I hobbled over to Bo and used a light heal and then sat down to recover my mana. We made it, and better yet all four of us did. I am certainly glad I decided on my own that I was not ready to face the final dungeon challenge, because this was insane. I would have been wiped after three or four waves without support. I would have run out of mana or been trapped by greater numbers. The limited rest between the waves was brutal. It was just long enough to catch your breath, but not long enough to really prepare for anything new.
After about half an hour my mana tank was topped off. I was physically fine even if I was mentally drained. I got up and started searching the island we were on. There had to be a reward for surviving this. Next to the platform were three chests once again. The three were still labeled Wealth, Strength, and Knowledge. A plaque to the side had three sentences on it.
“Open 1 if you survived.”
“Open 1 more if you were solo.”
“Open 1 more if it was your first time.”
I turned and addressed the group, “Hey everybody I would like to get out of here, but I want my rewards first. Are all of you alright with opening the Strength and Wealth chests? Teacher Sven, said that all the knowledge books were already at the academy.”
They all agreed and I proceeded to open the two chests. The wealth chest held 100 gold coins and 50 silver coins along with 5 gems of undetermined quality. Ok, that should be easy enough to split up. Inside the strength chest were two of what I now knew were mana potions, 2 other undetermined potions and a bow made of a gleaming metal. Inspect.
Bow of Fire Storm Magic Weapon
Potion of Strength Potion
Inspect Bow of Fire Storm.
Bow of Fire Storm: Adds 25% fire damage to each shot. For 200 mana will launch 25 arrows of made of mana 3 times a day without the need for an actual arrow.
Inspect Potion of Strength.
Potion of Strength: This potion increases strength by 10% for 15 minutes.
These are some pretty good things. I really do not care about the potion of strength, and I am certain that Bo will want the Bow of Fire Storm. The question is what will he give up to get it? I don’t know how rich these academy kids are. I guess I should start high and work my way down.
“There are 4 potions, 2 strength and 2 mana, and one bow of fire storm. Also some assorted coins. How do you guys want to divide this up?”
Ivan spoke up, “We can split the coins and I want a strength potion. I think the bow goes to you Mark, you did the most.”
“I agree, except I want a mana potion.”, said Elsie.
I could see the reluctance in Bo’s eyes, but he agreed with the rest. He must really want that bow.
“That seems fair, but I don’t really need a new bow right now, Boreander would you like to purchase it off me?”
“You would give that bow up for something else Mark?”
“Of course, what are you offering?
“Um, I can give you my portion of the coins, my old bow and half of my fire cores.”
I looked at the others. “Is this fair, remember I have lived in the woods most of my life.”
“It is very fair.”, said Elise.
“Then I will take the deal except I will only take ¼ of your fire cores. I was not going to use it anyway.”
I could see the grin on his face.
We exchanged everything and then I gathered the group up so we could finally leave this place. Once we stood on the platform, we were transported to the beginning of the dungeon. The four of us stepped out into the fading light and breathed in fresh air once again. It was good to be out of the dungeon. We walked over towards where the academy had set up camp and saw another student spot us and turn around and yell, “Hey teacher Sven you win the bet, they are all alive.”
So they were betting on whether we would survive or not huh. Why do I have the sudden urge to just go around and start beating them all up. I am older and more mature than that. I shouldn’t need to get even with them. Teacher Sven came and met us at the edge of the campsite.
He just looked at me and said, “Ivan?”
“Sorry about that.”
“We survived so no worries.”
“I’ll make sure he is not in your group in the future.”
“You do not have to do that. We have worked things out. However, I will be going on the teleportation platform by myself from now on just to be sure.”
“Understandable, I will have everyone else go separately also. That way anyone foolish enough to think they can accomplish what you four did will not drag other people down with them.”
“That sounds reasonable. If you don’t mind now that we have checked in, I am going to go back to my camp and sleep. I will meet you in the morning again.”
“You don’t want to join us?”
“Too much trouble at this point. Everything I have is already set up in my own camp.”
“Alright Mark, we will see you in the morning.”
With that I walked off to the north, the same direction I came from when I first arrived, so they would not suspect anything. As soon as I was sure I was out of sight and no one was following I teleported to my home cave. I started dinner and made a mental note to ask for spices tomorrow from the academy group. After dinner I was about to go to sleep when I realized I had some unfinished business to take care of. I teleported back to my first sanctuary and yep, the goblin body I had made had expired from lack of food and water. Luckily I remembered before it started to rot to badly. I grabbed the corpse and tossed it out of the giant tree to be disposed of by the local animals.
I once again closed up my tree house and then teleported back to the home cave. A few more days of dungeon babysitting and I would be on my way to my first town. It would be a lie to say I wasn’t excited. I was very excited, but I was also a little apprehensive. It was easy enough to fool someone out in the wilderness, but would I be able to pick up the social norms of this planet quick enough that no one would notice that I was different. Could anyone notice that I was different? I mean I think I had come up with a very good cover story to use no matter what so I should be okay. Enough worries, I need my rest. If tomorrow’s escort through the dungeon is anything like todays I am going to need all the rest I can get.
After waking up in the morning, I quickly finished all of my grooming and breakfast needs and teleported back to my hidden area near the dungeon. Once I arrived I checked the area just to be sure and once I confirmed I was alone I started for the academy camp. As I got close I spotted a sentry and nodded to them. It was good that they were at least taking the precaution of sentries and watches. I had arrived at the end of breakfast so I asked the most important question first.
“Teacher Sven, when I was cooking dinner last night I realized something important.”
“Oh what was that lad?”
“I ran out of spices almost a month ago and plain roasted meat is getting old. Can I borrow or purchase some from you guys?”
“The ones in earshot laughed at my earnestness.”
“Aye lad, we can do that easily. Here is a basic spice kit, throw it into your inventory.”
I graciously accepted it and inquired as to today’s plan. Sven explained that today would be another run of seven for each of us. Tomorrow would be a little different as they would run the dungeon in smaller groups one hour apart. It seems that the monsters in this dungeon are regenerated every hour. This was something that I had no reason to ever check, as I just went straight through and then left. The last day would be the upper level exams.
When I inquired as to what that was one of the academy students spoke up, “The academy is divided into three parts, junior, intermediate, and senior levels. Every student joins as a junior level and stays there until they can pass the next level of exams. Juniors are of the strength of needing to get through a level 3 dungeon like this one in groups of 6 or more. Intermediates should be able to go through this dungeon in groups of three to five, and finally seniors should be able to go through solo or with a single partner.”
So tomorrow is intermediate exams?”
“Yes lad. Several of the students feel they are ready.”
“Who is taking the senior exam?”
I was curious about this as I did not really spot anyone I would consider strong enough to solo this dungeon or even be able to clear it with a partner in this group of students.
“Why you are lad. Do you want to start as a junior and be stuck at that level for six months with restrictions on classes and library research or do you want to solo this dungeon like you said you had and prove that you should start as a senior?”
“Ah, I understand now. Sure I will solo the dungeon again. After that will we be heading back to the academy.”
“Yes Mark. This expedition was just to get some a little dungeon experience and to provide an intermediate exam for a few of them. We were not planning to be here long.”
“Excellent, then during tomorrows exam I can retrieve my gear and move to camp with everyone if you won’t need me.”
“No lad that will be fine. There are only two groups to take the exam that day.”
“Hey Sven, if they are quick enough can I take the exam that afternoon? Then we can head back a day earlier.”
“Do you think you can make it through that fast?”
“Well I was taking my time before and usually finished in six to seven hours, so if I try to speed it up a bit than I can probably cut that down by an hour or two.”
“Then that would be fine. Students get in your groups and let’s get started for the day.”
Thus the second day of dungeon familiarization began for the group. Everything went smoothly and my group once again was the first to the three exit cavern, but not by more than 15 minutes. I guess everyone was inspired to do their best today. The dungeon boss was beaten with no trouble and everyone left the dungeon one at a time with several side glances at Ivan who was red with embarrassment. I said my goodbyes and made my way back to my cave house.
After a good night’s rest, I gathered a few things up and placed them in my inventory and then transported myself back to the dungeon. I met Sven and saw one group of five and one group of four students following him to the dungeon entrance. I went ahead and entered the camp and used my elemental shaping to start making a temporary tree house by encouraging two close trees to grow together and then shaping them.
When I had finished I looked around and saw the remaining five students gaping with open mouths in my direction.
“What, did something happen.”
“Well student Mark, we have never seen anything like that before.”
“Really? That is how I was taught to set up camp if there are trees. I can’t really do anything fancy because we are only going to be here one more night.”
“That isn’t fancy? The rest of us only have tents.”
“Well normally I would help you guys, but there are not that many trees and we only have another night. I really need to save my magic for my dungeon run this afternoon.”
They all nodded and understood my point and I settled in to wait for the morning groups to return. Around midday the remaining students started making lunch and I joined in with them. It was nice to have some superficial interaction with others. No real commitments and no real worries that they were strong enough to endanger me. Soon enough lunch was done. About three hours later we hear the first group returning. They look beaten up but happy. It was the group of four and they had completed their intermediate test.
A little over an hour later we heard the second group approaching. They too had passed but had lost a member on the final boss fight against the fire drake. This was interesting to me as I thought Sven was here to protect them. I found out that tests are life and death and protection is only offered for experience runs and younger students. Sven approached me.
“We only have four to five hours of light left, and I want to be able to be here during the dark for the protection of the students. Can you finish the dungeon in that amount of time?”
I thought carefully, I have that mana potion now which will speed things up immensely.
“Yes teacher Sven, that should not be a problem.”
Several students, especially the ones that just finished the dungeon just stared at me. I went with Sven to the entrance of the dungeon and several students followed.
“Students have to stay outside the dungeon so extra monsters do not appear. I will accompany Mark to the first cavern and then wait at the teleportation point.”
I nodded my understanding, and then proceeded into the dungeon. I quickly wiped out the first cavern of Fire Bats and Sven wished me luck and turned around. I decided this was the time to show off a bit so my reputation would increase at the academy. While this could lead to some negative consequences, I think the benefits outweigh them. So I just started a speed run without worrying about mana regeneration.