Editors: Templar, Jack Vanatis, genericIntent
Author’s notes: Third chapter, three more to go. Also, skill books are dropped by enemies, this was changed in earlier chapters and included in the book, so I’m letting you know this now in case it comes up(I’m pretty sure it does). Skill books also come with descriptions!
The player stats screen is the final design that was used throughout the book. I didn’t wrap the text as I don’t like how wordpress makes it appear. Keeping each skill on a single line is more approachable, and for anyone who wants to read every skill, you will need to scroll right at those points.
Chapter 20 – Fall
During the first week of back at Bluemist Academy, the class 4 teacher, Mr. River, takes all the students to the gym. Regal’s first thought is that they are going to be dueling with class 1, as Mr. Razor and all his students arrive there as well. This is the common thought of many of the students from both classes, but most change their mind after seeing there is a long table covered by various sized stacks of countless different skill books.
Mr. Razor clears his throat and explains to the students, “Class 1 and Class 4, welcome back to the academy for your second year. When you began studying last year, you were initially given four skill books to go along with your studies. As second years, you are entitled to another one.”
“On the table behind us are stacks of many different martial and alchemy skill books of all kinds. Proficiency skills, martial skills revolving around special attacks, movement techniques, alchemy books of all the elements, they are all there. There are only a limited number of each though, so it is first come, first served on the books. We,” Mr. Razor glances at Mr. River helplessly, “no, I, will call out groups of three to go choose so we avoid everyone rushing in to go first.”
“Remember, you are only permitted to choose one. The biggest stack there is the skill books for ‘Rifle Proficiency’, which you must be level 5 to learn. If there is anyone who wishes to learn this, or any other skill, and isn’t a high enough level, you may hold the skill book in your inventory until you can.”
“Now, the first group to go up will be the participants in last year’s inter-academy tournament. Lawe, Regal, Hazel, that would be you.”
Regal walks out as the other students make way for the three of them. He approaches and stands in front of the table under the guidance of Mr. Razor. His teacher, Mr. River, sits in a chair behind the desk and only motions with his arm across the skill books.
On the cover of each skill book, the title is printed so it is easier to see what each one is, and decide on which one to take. Regal notices that the martial books are on the left while the alchemy skill books are on the right. He is more interested in the martial books, so he moves to the left hand side of the long table.
Regal glances over the title of each skill book and takes note of several familiar titles from his studies in the library, but most are unfamiliar to him. There are skill books for ‘Golden Hawk Eyes’, ‘Hundred Lotus Flower Sword Arts’, ‘Wind Walk’, and many others. What grabs Regal’s attention however, is a stack of four skill books named, ‘Shadow Step’.
He picks up the book and inspects it.
Shadow Step The ability to merge with shadows and move about stealthily. A true ‘Shadow Step’ master is capable of becoming one with the shadows, or stepping into his own shadow to disappear, even in the middle of the day. Requirements: ~ Lvl 5 ~ Agi 20 ~ Dex 15
Regal’s greatest weakness is his lack of combat potential, so a skill that could ensure his safety is of great importance to him. Not only can ‘Shadow Step’ be used to ambush enemies, it can become a skill excelling at escape once trained to a certain level.
Choosing this skill book, Regal quickly places it in his inventory before returning to where his friends are. They begin talking about Regal’s skill book and deciding which ones they want to choose.
Veronica is the first to state that she will choose ‘Rifle Proficiency’, preparing for when she can use her new weapon. Kilde and Piora also choose movement martial skills, but those skills are highly popular with the students and only a few select choices are available when it is their turn to choose. Kilde chooses ‘Wind Walk’, while Piora finds a skill called ‘Lightning Fox Dash’.
Astore is the only one to choose an alchemy skill. His reasoning shocks them all when he tells them that ‘Vigorous Earth Alchemy’ has already been mastered while ‘Ice Heart Alchemy’ is in the eighth tier, so he needs another skill to focus his training on. He chooses another earth element alchemy called ‘Tectonic Quakes Alchemy’.
Once everyone is done choosing their skills, it is time for lunch. Most of the students don’t meet the requirements to learn their new skills, but the ones who can spend lunch showing them off in the field the students play in.
Just like that, Regal’s second year begins and his schedule returns to the familiar pattern he was used to from his first year at Bluemist Academy.
A month into his second year, he finally masters ‘Cooking – Beginner’ and thoroughly shocks Sampson. The head chef ends up giving Regal two gifts for mastering the skill: The skill book ‘Cooking – Intermediate’, and a silver box containing jars of 36 different herbs and spices, including two large ones for salt and pepper.
Once Regal masters the beginner stage of cooking, Sampson notifies Tanner who immediately comes to the store with a grin that made the enormous man look like a cruel ogre. He proudly takes Regal away from the restaurant with little time for farewells and brings him to a new store, called ‘Florence le Cuir’.
Regal asks him what this is, and Tanner tells him it is an acquaintance’s leather craft store. He takes Regal inside and introduces him to Florence, a beautiful middle aged woman with wavy golden hair. This is where Regal is taught ‘Tailoring – Beginner’, learning how to not only make clothing, but also leather armor and other items.
It is also around this time that Regal reaches level 5 in Theore Substructure and can finally learn both ‘Mining’ and ‘Shadow Step’. The Tier 1 Divine Art of ‘Mining’ is called ‘Ore Repository’, which rather than being something to store ores as the name suggests, imparts to him the basic knowledge of where to look for various ores and the correct way to mine them. It also grants him a proficiency and bonus when mining, producing twice the results with half the effort compared to someone digging without the skill.
‘Shadow Step’ has three different branches in movement techniques, leaving Regal indecisive for an entire day about which one to choose.
Shadow Step: (Tier 1) Shadow Dash – Borrow the force from the user’s shadow for a short burst in speed. The user’s shadow must be behind them to use this skill. Shadow Dash Cost: 10 stamina (Tier 1) Shadow Presence – Camouflages the user’s presence so unsuspecting enemies do not notice them. Can only be used from within a shadow and dispelled when leaving it. Shadow Presence Cost: 25 stamina Duration: 5 minutes (Tier 1) Shadow Ambush – Travel through the shadows to appear from within the target’s shadow. Shadow Ambush Cost: 20 stamina
Regal eventually chooses ‘Shadow Dash’ after researching what he could of the skill. The first skill path in ‘Shadow Step’ is the best skill that can be used to flee and attack depending on the situation, even if each skill is limited to particular situations.
Regal slowly becomes accustomed to the new Divine Art while testing it in the public training hall.
He can only do a forward dash away from his shadow, but surprisingly, his speed doubles when he does. As he runs forward, his shadow seems to push his feet forward at the same time, giving him the speed of two Regals. From behind him, he actually breaks away from his shadow during the dash, for about forty feet until his shadow catches up and reconnects with him.
His only problem is that he can’t practice ‘Mining’. From the knowledge granted by the skill, he knows there are no places within Grand City Theore, and none that are very close to the city either.
Regal decides to not worry about his ‘Mining’ skill until after graduation, when he can freely leave the city and explore the wilderness. He spends his time focusing on training his other skills, along with the new ‘Shadow Dash’.
It only takes Regal three months to master ‘Tailoring – Beginner’, much to the delight of Florence, who takes a liking to the young student and tries to force him to keep working for her. She even attempts to prevent Regal from going home after he masters ‘Tailoring – Beginner’, and would have succeeded if Tanner had not arrived to take Regal over to another ‘friend’ of his.
Two more years passed in a steady fashion. Regal was introduced to many different places, learning the crafting and miscellaneous skills ‘Carpentry – Beginner’, ‘Herbalism’, ‘Compounding – Beginner’, ‘Sculpting’, ‘Jewelcraft’, and finally ‘Farming’. Regal often wondered who Tanner is, to know so many people, but as far as Regal knows, Tanner is only a simple blacksmith. His only conclusion is that Tanner was once a strong hunter who made many friends before settling down in a smithy.
Regal is now in the middle of his fourth and final year of at the academy. His height and stature, along with all the other students, has grown to that of an adult’s. Regal stands an inch shy of six feet, one of the taller students in class. His closest friend and the woman he is in love with, Veronica, is only slightly shorter than him, but has developed into a stunning beauty that causes the other mature male students to look longingly at her, despite her being a soulless.
Veronica’s amber hair is still a bit wild, but a handful of metal clips the color of rust are much better at holding it in place than they used to be. Her face has become more refined and her gaze clearer. Her body has matured as her hips have grown curvier and her chest has developed a bust that very few of the other female students can rival.
She is always seen with Regal, often holding his arm or hand, and is publicly acknowledged to be his girlfriend, even if they never have actually kissed before. Despite this, there are still some students who manage to find Veronica when she isn’t with Regal and confess their love for her. Every single person received the same emotionless response of, “I have no interest in love,” which even caused Regal’s chest to ache.
Another relationship that all the students like to talk about is Hazel, one of the queens of the Bluemist Academy with light blue hair that flows like water. She and Lawe from class 1 started a relationship early on in their second year, and have been together ever since.
While Hazel exudes a womanly charm almost equal to Veronica, Piora has become more tomboyish over the years. Her hair is cut to her shoulders, and many adornments decorate it. Her hips are still straight and the growth in her chest is insignificant, but she is still a charming girl that holds the hearts of a significant group of men in the academy.
Regal knows her much better than them and often calls her a brute, as she often uses her bare fists or knife on him whenever she is displeased or angry. Despite this, she is still a considerate person who possibly cares for others the most out of his entire squad, despite her having an explosive temper that would seem to tell Regal otherwise.
Astore has grown the tallest, standing half a head taller than Regal. Kilde on the other hand is skinnier and shorter than him, always wearing a brown aviator hat that he has become increasingly fond of.
In addition to size, Regal has also grown in stats. He has reached level 9, with 93 percent toward level 10 – the level required upon graduation to become a full hunter.
Regal’s stats increased in leaps and bounds from all the passive Divine Arts his crafting and miscellaneous skills have given him, reaching almost double the base stats most of the other students have. His martial and alchemy skills on the other hand have stagnated in the sixth tier, unable to reach the seventh.
Name: Regal Havier Age: 17 Level: 9 Nxt Level: 93% Health: 426/426 Mana: 313/313 Stamina: 157/157 Class: None Str: 45 Dex: 49 Agi: 36 End: 37 Int: 29 Lck: 16 Martial Skills: Combat Knife Proficiency - Lv. 51 - 6th Tier (Twin Thrust, Parry, Armor Pierce) Revolver Proficiency - Lv. 50 - 6th Tier (Curve, Target Lock, Tracing Bullet) Shadow Step - Lv. 53 - 6th Tier (Shadow Dash, Dark Evasion, Moonlight Wisp) Alchemy Skills: Flame Forge Alchemy - Lv. 56 - 6th Tier (Radiant Flame, Radiant Enchant, Warmth, Mana Flame) Ice Heart Alchemy - Lv. 53 - 6th Tier (Ice Bullet, Frost Fog, Chill, Heavy Ice Bullet) Vigorous Earth Alchemy - Lv. 53 - 6th Tier (Stone Skin, Heavy Step, Vitality Aura) Lightning Finger Alchemy - Lv. 45 - 5th Tier (Lightning Thrust, Thunder Cage, Paralyze) Crafting Skills: Carpentry: Beginner - Lv. 100 - Mastered 11th Tier (Beginner Constructing, Plan Projection, Third Hand, Over-Tier: Overwhelming Strength) Cartography - Lv. 100 - Mastered 11th Tier (Mind Projection, Erase, Mental Mapping, Over-Tier: Automap) Compounding: Beginner - Lv. 100 - Mastered 11th Tier (Beginner Medical Arts, Enhance, Beginner Poison Arts, Over-Tier: Recovery Aura) Cooking: Beginner - Lv. 100 - Mastered 11th Tier (Aroma Sense, Butchering, Beginner Recipe Arts, Over-Tier: Hundred Knives) Forging: Beginner - Lv. 100 - Mastered 11th Tier (Smelting, Molding, Beginner Guncraft, Over-Tier: Repair Aura) Tailoring: Beginner - Lv. 100 - Mastered 11th Tier (Tanning, Beginner Stitching, Dyeing, Over-Tier: Earth Stitch) Misc Skills: Farming - Lv. 78 - 8th Tier (Cultivate, Harvest, Mana Nurture) Future Sight - Lv.100 - Mastered 11th Tier (Foresight) Herbalism - Lv. 55 - 6th Tier (Identify, Collection) Mining - Lv. 1 - 1st Tier (Ore Repository) Passive Buffs: ~ +8% Attack Speed ~ +5% Evasion Rate ~ +2% chance of Magic damage nullification ~ +10% reduction to Dark element damage
Even though Regal has steadily been growing stronger and his stats have been rising above the other students in leaps and bounds, he didn’t participate in the second and third year inter-academy tournaments. Rather, he asked Piora to take his place.
After making sure to craft Piora some rare-grade leather armor suited just for her fighting style, she shone like a bright star in the tournament thanks to Regal’s equipment crafting skills. Piora managed to finish at rank 55 the second year, and rank 31 the third.
Piora was the one to leak the news that Regal was the one who crafted all their equipment, and at one point there were over a hundred requests for weapons from other students. Of course, he declined these requests and told the students that he doesn’t have time to fulfill them, remaining polite the entire time.
Regal has been busy for the past two years; his time spent training his skills, helping his squad members, and spending time with Veronica. He has also asked Veronica out on a date four times, and to be his girlfriend on three more occasions. He understands the others’ pain when asking her out because he himself got the same answer, that she isn’t interested in love, every time. Despite this, she still remains attached to Regal so he can only helplessly cling to his feelings.
“I’m sorry, I can’t go in with you,” Piora says apologetically while Regal and the rest of his squad are gathered outside Theore Substructure along with the rest of Bluemist Academy.
Regal looks at her and says with an understanding tone, “Because you are level 10, right?”
“Don’t worry about it. We will be fine with one less brute anyway,” Regal chuckles while dodging Piora’s fist. “You are so small, yet you swing those things around like hammers!”
“Shut up!” Piora’s hair bobs up and down as she continuously tries to hit Regal.
“There is no need to be sorry anymore, now is there? We should be out by a little before midnight so why don’t you meet us then?”
“Who would be sorry for you?!” Piora storms away while Regal just smiles at her back.
He soon turns around and leads the rest of the squad into the clocktower and descends into the dungeon.
As Regal’s squad enters the main entrance room of Theore Substructure, they take their time to choose a pathway. There is no fear from other students ambushing them like three years ago as everyone holds Regal in much higher regard thanks to his crafting skills.
Regal chooses a path at the far end of the tunnel, his squad moving at a quick pace as they explore the first level to find the path down. Some rats climb out between the pipes on the walls, but two or three bullets hit in unison as soon as they appear and kill them. Regal’s squad has been working together for three years now, they are capable of working as a team even if no words are said.
It takes the squad almost an hour before they finally locate the stairs down to the second level. All the rats in the room are already dead, showing that another squad has passed through recently.
On the second floor, a few Frostbite Wolves are lying dead on the ground. Their ears aren’t taken, showing that whoever passed through was in a hurry. Most squads won’t bother to take the ears of the Frostbite Wolves unless they are the largest, level 5 wolves. This is because now all the squads are heading for the third floor to collect the ears of Serf, the goblin like creatures who give the most experience and whose ears are worth the most points.
The rush to the third floor that all the squads are taking part in isn’t because being first will give that squad an advantage, but because of a friendly competition amongst the academy’s different squads. There is no reward for being first, but everyone still participates in the contest of who is the quickest. The winning squad usually boasts about their victory for the next few days and garners some respect from the other students, but that is all they receive.
Regal hears the sound of footsteps from above as another squad is rushing to the third floor to get a head start on the others. He silently signals for his squad to leave and they disappear into one of the tunnels just as the new squad arrives.
“Looks like we aren’t first,” the female student Sare Yuler says to Hazel Marquis as they step onto the second floor.
Hazel looks around at the room before nodding her head and saying with a sigh, “Indeed, but that doesn’t matter. We found the stairs quite early so we still have a chance to be the first onto the third floor. I can’t believe I let that Piora be the first to reach level 10. I am so close, yet she beat me.”
“I heard it’s because of the weapons Regal Havier made for his squad. They’ve been killing the most enemies for a while now. We should get him to make us some weapons too.”
“Why would I want him to do that? Besides, he never accepts requests from anyone.”
Lawe is also in Hazel’s party, and speaks to her sweetly, “I am the number one student in Bluemist Academy. My rating in the inter-academy tournament was even higher than Piora in the last tournament. Why don’t I go ask him to make one for you? Surely he would be respectful enough to help me out a little.”
“No, I do not want charity from some boy, especially some strange Soulless. My weapon is fine, it is a rare grade pistol that cost quite a lot. I also focus on alchemy more than anything so even if he could create something better, which he can’t, it would be meaningless.”
“If my darling says so,” Lawe places one arm around Hazel’s waist and pulls her close, causing her to turn bashful.
As the couple lean in for a kiss, Min Triss and Sare Yuler, Hazel’s other squad members, turn around and let out a groan as if this is something that annoys them.
Unbeknownst Hazel’s group, Regal is leading his party on a mad hunt to find the stairs to the third floor before anyone else. Ahead of them, a troop of four wolves walks around a corner and blocks their path. Three of them are standard level 5 Frostbite Wolves, while the last one is a variant Thunderfrost Wolf.
“Veronica, slow them down. Astore, use your heaviest attacks on them. Kilde draw your knife for when we reach them,” Regal says as he draws his revolver and starts firing at the wolves while they continue to advance.
Per his orders, Veronica casts the wind element Tier 6 Divine Art ‘Severing Wind Dance’. The pentagonal alchemy formula in front of her lights up with a mysterious hue as blades of wind whistle through the narrow tunnel and entangle all the wolves, cutting into them and draining their health at the same time.
Astore uses an earth element Tier 8 Divine Art ‘Stone Death’, creating a heavy barrage of fist sized stones against the wolves who are practically sitting ducks. The wolves are crushed under the stones that are as numerous as rain, with only the Thunderfrost Wolf surviving.
At this moment, Regal’s squad reaches the spot where the final wolf is standing. Kilde moves ahead of the squad with his knife drawn back. His blade glows red and leaves a bloody trail as he uses a martial Tier 7 Divine Art ‘Severing Slash’, cutting through the wolf’s neck and decapitating it upon death.
Regal and his squad don’t stop moving but continue to rush through the tunnel at the same fast pace as they were before. From the beginning till the end, the four wolves didn’t slow down these students at all.
After only half an hour Regal comes across the room with the staircase descending to the third floor. He isn’t the only one here, as Hazel and her squad have already found it and are fighting the Frostbite Wolves in the room.
“Why do you need to be first?” Veronica asks quietly from beside Regal.
“What do you mean? This is the competition we all take part in, to be first,” Regal whispers back to her.
“I know, but I don’t understand why. There is nothing to gain from being first, and there is nothing to lose if you are not.”
“If you come on a date with me tonight, I will tell you why.”
“I’m sorry, I have no interest in love.”
She doesn’t look sorry at all, and only stating her rejection as a matter of fact. Perhaps it is because she has turned Regal down so many times, but it doesn’t sting much anymore.
“…I figured. Well, there is no reason to this competition. It was only a few squads that started it first, but then everyone began joining in. Think of it as a tradition in the figurative sense.”
Veronica seems confused, but doesn’t question it anymore. Rather, she asks, “Should we not hurry before Hazel’s squad reaches it?”
“They are still battling the Frostbite Wolves and the variants in the room. We just have to wait a bit and… Now! Let’s charge through now!”
Regal leads his squad to charge through the Frostbite Wolves which have now thinned in numbers. Another squad was also apparently waiting for this moment, as they charge for the stairs from the other side of the room at the same time.
Hazel sees Regal’s and the other squad charging for the exit and furiously shouts, “That’s cheating! How dare you!”
Without warning, a clear blue alchemy construct appears in front of Hazel like a shining star. The formula and sigils overflow from the five pointed star and signal that it is an Over-Tier Divine Art.
The alchemy Divine Art ‘Tide Apocalypse’ is cast in a room only eighty feet wide and long. A monstrous amount of water is summoned at the expense of a lot of Hazel’s mana, flooding through the room towards the two squads.
“Regal, you go first and leave the sign. Only you are fast enough to get to the stairs before the attack hits us. We will be down there shortly,” Veronica says quickly after analysing the situation.
Not refuting her, Regal increases his running speed and dashes for the stairs, leaping over the Frostbite Wolves in the way. He normally runs much slower so the rest of the squad can keep up with him, but when it is him alone, his speed can increase greatly.
Regal dives down the stairs, stumbling and falling, moments before the water washes all the wolves and students away, some of it flowing down the stairs and causing Regal to stumble down further toward the third level. If there was a light source in front of Regal when he was running he could have used ‘Shadow Dash’ to double his speed and easily reach the stairs, but unfortunately the limitations of the Divine Art didn’t allow him to use it at that time.
Climbing to his feet and descending the rest of the stairs, Regal arrives at the third floor to find it completely empty. No enemies, and no flag from another squad. Feeling proud of himself, he takes his time to take out the prepared flag and prop it up through the steel grate floor. The flag is a cheap stick with a parchment attached to the top that says Regal’s Squad.
A minute or two after Regal places the flag down, Hazel descends in a flurry with the rest of Regal’s squad and the other squad just behind. Seeing Regal standing there proudly with his flag, the two squads adopt sour expressions.
Lawe looks like he is about to attack Regal, but Hazel drags him away with the rest of her squad. It is only a friendly competition after all, and isn’t worth someone fighting to the death over. There is always next time for Hazel, and she is unlikely to make the mistake of leaving the stairs open for someone to charge in again.
The other party gives Regal wry smiles before also heading off, only saying words of greeting and farewell.
Only Veronica, Kilde and Astore are left in the entrance room with Regal. He is satisfied after leaving the flag there, even if his Soulless squad members are indifferent.
Regal leads his squad out of the entrance room and into one of the paths leading away. The third floor is the largest, and final, floor of Theore Substructure so it doesn’t matter which direction they go. It looks similar to the second floor, only the paths are a bit wider and taller, and it is a bit colder too.
There are also a lot of locations known as shafts. Regal enters one of them very soon after leaving the entrance room, not encountering a single Serf along the way.
The shafts are cylindrical rooms about two hundred feet in diameter. A few enormous pipes travel across what seems to be a bottomless pit of darkness and form the walkways for students to cross the shaft on. These are dangerous rooms where falling off the pipe means falling to death, as many students have learned.
Regal cautiously leads his squad to the other side of the shaft without any Serf coming out and breathes a sigh of relief.
Further down the path a group of three Serf appears. They are short in stature, only four to five feet tall, with sickly green skin that seems to be diseased. Two of them wield iron axes while the other has a bow.
Unlike earlier when Regal’s squad bore no expense of mana to ensure they reached the third floor first, now they are cautious with the energy spent over killing each enemy.
The two axe wielding Serf charge forward as soon as they see Regal’s squad while the bow wielding one fires two arrows. One of the arrows hits Regal’s shoulder, doing thirty points of damage, a little less than ten percent of his health thanks to his ridiculously high total.
Veronica uses a Tier 5 Divine Art, ‘Frozen Synapse’, on the bow wielding enemy. It is a control skill that can be used on a single enemy to temporarily rob them of consciousness. She then uses a Tier 4 Divine Art to slow the remaining enemies’ movements before raising her rifle to shoot heavy bullets at them.
Regal, Kilde and Astore save their mana and attack with their revolvers while Veronica’s rifle bullets further slow them down with their slight knockback effect. By the time the axe wielding Serf near the squad, they have less than half their health left and Astore begins using his alchemy.
Astore uses an earth element Tier 4 Divine Art, ‘Stone Spear Array’, erecting multiple spears from the ground to use the enemies’ own momentum against them. It only takes a moment for the Serf to free themselves of the spears however, and the bow wielding Serf also wakes up.
Regal and Kilde both charge at the axe wielding Serf while holstering their guns and drawing their Jagged Severing Blades. Kilde uses ‘Rapid Dicer’ to launch an innumerable number of slashes, while Regal uses his simple ‘Twin Thrust’ several times to launch dual attacks.
Veronica uses her alchemy to slow the attacks of the bow wielding Serf to prevent him from attacking Regal and Kilde, while Astore takes the role of using alchemy for defense. He summons several small earth shields that float in the air and automatically move to intercept any ranged attacks. The shields crumble after receiving an attack, but each shield can block a single arrow.
The axe wielding Serf ignore the damage to their bodies, and even while dying launch all out attacks against Regal and Kilde. An axe hits the shoulders of both Regal and Kilde before they get the chance to dodge, doing a critical seventy points of damage as the Serf finally lie down to die. The damage only takes fifteen percent of Regal’s health, but Kilde loses almost thirty percent from that single attack.
With only the bow wielding Serf left, Regal and Kilde quickly converge on it while Astore switches from defensive tactics to offensive. The final Serf is killed within a minute, dropping several pieces of loot, half of which are useful to Regal when crafting.
~ Low Quality Cotton(Fabric Roll) ~ Pristine Serf Fang ~ Minor Healing Tonic ~ 48 Bronze coins
Regal keeps the cotton fabric roll and Serf fang, splitting the coins between the other members and giving the healing tonic to Kilde who suffered the most damage. He takes out a small bar of condensed food to initiate the restoration of what health he himself lost. At the same time, he removes the ears of the dead Serf and places them into his inventory.
The squad doesn’t get a chance to recover their health, mana and stamina before another group of Serf arrives. This time there are two sword wielding Serf and two bow wielding ones.
Feeling annoyed at the situation, Regal rouses the squad into action and launches a pre-emptive attack on the Serf.
The second group of Serf are killed within a few minutes but the squad didn’t have a chance to restore their health so they take another small toll of damage on top of the first. They try to take this opportunity to finally start restoring their stats, but they don’t get the chance again as a third group of Serf attacks, also with four members.
The biggest difference is that the third group ambushes them from behind, catching the squad unaware and dealing a large amount of damage before they can react. Veronica is hit the hardest by two axes, taking away half of her health. Astore is the next worse off, while Regal and Kilde at the front of the squad are relatively unharmed.
The Serf with axes use their unique Divine Art ‘World Crusher’, and a royal purple flare appears on their axes as they crush the metal grate between them and leave a considerable hole while Veronica and Astore are sent flying back with critical health.
Regal is about to order his squad to retreat and tend to injuries when two arrows shoot him in the back. Regal curses his luck as a fourth group of Serf, this time seven in number, appears from the other end of the tunnel and leaves his squad in a position to be attacked from both sides.
“We need to break through! Spare nothing!” Regal commands while pointing at the third Serf group.
Astore immediately unleashes the Over-Tier Divine Art ‘Overlapping Ice Waves’, sending four consecutive waves of ice shards that flow like water and slice apart everything in their wake.
Kilde unleashes an Over-Tier Divine Art from a martial skill, ‘Dimensional Render’, a slash that gives off a blinding white light and severs everything, regardless of armor.
The two skills attack one after another, draining Kilde and Astore of most of their remaining mana and stamina, but successfully killing a Serf from the third group.
“Let’s go!” Regal shouts while dodging two incoming arrows through pure luck.
With Regal in the lead, Veronica, Astore and Kilde quickly flee from the scene and toward safety: the third floor entrance. The Serf in this area are particularly strong and it completely caught Regal unaware this time. He can only curse himself for not being prepared for such a situation as they run.
They quickly arrive at the shaft and start crossing the pipe that spans the chasm, cautiously walking to avoid slipping and falling.
Regal’s group are moving too slow however, and the group of seven Serf quickly catch up to them. Three bow wielding Serf fire arrows from the safety of the path at the edge of the shaft. The distance between the Serf and Regal’s squad is considerable, so the arrows don’t have good accuracy. Two of the arrows strike the pipe Regal is walking across, harmlessly bouncing off it and falling down into the abyss.
The third arrow seems to be imbued by a great amount of luck for the Serf though. It strikes Regal through the ankle, causing him to lose his footing and fall over.
Veronica is nearest to Regal and tries to catch him, but it is too late as he slides off the side of the pipe too quickly. The last thing in Regal’s eyes is disbelief and fear as he is quickly swallowed by the darkness below.
There is an indescribable pain and feeling of uneasiness in Veronica’s chest as she sees Regal fall, finding herself unwittingly standing still despite a second volley of arrows coming. Regal has only died in front of her once before, back when they were all level 1, but she didn’t feel like this back then. All she can think about now is the look he had in his eyes as he fell.
“Veronica, what are you doing?! We need to move!” Kilde calls out, who is more than twenty feet away from her already.
Not replying Veronica quickly moves her legs to catch up with Astore and Kilde as they exit the shaft on the other side. Once out of the shaft, Veronica, Astore and Kilde look at it and the chasm below helplessly.
“He’ll be at the Temple of Life soon. Shall we keep hunting, or go see him?” Kilde asks the other two.
Veronica replies immediately with no hesitation, “We will go see him. He is our squad leader, and I want us all to reach level ten together.”
Neither Astore nor Kilde refute Veronica’s decision, especially since she was originally the squad captain and as such is considered the sub-captain by the other members.
The three Soulless reach the entrance to the first floor of the dungeon and are about to leave when Veronica stops the other two.
“Little brother is still here. He is still a part of the squad so he hasn’t died, and I can sense the general direction he’s in,” Veronica says with an expression that is plastered with confusion.
Astore and Kilde focus on the connection they have between squad members and also feel that Regal is still alive, both exclaiming, “He is! But… how?”
Veronica shakes her head, not understanding. She quickly comes to a decision to ask the two guards at the entrance to the dungeon. It took the three a while to reach the dungeon entrance without Regal, so it is early afternoon when they emerge.
The guards look at the three leaving the dungeon and seem surprised, but they don’t address their thoughts and carry on with their duty.
Veronica walks up to them and solemnly explains the situation to them directly. “He is still alive at the bottom of the shaft. Please help us.”
The guards look at one another and shake their heads. “Are you sure that he is still alive down there? That should be impossible.”
“Yes, he is definitely alive.”
“That’s strange. I’m sorry miss, but there’s nothing we can do right now. We will report the matter to our captain, but we won’t be able to go down there today. By tomorrow, the dungeon will shift its shape and finding the exact shaft he fell down would be nearly impossible. Not to mention finding a safe way down them is impossible, the black smog in the shafts is corrosive. Not just health, but equipment will lose durability and quickly break, including ropes.”
“I see. I can only wait for him to revive then.”
If Regal was next to Veronica at the moment, he would have seen an expression of sadness that Veronica has never shown before. Not even she knew what kind of look she had at that moment.
The three Soulless soon head their own ways home, but Veronica doesn’t return directly home. Rather, she walks all the way to the Temple of Life and seats herself in one of the waiting chairs, awaiting the moment Regal dies and revives.
Veronica waits until late at night, when Regal disappears from the party, meaning he has died. Veronica looks at the rebirth pond expectantly and waits for him.
She stares at the water, which doesn’t have a single ripple, for over an hour. Despite that, Regal has not appeared.
Veronica hopes that nothing has gone wrong, and that it is some other cause, like he voluntarily left the squad, but she has no way of contacting him to find out. Beset with a feeling of worry that seems to be an alien emotion to her, she does not know what to do.
Veronica sits in the Temple all night, falling asleep in the hard wooden chair while waiting for Regal.
“Veronica, it’s been a month already! What’s with that look?” Piora fiercely shakes Veronica whose mind is elsewhere.
Piora is sitting on the grass in front of Veronica during lunch at the academy. Veronica has been acting distant for the past month since Regal vanished, and Piora can’t stand seeing Veronica, her best friend, like this anymore.
“I’m sorry Piora. I don’t really understand this feeling, but I know I’m afraid.”
“He’s coming back! I don’t know what he’s been doing this past month, but surely he has his reasons.”
“I’m sure that’s all it is. There are just so many things I don’t understand lately. Piora, why did all of this happen after little brother left? Did he do something to me?”
Piora stares at Veronica incredulously. “You’re an idiot, just like Regal.”
“I said you’re an idiot, just like Regal.”
“I know what you said, but why do you say that?”
“These feelings you’re having now that he’s gone, isn’t the reason obvious?”
“No, it’s not.”
“You have been with him all these years, always with him. You’re in love with him, Veronica.”
“But I don’t have any interest in love.”
“You are completely in love with him, whether you can see it or not.”
“No, that can’t be-”
“Save it. You love him.”
“I… What should I do, Piora?”
“Wait for him to come back. After that, show him how you have been feeling.”
“I don’t understand any of this, Piora. How do I show him?”
Piora reveals a devilish smile, the kind that tells Regal to stay away when he sees it. Unfortunately for Veronica, this is another thing that she doesn’t understand.
“That’s simple. All you have to do is…”