Looking at her friends, Orisa felt lucky. This new harsh training they were going through seemed quite tame to her since she has already met real Beasts before. While their opponents now were not proper Wavespawn but mere summons strengthened and controlled by their Summoners, her squad mates were shocked.
"Kyah! Fuck this shit I'm out," yelled Kanai while running from a two-meters long spider.
"Stop putting a damn show and kill it already!" Dippo chopped Kanai's forehead and kicked his butt simultaneously.
Their captain, Drugan Dippo, was walking among their lines and giving them orders and commentaries. The monsters ignored him altogether, and he was lazily dodging stray projectiles and attacks of the squad members. If not for screaming people and rampaging monsters, this situation might have looked quite comical.
Their new captain made the squad's priorities clear from the start and was now repeating them again and again:
"We are training a teamwork today, my lovely morons. TEAM-WORK," he said slowly and smacked Orisa upside the head. "What are you doing here when your mate is screaming like a little girl?"
"I'm kind of busy, too," she angrily retorted, while pushing away three monsters and keeping trapped two more at the same time.
"Then retreat and regroup, idiot! Retreat. And. Regroup."
While individually the squad members, minus Onuki, were mighty enough to manage most enemies, they were losing against an overwhelming flow of monsters every time. Not once Orisa grumbled inwardly about being more than capable of soloing this whole ordeal, but her comrades kept messing around and getting in trouble. Suddenly Dippo took Orisa by her ear and pulled her to the side, kicking away rampaging monsters that were still attacking her:
"Listen here, oh hero of ages," he started whispering right into the now red ear with an angry voice, "I know what you are thinking, stop that shit right now. It's a team sport here, so turn on your puny hero brain and start managing your squad already."
"Yes, sir, so sorry, sir."
"Next time I hear a half-assed reply, I'll half-ass your ass," he said with a voice that made Orisa shiver and let go of her ear.
It was hard to call him a completely different person, but Dippo became unexpectedly focused and stern during their training. Orisa even got a feeling that he was serious about teaching them and whipping into shape. He was making Reezpauzo freeze his summons from time to time, explaining to the squad what they could have done better, or how they should approach different situations. His training was a stark contrast to the basic course they got during mandatory month training.
Before they knew it, the time has come for a lunch break. Each floor had a specific room for a resting purpose with all facilities they might need, including beds, showers, and even bathroom. Aside from the food, they also found a long table filled with various bottles, bags, container, and numerous tools.
"Eat up, change the clothes if needed," he eyed Orisa, whose chest was on display due to a large tear on her shirt, "and after a short break, we are going to practice your second professions. No slacking, my honeybees."
"Sir, I have a potion brewing kit, should I bring it next time?" Orisa was slightly depressed that Dippo didn't warn her to bring her new fancy kit to their practice.
"This one?" he asked while casually swinging her suitcase in his arm. After witnessing her baffled look, Dippo added with a huge grin plastered over his face, "of course I know. And of course, I went to your room and took it while you were eating breakfast. Do you mind?"
'While it is outrageous, I don't give a single shit,' she thought, glancing over Onuki who looked rather pale, 'but this girl here does. Gotta talk to him about Onuki.'
"Captain Boss, do you know how to do all this stuff?" Clemen gestured towards the table.
"Oya, without a doubt I do, my dear! That's the whole point of being efficient. You learn one thing to a middle level, then learn the basics of other fields before mastering your main skill."
Orisa had her doubts about this approach, but then she remembered her old days in MMO games. She was a pure hoarder and tried to amass every skill possible in her hands, including all gathering and crafting skills. Those games where it was impossible to do so on one character, she infested with so-called twinks, the characters on the same account played by the same person. Even outside her gaming life, Orisa always thought that it would be cool to be able to do everything alone, be it coding, drawing, or designing.
Their lesson started from the basics. Each type of skill, aside from Mana engineering, revolved around Mana and Magic, and everything related to these two was intent-based. Gear repairs, creation of an item or potion, construction of enchanted buildings, everything was using the user's intent channeled through their Mana. But intention alone was never enough, and without a disciplined mind, it could ruin the whole process since it was only the first part of the deed.
The second part of each type of crafting was, of course, a proper material or reagent. These materials, of course, possess traits of their own and said attributes could and will collide with the crafter's intent if combined poorly. Ultimately, there were three methods of combining properties of the ingredients with the intention of the crafter, direct, reverse, and intricate. The first two were simple and required the same or the opposite intent of the item's traits. The last one was the hardest and used for the most complex crafts, like Concentration potion or Combat pills.
"For each of you, my young pioneers of crafting, I compiled a list of ingredients, their traits, and intents you should be using. You'll start from these and expand your field of expertise after thoroughly mastering the basics."
And so their crafting session began. Each of the squad members was practicing their own with Dippo patrolling around the table to give comments or help. An hour passed in a blink of an eye.
"Sir, since the time I got the Seal, I began sensing Mana around me," Orisa decided to ask the question that was bothering her. "I thought I got used to it, but after coming to the Dungeon, I can't stop feeling sick. It's like the floor suddenly became oppressive and daunting. It radiates a constant heat makes me ill. What's going on?"
"Oya, you didn't know? The floor is riddled with Mana circuits. How else would Summoners conjure their buddies across such a wide area?"
"Oh, um..." And she has never thought about that before, taking their ability to pop up monsters for granted. "Can I try it?"
"You can TRY," Dippo stressed the last word, "but I suggest you not get used to it since there won't be a Mana circuit outside the Dungeon, you know?"
She stepped out of the room and went to the center of the floor. When Orisa stopped and tried to concentrate, she felt something massive move beneath her feet as if the ground was alive. She pushed one of her Mana layers down, connected to the circuits, and immediately felt a vast network of interconnected pipes. It was so much easier to move her Mana through the channels than in the air, so she pushed out more and more of her reserves, filling the pipes.
"Palm Push Strike!"
Floor thirty meters away from her exploded, releasing a burst of compressed Mana upwards.
Three Force walls covered a spot on the opposite side of the training ground.
She experimented more before returning to the room in an excited mood. Her eyes were burning with ideas and passion towards a newly acquired technique.
"I told you not get used to it, didn't I? No point in learning it, you won't use these skills outside the Dungeon," Dippo said in a tired voice.
"I know, don't worry. But it was sure fun, sir," while Orisa obediently lowered her head, the idea took root inside her head, and she filed it away for future consideration.
The rest of the day passed with them altering between combat and skill training, and because of that, they all were exhausted not only physically but mentally as well. Both shower and dinner were so quick that Orisa couldn't even recall what she ate or who was in the shower. Together with Onuki, they slumped onto their beds tiredly. A few more minutes had passed before Onuki decided to ask:
"How does it feel to sense Mana?"
"You know how you can sense something hot or cold nearby?" began Orisa after gathering her thoughts. "It's kinda the same, but tickling and oppressing at the same time."
"Hmm, tickling? Are you ticklish, by chance?" Orisa spotted a predatory expression on Onuki's face and shivered.
"Well, I certainly was, but now I don't know. And you won't be able to tickle me anyway, so stop drooling over your kiddy revenge," she snorted back.
"Not today, and not even tomorrow, but one day..."
The next day came and brought another training session. This time, however, it was slightly different. Occasionally, Dippo pulled squad members to the side one by one and gave them ideas or direct orders about learning certain spells or techniques. As a result, the day was split not into two but three types of sessions, alternating between combat training, crafting, and learning new skills.
"Onuki, I can't begin to imagine how hard it is to fight with glasses on," Kanai suddenly said while they were eating lunch.
"Not great, indeed, but how do you know?"
"Oh, I wore glasses in my past life."
"Bad eyesight?" Orisa joined their chat.
"Nay, I won't say exactly bad," Kanai muttered thoughtfully, "they just made me cute, you know? And a certain person liked me with glasses more, so after wearing them a few times just for fun, I started using them all the time."
"Hoooh, cute?" Orisa said slowly, stretching her words in a laughing manner. "Our cutie star Kanai, conquering the fashion world and everyone's hearts. Were you, by chance, into boys?"
"I what? Wait, what do..." he paused, and the moment her teasing finally hit him, his face turned red. "Oh, you know what? Fuck you and your brain and your eyes and your everything!"
"Oi-oi, I'm not judging, bro," Orisa spoke apologetically. "It's okay to like whoever you want."
"That's not the point, idiot," muttered Kanai, and Orisa noticed a hint of depression in his voice.
He turned away and became silent, diving deeper into his sad memories. Orisa waited for a few seconds, then moved closer to her friend and hugged him around the shoulders with one hand:
"I'm sorry, Kanai, for poking your wound. However, it's all in the past now and no turning back. You have a new life, and you'll meet new people as well, so let it go."
"Would you be able to let go of someone you loved for the first time in years?" he asked back with a hurt expression and a trembling voice.
"No, I couldn’t do that, too. But I also wouldn't let it hold me down or even drag back, because there is no way to return, no way to reconnect," she stood up and patted Kanai on the back. A second later, she turned to him again and muttered in a voice full of hope, "I don't think the person you cherished wanted you to slump forever. I'm sure this person would love you to move on with your life while remembering your time together."
Their practice continued, and by the evening, they all made at least some progress with their secondary skills. Even Clemen managed to repair broken glass.
Captain Dippo tested Orisa's concoction and nodded. Suddenly he grabbed Orisa's palm and cut it with his nail, leaving a three-centimeters long bloody trail:
"Drink it, let's see how effective it is," he said, eyeing a teary and angry Orisa.
"That's so mean," she grumbled and downed a cup of her freshly made Cure Potion. It was almost tasteless, with a hint of earthy bitterness. While the wound was still there, at least it stopped bleeding. "Okay, at least I won't bleed out."
'I wonder how it may affect my next goddammit period. You can heal back a hand, but can't do a single shit about girl's bleeding, for fuck's sake.' Indeed, it was a sensitive topic for every man.
Dippo let them go, saying that they'll go to the ninth floor tomorrow. The squad moved tiredly towards the staircase in a dreadful mood as there were eight floors of climbing waiting for them. When they turned around the corner, Orisa saw Tiana standing there and idly skimming through some of her notes.
"Oh, Tiana? What are you doing here?" Orisa exclaimed happily.
"Hello everyone," she nodded to the group and turned to Orisa. "Today's training is over, and I saw you on my way up. Can we talk?"
"Sorry, guys, I'll catch up with you later."
She waved the squad apologetically and turned to Tiana:
"Everything is okay?"
"Yes, well, more or less, but I'm leaving tomorrow morning."
"Oh..." Orisa's mood instantly darkened, but she had to force a smile, "well, there is nothing we can do about it. It’s sad that we had so little time to hang out."
"I agree, that's why I'm here," Tiana mumbled while blushing. "Would it be acceptable for you to stay in my house tonight?"