182 Compromising Position
Tycondrius placed his hand on his chin, pondering, \"I realize now that you haven't yet entered a proper dungeon, Mister Lone.\"
\"A dungeon?\" Lone absentmindedly rubbed the scar on the bridge of his nose, \"What do you mean, Boss?\"
\"Are you familiar with 'Dungeon Subjugation' quests?\"
\"Uh huh? The adventurer's guild hires reputable adventurer companies to clear them a monster lair...\" Realization shone on Lone's eyes, \"Oh. We're one of those companies, aren't we?\"
Tycon's mouth twitched... \"Yes, I admit that can be easy to forget, sometimes...
\"A proper dungeon exists because of a Dungeon Core, functioning as the maintainer of an ecosystem. The core summons and cultivates natural and sometimes extraplanar creatures, traps, and even creates magical treasure.\"
Lone was taken aback, \"H-how does that work?\"
Tycon shrugged, \"Popular theory states that Dungeon Cores subsist on the mana of defeated adventurer-- and dungeons attract adventurers by the droves. Adventurer guild hubs sometimes issue bounties for the cores, either to be destroyed or recovered for study.\"
\"Anyroad..\" Tycon pat Lone's shoulder, reassuringly, \"Loot away. It's what adventurers do.\"
\"And graverobbers,\" Lone muttered.
Tycon chuckled, \"If there's any trouble, I'll take the blame. If anyone puts up a fuss, we can always return what we've taken.\"
Lone nodded, albeit hesitantly, \"Well... alright.\"
As a matter of convenience, Tycon hid the fact that the tower was likely a Dungeon, powered by a Dungeon Core. Though cores were rare, it was the most readily available artifact able to provide the increase of ambient mana within the tower.
Throughout the areas on the ground floor, Tycon hadn't seen a feeding area for the cockatrice. It reinforced the likelihood of a Dungeon Core sustaining the creature with its mana. The same sustainment phenomenon was not replicated when utilizing a mana-gathering formation.
In the event that Invictus was pressed by the Tower Wizard, Tycon could use the excuse that they heard a rumor of a Dungeon in the area and only trespassed for the sake of defending humankind. Per the rules set by the adventurer's guild, Invictus would be protected from any legal repercussions, within reason.
...There were no 'Keep Out' signs, after all. It was a design flaw made by the Tower Wizard.
\"Uh... Boss?\" Wolfrider looked up, his dog-ears drooping in distress.
\"Go ahead, Mister Levi.\"
\"My uh... h-help?\"
Tycon looked over to Wolfrider and his footlocker. The boy had placed his halberd down and both of his hands appeared to be awkwardly affixed to the wooden chest.
Could he not remove them?
Narrowing his eyes, Tycon gently held Sasha's shoulder and guided her to move behind him, \"Sasha... you and I are going to slowly move towards the door.\"
Lone grabbed the pair of wolf-hammers on his belt, \"Boss... What's wrong?\"
\"Standard safety procedure, Mister Lone. Kindly assist Mister Wolfrider, if you would.\"
As Tycon and Sasha watched from the doorway, Lone moseyed toward Wolfrider, making a spectacle of taking his time.
\"Well, well, well... how the turn-tables...\" The Lone Shadowdark taunted, \"What's wrong, doggo? Are you stuck?\"
Wolfrider emitted a low growl, \"Rrrr... It's not funny, Lone. Help me out.\"
Sasha looked up at Tycon with big, rounded eyes, \"(Master? She doesn't know the reason.)\"
Tycon adjusted Sasha's stark white hair, \"I worry that that chest is an aberrant creature called a mimic.\"
\"(She knows nothing about the mimic?)\"
Tycon smiled gently but did not answer. He remained vigilant of the wolf-dog and wolf-hammer's plight. If his Dungeon Core theory was accurate, traps and monstrous creatures would not be unexpected. He'd explain everything to Sasha, afterward.
Lone managed to also get his hands stuck, trying to pry Levi's hands off of the footlocker.
Tycon was the only Guild Invictus member that consistently wore gloves. Having greater tactile senses were a boon in combat, so Lone had ignored Tycon's friendly advisory on the matter. It was likely that the Bronze-Rank Warrior was regretting the choice in his current situation.
If Tycon hadn't watched the scene unfold, he would assume that the Lone Shadowdark had gently approached Levi Wolfrider and embraced him from behind. Wolfrider had two hands and a furred foot against the footlocker. Lone's human hands were on top of Levi's furry hands, their fingers interlaced.
Even more suggestive was the fact that Lone claimed full body contact with Wolfrider's back with his groin pressed firmly against the weretouched boy's buttocks.
\"S-stop moving so roughly,\" Lone pleaded in a meek voice.
\"Wait, hold on-- are you enjoying yourself?\" Wolfrider's tone took on a tinge of panic, \"Stop rubbing!\"
Tycon turned up his mouth into a frown. He reached a gloved hand down to shield Sasha's eyes from the suggestive scene.
\"Boss, could you lend us a hand?!\" Lone yelped.
\"Establishing sexual relations between coworkers is highly unprofessional,\" Tycon chided. \"I will not partake in your debauchery.\"
Lone scowled, \"Boss, you don't even pay me!\"
\"Ah, that's right...\" Tycon placed his other hand on his chin and tilted his head up to think... \"I suppose you've been with the guild for long enough. We'll start your pay-- but with a negative balance.\"
\"Oh, well, that's great news but--\" Lone paused, \"HOLD ON! What do you mean by *negative balance*?!?\"
\"You lost quite a bit of coin while betting on the Unfortunate,\" Tycon explained matter-of-factly. \"I'm surprised you'd forgotten.\"
\"Y-you were playing with my money!! And-- and I earned all that, myself!!\" Lone cried out, on the verge of tears.
\"You can rebut the charges or apply for a pay raise with our Human Resources department,\" Tycon shrugged.
Sorina Capulet was an intelligent woman, but from what Tycon knew, she did not give out money easily. She would surely reject any of Lone's requests, whether it was for a pay raise or the outstanding debt he was going to detail in his next missive to her.
Tycon wondered if Sorina had forgiven Lone for the events that unfolded when she tried to visit his room.
He doubted it.
\"Can you guys not argue about this right now?\" Wolfrider whined.
\"Stay here, Sasha...\" As Tycon moved away, Sasha placed her tiny elf hands over her eyes.
Tycon walked towards the two with his cutlass unsheathed, remaining vigilant for a sudden attack. \"Mister Lone... how did you get into that position?\"
Approaching from behind to unstick Wolfrider was an absurd and awkward way to help.
\"I-- I dunno!\" Lone bit his upper lip, \"I thought I could help him like that!\"
Tycon paused... \"That approach makes no sense.\"
\"Hey, I'm TRYING, alright, Boss?\"
\"Gods, you're such an idiot, Lone,\" Wolfrider groaned.
Tycon raised an eyebrow. The young weretouched boy had gotten into this predicament because of his propensity for looting things. As clumsy and foolish as Lone could be, he operated on a sense of fairness and goodwill.
Tycon found Wolfrider's actions nigh inconceivable. How could he act as if he was blameless, simultaneously repulsing giving an honest effort to help him?
\"B-b-boss!?!\" Wolfrider abruptly raised his voice.
Tycon crossed his arms, \"Yes, young man?\"
\"I... I think the footlocker is moving!\" the boy yelped.
Tycon shut his eyes and took a deep breath, \"It is as I feared, then.\"
The footlocker opened, revealing its contents-- mundane clothes and trinkets.
Looking over Wolfrider's shoulder, Lone breathed a sigh of relief, \"Oh, that's not so bad.\"
From somewhere within the chest, a tongue as thick as a human leg rose up and metal teeth sprouted upon its edges.
Wolfbanger's eyes opened wide as he screamed in fear, two octaves too high. Lone also began screaming. The footlocker, too, began screaming.
Tycon nodded, \"So it is a mimic.\"