Teilon placed his cards on the table and lifted his arms in triumph.
"Hah! Finally beat you," he exclaimed.
"Yeah, yeah, you only had to team up with Kimberly to do it," Reivyn smirked.
"Since when did you get so lucky?" Teilon asked as he scooped up the cards.
"I don't know what you're talking about," Reivyn shrugged. "I'm obviously just the superior card player."
Teilon rolled his eyes as he started shuffling the deck. He suddenly frowned, though, and paused his manipulations.
"Huh, I just got an Achievement," Teilon said absentmindedly.
"Really?" Reivyn focused on his friend. He got a tingle in the back of his mind, so he activated Mana Sight on instinct.
There was a strange distortion with the ambient mana. He couldn't quite describe what the difference was, but it appeared that the mana around Teilon was more excited. It felt, more than looked like, they were vibrating around him, and he could faintly discern an outline of a box in front of Teilon. He felt a similar distortion from a few feet away, and he looked over and saw the same phenomenon in front of Kimberly.
Is this the manifestation of the Veridical Affinity? Reivyn contemplated. He was brought out of his thoughts by Kimberly speaking up.
"I got one, too," Kimberly said. "It says, 'Using strategy and a little luck, win a friendly match against impossible odds. Charisma and Luck plus one."
Teilon and Kimberly shared a glance before looking back at Reivyn.
"No idea what I'm talking about, huh?' Teilon accused. "You were obviously up to something. You a card shark or something?"
"Nah, I'm just a little Lucky, is all," Reivyn kept it deliberately vague. He wasn't opposed to sharing his Luck Stat with his friends, but he found it more fun to watch Teilon squirm in the dark.
I'll tell him someday, but before then, there are several other games of chance I can mess with him with. I need to get some dice. Reivyn smiled to himself, and his two friends narrowed their eyes in suspicion.
"He obviously already has the Luck Stat unlocked," Kimberly pointed out. "He's just messing with us."
"Aww, you're no fun," Reivyn said with some exasperation. "It's only a little higher than yours, and now that you've unlocked the Stat, it should even out."
"You sure about that?" Teilon asked while continuing to shuffle.
"Yeah, it'll be fi~ne," Reivyn assured his friend.
It didn't even out.
Reivyn watched as the man formed a Bolt made of the Earth Element and sent it hurtling at the target. Reivyn continued to observe the different mana braids that made up the Earth Bolt and attempted to add them to his repertoire.
Reivyn had placed a notice on the board in the Adventurer's Guild Branch that he was seeking to observe the basic Spells, and after meeting up with several people who were interested in the Tavern, he had set up a training schedule. He used his portion of remuneration from the ores they still gathered to pay the Spell Casters for their time. He had continued to go to the same location he first went to with his Party outside of the town.
All of the Adventurers were in the same boat with the time they had available to delve the Dungeon, so they were also looking for things to alleviate their boredom and find something to do. Some chose to search for other resources for the locals building the town that was posted on the notice board, some did training like Reivyn and his team, and some spent their hard-earned coin in the taverns.
Due to these reasons, the arrangements that Reivyn entered into with these other Spell Casters weren't expensive. The Spell Casters didn't ask questions about why Reivyn wanted to watch them cast their basic Spells. Most of them had done or were doing, the same thing in one way or another. Most people weren't like Reivyn, though, and it was rare for many people to be equally talented in the base affinities, much less have decent talent in the higher Tier affinities.
"So you're trying to figure out the structure of the basic bolt spells, huh? Which elements are you working on?" The man, Lorin, asked.
"Yeah, I'm teamed up with a couple of Casters who told me about the System rewarding you for figuring out how to cast the Spells free-hand, so I've been studying the braids to build my foundation. So far I'm able to cast Fire Bolt, Ice Bolt, Water Bolt, and Air Bolt. Earth is the last one I need to learn for the four basic elements, and the only reason I know Ice already is because of one of the Casters in my Party," Reivyn answered.
After interacting with Melissa, Larissa, and several other Casters who had answered his notice, Reivyn had learned that it wasn't nearly as much of a stigma to discuss affinities among Casters as he had first thought. Talking about Skills was one thing, but the affinities were universal. The only thing people kept private was their exact Level, but they still freely revealed that they were within a certain range.
Reivyn wasn't sure if they were completely honest with the numbers they provided, though, as he certainly wasn't. The numbers he heard from the other Casters made him realize just how much further along in his affinity training he was compared to someone else in the same age range.
Lorin gave a low whistle before replying, "That's pretty impressive for someone your age. I was sixteen before I had the braids for the four basic elements down, and you're - what? - thirteen?" Reivyn gave a noncommittal shrug. "And you already have your Tier 2 affinity, as well. What kind of a Tier 3 Class are you working toward?"
"I kind of got forced into a Martial Class - it's a long story - so I don't have as many opportunities to work on my Caster Skills other than just training, and most of what I've learned to date have to do with melee combat, with some ranged. I would like to eventually combine the two methods, but I feel a pure Caster Class for Tier 3 would lay a better foundation for the future," Reivyn let the misunderstanding that he was Tier 2 training for his Tier 3 Class stand. There was no reason to go into details with every person he interacted with. Likewise, there was no reason to disabuse the man of the notion that he only had one Tier 2 affinity unlocked.
"That's true," Lorin said. He continued to form the Earth Bolt Spell and release it as they conversed. "You have to keep in mind, though, that you'll be in Tier 3 for a long time. Much longer than you're in Tier 2. Having access to three of your Class Skills from your Tier 2 Class as it becomes your Secondary will help.
"Active Adventurers like us, especially ones who run Dungeons, move through the earlier Tiers at a much faster pace than Lifestyle Classes and the military, so it's not like you'll be stuck in Tier 3 for decades or anything like that. Just make sure you balance your Experience diet with your Skills training.
"It's not common out here, but there are tales of talented individuals who grew overconfident and advanced too quickly. They almost always get stuck with terrible Classes in Tier 4, and the really unlucky ones get an Uncommon Class and end their progression prematurely," Lorin eyed Reivyn for a second as he let his remarks sink in. "Most people don't have to worry about such things, though, and the ones who do don't stay in this Region. If you see any high-level person in this Region who isn't in his or her twilight years, they're likely a talent who hit an insurmountable roadblock."
Reivyn's parents came to mind as he thought to himself, That's not always the case. My parents have obviously not reached the end of their progression. I'll have to ask them why they chose to settle in such a low-density Region when I get home. I know they were traveling to get somewhere where nobody would know of their lineage and try to use them politically, but they could have still chosen a Tier 2, or even Tier 3, Region.
"Thanks for the reminder," Reivyn said as he concentrated on the next bolt. "I almost have the braid down, by the way. Just another ten minutes or so will probably do it."
They continued practicing until Reivyn felt a sort of mental click as he effortlessly braided the Earth Bolt. He wasn't supplying the full Spell, and he wasn't releasing it either, so the drain on his mana wasn't too bad over the course of the session. He had a considerably larger mana pool now, though. The amount of mana it took him to succeed in braiding each of the elements had been more than his original entire mana pool each time. If he had tried to learn all of the braids before his Stat increase, it would have taken him a lot longer.
"Thanks for taking the time to show me the Spell," Reivyn said as he handed over a small coin pouch.
"It was my pleasure," Lorin said as he accepted the money. "It can get a bit boring while waiting for the Reset, and there are too many others scouring the countryside for the locals. People have to go farther and farther to find anything worthwhile. I would bet someone in authority will step in soon and regulate it so that things don't get out of hand."
The two continued their idle conversation as they walked back to the town.
"Well, see ya 'round," Lorin said with a small wave as he and Reivyn separated.
All of the preparations are done. All that's left for me to accomplish out here is the solo dive. Reivyn was filled with excitement as he thought about his next excursion that was fast approaching.
"You got a letter," Reivyn heard Teilon call to him as he walked through the door. He grabbed a towel that he had taken to leaving near the door and wiped the sweat from his forehead. He ran it along the inside of the collar of his shirt, too. Teilon frowned as he witnessed his friend's actions.
"Do you think it has something to do with the corrupt mana or something?" Teilon asked.
"You know, that's what I thought at first, too, but I'm not so sure," Reivyn said as he accepted the sealed envelope from Teilon. He took a seat on the couch and opened the letter as he spoke. "I've kept an eye out on all of the people walking around and the church guys, but it's not consistent who suffers from the heat. Hardly any of the church guys seem to be affected, and the Priests always have their robes on. As for the Adventurers, sure a lot of the Casters have a similar experience, but not all of them, and there are plenty of non-Casters who suffer from the heat, too.
"I really don't know what's going on, but it hasn't really been a problem, yet." Reivyn held the letter in his hand while he spoke to Teilon. He didn't want to be rude and start reading the letter while in the middle of a conversation.
"Alright, if you say so," Teilon said. He gestured for Reivyn to go ahead and read the letter, and he walked off to his room. Kimberly was apparently out running an errand or spending time with Larissa; Reivyn wasn't sure.
He opened the folded paper and read the letter that he saw had been sent by his mother.
My Dearest Reivyn,
I hope all is well with you in the Dungeon Town. From your previous letter, it sounds like you've met some wonderful new friends to team up with. You'll have to tell me all about Melissa and Larissa when you get home. And I suppose Erik sounds fine, too, but a mother cares more about some things than others, if you get my drift.
Reivyn rolled his eyes at the words on the page. Geez, mom, I'm only 10 years old. Sure I've gone through puberty and all that, but isn't it a bit early? He snorted in amusement.
This leads to the main purpose of the letter: We've decided to move to the Capital.
We already knew you were planning on going to the Academy located in the Capital when you got done with the Dungeon, and while we hadn't said anything, we were obviously going to go with you. You're still a kid, after all. - So she does know I'm still a kid - And with the development of your sisters' ability to craft magical items but lack of drive, we can't in good conscience leave them to their own devices any longer.
There is a supplementary school for younger children who haven't reached Tier 2, yet, including those younger than 10, and we're going to enroll your sisters there. Depending on how long you have to spend in the Academy, you might end up being their senior one day. How exciting!
We will have already left by the time this letter reaches you, so when you send your next letter, mail it to the Adventurer's Guild in the Capital, and your father will go and check each day. We'll be sure to send you the address of our new home once we get there.
You don't have to worry about your father's employment, either. He received a very nice recommendation from Mr. Einrin who has some connections in the Capital. We've also been pretty frugal with our money over the years, so we'll be perfectly fine.
Your sisters are grumbling a bit, but luckily we hadn't really been here long enough for them to grow attached to any new friends, and they'll get to see Teilon and Kimberly again when you guys move to the Capital as well, if your indication that they're interested in attending the Knight Academy holds true and they come with you, that is.
I know this letter is short and to the point, but I promise to regale you with the tales of our travels and what the Capital is like in our next correspondence.
P.S. We hadn't thought it would be an issue, yet, as we thought we would definitely meet up before you officially reached Tier 2 (I mean, none of us expected the Experience gain on the second floor to be so much higher than the first floor!), or lacking that, we would at least be able to help you through the mail, but since we'll be on the road, I need to tell you one last important detail (if your new friends haven't mentioned it already): Slow down on Leveling once you reach close to the Tier 2 threshold. I know I advised you that you could force a Class even after accepting your Tier 2 Class, but you can't go past Level 10! With the increased Experience requirements and the less exciting nature of living in a city and going to a school, it should be fine as long as you don't gain too many Levels in Tier 2.
Again, much love.
Reivyn lowered the letter as he thought about the contents.
I knew my sisters had an unusual talent - the flower crowns are proof of that - but it seems like it's even more so than I had thought. This works out pretty well, actually. Nothing has changed in the grand scheme of things from the sounds of it. They're just securing some training and education for Kailey and Riley a bit earlier than originally planned. They don't know about my Experience Siphoning Ability, so I don't have anything to worry about on that front.
Reivyn put the letter back in the envelope and carried it with him to his room. He placed it on his chest of drawers next to the other couple of letters he had received, and he picked up the letter he had started writing that contained a brief summary about his Stat gains. He didn't go into the grisly details, though, but he was confident his parents would squeeze it out of him one day anyway.
Hmmm... No reason to rush and finish this letter now. It's already too late. I'll just add to it after the solo delve and send it out next week. They'll be busy with the move for the next week or so, and even though it has a lot further to travel now, the mail couriers cover ground a lot faster than people moving all of their belongings.
Reivyn sat down on his bed and pulled up his Skills page before deciding on which mana Skills and affinities to work on. He hadn't been paying as much attention to his Skill ups as he used to. I still get a sense of satisfaction from the accomplishment of the Skills increasing, but working on the mana braids and knowing I'm progressing along that front is much more exciting. I can feel the anticipation building as I know the System is going to give me a big notification soon about all the work I'm putting in on them. That being said, might as well take the time to see what I got as I make a plan for what to work on.
[Skills Leveled Up!]
[Athleticism (44 ->45)]
[Balance (44 - >45)]
[Medium Armor (34 ->35)]
[Mining (15 ->18)]
[Observation (40 ->41)]
[Shields (45 ->47)]
[Evasion (36 ->37)]
[Mana Absorption (47 ->49)]
[Pain Resistance (36 ->42)]
[Strategy (13 ->15)]
[Tactics (23 ->24)]
[Battlefield Awareness (12 ->14)]
[Command (8 ->11)]
[Danger Sense (9 ->11)]
[Inspire (10 ->13)]
[Mana Conjuration (25 ->28)]
[Mana Manipulation (26 ->30)]
[Mana Shield (18 ->20)]
[Mana Sight (30 ->31)]
[Mental Fortitude (31 ->38)]
[Dreams of the Past (14 ->15)]
[Iron Will (8 ->13)]
[Mana Weapon (22 ->24)]
[Spatial Awareness (19 ->20)]
[Weapons Master (57 ->59)]
Reivyn's eyebrows shot up as he examined his Skill gains.
Wow, I guess it really was a terrible situation. I haven't seen gains like that in Pain Resistance since my encounter with Ren, and that was at a much lower Skill Level.
And I guess the little trip to the Soul Space counted towards my Dreams of the Past Skill? I don't remember any other dreams.
It looks like my Weapons Master Skill did actually reach a small bottleneck, it just came at an unexpected Level. Does this mean I'm about to reach the Master level at 60? We'll see.
There are several other Skills stuck at 24 and 49, too. Not all of those made the list, and they've been sitting there for a little while. I'm not too concerned with it, though. If they haven't made any progress by the time I make it to the Capital, I might think about especially focusing on them for a bit.
It looks like my Mana Absorption has reached the 49 bottleneck, and Mana Circulation and Mana Weapon have been at 24 for several weeks. I'll keep working on Mana Circulation in the evenings because it has an actual function, but it looks like my focus in the short term should be on the Tier 3 mana Skills.
Melissa had explained that the purification of his mana through Mana Manipulation was necessary for the System to activate more complicated Class Spells. His mother would probably have told him before long, but she wasn't in the habit of dumping everything in his lap all at once.
Well, not anymore, anyway.
Melissa had told him that he could find what his level of Mana Purification was under his Mana tab on the System page. He hadn't really considered it before, so he hadn't paid it any attention. He was still dealing with the basics of the basics when it came to Spells, so his Level of Mana Purification wouldn't come into play for some time.
No idea if it's necessary for Class unlocking, but if it is, it's probably not relevant below the higher Tier 3 rarities and higher Tiers. Still, something to keep working on so as to not accidentally lock me out of a good Class without knowing why.
He quickly brought the tab up to take a quick peek at it.
Reivyn had no idea what that meant, and Melissa had said she couldn't handle any more attacks on her talent, so she had declined to hear him out on what his level was or explain further. She said he could ask his mother or wait until he enrolled in the Academy. Reivyn had just chuckled and shrugged it off. He knew she would explain it if it was really important to him right now, so he didn't take it to heart.
Reivyn closed his tab and assumed his Meditation.
Time to get to work.
"Yes, I have everything I need," Reivyn said with a roll of his eyes. His friends continued to pester him about every little thing he would need for his solo excursion, Teilon especially. "I even brought some glass jars to keep the Experience Essence in case I do end up going to the second floor." I'm definitely going to the second floor.
"Alright, man. You know we're just worried," Teilon said with a grin.
"I know, and I appreciate it," Reivyn said. The group headed to the front of the Dungeon, but this time Reivyn wasn't a member of the Party. "Ok, well, there's no reason to delay any further, so I'll see you guys either later today, or maybe even early tomorrow."
"Be safe," Melissa said as she waved. All of the party members gave their own version of a farewell: Teilon gave him a bear hug, Kimberly simply smiled and waved, Larissa jumped up and down while wishing him luck, and Erik grunted.
Reivyn separated from the group and headed into the Dungeon ahead of them. Even though they were in separate Parties, if they went in at the exact same time, it was possible to still enter the same instance. It was unlikely, but there was precedent for such a thing happening before. As such, they made it customary - everywhere, not just at this Dungeon - to wait one minute between people entering the Dungeon.
Reivyn quickly made his way to the cave, and he immediately noticed a difference from his Stats.
I haven't even entered the cave yet, and I can already hear the faint traces of that first goblin patrol.
He hadn't really noticed a change from his Perception Stat until this point. Probably because of all of the background noise. I'm used to subconsciously filtering it out, and it looks like my increased Mental Stats assisted in keeping up with the increased Perception. Now that I'm alone and all of that noise has faded away, I can now tell the difference.
Luckily Perception wasn't just an overall increase in the senses, but more along the lines of what he was able to grasp from it. His senses were improved on a fundamental level, but it wasn't to such an extent that he was practically deaf or blind from being overpowered by them. It seems that I got a decent improvement to my senses, but I'm also operating at a much higher efficiency.
Reivyn was ready to enter the caves in high spirits, but first, he pulled out some parchment and ink sticks.
Now that I'm alone and can take pretty much as much time as I want, I'm going to map out the entire Dungeon that we've explored so far.
With a flourish of his pen, Reivyn began his solo delve.