It was... outside? No, that's not right, that can't really be the sky.
There was a beautiful plain, with lush greenery and vegetation growing everywhere. There was also something that looked like the sun high in the sky, but I could hardly bring myself to believe that it was the real sun since we were so far underground. Much further away in the distance, the outline of what appeared to be a city was visible.
The 50th floor actually contained a city! An entire city with a bountiful land mass blanketed by the sun and clouds high in the sky as far as the eye could see in all directions. Chills actually ran across my skin from the out of this world scenery I never imagined would exist. My eyes were the canvas and the world in front of me was the masterpiece painted over it..
What was the meaning behind this? Never before in any other world had I come across such an unusual dungeon like this. The first 50 floors were what one expected of the typical dungeon below the ground, but this, this was completely outrageous. Various different species of insects crawled about the ground, birds cawed and flew about high in the sky. Bees buzzed and moved about busily from flower to flower. Through sensing the moisture in the ground, I even felt the existence of the worms that tunneled about underground as they loosened up the soil beneath my feet.
Everything was alive. There was no illusion magic, nor was it a mirage. Neither was it something born in my head from stress.
But how? How, I ask. How did all this exist here, completely unknown to humans directly overhead? How did an entire city exist deep beneath the ground, right under their noses for so long without them ever being aware of a thing? I found no records of this city in any of the texts I read through back in the palace.
In the distance, I noticed a forest. There were animals that had inhabited it and made it their home. Closer to the city, there was evidence of developed agriculture.
Could it be that I'd stumbled upon the home of an ancient civilization long forgotten by the denizens of this world?
There was even evidence that it had recently rained in the area. Puddles littered the ground, fresh droplets of water dangled on blades of grass, the smell of morning dew, still fresh in the air.
In our blank state, filled with disbelief and awe, the two of us took our first steps out of the tunnel. We approached the city in the distance without much thought. On a subconscious level we both wanted to verify that what we'd seen here was reality.
As we passed by, the countless different sounds of nature echoed out. The crickets chirped happily, the birds sang out jovially in freedom, completely unhindered without restraint while the sounds of flowing water from the streams beside the dirt roads intertwined harmonically with the cicada's cries.
It almost felt like time had stopped, but that was an illusion in my head alone, it still progressed onwards, unrelentlessly, in spite of my wishes. The surreal and unbelievable feeling did non decrease over time like I expected it would; instead, it grew stronger the closer we got to the city.
It reminded me of the feeling I had when I was still young. It was a nostalgic feeling I'd already long forgotten. Back to when I felt both anxious and excited with each new foreign place I visited in that oh so unfamiliar first world of mine. Yes, the time I was summoned for the first time. Truly, so much time had already passed in my long and arduous journey that stretched through the fabric of both space and time.
Haaaah. If we were on the surface this would just be the normal everyday scenery, but the circumstances behind this plain hidden away deep beneath the earth made it all the more breathtaking. After an hour spent walking along the path that connected directly to the city, we finally reached the wide open gates. Along the way, we'd passed by several farmers plowing the fields.
When I saw them it was a bit unbelievable, not that they were farming, but that the city's farmers alone were level 80. They only glanced at us for a moment then ignored us and quietly returned to their work. They didn't seem phased in the slightest at our arrival.
What really shocked me was that they were demons, but they were peacefully living right beneath the human kingdom, clearly not worried about a thing. The demons I'd read about from the books in the room the king provided described demons as uncivilized brutes that could not be reasoned with. They were incapable of doing anything productive and only existed to feast on the lives of humans.
Seeing the demon farmers reaction to us, I realized just how heavily information was manipulated in this world. It wasn't something unheard of for the demons to be civilized, but a lot of the worlds I'd been to, demons were actually quite vile and unreasonable creatures. However, not all worlds were like that, there were some worlds where the demons that fell into that category were the smaller minority. Demons in some of the other worlds actually forged strong alliances, treaties, and relationships with humans and even got along peacefully with the exclusion of some radical extremist demonic factions.
When we arrived in front of the gate, I was left shocked once again. The guards were naturally demons, but that was not the shocking part, what left me flabbergasted was the guards alone were level 180. I'd suddenly been turned from a big shot into a small fry. I immediately lost a bit of my confidence to cope with the situation. If things continued at this pace, it was nearly certain that I'd run into many people and monsters in the near future who I wouldn't even be able to determine what their levels were.
When I thought about that vampire on the hundredth floor, I had the urge to flee far away and hide myself in some far off corner in the world. With the pattern of big jumps in levels inside this dungeon at the deeper floors couldn't she be some absurd level far over 1000?
Aren't the humans in this world screwed? No, wait a minute. That vampire might be more civilized than expected. She didn't bother to kill me after all. She gave off the feeling that she'd turn into a cold blooded heartless killer if I ever crossed her bottom line though. Was that what her warning was for? No no no, rather, there's no need for that little warning of hers. I might not even be able to make it out alive if I'm surrounded by all these demonic city guards, right? What need would she have to warn me when even her city guards could squash me like a bug?
Did she warn me not to make trouble because she knew I stood no chance? Was I actually being pitied or warned to not get overly cocky just because I had a little bit of success getting to the 49th floor? Maybe she just didn't want me to lose right away from letting my guard down. Why would she make it look like she was really intent on killing me at the start then? Ah! I'm so confused! Could it be she's actually just a tsundere or kuudere or something and she can't be honest with herself?
Somehow I'm starting to feel embarrassed for her. Isn't she a bit cute for putting on such a cold act while trying to show some form of kindness in her own strange way? When I think of her like that, I kind of want to meet her.
"Akua, you've been making some strange faces for a while now, is something wrong?"
"Hey, wasn't that vampire kind of cute?"
"What? I'm sorry I don't follow. She tried to kill us, right? You haven't suddenly developed those kinds of interests have you?"
"Of course not! I'm straight!"
"Haaah. That's a shame."
"Forget I said anything."
"No no no, there's no way I can pretend I didn't hear that. What did you mean by that?"
"Akua doesn't understand a girl's heart and has no delicacy."
"But I'm a girl."
"And? What of it?"
"... you swing that way?"
"Eh? Really? Since when?! Why wasn't I aware of this?!"
"Akua, we've slept together since we first met, have you really never noticed a thing?"
"You mean like when I'd wake up to find you hugging and feeling me up while acting like you're sleeping every morning?"
"To put it so bluntly like that is a bit embarrassing..."
"Sorry, I can't adjust if you suddenly drop a bomb like that on me all of a sudden. Aren't we just best friends?"
"Best friends turning to lovers isn't unheard of, right?"
"That may be true when it's a guy and a gal, but… for real?"
"Yes, for real."
This is honestly getting a bit too weird for me. She's actually just messing with me, that has to be it.
"It's fine, I've already resolved myself to be faithful to you to my grave as the person who allowed my sister shrine maidens and myself to gain freedom. Regardless of whether my feelings are returned or not, I'll accept either outcome."
Did my otherworldly adventure really just take such a sudden strange turn? Where did I go wrong? I couldn't understand no matter what angle I thought about it from.
"Can you two hurry up and enter the ten meter range so I can get my job over with and go back to slacking off?"
When we entered within ten meters of the gate the guard exclaimed, "Halt! Who goes there?"
As soon as he finished his line he donned a contented smile on his face and sat back down inside his little outpost outside the gate without bothering to listen to our response.
".Uh.. is that really okay?"
"I only get paid to say the line, not to listen to your life story. Besides that-"
He took a glance at me before he scoffed and finished his sentence.
"-you're not strong enough to pose much of a threat in our city, little human. You may look good for a human, but us demons have high standards. Did you really think I'd jump out of my seat, shower you with high praise and be at your beck and call to gain your favor?"
I'd never wanted to kill an obnoxious guard as badly as I did right now. Unfortunately for me, humiliating as it was, I didn't have the confidence to best him in a fight when he was level 180. The other guards in the post playing cards with him also glanced at us and chuckled a bit before they returned to their game.
When I looked more closely, it appeared they were playing poker.
Hoh, poker huh? Hehehe.
I approached the outpost they were playing inside, full of boundless confidence. I entered and provocatively shot out, "how about letting me play a round, big boys?"
"You? Hah! Scram, a little girl like you wouldn't stand a chance in the big boy leagues."
How can a little guard like this be so arrogant?
"Look, little human girl, respect is something you earn. It's not given for no reason. It's like you humans say, if you can't take the heat, get out of the kitchen."
What the hell relation does that saying even have to do with the first thing you were rambling on about? Am I the stupid one for not understanding?
Still, my provocation had undoubtedly backfired as I was the one enraged instead. I struggled internally to avoid an outburst and calmed myself down by taking in deep breaths. I ignored their flat out rejection and sat down at the table. I took out a storage ring I'd acquired from killing the various bosses on my way here and placed it on the table. It contained all the loot I'd acquired from the slaughter that brought me to this obscene floor.
"Oh? A storage ring, what's inside?"
He took it up and examined its contents before he shot me a pitiful look. It was the exact same sort of look that one directed towards a beggar that had failed to impress by flaunting his minuscule wealth before a silk pants aristocratic bastard king.
"Well that's about what one would expect from a small fry I guess. It must really suck to be among the financially challenged. Well I guess it'll at least be enough for the minimum wager for one hand though. We'll value it at ten chips."
My blood had long reached the boiling point.
"So little?! You've each got hundreds of chips though!"
"A small fry is a small fry in the end little girl. You're nothing more than a frog at the bottom of a well if you really thought you could compare your wealth to mighty demons like us."
Ahhhhhhhh! I'll kill him! I swear I'll kill him! This is humiliating! But chill, chill girl. Relax. Just play it cool. Yes. That's it. Cool. Cool like a cucumber. I just need to shut them up through poker. With my water magic, I can read what cards they have through the moisture in the air.
That's right, they'll never even know what hit them. I'll make them regret ever messing with me. The queen of poker. The god hand. For I am a woman of legends, renowned far and wide in the world of poker. A woman who'd never lost a single hand of poker since she'd honed her water magic to the level that even the heaven's grew jealous.