(POV Chi Kaban)
It's now my seventh month in this dungeon, there are still six months until Yueliang can break free from her seal. Not much really changed, however, if I were to pick up on a small change, it was the abrupt disappearance of the crossdressing hero. When I asked the new face, Kana, who made her first appearance two months ago, she said the former hero was sent on an extended mission by Yueliang.
I was more than happy for the increase in the number of eye candies around me at first, but Kana was cold. She might even be colder than Yueliang at times. I couldn't figure her out at all. The majority of the time when she followed me through the dungeon, she was completely useless, she was a complete deadweight compared to the crossdressing hero.
It was to the point that I started to really miss the crossdressing hero a bit. I guess it was true, you never knew what you had until it was gone.
The worst part of everything was, whenever we were attacked by monsters, she'd just snort at me in disdain like she couldn't be bothered to help. She even averted her eyes to the side whenever I was eaten alive. This happened on several different occasions over the last two months. Eventually, I came to the conclusion that I'd unknowingly killed her entire family in a past life of mine.
My time together with her had been nothing but a never ending challenge. Along with Yueliang increasing her meals, I was really stressed out by this point.
And that brought me to my present predicament.
"Hey, do you mind helping me a bit?"
"Help you? Why?"
"Well… that monster is kind of eating my body over there, right?"
"Isn't it a natural thing to jump to your comrade's rescue when they are being eaten alive like that?"
"What are you talking about? Why don't you just do the usual, explode and die?"
"I get that I can just make my body go boom after all my practice, but shouldn't you at least put in the bare minimum effort to kill it as well instead of leaching off the shared experience points all the time?"
"Sorry, I have a pretty face, I wouldn't want it to get injured pointlessly trying to save you for no reason."
Haaaah. Was it because she hated traitors that much? I betrayed an entire country in the past after all. Maybe she couldn't stomach being associated with someone like that.
Well, I suppose I should just finish it off. We were already at the 71st floor, but the monsters were still too high leveled. I still couldn't figure out what the floor boss' level was, the mobs levels weren't identifiable either. The only way I could occasionally manage a kill was through the element of surprise for the types of enemies who liked to swallow their prey alive. They also had to be a weaker level mob that had gone undetected by the stronger mobs otherwise their health regeneration surpassed the damage I could deal even when attacking their weak point inside their body.
There was one awful time I got just a wee bit overconfident and I bit off far more than I could chew. I'd been eaten by one such high level mob alive and it wasn't until a day later when I was shit out that I saw the glorious light of day.
Unfortunately, I also couldn't determine just what level Kana was at either. She had a strange pendant around her neck that prevented others below her level from accurately discerning her level. Thus, the only thing I knew was she was a higher level than me. Why did she need to leech off of my oh so difficult to accumulate experience when she's clearly above me in level?
It was definitely just out of spite.
Anyways, enough of that I need to get my body back. I focused my senses and felt the string of mysterious energy connected between my body and head while I glared at the serpent in the middle of swallowing my body whole. The string-like energy was as fine as it was when I first discovered its existence. My greatest discovery with respect to this mysterious energy string was when I transmitted vibrations of a certain frequency through it, I could detonate certain portions of my body at will.
It was a very difficult task to accomplish as it required delicate control and manipulation of the string of energy. If the vibrations were too violent, the string would simply break and my body would disintegrate without exploding before it immediately reformed in one piece.
I theorized if I could make the string connected between my detached body parts thicker, it would be able to handle stronger vibrations and allow me to create an even larger force when remotely detonating body parts. Perhaps I'd also be able to move the detached body parts as well with a thicker string of the mysterious energy.
I'd also confirmed from my tests that there were no apparent limitations on distance for this mysterious form of energy. One time I maintained a distance from the eightieth floor to the hundredth floor, there was no sign that the string would snap.
From what I could tell, walls or material objects, from this world at least, had no impact on the mysterious energy. It was truly a peculiar form of energy that I was still unable to fully wrap my head around after the four months I spent studying it. The only fruits of the last four months of effort was this ability to detonate it.
However, a plus on the side was that my level skyrocketed when I nabbed my first successful kill after I used it for the first time three months ago. Killing high level monsters was truly an elevator method to the top of this world. In the beginning I spent four months together with the former hero, we spent that time killing the very scarce low level monsters that were captured as meals for the high level monsters. It was a real pain to find them though.
Even though I say low level, they were about level 50 to 60. It was a miracle that I even hurt them at all in the beginning. Oftentimes it took hours or even days to whittle down their health with my despairingly low level of strength. There was also the level gap that nerfed my damage output. A low level attacking a high level monster have their damage dealt significantly nerfed.
Back on Earth I always thought I was pretty strong, but when I came here I understood just how weak I was. My pride also didn't allow me to be carried by that crossdressing hero. Instead, she sat off to the side at times and watched me as I stubbornly whittled away at the caged monster's health through a gruelling, overly repetitive process.
It was honestly embarrassing how down and dirty I had to get just to kill a few mobs intended for meals. Stealing them and getting away wasn't easy either. Sometimes I staked out locations for several days just waiting for the high leveled monsters to leave the areas where they kept the live captured monsters intended for meals. When the coast was clear I dragged the cages that contained the pitiful shackled monsters in restraints away to be leisurely slaughtered at my own pace.
It was honestly exhausting work, but it was a very lucrative way to accumulate experience quickly. All I had to do was take away a monster that had no means to retaliate and I'd reap a bountiful amount of experience. It was like a free lunch that just required a bit of patience.
Of course, there were a few occasions where my scheming backfired and I was captured by monsters instead before I was eaten myself. When that first happened, I was really in a dilemma. I was dissolved for almost a month thanks to the gastric juices inside its stomach until I finally mastered the ability to detonate my body.
It was truly quite the gruesome scene back then. I was a bloody ball of mush, flesh dripping down off exposed bones, for several days before I finally clawed my way out from inside its body. The first time I exploded I knew the monster thought it was nothing more than a bit of indigestion. It rolled about on the ground in agony until the pain subsided.
Unfortunately, I couldn't focus when I was tossed about like that so I had to wait until it calmed down. When it finally calmed down, I made haste and mutilated my own body. I ripped off chunks of organs dangling part way out of the holes in my body piece by piece, until I had several more workable chunk sized pieces at my disposal. From my liver, intestines, bladder, kidneys, lungs and stomach, at some point they had all slipped out of my body over the course of being digested alive. I planted the chunks around the passageway that led into the monster's esophagus.
To make my great escape, I chose the monster's throat since I really didn't want to go out the wazoo. I'm sure I could have gotten out that way much easier, as part of nature's call, but I was of course against that. At the time I felt I'd lose something important if I went with that escape route for several unspeakable reasons. It was a real shame I lost that something later on anyways when I was too overconfident and bit off more than I could chew.
In my great escape I detonated my body parts around the esophageal sphincter. I then pried open the blocked passageway leading into its esophagus with my skeletal hands. When the monster fell to the ground in pain I climbed into its esophagus and clawed my way out to freedom in a grotesque fashion. While I moved through it's esophagus, I detonated bits and pieces of my body and inflicted as much damage as possible. By the time I reached halfway out, the monster ceased rolling about from the pain. It was unclear to me whether it had died from the accumulated internal damage I wrought inside its body through detonating parts of my body, or whether it simply suffocated from having me lodged in its throat. I liked to think it was the former, but honestly, it might very well have been the latter.
When I finally reached its mouth I stuck my right arm out while my flesh reformed itself from the fingers upwards. That one moment was probably the most glorious moment in my life. If I had to describe it, I'm sure it was the same feeling a certain buddy of mine had in the past that coined the famous lines during a certain monumental event, "this is one step for man and a giant leap for mankind."
With romantic thoughts like that in mind, I pried it's jaw open with my left hand and dragged my exhausted, haggard looking body out of the monster who laid lifeless on the ground with my right hand. When I checked my level back then I was shocked as I'd jumped 5 levels from a single kill.
Over the last five months, by some sort of miracle I'd successfully killed a total of twenty monsters through theft or methods similar to how I was eaten the first time. Thanks to the monumental effort I put in I'd raised my level up to level 45. When I thought of how the former crossdressing hero spent five years to reach this point, I somehow felt a bit special inside. It was an arduous hell like journey covered in guts and gore, but it was a beautiful one nonetheless. It really brought me to tears when I thought back over everything I'd been through.
"Hey, could you please stop stalling and hurry up and finish that thing off already."
It was only when Kana brought it up that I realized the monster eating my body had not died from my body's earlier explosion. Tch, I really had to find a way to increase the firepower if I wanted it to be effective on higher level monsters.
The serpentine monster had a large hole blown through its skull and was rolling about on the ground in pain. I was surprised how it was still alive, but it wasn't impossible for a high level monster like this to survive for some time even with such heavy injuries.
Since it was close to death, I thought I'd finish it off while putting on a show, but the next thing I knew, my body that had only just regenerated beneath my head fell to the ground again. My vision turned sideways and I easily understood I'd been decapitated once again. When I looked at the person responsible, with confusion in my eyes, she looked the other way while innocently whistling and kicked my head into the serpent's open mouth.
"What gives you-"
"You were taking too damn long so I figured I'd give you a helping hand."
"I really don't need this type of help though!"
"I thought you were troubled on how to finish it off, if you're not, then hurry up and do it. Stop wasting our time."
Haaaaaah, whatever. With a single thought the world around me, or to be more specific, the insides of the serpent's mouth disappeared momentarily in a bloody explosion as brain matter flew about in all directions. When I next opened my eyes, the ground littered with brain matter and blood strewn about everywhere came into view.
Haaaaaaaaaah. At least I didn't have to clean it up I guess. I was too uncool though, my head was just treated like an unwanted grenade by this cold and heartless woman named Kana.
With my weary body, I stood back up and glared daggers at her back. I was hellbent on pushing her into the next monster's mouth we came across. I'd really had it up to here with her. However, there was nothing I could do as long as I didn't know the limits of her strength. If she turned out to be anything like Yueliang, I'd just become a punching bag.
"You have a problem?"
"What did I ever do to you?"
She said that cooly while turning her head to the side with a snort.
"Then what is with this unreasonable treatment?"
"A woman can hold a grudge for a long time you know."
"Just how did I incur your ire, Miss Kana?"
"You really don't know? You really can't tell?! I've been with you for two months now and you haven't caught on in the slightest? You're really infuriating, you know that?"
"I really don't get it. Just what did I really do? When we first met you seemed friendly enough, but after a few days you were getting colder and colder for no apparent reason."
"Haaaaaaah, it's times like these I actually miss that crossdressing hero. She was not the best looker and lacked all forms of sex appeal, but she was definitely way better than you. Just where did that good hearted girl go?"
"Oh? You actually miss her?"
It might have been my imagination, but she actually looked a bit pleased when she heard my complaints.
"What about her do you miss?"
Strange, she's never bothered to inquire about the crossdressing hero before.
"I miss how she occasionally distracted the high leveled monsters allowing me to steal the caged monsters from under their noses. I also especially miss hiding from her afterwards so I could kill them by myself and hog all the experience."
"Tch. Shameless pig."
"That's not all I miss though, I really miss how we were able to joke about things from Earth."
"Hmmp. I bet she doesn't miss that at all."
"I also miss how she always intently listened to my stories of the past unlike how you heartlessly ignore every word I say."
"She was probably just being polite and secretly thought you were a lunatic. Hmmp! Besides that, who would actually believe you're two thousand years old anyways?"
"Eh? Miss Kana, did I ever tell you I was two thousand years old?"
"That was just a guess based upon some of the nonsensical stories you keep ranting and raving about all the time."
"But you never listened to them and just ignored them. I've only ever mentioned history as far back as five hundred years to you over the two months since our first meeting. How could you know so precisely that I'm actually two thousand years old from that?"
"Eh? Ah. That is… I was informed by the crossdressing hero you keep bringing up, that was before she left, of course."
"Is that really the truth?"
It couldn't really be something absurd like this beauty was actually the crossdressing hero the entire time and I was the dense stereotypical protagonist who didn't realize it because of how different she looked. No way, right? Even I'm not that dense.
Wait, now that I think about it, there are some times where the pitch of her voice sounds unnatural. No, but if I really think about it, if she was the crossdressing hero, then wouldn't everything make sense? The reason she became colder over time, wasn't it precisely my big mouth that caused it by bad mouthing her behind her back? I was also guilty of being unable to recognize her after all that time passed, which also probably really got on her nerves, right?
"Wow, I really, really, REALLY miss that crossdressing hero so much. Where could that beautiful woman with boundless sex appeal and an amazing personality have disappeared to? Hahahaha. Right?"
Rather than responding, she shit an intense glare filled with resentment in my direction.
"You're… really actually her?"
"Hmmp! I don't know what you're talking about."
"No way, right? Really?"
"Why don't you at least say you're not?"
"Did you actually want me to figure it out the entire time?"
"Come on, at least say something."
"Shut up. So what if I wanted you to figure it out? I thought after a few days you'd catch on, but instead you just blindly believed I was sent off on an errand. Do you have any idea how infuriating watching you act all happy go lucky as soon as I 'left' was?"
"Okay, I can admit I may have been a teensy little bit of a jerk."
"A teensy little bit?"
"Okay, okay, I was a jerk, alright? I get it. I get why you're so ticked now. But it couldn't be helped, how can a guy not be happy when the number of flowers around him increases."
"Flattery isn't going to get you anywhere here."
"Oh? Why are your cheeks slightly red then?"
"I'm not, it's all in your head. Even if it were red right now, it'd be from rage and nothing else."
"Speaking of my head, don't you think it's a bit too much to cut my head off and kick it around like a soccer ball the way you did just now?"
She looked at me with a deadpan expression and said, "it's far from enough."
"No no no. Haven't you ever heard of respecting your elders?"
"Hah?! You're still going on about that lie about you being two thousand years old?"
"It's not a lie!"
"Whatever, forget it."
While we bickered back and forth like this we finally made it to the stairs that led to the 70th floor. By sheer luck we'd stealthily snuck past the Troll Archduke floor boss' room on the 71st floor without having to confront him directly. When we climbed to the top of the staircase what awaited us was a rather peculiar sight.