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Stepping a few steps further, Marcello planted a Bear Trap on the red carpet, to the left of the suit of armor. With nowhere to flee besides directly through the banshee and down the stairs, he took the opportunity to plant the trap diversion within the long and narrow corridor.

Of course, this was not exactly the ideal terrain to engage a deadly level 12 banshee. In an ideal world, he’d pick an open space where the party could kite and wear down the banshee. But beggars couldn’t be choosers, and they didn’t get to choose to be dropped off in the middle of some weird castle with a brick wall against their back and a narrow corridor cut off by a deadly enemy in their front.

Arrows and mana bolts continued to rain down upon the banshee, buying Marcello time to crank his bear trap as much as he physically could. Giving it one final twist, he planted the trap right next to the suit of armor to increase the chance that the banshee would have to step on it to proceed towards them in the narrow hallway.

“Mana bolt!” Emma cried, as the banshee phased towards the midpoint of the corridor.

“What ungrateful visitors you are!” the banshee shrieked in a high pitched voice. “Sneaking around, attacking the servants, not waiting to be seated… The lord will not like this at all!”

The wailing banshee in a white shroud floated through the barrage, its health bar taking some damage as the pace of its advance slowed, particularly after each blast of mana bolt from Emma. For some reason, even though Michael was level 3 and Emma was level 4 so the level difference between them was inconsequential, Michael’s mana bolts simply did not do as much as Emma’s.

His missiles constantly veered off course, he used his staff cumbersomely to cast, and even his direct hits did roughly thirty percent less damage than Emma’s casts. Something about her casting seemed to be just better, transcending stats. It felt like her mana usage was cleaner and more directed.

Truth be told, Emma was the main reason the banshee had such a hard time advancing. But in the end, it did not matter. The banshee phased its way all the way to the suit of armor, and right above the spot that Marcello had installed a bear trap just moments ago.

Clank!

Like music to his ears, the bear trap closed on the floating banshee’s legs with a loud clank. Marcello was pleased to see that the trap managed to snag the malevolent ethereal fey for a brief moment. For a second there he was worried that the banshee would phase right through it, so it was reassuring to see that physical damage worked against it. Alice stabbed forward with her spear, and Jason finally sprang into action with a two handed hammer swing to the banshee’s stomach.

Drawing his shortsword and dagger, Marcello joined the action as well. He hacked at the banshee’s ethereal body, feeling the satisfaction of the blade sink into its arm as its health bar plummeted from the onslaught. At this rate they would be able to take down the banshee soon.

Sensing that it was losing the fight, a wave of black mist coalesced around the banshee’s body, then exploded outwards with a bang, temporarily blinding Marcello and the rest of the assailants. Its white shroud was ripped and cut marks lingered on its pale skin, and from within each of those cut marks leaked some kind of evil imbued mana. As Jason went in for another hammer swing, he froze up as a tremendous power began to circle around the banshee, the black mist leakout out of its body to start spinning around it. The banshee’s face turned gaunt and its vitality drained by the second, giving it a gaunt and rapidly aging look as the evil imbued mana circled angrily around the banshee, picking up more of that power signature from the castle itself.

Suddenly the black curtain around the monster shrank, then expanded outwards violently.

BOOM.

Erupting into an ominous mist, the banshee released a sonic wave explosion that blew everyone to the ground with tremendous force, killing the banshee in the process. The blast caught Marcello, leaving a nasty bruise across the right side of his body. Luckily, he was still alive after the blast. Alice was not so lucky though. She had gotten way too close to the banshee during the fight in an attempt to stab her spear through, and did not duck away fast enough.

An entire part of Alice’s upper shoulder was missing, and her health steadily decreased. She groaned and breathed heavily with her eyes closed, her face sweating and feverish as she lay on the ground unable to move. Tch, that stupid girl. Marcell told her to mind her positioning in fights. He could tell from the second that he met her that she was absolutely garbage at combat, and her instincts were bad compared to Sarah’s. Maybe he should have discouraged her from coming with them into the hard trial.

“I’ll heal her!” Sarah exclaimed, placing her hand over Alice’s nasty shoulder wound. Somehow, Alice had managed to take out a red health potion from her spacial inventory as the round bottle sat in her limp left hand.

Emma crouched next to the feverish Alice, taking the health potion from her limp hand and uncorking it. She then uncorked it, and… drank the contents of the red health potion herself.

Marcello scowled. “What the hell are you doing?” he asked angrily.

Even Michael raised an eyebrow at the girl’s nonsensical antics. Michael, who was not exactly known for his charitable soul.

Emma finished drinking Alice’s entire potion, then wiped her mouth with a pleased expression on her face. “Sometimes, food tastes the best when stolen from someone else’s plate. You must have heard that saying before?”

Before Marcello could yell at her again, she summoned a health potion from her own inventory and uncorked it, then put it to Alice’s lips. “But I won’t let my underling die so uselessly, you know?”

Technically Emma did nothing wrong. She needed a health potion herself after that banshee blast, and Alice needed someone to pour one into her mouth, so the net result was exactly the same. One health potion to Emma, one health potion to Alice.

Marcello decided to let it go, seeing as how there were other more important things to worry about than why Emma decided to switch the two potions up. He headed to the banshee’s corpse, where Jason and Nolan were examining it already. The banshee had self-destructed, leaving behind only ashes and a single round orb.

You have slain [Lvl 12 Banshee (Lord’s Servant)] - Bonus experience awarded for killing a higher level enemy. Tutorial points have been distributed between contributors.

The usual message popped up after the kill, crediting them for the kill even though it was technically a self destruction at the very end there. The moment before the detonation, Marcello felt another’s power combining with the banshee’s black aura to cause the explosion. The power source felt like it came from another part of the castle.

He took a closer look at the strange orb it left behind. The orb that the banshee left in the aftermath of its destruction looked like a large oyster’s pearl, with a milky pattern and faint traces of mana. He examined the orb with Identify.

[Banshee’s essence (uncommon)] – A desirable item that is the ingredient of many dark magic rituals, a banshee’s essence may be harvested from the corpse of a fallen banshee. The essence is normally orb shaped, and its size varies based on the age of the banshee when killed.

“How do we decide who gets this?” Nolan asked. “It seems valuable based on the description, so maybe we can draw lots to–”

“I’ll be taking that,” Michael said casually as he swooped in and snatched the orb.

“Hey!” Nolan shouted, trying to grab the orb from Michael’s hand right before it disappeared into his inventory. “We were going to draw lots for that!”

“No we weren’t,” Michael replied, pushing up his thick rim glasses. “You were going to draw lots. I was just going to take it.”

Jason stood up and faced Michael. The builder was slightly shorter than the tall businessman with glasses, but Jason’s muscles were nearly twice the size of Michael’s. “Hand it over. We’re going to draw lots for it.”

Michael merely smirked. “Hand it over, or else what?”

Jason stayed silent, but stared at Michael menacingly. The only sound in the corridor was Alice’s ragged breathing as she struggled to recover from losing a large chunk of her shoulder. Healing potions and a level four healer could only do so much.

Michael laughed. “I’m sure you’ve realized by now, but I need you guys just as much as you guys need me. Every head counts in this dungeon, so we have no room for aggression amongst each other. If you want the orb so bad, you can have it over my dead body. The problem is, you can’t have your only other mage dead, now, can you?”

“Your children must be disappointed in you,” Jason said somberly, walking away from Michael.

These guys were impossible to deal with, Marcello thought. Michael was a complete asshole, and Emma, Troy, and Nolan were pretty much just as bad. The only bearable ones were Jason and Sarah. Honestly, even Alice was starting to get on his nerves because of how weak she was. The thing is though, as much as he hated them, they were some of the highest level initiates area two, so they were necessary if he wanted to pass this trial. The average level of initiates was between 1-2 after the first trial, but this entire team was between 3-4 by the end of last round, and they all leveled up from the banshee fight. The only level 5 he saw in the entirety of the second area was Agnis, and he’d rather eat lead than team up with Agnis.

Not wanting to get involved with yet another disagreement as Michael and Nolan argued with each other, Marcello headed off to the other side of the corridor to check the rest of his notifications. He received quite a chunk of experience from killing the banshee, and a new notification type had popped up. He opened up the notifications and was pleasantly surprised.

[Thief] class has leveled up to level 5. Agility has increased by 0.1.

[Human] race has leveled up to level 5. All stats have been increased by 0.1.

You have reached a threshold level. Please choose a new skill from the following options.

[Dagger Proficiency (basic)] – Daggers are the weapon of choice for close combat scenarios. Begin to hone your proficiency with daggers. Increases your skill and familiarity with daggers. +1 damage with daggers. +1 strength with a dagger equipped. This skill can be leveled up when your skill and familiarity with daggers has increased.

[Sword Proficiency (basic)] – Swords are the bread and butter for all aspiring melee combatants. It is a flexible weapon that can be used in many different situations. Begin to hone your proficiency with swords. Increases your skill and familiarity with swords. +1 damage with swords. +1 strength with a sword equipped. This skill can be leveled up when your skill and familiarity with swords has increased.

[Bow Proficiency (basic)] – Bows excel at picking off enemies from afar. Begin to hone your proficiency with bows. Increases your skill and familiarity with bows. +1 damage with bow. +1 strength with a bow equipped. This skill can be leveled up when your skill and familiarity with bows has increased.

[Trap Proficiency (basic)] – Traps allow for tactical combat, dealing damage to unsuspecting enemies or even zoning off entire areas. Begin to hone your proficiency with traps. Increases your skill and familiarity with traps. +5 damage with traps. This skill can be leveled up when your skill and familiarity with traps has increased.

So he received four different proficiency branches to choose from. It was a lot to take in at once. Mentally reviewing which weapon type he used more frequently, Marcello came to the conclusion that it was honestly all of them except daggers. He switched between weapon types depending on the combat situation, setting up traps beforehand, using his shortbow at a range before switching to his shortsword when the enemy closed in.

He found that the tradeoff between picking a proficiency and a regular skill was interesting. Proficiencies represented a linear growth path for a certain weapon type, while other skills were more run-of-the-mill abilities. For example, the next skill on the list. A familiar face.

[Backstab (Basic)] – A thief delivers a debilitating blow to the back of an unsuspecting enemy. Deals 10% additional damage.

Ah, his good old friend backstab was back, not like it was any more attractive this time around with the absolutely paltry damage buff at his current stage. Ten percent of nothing was still nothing. Marcello scrolled down to see the last option.

[Bear Trap (common)] – Upgrade. Two traps may be active at the same time.

For some reason, the choice was obvious to him. Two was always better than one.

You have selected Bear Trap (common) as your choice. Confirm?

Yes.

Selection confirmed.

*New Skill Obtained* [Bear Trap (common)] – Upgrade. Two traps may be active at the same time.

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HereBeTreasure

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