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A note from KrazeKode

The rewrite is here! After quite some time the story is back! Hello to all the readers who've read the original, and to those who haven't I welcome you to the story and hope you enjoy it.

There have been a lot of changes made, and things are almost completely different at this point so for anyone hesitating to re-read through the same bits I suggest skipping ahead to chapter 4 (or chapter 6 if you really want to re-read nothing, but fair warning, details will be missed). Things will very quickly diverge from the original plot line beyond that point.

Magic flowed through Jennifer’s hands in a steady, pulsating rhythm. She ran her crystal across the shimmering shield, tracing the etchings carved within it with lines of mana. It was a delicate process, where even the slightest of mistakes would result in a wasted enchantment. She held her breath tight, carefully inscribing the last rune—

“Come ‘ere lass!” her Master roared from outside the chamber. “Yer late already!”

With a snap, the glowing lines of mana faded as the spell matrix fell apart.

“Jennifer!” her Master called out once more.

“Coming!” she shouted back, sighing as she cast one last look of disappointment upon her failed work before she set her crystal aside and ran out.

Jennifer stumbled into the front chamber of the shop, where her master stood at the counter. He tapped a few packages, one which looked like a wrapped up blade. The mana emanating from the weapon brushed against her skin.

“Ye need to run these, lass,” her master grunted. “This one’s for yer friend, the other one has its address written. Be quick, it’s an express delivery for the sword.”

Jennifer grumbled under her breath. She grabbed the packages from her master’s hands and rushed out, sending the door swinging against the wall with a dull thud.

“Be careful with the sword, ye dumb brick! And make sure he pays!” her master shouted.

“I know!”

Jennifer wove through the bustling crowd, trying to avoid bumping into strangers and hurting them — or worse, dropping the sword.

“Sorry! Excuse me! Make way!” Jennifer shouted as travelers barred her way.

A bustling crowd greeted her — far denser than usual, even for the merchant lanes of Lienmont. Jennifer slipped through the spaces in the crowd and saw a toppled cart blocking the path. An injured Narel beast - a kind of scaled lizard-horse from the Ostiri desert - sat licking its wounds next to a distressed merchant. Likely part of the caravan from the south. She’d heard of their arrival briefly from her Master.

Sera, just when I have a delivery to make. Time for magic.

Mana wove itself around Jennifer, drawing the attention of more than a few adventurers nearby. Digging her crystal out, Jennifer awkwardly inscribed the 'Float' enchantment onto her clothes and package. She stretched the spell matrix over to her body and tied the enchantment to her spell.

With a pulse of mana, she leaped. The wind whirled around Jenn, blowing dust into nearby faces and scattering the fallen goods.The spell carried her above the crowd.

Shouting in exhilaration at the big jump, Jennifer landed with a light thud and broke into a run as fast as she could. Angry shouts followed her, but no one seemed to be mad enough to give chase.

She dashed through the streets, her spell humming behind her in a trailing gust of wind. A few streets later, she found herself near a shop decorated with neat trinkets and flowers. A familiar redheaded girl sat inside.

“Rumina!” Jennifer shouted, almost waving before she remembered the sword. Her friend looked up at the noise. Upon seeing Jennifer, she jumped up and walked out of the shop.

“Jenn!” her friend responded with a cheerful smile, as she walked outside the shop to greet her.

“Sorry, no time to talk today. I’ve got an express delivery. Here’s the things that Master sent for you, and a letter for the you-know-what business,” Jennifer said in a single breath, handing off the items to her friend.

Rumina quickly dug into her pouch and threw her a couple of copper coins with a wink. “Dropped in a few extra because of the amazing [Runner] who came to deliver.”

Jennifer rolled her eyes, nodding as she pocketed the coins and stormed off.

“I’ll see you this evening! You won’t escape the last celebration party for the Academy!”

“Again?! Fine!” Jennifer said, looking back at her grinning friend as she ran off. This had to be the third or fourth time Rumina had insisted on celebrating her acceptance into the Academy. Even her family had tired of the news by now, having had an entire month to celebrate over it.

Jennifer shook her head as she took out the note her master had written for her. Irwys Silveran. Delivery to the dungeon entrance. Silver hair. Tall, Zandrian guy.

“Zandrian? A northerner, huh? I think I remember something about a new prince there. Why by the dungeon, of all places?” Jennifer muttered as she pocketed the note. Zandria was not a country she was awfully familiar with, outside of being aware of its propensity for producing [Oracles] and [Seers] with no rival in all of Zweiril, at least if she were to believe the textbooks.

Jennifer wished she was in her shop, working on her enchantments. The Academy would open for the first-years soon, and she wanted to make as good of an impression on the [Mages] as she could. But here I am, stuck, doing dumb deliveries.

She navigated through the twisting lanes, finally arriving at the central plaza. A larger than normal crowd had gathered, but she wasn’t too surprised. News of the new dungeon branch and its promise of lost artifacts and treasures spread like a wildfire and the city saw an influx of adventurers for the entire month.

The dungeon walls soon caught her eyes, towering over the crowded plaza. Jennifer had always found it odd how the dungeon entrance in Lienmont was so close to the center of the city. That’s what happens when you build a city on top of a dungeon, I suppose.

Soldiers guarded the entrance to the dungeon gates. Their main priority was a runner hazard—when some idiot had gotten himself killed too close to the entrance, drawing monsters into the city.

“Get the orc, silver man! I’ve got my silver riding on you!” a man shouted, as laughter echoed from a crowd of people gathered up ahead.

A brawl, ugh, perfect timing.

Jennifer grimaced as she circled around the area. It wasn't uncommon to get injured as a bystander to these fights, a fate she wished to avoid. She scanned the area for a man resembling the one she was supposed to deliver to. Her eyes drifted towards the fight once more. No way right?

She looked around but no one else fit the description. Cursing the gods under her breath, Jennifer stomped towards the fight. She hugged the sword tight to her chest to avoid accidentally hitting someone or getting robbed by a [Thief]. The weapon was enchanted.

“Get the brute, silver hair!” a man screamed, waving a bundle of coins in his hands.

Jennifer squeezed through the crowd, using her thin frame to push her way in. Noting the two participants of the brawl, her heart dropped.

A large orc stared down at a tall human man with silver hair and pale skin. The human fighter wore tight fitted metal armor. Jennifer’s [Enhanced Mana Sense] revealed the magic hidden beneath the armor. Enchanted, expensive, and layered with Tier 3 spells, or stronger.

The silver-haired man—Irwys, she assumed—took a stance, drawing a dagger as the people erupted in a roar of cheers.

“You’ll regret this,” the orc grunted in a thick Highlands accent. “[Strength of Ghalir]” he bellowed and his muscles tensed as the already-huge guy bulked up even more.

The orc's muscles bulged. His armor stretched to accommodate his growing body, leather straps sliding apart. A resizable piece crafted by Master leatherworkers and not the magic of enchantments. The ingenuity of the design had Jennifer nodding in approval. The symbol of a pair of crossed swords on his armor marked him as a visiting mercenary.

He roared and the onlookers flinched back. With a lunge at the swordsman, the brawl began.

The swordsman leapt aside. The orc's fists hit the pavement instead, cracking it.

“[Sword Art: Mistblade],” Irwys spoke. Mist flowed around his dagger, forming a blade that extended into a short sword.

A sword art, that’s a rare skill type — and mist too. Specialized [Swordsman] class, perhaps?

The silver swordsman vanished from her sight. Jennifer blinked. The orc howled as the mist blade cut through his armor. Irwys shortly reappeared behind him.

The orc spun around, swinging wildly.

The swordsman didn't disappoint. His shallow slashes and cuts slowed the orc enough for him to land a deep blow to the orc's thigh. The crowd cheered madly. Few residents of Lienmont liked orcs; even fewer appreciated their increased presence in the city.

The swordsman stood unharmed while the orc bled profusely. It was a one sided brawl, but Jennifer tensed as the fight continued. The orc’s eyes looked off.

“Five coppers that the orc lasts fifty more seconds!” a call came, drawing cheers.

The orc bellowed in fury, eyes glowing a deep red. “[Ghalir’s Rage]!”

Bringing both hands forward, he smashed the ground. The swordsman danced away as cracks formed where he once stood.

Jennifer’s heart leaped as the orc’s massive form blurred. The lunge struck the swordsman, sending him crashing into the crowd. The orc rushed into toppled onlookers, gunning for the swordsman. Those in his way quickly scattered.

The bulky orc slammed his foot down, pinning the man to the cracking ground. He roared through the rush of victory.

Concerned, Jennifer turned to the [Guards] to come and interfere. They stood at a distance, watching with their spears poised. Then it hit her.

They’re waiting for the swordsman to die so that they can arrest the orc for a much more serious crime. It’d make for the perfect excuse for the High Council to kick the orcs out of the city.

A bitter taste rose to her mouth. Not willing to watch a preventable murder, she closed her eyes and turned away, ready to walk back to the store. A sudden thought stopped her. Jennifer looked down at the sword in her arms.

This is his sword, isn’t it?

Moving on impulse, Jennifer took the sword out of its cover and screamed, “Hey! Irwys! Catch this!”

The blade arced across the field, vibrating with power as the swordsman’s eyes turned wide. With a burst of magic rising from the sword, she watched the blade fly into the swordsman’s hands.

With a silent invocation from the swordsman, the blade multiplied, tearing through the orc’s armor as the swordsman rolled to the side. The orc charged, dodging the shifting blades through the mist before lunging for the swordsman once more.

The man attempted a dodge, but the orc grabbed his coat. Yanking him close, the orc's massive hand wrapped around the silver-haired swordsman's neck and lifted him into the air, muscles bulging as he glared at his captive.

“Don't kill him!” Jennifer shouted as she pushed through the crowd.

The orc’s red eyes glared down at her. Blood dripped freely from shallow cuts, snaking down tensed muscles.

Suddenly, she wasn't feeling as brave.

“Get the green skin bastard, girly! You’ll probably have more of a chance than that pansy-ass over there!” a shout came from the crowd.

Jennifer gulped. I’m gonna die. I’m so gonna die. He's just going to swat me like a bug. Sera take me, I’ll haunt whoever said that.

"Why should I?" the orc demanded. His nostrils flared, all the while holding up the swordsman as if he weighed nothing.

"Because he owes me money!" Jennifer said, her eyes pressed shut.

The orc’s gaze persisted for a painfully long moment. The silence was broken by laughter nearly as loud as his roar.

Jennifer first confirmed that she was not yet a bloody smear on the ground. Then, hesitantly, she opened one eye.

“That's a good answer, girl. No one knows the worth of debt more than a mercenary. And you're brave enough to stand up to me, unlike half these idiots,” the orc grunted, glaring at the crowd.

Jennifer watched the crowd scatter off.

The massive orc growled, licking his tusks as he turned towards her. He bent down, his head right in front of her. His warm breath puffed out against her face.

She almost closed her eyes in fear once more.

“But next time,” the orc rumbled, staring into her eyes, “look at the strength of your opponents before you run ahead to die.”

Jennifer nodded eagerly.

“You won't have a little girl to save you next time, Zandrian,” the orc spat in his heavy accent, unceremoniously dropping the man. He chuckled again, throwing one last glance at Jennifer as he walked away, his massive frame shrinking back to normal with each step.

Jennifer’s legs grew weak, but she held herself upright as the [Guards] finally arrived to disperse the crowd. She suppressed the urge to scream at them for not stopping the orc sooner.

Her eyes drifted towards Irwys, who sat on the ground, clutching his head. Jennifer felt her annoyance rising. She could’ve died because of some stupid fight he caused.

“Do you have the money?” Jennifer asked, glaring at the disoriented swordsman.

“I do - or did, up until meeting that orc,” the man replied with a frown, looking up at her as he pulled himself up to his feet.

Jennifer noted the lack of serious injuries present on him, despite the thrashing the orc put him through. Perhaps the fight had been much less one-sided than she’d assumed.

“Oh, I just assumed you were an idiot who loved fighting. Being a dungeon city, Lienmont gets a lot of those types.”

The man glared at her. “I apologize for the inconvenience. Wait here, or go back to your shop. I’ll have the money sent there. I have something important to do,” Irwys said, turning away.

“Wait, where are you going? Hold up!” Jennifer yelled as the swordsman rushed towards the dungeon. “Stop! Guards! He’s running away—” Jennifer cut off mid-sentence. She cursed the day, the gods, and every fancy fighter who just didn’t pay their bill and chased after the man.

The swordsman sped away towards the dungeon entrance. Jennifer’s eyes widened. Sera, he wouldn’t. No one would be that insane.

A tremor shook the ground as Jennifer gave chase. Cracks spread from beneath the dungeon entrance. A deep, unsettling rumble echoed from the ground.

Something was wrong.

A crash sent her tumbling as a resounding roar bellowed from the dungeon. The earth shook beneath her feet. Shouts and curses rose to the skies from people caught off guard.

Fighting the disorientation, Jennifer shakily got to her feet. Meanwhile, several people - adventurers - rushed out of the dungeon, some with injured teammates in tow.

“Dungeon Break!” one man shouted, a tremor in his voice. Silence reigned over the plaza as people registered the words. For just a moment, Jennifer’s heart stilled.

The moment broke as screams rose to the sky. Jennifer’s heart thundered, her legs turning stiff. She felt the wards around the dungeon flare as alarms and calls sounded out. Jennifer stumbled as tremors rocked the ground under her feet.

A Dungeon Break… now? It’s been decades… just how?

Mercenaries gathered around her. A high-ranked team stumbled out, joining the assembled adventurers. Each burned through healing spells and potions. They formed a perimeter around the entrance. Civilians evacuated as they prepared for the monster horde about to flood the city.

She bit back a curse as [Enhanced Mana Sense] sensed the rising flood of mana. She recognized its source soon enough.

With a burst of exploding rocks, dark figures erupted from the dungeon. Jennifer stumbled back from the shock wave, squeezing her eyes shut on instinct.

A loud crash boomed as hands pulled her aside. She opened her eyes. A silver barrier shimmered in front of her, originating from a familiar silver-haired swordsman.

A small group of beasts drew close. The swordsman let the barrier fade as his blade cut through the charging monsters. He turned, grabbing her hand. His silver eyes met her own.

The plaza rumbled. Fissures in the brick split open. Jennifer screamed, her voice distant to her ears, as the ground came out from under her.

A dark claw reached out and dragged Jennifer into the void.

***

Jennifer's eyes shot open, arms flailing out as she screamed. “Get away!”

Silence greeted her words. Confused, Jennifer peered into the darkness clouding the empty cavern around her. It glowed with a soft blue sheen from the ambient mana.

The fogginess in her mind cleared up slowly. As her awareness returned, so did odd, painful sensations. Cool blood soaked her neck, accompanied by a strong, throbbing pain in her head. She winced as memories flooded in. Something had dragged her down and—

“How long was I…?” Jennifer mumbled, clutching her head in pain.

“A few hours,” a voice replied.

Jennifer’s gaze shifted to the silver-haired swordsman sitting next to the corpses of a huge scaled beast and multiple smaller monsters. Scanning her surroundings, she tried to pull up a system prompt. A message popped up in front of her eyes, confirming her fears.

The Great Dungeon of Lienmont.

Location: The First Layer

Jennifer turned to glare at the swordsman. “What were you doing running in here?! You can’t just—” A fresh wave of agony cut her off. Her head felt like it would split in two.

She leaned against the wall, breathing slowly as she tried to subdue the pain. I’m going to die. Because of this stupid delivery and a madman. A dungeon break happened, and of all the places to be in, I’m in the Elphion damned dungeon.

Jennifer bit her lips as tears pooled in her eyes. She tried to lean her head back, but the stabbing pain in her neck wouldn’t allow it.

“Show me,” the swordsman said as he walked closer.

Jennifer looked at him, her anger draining away as he knelt next to her. Irwys’s rough hands swept her hair to the side. Jennifer held back a wince. “Minor concussion, and a cut across the neck.”

Jennifer felt like slugging the man in the face. She didn’t want to be told she was as good as dead. The dungeon monsters would come chasing at the smell of her blood. She feebly pushed at the man, no strength in her limbs. This wasn’t supposed to happen. She should’ve been at her master’s shop, preparing for the academy. Why was she stuck in the dungeon with a strange man during a dungeon break?

“You need to calm down. I have a healing potion. It’ll take care of your wounds,” he continued, waving a vial full of red liquid.

“I have a head injury,” Jennifer said, feeling more exhausted with each passing moment. “You can’t use healing potions with head injuries. May as well kill me.”

“This one won’t,” the man said, unscrewing the vial. Mana poured out of the glass a wave. Jennifer stared at the potion, before looking up at the swordsman. He met her eyes silently, holding out the potion.

Jennifer hesitated to drink something given by a man who’d just tried to run away without paying.

I’m dead if I do, I’m dead if I don’t. Might as well give this a shot.

She took the bottle. Bringing it to her lips, Jennifer drank. Mana dissolved in her mouth. It slid down her throat, leaving behind a metallic aftertaste. She sipped half of the vial’s content before she was forced to stop, unable to lift her neck any further.

Within moments, the base of her neck started to itch. It moved down her shoulder until every cut and scrape was on fire. A cool sensation spread from inside, rising like a tide as the mana from the potion mixed within her core, reaching for every part of her body.

A few moments later, her headache was gone.

Her chest grew heavy for a second before the weight receded. Jennifer breathed a sigh of relief. She wiped the tears away from her eyes, her cheeks flushing at her outburst. But if the swordsman noticed, he remained silent.

She regarded the corpse of the scale hound nearby, its body already being absorbed back by the dungeon.

“Are you better now?” the swordsman asked.

Jennifer nodded as she stood,

"Good, then take this." Irwys held out a dagger. “We need to head deeper into the dungeon.”

“What?” Jennifer gaped at him, dumbfounded. “Are you mad? Do you want to die?”

“We don't have a choice, girl. The dungeon break has started. You should feel the rising mana levels yourself. A horde of monsters is making their way into the city as we speak, and the entrance has collapsed." He paused, waving at the mountain of rubble blocking off the end of the tunnel. "The only way out is from deeper inside."

“I don’t- I just- Why? Why did you have to run in here?”

“That isn’t something that concerns you.”

“It does concern me,” Jennifer retorted, heat rising in her voice. “It’s because I had to chase you that I’m stuck here with an Elphion damned dungeon break going on. You were the one who ran away without paying without saying a word and I—” Jennifer's voice cut off as Irwys pressed his hand against her mouth.

She nearly bit his hand when a low growl came from nearby. Jennifer’s eyes widened. She sensed a monster stalking somewhere near, reminding her of the frenzied monsters running around the dungeon. They could come and tear her apart at any moment.

Jennifer clenched her fists, grinding her teeth as she glared at Irwys. He removed his hand a moment later. Deep breaths Jennifer. He’s the only one who can get you out.

She grabbed the dagger he’d offered. The man nodded.

“Stick behind me, and we’ll both make it out alive," Irwys said, turning ahead.

With her mouth firmly shut, Jennifer slipped the potion into her belt. Gripping her borrowed dagger, she followed the waving silver hair down into the dark depths.

***

“Mana Bolt!” Jennifer shouted.

She launched a glowing bolt of mana from her outstretched hand and struck the large vermin. Her bolt merely staggered the beast, but gave Irwys enough time to sever its head.

She prepared another mana bolt, shaping her spell matrix in her mind. She launched it silently this time — Jennifer had long outgrown the need to vocalize this spell to cast it, but some habits die hard.

Jennifer panted, waiting silently for another clear shot at the dire rats. With poisonous teeth and claws, the dire rats could tear out chunks of flesh with each bite. She shuddered to think what would happen to someone who got bit too many times. Refocusing on the fight, she watched Irwys decapitate the largest rat with a swift strike.

The remaining Dire Rats paused in their tracks. They hissed at each other as if reassessing the threat the two posed, then they turned and scuttled off.

“Hopefully that’s the last of them,” Jennifer said, surveying the cavern while clenching the dagger tightly. The mana had reached levels she'd never felt before, making her head buzz.

“I doubt it,” Irwys replied, wiping the blood off of his sword, striding deeper into the dungeon.

Jennifer followed, leaving the monster corpses behind. They'd either be eaten by other monsters or absorbed by the dungeon itself.

A waste of good monster parts.

She turned towards Irwys. “How much further?”

“Depends. Shouldn’t be much farther. I’ve been avoiding any larger pathways to keep away from the frenzied monster horde as they push up from the deeper regions.” Then he muttered under his breath, and his sword lit up the tunnel. Runes floated around the weapon, and she saw silver threads extend from the blade for a moment before they vanished. Resuming his pace, he muttered again, though this time she caught his words. "It's close."

She nodded, though she wondered what they were close to. She was certain they weren't close to the exit yet, since they hadn't moved upward. But most of those routes had been blocked, anyway.

The last hour had made it clear to Jennifer that Irwys was anything but an adventurer. The way he fought was methodical. His traversal of the dungeon would've been smoother if he didn't need to defend her, so he had enough skill with his sword, but…

No adventurer brings a long sword like that into narrow dungeon caverns. Or shiny armor. Not unless they're a Ranked Plate who can just blast through everything.

Irwys paused, his sword flashing once more. “A Mark,” she heard him whisper as a foreboding sensation built in her gut.

Mist flooded around Irwys and Jennifer took a step back. His sword flashed and Jennifer felt him invoke a skill.

The wall in front of them collapsed, revealing a dark passage behind it. Her eyes widened at the hidden room laid with dark brown bricks, murals running up and down equally dark pillars.

Some kind of ruin? A part of the newly discovered section? Has the dungeon already moved around that much?

“Follow me,” Irwys said.

Jennifer could only nod as she followed him in. Her current reality finally settled on her. Part of her was excited, but another dreaded what was to come. Unexpected delves rarely ended happily.

The path ahead was cracked from age. The walls were covered in depictions of creatures and pictures that had long since faded. The walls extended further ahead, tall pillars of stone rising to support the ceiling. There, unrecognizable runes replaced the murals.

A different screen popped up when Jennifer opened her notifications.

Alphion's Lair

Location: Unknown

Unknown? If that isn't foreboding, then I don't know what is.

“Where are we?” Jennifer asked, her hand reaching toward one of the carved pillars.

“A hidden section of the dungeon,” Irwys replied.

Jennifer stopped and frowned, staring at the man. “How will this help us get out?”

“It will, now stay quiet,” Irwys said, walking ahead.

Jennifer glared at the swordsman’s back silently, wondering if she should just try to escape on her own. A look back the way they came stifled that idea. It was a long way to the surface, and she didn’t know the way out. Jennifer turned around, breaking into a light run as she hurried after the swordsman.

The runes on the walls caught her interest. Her eyes wandered around, trying to pick out familiar patterns. Old runes, older than the Zweirilian convention.

The path extended for a long while, and Jennifer ran out of new runes and symbols to keep track of on the walls. There was a suspicious lack of monstrous activities in the area. Only the crumbling walls moved.

Jennifer breathed a sigh, wondering what was so exciting about walking through the dungeon. There must have been something, considering how many hot-blooded teenagers rushed to join the guild. She’d much rather be reading her books on enchantments and magic instead.

A chill ran up Jennifer’s spine as a presence shifted within her [Enhanced Mana Sense]. Moving swiftly, Jennifer turned as she grabbed her borrowed dagger. She threw it. The knife missed, hitting the walls with a metallic clang. A black lizard with shimmering oily scales hissed at her, two dark blue eyes shining with an inner light.

Even as she started gathering mana, Irwys moved, his sword swinging toward the lizard. It jumped back before his strike landed, melding into the darkness once more.

“Shade Lizards. A third layer monster all the way up here?” Irwys muttered.

Jennifer’s heart pounded. She’d never heard of creatures from the bottom layers coming this far above. Carefully, she walked closer, searching for the lizard as she retrieved her dagger.

Lesson learned. Never turn off my mana sense and never let my guard down.

“Let’s hurry,” Irwys said, waving her onward.

She nodded and continued to follow, keeping the dagger in her hand and her guard up. She didn’t want to be monster food.

After another minute the path opened up to reveal a wide gate in the distance. That was where the path ended. But Irwys didn’t slow down, striding forward to the deadend.

Jennifer joined Irwys at a door hidden behind a broken pillar. It was made of stone with metal engravings carved on its surface. Two metal beams ran down its length on either side.

“What now?” she asked.

Irwys simply stared at the door, gripping the hilt of his sheathed sword.

Jennifer turned to inspect the door. There were semi-circular lines of metal arranged to form letters. Her skill pointed out a few of them. There was some kind of spell embedded within.

Curiously, she decided to touch one. It slid across the stone.

“There’s a spell on it. I think you have to arrange the metal portions in a specific way,” she said, looking back at the swordsman.

“Can you open it?” he asked, his eyes locking onto her.

“No, of course not. I can’t even read this.”

Irwys shook his head before stepping up next to her. He started moving the symbols around. At first, she thought he might have a clue she'd missed. But his movements were too random; he was just fiddling.

“Isn’t there any other way out of here?” she asked, crossing her arms as she watched him continue to shuffle the symbols around.

“Not without going through a large horde of monsters, no,” the swordsman replied.

Jennifer stood in silence, her anxiety spiking at the occasional light tremor. Dust sprinkled from the ceiling with every shake. Her eyes drifted upward, searching for the source, and they fell upon one of the patterns on the ceiling. It almost looked like...

Jennifer walked closer to the gate. Irwys paused upon her arrival but didn't comment as she pointed at the pattern she'd been inspecting.

“We need to derive the runes from that image on the wall with the symbols. Basic universal runic language principles. At least, I’m pretty sure that’s what this is,” Jennifer told Irwys. She flexed [Enhanced Mana Sense], pushing the skill to its limits.

Tiny, fragile threads of mana ran through the gate, barely present to her senses. She would’ve missed them if she hadn’t been used to using delicate mana runes as an [Enchanter].

Dragging the piece to its location was a slow but steady process, requiring her to carefully channel her mana like creating an enchantment. The mana shifted when she set one of the metal grooves in its hinge.

The grooves form a mana circuit.

One at a time, Jennifer moved the pieces around as she pushed her senses to the limits. Piece after piece flooded with mana as a mana circuit began to form.

Her chest bubbled with excitement. This was oddly reminiscent of magical puzzle training for mana sensitivity, something she enjoyed quite a bit. It was enough to release the bundle of nerves she’d had earlier..

There was a loud click as she placed the last groove, and something shifted within the gate. The magic’s flow intensified. She took a step back, watching with nervous excitement as mana flowed through the gate.

The shifting metal blocks drew her gaze as the runes lit up. Images formed on the gate: armies standing beneath giants taller than trees, Leviathans of incredible size that rose from the sea, winged creatures that blotted out the sun.

Blue glowing lines of mana streaked across the gate, gathering at the center as the last piece clicked in place. It formed a silhouette Jennifer found vaguely familiar. With wings sprouting from its back, flew one of the sovereigns of the sky long lost to time.

A Dragon.

The gates opened with a groaning noise, kicking up dust as light streamed out from inside.

Jennifer covered her eyes, momentarily blinded. She stumbled out, followed by Irwys as they stared in awe at the pristine room paved in flowing white stone. Each slab brimmed with magic that shone like the sun to her senses.

Its construction was out of place compared to the rest of the world. It was a great hall hidden beneath the earth, larger than any she'd been in before. She called for a system prompt for the dungeon.

Location: Unknown

Jennifer turned to look at Irwys. “Is this still inside the dungeon? Where are we?”

“A trial...?” she heard Irwys mutter. His eyes turned towards Jennifer as he gripped the hilt of his blade. “Perhaps the Fates wanted not the sword but-”

A powerful tremor shook the ground. Stone grinding against stone cut him off. Eight statues of women rose from the ground all around the room, their backs adorned by soft white wings.

At the center of the chamber rose the statue of a woman sitting on a throne, her eyes deep red slits, with two curving horns peeking through her thick hair as a scaled tail hung behind. The statue lounged on a throne of stone, her legs crossed as she watched over the entire hall. Jennifer stared mesmerized at the woman; it looked like she could come alive at any moment.

With a slam, the door closed behind them.

Mana flooded the chamber, so thick she could practically see it. Jennifer heard a cracking noise as a hulking ogre coalesced from the swirling mana. Its red skin glistened in the white light as it towered over the two of them, four powerful arms stretching out from its sides.

Jennifer felt her heart stop in her chest as the beast stared at the two of them. Its eyes were a shade of blood-red as the beast opened its fanged maw and roared.

The Trial of Time

Survive the encounter and prove yourself worthy to carry the Mark.

Sera take me, I'm so dead.

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A note from KrazeKode

There will be 5 chapters posted this week, and then I'll move on to a fixed posting schedule of once a week after that. The chapters this time around will be quite big, around 5,000 words on average.


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KrazeKode

  • Far away from humans
  • Floofer

Bio: I decided to take up the keyboard.

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