87 Chapter 33: Getting to Know Each Other Over a Campfire
Joshua found himself carving his way through the large alligator's belly after struggling to flip the enormous creature onto its back. He was only able to do it after Mr. Hoppy helped him out along with Flutter's boost ability giving him extra strength. After a while he was finally able to get the core out of the creature's body and the put the rest of the carcass into his inventory. He would split the earning from selling it between himself and Lilly when they got back to the hub city.
"Well what's next Josh? It's getting kind of late." Lilly asked as she absently looked at the darkening sky.
Joshua thought it over for a moment, before deciding how to respond. "I'm going to check out the entrance to the dungeon to make sure we can enter, but we won't actually go in until tomorrow morning after a good night's rest. If this dungeon is exceptionally difficult like I'm expecting it to be then it might take more than one day to explore the whole thing. We should be prepared for that." He explained.
"Alright, I'll wait right here. When you're done we can go look for a good place to camp. I've got Mr. Hoppy with me so you don't have to worry about me." Lilly happily replied before getting back on top of Mr. Hoppy as if to prove the point. Joshua simply nodded before walking over towards the other side of the lake where he knew the entrance to the dungeon was hidden. He kept the core in his hands just in case he needed it to enter the place sense he remembered the gateway having a spherical placement holder after he had scanned the area with his aura.
When he reached the location just outside of the lake that was closest to the entrance he walked up to the large mass of water and took a deep breath before diving in. The Lake was far deeper than he was expecting, but he used his aura on his eyes to clear up his vision a bit so he could make out his surroundings a bit better. The water wasn't nearly as cloudy as he expected for being in a marsh, but he still had a little trouble seeing too far ahead of him without his aura. He then sent out an aura pulse to get a clear direction of where his target was. After waiting a moment he could see through his aura exactly where to go and started making his way over. With all the training he had done over the past few years he had no problem holding his breath more than long enough to make his way down towards the bottom of the lake and the location of the gateway.
Soon he came across a large air pocket that surprised him a bit as he pushed his way through and found himself falling onto the cold ground. When he looked around he found himself in some sort of large bubble that kept all the water from the lake from rushing in and flooding the space. He could see several fish swimming just beyond the barrier along with other underwater life. There weren't any other large beast considering this was the territory of that alligator and everything else was too afraid to encroach on its territory as long as they knew about it. The area was pretty much a clear open space except for what looked like a huge archway with a pedestal in front of it.
Joshua made his way over to the pedestal as he inspected the archway without getting to close to it. It looked old and was completely made of stone. It actually looked like it might have been there for a long time even though Joshua knew a lot of these dungeons were just recently created after the planet finished evolving. When he stood in front of the pedestal he could make out several markings that looked like some kind fantasy language that he had no way of knowing how to read. Just when he was trying to figure out how to proceed a pop up window from the system appeared in front of the pedestal.
[This is a hidden dungeon that has not been accessed to this point. The key to entry is the core of the guardian of the lake. Upon entering you cannot leave until the dungeon has been completed. Information on the dungeon will be made public after it has been conquered for the first time. Proceed with caution]
Seeing as how there were so many warnings about entering the dungeon made Joshua a bit excited, but he decided to head back up now that he knew he could easily enter any time he wanted after gaining the core of the alligator. For now it was time to get a good rest before heading inside bright and early in the morning. He took another deep breath before diving back into the water and making his way out of the lake. It didn't take long for him to make his way back over towards Lilly and explain what he found out. She agreed that they should get a good rest before entering and they decided to go ahead and set up camp a little bit away from the lake just so they would be away from all of the mud.
The first thing Joshua did was set up a campfire and went out of view of Lilly so he could change out of his wet armor and put on some decent clothes that he wouldn't catch a cold in overnight. He made sure to hang up his wet gear near the fire so it would be dry by morning. Next time he dived into the lake he would make sure to change into some swimwear first beforehand. He had bought some just in case he ever had to go swimming in a safer area, but he wouldn't dive into any lakes or oceans without his armor as long as he wasn't sure what was in it. If anything beast residing in the ocean would be far scarier to deal with in the future in his opinion.
It didn't take long for them to have a full camp set up and for them to start cooking some of the rabbits that Joshua had killed in the dungeon for them to eat later. Lilly made sure to give some food to her pets as well. She had some vegetables that she had brought from the hub city to feed her rabbits, while Flutter simply went into the trees to find some flowers to drink from. The lizard was given a whole rabbit from Joshua while Mr. Hoppy was given a few of the smaller lizard carcasses that Joshua had piled up in his inventory from moving through the marsh.
For a while a calm silence settled over the two of them as they waited on the food to finish cooking until Lilly decided to break it.
"I was wondering…are you the same Joshua from the first phase leader board?" Lilly asked as she looked towards him curiously.
"I am. Any reason for asking?"
"Not in particular, I was just curious. Sense you were in first place I assume you must have had a lot to do with clearing the first phase after all so it was just curiosity on my part." Lilly said while tilting her head a bit and poking at the rabbit to see how much longer it needed to cook. "Though I wonder why you are so far behind the others. Did you just decide to start exploring recently or was there some other problem like with my job?"
"I guess you could say the latter. My soul beast didn't fully awaken until recently. I love the little guy though, Buster is a great partner to have." Joshua replied with a fond smile after thinking about his companion. He could hear a happy yipping sound in his mind as if Buster was excited from the praise. He would have to spend some more time with him when they got back to the hub city and were safe enough for him to close himself off in meditation for a while.
"Cool, I guess that means your soul beast must really be something special if it took this long for it to wake up." Lilly said getting a simple nod in return. There was silence once again for a while before she decided to ask another question. "What was the first phase like?"
Joshua looked at her a bit confused at first before responding. "I'm guessing you weren't a part of the first phase then?" Joshua watched as she shook her head in the negative before continuing. "Well it was rather tense and for some it might have been considered hell on earth. There always seemed to be something new happening that caused more trouble for everyone involved. Whether it was the zombies, haze monsters, or the spread of the haze itself there was always something going on? Did you have any family involved?" He asked this because the people that usually asked him about the first phase did it because they worried about someone they had known who had already experienced it.
"No, my father and mother weren't a part of the first phase and my little brother was too young to be a part of it as well. Besides I can't really see anyone in my family wanting to be a combat job user." She responded with a small smile as if she was thinking of a fond memory of some sort.
"Really? Well to be honest I'm surprised someone like you would even be out here fighting in the first place." Joshua said getting her attention once again.
"What do you mean?"
"Well, you have practically no combat experience whatsoever and for the moment you pretty much rely on your pets. Usually people that become combat job holders either do it for the adventure, had similar confrontational jobs in the past, or just enjoy the thrill of fighting. If you ask me you don't seem to fit in to any of those categories." Joshua explained.
"You would be right then. At first I didn't plan to get a combat job. I wanted to be like my parents, they're both veterinarians and that was my goal all throughout my childhood." Lilly replied with a bright smile. "I've always loved taking care of animals and it apparently runs in the family. My mother worked as a veterinarian that dealt with house pets for the most part while my father worked at a zoo. Either way I spent a lot of time working around animals growing up."
"So then what made you decide to become an explorer?"
"Well in this system life for veterinarians isn't so easy. People don't have house pets anymore and a zoo is out of the question with most animals on earth now turning into giant beast that could easily kill people. My parents are older and for all their lives all they've known is how to take care of animals. They didn't get any soul beast that were especially good at combat so if they were to become explorers they would probably…" Lilly stopped at that thought with a frown for a moment before her smile returned once again. "So I decided to go out and become an explorer to support my family until they can once again work in an environment that they're use to."
"That could take a long time. There might be other people like you that can tame beast, but I don't think there will be enough of them to start making veterinarian a go to occupation in the system any time soon." Joshua said a little concerned about her future if that was what she was hoping for.
"Oh don't worry about that. While I was training under my teacher she told me about something in the future that will basically guarantee my parent's field of expertise becoming a thing again. When people reach level one hundred they will be able to tame a beast as a companion, but unlike me they will only have one at their side." Lilly said with a bit of a smug look that surprised Joshua. "When that happens my parents will be back in business and even my little brother can go down that path if he chooses, but for now I don't mind how things are. Well as long as I have a nice partner like you."
Her smile was infectious and brightened Joshua's mood a bit before the two of them started to chow down on the rabbit. It didn't take long for them to finish their meal and get some rest. Tomorrow was going to be a big day.