The Primal Hunter



Chapter 315 - Treasure Hunt: Another Collaborative Project


The valley looked near-unrecognizable from what it had only a bit less than a day ago. Several ice cubes were spread throughout, a few models of stone were carved, and the environment changed with many symbols arranged into potential magic circles carved onto the ground.

”Ya can’t fucking do that; it fucks over the fourth side,” the ice and fire mage commented.

”Not if we turn it in this way, then the circle will be restored again,” the shadow assassin countered as he manipulated the large cube.

”Aight, but that doesn’t fix the problem with the first side still being a damn mess.”

”True… but the edges look right.”

Jake listened to their conversation as he himself was making symbols appear around him, manifested through his arcane mana. He arranged and re-arranged them repeatedly, trying to get the magic circle to look right. They had already ’solved’ five of the six sides of the cube, and Jake was working on the last one.

When Jake said: ”they,” he meant primarily Jake, the elemental mage, and the guy from the Court of Shadows. It turned out the gun guy was also a talented gunsmith and knew quite a bit about enchantments and runes due to that. Magic guns were just fancy magic wands, after all.

The elemental mage was just naturally talented, as far as Jake could tell. He already made magic circles sometimes during combat and said he was actually a builder who didn’t like building stuff. Instead, he was solely focused on reinforcing objects and making them more durable. He even had skills a bit like Transmute or perhaps Cultivate Toxin in that it hardened objects and could slightly change properties.

As for Jake? Well, Jake wouldn’t say he knew a lot about runes and the like a day or so ago, but by now, he had become quite knowledgeable. The reason for this was simple: he had cheated.

Alright, it wasn’t really cheating, though Jake still thought it kind of was. What he used wasn’t truly his own knowledge, after all, but that of the Malefic Viper.

It wasn’t something Jake thought a lot about. In fact, it was something he often forgot about. But he couldn’t forget that he was still carrying around a drop of blood from the Villy somewhere in his body. In actuality, it was more like it resided within his soul, and more than a drop of blood, it was a fragment of Records. It was a fragment of pure knowledge that his ancient-rarity version of Sagacity of the Malefic Viper was partly designed to explore, as reflected by the description:

[Sagacity of the Malefic Viper (Ancient)] – To hold just a fragment of the wisdom of a Primordial is more than most ever achieve. Much less to be personally taught that knowledge directly by the god himself. Allows the Alchemist to peek into a fragment of the Malefic Viper’s Records to seek his knowledge. Grants the Alchemist of the Malefic Viper far better understanding of mana and of most affinities. Allows the Alchemist to make creations he does not have the associated crafting skill for (does not receive stat effectiveness bonuses without associated skill). Passively provides 1 Wisdom per level in Alchemist of the Malefic Viper. May your search for knowledge be as inexhaustible as the Malefic One.

In fact, Jake believed having the drop of blood was likely a primary contributor to him getting the Sagacity skill to begin with.

Jake had used the fragment actively a few times in the past, but it was rare. He did it while practicing transmutation and sometimes while crafting it passively gave him some insights, courtesy of the Sagacity skill, but to truly delve into it wasn’t easy or simple.

After the first hour or so trapped within the puzzle area, Jake had entered deep meditation to truly explore some of the knowledge within the drop of blood. Of course, Jake was fully aware it was only a fragment of knowledge, but even that fragment proved invaluable to him. Even the tiniest of fractions of the Viper’s knowledge was more than everyone in the valley combined, after all.

Magic runes and such appeared to have some basic rules or at least tendencies Jake began recognizing. While different sets of runes could vary significantly, they had to possess internal logic and consistency. Runes weren’t as simple as something like letters in an alphabet but were something Jake wasn’t quite certain how to define. It was like one could faintly predict how other runes would look and predict their elements based on previous runes, so maybe runes were more like sentences?

Jake’s surface understanding began to deepen the more time passed, and he started making some logic of the madness on the cube. He began to see how the different runes ’fit’ together and how magic circles could be formed. With the help of the ice and fire mage as well as the shadow assassin, he slowly ironed out some novice misunderstandings and quickly began surpassing the both of them in certain areas.

The runic language itself on the cube was actually rather simplistic. It was clearly one made to be learned fast, and Jake was 99% sure it had been altered or created by the system for the Treasure Hunt because it would honestly suck as a legitimate defense. Sure, for the five D-grades, it was difficult, but even for more regular D-grades with some magic knowledge, it was still something that could be done within a few days. A C-grade, even one bad at magic, could probably have opened the cube in a few hours tops.

Also, after nearly a full day, they were still only five people. After some hours, this had become odd to them, and Jake had decided to try and discover why. He found out they were isolated by a space barrier of some sort. The mark left on them by the cube didn’t only teleport them back; it also allowed them access to the hidden space the cube now occupied. Others who went towards the cube would likely find themselves unknowingly passing the valley as space distorted around it.

This meant it was truly only the five of them able to do anything. Throughout it all, the earth mage and rogue with two swords had tried, but neither had proven very useful.

The earth mage seemed to just solely rely on skills and was more like a warrior than a mage. His manipulation skills and armor of stone were what he appeared to only really rely on, and he hadn’t done much to learn magic outside of skills. His profession wasn’t useful either. At least Jake didn’t think it was. The dude didn’t share what his profession was and overall seemed very defensive and annoyed by being trapped. His ’I don’t care’ attitude fell apart within an hour, though, and he just became an ass whose only good trait was not getting in the way. In the end, he ended up mainly just doing his own thing, using some odd device.

As for the rogue… well, Jake believed it made perfect sense she didn’t know much about magic runes. She was a pure melee fighter, and Jake doubted she even had more than a skill or two that actually used mana. Her profession was blacksmithing, too, more specifically, a swordsmith. While that did include some amount of magic, the skills did all the work for her, and she had focused on improving the handiwork and not the nitty-gritty details of enchantments.

They had still helped a bit. The earth mage had resigned himself to just helping to make models of stone for the first hour before he became a downer, while the rogue worked on arranging different test-circle and just doing whatever she could here and there. While the earth mage seemed almost offended at having to do more menial tasks, the rogue seemed more embarrassed by not being able to help more. She also kept helping throughout, just doing what she could.

Anyway, back to Jake and his peeking into the drop of blood he had stolen from his best buddy snake god.

Usually, it took him more than ten minutes to really immerse himself, and that was while using Thoughtful Meditation. This led to Jake usually spending a few hours sitting in meditation while everyone else worked around him. For anyone else, this would mean they were cut off from the world, but not Jake.

His Sphere of Perception still allowed him to see the Rubik’s cube. However, he did cut out everyone else and what they were doing and focused solely on the cube. During the first half a day, the ice and fire mage along with the shadow assassin were the primary contributors, with Jake a close third, but as time progressed, Jake overtook them both.

He began comprehending the circles and possible combinations. He could usually start with a small quadrant on the cube and make those fit together and then expand from there. Whenever Jake solved these parts, he would open his eyes to share his realizations and make new models for the elemental mage and assassin to work out from.

This was how they solved five of the sides of the cube within twenty-three hours. But even more importantly for Jake than solving the cube was how much he learned about magic theory and magic symbols and circles.

Jake had never been the best at learning pure theory. He was the type of guy that really needed to apply his knowledge practically to truly get it. That was why he didn’t get much out of simply reading a book on alchemy without also testing out what the book said meanwhile. It wasn’t that he failed to understand the theory; it just didn’t ’click’ for him.

A cube puzzle such as this was a perfect opportunity for Jake to learn theory and immediately try to apply it in the real world. He could see how they could potentially fit together and turn the cube and experiment all he wanted while even getting feedback and discuss with others. Jake also got the feeling from the two others that they also progressed nicely in an extremely short amount of time.

To be honest, then Jake wouldn’t put it past the system to make a puzzle like this especially suitable as a training tool. While the system seemed unfeeling most of the time, Jake did view it as somewhat benevolent.

Time kept moving, and when the twenty-fourth hour passed, Jake felt the mark placed upon his soul disappear.

”The mark keeping us here is gone,” Jake shared with the others. The elemental mage and shadow assassin both nodded in acknowledgment, neither showing any intentions of leaving before the task was done.

The earth mage also didn’t do anything in particular except take out one of the devices he had been playing with occasionally. The rogue woman closed her eyes, and Jake guessed she tried to look inward to confirm the mark was gone. After a bit, she opened her eyes and spoke.

”I’ll just be heading out then… I haven’t contributed much anyway,” she said with some resignation. The woman had tried to help, and Jake would honestly be fine getting her something. Well, she had gotten something as she now had some knowledge, but honestly, she lacked the foundation to properly understand much.

”Wait, why not stay? I’m certain there is enough loot for everyone,” the earth mage stopped her as she was about to head out. ”It would be a shame to miss out on something due to a bit of impatience. You are soon done opening the cube, are you not?”

”Aye,” the elemental mage confirmed, throwing Jake a confused look. Jake returned it. It wasn’t about the puzzle but the earth mage.

Why the hell did he think they were going to give him anything. He had just been a beacon of negativity from start to finish. In fact, Jake was surprised he didn’t take off first thing as he seemed more than annoyed being stuck there.

”I’m fine sharing, I guess. It depends on Lord Thayne,” the shadow assassin said, also looking at Jake.

”Let’s just open it first,” Jake dismissed them. It wasn’t even sure solving the cube would lead to instant loot.

The rogue chose to stay after a bit more assurance from the earth mage that she would surely get something. It was all very odd, but Jake and the other three re-focussed on the puzzle.

It still ended up taking one and a half hours more before they were done. Jake had entered a single more round of delving into the drop of blood and put the last piece of the puzzle together. He summoned a construct of arcane energy showing the solved cube. They double-checked it, and once everything seemed right, they began spinning.

The cube turned tens of times a second, soon speeding up to hundreds. This part was easy enough. They had done so much to figure out the possible magic circles and how to put them together that the actual solving of the Rubik’s cube was little more than a formality.

As the turned parts of the cube clicked into place one after another, all five of them stood with anticipation. When the final turn was done and the Rubik’s cube solved, they all just stood there for a second. Nothing happened.

”Ya gotta be fucking kiddi-”

Suddenly a loud click sounded out, and the metal cube began shining. Then, it released a bright light, and once the brightness subsided, the entire cube was gone, leaving instead three floating items with seven more items lying on the ground.

Jake didn’t even need to use Identify to know the three floating items were the most valuable. Two of them gave off impressive auras, with the final item giving off none. The one not giving off anything was the center item: a cube identical to the one they had just solved, except shrunk down the size of a regular Rubik’s cube. He identified it right away.

[Safebox of Perrinial Sustainability (Legendary)] – A cube containing a spatial storage within, specially made to store items of high value safely. The cube can be manipulated and a password set. Due to the construction of the cube, it is near-indestructible by anyone below S-grade, and if the item is destroyed, a space storm will be released. The time of all items will be frozen within, and mana leakage will be severely alleviated. Mana leakage is nullified entirely for lower-value goods. The difficulty of the password is determined by the user.

He smiled and quickly also checked the two other items. One of them was a staff, and the other a metal mask.

[Staff of Elemental Confluence (Ancient)] – A wooden staff with a mounted gem at its head. The gem is a merged product of the orbs of powerful earth, air, fire, and water elementals, condensed into a single gem amplifying all elemental magic. The wood is likewise a merging of different elemental-affinity woods and is enchanted to be durable and further amplify the user’s mental abilities and casting capabilities. The gem passively absorbs fire, water, earth, and air-affinity mana, and this stored mana can either be used as a supplementary mana reserve or released all at once as a quad-elemental blast. Enchantments: Elemental Confluence. Quad-element blast.
Requirements: lvl 125+ in any humanoid race.

[Mask of Shifting Faces (Epic)] – A mask created to change the wearer’s appearance. Allows the user to store a set number of humanoid appearances that can be freely changed between. This is an illusionary technique and not actual morphing. Changing appearance will also hide the user’s mana signature and aura. This effect can also be applied without changing appearance. The mask itself is incredibly durable. Enchantments: Appearance Change. Presence Masking.
Requirements: lvl 115+ in any humanoid race

The seven items on the ground had two rare-rarity among them, and the rest were uncommon-rarity. Before Jake had time to consider the items deeply, the elemental mage raised his fists to the air. ”Fuck yeah!”

The shadow assassin also smiled. ”Nice one.”

Jake also couldn’t help but flash a smile behind his mask. It felt good, and he wouldn’t have been able to do it that fast without the two of them. ”Fuck yeah indeed. Good job, guys.”

The three of them stared at the items for a bit, all smiling. Next would be the distribution of loot, and Jake found it interesting how the best items were-

He stopped his train of thought. Jake felt something. Presences approaching… not just from one direction either. A realization then struck him. He and the four others had been stuck inside a valley during all this time, isolated in a bubble of space, meaning Jake couldn’t see the area around him. With the still ever-present mist also hanging over the area, obscuring presences, and him being so focused on the task, he hadn’t noticed them before now. The approaching people had also kept a good distance too.

Jake turned his head and saw that a single figure had appeared on the top of the hill leading into the valley, followed by many more not long after. Mana washed over the entire valley as a semi-transparent dome covered it: a barrier to lock them inside.

In his sphere, Jake saw the earth mage snicker… which is when Jake realized why he had chosen to stay. Why he hadn’t wanted the rogue to leave. Because she would have seen them. It would be hard not to, considering Jake detected over a hundred people.

While everyone else had been trying to solve the puzzle, the fucking earth mage had his own plans:

Setting up a trap.

A note from Zogarth

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