A note from Kyfe

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"Show me again, if you don't mind," Reivyn said.

The two groups had gotten together to conduct some training together to polish their teamwork. Reivyn and the two girls had already developed a rapport with each other on the second floor, but Teilon and Kimberly could use more work, especially once they joined the rest deeper in the Dungeon.

Larissa activated her Fire Bolt Spell. It was incredibly cheap, and it was the most simple Spell she had access to. Melissa was standing off to the side waiting for her turn, and the other three non-casters were practicing together with their mana-infused gear. They needed to figure out the timing so they wouldn't suddenly be stuck with their mundane gear no longer protecting them from the Revenants.

With the amount of focus they're putting to keeping track of their gear, they may even unlock the Mana Sense Skill. From what I know, one doesn't need to be able to use mana to be able to sense it. It's just much harder for them.

The way they had determined to time the mana infusion was to set a timer, and they staggered when the gear was infused for each person. They would then spar while trying to pick out all of the small details that the mana infusion added, like the change in weapon speed as it cut through the air or the sound it made. They were having a hard time of it for now, but Reivyn was optimistic they would get it down eventually.

Reivyn had set to himself the task of observing the simple Bolt Spell from Larissa and Melissa in turn. If he was able to figure out a more complicated Spell-like Flame Blade that used Inferno, then he was confident he could replicate that feat with something easier. Sure there had been a little cheating involved with the way they had gone about unlocking that Spell, but Reivyn was determined to learn as much spell craft as possible while he had the chance.

The mana that Larissa used for the Spell wasn't directly under her control, so she wasn't able to slow it down for Reivyn every time she activated it as a Class Skill. She and her sister would free-hand the Spell occasionally since it was the cheapest and simplest Spell, but even with much larger mana Pools than Reivyn, doing it consistently over and over again wasn't viable.

Reivyn focused his Mana Sight on the mana that formed in Larissa's hand as it built up. The activation time for the Bolt Spell was very short, though, so Reivyn only had a fraction of a second to parse what was happening.

The mana didn't form in a spiral like the way Reivyn pulled his own mana out to manipulate it manually. It instead formed a shell of the projectile before it braided itself inside and created intricate patterns in the form of pillars supporting the shell.

Those braided patterns are probably what give it the necessary properties, and forming as pillars supporting the shell probably gives it the reinforcement to have an impact.

He could tell that his forming of the arrows and daggers and other weapons he created with his Mana Weapon Skill was rudimentary at best. He would need to learn the complicated braids if he was ever to give any real power to his mana arsenal.

After a fraction of a second, the Fire Bolt launched itself at the target. The group had left the confines of the budding town so as to practice their Spells without accidentally setting a fire or injuring a bystander. The Spell slammed into a boulder a short distance away, chipping off some fragments and leaving a scorch mark on the surface.

Larissa wasn't accumulating any more mana than was necessary, so the damage caused by the Spell was pretty superficial against something like a boulder. Melissa's Ice Bolt Spells did even less damage. It still caused fragments to shatter, but it only left an icy imprint of where the impact was afterward. Larissa's heat had started to actually melt portions of the rock after repeated use.

Reivyn closed his eyes and replayed the scene in his mind's eye. He combined it with all of the other examples he had been given. While he was lost in thought, he held his hand out and Manipulated his own mana to try and recreate the braids that he had witnessed.

Reivyn was able to pinpoint three separate types of braids from Larissa's Spell, and Melissa's Spells also contained three. The two Spells shared two of the braids, but the third for each was unique to itself. Reivyn wasn't able to figure out what each of the braids did, yet, and he asked the two girls not to tell him until he had a chance to try and figure it out for himself.

I'm sure the secrets will become more readily apparent once I'm able to actually form the braids properly in a timely manner.

The problem that Reivyn was running into wasn't that he wasn't able to copy the pattern of the braids, but that it took him so long to create them that the mana started to dissipate on the first parts and affected the entire structure. He needed to be able to form the braid almost instantly in order to succeed.

A higher Affinity means easier control of the elements, higher Mana Manipulation means more precise movements of the threads, and a higher mana pool can be used to brute force through it. That's probably the root cause of why it's so hard to free-hand these Spells. Being able to use the System to cast the Spells not only automates all of the intricate maneuvers, but it also allows one to have a blueprint much more accessible for research.

"How long did it take you guys to figure out how to free-hand these easier Spells?" Reivyn asked, his eyes still closed and his mana still moving.

"Ummm..." Larissa tapped her chin as she thought about the question. "I think it took me three months to get all of it right, but that was only with one braid each in the Spell. The System puts several of each type when it handles it for us, and that took me almost a year to be able to do."

"My results were about the same, give or take a few days," Melissa said. "You're actually getting a lot further along on your first day than either of us did. I'm pretty impressed."

"Yeah, it's not fair that a Martial Brute is able to pick it up so easily."

"Well, to be frank, I already told you that my Mental Stats were actually my highest inherent Stats. The Conscription forced me into a Martial Class," Reivyn explained. "I'm not sure if I would have taken a Caster Class at Tier 2 or not, but my mother has been training me on my mana Skills for several years now. I had always wondered why she only ever really focused on sensing the different elements and improving my affinities. Now with how complicated even the simplest Spell is, I finally get it."

"Yeah, in order to unlock the lower Tier Caster Classes, you don't have to be able to cast Spells, you just have to have the necessary affinities," Melissa supplied. "For rarer, higher Tier Classes, though, you would need to be able to do a lot of these things on your own. The System is only ever a base built upon your own foundations, and if you slack off in your own research and practice in the early stages, you'll forever be relegated to Uncommon, which is the lowest rarity of Caster Classes.

"That also means you'll never reach beyond Tier 4."

"Why is that? Because you'll not be powerful enough to move further up the Levels?" Reivyn asked.

"No, you'll literally never be able to advance," Melissa shook her head. "In order to reach Tier 4, you have to have an Uncommon Tier 3 Class. That's simple enough for Caster Classes, as, like I said, that's the minimum rarity for us; however, in order to get to Tier 5, you have to have a Rare Tier 4 Class, and so on and so forth beyond that.

"Tier 8 is the highest Tier, and in order to reach it, you have to have a Mythic Tier 7 Class to advance. If you skimp out on your foundations in your foundational Classes, it becomes magnitudes harder to unlock higher rarity Classes. The System doesn't recognize a Tier 4 Uncommon Class figuring out the mana braids as equivalent Life Experience as a Tier 2 Uncommon Class doing the same.

"You can imagine why there's a dearth of higher Levels, especially in a Tier 1 Region like this. It's not just lack of Experience and resources, it's a lack of opportunities on a fundamental level."

Reivyn frowned at the new information. He was sure his parents would have eventually told him whenever it became relevant to do so. He already had an Epic Class at Tier 1, after all, and he was working towards gaming the System to get an Epic Tier 2 Class, as well. They probably weren't too worried about him needing the information so soon.

"That leads me to two questions," Reivyn said as he temporarily halted his practice to focus on the conversation. "One, if there are Magic and Knight Academies in the Capital, where are all the graduates? And two, why don't more people of means attempt to force a higher Tier Class at a lower Tier like our situation?" He gestured towards himself and his two friends to indicate who he was talking about.

"Oh, oh, oh, I know the answer to the first question!" Larissa jumped up and down until Melissa gestured for her to go ahead. "The top graduates get sent to the higher Tier 2 Region. Our Kingdom isn't completely independent. There's a higher authority in a more mana-dense Region, and the top talents move on. From what I know, there's a similar situation in the Tier 2 Region, as well. The rest of the graduates are attached to the noble or established families." Melissa nodded her head at the explanation.

"To answer your second question," Melissa said, "conscription is the only way that we know of to force a Tier 2 Class on a Tier 1 person. The more established families aren't willing to have their children lose their autonomy like that, and the nobles are barred from doing so altogether. I suppose someone of a noble background living in another country, for whatever reason, might be subject to it, but we'll probably never know, as that situation is very unlikely to occur."

Reivyn managed to keep a straight face as Melissa answered his question.

"As for the Academy being an avenue to force a Tier 3 Class at Tier 2, it is well known that that is a possibility, but there are two problems with that. First, without the more established families allowing for their offspring to have a Tier 2 initial Class, it is much harder for them to accrue enough power to be able to get the necessary Life Experience at Tier 2 to be able to force the Tier 3, and people from a non-established family have an even harder time with fewer resources and opportunities.

"Secondly, one cannot gain too many Levels in Tier 2, or it locks into place. Tier 1 Classes are the same for everyone, and they aren't anything special, other than nobles. But Tier 2 Classes integrate with your soul once you reach Level 10, so much so that it cannot be replaced. That means my sister and I are already unqualified.

"Think of it like building a house. As I said, the earlier Classes are foundational. If you only have a few bricks laid, you can adjust the blueprint at any time, but once you start getting the walls and supports put in place, it will be impossible to meaningfully change anything.

"Also, as far as anyone knows, Tier 1 and 2 are the only times one can force a higher Tier. The higher Tier Classes reward Life Experience, Stats, and Achievements with higher rarity options. It's theoretically possible to receive a Divine rarity Class at Tier 3, but I'm confident enough to say that in all of history, it has never happened.

"Everything involving the Divine Tier, whether it be Skills or Classes, involves a higher plane, and they operate on different rules. Mythical Class is the highest Tier anyone can get on their own, and I've never heard of a Tier 3 Mythical Class. There's probably some Legendary Tier 3 Classes out in the higher Regions - they have the same basic rules as everything else, there's 8 of them - but not anywhere we're likely to see in our lifetime."

"Hmmm... that's a lot to think about," Reivyn said.

"You have a good chance of forcing a Tier 3 Class in Tier 2, but running this Dungeon is a double-edged sword. It gives you the necessary Life Experience, and I'm sure you can get some amazing Achievements, but you also have to worry about getting too much Experience and Leveling up too quickly at the same time."

Good thing I'm able to siphon experience off into my Bloodline, Reivyn thought. With the amount of Experience required to upgrade it, I thought I wouldn't be doing so anytime soon, but it looks like that might be an integral part of my plan, now.

"Sure, that's a problem to figure out when the time comes, though," Reivyn replied. He wasn't going to expose all of his secrets, no matter how friendly he was with his new team.

"Alright, let's get back to work," Reivyn said as he indicated for Melissa to cast her Spell. "I'm sure I'll have enough to work on the braids on my own after a few more examples. I can feel it."

"Sure," Melissa said with a smile.


"Sir, we have another group of Adventurers that ignored our advice and continued to delve the Dungeon," Josn reported to the Sword-Bishop. "They managed to make it out alive, but that leaves another three groups that haven't come back for an extended period of time. I went ahead and ordered a Squire to tell the local Adventurer's Guild Branch to mark them as 'presumed deceased.'"

Sword-Bishop Nix sighed as he rubbed his temples. He mumbled something to himself, and Josn could faintly hear something about "idiots."

"Show me," the Sword-Bishop got up from behind his desk.

Josn led him out of his command tent and escorted him to the infirmary they had set up.

Josn was a Sword-Priest of the Church of Light. His family was one of the more established ones from the Capital, and they had gained their first footing in society through an ancestor who had risen through the ranks of the church, so they had a long history with the faith. Many of the noble families would send off their younger offspring to serve in the military or one of the churches so as not to interfere with succession, but his family was slightly different. They sent their firstborn to the church.

There was no stipulation against getting married or having children, so serving in the church didn't interfere with the firstborn's duty to take over the family in the future. Josn was an only child, so he doubly didn't have to worry about the matter of succeeding as the head of his house, but as a particularly pious family, they generally had strong bonds and didn't have situations where there was internal strife.

He had practically been raised in the church, his father being fairly high ranked among the Sword-Priests, as they called their military arm. While Sword-Priest was a rank, it was also the term used to refer to them as a whole.

Josn had recently been promoted, and his first assignment saw him traveling all the way out to the frontier where some demon-infested Dungeon had spawned. The stink of the local mana permeated everything. As a righteous scion of the Church of Light, all of their members were particularly sensitive to demonic influences.

The church wasn't an official, state-mandated organization, but they were afforded many liberties. As such the Sword-Priests had set up a separate encampment outside of the palisade. They didn't want any rumors of fraternization, and neither did the officials overseeing the new settlement.

Josn and Sword-Bishop Nix quickly made their way to the large infirmary tent. Real buildings had been commissioned to be built nearby by the locals, as the situation involving the Dungeon was likely to require a permanent presence.

Josn had no idea how long he would be required to stay out in the boonies, but he didn't mind too much.

It was his duty to search out and destroy Heresy.

The two men ducked into the tent, and the demonic mana that was ever-present intensified immediately. It was oozing off of the bodies of many Adventurers that were laid up on the cots set out. Priests moved about seeking to dispel the demonic toxins, but they weren't specialized in medicine or healing. The local guards had to provide any Healers, and they had their own duties to see to, so they weren't on hand at all times.

As the pair navigated toward the new additions, one of the Adventurers waiting for treatment leaned over and vomited black blood into a bucket by his side. Sword-Bishop Nix didn't even spare him a glance, but Josn instinctively shied away a bit.

Ugh, disgusting. Even after they had already fallen victim to the symptoms associated with the demonic mana, these Adventurers were just too greedy and couldn't stay out of the Dungeon. These groups were among the first that arrived, and they're the worst off.

Josn showed his superior to the furthest, newest occupants of the tent. If Reivyn had been present, he would have recognized them as the dour group that he had avoided in the tavern.

"These men had already been treated once, and they were warned that they should stay out of the Dungeon for several weeks so they could recover, but they simply chose to put up a notice to recruit some more people to make up for their diminished state and kept going. Luckily, the people they teamed up with were conscientious enough to drag them out of the Dungeon and not just leave them to their fate."

Sword-Bishop Nix inspected the new people in his care before turning to one of the Priests.

"These men were lucky they had already received treatment before they went down this last time. They should survive. See to it that they get the proper care," he ordered. The Priest in question gave a salute and marked it down.

"I think we should just put them to the sword and call it done," Josn said as the two stepped out of the tent.

"Sword-Priest Josn, while it is in our purview to stamp out Heresy wherever it is found, it should always be the last option," the Sword-Bishop rebuked. "These men didn't willingly submit themselves to Heresy, so we should do all in our power to cure them."

"You misunderstand me, Sir," Josn replied. "I said we should put them to the sword as a mercy. While they have a slim chance of survival, it's not looking good for the first few groups. We could end their suffering."

"Hmmm, yes, I see," Sword-Bishop Nix said. "However, they are all children in the Light, and suffering is a way of life. Nobody can escape suffering, and as such, we shouldn't resort to the Sword of Mercy unless we have to. Everyone should get a chance, and we'll make sure they get it until the very last moment. If we start ending suffering out of mercy, we run the risk of choosing to do so more easily in the future. And then what? We'll become the very darkness we stand against."

"I understand, Sir," Josn replied.

He wasn't fully convinced, but he wasn't the one ultimately in charge or responsible. He would follow his orders, even if he didn't fully agree with them.

My faith is strong enough that I wouldn't fall to the darkness and become a butcher, he thought to himself. He looked around at the other Sword-Priests attending to their duties. Though I suppose the Sword-Bishop has a point. We can't only be concerned with ourselves. As officers, we need to be mindful of those in our charge as well.

"Stand up straight, Squire," Josn corrected a man on duty. "Don't let yourself become slovenly. We must avoid even the appearance of it."

"Yes, sir," the man saluted and straightened his posture.

Josn kept a critical eye out for all of the Sword-Priests as he made his way back to his tent.

It is especially important to make sure we don't let anything affect our mindset so close to the infestation. This Dungeon is an insidious beast, just waiting to clutch the unsuspecting in its claws.


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