SMage 41 – Diving
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“Your sensing skill is useful Artus, but we’ll still need these things. The first Light Stones were introduced around one hundred and fifty years ago by the first Hero King, before his rise in power,” said the older woman with three short spears strapped on her back. “They are simply everywhere nowadays.”

Artus nodded to Felicia's words as he paid for the bandolier that was useful to hold these stones in place. When he looked around again, everyone clearly had their own set of light stones placed on the upper chest. The tightly secured leather strap made the girls’ modest chest more stood out but they were used to it, it seemed. 

They seemed to notice that he had checked them out, but not that they could come close to Verona or Eliane. His bar had been set too high without him even realizing it. The kind of surprising progress he loved the most.

He could tell that, unlike before, he wouldn’t be interested in rocking every girl who showed up, not even when they had offered. Well, especially if they had offered.

Artus loved women still, but the natural instinct that he hated had been suppressed.

The stones were actually half crystal and half stone. He hadn’t paid attention before, but he assumed the street lights should have also used these stones. The mined crystal rocks should have needed to be worked on before it could be used as an effective light source. 

It made sense something like this would exist after enough time had passed. People would try to find a way to overcome problems, especially life-threatening ones. The reason was simple, torches just don’t cut it. 

Using it to enter a dark cave filled with monsters was just stupid, period. 

Suicidal at worst. 

Even an idiot with half the brain would have figured that out. 

And maybe he could profit from improving on the Light Stones. Artus chuckled inside.

“But where do these stones come from?” he asked.

“From the mines around the kingdom, sometimes even from a dungeon,” said Kerry, the only other long-ranged attacker.

“I can understand the mines, but the dungeon, how is it possible?”

“When the weak die, their items can be found in loot boxes,” Gabe said with a scoff. “That’s why I’ve said you should save the money and buy it if we don’t find any.”

Something told him these loot boxes were hard to find. Artus had the feeling that he had to keep these idiots from dying to get his license. The old man Gus might have been harsh, but he cared about this lot. Maybe these are the few licenses the man had approved regretfully.

“It’s fine, I got the changes to buy them. It's better to be safe than sorry.”

“Yes, that is a good way to say it, even if it sounds awkward,” Felicia giggled. “Let’s stop by the priestess for some blessing.”

Her comment wasn’t surprising when the word didn’t rime in the alien language. The idea of stopping by the religious zealots had his skin crawl. Religion was fine to him, but most of the time, the people who had made it unattractive.

“You guys go ahead, I’ll wait,” he said to them. 

He ignored the looks they gave to him before they went to line up to receive the free magical blessing. One of the priestesses gave him a long stare though. 

“Come on, let’s go already,” said Gabe who was more impatient than anyone.

“Right, let’s not waste any more time,” said Felicia. “Gabe, take the lead. Stan and Lenard back the fool up. Artus and Kerry in the middle and I’ll be the rear guard.”

“God, finally,” one of the young men said.

Gabe had his chest out as he marched as if he was the leader. He didn’t even realize that he would be the first to die if anything went wrong. The vanguard was the riskiest position without a scout warning what was coming for them. His friends were no better as they were more interested in wooing girls than anything else. 

There were a few of those all-female groups. One of them entered just his escorts being waved to the entrance, a dark opening on the stone wall. He hadn’t looked when they entered but at least he could still see their backs. The other group was gone as if they suddenly disappeared.

“Link up, we don’t want to be separated after entering, touching any part of the body will be enough,” Felicia said helpfully. 

She was a lot more cooperative after sobering up. The lady had been explaining everything to him without any reservation.

Kelly took his arm while he placed his hand on one of the guy’s shoulders. She brushed her chest onto him while checking for his response, and of course, he didn’t give her any. The two of the boys placed theirs on Gabe’s as he readied his weapons. He felt Felicia’s hand on his shoulder right before Gabe stepped into the dark opening.

It was pitch black all of a sudden.

“Light stones, Artus, check the immediate area and report,” said Felicia while she tightened her to grab on his shoulder.

“It’s clear,” he said as he had always kept the skill active. “Three tunnels ahead and no monsters.”

Lights erupted around him and it wasn’t as impressive as he had assumed it to be. It couldn’t even compare to the flashlight. His idea would sell like hotcakes if this was what all the current light stones could offer..

“Wait,” he said and concentrated. “Four goblins coming on our left.”

“Are you sure,” Gabe complained. “I can’t hear any-” 

-

“Shut it,” said Felicia. 

She didn’t hear it either but she knew awakened people like Artus. They didn’t play around like other boys his age. He meant business.

The obvious faint sound echoed after waiting for a little too long for the antsy boys. They were fidgeting to say something but hadn’t dared to open their mouths.

“That’s more than two hundred steps,” muttered Felicia appalled.

“They stopped,” Artus said. “I think they smelled us.”

“Gabe, maintain formation,” she chuckled. “Everyone else hide, this time we’ll ambush them for a change.”

Felicia could believe herself when an exact number of goblins appeared with their wooden torches. They were wary but they were not smart enough to guess what was going on. 

She couldn’t believe she had stumbled into a tier-three sensor. A young man who didn’t even know the skill he had was a huge boon. He would learn about it sooner or later so he should hear it from her first, and that way, she might earn his trust.

Alas, that is for later. At her nod, an arrow and bolt flew towards the goblins. The bolt missed completely while the arrow hit home. The ability to take time to aim had helped her accuracy a lot. It would be a very different story if the position was reversed.

Caught by surprise, the goblins fell on their butts. The three other boys charged in and made short work out of the grey-skinned monsters. Their training came through as each one of them stabbed without wasting any movements. 

Gabe sliced the back of the last goblin as it turned to run. A quiet cheer erupted from them. The effortless slaughter in the dark dungeon was rare for iron plates.

“We need to talk, Artus,” she said to the young man. “You four can loot the corpses.”

The young man followed her without a word until she turned around when they were far enough. The other should be too busy with their loots to suspect anything.

“What is this about,” he asked, still oblivious.

“It is your sensing skill, you shouldn’t tell anyone about it,” she began. “Especially not Gus,” she added when the guy came into mind.

He chuckled, “why?”

“I think you are a tier three,” Felicia said seriously and watched for his reaction. Still, he said nothing. The boy knew nothing about it. God, how foolish he could be?

“You see, a tier-one can only sense his immediate surroundings, and tier two can only tell that ‘something’ is coming from further away,” she wiggled two fingers to make her point about something. 

“These two are the most common, but you can tell what they are, their number, and movements, right?”

He nodded.

“What else?”

“Well, I can tell what their equipment is, roughly, at least,” Artus said offhandedly.

Felicia froze in disbelief. A tier four. A tier-fucking-four. At that range? Just calling him a prodigy would be insulting. Where the hell did he come from!?

Knowing the race of the enemy was before engaging them would already have a huge advantage. Each monster had its own habit, weakness, or something that could be used against them.

Their number would tell if it was safe to engage or what tactic should be used. The movements would tell what they were doing if the tactic should change, or abort confrontation completely. 

Learning what equipment they have told a whole nother level of detail. Their levels, their abilities, or even their classes. All kinds of strategies could be formulated even before engaging the enemy. A tier four at this age would be God-given, and with that handsome look, he would be a huge score for anyone.

A hand was waving over her face when she came back to reality.

She grabbed that hand, “don’t tell anyone if you value your freedom,” she stated.

“Are you serious? I have seen someone do something similar like it was nothing.”

“Who did? No, don’t answer that, how old is whoever this is?

“Well, I don’t really know,” he let out a dry laugh.

“That must be it, whoever this person is, the person must have at least a century in their life. Honing a sensing ability is not easy. This person taught this skill to you?”

Artus looked surprised for a moment before he shrugged. Of course, he could never tell her anything about it. She would be surprised if he had taken an oath.

“It is fine, I rather not know,” she chuckled. “I only want to know if you think I’m pretty?”

“What are you saying all of a sudden?”

Felicia clicked her tongue, “so, I’m not, huh.” 

She should have put on the damned sexy armor.

“I didn’t say you aren’t attractive,” Artus corrected her.

What he said surprised her. “Good, then we’ll talk later after this mockery is done. Remember not to give too much detail or their mouth might blabber. It’s fine to let them suffer a little as long as they are not dead.”

Artus nodded.

Their tour of the dungeon after that went smooth with a little hiccup here and there. Staged hiccup if she wasn’t mistaken. They traveled to layer three of the dungeon. This deep was nothing to her, but it was the deepest these newbies had gone. It showed how unprepared they were.

Gabe lost his only weapon to a Warg and became useless for the rest of the fight. He begged for a spear and she gave in to the plea. Two weeks of chores were nothing compared to the essence they got from the kill, and Gabe didn’t want to be left out.

In the end, Kelly had a torn arm while the other two barely could walk. Gabe was the worst, he had to be dragged on a stretcher. They were lucky that they could travel from the third floor directly to the entrance or they might not make it.

He had hidden it well, but his glee. This young man might not be as simple as she thought he was. 

 

  • The next chapter is coming in a few hours. And yes, I'm back after the bug apocalypse. Oh, wait, that didn't happen.
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