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A note from Kyfe

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Reivyn and Teilon walked alongside each other as they emerged from the tunnel leading into the partitioned-off sub-space of the Dungeon. Erik walked in front of them by himself, not really interacting with anyone, but he kept his head on a swivel as soon as they stepped out into the open. Kimberly walked with Melissa and Larissa behind the two boys.

Larissa had latched onto the new girl almost immediately. Despite being at least a year older than Kimberly, Larissa acted a bit juvenile as compared to Kimberly. She's probably been sheltered her whole life and used to acting in the role of the younger, precocious sister, Reivyn observed.

Reivyn wouldn't say he could guess exactly what kind of situation the girls grew up in or what their background was, but he could surmise it was at least from a wealthy family. Kimberly, on the other hand, had grown up as a run-of-the-mill commoner, so she was a bit more world-weary.

"Hold up for a moment, Erik," Reivyn called out to the leading young man. Erik was attired in plated mail over chainmail, a step up above what the common soldiers wore and reminiscent of what the officers wore. He was armed with a kite shield that covered his torso from his shoulders to just below his groin and an arming sword.

Erik didn't carry any long-reach weapons like a spear. In contrast, Reivyn carried a spear, a sword, a shield, and a sling with an ammunition pouch. He also had his tessen squared away in his interior breast pocket. Teilon, likewise, was also armed with more than just his daggers, as he was also armed with a spear that he was walking with casually draped over his shoulders. Until they made it further down into the Dungeon and fought the more organized orcs, it made sense for Teilon to use the spear against the hordes of goblins they would find.

Erik came to a stop, but he kept scanning his surroundings. On the surface, it appeared that he was ignoring Reivyn and his companions, but Reivyn had learned better after interacting with the new group for a while. Erik seemed to be some sort of bodyguard, and he was always watching the surroundings while listening to everything that was going on around him. He didn't interact with the other Party members, at least while Reivyn and the others were involved, but he always responded to any words directed at him.

"I'll repeat what we're likely to find in the Dungeon one more time before we go any further," Reivyn said as the three girls joined him and Teilon. "I've been in the Dungeon twice, and Teilon and Kimberly went into the Dungeon twice together, so that makes four separate instances. In every single case, we found the exact same thing: One goblin patrol near the surface, several branching hallways ending in open rooms of sleeping goblins with sentries, one mining room with goblins and orc overseers, and then the living quarters of the orcs followed by the boss room."

Melissa nodded her head with a serious expression on her face, and Larissa bounced back and forth on the balls of her feet in excitement.

"The method we used in our squad was to break up into groups of four to tackle the goblin rooms and leapfrog our way down so as to progress as fast as possible, but we had 13 people in our squad. We only have six with us. I'm confident we could handle the goblin rooms if we separated into two groups of three, but for this run, I think we should stick together the first couple of rooms so that we can see what the others are capable of."

"I agree," Melissa said. "We'll watch how you guys handle the first room, and then we'll show you what we can do with the second room. We can discuss further after that."

"Sounds like a plan to me," Reivyn said.

The two groups had defaulted into having Melissa and Reivyn speak for them, and so far it had worked out well. Teilon and Kimberly were perfectly aware of Reivyn's fighting prowess and his experience in the Dungeon, and they weren't interested in jockeying for perceived power as the group leader, and Melissa was apparently used to being the one in charge of her group, and her companions just naturally followed her.

"Alright," Reivyn concluded. "There's nothing to find topside in the Dungeon, no monsters, and no resources, so let's just head into the cave. It's up the slope a little way."

Erik once more proceeded as the vanguard. Even though Reivyn had said there was nothing to find above ground, Erik never let his guard down. Reivyn nodded at the sight.

The group made their way into the cave and proceeded along the tunnels. Melissa and Larissa marveled at the hazy illumination that followed them, having not seen something like it before.

Erik maintained his spot in the lead with Reivyn and Teilon right behind. It wasn't necessary for Kimberly to assume her role as a vanguard just yet, so she continued to walk alongside the other girls. Teilon also acted responsibly and quit walking with his staff thrown across his shoulders, holding it in a more ready position.

The goblin patrol was quickly encountered, and Erik charged right into their midst and displayed incredible competency with his sword and shield. He was just as able to bash his opponents using the shield as a weapon as he was at using it to deftly deflect any stray attacks that reached him. Reivyn and Teilon simply watched as Erik massacred the goblins in short order. They weren't stunned into inaction, they just weren't needed.

"Oh, oh, oh," Larissa exclaimed. "I wanna see!" Larissa had been too far back to actually watch the destruction that Erik had wrought on the little green pests. She was too short to see over or through the others who were standing in her way.

She quickly ran up to the group of dead goblins and bent down to inspect them.

"Ewww, are these goblins?" She poked at one with her finger. It squished against the pressure, and blood seeped out of the wounds covering it. Larissa jumped up in shock and flailed her hands around before rubbing them on her pants. "Gross, gross!"

"Larissa!" Melissa gave a low shout. She leveled a stern gaze at her sister as Larissa returned to her side, her head ducked and a sheepish grin on her face. "Compose yourself."

"Awww, you're no fun," Larissa said as she grabbed her older sister's hand. She swung it back and forth like a petulant child. Reivyn smiled at the antics as he was reminded of his own sisters.

"It's fine," Reivyn said. "They are disgusting little creatures. But there's way more of them where that came from. C'mon, let's continue."

The group made their way to the first branching corridor in no time. Kimberly took her position in the front with Teilon slightly behind and to the side of her. He wasn't equipped with a shield, so while he was going to act as a front melee combatant, he was going to mainly assist with Kimberly holding the brunt of the attention. Reivyn had his sling and ammunition in hand to help direct the flow of battle, but he was ready to step in at any time with either sword or spear if necessary.

While the squad that Reivyn had served in had mainly been focused on using the spear by itself and a sword and shield combination, there was nothing preventing one from using their shield with their spear, and Kimberly had especially been training for such a situation. Her Levels in Peasant Levy had provided her with a higher Strength Stat than she would have been able to achieve as a Villager, so she had no problem with the weight and balance of using the spear one-handed with a shield.

The trio led the way down the corridor. Reivyn temporarily took point so he could eliminate the sentry that would inevitably be sleeping at the entrance to the open room. As he expected, the sentry was dozing in his usual spot, and as its nose was twitching at the intruding scent of the adventurers, struggling to wake up, Reivyn smashed its skull with a smooth stone from his sling.

Reivyn hooked his sling to his belt and drew his sword as Teilon attached his spear to his back and drew his daggers.

"Alright, our smell wakes them up pretty quickly, but Teilon and I will dash in to kill a few before returning to our spots at the hall entrance in order to thin the horde out a bit."

Melissa and her two companions watched as Reivyn and Teilon activated their Sneak skills and dashed in silently to wreak havoc on several of the sleeping goblins before they were alerted to their presence. The duo killed three goblins each before one finally woke from the sounds and smells and released a piercing shriek. Reivyn and Teilon quickly dashed back to the hallway and took up their places.

Kimberly expertly maintained the defense of the choke point, Teilon assisting in killing the goblins and keeping any from moving around Kimberly's side to reach into the corridor. Reivyn pelted the goblins with his sling, keeping them from overwhelming Kimberly on the other side. Their synergy was in full form.

Reivyn felt he wasn't actually needed too much, as Teilon and Kimberly pretty much had a handle on the situation all on their own. If they weren't in such a favorable position with the walls of the corridor funneling the goblins together, he would have been required to put forth more effort, maybe even joining in at melee range. As it was, he decided he could experiment a little.

Reivyn grabbed a stone from his pouch and focused his intent on it. He infused the stone with his Earth Mana, and sent it hurtling into the goblin horde. It completely obliterated one of the goblin heads it smashed into, and it continued on to brain another that was behind the first. Reivyn nodded his head at the increased might of the projectile. It had only taken him about 20 mana points to perform the action.

Next, Reivyn wrapped a stone in Air Mana, and he sent that one flying soon after. This time the stone wasn't given a more solid mass to smash through obstacles, but instead, it sailed through the air at an incredible speed. It pierced right through four goblins in succession and continued even after until it hit the far wall, disintegrating into smithereens at the impact.

Reivyn widened his eyes at the sight. He hadn't expected it to contain so much lethality. I wonder what would happen if I do both? Infuse the inner part of the stone with Earth Mana and wrap the whole thing in Air Mana?

Reivyn put thought to action, and after draining 60 mana points, because using two different affinities wasn't a simple one-plus-one equation, the stone shot through the goblin horde. Not only did it pierce through the goblins it encountered, the weight behind it actually created a small vacuum in its wake, and several of the nearby goblins were pulled off balance.

Ok. It's a bit expensive, so it's not a viable option for ordinary encounters, but that move could definitely cause some serious harm to the ogre in the boss room. Reivyn was pleased with the results of his experimentation.

The battle quickly ended after that, and Kimberly and Teilon were only slightly winded from the exertion. The goblins weren't much of a threat in this environment, and it took just a bit of effort and Stamina to wipe them out. The three quickly cleaned off the blood from their weapons and armor and turned to the three waiting companions.

"Impressive," Melissa commented. "Why would you put yourselves into a dangerous situation, though, at the beginning like that?"

"Yeah, it wasn't necessary," Reivyn agreed. "We just wanted to display our full capabilities to you. We wouldn't normally do such a thing, but we figured showing you our Sneak Skills in action would give you a better understanding of what we can do with it. And we were never really in any danger performing such a maneuver." Reivyn shrugged.

"I see," Melissa said. "In that case, yeah, it makes sense. You said that this is the standard setup for several more rooms along the tunnels?" Reivyn nodded his head at the question. "Ok, we'll take the next one and show you what we can do."

"Alright, let's go," Reivyn said. "There's not any loot to be found in any of these top rooms, so there's no need to waste time looking. We can find some ores to harvest later in the mine."

The Party of six continued making their way down the tunnels, and Melissa and Larissa took up position directly behind Erik. Teilon took the opportunity to walk next to Kimberly and make some small talk before they reached the next corridor leading to the sleeping goblins. They didn't need to maintain silence throughout their entire journey, but there was no reason to risk waking one of the sleeping sentries if they didn't have to.

Erik walked down the corridor with his shield up and sword at the ready. Knowing what to expect ahead of them, Melissa held her hand out and a visible manifestation of mana swirled into a small projectile made out of ice. As soon as the next sleeping goblin sentry came into view, Melissa flicked her hand forward, and the ice shard pierced into its neck at a speed no slower than a released arrow.

Erik took up a position at the choke point, and the two girls stepped up to channel their mana. Reivyn activated his Mana Sight to see if he could gain a glimpse into exactly what they were doing.

Complicated threads of ice and fire mana pulled together, respectively, made some intricate patterns at a blazing speed. Reivyn widened his eyes at the display. There's no way I could Manipulate Mana that quickly or precisely just with my passive Skills. They must be using their Class Skills assisted by the System to do such a thing. At mid-Tier 2 Levels, I don't believe their Skill Levels are so far above mine that they could do that freestyle.

Melissa threw both of her hands out in the direction of the goblins, and the mana she had accumulated shot out and spread over the surface of the floor, covering the entirety of the sleeping goblins. Reivyn's group watched as the goblins didn't just twitch their noses at the scents assaulting them, but their entire bodies started to shiver at the sudden cold.

Walls of ice extended up from the ground surrounding the perimeter of where the ice-covered the floors, creating a smaller walled-in area inside the room. Larissa, beside her, had built up a raging inferno hovering between her hands, and as soon as the walls went up, she released it into the center of the goblins.

The ball of fire exploded, sending flames and a shockwave expanding out, but the walls of ice contained the force of the explosion, amplifying it as it bounced back into the center to devastate the goblins several times over. The ice walls had been built in such a way that they were brittle, and the shock wave caused them to shatter and pelt the goblins further with shrapnel.

Complete silence met the group of six Party members. Not a single goblin had even woken up before they were killed by the combined might of the two Casters.

Larissa jumped up and pumped her fist into the air as she yelled, "Yeah! That's how it's done." She turned to the group with a wide grin on her face.

Melissa was much less exuberant, but she also sported a smile on her face as she turned to face Reivyn. Teilon and Kimberly stood staring, their mouths agape.

Reivyn scratched the back of his head as he took in the carnage.

"Yeah, that was way more impressive than what we did," Reivyn coughed.

"Don't worry about it," Melissa replied. "My sister and I have been training together for a long time, and we have the Skills necessary to perform such a feat, though we can't do it indefinitely."

"Speaking of, how much mana did that cost you?" Reivyn asked. "If you don't mind me asking."

"It's no problem. The Ice Bolt I initially cast cost me two Mana Points, but the spell I cast into the room was actually two spells I combined into one that I refer to as the Ice Tomb. It's the spell Slick Ground combined with Mana Walls, and at the area covered it cost 30 Mana Points each, so 60 mana."

"Oh, oh, oh, I used a custom spell, too!" Larissa said in excitement. "I also have Fire Bolt, and it's basically the same thing as Mel's, but I used Inferno Blast, which is a combination of Inferno and Fire Blast. The spell cost is based on how much mana I accumulate as opposed to the area that Mel covers, but I also used 60 Mana Points."

Larissa struck up a pose to show how pleased she was with herself. Reivyn had to admit that witnessing those spells used together was an eye-opener. He had seen Knight-Captain Reifold use some powerful spells before, but he was a high Tier 3, and these two girls were only one-third of the way through Tier 2, yet they were able to do so much damage in such a short amount of time.

Reivyn didn't know how much mana they had, but as Rare Caster Classes with a focus on the Mental Stats, they were bound to have significantly higher mana pools than he had at the moment.

"There's one thing I don't understand," Reivyn voiced his doubts. "Why did your spells cost so few Mana Points? If I was capable of doing the same thing, I wouldn't even have enough mana to do so, much less only expend 60 Mana Points."

Melissa chuckled at the question.

"Yeah, if I tried to do that with just Mana Manipulation and no Class designed for it, no way would I be able to do so. Those were Class Skills, though, and the System handles the heavy lifting for us. We just guide, direct, and fuel the System's actions, basically. That means that the mana usage is considerably less. It's possible to perform the same spells without the help of the System, and it's even possible for it to cost the same amount of mana. It would require an extremely high Mana Manipulation Skill, as well as a very high elemental affinity, though."

"Hmmm... yes, I can see that," Reivyn said while rubbing his chin in contemplation. "I guess I'll have to just stick to my little tricks while training up my affinities and Skills."

"Oh? Are you going to try and unlock a Spellblade Class or something similar?" Melissa asked. The group didn't have anything to clean up or search for, so they spoke as they walked down the corridor.

Reivyn and Melissa walked together, Erik was out front, and Larissa was bouncing around Teilon and Kimberly, pestering the couple with, "Did you see? Did you see? I was awesome," over and over. Kimberly was amused by her antics and played along with the other girl with a twinkle in her eyes. Teilon walked along with a sullen expression, as this was his valuable "alone time" with Kimberly, but he didn't voice any discontent. He was also incredibly impressed by the display of raw power.

"I'm not too sure, yet, but I know that I want my next Class to be focused on mana and my Mental Stats. My Mental Stats were actually my highest inherent Stats, but due to circumstances outside of my control, I was forced into the Fighter Class at Tier 1. I'll tell you the whole story some other time when we're out of the Dungeon.

"I'm not complaining, mind you. I spent a lot of time training in weapons and on my Physical Stats, so much so that I hit the wall of diminishing returns a long time ago, but I don't want my other talents to go to waste."

Melissa's eyebrows raised and she gave an appreciative murmur at the revelation.

"Well, I can tell you that Mage is the Uncommon Tier 2 Class focused on mana, but they don't get any powerful spells at all. They basically only get the basic Magic Bolt spells of the basic affinities and accelerated growth in their mana Skills. An elementally focused Mage, like my sister and I, is of the Rare variant. We give up the easy usage of the other elements in favor of one, but the tradeoff is well worth it.

"We get access to powerful spells assisted by the System as you have seen, but we also get an increased control of Mana Manipulation in our chosen element, which lets us experiment with freestyle usage. I could cast the same spells freestyle at only about three times the cost, though that's because I've studied the spell structures extensively. Starting off, or if someone didn't investigate their spells, the increased ability wouldn't be enough to offset the cost."

"So does that mean that you're going to be focused on an ice-attributed Caster Class going forward?" Reivyn's interest was piqued.

"Not at all," Melissa chuckled. She reached out and touched Reivyn's shoulder as she replied. The gesture was friendly and completely natural. "Selecting an elementally focused Class doesn't exclude their other elements in the future, but it does accelerate the growth of that affinity while I have the Class.

"My sister and I come from a family that has a high affinity for both ice and fire elements, and we train together not just to increase the synergy of our spells, but because we can observe each other's spells and Mana Manipulation in tandem. We're working towards an Epic Tier 3 Class of duality between ice and fire. Several of our family members have gone through the same route going way back in our lineage, so we have an accurate road map to achieve our goals."

"That's fascinating," Reivyn said. "My dad has a Martial Combat Class and my mother has a Caster Combat Class. My sisters have shown some promise with mana, as well, but they're still only six years old, almost seven. They're twins, by the way."

Reivyn didn't feel any compunction in revealing this information as he wasn't going into any specifics, and he wasn't likely to team up with Melissa and Larissa for years to come. They would most likely never meet his family, and the other person's charisma made Reivyn feel comfortable around his new Party members.

"So, you sound like you come from a fairly prominent background," Reivyn remarked while looking at Melissa out of the corner of his eyes.

Melissa smiled at the obvious leading statement. "I'll tell you some other time when we're out of the Dungeon."

"Right. Well, since we're still in the Dungeon, let's decide what to do next," Reivyn replied. "I say we break up our groups and combine them so we all get a chance at working together. Next room we can have Kimberly, Teilon, and Larissa handle the goblins. Then you, Erik, and I can take the room after."

"That sounds like a good idea," Melissa agreed. "I think we should take a couple of rooms like that so we can have a chance to practice together, then we can switch it up again. We also need to have Kimberly and Erik fight side by side at some point, as well."

"Agreed," Reivyn said.

He looked forward to working with this new group. If everything worked out well, he might not have to search for a higher-level Party to explore the next floor of the Dungeon. With the power that Melissa and Larissa showed earlier, it should be feasible to put up a fight with what they could potentially find in the depths, as long as it wasn't anything ridiculous. Even then Reivyn was confident they would be able to work together to escape in such a situation.

Reivyn smiled as the pieces to his goal of gaining sufficient Life Experience were falling into place.

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Kyfe

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