Chapter 29 -Picnic
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Where is it?! I looked intently at the stones before me trying to pick the safest path. The lighter stones seemed suspicious to me and I made my choice. Taking small steps, I advanced my way down the passage. I let out a sigh as I took the final step and my heart sank as my foot came down. I heard the click right before the water slammed into me followed by the electricity.

Bella and Lilly's laughter was the final blow. I picked myself up from the 'Hidden Traps' obstacle course and made my way over to my spectating friends. Their laughter still as loud as ever. I could not really blame them. I was a mess. My clothes were soaked and clung to me, add in the electricity that had made me flop about like a dying fish and I must have been a hysterical sight.

Lilly consoled me with a, "You almost made it. Just one more step and you would have gotten a trap detection skill."

Bella added in, "You should try again." But the mirth in her eyes told me that she just wanted to see me trigger the traps again. Thinking about how that was my third go today and that so far I was electrocuted, hosed down, slimed with a real low level slime that fell from a ceiling vat, and dropped into a mud pit, I groaned a little and declined. I had suffered enough today.

"No way. Bella you are just trying to get out of cooking today." I ruthlessly reminded her that it was her day to cook. We were all working on our cooking skills and taking turns cooking to level it. Out of all of us Bella was the one that hated cooking and only half-heartedly did it because her family was making her learn. "Oh do not forget that Lucas and the boys are expecting dinner." I added salt to the wound.

That was the real reason I was giving up on the courses. It would take time to prepare dinner and then transport it to a dining area that both boys and girls could mingle together. In the end, both Lilly and I helped her to make dinner. Our cooking classes and enthusiasm allowed us to level the skill and we were both now quicker and could prepare better tasting food than Bella.

School was back to "normal" and while I was not expecting a lot of praise for our rescue operation, I was shocked when I heard that Gideon had single handedly rescued the prisoners. I do not know how they got everybody to agree to the story but as far as the students are concerned our group was never involved. I was not overly concerned about it. I did ask Lucas and the rest to put in a good word so I could get some proper adventuring clothes.

What did piss me off was that they laughed when I asked and told me that there was no restrictions on clothing if you signed up for any dungeon or magic training courses. Once I knew that I went to the administration building and argued until I got the clothing I was supposed to get in the first place. The student that had the job was moved to a 'less than stellar position' because it was not the first time that' he would not give a girl anything but the skirt uniforms. I hugged my newly acquired items as I left the building, 'Oh pants how I missed you!'

After that, I settled back into the school life. For the last couple of months, I have been trying out the obstacle course while my friends laughed their asses off at my failure. The school advertised that you got a skill upon completing them. The skills varied a little depending on the person's class, the course and how they completed them. For example, I tried to get a dodge skill from the 'Projectile' course and ended up with "Tiny Target" because I hunched down until they 'Reloaded' and ran for my life. I kept repeating that until I made it to the end and forgot to dodge under the hail of arrows. In my defense, who in their right mind would not dive for cover and stay there?

That was the other thing I found interesting. Once the school became normal again, I got to watch people making connections every day. They all knew each other, or their attendants did, and would do their best to make friends. There were power plays like a noble buttering up a powerful merchant's child so his father could make more money or a noble boy wooing a girl just because she was from a bigger house. It was like watching a telenovela every day.

I was not included much in the drama. I had boys that would try and woo me from time to time with offers to be one of their concubines but I think that was because I used all seventy of the skill points I had received on my charisma. Raising it by four levels to nineteen. It was not even that I wanted to be prettier. There were two reasons I put it into charisma.

I had found a book in the library on how to group-cast spells. There were a few limitations like they had to be under my radius, willingness, and charisma but overall it was something I wanted to learn. The final straw was in my dungeon exploration class the teacher had touched on 'Power Amplification' effects in the dungeons. It was based off your class's main stats. Mine were charisma and wisdom and to get the biggest bump in power I needed to raise my lowest stat or at least that was how it was explained.

As I increased it the changes to my body were even more exaggerated. Luckily, I did not become a 'Big Breasted Bimbo' but more like the perfect version of what I wanted if I knew what "Perfect" was. The changes were in essence making my ideal female body and the boys apparently liked those changes very, very much.

The girls for the most part threw me jealous gazes. Not all of them. There were a few that just did not care and one or two that looked at me like they wanted to eat me up. That was another issue I became privy to. Girls did not date girls; at least not openly. What happened in the back courtyard of the nobles mansions were whispered about but never really discussed where others could hear.

Some of those stories I heard made me blush. Although, I am not sure if Bella was just making them up on one of our girl's nights. The one common thing about them though was even if the noble women got together, they all needed to be with the husband when he wanted them. The only group of women that openly flaunted their relationships were the adventurers. Probably because they were tough enough to do it or they had no noble status to worry about.

Winter break was coming up and we were getting together before we all went back home. They all had rich parents and had to go report back on their progress and of any connections they might have made.

We made our way over to a picnic area after we finished cooking and boxing up the food. The guys were all there already horsing around. I figured they would be. Like starving animals, they rushed over to us as soon as they saw us coming. James and Phil removed the storage boxes from our hands in a blink of an eye and were already moving to one of the tables. Lucas had been coming around with them from time to time and we hung out when time allowed.

I think Lilly had a crush on William but since she was engaged, she did not say anything, so it was just my conjecture. It was not my place to interfere with anybody's relationship, so I did not tell her about his cold-blooded killer side. Especially because I was not sure what side was his real side. I could almost see the hearts in her eyes whenever she looked at him and being the wonderful friend, I of course made fun of her every chance I could. She of course denied it, but her blush was telling a different story.

She returned the favor by teasing me about Gideon. She noticed how flustered I got whenever he was around and so was merciless in her teasing me back. Luckily, Gideon was a true gentleman. When he heard what happened to me and saw how I was reacting, he decided to excuse himself whenever I was around.

I let them come at their own pace and I hustled over to where the food was already out of the containers. We made extra for the occasion but that was not a guarantee that I would get a share. They were surprisingly crude gluttons when we were by ourselves. Especially for people that could wine and dine with utter grace when they were around others. I took it as them viewing us as friends.

We quickly settled down with plates of food and began to talk about the break coming up. Most were just heading home but James and Lilly were both going to their future in-laws. James was smitten with a girl named Daphne and even though she was a minor noble he got his family to agree to his marriage. Lilly on the other hand has never met her betrothed and was nervous.

I had decided between traveling back or staying here over break. While I wanted to see my parents again, I was still too weak. Even with all my hard work, I still had no attack spells and when I leveled, I did not get anymore spells for free. I went to the library to learn new ones. I found learning protection spells and healing was fairly easy and added a few to my assortment of spells. Sadly, I kept hitting roadblocks when I was trying to learn any attack spells. Spells that disabled people I was making progress with but straight out damage spells, I got nowhere. I just had to keep trying or focus on another path. 

Ever since we rescued the students, I have been studying hard learning skills and spells. There were two things I wanted to get before going back; an attack spell and the ability to do group-casting. I had a month in an almost completely empty school. I was a bit nervous about staying alone. While I knew that going back held some danger; it was not like I would have been safe here either.

I listened to them banter on as I tried to decide on the 'Minor Advantage'. I have been putting it off trying to make the right decision or to make the pick when an advent forced my hand and I needed it. I did narrow down the selections a bit. Two of them were mostly because of the feelings I got when I looked at the descriptions and two were because they were powerful. 'Heaven's Wrath' and 'Golden-haired Guardian' gave more than they said. I just knew it deep down. I felt like if I picked 'Heaven's Wrath' I could gain attack magic or at least learn it easier. That roadblock I have been trying to get through would probably vanish. 'Golden-haired Guardian' and group casting seemed like they would mesh and become something greater but as to what I did not know.

'Death is a Friend of Mine' and 'I've Seen Things' were super powerful for obvious reasons. I felt pressure in picking the option to resurrect because I did not want to watch others die but I knew that death was inevitable. However, I could not decide if bringing back one or two people would be better than the knowledge or power to actually prevent those deaths.

All four held promise and knowing I should make my choice; I did. When I refocused, I heard the men discussing their dance class and how James had mastered the 'Dance of Their Demise' right before we had gone on the rescue mission. I soon joined them in discussing the class and was a bit sad I overlooked it. I had expected ballroom dancing and not cool moves that helped to keep you alive or to attack.

***

"How is he, Doctor Hamilton?" a nervous nurse watched over the handsome man as he laid unmoving on the bed. "He was so energetic just the other day. I do not understand why he would just collapse like this."

"Mr. Mictlan is suffering from exhaustion and malnutrition. I have put him on a drip and with some rest, he will be back on his feet in no time. If there is anything else just give me a call."

The doctor left the nurse standing over him with a confused look. She did not speak until he was gone, "It is not possible. There must be something wrong with project 'Expansion'. I will get to the bottom of this."

With determined strides, she left to make her way down into the "basement". Looking at rows and rows of the pods, she made her way to the main computer. After speaking with the man sitting there, she walked around just looking at the blinking lights on the pods trying to find the one that is causing the problem.

But she was no expert and no matter how she looked the lights were just lights. It was hours before the man left the desk and handed her a report. Three realms were flux and looking like his influence was declining. That by itself should not be enough but with nothing else to go on; it was a place to start.

"I am authorizing three executives. Let them go and cause havoc!"

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