Reivyn looked through the doorway that had opened up after they defeated the boss room. There was a clear demarcation as the color of the floors and walls were a dark, dark gray as opposed to the earthy browns of the cave system on the first floor. The walls and floor were made of brick and were clearly man-made.
The ambient lighting was dimmer and only extended to twenty feet into the distance. A warm wind blew into Reivyn's face as he stood at the precipice. The air was thick and harder to breathe. A fetid stink wafted from the depths.
Reivyn looked behind him to Melissa, and she nodded at his unasked question. Reivyn had taken up position with sword and shield next to Erik, and the two of them would lead the way with the two girls following behind. Teilon and Kimberly had opted out of exploring further.
"Alright, we're likely to find monsters that are immune to mundane attacks down here. Those monsters will be high Tier 3, but with the lowered mana density, they'll be weakened," Reivyn said.
"How do you know that? As far as I can tell, there's no information found anywhere about the lower floor, yet," Melissa asked.
"I was part of the unit that built the camp initially," Reivyn said. Melissa nodded at his words; they had already been over that. "What I didn't tell you was that there was a demon attack from the depths. A giant demon tore through the ground, and several Revenants crawled out of the hole it made."
Larissa gasped and put her hands over her mouth, her eyes wide with astonishment. Erik actually glanced over and took an appraising look at Reivyn at the words.
"Most of the soldiers were debilitated and unable to fight back at all, but the commander, Knight-Captain Reifold, is a high level Paladin. He fought and defeated the giant demon while the Adjutant, Knight-Lieutenant Brand, defended him from the Revenants. I have a skill that allowed me to resist the mental fear induced, and I was able to fight off a Revenant, too."
"Wow, that's impressive. You said that they were weakened due to the lack of mana density? I can't see any other way you could survive from a Level 50 Tier 3," Melissa queried.
"Yeah, it moved really jerky and slow. If I took my eyes off of it, though, it would quickly close the gap and attack. I got knocked back and tumbled for several yards just from one attack that I blocked with my shield. If they weren't in that weird, jerky state when I was watching them, I wouldn't have stood a chance. The attacks with my sword just bounced off it, and I got lucky that I could use mana as a weapon.
"I made a brick of earth mana, as that was all I had time to concentrate on, and it smashed through its legs pretty easily. Once it was crippled and unable to move very well, I drove a mana blade into its skull where its core of mana was animating it.
"What took me several desperate minutes to accomplish against one of them, Knight-Captain Reifold cast one spell and destroyed over a dozen at once."
"Ok, so focus spells on the skull. Got it," Melissa said. "If they're in that weakened, jerky state that you mentioned down here, it shouldn't be a problem for the four of us to take on one or two at a time. If we encounter more than that at once, we should re-evaluate and possibly retreat. No reason to take any chances. We're just taking a peek, after all."
"Sounds good to me," Reivyn said.
"I hope they don't stink," Larissa muttered. Melissa nudged her with her elbow. "What? I can tell it's going to be a chore already," Larissa said indignantly.
"Smells won't kill you," Melissa rolled her eyes.
"That you know of!" Larissa refuted. "What if it causes me to gag, and then I choke, and then I'll die! Smells can absolutely kill you!" Larissa stuck her tongue out at her sister.
"I'll be sure to let mom and dad know that you succumbed to the stench when I get home. We'll hold a proper memorial for you with incense and everything to commemorate your courage in the face of odor."
"Now who's being ridiculous?" Larissa poked her sister in the side.
The banter between the sisters helped Reivyn calm his nerves at the prospect of heading into the dangerous area of the Dungeon. He nodded to Erik, and the two of them stepped over the threshold to the second floor, shields up and swords at the ready.
The air was damp with moisture, and Reivyn could see water dripping from cracks between the bricks. The walls were slick with condensation in many places, and scraggly moss could be seen growing in patches.
The hall stretched on in a straight path, no longer angling downward like the previous cave tunnels. There were no monsters or anything for the first several yards, but Reivyn and Erik never let their guards down. The chit-chat between the siblings had ceased as soon as they had begun their scouting excursion.
Reivyn walked along for a couple of minutes before he spotted the first thing that stood out as unusual. A skeleton lay on the ground at the edge of their ambient light. Rotting leather armor and rusted mail encased the bones, and a broken sword was clutched in its hand. A round shield was resting on top of the pile of bones.
Reivyn activated his Mana Sight, and he let out a breath he hadn't known he'd been holding when he saw that there was no mana core in its skull ready to animate it.
"Not a Revenant," Reivyn whispered to his companions. They nodded as the group continued on. A cursory look at the skeleton showed that there was nothing to be gained from looting it.
It looks like the remains of an ancient adventurer exploring the caves. If he died down here, though, that means there's something that can kill. This isn't a maze, so he obviously didn't get lost and starve to death.
The Party stepped past the lone skeleton and continued their way down the hall. It was eerily quiet. The sounds of the dripping water echoed off the walls, and Reivyn could hear the breathing of his group.
Soon the quiet was broken by the sound of something shuffling ahead of them. Reivyn adjusted his grip on his sword and shield, his sweaty palms causing his hands to slip a bit.
A skeleton came walking down the hall at the edge of their vision. It didn't have any armor on at all, but it carried a cleaver similar to the ones the orcs used. Reivyn frowned at the sight of the moving bones. It didn't appear to be a Revenant as he couldn't sense the powerful emanations from its core.
He activated his Mana Sight, and, with the gains he had previously made that allowed him to see slightly beyond solid surfaces, he could make out the tiny marble of black mana in its skull. It wasn't nearly as large as the one he had seen from the Revenant, and it didn't give off nearly as noxious of a feeling.
"That's not a Revenant," Reivyn whispered. The skeleton had already seen the group and made a beeline to them, but it was still walking in a rambling shuffle.
At the words spoken by Reivyn, Erik dashed forward and lashed out with his sword. Erik was unable to use mana Skills, but he was very adept with his swordsmanship. The skeleton moved very slowly as it attempted to parry the attack, but it just wasn't able to move quick enough. Erik's sword seamlessly sliced through its spinal cord at the neck, and the skeleton collapsed in a heap.
Reivyn observed the skull of the skeleton, and despite there not being any indication of where it was looking, he could feel its gaze as it was angled up towards him where it sat on its body. It wasn't dead yet.
"The mana core in its skull is still intact," Reivyn directed toward Erik. The other man nodded, and with a quick thrust, he jabbed his sword into the top of the skull, destroying the core. The mana dissipated into the air as Reivyn watched, and he finally nodded. "It's dead. Well... you know what I mean."
"It's unalive?" Larissa ventured. "No, that still doesn't make sense. It's dead-dead?" She looked off to the side with her finger against her lips as she considered the options.
"Let's just go with dead," Melissa said with a roll of her eyes. "We all know what we mean when we say that."
"You're no fun," Larissa harrumphed.
Reivyn joined Erik again and the group continued walking down the hall. Reivyn heard the tell-tale sounds of wandering skeletons again just a few short yards further down the hall.
A group of seven skeletons came into view this time. They were again devoid of the strength found in the Revenants, and they all had a motley assortment of weaponry. They mostly carried variations of a sword or other bladed weapons.
Erik didn't charge forward this time, as it was inappropriate to break up the two-man shield wall they had to protect the unarmored girls behind them. They slowly advanced towards the incoming undead, and when they were in range, Erik and Reivyn stabbed forth with their swords simultaneously, jabbing them up through the mouths of the respective skeletons they had targeted.
They recovered their stance and blocked the incoming attacks from the other skeletons. A barrage of fire and ice bolts flew over the two vanguards and demolished the skulls of the remaining five skeletons.
"This is too easy," Larissa said.
"Don't say that!" Reivyn gave her a sharp look.
"What?" Larissa replied with a confused look. "Didn't you say that earlier in the boss room?"
"I said that after we defeated the room," Reivyn said with a shake of his head. "Every time I've said, or even thought, 'this is too easy,' or something like it, something goes wrong. Don't get complacent."
"Ok~ay," Larissa rolled her eyes.
"He's right," Melissa admonished her sister. "He's already told us that we're likely to encounter stronger enemies down here, and this is just the first batch."
"Ok, ok, I get it, sheesh," Larissa said with a pout.
"It's not that big of a deal," Reivyn said in consolation. "I just don't want you to get in the bad habit of underestimating a situation just because things are easy at the beginning."
"A valuable lesson," Melissa said.
The group reformed and continued on their way. There were several more patrols of skeletons ranging from four to eight in each group, but with their combined efforts, and the fact that the skeletons quickly died from one elemental bolt spell, they didn't have any problems in their progress.
After about a hundred yards or so they finally came to their first break in the long corridor. A simple iron door was inset into a depression on either side of the hall. Reivyn looked at each of the Party members in turn before facing the door on the right.
"I'll open it," Reivyn said to Erik. "You stand guard for whatever might be on the other side, and then we'll assess the situation and go in." Erik nodded his head. "Ok, on three. One, two, three!"
Reivyn yanked the door open and stepped back with the movement to give clear access to Erik. The two girls had their hands up, ready to channel their spells. Reivyn quickly let go of the door and resumed a ready stance as well.
Nothing attacked them or came through the door, so the group of four tentatively walked through the threshold.
Reivyn looked around and saw that they had entered a fairly small square room. Bones lay scattered all over the ground in various levels of decomposition. A large cauldron was located in the center of the room with what looked like faded markings of intricate patterns carved into the surface of the ground underneath it.
A hooded skeleton sat at a chair on the other side of the cauldron, facing the entrance. Its head was cocked to the side, and it was missing an arm. The hooded robe was tattered and torn, and it frayed at the edges.
"Hold up!" Reivyn shouted in a low voice as Erik made his way toward the seated skeleton. "That's definitely a Revenant."
It was as if the words were a magic spell, and a loud wail filled the room as the Revenant's head snapped upright. Its jaw moved up and down like it was laughing at them as two burning orbs materialized in the eye sockets of its skull.
Erik dashed forward and struck out with lightning speed before the Revenant could stand up, but as Reivyn had warned, his attack was rebounded and Erik was thrown slightly off balance. He was lucky that he was well trained and kept his shield up, as the Revenant threw its one remaining arm out and smashed it into the shield.
Erik was thrown into the air and crashed into the wall on the other side of the room. The force of the blow caused him to remain suspended in the air, pressed against the wall, for a moment before he slid down. He was slightly disoriented, and he shook his head to clear his thoughts.
Reivyn kept his eyes on the Revenant, knowing that they had a propensity for sudden, quick movements if they weren't watched. Reivyn imbued his sword with pure mana. There was no reason to waste extra mana on adding an element, as that wasn't necessary to bypass the immunity the Revenants had.
The Revenant stood up from its seated position and looked back and forth between each of the Party members, briefly considering Reivyn a bit longer than it had Erik before its attention zeroed in on the girls with the swirling mana accumulating in their hands.
Reivyn positioned himself between the girls and the Revenant on the other side of the cauldron. The Revenant's jaw continued to move up and down as it reached forward and threw the cauldron out of the way. A glint caught Reivyn's eye as it sailed through the air, but now wasn't the time to investigate. He could hear the sounds of the girls entering the room fully behind him.
The Revenant took jerky steps towards Reivyn, but it moved considerably faster than the one he had previously fought on the surface. The Revenant quickly reached Reivyn, and before it could strike out at him, Reivyn instinctively activated his Mana Shield Skill and placed it over the top of his shield.
The force of the blow from the Revenant knocked Reivyn back a few steps, but it wasn't nearly as powerful as the attack that had landed on Erik.
It works! Reivyn thought. The power it exerts has something to do with its immunity to mundane weapons. When it came into contact with the mana on the shield, the force was greatly reduced.
Reivyn's spirits soared at the revelation. The attack had still been very powerful, but it was no longer a one-hit-kill situation.
A barrage of fire and ice bolts swarmed the Revenant, striking it all over its body. The robe caught fire in some places, but the ice bolts quickly put the fires out before it could immolate the entire garb like had previously happened with Reivyn.
Reivyn took a sturdy step forward and slashed out with his mana-encased sword. The blow didn't rebound as it had with Erik, but it didn't penetrate through the defenses of the Revenant and only slightly staggered it. The Revenant lashed out with its skeletal arm again, and Reivyn was once more knocked back towards the girls.
"Use blunt force on its joints!" Reivyn shouted.
Fire wasn't the best at creating such an attack, so Larissa continued to try and burn the Revenant as best she could, switching from pelting it with Fire Bolts to surrounding its skull with her Inferno Spell.
Melissa concentrated and manipulated her Ice Bolt into a solid brick shape, having remembered Reivyn's mention of using an earth-aligned mana brick before, and hurtled it into the knee joint of the Revenant that was inexorably gaining ground on them.
The knee shattered, and the Revenant collapsed to the side with a loud wail filling the room. Reivyn saw his chance and dashed forward. Larissa's Inferno Spell, while not destroying the Revenant or its skull, had damaged it, and Reivyn could see where it was weakened with his Mana Sight.
He stabbed his sword through the weakened spot on the skull, and after some slight resistance, his blade slid into the breach and destroyed the mana core inside. The putrid mana escaped into the atmosphere, and Reivyn had to hold his breath to fight against nausea it induced.
Reivyn heaved a sigh of relief as he looked up with his sword still stuck in the skull of the now-deceased Revenant. His eyes widened as he saw another Revenant come through the open door from the opposite room in the hallway, and it was reaching out toward Melissa.
"Watch out!" Reivyn shouted as he activated Charge. He slammed his mana-encased shield into the new Revenant, for once knocking one of them off of their feet and slamming it into the wall.
Melissa hopped back in surprise at the sudden movement, and Larissa screamed as she pulled her arms up and twisted her body to the side.
"Focus!" Reivyn reminded them. He brought his sword down on the Revenant's skull as it tried to stand up, knocking it back down.
"Floating Tomb!" Melissa shouted to her sister as she channeled her mana. Larissa finally regained her composure and nodded. She accumulated mana as Reivyn dodged the errant swipe from the downed Revenant and kept it down on the ground with the occasional bash to the top of its head.
Larissa formed her Inferno Blast Spell, and she directed it to float next to the skull of the Revenant, but she didn't release it. She maintained it floating there, sweat beading her brow as she held the spell so far away from herself.
Melissa shortly released her spell, and a small orb of reinforced ice made from manipulating the Ice Wall Spell formed around the skull and Inferno Blast Spell, sealing it in. Reivyn felt the vibrations of the Inferno Blast Spell going off inside of the mini Ice Tomb, and the Revenant's body went slack.
Melissa released her hold on the spell, and once it dissipated, Reivyn saw a completely headless body. The improvised Ice Tomb plus Inferno Blast Spell combination had completely obliterated the Revenant's skull into dust. The mana core was likewise eradicated, and it didn't even have wisps escape into the air.
Reivyn swiped at the sweat from his brow as he searched for any other threats, assuming a ready stance. There were no other monsters in the room, and with a quick peek out into the hall, Reivyn saw that there was nothing nearby as well.
He finally let his guard down and returned to the sisters standing in the room investigating the dead Revenants. Erik had recovered from his stunned state earlier, but knowing he couldn't do anything in the fight, he had simply stood to the side. He had been ready to dash in and block any attacks from the Revenant in place of the girls, but until that situation arrived, his best use was to just stand at the ready out of the way.
"Yeah, those guys were definitely empowered by the higher concentration of mana in the Dungeon," Reivyn said. "Luckily, it's still not enough to give them their full power."
"Uh-huh," Melissa absentmindedly replied. She bent down and traced the bones and robe, but she straightened up soon after, having not found anything out of the ordinary from a regular skeleton. "It must be the mana that forms their cores. While they're susceptible to mana attacks, their bones are reinforced on top of their immunity to mundane attacks. It looks like sustained attacks can weaken that reinforcement, though."
"We need to be smarter with our next encounters," Reivyn nodded his head. "I think the best strategy would be to lure them out of the rooms into the hallway. Erik and I could do that while you and Larissa build up your spells. Form the brick-shaped Ice Bolts and destroy their joints as they follow us into the hall. Larissa can then roast their heads a bit, and I can stab through their cores."
Melissa looked up as she brushed her hair behind her ear. Reivyn could still see traces of nervousness on her face, and beads of sweat were still formed on her forehead.
"That sounds like a good plan for now," she agreed. "Erik, you don't need to actually engage the Revenants. Just pop in and back out when it stands up to follow you."
Erik grunted in acknowledgment.
"I saw something glint as the cauldron was thrown out of the way. I'm going to go check it out," Reivyn said.
He walked over to the overturned cauldron, and with a quick search, he saw what had drawn his attention. He bent down and picked up a small crystal, barely larger than the joint of his pinky finger.
He held it between his forefinger and thumb as he activated his Identify Skill.
|Damaged Experience Crystal|
Reivyn's eyebrows shot up as he looked up at his companions.
"It's a Damaged Experience Crystal," he said. Larissa gasped and Melissa and Erik shared a look. "My Identify Skill says it holds 1,000 Experience."
"That's a valuable commodity," Melissa said. "They can be found in the Capital and other prominent cities bordering the Tier 2 Region. They can also be found in Tier 2 Regions, and Alchemists can make them from magical ingredients."
She walked over and looked at the crystal in Reivyn's grip. She looked up at Reivyn with her hand halfway extended.
"May I?" She asked. Reivyn placed the crystal in her hand with no hesitation. Melissa smiled at the show of trust.
"Yeah, I can see cracks in the structure," Melissa said after getting a closer look. "The most Experience I've ever seen in an undamaged Experience Crystal, though, is only 200. This must be a very high-grade crystal." Melissa placed it back in Reivyn's hand. She gestured towards the scattered bones filling the room. "With your mention of demons and the presence of the demonic mana animating the Revenants, it would appear they were alchemists extracting the Experience from living people."
"Let's go check the other room," Larissa said with excitement as Reivyn put the crystal away. Even though Melissa said the crystal had likely been formed from living people, Reivyn had no compunctions against appropriating it for himself. Those people were long dead, and it would just be a waste to throw the Experience away.
Larissa ran out of the room before anyone could stop her, but she came back shortly after with a huge grin on her face. She held up another Damaged Experience Crystal, and with a quick Inspect, Reivyn saw that it also contained 1,000 Experience.
"Since this is a commodity that can be found in the Capital, does that mean these things are what you and your sister used to Level Up?" Reivyn asked.
"That's right," Melissa confirmed with a nod. "But, as I said, they're expensive commodities. One of the reasons we're out here delving the Dungeon is to gain School Credits. School Credits can be traded for weaker Experience Crystals. Our family only provides so many to the juniors at a time, so we have to find ways to get our own."
"That makes sense," Reivyn said while rubbing his chin in thought. "Considering this is a Resource Dungeon, it looks like valuable ores are the resources on the first floor, and Experience is the resource reward for being able to defeat these Revenants on the second floor.
"I say we continue on a bit further and see if there are any more isolated rooms like this and employ our combat plan. We can get as many of these Experience Crystals as we can from the weaker encounters before we head back out.
"We have a lot of time to delve the Dungeon, and if we can consistently find Experience Crystals in the upper part of the second floor, I think it would be prudent to build up our levels before tackling anything harder."
"That sounds like a good idea to me," Melissa said. She looked at her other two companions. Erik gave one curt nod, but Larissa bobbed her head so enthusiastically her hair almost got tangled.
"Alright," Melissa said as she turned back to Reivyn. "You and Erik lead the way."