Kayden greeted the four girls, and Louis, who had just unattached himself from an adventuring group he had been drinking with. “If you guys are done here, we can head off immediately. Conner has successfully infiltrated the dungeon, and none of the adventurers seemed to have noticed us.”
“Aha! Cathy’s done it!” Despite Kayden having made no mention of Cathy’s contribution, Alice still cheered for her. Rolling his eyes, he turned around and prepared himself.
“Okay. Everyone hold on to my cloak! My spell can only cover you with physical contact.”
The four girls all reached out a hand and held the left side of his cloak, while Louis single-handedly occupied the other. Wiping off some beer or drool from his mouth, he latched onto Kayden’s cloak with that same hand, causing him to almost reel in horror.
Alice glared at him, “Haven’t we explicitly told you not to drink? We’re about to enter a dungeon here!”
Louis let out a loud burp. “No problems, miss-complain-a-lot. What kind of pir—sailor can’t hold his drink? I’ll be fine!”
“Okay, let’s not start an argument.” Kayden cut in as soon as he saw Alice’s mouth open wide to shout. “The sooner we get this over with. The more my cloak is salvageable.”
Without waiting for a reply, he immediately rushed forward, forcing the group to lurch forward at his sudden acceleration. In a way, it shut everybody up, and they traveled toward the barrier at a steady pace.
Treading the same path he had before, where there are now no adventurers to see what they were up to, it took a much shorter time to reach the destination. The distraction worked flawlessly, and for that, Kayden was grateful. While they had unfortunately spent a lot of food and drinks to carry out their plan, none it of came from Kayden’s coffers, and for that, he was super grateful.
Time passed quickly, and they arrived at the barrier. The group immediately split upon arrival, letting go of Kayden’s cloak which thankfully wasn’t damaged to the point of no return. Alice was the first to push forward, climbing up the long staircase in a hurry to meet Cathy.
“Cathy, I’m back! Did you see the spell I—These steps are impossible! Who in the world made this?”
She had nearly tripped in the middle of the staircase where there was a step at a higher height than the rest. The maker of these steps is truly the bane of mankind. In addition to the already uncomfortable height of each step, they differed in height at random intervals too.
“Despicable. Truly despicable. Ah, the rest of you should probably watch your step.” Kayden warned the rest of the group, only just having been reminded of this problem after seeing Alice’s fall.
The group heeded his words of caution and made their way up the steps. As Kayden reached the top, he saw Ezekiel still dutifully standing guard by the steps, and Cathy and Alice’s jovial reunion. It hadn’t been that long of a separation, yet the relief in their eyes told otherwise.
San also walked forward to greet his returning party members, and Kayden noticed that there was a bead tightly lodged in his ear.
“I’m communicating with Conner right now through this bead.” He tapped the bead in question with his finger, “He says that the lever to open the gates is right behind the gate itself, so he could deactivate the barrier anytime now. Leader, what are your orders?”
Aisha, who had been strangely quiet up from the moment they left for the barrier, muttered her orders distractedly. “R-right. We’re in the last phase of the plan… Get Conner to open the gates. Kayden, go get ready.”
The order was sent magically through the bead, where it would reach another bead that Conner held on the other side. Not long after the order was sent, the stone gates started trembling, and small amounts of dust and debris started falling from the ancient cracks of the door. It was clear to see that these gates haven’t been used for a long time.
The whole party could feel slight tremors beneath their feet as if a small earthquake was about to form. As the doors shifted open, the thin, translucent barrier shifted with it, presenting to them a sizable gap that allowed them passage. Thankfully, the door didn’t make that much noise when it opened, but it could still grab the attention of the more attentive adventurers. Furthermore, the gap between the doors was still growing larger by the minute, and with how enormous those stone doors were, it was inevitable that the other adventurers would find out. This was where Kayden would step in.
“Here I go!”
Gripping tightly on the bead San had given him, Kayden released his spell. The thing he was trying to cover up was on a larger scale than anything he had tried the spell on before, but with the extra boost in mana San was providing him, he was barely able to manage it.
Create an illusion that fools the sense of sight. Mana costs depend on the size and complexity of the illusion.
It was your run-of-the-mill illusion spell, just jacked up to the extremes in this one moment. To be able to make the doors look untouched, he had to create a massive illusion that spanned about 8 meters tall and 10 meters high.
This was difficult for many reasons. Like what Kayden had recently found out about his invisibility magic, the cost of mana got exponentially higher the more space he had to cover. To add on to that, his mana reserves were already used up from the two trips he had to make, and his reserves weren’t even that high, to begin with. It was only thanks to San’s convenient ability that he had made it this far.
‘There must be some way to improve my mana reserves. It had always been enough since I’ve mostly used spells solely for myself, but now that there are more people, I’m beginning to feel the limits of my ability.’
Perhaps the System had a solution to his problems, and he supposed that he would have to ask later. Forty-five degrees to the left, the blue screen shined painfully bright in the dark as it displayed his statistics, a warning of his now near-empty mana reserves. Kayden found it interesting that this bright source of light couldn’t be seen by anyone else but himself, and laughed inwardly at the thought. There was still so much about the world that he didn’t know, much less a God-given entity like the System.
“Alright. The illusion is up. I’ll let go of the spell once we’ve all reached inside, and the gate is closed.” He said as the party quickly made their way into the now wide-open doors. With this, even if any adventurers heard the noise, they would see that the doors had no change, drastically lowering the chance of them trying to investigate.
Ezekiel was the last to have made it inside and tapped Kayden on the shoulder.
“Good work. Leave the dungeon scouting to Conner and me. You deserve a break after all this.”
Kayden smiled and gladly accepted his offer. Once the door was shut tightly once more, he dropped the spell, and anybody outside would think nothing of the door. Of course, they couldn’t count out the adventurers who might potentially have similar abilities to Ezekiel and managed to see and hear the whole thing clearly. But since the doors are closed now, they no longer had anything to worry about. After all, there was just no way they could get in.
Their mission… was a success!
Cheering ensued, and the party descended into temporary chaos. There was cheering, roaring, and little victory dances, all three of which had been performed by Louis. His drunken demeanor certainly did no favors for his behavior.
The sounds of their cheering echoed throughout the dungeon and the corridor they were in, possibly waking up every single being residing in the dungeon. It took Ezekiel several angry shouts before all the cheering died down.
“Aw, come on, Party-pooper-Azzkrill. Don’t be like that.” Louis pleaded.
“No. You guys are too loud. And who in the world told you to drink?”
“Hey hey! In my defense, what kind of party is it if none of the hosts drink? Someone had to take the fall.”
“… Sigh.” Ezekiel shook his head and stepped away.
Seeing how Ezekiel could see and hear almost anything, it was no surprise that he didn’t buy what Louis was saying, and Louis himself didn’t seem to care.
In the other party, the members all gave their thanks to Conner, who had infiltrated the dungeon and opened the gate for them. He gathered the ten of them together and began to share the information he got.
“There isn’t much to say, and I’m sure all of you are excited to explore the dungeon, so I’ll make this quick. Right after I infiltrated this place, I immediately discovered the lever right there on the wall.” He pointed straight ahead to the wall opposite the door and sure enough, it was there. “This mechanism means that this place had been built by intelligent beings, maybe the skeletons themselves built all this before they died.
“The next thing that I want to mention is that I did some scouting while I was waiting for the rest of the group’s return. This corridor turns right twice but I didn’t dare look any further after that. I already set up a light source here, but the corridors further down are completely unlit. Azkrill, right? Is there anything you can make out with your ability?”
Ezekiel shook his head. “It’s Ezekiel, and unfortunately no. My ability doesn’t allow me to see in complete darkness, so all I can see are the two turns you mentioned. As we move forward, I recommend that we travel with light, even if draws the undead’s attention. Our entire party needs light to see anyways.”
He looked to Aisha, expecting some kind of affirmation or denial, but she remained silent. It wasn’t until everyone was staring at her did she snap out of her reverie and answered.
“Y-yeah. We’ll go with that. My ability isn’t that great for lighting since it produces a lot of uncomfortable heat as well, so we’ll just have to light some torches and—”
“No need for that! I can light up the way just fine!” Alice exclaimed as a white ball of light began to form on the very tip of her staff. It brightened up the room considerably, much brighter than if they had used torches but not so bright that it was blinding. Most importantly, there was no unwanted heat produced, so the party had no problems with it.
Alice and Ezekiel led the way for the party, using their abilities in conjunction for a greater effect like those homing blasts of fire they had done before. With near-empty mana reserves, he walked at the back of the group where he could watch their backs in case anything came up.
Kayden did not miss that mistakable sound of a sigh, and it came straight from Aisha herself. Generally, hearing the party leader sigh spelled trouble for everyone, and so he inched his way closer to her for a conversation.
“Is there something wrong?” he asked, a hint of worry in his voice.
“Hmm…? No. There’s no problem. No problem at all. Come on, we have a dungeon to explore.” She reached out a hand to pat him on the back, before silently walking forward.
Having known Aisha for quite a long time, Kayden knew that this wasn’t typical behavior of her. He figured that something must have happened during the time when the group had split.
“Something is bothering you, right? Come on, you can tell me.”
Aisha paused, before replying. “Your friend over there can hear us at this distance, right? There’s nothing worth worrying about, so just focus on the task at hand.”
Having been rejected twice, Kayden could only drop the subject. He wasn’t the type to assert his help on someone else when they so don’t wish for it anyway, and so the only thing he could do now was to silently keep moving forward.
‘I hope she gets over whatever’s troubling her soon…’