Hebe spent the next few hours of the day furiously practicing her newfound 'aura' technique and wallowing in self-pity. During her furious practice, Hebe discovered to her great astonishment that her 'aura', while set in quantity, was seemingly infinite! Unlike a standard organic lifeforms, Hebe's dungeon body never tired after all. Since 'aura' came directly from one's bodily strength, unless Hebe largely exhausted her mana supply and felt too mentally exhausted to project her 'aura', her dungeon body would never lack for aura. Moreover, her 'aura' could be projected from any part of her several hundred meters long and tall body, including her core.
Concerning the power of her 'aura', it would naturally increase as her dungeon body grew stronger. Hebe absorbing more ambient mana and expanding her core was one way for Hebe to make her dungeon body stronger. As Hebe's pale-white pearl, which had grown from a diameter of 16 cm to a diameter of 18 cm from absorbing Morrigan's thick ambient magic, grew bigger- Hebe's dungeon body also steadily increased in strength. With that, Hebe had basically mastered the aspects concerning the implementation and development of her 'aura' and only needed live test subjects to confirm 'aura's' uses.
Having calmed down, Hebe remembered an anomaly that she had conveniently forgotten due to Morrigan's soothing presence. When she had been exploring the distribution of her mana supply, Hebe had noted long ago that her mana supply would increase or decrease based on the ambient magic in her environment available for her to absorb. And Hebe had then been shocked to note that the direction that the mountainous cloud part of her body had been flying in was slowly decreasing in ambient magic. Since then, a day had passed and the 1,000 spheres of mana that Hebe had open to 'spend' had fallen drastically by 550 spheres of mana to just a little over 450 spheres of mana! Since Hebe's newly created tile traps cost 400 spheres of mana to maintain, that left Hebe with just over 50 spheres of mana to 'spend'.
Although a quantity of 550 spheres mana might not seem very large at first glance, one must remember that Hebe was of the dungeon race. The dungeon race had the greatest magical density of all the races, dense to the point that their magical density was said to be equal to that of the gods! Compared to other races, even one unit of mana, or a 'sphere' of mana, was many times denser and thus many times greater in its quantity of magic. A loss of 550 spheres of mana to Hebe was like the loss of 5, 500, 000 spheres of mana to a human mage! It was evident that the ambient magic in the environment Hebe had flown deeper into, during that day that she was distracted, had fallen by quite a bit when compared to outside its domain.
"Ahh! This place is awful! What a waste..." Hebe exclaimed to herself.
Heb immediately looked for a place to land her cloud, her dungeon instincts' sense of preservation activated. Just like many raptors, she looked for the tallest place in her surroundings to land on so as to have an advantage against any prey that she came across. As her mountain of a cloud descended from above, Hebe spotted a mountain range quite close to her present location. The mountain range oddly looked like an amphibious beast of burden that she could identify using her foreign memories, a Sruhl.
A Sruhl looked like a water buffalo but with a tail fin instead of a buffalo tail and a single horn growing from their head. The tallest place on this oddly Sruhl shaped mountain range was its towering horn at the 'head' of the range. Hebe's mountain of a cloud landed on the Sruhl horn's tip, at the peak of that mountain.
The Sruhl horn mountain was covered by a thick forest that became thinner as one neared its peak. At the somewhat flat peak of the mountain, the forest was more or less completely cleared, making for a nice, large clearing. Hebe's mountain of a cloud rested on that clearing, looking like the true pointy tip of the flat mountain top. The green jade staircase that wrapped around the puffy, white cloud rested neatly on the surface of the clearing and led magnificently to the grand temple part of Hebe's dungeon body, that rested atop the cloud portion of Hebe's dungeon body. Overall the ambiance of the scene made for a truly breathtaking sight.
"Hmm? Prey approaches already?" Hebe uttered coldly, as she sensed a lifeform approaching her position, a few minutes after she had settled down. Hebe was very curious about the various creatures that she had seen within her foreign memories. Other that Morrigan, who was present even before Hebe's consciousness was born, and the statue golems that she had unwittingly created, Hebe had never personally seen any living creatures before. Hence, Hebe was both a little anxious and a little excited at her first real encounter.
Ran Dewbleeder (Human) POV
Ran Dewbleeder walked confidently through his hometown and domain, the mountain village of Wimborne. Ran was a handsome fellow, clad in fine leather armor and a sturdy sheathed steel sword, with a large, muscular physique, blue eyes, and odd blue-tinted black hair. As he passed, respectful villagers easily made way for his large physique, men staring intently at him with admiration and women ogling him with blatant lust. He smiled as he casually greeted those he was on a friendly basis with, giving mere nods of his head to acknowledge the random others that eagerly sought his attention with their utterances of phrases like, 'Good morn Master Dewbleeder' and 'On your way to climb the mountain again, Master Dewbleeder'. Of course, in a small mountain village like Wimborne, even those random other passerby were all for the most part Ran's acquaintances.
Strangers rarely bothered to visit a destination as out of the way as Wimborne, situated smack in the middle of Sruhl's horn mountain. Most people gathered instead in the large city at the base of the mountain, Lario, that also happened to be the capital of the human country of Ocrium. The country of Ocrium was large and spanned the entirety of the Sruhl mountain range, having one major city at the base of each of the 11 mountains composing the imposing mountain range. The country was populated solely by humans, with the other races being exceedingly rare figures. Lario was the largest city and was the capital of the country due to it being located at the base of the most magic-rich mountain of the Sruhl mountain range. The rest of the mountain range stretched deeper into gradually magic-deficient territory, behind Sruhl's horn.
"Ran!" called out a little orphan girl who was could be considered one of Dewbleeder's few close friends. The orphan girl was quite pretty with cream white skin, blazing red hair, and enchanting green eyes. She would certainly grow up to be a lovely beauty in the future, a rare sight in Wimborne.
"Yes, Grace?" Ran responded, slowing down his gait to match the little girl that had run up to his side.
"Don't forget your promise, ok? You said if I properly learned my letters you would teach me how to use the sword!" Grace excitedly said.
"Did you really learn them already?" Ran asked with suspicion.
"Absolutey! It was easy! No more excuses, you promised!" Grace said, with a pout.
"Ok!" Ran laughed, watching Grace's resulting beaming smile with fond eyes. "I'll teach you as soon as I return."
"Can I go with you? I want to see the mountain peak too!" Grace then slyly asked.
"You know I can't take you with me. There are some pretty dangerous beasts in the forest, especially as one nears the top of the mountain! Besides, you are still too short, there's no way you would be able to keep up," Ran teased.
"No, you're short!" Grace retorted before running off in the direction of Dewbleeder's house. She apparently planned to wait there for his return.
As Ran no longer had any living family members and was approaching middle age, he considered Grace his family. Ran often allowed her to stay in his large house for days at a time, in one of its many bedchambers. Unbeknownst to Grace, Dewbleeder was even preparing to adopt her from the dreary village orphanage in short order, after having come to terms with his spent youth.
"Stubborn lass," Ran muttered, as he continued on his way. Picking up his pace, it only took him minutes to leave the village limits and to enter the surrounding forest of the mountain side.
Though most villagers would only cautiously enter the forest in large groups, Ran Dewbleeder was a popular figure largely due to his strength, that was already in the realm of a Novice warrior. Even in the capital city of Lario, Ran could get a prestigious assignment as a personal guard of the city lord. A human Novice warrior could summon thousands of kilograms (10^3 kg) of strength due to the enhancement of their magic. Unlike, magi that used magic externally, warriors mainly applied their magic internally to enhance their bodily prowess. As a Novice warrior, Ran Dewbleeder could even use his internal magic to form strange effects on weapons and body parts.
Moreover, the Dewbleeder Clan that Ran was descended from were one of the rare human families blessed by an element, the element of water. The blessing of the water element helped Ran to heal his wounds much faster and more efficiently than normal warriors. The strange effects that blessing could have on magic users, be they magi or warriors, made them valued by all. Unfortunately, the human race was rarely blessed thusly. The only other person in the mountain village of Wimborne that had a blessing was young Grace, who had the blessing of fire.
Ran strode swiftly through the forest, obviously as familiar with the terrain as he was with the back of his hands. His goal was to make his daily trek up the mountain to its peak and back. On the way, he hunted up a hare with his sword and took a break for lunch. The smell of roasted hare attracted a small pack of vicious dire wolves, the size of gargantuan carriages, but Ran was still at ease.
"Old boys, still stalking me are you? You should know that I am a tough bone to crack by now," Ran Dewbleeder casually stated as he got to his feet and drew his sword, facing the circling pack of dire wolves. The dire wolves had clear hatred in their eyes, as they were intelligent enough to hold a grudge towards Ran who had killed several of their pack by then.
The alpha wolf howled and two carriage-sized dire wolves rushed directly at Ran from his front and his back. Ran grinned as he pushed his internal magic to begin cycling, strengthening him immensely. His sword was also enhanced by his internal magic, as he delicately drew forth some magic to strengthen and sharpen the blade. Ran then agilely doged one dire wolf and slashed at the other with a strength of several thousand kilos. The cut dire wolf yelped as a deep gash appeared across its back. The leftover sword wind produced by Ran's strike cut down several trees in the surroundings. At that point, the alpha wolf signaled the attack of the two remaining dire wolves.
A bloody dance then began as Dewbleeder agilely weaved between the growling, carriage-sized dire wolves, slashing at their backs with his magic enhanced steel sword and occasionally receiving injuries from sharp fangs and claws. Ran was very careful to dodge the dire wolves whipping gray tails and fierce headbutts. After all, the saying went that wolves had 'steel heads, iron tails, and tofu backs'. After a while of these exchanges with the four wolves, Ran was covered in scratches and bite marks, where pieces of his flesh had been torn off, but the dire wolves were in worse shape, with wounds freely bleeding everywhere and with many bones broken due to Dewbleeder's prodigious strength. The surrounding land, within several meters of the fight, became similarly pitiful from the various attacks of both Ran and the dire wolves. In addition to there being many felled trees, cut by stray sword wind or obliterated by missed slashes of Ran's sword, the dire wolves themselves left many small craters on the ground and their claw marks dug deep furrows in the soil. The alpha wolf, that had not participated from the beginning to the end, gave off another loud howl and the five wolves retreated into the forest. The alpha wolf's stink eye as it joined its retreating brethren made Ran grin even wider.
"Bitter fools, the lot of them," Ran laughed as he concentrated his internal magic on healing his wounds. His blessing of water showed itself well as his wounds swiftly closed and his torn off flesh regenerated without issue. Dewbleeder was only amused at the carriage-sized dire wolves due to having fought them countless times now. Just as Ran made it his daily ritual to climb the Sruhl horn mountain to its peak, the dire wolves made it their custom to fiercely assault Ran at least once during his journey up and down the mountain. If the Ran of the past knew how much flak he would catch from the vengeful dire wolves for ambushing and killing a few of their kind to complete a mission from Lario's adventure guild, perhaps he would never have accepted it.
"In any case, I suppose their constant attacks do make for good practice," Ran nodded, as he spoke to himself. "Truly an excellent way to keep my skills sharp!"
Ran continued on his way up the mountain, leaving the stomped on remnants of his roasted hare behind. The rest of his several hour long journey was mostly uneventful, as Dewbleeder only encountered a surly mountain lion laying on a tree branch on his way up. Though the forest, especially near the mountain's peak was dangerous, that did not mean that Ran would necessarily run into danger at every step of his daily hike. In fact, only coming across a few deadly beasts during the hike up and down the mountain was quite normal.
"What is that!?" Ran exclaimed upon exiting the sparse forest at the top of the mountain and entering the clearing on the mountain's peak.
"****!" Ran then swore as he remained stunned at the awesome sight before him. A mountain of a cloud stretched up into the sky, wrapped around by a beautiful green jade staircase. A grand temple of white quartz, that reflected the blue sky, sat on the cloud like a building housing the gods.
"This was definitely not here yesterday! Am I hallucinating? Did I eat a bad mushroom again!?" Ran mumbled in shock, shaking his head side to side as though he wanted to shake something of his head. A short while later, he accepted the structure before him as reality, when his medicines that he had stored in a small bag at his hips did nothing to 'cure' his mushroom poisoning.
"Well, might as well check it out then," Ran said, jogging up the green jade staircase. It took him a few minutes to actually jog up to the grand temple of top.
"What a fearsome presence!" Ran exclaimed upon reaching the open gate of the grand temple. He could feel a presence akin to a primordial beast faintly emanating off the grand temple with his sharp senses.
"Perhaps there is treasure within? Could this be one of those mysterious treasure sites that is said to randomly appear throughout the world?" Ran muttered, as he started to cycle his internal magic and held his steel sword at the ready. He cautiously made his way inside the grand temple, its interior was oddly shrouded such that he had to enter it to see what lay within.
"Beautiful!" Ran shouted out when he saw the interior of the grand temple. Marble tiles shone like gems upon the floor while gorgeous statues lined the white quartz walls. A moving mural on the ceiling depicted an image of a starry sky with a radiant moon clearly in a realistic manner. Across from him, at the far end of the room, was a large, magnificent throne with a grand staircase leading up to it. Behind the throne a giant luminescent silver fountain could be seen. The audience chamber of the grand temple was breathtaking.
As Ran Dewbleeder was admiring the interior of the grand temple, his guard relaxed and he missed the movement of the closest statue, depicting a mysterious robed human mage. The robed mage statue raised the gnarled staff in its hand calmly as the statue golem's core charged the gnarled staff of oak with magic. Just as a bolt of magic was released, Ran Dewbleeder snapped to attention and blocked with his gleaming steel sword.
"What!?" Ran shouted out in shock, as the bolt of magic smashed onto his steel sword. It had enough force to effortlessly throw him aside, and he shortly slammed into a distant wall. Near the wall where Ran Dewbleeder then lay in a daze, the statue of a dwarf holding a hammer many times bigger than itself then came to life, the statue golem's eyes shining with magic as it turned to face the downed Novice warrior.