With another smile and a wave, I headed up the stairs to the headmaster’s office. I approached the headmaster’s office and knocked politely.
“Good morning headmaster. Student Mark Stefanopolis reporting as requested,”
“Very good Mark. You are punctual and have impeccable manners. Have a seat while I explain the tasks I am going to set forth for you.”
“Yes sir.” I sat down in the chair opposite of his.
“Mark, there is not much magic wise that the academy can teach you. You are a sorcerer which means you can create any spell you need to respond to different situations. What we can do for you is give you experience and goals to reach. Miss Helen will take care of bringing your melee skills up to par, what I propose for you is a strict schedule to make sure you do not stop making progress in your magic.”
“What do you mean sir?”
“Your task from now until graduation is simple. You will travel to and conquer three dungeons of different elements for each dungeon rating of 1-4. I realize that you have almost soloed a 3 star dungeon on your own already, but if you progress from 1 through 5 I feel you will have a better grasp of tactics and magic. I expect at least one new dungeon each month through level three to be conquered. I understand that after level 3 things will slow down. You will have 3 months for each level 4 dungeon. Your final project for me to graduate will be to solo a 5 star dungeon of your choice.”
“Let me make sure I understand sir. I will be travelling to and conquering dungeons for you, but I have to be here every other day to train with Miss Helen?”
“Did you forget that you can teleport Mark?”
I get a sheepish look. I had forgotten that. “Sorry sir, I was just a little overwhelmed.”
“That is understandable. I am also going to request that you create one new practical spell every three months and demonstrate it for me and explain when and how you would use it. I have here a list of 10 dungeons of various element alignments for every dungeon level 1 through 5 along with a world map to find them. I expect you to start on my assignment next week. Use the rest of this week to gather supplies and information and to learn a bit from Miss Helen.”
“Yes headmaster. Thank you for your help.”
“Check in with Miss Helen every once in a while and update me with your progress.”
Just like that I was done with my meeting and had all the criteria I needed to pass the magic portion of my training in the academy. The good thing for me was that I would get practical real world experience and earn money to survive from the spoils that I collected. The only down side I saw was that I was going to be extremely busy. I did have one trump card that I had not shown yet. The school did not know that I can fly. My flight should cut down on my travel time considerably.
I walked back down the steps to where Miss Hellen was thinking about everything that I needed to get done. I should get a good supply of prepared food and weapons this afternoon. Shelters I can create wherever I stop. That should do it for supplies. Most nights I assume I would just teleport back to the embassy, so there was really not much to prepare. I arrived in front of Miss Helen’s desk just as I was finishing up my mental lists.
“Miss Helen, can you recommend a store for general camping supplies and a blacksmith for weapons.”
“Indeed Mark I can. For general supplies, just go to the dungeon guild store inside the guild building. You will need to go there to register yourself as part of the dungeon guild anyway. As for weapons, why don’t you go see my friend Tom. Here I will write you a letter of introduction.”
Miss Helen quickly wrote me a letter of introduction and sent me on my way with directions to both places. That woman is a model of efficiency. After 10 minutes of walking I arrived in front of one of the largest buildings I had seen in this town. The sign above the door read “Dungeon Guild Headquarters”. Well this has to be the place. I quickly went inside and took a look around.
Off to the left was a couple of people behind what looked like desks. Probably to sign people up or help out people. Straight ahead of me was a sign that read “Guild Store”. Simple enough, while to the right was a combination bar/grill/information services place. There were tables and I saw drinks, but the walls were covered with maps, what looked like requests for people to do jobs, and trophies of past dungeoneers. Is that even a word? Maybe it is just past dungeon divers. Oh well, time to stop the wandering thoughts and register and get my supplies.
I headed over to the desk area on the left first.
“Excuse me sir, is this where I sign up to join the dungeon guild?”
“Yes son it is. Do you have a recommendation or are you going to try and pass the test.?”
“Um, I do not understand sir. My instructors at the academy told me to register. Is that considered a recommendation?”
“Well that would depend on your year of study and the instructor. However, if you take the test you can perhaps score a higher rating which gives you more privileges.”
“Oh that sounds interesting. What kind of privileges and what kind of test is it sir?”
“We use an illusion arena and you have to battle a certain number of foes at specific levels to earn each star level of dungeon clearance. For every star rating you get 5% off in the guild store. So after several years if you work your way up into the ten-star range, our highest by the way, you can have all your supplies for 50% off.”
“Ok sir one more question. Other than the discounts what does the rating actually do? I mean if I wanted to wander into a ten-star dungeon it isn’t like anyone is going to stop me. They would just think I am stupid and I am going to die.”
“Well son that is true, but your star rating also affects which other assignments that you can take. For instance guarding caravans in certain areas takes 3 stars. Where an elimination quest might take 6 stars. Generally the bigger money is found outside the dungeon until you start hitting level 5 and 6 dungeons or higher. Most people do not make it that far in their life. In fact we only have two ten star teams active right now and one retired member of a ten star team. She actually work at the academy where you attend school.”
It was starting to come together now. How Helen knew everyone, why she had so much influence. I better check just to be sure though.
“Would you mean Miss Helen sir?”
“Oh you know old hack and slash Helen do you.”
“Yes sir. I know her well enough that if I called her old or hack and slash that she would squish me like a pancake. She is my melee mentor at school.”
“It does sound like you know her all right. I did not think that she taught students though?”
“I seem to be the exception to the rule sir.”
“Very well, if you are her student I can give you an automatic 2 star gold rating. “
“I understand the 2 stars sir, but what about the gold rating?”
“Each star has three levels, bronze, silver, and gold. They just help people decide who is stronger or more experienced. A gold level 3 is generally stronger and more experienced than a silver level 3.”
“Thank you sir, I understand. I would like to take the test though. I think I can do better than 2 star gold.”
“Very well son, the terrain is random and so are the monsters. The only thing you will know is the amount and the level of your opponent. What level would you like to start at?”
“Can you tell me the levels and amount of monsters for 2 star bronze, silver, and gold?”
“Yes, the 2 star level is monsters level 50. Bronze means 2 monsters, silver means five, and gold is ten. Every star is an increase of 25 levels for the monsters.”
“Oh in that case I would like to start at 4 star bronze level please. I will work my way up from there.”
“Son you do realize that is 2 monsters of level 100 each?”
“Yep, that should do as a warm-up.”
When he heard me the gentleman manning the desk just kind of stared.
“Well all right then, it is your choice. Each test costs 5 gold, you do not have to pay extra if you continue on to the next level. You do have to pay a 5 gold penalty if you lose though.”
“So as long as I win and stop after any round it is only 5 gold?”
“Then I am ready to begin.”
The desk clerk led me through a door next to his desk and we entered a smaller arena than the one at the school I had used the day before. I entered into the arena and soon the area around me shimmered and turned into a flat grassy plain. I used element shaping and raised a small platform up about one meter high so I could see all around me. There was movement. Inspect.
Illusionary Plains Wolf Level 100 Magic: Unknown
I started launching everything I had at these things. I did not know their weakness or had even heard of them. Until I know what works best I think overkill is the safest idea. The illusionary wolves went down rather quickly. Nothing seemed to work any better than anything else so I will stick with ice to slow and lightning to interrupt and damage. Soon enough I see five wolves. They also did not reach me. The ten wolf gold challenge was a tad more difficult. I do not know if this was a learning program or if this was actual plains wolf behavior, but they immediately split up and surrounded me at this level. The tactics were sound, but I easily broke out of the encirclement while killing two and then kept charging back and forth picking one off at a time until they were gone.
Trying not to sound too arrogant, I call out, “Next level please.”
Shimmering occurred and my surroundings changed to a more mountainous area with a few scattered trees and brush, but mostly cliffs surrounding me. Hmm, either an earth based attack or a sky based one. I tried to keep an eye on everything I could. There, Identify.
Illusionary Mountain Hawk Level 125 Magic: Unknown
That guy blends in so well. I wonder if it is a skill, magic, or just great camouflage? Oh well he is spotted, I launch two ice spikes and wait for the result. The result is a very angry mountain hawk scream which is echoed by a second one from behind me. Behind me? I hit the ground as fast as possible and hear a whooshing noise go by. These guys are definitely smarter than the wolves. That sneak attack could have ended me quick. I make sure to track both of the birds and soon enough I bring them down. It took longer, but the simple fact was as long as I could dodge I would win. They had very little capability of melee combat. If they ever got a hold of me with their talons the story might have been different.
Soon enough I spot 5 more of these mountain hawks. Five are harder to dodge, but since they take turns, it really isn’t as bad as it looks. Five up and five down. Finally, I get to the ten hawk stage. I am pretty sure I can take care of this one also I just need to modify my strategy a little. Just like before when the ten hawk stage starts I notice that the intelligence of the monsters seems to have increased. Instead of one at a time, they are attacking in pairs. This way if I dodge one the other should get me. This would normally be a winning strategy, but I have blink.
When both hawks attack at the same time I just blink onto the back of one and rip it apart with my scythes. Right before it hits the ground I blink away to safety. After that it is mostly just a rinse and repeat operation. I either dodge and hit them with spells or blink to the back of one and stabbity stab stab it to death. When I clear this level I pause and seriously consider whether or not I should go for the next one. Eh, 5 gold isn’t that much to me. I should just go for it. If it is easier than I think bonus, and if not then I can just request to retake 5 star gold level.
I call out, “Next level please.”
My surroundings disappear one more time and this time a jungle shimmers into being to surround me. Hmm jungle, this should even things up. I immediately climb a nearby tree and look around for my opponent. I see a section of the jungle foliage start to vibrate. Nope not going to fall for that one. I keep that spot in mind and search everywhere else. I was right, there is something hiding on the tree over there. Identify.
Illusionary Jungle Drake Level 150 Magic: Unknown
Fool me once, shame on me, fool me twice and I am dead. No ambushes for you. I send a quick ice spike over against the hidden lizard, and nothing. Well it obviously is now focused on me, angry, and heading in my direction to probably disembowel me, but it looks like I didn’t even scratch its scales with that attack. I shoot off a stone spike and am glad that it at least looked like it hurt it. However, the damage done was not that great. If I focus on just that spot I know I could defeat it easily, but that is going to be rather hard with both it and its partner after me. His partner, ah dang it. I jump as fast as I can toward another tree, but I was not quick enough. I was hit midair by a lashing tail and sent tumbling through the underbrush. I became so focused on the target I forgot about the one that was shaking the bushes.
That hit shaved off perhaps 5% of my total HP. I can only survive a few hits with its power being so strong. I mean 5% loss on a single hit, and I was only partially hit as I was already trying to dodge, not good. When in doubt, run away. This was excellent advice I had heard at one point in my life and I decided to follow it now. As soon as I stopped rolling and tumbling from the powerful hit I popped upright and started running for all I was worth. Ok stay ahead of the deadly lizards and come up with a plan Mark. How do I get through their defenses? What do I have that can get through such a strong defense. It hit me like a ton of bricks. My annihilation spike. That spike eats everything including scales and armor.
I run about ten more meters before I spin around and form an annihilation spike in each hand. The lizards have given up on stealth and are just barreling after me. I manage to launch 3 annihilation spikes at each lizard and somehow dodged their charge. I spin as they go past and note that the right shoulder and face of one of them has dissolved, disappeared, or something along that nature. The second one now has a crippled left leg. The next part was not easy, but now that I had figured out what to do it was inevitable. I finished off the two jungle lizards and called out for a stop to the trials.
I am pretty sure that I could have beat at least one more level, and maybe even the gold level, but there was no need. Bronze 6 star was as good as gold 6 star for my purposes. If I feel stronger in the future I might try and raise my rating just for the discounts. Until then this should be good enough for everything I need to do.