When they approached the Raid Dungeon, there was a strange tension in the air, a strange chill. Randidly supposed that they all knew why they were there, and what would happen if they failed, at least in theory. Most people, aside from himself, had experienced some small fraction of the pain of Aether Sickness, so they knew how debilitating it could be.
Randidly couldn’t stop thinking about that child in Donnyton, who had the first cold since the System.
Randidly led the group, walking towards the Raid Dungeon, his Bone Cloak clinking, although it was somewhat muffled by his leather armor underneath. Honestly, although it had been difficult at first to get used to moving in it, spending the last several days in it constantly had done a lot to make it more natural feeling. In terms of his spear moves, he believed he was almost back up to 100% performance, although that remained to be seen.
Immediately behind Randidly were Alana and Rose. Alana was wearing well-polished plate mail and spent this last portion of their walk obsessively checking her armor. Rose didn’t seem to wear any armor, just a practical dress over long boots. She also was carrying a clipboard, and occasionally made small notes on it.
Behind her was Ptolemy and Clarissa, who were talking quietly to each other. Ptolemy’s outfit was form fitting on the chest, but included a pair of fluffy pants, making him look oddly like a martial artist. Clarissa was dressed in full witch regalia, with a crooked hat and a black cloak. Randidly found it somewhat amusing how dedicated she was to her Class, Weather Witch, but then he remembered how unreasonably into character Ace also got, and some of his amusement soured.
Those two were followed by Annie and a morose seeming Lucifer. Of them all, Randidly reflected, Lucifer was the one that made him the most uneasy. He was tall, lanky, and carried a huge cleaver looking weapon. It didn’t help that orange-red hair erupted from his head, hanging down at least 1 meter of his significant height, making him look like a villain from a bad anime.
Although Randidly had received some information in regards to how he fought, in preparation for what was to come, he had still never seen the man actually fight, which made Randidly keep his guard up. Until he knew what sort of tricks he might use…
Of course, the majority of the expedition was Donnyton, and those Randidly trusted implicitly. And also, this was for the good of the Zone, Randidly doubted that any of them would be foolish enough to try and strike at him while the threat of the Raid Dungeon was still live.
But his main reassurance, Randidly supposed, was how powerful he was. As long as he kept his guard up…
Behind Lucifer was Ace, who was trundling along next to Chrysanthemum. Ace had traded his previous leather jacket for chain mail and leathers and now appeared to be actually a System ready fighter. Chrysanthemum just seemed like a large, bored bear.
Looking at Chrysanthemum brought a pang of regret to Randidly’s chest. He wondered how Neveah was doing, even though he could always sense she was fine, just unconscious.
The tail of the expedition was brought up by Thea and Drake, who were talking to each other in short, clipped tones. Actually, Randidly was slightly shocked to find that those two were awake this morning when he had finished his training, and were sparring. Plus, their strengths appeared to be very near equal. Or at least without Chrysanthemum’s interference.
Randidly wasn’t sure whether to be impressed at Drake, or disappointed in Thea, for using the stone to upgrade her Skill, and it didn’t appear that it was particularly effective.
When they arrived at the Raid Dungeon, Randidly reached out and felt the stitchwork he had done, pulling closed the tears he had made in the Dungeon’s Aether. His Skill had advanced by a huge amount since his previous attempt, so this time, he completely stitched the strange Aether of the Raid Dungeon together, doing his best to match the shape.
It wasn’t pretty, perhaps, to someone like him, with Aether Detection Skills. But now, no one would walk into the rip in the Aether, and have their arm devoured.
After stitching them together, Randidly led the group through the gate and into the small antechamber of the Dungeon. Standing there, in the middle of the air, was a large, black hole that seemed to just absorb all light, leading to the abyss. Around it, Randidly could see the dancing threads of Aether. Luckily this portion seemed relatively undamaged, or they would be in trouble.
With little fanfare, Randidly invited everyone into his party, and they all accepted his invites. Then he raised his hand and pressed it against the edge of the Gate.
Warning! You are about to enter into a Raid Dungeon. Only one team may attempt a Raid Dungeon at a time. You will either pass the Raid Dungeon in the allotted time or die. You cannot escape the Dungeon without defeating it.
Warning! You are under Level 10. It is recommended that you do not enter any Dungeons before obtaining Level 10. Do you wish to proceed?
Randidly almost rolled his eyes and pressed yes. There was a lurching sensation in his stomach, one that was extremely familiar. It was exactly the same feeling that he got when he had been teleported to Shal’s world. After a split second of that feeling, everything snapped back into focus, and Randidly blinked and coughed.
The people around him stumbled, their faces green. Apparently entering normal Dungeons weren’t quite so violent a switch, and it had taken them by surprise. To Randidly’s relief, they were still all together, all 10 of them, and also Chrysanthemum had been able to enter with them, putting their number at 11.
It made Randidly’s heart tighten somewhat because he didn’t doubt that Neveah would have been a great boon in this journey…
‘Stop whining,’ Lucretia whispered to him, breaking her long silence since he had obtained a Class. ‘She’s powering up, you know that right? Did you even look at the Aether constructs around her? Heavy stuff. Much closer to some of the constructs left by the Creature than anything we had attempted before. The girl’s a genius.’
Randidly thought nothing back in response, but he agreed with Lucretia’s assessment. The shapes in the Aether that had appeared near her… it was honestly intimidating, but the fact that they were so sophisticated was probably positive. She would recover, they just didn’t have time to wait for that to happen at the moment.
Their group of 11 was standing in what appeared to have once been a great hall of a castle, or a cathedral, with an open space in the front, and a line of absolutely huge, skyscraper-sized pillars leading away towards a door, perhaps almost a half kilometer away. For their size, the pillars were incredibly ornate, but it simply emphasized even further the mind-boggling size of the building they were standing in. Light streamed in through holes in the roof, showing the time to be near dawn or dusk here.
A sound caught Randidly’s attention, about the same time that everyone else noticed, and he turned to find several large black cats climbing down the pillars, growling at the interlopers. The cats, as they came closer, revealed themselves to be skinless things with glowing green eyes, leaving bloody pawprints on the ground as they stalked closer. A glowing 47 hung over their heads.
Very soon, seven had appeared, stalking closer, circling slowly.
“Better fight them now before more numbers show up,” Rose said, glancing up at the huge pillars. There was an upper level of walkways that connected the things, and Randidly suspected that's where the cats lived. “They are using a Skill called Summon Kin, so let’s move quickly. Alana, Lucifer, want to soften them up? Ace and Thea move to support.”
Alana leveled her spear and stalked forward. Lucifer drew his weapon without ceremony and starting trotting towards the enemy, moving into position. Although Ace sneered, he moved to follow orders, putting his helmet on.
Randidly’s mouth quirked into a smile as another dozen dropped down behind the group, much, much closer. Rose’s eyes widened, but before she even spoke, bolts of lightning from Clarissa smashed two backward, causing one of the new arrivals to roar. Which earned it an arrow through the roof of its mouth, destroying its brain in a single go.
It collapsed, while its brothers began running toward the group. Randidly’s eyes glowed emerald as his smile widened.
“Tch, these fuckers are tough,” Clarissa remarked, as she watched those she hit with her Lightning Bolts stagger to its feet. “Good experience though. Gained a Skill Level already.”
“Thea, pull back and support us,” Rose ordered, turning around and glancing at the new arrivals, her expression calm. Can you three handle those seven?”
None of the three answered. All were too busy approaching the cats. Several of Ptolemy’s Arcane Orbs crashed in that direction, distracting the cats, allowing Alana and Lucifer to close the distance without giving the opponents much time to surround them. If these cats wanted a fucking fight, they would get one.