We ended up back in my old room after I sent a package to my parents. I had moved back there since the end of the competition. The package was just a three page letter and fifty gold. The letter contained brief snippets on how things were going and how much I missed them. The gold was more than they both made in years so I explained how I won the competition. I did not want them to worry or I would have sent even more. I just wanted them to not work as hard and be safe. I was happy that I could at least do this much for them. After sending out the letter, my group helped me to get everything back to my room. They left after I thanked them for all their help and I rifled through everything to see where I should start.
I still had to make some choices before I was assigned to my group. First things first, I placed what would be my everyday gear on my bed. I bought decent gear but none of it had enchantments yet. That was what I was going to do right now. I planned on enchanting the bow with ‘multiply’ and ‘split shot’. The leather armor with ‘sturdy’, ‘lighten’, and ‘flexible’. My boots with ‘speed’ and ‘rooted’, a belt with pouches I was going to do the standard ‘deep pockets’ and I got a new fur lined cloak that I was going to add ‘haze’ and ‘displacement’ to. Unless better options appeared of course. I still had my panties and wraps but I was waiting to see if Victoria would make me new ones. I planned on doing one item a day for the next few days.
I also had skill points I still could use to increase my attributes as well as the plus 1 to any stat I had. I could also acquire any skill or level an existing one. In truth, I had spent a lot of time looking through the skill list. It seemed to hold anything I could think of; ones from other professions, ones that were marked family secret technique, and ones that I already had.
I was torn. I wanted to raise alchemy or enchanting because it would pay off now that I had some money to buy reagents. I might even be able to sell some potions to get a steady cash flow by being able to make better potions. On the other hand, skills that I might never be able to learn or ones that might keep me alive were also hard to pass up so I procrastinated. There were ones that were passive that would make me harder to hit, fly faster, or move quicker. While others needed me to actively use them. Those included different types of kung-fu, healing professions like surgeon and pathologist that would work in tandem with first aid and my healing magic to increase the overall effect, and ones that only worked in a dungeon like cartographing , that made a mini-map as you traveled or monster detection. I did not quite understand how the last one worked but it gave you a heads up on types of monsters that were around.
I figured I would start with an easy choice and pulled up my skill points. I was going to increase charisma once and then maybe use the plus one to increase it again. It really depended on what the ‘Goddess’s Boon’ did. From the description, it started off small and increased with the stat it was tied to. Using twenty one of my sixty two points I increased charisma by one and looked at my status. Charisma now read 21 (+5), affectively increased it by three for the price of one. I saw that Power Amplification also increased to four. That amplification bonus never seemed to do anything so I was not too thrilled but any plus is a good plus.
The real question was if I should upgrade a lower stat or continue to increase my main two; charisma and wisdom? Having a higher dexterity and stamina would be nice but I have found that my ability to learn new spells also increases as my charisma does. It was not something I was expecting. So far I had managed to increase all my spells to the next level as well as almost mastering one called ‘Guardian Angel’. The spell allowed the person I cast on to evade a killing blow but I could only place it on one person at a time. If I tried casting it on a second person the first person’s protection would go down.
I realized I was thinking too much. I was not going into the dungeon alone and I had to have faith that my party would protect me as much as I would protect them. It was all about teamwork and I needed to do my part well. I increased wisdom by one and saw my magical points rise in response. I also saw that the ‘True Sight’ added “sight and some sounds” after its description.
I then used my free plus one to raise charisma one more time. I had twenty points left to spend which I planned on saving until I saw my party. I still had an unknown talent called “Compassionate Touch” but as of yet I had no idea what it did. It just showed up and had no description. It did not help that nothing happened when I touched people. I was unsure if it was a reward or something else since I did not notice it until after the competition ended. It was a mystery.
I washed up and got ready for bed. Normally I would water my garden. But upon my return, I found that the garden was destroyed. The plants were munched on and what wasn’t eaten was uprooted by whatever ate the plants. I could tell that it happened a while ago since they were wilted. With a sigh, I tucked myself in and went to bed. I will try and salvage the garden another day. For now, I had hell training in the morning and I needed to get up early.
I looked at my bed and then my charisma. It now stood at 22 (+8). I thought that the boon might become an issue so I grabbed the ring I had bought earlier and slipped it on. It went on easy because I bought it slightly bigger than what I needed. I wanted it to pull off easily in case I had to cast. The spells I had test casted when my charisma was at twenty three had a bit of a zing to them that was not there before so I could only imagine what my spells would be like now that it could hit thirty. The ring was enchanted to cast a cheap illusion that allowed the wearer to appear to have ugly green nail polish on. The nail polish illusion did not appear on both hands. Hell, it did not even appear on all the fingers. That was not the important part though. I looked at my stat that now read 22 (-2). During our shopping trip I had noticed that illusions not only removed the ‘Goddess’s Boon’ but also added a tiny reduction to it. I was happy that the result stayed the same and fell asleep with a smile.
I clutched my leg; a stump were my foot use to be. Peter’s voice sounding behind me, “Is that the fastest you can move? You will be food for the monsters.” His voice held disdain but I cared more about the pain shooting up my leg. These fucking obstacle courses were getting harder and harder as the days progressed. The last one had me hopping across crocodiles. Not normal ones, oh no these bastards had smaller bodies and bigger heads. If not for their magic, I couldn’t imagine that they would even be able to move. Instead they used some type of body enhancement magic that made them faster, stronger and if they landed a bite they would not let go until they ripped off whatever they chewed into. Most of the time, the piece would snap clean through and end up in their gullet but, I still remember the ripping sensation of my flesh as they ripped my foot off.
Thank the Gods that my pain resistance had upgraded. The skill worked to actively suppress any pain I felt by a percentage. So instead of passing out from the pain, I only experienced about sixty percent of what I should have. Keeping me awake enough to condense my aura, clutch my leg and maintain regeneration.
A month has passed since the competitions and Lucas had come back last night if the rumors were to be believed. I expected to meet my team soon and, as much as I wanted to punch Peter in the face, I have to admit I have learned more in this month than the entire time I have been in this world. I have grown exponentially in both spells and abilities. The abilities he had me learning were mainly defensive in nature. Some of the names for these abilities made me wonder what the Gods were thinking.
Peter also taught me many new spells and, with the new aura ‘Enlightenment’ that had appeared upon reaching level six, I managed to grasp most of them fairly quickly. They made me more well-rounded as a whole and allowed me to at least defend myself although none of my spells could actually kill anything. I had asked if he knew any that did, more out of curiosity than anything else, and got a snippy reply of “Yes, but I was ordered to not teach you those so don’t ask” before he clammed up.
Did I give up in my pursuit of knowledge? Heck no. I went to the library on my next day off. It was odd. There was an entire row of book crystals missing. I could not find any holy spells that could take a life. Every book that I thought might have it led me to a missing crystal. Where they should be mounted now showed splintered wood as if they were ripped free of their placement.
I spent hours combing through the area and while I failed in finding a kill spell I did stumble upon an old dusty crystal in the Holy magic area. It looked like it had not been cleaned for decades. Dust and cobwebs clung to it but what made it stand out was the author’s name ‘Death the Kid’ which screamed penname to me but even so I figured with a name like that maybe a kill spell would be in it. Instead I found a sad historical story about an angel named Aneal. She was an ‘Angel of Battle’ fighting in a war against the demons hundreds of years ago. She led a company of lesser angels and humans against the hordes of hell but they were massively outnumbered and her side’s casualties mounted. In sorrow and desperation her cries merged with her holy aura unleashing a new spell called ‘An Angel’s Sorrow’. Her troop’s wounds began to heal.
The battle raged on and her troops held fast until reinforcements could arrive. Aneal hearing the horns of heaven gave it her all in those last seconds but her magic ran out. In a fit of anger, for losing to an army that he expected to crush, the demon commander, Gepollyon, broke through the line and plunged his sword through her heart. With her death, an angel’s sorrow was lost to the annals of time until Death the Kid managed recreate the effect.
I got the impression that he was not the one casting it simply by how it was written, but I was grateful that he took the time to do so because after the story, there was a detailed explanation on how the spell worked. I copied the crystal into my school one and headed back to my room to try and learn it.
But for now, I had to watch my skin re-knit. The blood flow had stopped and I could see the skin rebuilding itself. In another half hour I would be tossed back into the course. Peter wanted me to get another skill before the day was out and none of my pissing and moaning would give me a reprieve. I had learned a faster version of regeneration so, instead of a day, I was hopping across flesh eating crocodiles in just a half-hour. Somehow it did not feel like a win to me. Still I can’t complain too much. If he did not push me, I doubt I would have achieved as much as I had.
I was only allowed to go get a quick meal after I made it to the other side of the course. When I passed the halfway mark in the course, tiny bards began to rain down on me. They were tiny toothpick sized darts that torn into my flesh. They did not do a lot of damage but they were distracting and almost made me fall into the water a few times. As I plopped down by the exit wall, I saw I got the skill called ‘Divine body’ allowing me to regenerate naturally. It was much slower compared to the spell. I tried to think positively but was too exhausted to even muster any enthusiasm.
After resting for a bit, I peeled myself off the ground to go get a quick bite, rest and then head over for weapon training. I had to change my gear since Peter did not want me relying on enchantments while running the obstacle courses. By now, I had enchanted all my gear and, if I have to say so myself, it had gone fairly well. I had put more resources into my armor, cloak and bow and the extra money seemed to be worth it. My bow would break apart the arrow being shot into five to ten mini-arrows about half the size of the original and, because of that effect, I named it the ‘Splinter Bow’. My leather armor, after getting it adjusted, fit my form snugly and after the enchantments I named it ‘Armor of the Night’ because it turned pure black from the tan it started out as. That on top of the fact that it weighed close to nothing and I could move as if I was not wearing any armor at all made me feel like I was going out to rob people... or solicit them. Ok, it really just looked like a skin tight leather outfit but I told myself that it was proper gear because I could not afford to redo it. My new cloak that I had dubbed the ‘Cloak of Mystery’, would emit a mist anytime I entered combat shrouding me within. Anybody that stood outside of the mist had told me that they could see phantom images within the mist. The boots and belt did not get anything cool so I did not name them.
The only other things I did, in this time period, was to test my new appearance without the ring on and have a blacksmith alter my mace a little bit. I appeared pretty close to what I looked like when my stat was at twenty three. The difference between that and thirty was more subtle or at least I thought so. For example, my hair never tangles and falls back into place no matter how windy it is. I smell like peoples favorite fruit or flower no matter how sweaty I become, my eyes became brighter. No really, they almost seem to glow with a faint golden luster. And, my voice became music to everybody’s ears.
I had thought I was ok after glancing at myself in the mirror so I left the ring off one morning. I quickly found out that I now gave off a natural charm effect. From the dorms to the cafeteria, I had half a dozen boys following me to breakfast where they insisted that they get it, pay for it, and basically serve me. When I quickly put the ring on they looked disappointed. One stuck around trying to get me interested in him while the others ran off to their classes. I justified eating the food they bought me by telling myself that I probably upped their charm resistance.
As for the blacksmith, I had him add a holder to the head of mace. My plan was to attach a potion vial to it. After that I began making different types of low level potions. I made a few of each and I soon had a couple of smoke, zap, char, and frost potions. Normally, people throw these potions at monsters but I figured I should be ok bashing it against their bodies. I haven’t tried it yet but my theory seems sound. I am planning on using the potions for a big one-shot attack. If it does not work I will have the blacksmith remove the piece; no harm, no foul.
Decked out in adventurers gear I made my way to the colosseum to try and land a blow on Peter. My mace skills had gotten better over the last month. Unfortunately, without my magic he was just toying with me but, after the torture he has been putting me through, I keep trying to give him a few bruises as a thank you. So far… I have yet to land a blow.
We practiced in the colosseum for two reasons. The first was that the black plates that protected you from death. The other was humiliation. Apparently, getting your ass handed to you in front of hundreds of people was, in Peter’s mind, a motivating tactic. After experiencing it, I kind of agreed because I did want to get good enough to return the favor.
The normal crowds of students was not here today though. Instead, I saw Gideon. He was behind Lucas, Bill, James, Phillip and the black haired kid that had bumped into me twice. Even behind others, I still saw Gideon first as if my eyes were drawn to him. Their group needs more pretty women. Even one extra would do. Right now it was all guys! They stood a little in from the main entrance. Their relaxed postures seem to indicate that they had been waiting.
I continued to walk up to greet them and as I passed through the main entrance I noticed three boys and a girl sitting against the wall to my right. I did not have to wonder about why they were here for long as Lucas’s voice rang out, “Good, everybody is here. You all are the top five and will be placed into starter teams to see how you fair in a real dungeon. One of us,” he paused and indicated his group, “Will join your group and go along as observers.” I looked at them again after I was told they placed well. Only one of the boys was decked out in decent gear. The rest looked like farmers and had similar makeshift armor like I had when I first got here. What they did with the prize money, I knew they all received, was a mystery.
I heard two of the boys by the wall mumble something and snicker. Phillip eyed them and I knew he heard every word. He was their scout so his perception was top notch. He did not look happy and I could only guess at what they were saying. All I can say is they were very brave or very stupid if they were mocking the prince because of the rumors. Either way not my problem.
“This will be the first actual dungeon you will be going into. Your teams have been designed around your main magic and nothing else so it is up to you to make yourselves useful and fit in. Any questions?”
The girl raised her hand and asked, “Will equipment be provided?” She deflated when Lucas told her no.
The boys each asked roughly the same question in different ways, “Would the person observing them save them if they needed to be rescued?” Again the answer was a simple no with no explanation given.
They did not ask the obvious question in my mind so I raised my hand, “What do you mean first dungeon? Didn’t we all use the schools dungeon to practice?”
Gideon answered this time, “You have never been in a fully formed dungeon. Each of the dungeons at school had their cores destroyed long ago and now are maintained through our peoples’ magic. They are not sentient so the danger can be controlled. There is a vast difference compared to a real dungeon as you will soon see.”
I had other questions, like what type of dungeon would we be going into, but decided to shut up. The last thing I wanted was an extended conversation with Gideon. My reaction to him was like loving a cow. My body said, ‘Yummy’ while my mind said, ‘it’s a freaking cow!’ It went against my first eighteen years of life.
This world did not help matters because every girl was supposed to get married and produce children. They did not care if you liked women and not men or even if you and the other concubines got together. That was the husbands issue to deal with. A girl’s responsibility, unless you were tough enough to say, ‘Go F’ yourself!’ was to marry a man. The laws made it clear if you slept around before marriage it better be with a guy and you better marry that man. If it was with a woman? Well, there were special tents in the army to make sure the men were happy and you ended up pregnant.
From what I gathered from my chats with Bella and Lilly, men died young on the battlefields, dungeons and random monster attacks. This left a population that started out fairly even in both men and women, to one that has more women than men by almost three to one by the time the population reached their mid-twenties. So it was not uncommon for men to have multiple wives. Those in power wanted women to keep producing more and more ‘troops’ for them so they restricted certain freedoms and used propaganda to make women want to be house wives.
The one exception to this rule were adventurers. Sure women signing up was frowned upon but the government needed stronger people to gather resources and kill monsters before they became too big of an issue. So whether it be in a dungeon or climbing a mountain for rare resources, women who did not want to marry may trade their safety to get more freedom. Of course, they are viewed as degenerates by those that buy into the propaganda. My first experience to this double standard was when my mom said that those weren’t women but adventurers. I just failed to see it at the time.
“Any other questions?” Lucas’ voice cut through my downward spiraling thoughts and when nobody raised their hands, he began to issue orders. We would be leaving the next day and should prepare as best we could.