Level 47 Dark Forest
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Niko took a deep breath before she asked, "How much would it cost to commission some specialized tools from you? And, could I buy your services to work on a weapon with me?" 

Although Rydr didn't know what to expect, it wasn't that. 

He answered honestly, "I'm not certain how much I'll charge. I still need to gather some materials before I can begin. What type of weapon is it?"

Nike bounced a little, beaming, "A pair of handguns! IRL, I support myself as Living History, a gunsmith." She wore a few other titles from other professions, but Niko felt no need to overshare more than she had.

The girl continued, "Plus, if you really want to make wootz steel, you're going to need vanadium, right?"

Rydr blinked, impressed that she knew about the mineral component of the extinct metal. He nodded at her, growing excited about the conversation.

"What if I helped you get it? You'll need to get to the mine outside Grotto, and with night falling, one more person could help." Niko let her thoughts gush out, wanting to say everything before the seemingly surly Titan turned her down.

Rydr asked, "Quick question. Do we need to sleep?" This was the Titan's first nightfall within the game, so he wasn't aware of some things.

Niko frowned, confused, before she said, "As far as anyone can tell? No. It looks like it's more of a voluntary thing. I think spells or poisons can knock us out, though." The girl smiled again, not that she'd ever stopped smiling. It was her passive state.

"Are you trying to make black powder for the guns?" Rydr switched back to the original subject after his question was answered.

Niko shook her head, "I need some land to make black powder efficiently, and only nobles can own land. I plan to make single-propellant nitrocellulose."

"Gun-cotton?" 

"And a few others. I want to try different things and figure out what would combine best with the magic application." 

Rydr raised his eyebrows, "You're trying to make, what, magitech guns?" He liked the idea. 

Niko just beamed at him, nodding.

The giant waved Syrna over to their little group and explained their conversation. After the archer listened quietly for a while, she nodded.

"That sounds cool, and I might be able to use some of it for myself. Have you thought about casting magic on the bullets themselves?" Syrna's mind was on her own goals as well. 

The brunette nodded, "I have. I want to design a concurrent casting system. The idea is one, big spell, combining the layered effects of multiple spells, or the same one compounded." 

"That would be in addition to weapon enchantments, bullet enchantments, and maybe even propellant enchantments...when I get good at it." Niko failed to add that she had a peculiar build in mind for her stats. 

The young woman planned an even split between Dexterity and Wisdom, with the emphasis on the latter. Because of her steady income, she had the money to buy the more detailed information from the Testers Guild.

Specifically for Wisdom.

Niko learned that Wisdom, aside from increasing her mana pool, had a few auxiliary effects. The brunette pulled up the information, absently listening to Rydr and Syrna talked about enchanting ideas.

The Testers Guild even color-coded the data as if it were a game notification.

WISDOM: Hidden Modifiers Per Point

·       +10 Mana Accrued

·       .2 Mana Regen Per Second

·       .1 Magic Damage Reduction

§  MDR: 1 point of MDR will reduce incoming magic damage by an equivalent amount.

·       .1 Will Stat Accrued

§  Will: Requires further testing. Influence over mana?

·       .1% Cast Speed

§  Insta-Casting: Combined with Spell Mastery, it will be possible to achieve Insta-Casting with channeled and concentration-type spells.

For now, Niko would have to be satisfied with building her guns and crafting bullets. Anything further required magic, for which she only had one spell, [Accelerate]. 

A quest from an old archer awarded the spell to Niko. The NPC used it to hasten his arrows for increased penetration. 

Although it was her only spell, Niko spent the last two days doing nothing else. She cast the spell as often as her mana allowed, attempting to feel how the spell functioned and achieve better results.

So far, her determination allowed her to reach Journeyman Level 5 with the spell. She also gained the [Third Eye] and [Multi-Casting] feats. 

Unkown to Rydr, Niko was one of the two divers who beat him to the [Multi-casting] feat, thereby getting a higher rarity. 

In conjunction with Niko's Dexterity stat, she could call herself the fastest diver in the game for ten minutes at a time- longer if she kept casting the spell. 

If Hermes knew, he was liable to start running laps around the town to increase his Dexterity instead of heading out with the group.

By the time Niko looked up again, the rest of Rydr's party was there. 

Rydr gathered his purchase from Shae and put it in his inventory. Syrna used the opportunity to buy several materials from the woman, using Rydr to translate some of the ingredients' names. 

The team quietly discussed their plans before they agreed and turned to face Niko.

"Since Travelers don't have to sleep, we are going to the mines. I need vanadium, and we agree that someone needs to check on the goblin clan." Rydr's tendency to speak with his hands surfaced as he gesticulated while speaking.

Urginok added, "Since everyone has been trapped inside Grotto, the goblins have been undisturbed. They were already the strongest monsters in the area, and the Wellspring has had four days to buff their levels." 

Hermes shuddered, "We might be up against a hobgoblin clan, now." The teen spent several hours running around in the mine to get away from them. 

Syrna nodded and looked at the other girl in the group, "Are you still down to come with us to the mines?"

Niko snorted, "Hell yes." 

*****

Rydr's party wasted no time leaving town. As soon as they agreed on a course of action, they left Shae's store alongside Niko and walked to the city's Eastside. At the gate, Della glared daggers at Rydr's back as he left through the gate under her command.

When she approached the giant, Rydr spoke without looking at her, "We're scouting the goblin clan, unless you'd like them to invade the village unimpeded?" 

Della stopped in her tracks and glared death at the Titan, clenching her fists.

Without a response from the guardswoman, Rydr and his team exited through the East gate, letting the guards close it behind them.

A deep gloom fell over the forest as they trekked through it. Combined with the monstrous trees, the forest floor was pitch black. 

Syrna pulled out a pair of torches, handing one to Rydr and another to Hermes before lighting them with her flint&steel. 

The torch flared to life in Rydr's hand as he raised it above his head. The height provided ample illumination all around the colossus. As they progressed forward, the group surrounded the giant, who acted as a lamp post.

Through some nonverbal agreement, the party traveled in silence, listening to the forest around them.

Without discussing it, Rydr and Syrna occasionally activated their [Eyes] to peer past the circle of light into the dark forest.

Syrna's world lit up with the colors of natural mana. Everywhere she looked, the night glowed as if she walked on a fairy world. Within the mana around her, faint runes glimmered and vanished before she could grasp them.

Rydr's vision allowed him to see the mana, but it was muted compared to the Aether around him. To the Titan, the world was on fire with red everywhere he looked. Above his head, the tree crowns glittered with red, twinkling Aether. Beneath the ground, Aether filled the roots, bugs, and little rodents sleeping in their burrows. 

If the colossus concentrated, he could peer past the curtain of red nearest him like a strange X-ray vision. Far in the distance, Rydr watched a pack of wolves bring a goblin to the ground, tearing into it. 

There were only three, but they were around the same size as the [Alpha Wolf] Rydr's team fought on launch night. 

An idea occurred to him, forcing Rydr to stop and explain what he'd seen to his team.

He turned to Syrna, "Do you think you could learn some goblin-tongue if we captured it?" 

Syrna nodded without hesitation, "If we just let it insult us for a while, I'll be able to throw those back at it. The more it talks, the more I'll learn. I began to figure it out in the mines, but..." The archer shrugged. They hadn't been back to the mines for her to learn more yet.

"Then let's hurry." Rydr turned and led his team toward the monster's fight. 

It already occurred to the team, but the elemental's previous dominance throughout the forest produce an unexpected gift.

All the plants and choking undergrowth which tore at them before was nowhere to be seen. Those little plants were killed by the plant elemental on its path of aggressive evolution. 

The result was a baren forest floor, broken only by the mammoth trees feeding on the Wellspring's mana. Enormous root systems combined in sections of the forest so that the team never stepped foot on actual dirt.

Rydr was grateful that the nearest branches were now far out of reach, even if he extended the torch over his head. 

Within a couple of minutes, the team heard the snarling wolves amidst the high-pitched squeals of their victim. While everyone was more than willing to let the beasts devour the runty monster, they had a purpose for it.

Niko activated her multicast [Accelerate], willingly draining her huge mana pool to buff the entire team. A notice appeared in front of each of them.

[Accelerate] x3

·       +45% Movement Speed

·       Duration: 10 Minutes

Rydr took a leaf from her book and tapped the others on their backs, layering his spells together to min-max the Strength-focused [Reinforcement]. (AN: min-max = minimum effort - maximum results.)

A new notice appeared in front of his teammates.

[Reinforcement] (Strength) x2.5

·       +42.5% Strength

·       Duration: 10 Minutes

Although Rydr never realized it, his spells lost some of their potency when he cast them on the others. Nonetheless, everyone blinked in amazement at the ridiculous buffs they received.

Even though the wolves were near enough to overhear them, Hermes could help but croon, "Oooh, Mama. Game on." 

Without another word, Hermes pulled a dirk out of his inventory and streaked forward. 

Even to Rydr's [Aetheric Eye], the teen's energy was a scant blur across the ground before the mass of energy was already on the wolve's opposite side.

At the same time, a loud, wet crunch met the team's ears before an enormous damage number appeared over the wolves.

*FATAL CRIT -2,675*

A stunned silence filled their section of the forest as the team watched the wolf nearest to them fall over on its side. Hermes' weapon, the dirk he pulled out, was buried in the monster's skull past the hilt. 

From what Rydr's vision could detect, it looked like Hermes struck the monster so hard and fast that he not only pierced its brain but also caved in part of its skull. 

On the other side of the small clearing, Hermes finished rolling to a stop, holding his mangled hand. Another damage notice bloomed over the teen's head. 

*HP -35*

Despite the insane damage Hermes dealt to the beast, coupled with an inst-kill, the attack backfired on him. He arrived at the monster's side too fast to react and merely braced his dirk before colliding with the beast.

As a result, the teen lost a third of his health because of his own attack. 

Before the other wolves disengaged with the goblin, the rest of Rydr's party hurled themselves forward.

Syrna pulled her drawstring back and loosed an arrow at the wolf closer to Hermes. 

Niko accelerated ahead of the team, pulling a shortsword from her inventory and strafing behind one of the wolves to slash at its hind legs. 

Rydr followed right behind her, choosing to attack the same wolf. Caught off guard by his new speed, the Titan forced himself to change pace at the last second and delivered a fierce kick to the wolf's ribs.

The Titan was acutely aware of the beast's bones breaking against the top of his foot as the monster was ripped away from its goblinoid prize. A strangled yelp came from the wolf as it flew through the air and into the tree behind Hermes before falling to the ground.

*CRIT -90*

*FATAL CRIT -142*

Rydr sped past, barely performing a hop-and-skip over the remaining wolf as he barrelled by it. An instant later, and the Titan was on top of Hermes. 

Panicked, Rydr set his eyes on the struggling wolf behind the teen and lightly jumped over his head.

A moment later, the colossus came down on the wolf's broken ribs with both feet, feeling them sink into its chest cavity as he crushed it against the tree trunk.

Rydr kicked off the tree and performed a quick backflip, landing on his feet. Against the tree, a gout of blood spewed from the wolf's mouth as its broken ribs pierced its lungs before getting crushed like a grape. 

*FATAL CRIT -2,443*

Behind the Titan, Niko and Urginok engaged with the final wolf, which still reeled from Syrna's arrow. 

Like a hammer and nail, Urginok swung wide with his war-hammer, catching the back of Syrna's arrow and forcing it into the wolf's skull deeper. 

Syrna fired off [Double-Shot], targeting the goblin underneath the pile of violence, and pinned the monster's arm and a leg to the ground.

Still, Niko stabbed forward with her blade behind the wolf, mangling the monster's back legs. The girl's attacks came faster than the eye could see, peppering the wolf with holes.

Damage numbers floated above the beast's head too fast to keep track of as the three divers attacked the wolf from all directions, killing it in short order. 

Despite the level gap between the team and the monsters, the whole fight lasted less than thirty seconds. 

The goblin underneath the wolf rolled its corpse off it as Rydr, and his team surrounded it. Hermes stood beside the Titan, shaking his injured and as his health regeneration slowly repaired it.

Scared and angry, the goblin screamed at them in its native tongue, trying to pull out the arrows, pinning them to the ground.

Syrna stepped forward and crushed the goblin's free wrist under her foot. 

"Now, you're going to betray your race for me." 

 

AN:

Thank you for reading the latest chapter! If you see a typo, let me know ASAP~

Perhaps the team should practice first?

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