..Every single one has been wiped out. To the boss in fact.’
“I’d like to think that the higher level parties are a cautious bunch. They won’t just challenge the boss out of the blue willy-nilly without a plan. And even if they did, they would set-up means to retreat when it gets dicey.”
“Hear me out first. I mentioned before that poison monsters would pop up in numbers further down below. They are small-fry. Dealing with poison is tricky if you’re not prepared for it, but you can prevent it as easily as 1-2-and 3 with a teensy bit of Poison Resist potions. It’s a no-brainer that a high-level party would come prepared for it. Poison type monsters have low stats, so with that, there are no major obstacles progressing to the end would be a breeze. There are a few Dark-type monsters on the final levels, but that’s about it. In no time at all, one would soon be in front of the boss room. ”
“And so, the adventurers who managed to reach this point think to themselves, We aren’t that scathed. so let’s have a peek at the boss room. They open the door and go in — then that’s the end of it. No one has come out of it, and as evidenced from the fact that this dungeon is alive and kicking…. No one has cleared it.”
“So no one has retreated from the boss fight? They didn’t go back with a return item?”
“I don’t think so. I mean, the door to the boss’ room closes by itself right after a party enters it. You can’t leave through the entrance, and I’m sure that return items are invalidated inside there. In other words, it’s an inescapable boss room.”
“Th-that can’t be right!”
–This time, it was Kokoru that cuts in the conversation.
“There’s usually some kind of trick involved in an Inescapable Boss Room. Most boss rooms that entrap adventurers have largely similar gimmicks to it in place! How could a run of the mill dungeon such as this have a boss that’s impossible to retreat from….”
“It’s as you say, right that there are often tricks involved in an inescapable boss room. It’s as if the dungeon doesn’t want you to go and take information back with you. So having said that…. There has to be some kind of trick to solve in this room as well. Only that the boss here has a secret gimmick that no high level party could overcome.”
“That can’t be……”
“In theory, it’s probably not a displacement, damage, or restraint type trap…..I think there’s a rule involved in this place.”
“Rules? How so?”
“Hmmm….. How do I say this simply …..”
Tet’s words trailed off with a puzzled look on his face.
He has something on his mind, but can’t seem to form it into words.
“I wonder if that’s true? It does feel like something is off..”
Melina knits her eyebrows.
“So you’ve been watching parties challenge the boss without knowing that in silence….And how many times at that too….”
“Not like there was anything I could do about it you know.”
-Tet says, a bit sombre.
“The first and second times, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. And besides, it’s rude to butt in on other people’s quests. I don’t want to be the target of their ire after all.”
“Still….. I left them with advice. But hear this…nobody eeeever listens! Either it’s you guys who don’t believe in my words, or they do believe me but charge right to the boss anyway. Darn, you adventurers are a piece of work alright! I tried to successfully talk you guys out of it, but you wouldn’t even listen to it….”
“I’m sure that those parties that challenged the boss had their own set of Minus Skill holders.. Thinking about it now, maybe that’s why they are so desperate……… Even so, I just wish they hadn’t gone around expecting a boss drop with a questionable existence dropping in a small scale dungeon like this and continued on with an adventure that suits their level……They were blessed with a party after all.”
I unconsciously cast my gaze downwards, hearing Tet’s soliloquy.
Now that he mentions it, I may have gone in on this recklessly.
Although I wasn’t blessed with a party, I had no other options.
It was probably the same for Melina and Kokoru as well.
“……….That’s not it.”
After a brief silence, Melina spoke up.
“That wasn’t what I was trying to get at……How did you even get into that situation.”
“The fact that there aren’t any maps for the abyssal parts, you came here without knowing about the lower levels right? Why then? If you’re scrounging for treasure chests, then isn’t it meaningless to come to a small dungeon that usually tends to be on the shallow end? Why did you come here in the first place?”
“It’s strange for me that you’ve seen a lot of other parties walking off into the boss room. It doesn’t seem like you were a part of them, so what are you doing in there?”
After a brief silence from him, Tet then talks, his voice showing that he was in a tight spot.
“Well…… you can ask Mister over there about that.”
“You know, don’t you mister?”
Melina then turns to face me.
“It’s just a theory. Let me know if I’m wrong”
Tet doesn’t reply, and I continue talking.
“Tet was initially going to swipe the loot once the party defeats the boss.”
Tet remained silent.
I don’t seem to be wrong in that regard.
“Why would you do that…..”
“I don’t really have a choice in the matter you know? If I didn’t do it, there’s no way I’ll get the boss drop as a solo adventurer.”
A cynic smile from Tet arose.
“My current level and money were earned by kill stealing too. That’s how good I am at it.”
“……..Turning this guy over to the guild is sounding better and better by the second.”
“It’s a dick move, but it’s not forbidden. The guild won’t be able to act on it.”
“I have my doubts. Casting aside the small-fry monsters, if he’s been habitually stealing boss drops then I don’t think the guild would stay silent.”
“It’s a matter of course that he wouldn’t do that stuff if circumstances were the usual….. But this time was a special case, the boss’ drop item. Isn’t that so?”
Tet didn’t respond.
“The same as us. He needs an item to erase a skill at all cost…… There’s no need to spell it out now do I? A Minus Skill.”
His inability to form a party locked his choices.
As expected, Tet still says not a word.
Melina and Kokoru raise their voices in surprise.
“Eh? He’s the same as us too?”
He used a lot of skills during our battle with the mermen. As far as I can tell, he had four. After that, I just took an educated guess based from the other things that happened.”
High level adventurers tend to have more skills, but since there wasn’t any concrete evidence, it was only a guess.
Because I’m the same, my own prejudices might have been mixed in.
As it turns out though— I was right.
“What kind of Minus Skill is it?”
Melina asks. I shake my head in response.
“No clue, I haven’t thought up to that far…….”
My words were interrupted by none other than Tet himself—-With mention of the skill’s name.
He says so with a laugh, as if mocking himself.
“It’s a bugger of a skill, I tell ya.”