It didn't take long for them to register both groups as a single party and exit the guild building. As a group, they made their way to the dungeon. As they walked they talked about strategies. Thomas explained how he and Selena had used area of effect magic to deal with the regular kobolds, but that it was much less effective on the elites. Thomas also explained how they had been dealing with the elite kobolds. Hearing about how Thomas had used a massive stone hammer to squish the kobolds like bugs, Victoria laughed and slapped him on the back as she said, "I didn't know you had that in you!"
Thomas shrugged his shoulders to get rid of the feeling that Victoria had left a handprint there as he said, "My primary focus right now might be Magic, but before that, I spread my attributes pretty evenly. So, while my Power and Endurance are lagging behind my Magic they're not that low."
Victoria smirked playfully as she said, "So me and you will be the front line while Janice and your girl Selena fire spells at them from behind us right?"
Selena nearly shouted, "I'm not 'his girl'!", immediately after Victoria spoke.
Victoria gave one of her hearty laughs before pandering to Selena, "Right, right. Whatever you say."
For some reason, Selena glared daggers at Thomas instead of Victoria. Doing his best to not let it get to him he addressed Victoria, "That's right. Though I'll be focusing on using water magic during the fights. My goal right now is to get that up a few ranks. After that, I can use whatever magic I feel like."
Janice spoke up and asked inquisitively, "Why are you focusing on your water spells like that?"
"Because it's what my instructor asked me to do. I have to get my Earth, Fire, Water and Wind magic's all up to rank twenty-five. I'm done with three of them and just need to finish water."
Janice tilted her head and asked, "Isn't it a lot of work to get so many different spells up to that rank?"
Thomas looked at Janice with a bit of surprise but then realized why she would ask that so he said, "You learned your magic from a trainer in the cities didn't you?"
When Janice nodded he continued, "I didn't. I'm a student at the Magic Academy. I never spoke to any of the trainers in the cities so I don't know exactly how they work. But from what I've been told you learn individual spells from spell trainers. At the academy, you instead learn the entire branch of magic. For example, instead of learning the firebolt spell I instead learned how to make it from scratch and earned the Fire Magic ability. Now I can cast any spell that I have the appropriate rank for in Fire Magic."
Janice stared at Thomas for a moment before she shouted, "THAT'S SO UNFAIR!"
Thomas winced and rubbed his ears after her high pitched scream of outrage. He looked at her and said, "You could join the academy too you know. Though I think you will need to wait a while until the next semester begins. You just need to have at least 75 Magic and 1,500 gold. If you can get someone with some influence to write you a recommendation letter then you don't need the 75 in magic."
Janice glared at Thomas like it was personally his fault that she didn't know about the academy before as she said, "My Magic is 122. I've spent over 75,000 experience to rank it up to that."
Thomas felt a little light headed when she said that. He hadn't even earned a total of 75,000 experience yet and she'd spent that much on a single attribute?! What about her others? He wanted to ask and at the same time, he really didn't want to know. If her other attributes were near his he figured that meant she had easily earned over 100,000 experience. If they were higher than his then she had earned even more experience than that. Thomas looked at Janice as he asked, "How much time do you spend earning experience?"
Janice went quiet for a few moments to find the right words. Aside from Selena, everyone in the group was a player so she couldn't say things like she 'played' for a certain number of hours a day. After figuring out how she wanted to put it she said, "I generally only spend a day or two earning experience then spend a few days doing other things."
Translation. She was a casual player who likely attended college in the real world and could only log on for a few hours or during the night time to replace her sleep. If she only played for eight to ten real-world hours at night that gave her just under two days within the game to play. Thomas had some hope of catching up to and even surpassing players like her that could only play at night or when they had time off. However, if she earned a hundred thousand experience playing half the amount of time that he had... then full-time players like himself would really be so much stronger than him that he wasn't sure how he would catch up.
He wanted to make some plans but before he could get lost in his thoughts Janice spoke up again, "I still think it's completely unfair that you can just use an element by itself and don't have to learn the spells and rank them up individually."
Thomas shrugged his shoulders and asked in return, "Would you really have the time to attend the academy and learn the magic they teach? It sounds like you don't have that much time on your hands."
Janice thought about it for a moment before she let out a disappointed sigh, "You're right. It's still not fair though."
She pouted for a bit as the group arrived at the entrance of the dungeon. After they all checked in they teleported directly to the saferoom on the fourth floor. When they arrived in the room Victoria took her greatsword off of her back and rested it on her shoulder. The sword didn't have a sharp edge to it at all. If it hadn't been shaped like a sword it would probably have been more accurate to call it an oddly shaped hammer. Though it was a sword its main purpose was very clearly to just smash and crush her enemies.
Janice lifted her staff a little as she muttered, "Light."
The red crystal on the top of her staff began to glow and provided more light for them to see with. The dungeon was lit by glowing stones embedded in the walls so it wasn't completely dark, it was just a bit gloomy. The light from her staff brightened things up a fair bit and made it just that much easier to see where they were going. Victoria glanced at Thomas and Selena as she said, "Janice and I made it to the fifth floor the day before yesterday so the path shouldn't have changed yet. I'll lead the way with Thomas while Selena and Janice follow behind us. Sound good?"
The other three nodded so Victoria took the lead and started leading them down the first of many pathways. As they walked Thomas spoke to Victoria, "Given the greatsword, did you specialize in Power and Endurance?"
Victoria looked at him out of the corner of her eye as she said, "Mostly. I didn't neglect any of my attributes though." She grinned playfully, "I'm surprisingly fast thanks to that."
"Because of how I've done my attributes I'm not as strong or powerful as some people dedicated to being tanks." She shook her head, "I ran this dungeon before with a guy who spent seventy percent of all of his experience on his Endurance. It was impossible for anything on these floors to hurt him no matter how hard it tried. Conversely, he couldn't hurt them either. Without people like me to help him, he couldn't gain any experience in this place. However, someone like him makes fighting these things crazy easy. With them all focusing their attention on him it makes them easy pickings."
Thomas listened to her story and nodded along, though he speculated that as players and their 'enemies' grew stronger the differences in attributes would make a large difference. Even if you had a ridiculously high Endurance it only meant it would be hard to kill you but it also meant it would be much harder for you to kill anyone else as you wouldn't have the Power needed to get through their Endurance. A build like that would always rely on someone else dealing damage to win a fight. It was definitely a build suited for group play and not solo play. As Thomas spent the majority of his time alone, building up just a single attribute would make him vulnerable in some aspect.
Thinking up to that point, Thomas recalled his neglected Agility attribute. He decided that once his Magic was at eighty he would focus on increasing all three other attributes to eighty as well. The more he thought about it the more he realized he needed to make his attributes balanced. It was possible to make items to cover the gaps in his attributes, but wouldn't it be so much better if he had no gaps and instead used those items only in the situations that called for them?
Thomas couldn't help grinning as he came to this conclusion. He would need a wide array of weapons and armors for all sorts of situations, but who else would be better suited to make those items but him? His progress might be behind others at this point but he was determined to become a snowball rolling down a snow-covered mountain. He might not amount to much in the beginning but when he got to the bottom he would be a mass of unstoppable force!
Shortly after he affirmed his future path to himself they arrived at the first room of elite kobolds. Victoria didn't hold back at all and charged directly into the room while shouting. With a horizontal swing of her massive sword, she swept three of the seven lion-headed kobolds off of their feet and sent them flying across the room. There were disturbing crunching sounds as the kobolds bones shattered from the impact of the sword and the wall on their bodies. If Thomas didn't know better he would have thought the kobolds were weaklings from watching Victoria.
Not wanting to be left behind Thomas and the other two women went to work. While Thomas and Selena were summoning their mana and converting it to the water element, Janice lifted her staff and pointed it at one of the kobolds Victoria hit and said, "Lightning Bolt!"
Sparks flashed on the red crystal on top of her staff before a thick stream of electricity flew across the room and hit the kobold's chest. The kobold jerked violently as the electric currents rampaged through its nervous system. The initial blast had left a black and blistered scorch mark on its chest but it was clear the effect of the electricity inside of its small body was dealing much more damage.
Before Thomas had even completed converting his mana into the water element and shaping it into a blade, Janice had already fired off her second lightning bolt spell and killed the kobold. There was definitely a very clear difference between casting the spells learned from a trainer and using the magic he had learned. Thomas shook his head to dismiss his thoughts and charged into the room where Victoria was swinging her sword like a madwoman and batting kobolds across the room every time she managed to hit one.
Thomas positioned himself slightly to the side to avoid Victoria's wide swings and started lanching his blades of water. The spell, which Thomas was internally referring to as 'water cutter', flew across the open space between him and a kobold. The spell consisted of water that Thomas had pressurized as much as he could before firing it in an arc. It wasn't a true blade but when it hit the kobold it left a deep gash just like a blade would. The kobold let out a deep roar as it tried desperately to stem the flow of blood gushing from the deep wound. The water cutter had sliced it down to the bones and left a gash across its entire chest and abdomen.
Spotting the sitting duck of a kobold, Victoria immediately swung her greatsword at it and batted it clear across the room. After slamming into the wall with multiple loud cracking sounds it didn't move again. Of the seven only five still lived and two of them were already heavily injured. With a grin, Thomas started striking out with his water blades to injure and distract kobolds so that Victoria could get a full power swing in on them.
Selena was, unfortunately, relegated to simply firing off water spray spells as the only other spell she had learned was the water bomb spell. Unlike Thomas, she refused to experiment with her magic and was stuck with just those two applications of the water element. Still, it allowed her to leave gashes on the kobolds or fire small piercing streams completely through their bodies. Between Thomas and Selena's water spells, Janice's lightning spells, and Victoria's heavy greatsword it didn't take too much effort for them to completely wipe out the group of seven kobolds.