Thomas didn't even have to think about Selena's question. He turned and made his way down one of the paths leading deeper into the dungeon. He picked a different path from the group they'd seen passing through their room previously. There was no point in following a different groups path, that group would fight and defeat the kobolds on that path. For now, finding their way to the fifth floor was pointless. Instead, their goal was just to defeat kobolds while increasing the ranks of their magic.
As they walked he turned his head to glance at Selena, "How's your wind magic looking now?"
She sighed and shook her head, "Still not rank twenty-five."
Thomas prepped his wrist crossbow as he thought about a strategy for them. Their combined attack still did some pretty good damage so opening with that was still alright. It just wasn't going to kill the monsters outright anymore so they needed to be well prepared for the fight after that. He heard a loud click as Selena prepped her own much larger crossbow. He grinned and gave his thoughts to her, "We can continue to open with our combined spell. After that, we fire our crossbows. Once they're spent I'll engage in melee while you hit them with wind bolts. Once you hit rank twenty-five we'll switch the strategy a bit."
Selena nodded in agreement. They walked the rest of the path in silence until they saw into the room at the end of the last bend. Thomas grimaced when he spotted the seven bear-headed kobolds. The bear kobolds hit hard and could take a good beating before going down. Fortunately, they were also a fair bit slower than other species of kobold so he could kite them pretty easily.
After they confirmed their plan, they began to summon up their respective elements. A small ball of red flame hovered over his hand while a green ball of wind hovered over hers. Together they moved into the room and waited. The bear-headed kobolds gave out deep roars as all seven of them charged at the duo. The instant the first one was in range, Thomas sent his mana through the ball of flames and cast out a fan of fire. At nearly the same time, Selena cast her mana through the ball of wind and added it to the flames. The roar of the flames competed with the pained roars of the kobolds for which was louder.
As the first kobold to charge got a little too close for comfort the two stopped casting their spells. Selena retreated while Thomas moved to his left to circle around the group of monsters. Both of them lifted their crossbows and fired the loaded bolts. Selena's more powerful shot hit a kobold in the chest and sent it tumbling away from the group. Thomas's bolt hit a different kobold in the chest and knocked it back a few steps. Neither kobold had died from the crossbow bolts hitting them.
After their shots were spent they went forward with their plan. Selena opened more distance between herself and the kobolds so she could fire off wind bolts. Thomas lifted his hands and summoned up his mana. Last time he'd improvised but this time he had a solid plan. He shaped and converted his mana at the same time to create a pair of bladed knuckle dusters. In his right hand the knife-like stone blade pointed downward while the one on his left hand pointed up. Over each of his knuckles, a long thin spike protruded out. The blade-like protrusions weren't very sharp but they would be excellent for stabbing as they came to sharp points.
Thomas held his arms up with his elbows bent as he crouched slightly. The kobolds had recovered from the opening salvo and were firmly fixing their attention on Thomas. He wasn't sure how but it seemed like the kobolds instinctively knew he was the one responsible for the fire that had burnt them so badly. The only kobold not paying attention to him was the one Selena had knocked down with her crossbow bolt. It became his first target.
Thomas put his Agility to full use as he took off at his top speed and circled completely around the group to get at the kobold looking at Selena. As he approached it from behind she fired a wind bolt directly into its chest. As the kobold roared from the pain of the little ball of wind grinding into its chest, Thomas arrived behind it. Thomas stabbed the kobold in the back with his left hand. The stone blade easily pierced into the armorless kobold's back. Thomas didn't stop moving though as he spun to his right and circled around to the front of the kobold. His left-hand blade was extracted from the kobold's back as he stabbed into its chest with the reverse blade on his right hand.
Thomas didn't stop his offense as the kobold roared in pain. Without hesitation, he ripped the right-hand blade out of its chest while simultaneously finishing his spin and punching it with his left hand. The long thin spikes on his knuckles pierced into the yellow eyes of the kobold and blinded it. With the kobold heavily injured and blinded it was no longer a threat to Selena so Thomas dismissed it from his mind and focused on the other six kobolds as they spun around to charge at him again.
Thomas dashed to his right and circled around the group of kobolds once again. If they'd been slightly more intelligent they might have been able to split up and attack both him and Selena at the same time. Dungeon monsters were just too simple-minded and it made his work a little easier. No longer underestimating the monsters, Thomas closed in on the kobold furthest in the back to begin his attack once again.
The duo worked together to take down the group of kobolds. Thomas focused on stabbing, blinding, tripping and in general being a painful distraction to the kobolds while Selena sat in the back and launched wind bolts into whichever kobold Thomas had the attention of. Together they defeated the entire group in less than five minutes. Thomas had sustained a few minor blows on his arms but his armor had protected him from receiving more than bruises.
Thomas yanked the reverse spike on his right hand from the eye socket of the last kobold and let it fall to the ground to turn to dust. Breathing heavily from his exertions, he looked around to make sure nothing was left alive before he began to relax. All he could see in the room were the glittering mana crystals from the defeated kobolds. Grinning he turned to look at Selena as he dismissed his stone knuckle dusters, "Not too bad."
Selena nodded in agreement as she said, "I've never seen weapons like the ones you used. Are they from your world?"
Thomas went about collecting the mana crystals as he answered, "Yeah. Where I come from we have some pretty interesting weapons. Though there are also quite a few that are completely impractical." He stopped talking as he had a sudden thought and grinned broadly at it, "Though I suspect some of the really impractical ones might just work in this world."
He could help chuckling as he planned for their next fight. He was going to make a ridiculous weapon that would be entirely impossible to use back in reality. As he was picking up the fifth mana crystal he noticed that there was another small crystal sitting next to it. Excited he picked it up and quickly examined it to confirm his suspicion. It was another Skill Crystal Shard! He'd nearly forgotten about the first one he'd picked up. Even forgetting to ask Hekrin about it! Holding it up he turned to look at Selena and asked her instead, "Hey! What are skill crystal shards used for?"
Selena looked excited as she moved over to Thomas and quickly examined the small crystal in his hand as well, "It really is a skill crystal shard! Those are ridiculously rare and hard to find!" She grinned happily then looked at Thomas, "When you collect enough shards they combine into a Skill Crystal. Skill Crystals are highly sought after by everyone. You can store the experience you've gained in any skill into one. For example, you could store your experience with melee combat into one. However much experience you decide to store is lost by you permanently. It's stored in the skill crystal and whoever uses the crystal will gain that experience for themselves. Sadly they can only be used once and are destroyed after the experience is passed on."
Thomas crossed his arms as he speculated, "So, theoretically, you could store experience from your...", cough, "...Magic and pass it on to me?"
Selena glared at Thomas as she said, "Theoretically? No, that's an ability. Not that I ever would regardless. You can't use the skill crystals to take skill experience from people without their consent either. It has to be willingly infused into the crystal. Many masters have used skill crystals on their deathbeds to store all of their experience with a single skill and pass it on to their heirs. There are some families who have done this for generations making a single skill unbelievably powerful as every generation helps to grow it." She shrugged her shoulders, "It's not a really wise thing to do though. All it takes is the unexpected death of the skill holder and all that hard work is completely gone forever."
She held the shard out to Thomas, "While shards are pretty rare, whole skill crystals are even rarer. The rarest find of all though is a skill crystal that already has skill experience stored inside of it."
Thomas accepted the shard and stored it in his ring with the other one as he asked, "So the skill crystals can only store skills and not abilities?"
"That's right. To store an ability you need an ability crystal. Those are even more sought after since abilities tend to be stronger than skills."
As he went about collecting the last mana crystals he asked, "Can already filled ability crystals be found as well?"
"There have been stories of people finding some with really powerful abilities stored inside of them so it should be possible. Though, if they do exist, they would likely be in unexplored ruins or really well hidden in out of the way places. People who have stored such abilities usually have a reason for hiding it."
Thomas smiled to himself. It sounded like he'd just found a hint on finding rare abilities. Of course, it did him absolutely no good right this second as he had no clue where to even begin looking for them. It was just something he could keep in mind when he was out exploring in the future. All ruins must be searched from top to bottom! With all of their loot collected, they sat down so that Thomas could rest. Though he hadn't used a ton of his mana in the fight, he had used a fair amount of stamina and wasn't willing to go into the next fight without a full tank.
After the short break to use 'Serenity', they got up and made their way down the next section of the pathway. Killing the elite kobolds took more time and effort but they were worth more experience as was their quest. Though he thought hunting them might not be the most efficient, it was the most challenging and was helping him knock the rust off of his fighting skills.
Together they loaded their crossbows and peered around the final bend in the pathway to the next room. They both grimaced when they spotted the five snake-headed kobolds. This could get dangerous as they all had venomous fangs that could be deadly if either of them were bitten. Thomas glanced at Selena, "I don't think we should use our combined spell this time. We can't let this group get that close to us."
Selena agreed and added, "My wind magic hit rank twenty-five after that last group anyway. We can open with ranged attacks from the earth element. Then when they close in you can fight them in melee while I continue to hit them with spells."
Thomas thought about his previous idea and decided this change wouldn't affect his plan so he nodded in agreement. Together they approached the entrance of the room while preparing their mana. It was time to give another group of elite kobolds a taste of hell.