Reivyn sat in meditation on his bed practicing his Mana Absorption Skill. He had found through constant practice that practicing Mana Circulation at night and Mana Absorption in the morning was the best fit for him. It was possible to practice both at the same time, but, even though the effect of increased energy one gained from absorbing mana didn't linger after it was processed, it energized his mind and made it harder to fall asleep quickly in the evening. Conversely, it worked wonders to wake him up in the morning.
The rate of absorption had increased noticeably over the past several days, and Reivyn wondered if he was on the verge of reaching the Expert threshold. It wouldn't be the first time that his Skill Level raised substantially all at once after a period of accumulation.
Reivyn could sense the different elements of mana more clearly with his eyes closed now that he had incorporated the method of sectioning off the mana into quadrants that his mother had told him about. He wasn't actually seeing the mana, but he could faintly feel the different characteristics contained within the elements.
His brow creased as he contemplated the topic. He was able to see mana in solid objects, barely, when he activated his Mana Sight, yet he couldn't see even a hint of the mana circulating around him when his eyes were closed. That doesn't make any sense, he thought. When I look at my sword, I can see into the structure beyond just the surface, and that's solid metal. My eyelids are thin flesh.
He focused his mind on the characteristics present in the mana, and he mentally superimposed what the mana motes would look like in his vision. He had to focus on keeping the mental image aligned with the rotating mana quadrants, but after several moments of maintaining the alignment, something clicked, and the mental image focused into clarity and remained in place all on its own.
Skills Leveled Up!
Reivyn nodded his head in satisfaction. He turned his head around the room, and he was able to see the mana in the environment through his closed eyes. The Laurel Crown placed on top of his chest of drawers stood out as a little shining beacon. It must have been a mental block of some sort. I can see this being distracting when trying to sleep, so can I turn it off? With a mental flip, the Mana Sight turned off right away. It wasn't difficult at all. He turned it back on and ended his meditation session.
Reivyn got up from his bed and looked around his small room. He still wasn't able to see completely through solid surfaces like the walls, but he was able to more easily see further into the surfaces. More porous objects didn't hinder his vision as they had previously, though, and he was able to see the mana in the bed underneath the blankets and sheets lying on top.
I might be able to cultivate the ability to see mana completely unimpeded if I raise the Levels of my Skills high enough. It's not true sight through solid objects, but it could definitely be useful.
His ability to Sense Mana through solid objects, though, had improved. Before his session, his Sense Mana would expand out from him and he could feel the mana within the box of his room. Now he could sense a bit of the mana that was in the living space as well as completely outside of the house on the other side of the room, but it was currently only by a foot or so.
Reivyn went into the communal living area and made himself some breakfast. As he ate at the table, he sensed agitation in the movements of the mana coming from Teilon's room a second before the door opened and the boy himself walked through. He rummaged through the kitchenette they had put their rations away in - filling it with proper ingredients for real meals would be one of the errands they would have to run soon - and prepared breakfast for himself and Kimberly.
The noise of the breakfast preparations brought Kimberly out of her room, and, like before, Reivyn was able to sense right before she opened the door. I need to really practice these Skills. It could really reduce the possibility of an ambush while delving the Dungeon in the future.
The three teenagers greeted each other, but otherwise, they ate in silence. Teilon and Kimberly didn't have Mana Skills, so they didn't have the benefit of using Mana Absorption in the morning to assist themselves in waking up. Reivyn smirked at the sluggishness with which they moved.
"What are you smirking at?" Teilon wielded his jerky like a pointer as he jabbed it in Reivyn's direction.
"Nothing," Reivyn chuckled. "I figured we could look at the notice board in the guild branch to see if there are any teams recruiting. We can go and check them out and apply to join any we think would be a good fit, and if there aren't any we can post our own notice.
"I can do that on my own, and you and Kimberly can go out and see if there are any places already set up that sell provisions for making real meals."
Teilon grunted in acknowledgment as he continued eating. Kimberly remained silent, but she would have spoken up if she disagreed.
"Here, you hold on to the key. It's more important that you guys be able to get in with the supplies when you need to," Reivyn passed the key to the small house over to Teilon.
He quickly finished his breakfast and headed out the door to go search for a Party.
The noticeboard was filled with scraps of paper. Reivyn stood with several other people and perused the contents written on the notes pinned to the board. There were several established Parties seeking to bolster their ranks to delve the Dungeon, but most of them were only looking for one person, sometimes two.
Reivyn had spotted a couple of notices where a small group like theirs was seeking to combine, and he had made copies to go investigate exactly what their group was like. He would have to judge whether or not they would be a good fit for each other.
The notices included cursory information about the current party members like Level, Class, and what they were focused on such as defending, melee, ranged, etc. There were very few groups that already had someone who was considered a Caster Class or could manipulate mana in a sufficient way to use it in combat. That didn't mean that there weren't a lot of Parties that had such individuals, it was more likely that they were full and weren't seeking to bolster their ranks.
Seeking a Caster Class was the number one focus of the majority of notices that were only seeking one adventurer. The second floor has probably been at least scouted by this point by some of the more competent Adventurer Parties, Reivyn thought.
Reivyn spotted several notices where a Party was selling information on the first floor, but there weren't any on the second floor or beyond, if it existed. Makes sense that information on the second floor is more valuable being hoarded by those exploring there in the early stages. I bet that once more groups start treading down there more consistently, the front runners will start to sell information on the deeper levels.
Reivyn jotted down a couple more copies. He had found a total of six other groups consisting of two or three members seeking to combine with another small Party. They included instructions on where to find the groups in the local taverns or inns as they waited for their chance to delve.
The notices Reivyn had copied were ones belonging to groups that had similar power levels and experience as his group, from what he could gather on what was listed, but none of the notices included things like the personality or background of the members. Weeding out who they could fluidly mesh with was the next step on Reivyn's to-do list.
He glanced over at another portion of the board, one with far fewer notices pinned to it, and was surprised to see that there were already missions pinned by some of the locals for Adventurer's to procure certain supplies for them. There were several notices for ores that could be found on the first floor of the Dungeon, including one from the local garrison.
Knowing that the Count was acquiring the silver ore found from the Dungeon, most of the notices pinned from the locals were for a premium on the other ores that could be separated from the silver and used in crafting gear that could be sold back to the adventurers. There were even missions for Adventurers to go further up the mountain in search of monster parts and other resources that could be found in the mountain range.
Reivyn wasn't interested in exploring further into the mountain range to procure herbs or special types of lumber at the moment, but it wasn't outside the realm of possibility to do such a thing in the future, so he kept that in the back of his mind.
Donating the silver ore to the garrison could net the Party either contribution points that could be redeemed for various things, like purchasing parcels of land, or they could just receive a monetary remuneration. The contribution points weren't limited to the local area, though. They could be redeemed anywhere in the County.
Reivyn exited the branch building. He swiped at his brow, expecting sweat to be forming, but his hand came back dry. Man, it's really starting to get humid.
He made his way over to the closest tavern at the corner of the square leading to the front of the settlement. Reivyn could see three different taverns along the road, with the largest one being the one he headed to first. Not all of the taverns were attached to an inn, but this one was. It already stood three stories, and it was the largest building so far constructed.
They must have some backing elsewhere and really rushed to be the first and biggest. Just because most of the people coming out to the little Dungeon Town in the very beginning were individuals seeking their fortune didn't mean at least some of the larger establishments weren't already spreading their claws. There were different strategies employed: wait and purchase already built establishments or build them themselves.
Reivyn pushed his way through the entrance to the building, and the loud sounds from within immediately assaulted his senses. It wasn't an out-of-control, drunk crowd that populated the floor of the tavern, but most of the tables were filled with people eating breakfast and conversing. Nobody was being excessively loud, but there was a big difference between the quiet, sparsely populated roads and a full tavern of people.
Reivyn pulled out the copies of the notices he had written down and scanned the crowd to search for the groups matching the descriptions on the paper. Three of the six notices he had pulled were located in this tavern, and they had said that they would be waiting inside for any interested Parties.
There wasn't a continuous stream of servers threading through the tables to provide drinks like one could expect to find in the evening, but the staff was still attentive and the customers didn't have to wait long for any of their needs to be seen to. Reivyn had only scanned the crowd once over when a female server approached him.
"Hi there, are you looking for an open table?" She asked Reivyn with a smile on her face. She was dressed identically to the other servers that Reivyn had seen, further solidifying in his mind that this was the branch of a larger organization.
"Actually, I'm looking to meet up with some of the Parties that left notices in the guild branch," Reivyn said. He showed the server the pieces of paper in his hand.
"Oh, several of them have notified us of their intentions. Let me see if I can help you out real quick," the girl bent down to read the notices. "Ahh yes, two of these groups are on the floor, there and there," she pointed to the tables in question, and Reivyn followed her direction and quickly spotted the groups. "This last one is in a private room on the second floor, room three."
"Thank you," Reivyn said with a nod and a smile. The server girl gave him a return smile as he poked the papers back into his pocket.
Reivyn made his way through the crowd toward the first group. It was a Party consisting of three young men, and they were laughing uproariously about whatever tale was being told. The notice they had left indicated that they had one person who was focused on maintaining the enemy's attention while the other two were ranged attackers.
The three men stopped laughing, but with smiles still on their faces, as Reivyn approached their table.
"What can I do for you?" One of the men said. He was the larger of the three and based on his armor choice and the shield propped up nearby, Reivyn surmised that he was the leader of the group, Cal.
"I saw your notice in the branch about wanting to combine Parties," Reivyn said while displaying the note. "My name's Reivyn, and my friends and I just arrived yesterday and we're looking to join another Party. There's three of us."
"Sure, sure, have a seat," Cal said with a smile. Reivyn sat down next to him. The other two gave him a once over and then returned their attention to watching the crowd. Reivyn followed the gaze of one of them and noticed that he wasn't watching the crowd per se, but he was instead trying to surreptitiously ogle the serving girls.
"I'm Cal. What Class do you have and what's your current Party makeup?" Cal asked. Reivyn returned his attention to the other young man seated next to him. The three of them were probably in their late teens, and the notice had indicated that they were close to Level 20 Tier 2.
"I'm a Fighter, and my two companions are Peasant Levies," Cal frowned in thought at the revelation. "Despite being technically in Tier 1, we all have Tier 2 Classes, and we have combat experience. The three of us were actually present here during the excursion that formed the base." Reivyn produced his preferred access token to show to the other young man.
"Hmmm..." Cal rubbed his chin while he thought about it. "You say you have combat experience, and you have the proof right there, and I believe you, but what kind of experience do you have as an Adventurer?"
"I've personally cleared the first floor of the Dungeon while I was conscripted," Cal gave an appreciative nod at that revelation. "My two friends haven't cleared the boss room of the first floor, but they've delved most of the way into it, and we're all familiar with the first floor. Kimberly is focused on keeping the opponents focused on her, Teilon is proficient in slipping in behind and devastating from behind, and I'm currently focused on ranged attack, but I'm just as proficient performing any of the roles required of me."
Cal gave him a contemplative look while he tapped the table with his finger, lost in thought. Reivyn didn't press him and just waited for him to work through the information he had been told, so he went back to watching the other two members.
One of the Party members had a dagger out and was twirling it with the tip stuck in the top of the table. He seemed to be lost in his own little world as he hunched in on himself and his activity. He's probably not much of an outgoing person.
The first person Reivyn had observed, though, was in the middle of trying to coax one of the serving girls to get closer to him. He wasn't acting out of hand or anything, but he was clearly a flirt. Might be some tension between him, Teilon, and Kimberly, Reivyn thought.
"Well, I'll have to talk about it more with my companions here," Cal indicated to the other two, drawing Reivyn's attention back to him. "I'm definitely intrigued by what you could bring to the table, and your first-hand knowledge of the Dungeon would be a big help, but," he paused and held his finger up for emphasis. "The fact that you're all still technically in Tier 1 is a pretty big mark against you."
"I understand," Reivyn said as he nodded.
"I'm not saying we're not interested, mind you," Cal continued. "But right now, we're just interested. The Dungeon resets each week, so I think we'll wait a couple of days to see if there's anyone else that better fits with us, but if nobody shows, and, honestly, that's likely, we'd be happy to do a run with you."
"I'll have to talk to my companions, too," Reivyn said, "but that doesn't sound like a bad option. We'll see where things go, and I'll let you know if we reach an agreement with another group so you're not waiting for us and expecting to team up if we're not available."
"I appreciate that," Cal said as he stuck his hand out. Reivyn reached out and clasped hands with him as he stood up.
Reivyn turned his sight to the other group that the server had pointed out to him. The next group consisted of six people, and they were all sitting in complete silence, staring at the table in front of them.
Hmm.. they seem a little... dour, Reivyn mused to himself. Teilon was very much an upbeat person, and so was Kimberly to a lesser extent. This group gave Reivyn the feeling that they wouldn't be a good match just from his first impression of them.
I can always come back again, I don't have to meet up with them right away. Who knows, I might find a Party before I even need to consider them. Also, six seems a little strange to be looking to group up with. Their notice didn't mention six people.
Reivyn's gut feeling was that they weren't the best option. It might even be a better idea to wait a couple of days on the chance that Cal and his group wouldn't meet up with another Party.
Reivyn decisively turned towards the stairs and made his way up to the second floor. The tavern had a couple of rooms to stay in at the end of the second-floor hall, but most of the rooms on the second floor were private dining rooms with the third floor being the main floor for people to sleep in.
Reivyn walked up to the room on the left with a big "3" carved on it and knocked. He could hear some muffled conversation from within come to an end.
"Come in," a muffled, feminine voice reached his ears.
Reivyn opened the door and stepped inside. There wasn't much to the room except for a couple of simple decorations and a dining table in the center. There were three people seated at the table with the remnants of breakfast still on it: two young women and one young man, the inverse of his Party makeup.
"Hello, my name's Reivyn and I'm here about the notice you left at the guild branch about combining Parties," Reivyn introduced himself.
The three people looked at each other before looking back at Reivyn. They looked him up and down briefly, noticing his gear and young age, but one of the young ladies nodded and indicated an open chair.
"Have a seat," she said. Reivyn nodded and took his seat facing her. "My name is Melissa, Mel for short. What can you tell me about your group?"
Reivyn considered the girl in front of him before he responded. The notice had listed only that they ranged from Level 15-30 Tier 2, but it hadn't said what their Classes or focuses were. There was a distinct lack of gear or weapons present, so Reivyn wasn't able to guess their Party makeup, but he did get a faint sense of a higher concentration of mana being present in the two girls.
Likely to be Caster Classes, or able to use mana, at least. Reivyn thought. It made sense to him that they wouldn't directly advertise that on their notice. They would immediately be swamped with countless invitations to either join their group or possibly break it up.
"My friends and I just arrived yesterday, but we've been here before," Reivyn began. "We were part of the levies conscripted to come and press the Count's Claim and establish this base, and I've personally cleared the first floor of the Dungeon, twice. I'm a Fighter, and my two companions are Peasant Levies." Reivyn paused to gauge the response from the other party at that revelation, but Melissa kept a neutral expression. "Kimberly is the vanguard and is adept at maintaining enemy focus while luring them into a trap, and Teilon is adept at sneaking into that trap and attacking from behind. I'm currently focused on range, but I'm proficient at any role."
Reivyn looked at the other two seated in the room. The young man had an air of nonchalance, and he didn't seem to really care about what was being said, but Reivyn picked up on the enthusiasm the other young girl displayed on her face. Probably at the mention of Kimberly's name. I can see that she would be happier to group up with another Party not consisting entirely of men.
Upon closer examination of the others, Reivyn noticed that the two girls looked very similar to each other. They had the same auburn hair and green eyes, and their facial features, while not identical, clearly showed that they were sisters. Reivyn would place Melissa around the age of 16, and the other girl seemed a bit younger. The young man accompanying them didn't look like he was a family relation as he had dark brown hair and eyes, and he did not have similar facial features.
They didn't say which one was Level 30 and which one was Level 15, but if I had to guess, the younger girl is the lowest level. It's still pretty impressive that someone who's 14 or 15 years old is already around Level 15 in Tier 2. Most of Reivyn's squad mates in the Lord's Retinue had been around 19 or 20 years old, and their levels were closer to 10 in Tier 2, aside from the NCOs, of course.
"Judging by your aura," Reivyn continued, "I'm also willing to inform you that I have the Sense Mana and Mana Manipulation Skills. I can use my mana offensively, though limitedly, in combat."
Melissa shared a look with her sister.
"Well, I see that our - " Melissa began.
"You're hired!" The younger girl shouted out. Melissa rolled her eyes and gave her sister a withering look before turning back to Reivyn who was staring at the young woman in surprise.
"Don't mind her," Melissa said. "As I was saying," she gave a stern look toward her sister who shrunk down in her seat with a sheepish look on her face, "it seems that you were able to sense our mana. Yes, my sister and I are Caster Classes. I'm an Ice Mage, and Larissa, my sister, is a Fire Mage. They're both Rare Classes. Erik," Melissa nodded toward the young man, "is also a Fighter, but his role is the vanguard."
"I see," Reivyn said with a nod. "I'm going to be upfront. My goal, personally, is to delve deeper into the second floor eventually, and I know that having a Caster Class in the Party is most likely a requirement. I'll have to talk to my companions, but I don't think they'll turn down an invitation to group up with you, so it's all on you at this point."
"Yes, I think it would be best if we met up with your companions before we make any finalized deals, but my sister says she wants to join up with you, so we'll reach a preliminary agreement then," Melissa said. Her way of speaking was very composed, and Reivyn could tell that she had some formal education.
"Alright then," Reivyn said as he stood up. He shook Melissa's hand. "My friends are procuring supplies at the moment, but I can bring them around this afternoon if that works for you."
"That works," Melissa replied. "We'll be waiting for your return, and if all goes well, we could possibly be in the Dungeon tomorrow."
Reivyn smiled and waved his farewell to the two girls. Erik was still apparently not concerned, but Reivyn could feel the other man's attention on him the entire time he had been in the room. He could hear the muffled conversation start back up once he closed the door.
Alright, that was a lot easier than I thought it was going to be, Reivyn thought. He had a smile on his face as he made his way back down the stairs. He wouldn't tell Cal immediately that he had reached an agreement with another Party. It would be more prudent to wait until they officially merged.
If all goes to plan, we could "officially" begin our Adventures tomorrow.