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TDL BK I, CH 4: Dungeon Maker

Chapter Four: Dungeon Maker

Reduced to squatting in an abandoned cave, a certain young man busied himself dressing his wounds. 

“Twenty-three years!” Dunstan cursed in exasperation as he rebandaged his arm. “Twenty-three fucking years I’ve been waiting for this stupid to load and it nearly gets me killed when it does!”

While his anger was more than justified, his words were a little untrue. His new power had only appeared after he became an exultant. That meant, it had been loading for a bit over two years, not twenty-three. Before then, it was merely dormant.

Even through his anger, Dunstan found himself blinking away tears of relief –and a lot of pain on account of the arm. If Seventh Unc… no, Elder Anthony’s betrayal showed him anything, it revealed that the wolves were circling for the kill. Maybe with this new power, he had a chance to turn things around. He had nothing; no family, friends or property outside the sect and if that was gone… Dunstan shook his head, He did not even want to think about it.

He stopped and took a deep breath and then blinked tears of relief from his eyes before taking another look at his new interface. 

[Welcome Dungeon Lord!]

[Are you ready to design your first dungeon?]

It all started two years ago when Dunstan forced a breakthrough to the Heaven Reaching Tier. It was his first major breakthrough. THE first major breakthrough. Achieving it is such a momentous occasion that cultivators that attain this tier are given another title, Exultants! The Heaven Reaching tier is where cultivators become transcendent. It triggers a worldly reaction– heavenly essence pours down on you, transforming you in body and soul. Your power multiplies tenfold. You gain the ability to call on the essence of the world and perceive things with nought but your spirit. The best part about it is the way it enriches your body and soul. This causes some to awaken abilities they did not know they had. For Dunstan, Heaven Reaching changed everything. It allowed him to remember his past life.

Learning that he was a reincarnator came as a massive shock to Dunstan and his master. However, looking back, the signs had always been there. Abnormal intelligence, emotional maturity, and fast-paced mental development were only a few of them. More importantly, he finally knew the source of the strange intuition and talents he possessed. 

Reincarnators were nothing new on the Empyrean Continent. Some such as Dragon Emperor Long Son, and Flying Immortal Vivi were featured in myth and song. They were exceeding rare individuals but they did pop up here and there. Hell, according to his master, Dunstan was not even the first in the history of the sect. 

Discovering that he was a reincarnator should have been the start of Dunstan’s legend. Many reincarnators were immortals in their past lives, or sword gods or alchemists and the like who used their past memories and experience to rise to prominence. Ancestor Rhan, the founder of the Vast heaven Palace, for example, was an adventurer who discovered a lily of asphodel that allowed him to preserve his memories and abilities after death and pass them on to his next incarnation. Relying on the experience of his first life, he became one of the most influential figures in the region. Unlike the lofty reincarnators whose names and deeds were legend, however, Dunstan had not been a great figure. In his past life, he was merely a game designer named Felix Dupont.

The disappointment he felt as he went through his awakened memories was soul-crushing. Dunstan had not expected to be a former immortal. He had hoped, yes, but he understood that it was highly unlikely. He did, however, expect to be something better than a somewhat successful game designer who died before he was 35. Worse, Felix was born into a world without magic. There was practically nothing in his other life that was readily applicable to this one. Sure, the marketing and managerial knowledge had come in handy but Azan was a world where might made right. Power was everything and Dunstan’s past life provided none, or so he thought. 

Dunstan glanced down at his interface as he reminisced. The first one had shown up in the days that followed, filling him with much-needed hope. Then it crashed that hope by taking two and half years to load. He hadn’t even thought about it in over a year. 

[Welcome Dungeon Lord!]

[Are you ready to design your first dungeon?]

[YES] [NO]

‘Better late than never!’ he told himself mentally as he selected the yes button.

[Received Dungeon Lord’s Manual]

[Received Dungeon Lord Starter Kit]

[Unlocked Dungeon Space]

A minor tingling sensation filled his head as the contents of the Dungeon Lord’s Manual uploaded themselves. Dunstan’s eyes became unfocused for a second as he took it in. When it faded, he knew what to do, the instructions and commands imprinted on his mind.

‘Open interface!’ sub vocalised.

[STATUS] [MENU] [INVENTORY]

He examined it for a moment before saying, ‘Status!’  

[STATUS]

Name: Dunstan Kaguri

Age: 23

Tier: 2 | Heaven Reaching | C

Constitution: 7 | B

Affinity: Light and Darkness

Access: Level 1

Specialisations: Swordsmanship, Accounting 

Achievement Points: 0

Wealth: 56 es | 414 g

Thanks to the information from the manual, he could make better sense of the information this new screen provided. The letter ratings were relative comparisons that went from F to S. So, he ranked fairly above average compared to other Exultants. That was good. However, going by that, his constitution was only above average. That did not seem right. He knew for a fact that his innate talent was the highest in the sect. He had inherited his family’s rare aperture variation, the boundless dantian. The stupid interface even rated him as 7 out of 10. Why the B rating then? 

Dunstan shook his head. That would have to wait, he had more important things to do, like finishing the sling for his broken arm and entering the so-called dungeon space. The moment he was done with the first, he started on the second.

[MENU]

  • Dungeon Management
  • Feats
  • Shop

Selecting dungeon management and then choosing the ‘new dungeon’ option, Dunstan found himself in a bizarre place. It was a disturbingly familiar grey void. Ignoring his flashing interface, he spun in place. It did not help. Everything around him was featureless and grey. He stamped his foot on a surface that looked just like the open air around him and somehow found purchase. 

[Please choose a template!]

[You have no stage templates] 

A sense of recognition began to build but just to make sure, Dunstan opened his inventory. It manifested as a gigantic panel divided into five by ten spaces. In the first space was a simple wooden chest with the label Dungeon Lord Starter Kit. He set it in front of him and opened it. Bright golden sparks shone around the chest as he opened it.

“No! Please no!” Dunstan begged in realisation as a past life’s worth of dread and memories confirmed what he was seeing. 

It was too late. The loot box deposited its items around it in five bubbles that glowed a variety of colours. 

[You have received…]  

  • Tomb template | Dungeon 
  • Ember spirit template | Fauna | Grade: Common
  • Waving Aloe template | Flora | Grade: Uncommon
  • Skill Book template | Item | Grade: Rare
  • Bolt Launching Wall template | Trap | Grade: Uncommon  
  • 1000 achievement points

“Two white, two green and one blue”, Dunstan counted. “That’s actually better than I thought. Did my luck change in this life?”

The first bubble held something akin to a blueprint. He could not quite make it out. The second and third were clearer and more lively. The white one had a small fire in it, only the flames came with a pair of eyes and a mouth stretched into a mischievous grin. The green bubble held a metre-tall aloe plant with fleshy leaves that waved about like tentacles. Dunstan stretched his hand out towards the blue item before changing his mind. There was something he needed to confirm first.

Picking up the blueprint, he used it. Instantly, order was imposed on the grey space. Colours, structures and boundaries immediately began to take shape, first as clearly outlined grid blocks that slowly took on colour and texture. 

Dunstan scrutinised the room he was in before taking another glance at the items floating around the chest. “As expected”, he nodded. “This is basically a game designer’s tool kit!”

The information in the Dungeon Lord’s manual was beginning to make sense now. What dungeon? This was a simplified real-life game design studio. His templates were just game assets. Dunstan took another look at the starter items seeing them in a new light. The stage was a level. Mobs, loot, traps, scenery, he had it all. The only catch was that as the GM, he could only level up by defeating players. The more players he beat, the more achievement points he would earn and the better assets he could afford and make. 

“Thank you Felix!” he said with sincere gratitude to his past self.   

Already, ideas were flowing in his head; a dungeon, adventurers, danger, wealth and glory. He could practically see it. This was either going to be very good or very bad. The possibilities were practically endless and he was getting so excited, he could not sit still. 

A far-off howl rang through Dunstan’s ears and he quickly returned to real space. 

‘First things first, I need to get back to the sect’, he realised. 

Plans could wait. He had best not get eaten before he had a chance to use his newfound power.

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