Chapter 65 – Mental Connection
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“Hmm, these skeletons really are weak opponents,” said the beanie. “You’ve learned quickly, and they no longer serve any purpose as training partners.”

James heard the beanie’s telepathic communication in his mind, but ignored it - he had to concentrate. A slip could mean death.

James was currently engaged in combat with 3 different skeletons, and was wearing the beanie inside the dungeon, not the training room. This wasn’t the first time, though. Over the two weeks of training he had, his fighting skill and his physical strength had increased greatly. The beanie was a really good teacher and taught him the techniques he needed to know very quickly, while collecting the orbs of defense allowed James to use more and more strength without injuring his own body.

The sound of James’ and the skeletons’ footsteps on the stone floor continued, interrupted only by the scraping of a knife against bone. James was simply practicing with the skeleton. Otherwise, he’d be using the hammer, instead of a knife that could barely even scratch the bone.

Now, he had no problems evading the attacks of the skeletons and thrusting his knife into the would-be vitals of the skeletons, if they had flesh. It didn’t matter what distance he was from them, since he was more agile.

If one could compare the movement of the James from before and the James from now, it would be like the difference between black and white. Before, James had basically just lurched at his opponents using force. His motions contained a lot of unnecessary movements. However, now, James moved with the air of an expert. Every single movement was more firm, more graceful, and had a deep meaning behind it.

“You can stop now, I think,” said the beanie.

James stepped back to buy himself a bit of time, then pulled his hammer out of his item bag. Then, he went to town and produced his favorite sound, breaking bone after bone after bone. 

After the skeletons had been disposed of, James collected the magic stones and took a small water break.

“Yeah, it’s really not worth training on this floor anymore. Except for the boss fight,” said James.

“Do you still have troubles with the tier 2 skeleton?”

“No, not really. I’m able to destroy it without hurting myself now, but I need to charge up a powerful swing, so I have to wait for a really big opening.”

“Then, you should consider moving up.”

“After I farm all of the defense orbs.”

“All of them?” The beanie’s contained a trace of doubt.

James’ dungeon exploration for the last two weeks had been moving at a much slower pace than the maniacal grinding James had done on the 1st and 2nd floor. There had been one main reason for this: the boss fight at the end of the 3rd floor.

For James, this boss had been hard at first. In order to defeat it, James had needed to overexert his body. This was both painful and expensive, since medium tier potions cost a lot of points. Additionally, James had been using magic stones to feed Leo and activate the beanie as well. So, James had alternated between grinding points and practicing on the 2nd floor, and trying to get orbs of defense on the 3rd floor. Only recently had James been able to collect enough defense orbs to be able to kill the boss monster without being injured.

However, although he hadn’t been able to make as much progress in the dungeon as he’d expected, he hadn’t been wasting time. He’d improved his fighting capability by leaps in bounds through skill, not pure stats. His status reflected this:

{James Lu: Dungeon Explorer – Status Monitored

 Cleared 3rd Floor

 Points: 1412

 STR: 59

 DEF: 31

 END: 4

 AGI: 54

 INT: 44

 LUK: 

 Skills: Advanced Knife Throwing, Advanced Knife Combat, Intermediate Spear Combat,
            Intermediate Hammer Combat, Intermediate Close Quarter Combat, Beginner Sword
            Combat, Monster Taming, Mental Connection, Beginner Mana Detection

 Tamed Beasts: Leonardo the Bear (Leo)                                                                                                }

A lot of his combat skills had increased, but he’d also gotten better at sensing mana around him and spotting enemies without seeing them, leading to a new skill in his profile.

He was very curious, though. It appeared that James really had a talent for fighting, as he’d been able to learn how to do so much more quickly than a normal person would. However, what really intrigued him was that he was talented in a whole bunch of fields. He was able to pick up spear techniques, hammer techniques, and close quarter combat, both unarmed and with knives.

Having a talent in maybe one, or maybe two fields would be understandable. But four? James could also tell that it wasn’t actually a single talent in vision or reflexes that carried over to all types of combat. Although, James did have a knack for that as well.

He wasn’t sure what was going on, but James wasn’t complaining. As with a lot of things related to the dungeon, thinking too hard would result in nothing but pain. So, James rubbed his hands together and readied his hammer again.

“Alright, let’s go beat the shit out of that pile of bones. Boss monster or not.”

He pushed open the set of double doors.

========

Crack! Snap!

========

James picked up the magic stone of the boss skeleton and stored it in his bag. It had been an easy win. Compared to James’ skill and speed, the only thing that the skeleton really had was durability, and James had recently  grown durable enough to make it not that big of a deal anymore. The new James had no problem running circles around it, so it wasn’t really a threat to James. That being said, it did take some time for James to whack it enough so that it couldn’t move anymore.

“Well, it appears you have no trouble here whatsoever, which means you can probably clear the next floor without any hassle,” said the beanie. “By the way, what did you mean when you said ‘all of the orbs’?”

James, instead of answering, shot a question back at the beanie. “What did you mean ‘I won’t clear the next floor without any hassle’?”

The beanie paused for a moment. It realized that James knew that there was much more to the beanie than it looked. “It appears that we are both keeping some secrets.”

“Hah, so you finally admitted it openly,” said James. “Yes, I’m also keeping secrets but you are definitely keeping more from me. I don’t even know what you are. I’ve never heard of a beanie that has a person inside of it.”

“Hm, that is true. I am rather special.”

“And there you go again. You keep talking as if you’re some bigshot, someone everybody else has to bow down too.” James stopped. “And the worst part is, with how effectively you’ve taught me how to fight, I’m tempted to believe that it’s not just a case of an inflated ego and overconfidence.” James would have looked the beanie in the eye if he could. “In other words, you’re someone who really deserves respect. Someone who is really that important.”

“...I have my own reasons for hiding things. However, my intentions are not hostile.”

James nodded. “I believe that, at least. Honestly, from the way you talk, I have a picture in my head of what’s going on. I’m just not sure about it, since it sounds so crazy. I believe I know your identity, though. I had a dream about you once, after all.”

“...dream? What dream? I never cast a illusory spell within this dungeon that would pull specific targets into dreams. No I did not,” said the beanie.

“I can’t tell if you’re joking or not. Was that reaction genuine, or was it ironic.”

“Please. People have told me I’m a musclehead, and I probably wasn’t the best analytical thinker out there. But I’m not an idiot. I wouldn’t have survived if I was that stupid, regardless of how powerful I was.”

That made sense to James. He was about to reply when a message was sent to his mind, completely interrupting his train of thoughts. This was because the message was entirely different from the telepathy that the beanie used. It was simply like speaking to a person inside your mind. However, this new signal, despite it being weak, flooded his brain and left him with an empty feeling inside his stomach.

Hungry.

Leonardo the bear was hungry.

The feeling vanished as quick as it came, and James went back to feeling normal.

He was pretty sure that his newfound ability to understand the feelings of his tamed bear was a result of the skill “Mental Connection”. He wondered if the skill had been in part accelerated by him receiving the telepathic communications. 

James sighed, summoned Leo from his dungeon card, and fed him a few magic stones. He couldn’t help but smile as the little ursine clambered around on his lap, chewing on its favorite snack. It was just too adorable.

“Hm? A tamed beast? How peculiar. How did you get it?” The beanie seemed to be interested in the bear.

“It was a regular bear that was exposed to mana. Apparently, I fed it a magic stone, and ever since, it’s been following me around.”

“Regular bear that was exposed to mana…”The beanie mused over the idea. “Wait, what do you mean apparently?”

“Actually, that’s what someone who was with me at the time told me. I was delirious when it happened, almost dead. It was before I got you. As matter of fact, you could say that it was because of this that I met you.”

“Pardon?”

“I protected a bunch of people from a demonized bear and came very close to death,” James said. “But, in exchange for my virtuous deeds, I got a knitted wool cap that talks to me. Totally worth it, in my opinion.”

“Ah, that’s right. I do remember implementing a sort filtering function...” The beanie trailed off. James knew it was probably trying to spite him, but his blood pressure rose anyways. He calmed himself down, then stood up.

“Well, it’s about time for me to go.”

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