A note from Kyfe

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Reivyn took a deep breath of the fresh air as soon as they stepped out of the caverns into the bright sunlight. Due to how the Dungeons worked, it was perpetually sunlight in the open-air area of the Dungeon, and the marked difference between the sunlight and cool breeze helped to wash away the gloom that was practically sticking to Reivyn and his Party.

Larissa ran ahead and spun around with her arms out as she basked in the open air. She twirled around a couple of times before dropping down to lie on her back. Kimberly and Teilon smiled at the whimsical attitude displayed by the girl. Melissa and Erik simply ignored her, apparently used to her behavior after living with her for years.

"Ahhh, it feels good to be out," Reivyn said. "I'm dog tired, so let's go our separate ways and regroup to talk about the Dungeon and our plans for tomorrow."

"While I would normally say it's better to talk things over when it's fresh in our minds," Melissa began, "there really isn't anything we need to specifically consider about the Dungeon. We have our methods figured out, and the first floor and first part of the second floor pose no real threat to us as long as we stick to those tactics. So, I agree. Let's go get some rest and we can meet up at the same private room in the tavern as before."

"What's there to plan?" Teilon said. He had resumed walking with his arms resting on his spear draped across his back. "We've already distributed the loot, and we know what we're doing in the Dungeon for the foreseeable future."

"There's always something to plan," Kimberly poked him in the side.

"I'm with Teilon," Larissa spoke up. "Come. Join me on the ground as we gaze up into the big blue above us and let all of our troubles melt away."

"What troubles do you have?" Reivyn asked with a raised eyebrow.

"It was a figure of speech," Larissa retorted.

"Sure, sure. Anyway," Reivyn turned his attention to Teilon, "to answer your question, we need to plan a training schedule around our Dungeon Delves."

"You and training!" Teilon rolled his eyes. "I thought it was hard working enough when I got my Vitality to above 20 only a couple of months after unlocking my Class, but you were sitting on over 20 before you even turned 10! And you want to do more training!"

"I like training," Reivyn replied with a shrug of his shoulders. "What else are we going to do? The town isn't really even built, yet. Do you want to go build the town so you have something else to do?"

"That's not a bad idea," Teilon mused. "Maybe I'll get a part-time gig at construction. Can't let this Woodworking Skill go to waste, now can I? You're the one that's always saying to work on all of our Skills."

"So your idea of shirking is to get a job?" Reivyn tilted his head as he looked at his friend.

"Well, when you put it that way..." Teilon trailed off as he looked away.

Melissa held her hand over her mouth as she giggled at their banter. Kimberly folded her arms as she waited for the two to finish their back and forth, knowing the likely outcome already.

"We're not going to be doing nothing but training," Reivyn said. He nudged his friend with his elbow as he explained, "But we need to coordinate when we're going to be busy, and I'm sure there's a lot we could learn from Mel and Lisa... And Erik." Reivyn added that last one as an aside.

"Lisa, huh? Since when did we get so close?" Larissa said.

"Since just now," Reivyn easily shot back.

"Everyone calls Melissa Lisa, but she insists on Mel. This is going to be confusing." Larissa placed her hand over her eyes.

"Anyway, I plan on learning a few things about the Academy, if they're willing." Reivyn shot a look at Melissa. She nodded her head in approval. "I got that letter of recommendation from Knight-Captain Reifold, so I'm pretty sure I can get into the Academy when we're done here. Don't you want to go to the Capital?"

"Hmmm..." Teilon moved his spear down to his side so he could lean on it as he considered. "That doesn't sound half bad, actually."

"Good. With the Dungeon here just giving away Experience, we should be able to fly through Tier 2," Reivyn continued. "But if you want a decent Tier 3 Class, you can't let your Skills lag behind. On another note, once you guys get to Tier 2, you'll have to join us down on the second floor, too. You won't have to do anything dangerous, but you will need to come down and participate in order to get some good Life Experience."

"Sounds like you've thought about my future more than I have," Teilon snickered.

"Can you blame me?" Reivyn said with a serious expression. "We both know I've gotten lucky enough to have some strange things happen to give me a big leg up, and if we don't think about the future, I'll leave you behind." Reivyn put his hand on Teilon's shoulder. "You're my best friend, and unlike Will and Simmon, you have the opportunity to keep up with me."

"Yeah, I know," Teilon conceded. "But what will Kimberly and I be doing at the Capital while you're attending the Academy?"

"Ahem," Melissa cleared her throat to get their attention. Once the two boys looked over at her, she opened her mouth, "There's also a Knight Academy. Don't let the name fool you. It's designed for non-mana Classes, not just Knights, and it's semi-attached to the Magic Academy. If you guys are able to reach Tier 3 at an early age, with a good Class, and you have the money, you should be fine to get in."

"There you go," Reivyn said as he put his hand back down. "So in order for all of that to happen, we have to plan now, and those plans include training."

"And here we go, all the way back to the original point," Teilon said with a smile. "Alright, alright. You've convinced me."

"I think I'll just go back to my home in Haluville," Kimberly said with a thoughtful look. "That's more my speed." Teilon just stared at her slack-jawed. After a moment of letting that statement fill the air, Kimberly burst out laughing. "Obviously I was joking. The Capital sounds fine to me."

"Don't scare me like that," Teilon placed his hand over his heart.

"Oh, oh, oh! I can show you the best places to shop once we get there!" Larissa came skipping up to them. She dragged Kimberly away from the two boys, and she, Melissa, and Kimberly all walked along with their heads together.

"Oooh, what kind of dresses can I find..." Reivyn heard snippets of their conversation. Kimberly was a front-line combatant, but she was still a girl and apparently wanted to do girly things from time to time.

"You're drooling," Reivyn said with a straight face as he looked at Teilon. "Thinking of Kimberly in a dress?"

"Am not," Teilon wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. "Drooling, that is." He inspected his hand as he brought it away. It came back dry. "See?!"

"Haha, c'mon. Let's go," Reivyn said.


The sun was just beginning to set on the horizon as the six teenagers exited the actual Dungeon. Reivyn and his group had already experienced the phenomenon, but Melissa and her group were surprised at the change.

"Wow, that's neat," Larissa said. "We've been in there all day, but you would hardly know it if you didn't come back out like this." Melissa nodded her head.

"Alright," Melissa said. "We'll be-"

"Hold up," a voice interrupted her as she was giving her farewell for the evening. "Mandatory inspection for anyone leaving the Dungeon."

Reivyn looked over and saw a squad of Knights from the church they had encountered on the road. He frowned as they walked up and barred their path.

"Is that really necessary?" Reivyn was prepared to pull out his identity tokens to avoid the hassle, but he spotted one of the local guards with the unit. He directed his attention towards the guard, and he received a nod in response.

"Yes," the man confirmed. "Due to the nature of the Dungeon and the events that transpired previously, the Count is working with the Church of Light to ensure no demonic presences. It's pretty routine, actually. Nothing to be worried about."

"Alright, if you say so," Reivyn replied.

"Empty your bags, and then each of you present yourself for inspection," the first Knight commanded. Reivyn raised an eyebrow at the man as the group followed the instructions. They dumped the content of their bags containing the ore for the church soldiers to sift through, and then they stood in a line to the side as one of the members in a robe walked up.

The new man placed his hand on Teilon's head and stood there for a moment with his eyes closed. After a few seconds, Reivyn saw a yellow light quickly encompass his friend. It moved from the man's hand on his head down to his feet before heading back up again. A look of surprise surfaced on Teilon's face when it was over.

The robed man carried out his duties quickly and silently. When it was Reivyn's turn, he noticed that a feeling of fatigue he hadn't even noticed deep from within him get expelled. He nodded his head with a new sense of appreciation for the inspection.

"Don't think that we're just randomly hassling you guys," the first man spoke up. "Look over there." He pointed across the open space in front of the Dungeon.

Reivyn and his friends followed the direction the man was pointing. On the other side of the square was a group of fellow Adventurers, but they were moving about at an exaggeratedly slow pace. The looks on their faces were reminiscent of the group Reivyn had decided not to approach the first day he was scouting out Parties to join.

"That Party has been delving the Dungeon for weeks before we got here," the Knight explained. "While they're not tainted with demonic influence, there's something about this Dungeon that seeps into your bones, and if it's not gotten rid of, you'll eventually turn out like them."

Now that it was pointed out to him, Reivyn was able to see other groups, people who were older and looked more experienced, also moving about listlessly. He frowned as he considered the implications.

"My friends and I have actually been in there three times, now," Reivyn said. "We were with the conscription that settled the place. Are there going to be any lingering effects from that?"

"Shouldn't be," the man replied. "You say you were with the conscription? So you left for several months after going in there twice?" Reivyn nodded his head. "Then it shouldn't have had a chance to accumulate to a dangerous level. Once you guys left, it should have dissipated on its own without the chance to build up any further."

Reivyn nodded his head. He hadn't felt anything like what he was witnessing in the other Parties.

"Are those guys going to be fine?" He asked.

"Should be," the church Knight was actually pretty friendly and informative once Reivyn and his Party had acceded to their inspection. "We've been working with them every few days to dispel the lingering aura. It's working, but it will just take some more time and effort for those that started going into the Dungeon before we got here."

"That's good to know," Reivyn said.

"Alright, you all are good to go," the armored man gave Reivyn a nod as he gathered up his men and moved to the side to await more Adventurers returning from their excursions. The robed man wiped the sweat from his brow as he staggered along beside them.

If it takes that much out of him just to handle six people, it makes sense that they would need to only work with the other Parties every couple of days, Reivyn thought. Then again, I don't know how many people he's treated before us.

Reivyn and his friends quickly put the ores back into their sacks. He felt a brief pang of guilt over not letting the church followers inspect their bags containing the Experience Crystals after the Knights had turned out to actually be pretty decent fellows, but he quickly brushed it aside. The System should handle the Experience conversion, and we don't want to expose the existence of the Crystals. Never know what other people will do when faced with such wealth.

"Well, now that that's over," Melissa said after they had tidied up their belongings. "We'll meet up tomorrow. Does lunch sound good to you?"

"Perfect," Reivyn replied after glancing at his two companions. "We'll see you then." Reivyn waved to the other three as they separated.

"By~e," Larissa called out. She took a couple of steps walking backward as she enthusiastically waved to her new friends. Melissa placed a hand on her arm to keep her from falling over.

"Whew, I'm tired," Reivyn said as they walked back towards their little house.

"You're tired?" Teilon teased. "Kimberly and I were the ones that had to do all of the mining while you were off gallivanting with two cuties."

"Who are two cuties?'" Kimberly said with mock outrage.

"I mean... gallivanting off with... Erik? Were there two other people down on the second floor with you? I can't remember," Teilon said, his eyes wide. Reivyn snorted at his friend.

"Well, when you put it that way..." Reivyn copied his friend from earlier. He and Teilon burst into laughter as Kimberly rolled her eyes.


"Ok, so the day after the Dungeon dive will be a rest day," Reivyn said, "and the day before as well."

Melissa nodded her head as she took a sip of her tea. Teilon was shoveling food into his gullet with gusto as he had never eaten before, and Larissa and Kimberly had their heads together as they whispered about whatever topic struck their fancy. They would occasionally stop talking to giggle, but they ignored the rest of the room for the most part.

Reivyn was much more polite in his table manners than his counterpart, only taking bites when Melissa or someone else was speaking. Melissa and her group had impeccable manners, but the three girls didn't have nearly as large of an appetite as their male companions.

Erik ate in silence, and Reivyn almost forgot he was even there.

"So Dungeon, rest, one day to ourselves, one day of training together as a full team, two days to ourselves, and then the last rest day before the next Dungeon run," Melissa laid out the schedule they had come up with. "That works for us."

Reivyn finished his meal as he leaned back with a sigh. "So that means today is a rest day. You've been here longer than we have, ever since the place started to become a proper town; is there anything to do around here?"

"Not really, no," Melissa said as she set her cup down. "We've basically been hanging out in the tavern, for the most part, inspecting Parties that show up looking to team up as you guys did. Now that we're no longer looking for more members, we don't have any reason to stay cooped up."

"Hmmm, that's true," Reivyn said. "Well, want to go look around?"

"Just the two of us?" Melissa asked with a tilt of her head.

"Doesn't have to be," Reivyn shrugged. "I'm sure Erik wouldn't want you going out alone." A grunt from across the table greeted Reivyn's words. "It's up to you."

"Alright," Melissa said. "You, me, and Erik. Let's go for a walk." She accompanied her words with action as she immediately got up from her seat and headed for the door.

"What, right now?" Reivyn said as he scrambled to follow. Erik calmly placed his utensil down and also got up from the table. "Teilon, you're - I can't believe I'm saying this - in charge of looking out for the girls while we're gone," Reivyn called over his shoulder.

"I'll be sure to keep him safe," Kimberly called out.

"Hey," Teilon's indignant remark reached Reivyn's ears as they stepped out into the hallway. The trio quickly made their way down the stairs. The babble of voices and sounds of laughter briefly followed Reivyn as they exited the tavern out into the open street. Melissa came to a halt after taking a couple of steps to get out of the way and turned to face him.

"I guess we can just walk around and see what there is," Melissa said. She brushed her hair behind her ear as she waited for Reivyn's response.

"Yeah, that sounds good," Reivyn said. He interlocked his fingers behind his head as the two started walking down the road. Erik followed them silently from behind.

"Soooo... what's life in the Capital like?" Reivyn said to break the silence.

"It's fine," Melissa replied. "Coming from a well-established family affords certain freedoms and opportunities, while at the same time restricting others." She turned her head to glance at Erik briefly. "For instance, I can't go anywhere by myself. I don't really mind that stipulation, as I know it keeps me safe. There are also places in the Capital I can't go to, but I don't really have an interest in going to those places anyway."

"Oh? Like what?" Reivyn asked.

"The Arena is one," Melissa replied. "Generally, fights aren't to the death at the Arena, but accidents happen. Also, despite being a combat Class and going on Dungeon dives, I'm sure my parents wouldn't want me being a spectator of any gruesome scenes that might arise. Fighting and killing monsters is one thing, but fighting and potentially killing other humans is another, entirely.

"But people seem to be drawn to it, and it isn't always like that. Sometimes there are monster fights as well. Adventurers can accept missions to capture monsters alive to supply to the Arena, and the school even allows the students to participate in such endeavors from time to time."

"Ok, that doesn't sound so bad, actually," Reivyn said.

"It's really not, but my parents are quite protective and don't want me to go witness such a bloody spectacle. It sounds hypocritical, I know, but it has more to do with my age than anything."

"I can understand it, actually. What other sorts of places can't you go?"

"Gambling dens, brothels, places like that. Unsavory places for children, mostly," Melissa glanced at Reivyn out of the corner of her eye. "Do you really want me to expound on the places I can't go?"

"You're the one who brought it up," Reivyn replied with a chuckle.

"Haha, yeah, you're right," Melissa said. "Anyway, there are a lot of grand places, too. The Magic Academy is probably the most spectacular. It's not just a place for teaching young students, like me and my sister. It's also a place of true academics and magical marvels. There's also the theater and museum, and other places of high society.

"Many of the established families and nobles will also host events for each other. There's a web of relationships between the families in the Capital, but I have a lot of friends I can introduce you in the future if you do end up going to the Capital."

"Yeah, more friends are always good," Reivyn said.

"Just by being my friend and running in my circles will automatically give some others a negative opinion of you, though. I'll be sure to warn you when the time comes."

"Speaking of," Reivyn said as a thought entered his head, "do you know of a family that has a son named Ren and a daughter named Lin? I don't know their surname or anything about them, really, but I know they're cozying up to the Duke of this Duchy."

"Oh, yeah, I know who you're talking about. Our family doesn't really have any positive or negative relations with anyone from this region. There aren't any benefits or resources for us to compete for as we don't have a base or any industries out here. Why? Are you interested in that Lin girl?" Melissa leaned forward as she asked in a teasing voice.

"Hardly," Reivyn scoffed. "I had a run-in with Ren. I didn't bow to his will, and he took it personally. Tried to have me killed and everything."

"Really? You've led an exciting life," Melissa said with a chuckle. "I'll let my family know to steer clear of theirs."

"Well, the verdict is still out on that," Reivyn replied. "Lin found me and explained that his actions had nothing to do with them, and she expressed that they wanted to let bygones be bygones."

"If they raised one wolf, they raised another," Melissa said with a serious tone. "I'd stay away from them in the future if you can help it, regardless of what she told you."

"Yeah, I didn't have any plans entangling myself with them. I just wanted to know if you knew anything about them so I could get a better gauge of the sincerity in her words."

"Sorry I couldn't be of more help."

"It's fine," Reivyn waved her off.

Reivyn and Melissa had been caught up in their conversation, and before they realized it, they had reached the edge of the small base. Reivyn looked around and noticed there wasn't anything out there, so he turned back around, and the two headed back towards the center of the growing town.

Now that he was paying attention, Reivyn could see the constant activity surrounding them. People continued to build more houses, storefronts, and workshops. He could tell that a lot of time and effort was being invested into the town, and with the knowledge of what the Dungeon contained, he could foresee this becoming a center of power one day.

As long as the Church of Light is willing to set up a local ministry, Reivyn thought. The consequences of accruing the negative aura from the Dungeon could be disastrous, and people aren't likely to stay away in the face of the opportunity.

Reivyn and Melissa continued walking around through the streets, thoughts and conversation focused on the future.


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