“So! Ready to head back to the citadel now?” Aurivy asked after the ‘lessons’ were over. “Or would you like to take some time to train a bit first?”
Hearing the question, I began to sink into thought. In the long term, it will probably be good to practice the elementalist class. However, the class itself has some pretty clear weak points to compensate for its strength. Specifically, the time it takes to cast each spell is quite a bit longer than that of a normal mage, leaving them open to attack.
“Dale?” Aurivy tilted her head, waving a hand in front of my face to get my attention. “Well?”
“Give me a second, I’m thinking.” I responded, rolling my eyes at her. Terra, how long until Tubrock and Ryone have the gate sites secure?
My mental prayer was quickly answered by the ever-familiar voice. At the current rate they’re working… they should have the locations fully secured in five more days. That meant five days till I was able to fast forward again.
“Might as well get some training in.” I said with a slight sigh, shaking my head. “If the Citadel can’t manage to go without me for just a few days, then there’s no way it will work for the years when I fast forward.”
Aurivy nodded her head, holding her hands behind her back. “So, what kind of training are you wanting to do? An advanced class? Or maybe as a ninja? Or something else?”
An advanced class would boost my stats, but my stats weren’t much of an issue for me since I could pull from my Keeper powers. The best thing for me to train would be something that I planned to use regularly in the future. “Monk and Ninja.” I spoke after a brief consideration. “I already know what I need to do to train the monk class, so let’s go with ninja for right now.”
Aurivy jumped up into the air, her arms stretched out above her as she cheered. “Yes! Finally! Alright, then, let’s go!” Before I could even question what she meant, her golden mist wrapped around the two of us.
It was hard to determine where we had been sent. All I knew before the mist faded was that I had felt a brief disorientation that quickly corrected itself. Once the mist was gone, I knew even less about where I was… aside from the fact that I was underground somewhere. Alone.
“Aurivy?” I called out towards the halfling goddess, only to have her speak into my mind instead.
Sorry Dale, busy right now setting things up! Give me just a second. I’ve been waiting for this for years! She spoke in an obviously excited tone. But that alone was enough to let me know something about where we were… Aurivy had brought me to a dungeon.
Sure enough, after about thirty seconds had passed, I felt a brief pulse of mana from my surroundings. A few moments later, another pulse, until the mana completely filled the area. “And done!” Aurivy suddenly spoke up from next to me, having no doubt abused her godly powers to sneak up beside me.
“What exactly are you done with?” I questioned, glancing around the empty stone room. There were no obvious doors or passageways to go through, and only a dim light that didn’t seem to have any particular source.
“My Ninja Training Area!” Aurivy declared happily. “I set this place up for people to master the basic skills of being a ninja. I just had to take a moment to reinforce it and add some new features since it was you coming here.”
“Okay.” I couldn’t exactly say that I was surprised by the fact that Aurivy of all people would set up a dungeon to train ninjas. “So, when do we start?”
“We already did.” She grinned mischievously. “This dungeon uses two of my domain traps, Mana Scatter and Ki Seal. You won’t be able to form spells inside of this dungeon, or use your ki outside of your body. Well, I’m sure you could if you forced enough power into it, but that would require you to completely overpower the dungeon’s mana to do so. Not something that you’d just do on reflex.”
“We already started?” I asked curiously, glancing around the room again. “Is the first test supposed to be finding the door to the next room?”
“That’s right!” Aurivy nodded. “And no using special Keeper tricks to cheat. You can do it only by using your chakra. Right now, we’ll just cover raw chakra usage, and I’ll teach you the hand seals for it later.”
Well, raw usage was what I was aiming for anyways… So this worked for me. Closing my eyes, I began to form chakra along my skin, before stretching it out in thin threads. If the test had already begun, that means that somewhere along the cave wall should be a secret passage. And if I explore the area with my threads, I should be able to… there it is.
I abruptly turned to my left, my eyes still closed as I followed the path that my chakra showed me. There was a small portion of the wall that felt different from the rest when my threads passed over it. It felt like I was brushing against mana.
“Well, you found that entirely too easily.” Aurivy complained with a pout, her bottom lip pushed out. “But! Can you figure out how to activate it?”
Is this something that can be solved with chakra as well? I asked myself inwardly, pushing my chakra into the wall to get a better feel of what I was looking at. As I felt it more and more, an image began to appear in my mind, a spell diagram.
While it was hard to make out the exact specifics of the diagram, I found the peculiar triangle patterns around its edges, reminding me of the ‘impact’ trigger. So to trigger the spell, I had to create an impact without destroying the wall…
Now I realized why she said that I had to solve this as well. I gathered my chakra into the palm of my hand, and lightly slapped against the wall, making sure not to use too much strength. There was a slight huff from behind me, before the wall sank down into the ground. “Okay, fine, so you did train this a bit. But let’s see how you do in the next area!”
Once the wall was down, Aurivy led me through the hallway that appeared. “That was the first test, the ‘test of hidden eyes’. Next up is the ‘test of gentle steps’. This one is something that a lot of new ninjas struggle with for a while.”
I felt a small smile on my face as I heard that. “I think you forgot about the martial art I practice?”
“What do you… oh, right.” Aurivy groaned. “Okay, then you can just breeze through this one too.” As she said that, we arrived at a much large room… one without a floor. Far across the room on the other side was the next passageway, but before that were six slowly swaying platforms moving back and forth, each one spaced roughly twenty meters apart.
“This trial is supposed to test your accuracy with flash steps. One wrong move, and you fall down into a teleport field that sends you right back here.” Aurivy explained, though she seemed far less energetic about it than before.
As expected, I spread out my threads again, placing one atop the first platform. With a single step, I had arrived there, and then another step to the next… six steps to cross all six platforms. Thankfully, Aurivy was waiting for me at the end. “Okay, this next one won’t be so easy, even for you.”
Hurriedly, Aurivy turned to lead me towards the next room. This room seemed… odd. The floor was slanted in random areas, walls lifting up and blocking off all but a small segment. A segment that seemed to be moving slowly. “This is a stealth obstacle course. Watch…”
Aurivy held a hand up, and a small rock appeared on top of her palm. She lightly tossed the rock into the room, and nothing seemed to happen at first. However, the moment that the rock touched the ground, two bolts of lightning shot out from the walls, scorching the rock black for a good ten seconds.
“As soon as a single sound is made inside of that room, the lightning traps activate. If you touch the shifting walls, the traps activate. Your objective is to locate the three hidden pressure plates in the room and activate them to open the next door, without triggering any of the traps.”
“Okay, I can see why you said that this one wouldn’t be as easy.” I muttered quietly as I looked at the poor rock that had been used as an innocent sacrifice. Not only would I have to be careful about treading gently, but I would also have to make sure not to strike too hard when I was activating the pressure plates. “Anything else I should know about?”
“Nope, that’s it for this one!” Aurivy responded, before her body simply vanished. She called out from within the room… or more likely from the other side of it. “I’ll be waiting at the exit for you!”
I took a deep breath, making sure that I wouldn’t be heard once I stepped inside. Once again, I spread out my chakra threads to fill the room, before another thought occurred to me. Aurivy had obviously forgotten about my threads… so she couldn’t have been expecting something like that. Meaning that there was another chakra detection method.
Rather than using my threads, I pushed some chakra into my eyes, and found several areas of the room beginning to light up. The most obvious was the wall, where the empty segment actually seemed to form a spell diagram written in light that moved along the wall. Next were spots along the floor and ceilings, where I could see other spell diagrams resting.
So this is what most ninjas use for their special sight… I thought inwardly, looking at the walls where the lightning bolts had come from. As expected, I saw identical spells placed at each point. However… that wasn’t enough to identify which spells served as the keys. Because not all traps had the same spell applied to them.
Nothing to do but give it a shot. I mused to myself before stepping into the room. The moment I did, I turned to a nearby wall and placed my foot along it. Aurivy specifically said that I could not use spells in this dungeon… however, I had learned long ago that you could walk up walls without the need of a spell, simply by coating a foot in mana.
And given how many traps there seemed to be along the floor, I had a feeling that you were actually meant to take advantage of this trick. Okay, here goes… Not sure how sensitive the traps were, I held my breath. My eyes darted from one trap to the other, looking to identify which ones were pressure activated.
Soon enough, I found one spell that had a pressure trigger, and stretched a thread out towards it. Once my thread touched the patch of wall where the spell was set, I stepped to it. Coating my hand in mana, I lightly tapped the wall with a single finger before moving back to my original position.
And… I was glad that I had moved, since a sharp spike appeared at the spot that I had just been standing, its entrance through the wall triggering the two lightning traps to fire at it. Cold sweat dripped down my back as I imagined myself getting hit by that spike. I knew that it couldn’t kill me… but I am sure that between it and the lightning, it would have hurt like hell.
Note to self, not all pressure spells are keys. Once I had decided that, I spent a bit longer looking at each spell. As it turned out… almost half of them had a pressure trigger. However… I soon found what should have been the correct spell. A single spell diagram that had no trigger.
Once again, I stepped over towards the location of this spell, which was actually on the ceiling, and placed my hand against it. With a thought, I pushed my mana into the spell, waiting for it to activate before once again fleeing to safety. However, once I had moved back, I saw that there was no special trap activated. Instead, the spell diagram seemed to be flashing faintly.
One down, two to go.