I laid on my bed thinking about all the things that had happened this month. Normally, I was so exhausted at the end of the day I just collapsed but, since Peter had cancelled sparring class, I had more energy tonight. I just laid down after I finished packing up so that I would be ready to leave tomorrow. There were a few issues that kept nagging at me. The first was why Lucas prohibited me from learning more powerful attack spells? Peter was obviously assigned to me and Lucas was one of the few people that had the power to do that. Then there was the missing book crystals. That was too coincidental to not be linked. But why? I was worried about the princes and what they really wanted. Why did Lucas run off, would the princess and his fiancée convey that I did not want to marry and would it even matter to him?
There was also the teen in black. I felt like I had met him before and it kept nagging at me. Who was he and why was he following me? Was he linked to the lady I saw, that had worms crawling through her skin? I saw them around the same time but they didn't seem to be together so that was doubtful. I just didn't have enough information to make a good guess.
Then of course there was the four teens today. Why didn't they have equipment? Sure they could have left it in their dorm rooms but those that chose adventuring as an occupation tended to always have their gear close at hand. It was a prestige thing to the men so it was weird that they weren’t equipped. Even if the prize money was not as much as what I got it still should have been enough to equip them. Things just were not adding up and the people with the answers were not forthcoming with anything useful.
“Seriously? Those were the best you could find?” Lucas looked at Phillip as he ranted. The others just watched the show and tried to stay out of the line of fire.
“In my defense, you came back late last night insisting that I get her a test team and fake other parties going out. I ran around all morning pulling this impromptu charade and paid a lot of money for those adventurers to let her join their group. You still have not told me what is going on. You up and vanish for close to a month without any explanation on why. Just an ‘I got to go check something’ and then you ran out of here. Care to explain?”
“Fine, I went to check the archives. I was trying to find information about Alice’s necklace. Those records were mostly destroyed and what was not, have been locked away by my father. I did manage to find what I was looking for after I bluffed my way in to the records room. Do you remember the charm Alice has? It’s in a book about relics but Alice is too young to be the owner. I do not know if she is her child, Alice just chanced upon it, or if it is merely a replica. Either way I need people around Alice in case she becomes dangerous. We cannot afford another disaster like fifteen years ago.” with that Lucas finished talking and ruffled his hair, “James and William, I need both of you to observe her. Make sure she does not kill anything and James, see if she can heal you.”
“That is impossible. You know I am a Nullifier and magic doesn’t work on me.”
“Yes, I know just do it. Also, if they can make it to the core let her destroy it. One more thing, if Alice does end up killing something back off and be prepared to run.”
“What do you mean you cannot find them?” Her voice held anger. She always had a sore spot when it came to that man and his family. Now that her men were missing, it made her think that he had one upped her again. “Explain! The last report said you had eliminated his men that he had sent to capture Alice so why have my men simply vanished?”
The man’s legs shook as she asked her last question. He hesitated and then started once he was sure his voice would not tremble, “Madam Prescott, the duke’s men were all killed. Our agents had confirmed it prior to their disappearance so we do not think it was his people.” He stressed ‘his’ to emphasize the duke was not the killer. Ever since the Duke’s kid killed her daughter, her mood has been unstable whenever the Duke or his family are involved. He quickly continued so he could escape all that much faster, “our last report said they were going to resupply and return to base. From what we know they disappeared somewhere inside the merchant district.”
Madam Prescott’s mood seemed to ease a little but not by much and with a shout of “Investigate” the man ran out of the room before her dismissive hand gesture even finished its arc.
“What do you mean my men were killed? Send more! I want Alice chained. ” His voice held anger. His fatty arms jiggling as he waved them around.
“But sir, your father…”
“I don’t care send more of my people!”
“Yes, sir!” the man turned and left. The soldier, turned nanny, pinned his hopes on the fact that he was just following orders. There was nothing he could do. The duke’s son was a spoiled idiot. He can’t be blamed for that, right? Dejected he moved off to issue the orders.
I hugged my friends goodbye. I still felt weird doing it. I felt like the virgin boy hugging the pretty lady. I was not sure where I should place my hands. It did not help that my new boobs pressed against theirs making it even more awkward. Still, I will miss them so I hugged them tight. I was to be introduced to my team today as well as told who would be my observer. So Lilly made me food for the trip, Bella and Amy bought me a pouch that clipped onto my belt to hold Pumpkin, and Victoria gave me my bra prototype and wraps to go over it. I knew that the wraps were given to ‘protect’ my virtue and not because they were needed for support. It was sweet of her to care.
The last gift was given to me on the way to the school gate where I was to meet my team. I bumped into Peter who tossed me a ring, said “stay alive”, and left without another word. It looked cheap. The ring was made out of wood but was in fact a cleverly disguised storage ring. I thought of buying one but the cheapest was almost a thousand gold and the space was only a one foot cubed.
Normally you have to bind the rings with your blood to make them yours but I found that this one was already bound to me. Considering how my month had gone I figured Peter had ample opportunities to get a little of my blood so I didn’t question why it was already bound to me.
The inside space was 3 cubic feet and contained three books made of paper, some ink and writing tools . The first one was a spell book that contained spells from famous mages that I had read about in history class. Mages like Alin Terelins who was famous for combining magic of different types like, Divination and Holy, to make a spell called ‘Surgical Gaze’. That spell had allowed healers to make better decisions that had saved countless lives. Mage Renner was known for making unique Holy attack spells like ‘Chastise’ which did damage to the caster anytime he targeted an innocent or virtuous person. Finally, the Great Sage Markos came up with a few unique spells but his most famous one was called ‘Judgement and Penance’ which was a more vicious version of smite. It judged a soul and flames would begin to burn the target based of how corrupt that person was.
One was just a blank book while the other was called ‘How to make your first spell’. The fact that they were made of paper showed how much he had spent for all of this. I almost felt bad that I wanted to smack him upside his head with my mace… almost. Sadly, I did not have much time to look them over since I had to get to the gate.
By the time I got there I saw a group of twenty people milling about that were roughly around eighteen. Out of all twenty, only two of them were females. They were all adventurers that had gone into a dungeon and survived. So their experience was better than mine but not by much. Most of them had a nervous look about them. Subtle, but still there. The best way I could describe it is that they looked like they were about to take their finals in college.
My group ended up consisting of three men and a woman. Two of the men looked the same and had thick arms and barrel chests. They kind of looked like burly lumberjacks. Their names were Tom and Jack. The only way could tell them apart was from their scars. Jack’s right arm had a scar that ran from his elbow to his thumb while Tom had a scar on his forehead and right hand. The one on his hand was in the shape of a crescent moon; perhaps an animal bite? They were both mainline fighters. Tom being a brawler type and Jack said he was a finesse fighter. Although I did not think he looked agile enough to be that type.
The other man was tiny and something told me that he was not completely human. It was little things like, his back being bowed and his eyes were a bit too big, that gave me that impression. He had potions and strange gear strapped all over his body. He was called Twist and he said he was a Gadget’eer. Something I had never heard of so I made a mental note to find out more before going into the dungeon.
The woman I found, rather plain looking after hanging out with the nobles, even though she was probably above average by village standards. She had a bow strapped to her back and a short sword on her hip. She was tall, lean and gave short replies. She did not talk much so all I really got was her name, which was Janet and that she was an archer. She did not say what type of archer, though I knew there are variants. Ones like speed, accuracy, spell imbued, bombardment and runic were the ones I knew but there were many others.
When I heard my observers were Bill and James, I let out a sigh of relief. I was in fact worried about either of the two princes being my observer. Lucas, because I did not know what he wanted and Gideon, because I have not figured out how to deprogram myself from the charm magic effect. I did question why there were two and was told that James was there to make sure Bill did his job and not start a fight. I just nodded at that. After spending time with Bill, I knew he was a sweet guy on the inside but, due to his taunt ability being so high, things tended to slip out of his mouth that infuriated people around him. An example was when we were at a picnic and he commented that Bella’s ass was getting bigger when she bent over to get something. It really wasn’t but I knew she was worried about it from prior conversations so it was a sensitive topic. It would be a miracle if those he was observing did not attack him at one point or another.
Everybody loaded their luggage into their assigned carriage and set off once everything was settled. I took off the illusion ring once we set off. I did not want to do it when there was too many people around so I did not remove it prior. But my magic was stronger without it and I did not need my party distracted if I had to remove it mid-battle. It was better to let them get accustomed to my appearance before we were fighting for our lives.
For all my apprehension, they did not react much. Other than Tom sneaking glances from time to time, they didn’t do anything weird and I let out a breath of relief. I was afraid I might charm somebody although it seemed to only work on those with very little or no charm resistance and were attracted to women.
I told them a little about myself and that I was a healer. I then linked, with their approval, everybody to a figure in my display screen so I could monitor them at all times. They knew where we were going. It was a newer dungeon that needed to be explored and if possible destroyed. Some knowledge had been acquired through other explorers, though not much. The first floor was mostly slimes and low level undead making it pretty easy to get through. The second floor was a massive graveyard with much stronger undead and bats. Nobody had gotten through it yet which is not surprising because higher level adventures had to deal with more dangerous dungeons.
The King’s advisor looked down at the silver bowl full of water. Inside a soldiers face could be seen. The water ripped around his face as the soldier spoke. “We located Alice’s parents. They seem to be heading to Endalasia nation should we detain them?”
“No, they are just villagers, just send a spy to keep an eye on them.”
“As you command.”
The water calms and soon, the image fades away. Then he began to tap the bowl while chanting an incantation and after ten minutes the face of Gideon began to appear.
“The favor you asked of me…”
It took us three days on the road. During that I found out that being a gadget’eer was this worlds version of an engineer. They would cobble together weapons and contraptions to survive inside the dungeons. They could do it quickly but their things never seemed to last long. We also talked about how items would be divided since that was standard practice. The normal was an even divide unless certain gear was found that helped a certain class but in this group, Janet got more than the others. They agreed to give me my share based off the normal divide and then they would divide the rest according to their normal policy.
On the third day, we had to leave the carriage and driver and head cross-country. It took another day on foot for us to get to the dungeon. It was not what I was expecting. The entrance was blockaded. Troops were stationed behind dirt mounds and wooden plank walls. It looked like a war was about to be fought. I gave my group a questioning look and Twist replied, “It is always like this. It is to make sure nothing gets out.”
I gave a nod showing that I understood as we made our way to a building set behind the fortifications. There were multiple buildings but the nearest was the one we wanted. The others served as sleep areas and a mess hall. It shouted military barracks if military buildings were made out of logs. We went into the main building to log our arrival and check to see if there was any more information.
We found out that there was two other groups inside at the moment and a third group had died going onto the third floor. The other two teams were now reluctant to go down to the third level and said they would after ‘mapping’ but that did not seem likely from the curses the clerk used to describe them. We were given some more provisions, signed our names into a ‘Book of Life’ and walked to the entrance of the dungeon after making sure all our equipment was where it should be. The Book of Life was a book that you signed using a special quill. The quill used your mana as ink and the “ink” shined in a rainbow hue for seven days or until you died. Whichever came first. That was how they knew that the third party had all died.
This dungeon wasn’t like the ones I had seen before period there was no red haze indicating it was even here. It just looked like a cave. I pulled off my illusion ring that I wore into the camp as we walked into the cave and stuffed it into one of my pouches. I noticed light blue veins in the walls after a few steps. They were hard to notice because they were faint but even so the fact that they pulsed drew my attention. As we continued the veins got brighter and I could see light wisps of blue entering our bodies and I felt like I had an adrenaline rush. I looked around and saw the others shiver just a little.
I heard Tom grumble, “I hate that feeling. Don’t worry girl, you’ll get use tooo… Why the hell are your eyes glowing?!” He was not looking at me in the beginning and only turned to look at me when he was trying to comfort me. Apparently, they did not get the same rush I did upon entering this dungeon and I wondered why. And did he say my eyes were glowing? I fished out a mirror and saw that my blue irises now looked like molten gold. The veins within swirled and moved as if they were tiny rivers. They did seem to glow a little but I found them beautiful to behold.
As for why this happened? I had no idea. I knew they briefly changed whenever I cast but they never stayed that way for long nor were they this bright. I looked around at the others but none of their eyes had changed. Only Bill’s eyes had turned from a light grey to a steely silver but they were not bright just a little more metallic like.
“Ok, that is weird. Bill what’s going… Wait never mind. I don’t feel like being insulted for my stupidity. James what is going on?” I had to ask. I was pretty sure that it was me reacting to the blue wisps that flowed toward me and then vanished as they touched my body. What was curious was the lack of reaction from the others.
“Oh, that’s easy. People get or loose energy when they enter dungeons. You should see a ‘Power Amplification’ on your screen. This is how well you interact with the dungeons energy. Since this is your first time entering a real dungeon your numbers will just reflect your natural ability to syphon some of its energy. You will gain better control as you spend time inside them. Their abilities are around zero to one because they are new so there was no noticeable reaction. Most people are have negative numbers and cannot even enter dungeons for long. They tend to feel fear or dread even getting close to it. While those with positive numbers, but closer to zero, have a creeped out feeling. Since you have had training in the mock dungeons you should have a preliminary number. That should increase because mock dungeons do not use the same type of energy. You should check your status to see where yours is.”
I did what he asked and saw that the Power Amplification x 4 (6 with All Natural Boon) remained the same. Still I was not greedy so I was not upset. I noticed he had not asked for my number so I closed the screen and simply replied, “It stayed the same.” I saw a doubtful look appear on Bill’s face although James’ face remained neutral.
I heard Bill say, “Ok, well you guys can continue and I will follow behind you. Just pretend we aren’t here.” Well I half-heard him since a notification window popped up while he was talking showing ‘Intruders found in dungeon +1 DP Acquired’