A few hours after midnight, Rainer awoke to a small push in his side. He jumped up and upon seeing who it was tried to control his armed [Arcane Bolts], but contrary to expectations, his magic didn’t react at all.
Seeing the confused and half-awake look on Rainer’s face, Kara gave a minor explanation.
“You have too much faith in that spell of yours. Even an average assassin can get around it.”
Rainer just gave her an annoyed stare and lied back down.
“I had thought you dead, how can one sleep so heavily on the ground?” She said not knowing how skilled Rainer truly was at sleeping, “Come. I suggested we take the second night-watch so that we may begin your training. The dungeon is but 1 week of travel away.”
“5 more minutes…” Rainer grunted out wondering when this quiet wolf had become such an excited person.
To his complete surprise, Kara directly sat onto his chest.
“If you do not get up I shall not train you.” she said with her tail still wagging since she finally saw him wake up.
“You care that little about the lives of your comrades?” He said with annoyance and immediately regretted it.
She had grown angry for a moment before she realized he was referring to the condition that if she trains him he will join them in entering the dungeon.
“Then whenever you are ready we shall begin,” She simply replied and left the tent her tail no longer excited.
Closing his eyes Rainer swore to himself before he forced himself up. He felt like he just kicked a puppy, and he himself knew what a pain he was to wake up. He checked on Luna a brief moment to see her still sleeping in his pocket and left the tent. Looking around, he found Kara tending to the campfire. He walked over but she spoke without turning around.
“There is no rush. You may sleep as long as you wish.” her voice came out lacking any of the enthusiasm from before, and instead returned to how it was when he first met her.
Rainer understood why she was so excited to begin training with him. It was likely similar to how he met his first girlfriend.
For likely one of the only times in Kara’s life beyond her family, someone was interested in her completely unrelated to her appearance. He could tell from the warning Leaf gave him it wasn’t an uncommon situation for someone to approach her with romantic or less savory intentions. He felt like an even bigger dick for taking that joy away after having fully thought about it.
“Hey look, I’m not great at waking up. I’m sorry I took it out on you. I’m very much looking forward to training with you, the moment I saw how you handled your blades...I knew it.” He lied a bit but saw no harm.
“I should not have threatened you as such when in truth your side of the bargain outweighs mine. There are far stronger groups who would gladly invite someone of your capability and provide bonuses for you as well,” Soon recovering a bit of her mood, Kara responded.
Rainer flinched a bit at this, but he wasn’t one to go back on his word. Besides, he preferred dealing with people who didn’t seem as likely to leave him for dead when the opportunity arose.
“So how should we start?”
She turned around and even though it didn’t show on her face her tail had moved side to side a few times happily. Rainer couldn’t help but wonder if she was aware of it, but figured it wasn’t something you could ask about. He noticed from up close she was about his age in appearance and an inch shorter. Her hair remained the same ponytail with the front part of her hair partially tied into two strands, the rest hanging loosely by the side of her head. Of course, two black wolf ears rested on top.
“I assume that your blade magic can function with a scepter or staff as well?”
Rainer remembered the staff he shattered when he channeled Arcane energy through it. Looking back, it may have been related to his Arcane energy rather than the staff itself.
“It generally can’t. I’d like to learn with and without it if possible.”
Rather than becoming discouraged, this seemed to make Kara happier.
“Well then as it is not the same as using a blade I will have to adjust my forms and techniques, but I can do it. You’ll have to give me a few moments to practice in the same manner as you would wield your blade.”
Rainer watched as she quickly headed back to her tent and, using a strap, tied her blade to her arm. She concentrated and her blade glowed green for a moment before once more the [Supreme Lightness] buff from earlier was on it.
She motioned Rainer to follow her a few feet outside of the camp. Two moons and numerous stars illuminated the night. Rainer looked on as she stood completely still. Her arm and fingers pointed the same as his when he cast [Arcane Blade] with the addition of the blade strapped to her arm. He had no idea what her goal was. Could her technique really be transferred in such a manner?
Waiting a bit he thought what he wanted to gain. He was only interested in gaining a few skills at level 1 and then using [Sleep Learning] after having her demonstrate it enough times for him to gain a few more levels. The demonstration and then mimicking that under her supervision would be key. He’d then sleep learn until his demonstration started to approach hers.
He had overnight used [Sleep Learning] on [Sprinting] but there was no increase like he expected. How does one become a better sprinter in reality? They either improve their bodies or they have a coach teach them better techniques. Practicing could only help when you knew what you needed to practice. Perhaps with a true talent, they could improve their own technique.
The only reason Rainer was able to even learn [Sprinting] in the first place was because of the [Arcanist] class. That isn't to say enough [Sleep Learning] couldn't increase [Sprinting]. So long as it was intentional practice seeking improvement eventually he'd grow to understand it further, the question was how long would that eventually be? Running 8 hours a day was definitely impressive, but it wasn't truly that much in the grand scheme of things.
Spells and runes, however, only were difficult to learn. Once you knew them, everything became easier, though, not necessarily quicker. Some magic could be leveled through sheer brute force practice so long as the practitioner remained focused and improved his connection with the magic.
Rainer realized in this world warriors and mages had different barriers to advancing. Learning even a basic spell was hard. Without Rainer’s prior study under his grandfather, it could take another decade or two before he managed to learn runes and cast even a [Candle Flame]. Without a teacher? Perhaps only with the impossible talent the first mages probably had. And after all those years, one may not even have an Affinity at a high enough level to do anything.
Had he not used [Sleep Learning] on [Arcane Bolt] when he first came here, he may very well not only be dead but at the very least not have more than just [Arcane Bolt] as a spell. As the only reason he was able to manipulate the Arcane energy into new spells was through the mastery of the [Arcane Bolt]. Added to that was his massive 300% improvement to the Arcane and the human racial bonus.
He guessed a sword skill could likely be gained at level 1 from a year or 2 of hard practice, not counting their talent or their teacher's talent. Perhaps also without even a teacher’s assistance if the person was extremely talented. But level 2? That was a different story. For him, level 1 should only take a few hours and, if unlucky, maybe a few days. But it shouldn’t be too difficult.
It was these kind of thoughts that caused him to become furious with Gognar before he went to sleep. The notes were the equivalent of a high amount of levels and their value may be priceless in this world.
Rainer turned his attention back to Kara as she began to move. Her eyes slowly opened and her feet shifted, a flurry of strikes exploded out. Rainer watched in shock at the elegance of her moves. Not even having a blade strapped oddly to her wrist could detract from her. His original idea of simply copying the moves for [Sleep Learning] seemed foolhardy now. He would need a lot of help before he could do that.
Different from ordinary sword-play there was nothing that looked like parries. She focused purely on speed as if every strike meant to kill and slash through in a single move.
She paused in the midst of a strike before nodding to herself, seemingly satisfied in her adjustments.
“Rainer, can you cast your own blade at the length you are most likely to use?”
He drew on Arcane energy but kept it to the normal level of the spell in an effort to reduce the mana cost. A 3-foot blade extended from the tips of his fingers. Now that he looked closely it truly fit the definition of a blade. Only one side could be used for slashing while the other supported the form and helped control the unleashed Arcane Energy. It drew the energy towards a sharp edge.
She walked closer and stared at the [Arcane Blade], part in wonderment and part in serious consideration.
Rainer became distracted for a moment at the violet and white light reflecting in Kara’s golden eyes before she spoke up.
“You may cancel the spell. While it's best for you to train while using your magic, accidents would be hard to avoid with such a powerful blade. We will use it sparingly, though.”
She said while sitting down on the snow. Rainer was now curious if it was her race’s ability to resist the cold so well, seeing as she clearly lacked the proper attire.
“Yes, Teacher,” Rainer canceled the blade and sat as well while he waited patiently for his teacher. He, of course, admired the fact that her tail moved when he called her teacher.
“I’ll explain my skill to you and we can begin with some basic forms. It is an art that is passed down amongst the women in my family it…” She paused for a moment before skipping ahead.
“The technique focuses on…”
But she was interrupted by Rainer.
“Please, I’m interested in the history of it, there's no reason to rush, Teacher.”
He wasn’t actually that interested. But he felt he owed it to her after what he said to her. Plus, her tail would probably be wagging during the whole story. He’d be entertained.
“The technique is passed down amongst women in my family as means for not fighting strength head on but instead flowing around it and striking death regardless of our opponent's power.”
“Is that something you can be teaching to me?” He asked a bit confused.
“Hmm? Not an issue. It would take many years of arduous training before any real secrets were revealed, I do not mind allowing you to eventually gain the first level of the skill. Though you may need to journey with us for some time.” She said a bit happily.
Rainer simply nodded his head, now thinking of a way to hide it when he learned the skill. It wouldn’t be hard for a master to see such an improvement. His only idea was to immediately stop and fake injury or tiredness.
“It had originally been developed by the women oppressed in our tribe prevented from fighting due to the difference in strength between our men and women. It was even larger than humans. Though our women were still stronger than most human men.”
“Don’t look like you’re referring to me.” Rainer said jokingly.
“Eh? I was merely noticing that your physique was quite impressive, as a mage even more so,” She said bluntly with no embarrassment.
Rainer couldn’t help but smile, though he just waited for her to continue her story.
“The skill came from my great-grandmother who used it to slay her husband and through a series of duels become the new ruler of the tribe. Now it is passed from mother to daughter though we don’t particularly exclude men from learning it in our tribe. It simply doesn’t suit them.” Her face tinted slightly red while she spoke perhaps now being affected by her previous comment.
“However, the whole skill became possible because of the Aura ability she developed in order to buff her blades to a near weightless form. I can only perform it to a small degree compared to my mother. She can use a large heavy blade and wield it as if it were but air.”
Hearing this Rainer very much wanted to ask about Aura but feared it was common knowledge. He’d have to ask Luna later.
“Really, it's this ability that we are not allowed to teach others. The blade skill is freely taught and generally speaking would be useless without the Aura ability. You are a rare case.”
Her tail signified she grew more excited as she spoke.
“When I saw you call upon your blade I had been truly amazed. Your form cutting the tree as if it had not existed reminded me very much of my mother.”
Of your mother…
“Ah not that your form is womanly in any way, it is quite the opposite in fact…”
Hearing her go off track, Rainer just waved his hand signaling it was okay. Clearing her throat lightly, she progressed onto the skill itself.
“The skill is called [Weightless Blade Mastery]. It is a blade skill devoid of parries and ripostes instead focusing on offense with your blade and defense by movement of body. I thought of a few alterations for you as your blade can likely cut through armor and metal but, that will be for a later time. Hmm...I suppose I might as well teach you a few basic forms now," She jumped up without pause, her entire speech being at a rapid pace in the first place, and commanded Rainer, “Form your hand into the same position as when you use your magic, and we’ll begin from there.”
Following along and being corrected by her extremely strict standards, Rainer practiced a several move combination of steps and slashes for hours. As she had chosen a moveset that made it impossible for Rainer to cut himself, when he could he would cast and maintain his [Arcane Blade]. Covered in sweat and completely exhausted he finally saw a message he’d been expecting a bit ahead of time.
[Skill Gained: Weightless Blade Mastery lvl 1/10]
[Skill Gained: Blade Mastery lvl 1/10]
However, in the midst of training, he had forgotten to hide it. And with a motion far too skilled for a beginner, he slashed out a few more practice moves. This was made ever clear by the trail of Arcane energy that followed the blade.
Kara could only watch in stunned silence. She believed at first her eyes played a trick on her but there was certainly the marked improvement that accompanied from first gaining the skill.
Rainer stopped immediately once he realized what he had done, but looking over and seeing the look on Kara’s face, he knew he screwed up. He quickly thought of saying that he only pretended to learn from her to get close to her but her next words stopped him.
“Your magic for such a level and in general was already strange, I suppose your secrets are quite deep.” She said a bit quietly.
“You do not have to worry from me. Just like the existence of your little friend in your pocket I have no interest in spreading this secret either.”
“Thank you.” He said, glad he didn’t have to crush their relationship.
“I’m going to go have my...little friend...clean me off. Since you already know about her would you like her magic assistance as well?”
“I am alright. I merely got to enjoy watching you do all the hard work. It is a nice change of pace.” She said smiling.
“I’ll watch out and make sure no one from the camp can see you.”
She seemed good enough of a person though he wasn’t arrogant enough to believe he understood her fully. Well, he was about to update his armed [Arcane Bolts] anyways…
Having walked far enough away from the camp, Rainer called Luna out. But she had already flown out of his pocket before he got a full word out.
“Calling Luna to clean Rainer after he sweated all night with that harlot. Does Rainer have no shame Luna wonders.”
“Luna you know we were training.” He said as the black violet Fairy Fire comfortably spread around his body.
“Luna says sweating with a harlot is sweating with a harlot.”
She paused for a moment before asking Rainer a question.
“Does Rainer really trust Kara to keep me a secret?” She asked switching to a more serious tone than usual.
“Not completely. But I’m altering my armed [Arcane Bolts] as we speak. I won’t be surprised again at the very least. I do not, however, believe we have much to be worried about. If she was interested in money gained from giving your presence away, why would she be in a group that was so much weaker than her? She values her debts or perhaps her words.”
“If Rainer says so, Luna will trust Rainer.”
Sitting in a throne grown from tree and root, a woman, with the same emerald hair and emerald eyes Luna once had, looked down towards a group of Fae. Different from the Fairy that Luna was, they lacked her wings and her small size, the Fae Queen included, but had long pointed ears and hair of extravagant colors. The eyes on most differed from humans as well. Their clothes were a variety of colors and fabrics apart from the Fae Queen who wore a single smooth black dress without shoes. Yet contrary to the festive appearance of the dozen or so Fae kneeling before their queen, the mood did not match.
“How goes the search?” The Fae Queen asked a woman of red hair and crystal like blue eyes. Her entire eyes were that crystal blue lacking a visible pupil. The Queen’s voice showed a clear sign of displeasure.
“The...t.tracking magic has proven ineffective my queen,” She stuttered out fearing the importance of this to her queen.
The Queen simply stared at her not showing any emotions on her face.
“And why has such a situation occurred?”
“T-The magic determines that she is alive but her location becomes scrambled. We can only conclude that it is t-the interference of another powerful source of mana.”
“So you are telling me not only has years of experimentation simply escaped, it has as well benefited another?”
“Yes-s my Queen.”
Contrary to their expectations the recently volatile Queen did not lash out at them. How could they know all her frustrations were being unleashed on the individual that helped Luna escape, though, today that individual had died from their injuries unbeknownst to the Queen. Had they reported this tomorrow they might not get away so freely.
“Continue scrying and find a way around the presence. If not, send agents in the general direction and have them search for such a presence.”
“Yes my Queen,” they responded together.
“Leave me,” She waved her hand slightly and immediately the group of Fae rushed out of the room, happy to leave unscathed.
Her slender fingers drummed on her wooden throne before an emerald wind erupted from her and slammed into the place where the Fae had previously been. Her face was still a frozen facade of ice even if within her rage boiled over.
Ignoring the cracked marble floor she simply walked off from her throne, seeming to almost float above the ground, and headed to where she could relieve her frustrations. Opening a locked wooden door, the prison inside lacked the appearance of one. Its bars were replaced with tree and root. The floor was made up of a darker marble than the one in the throne room. She walked toward the current sole occupant.
“How shall you entrain me today you traitorous whore?” She whispered venomously as the roots and branches blocking the cell opened up. Not matching to the beauty around her was a disfigured Fairy. Yet now as only the corpse of Luna’s former caretaker. The calm facade on the Queen’s face finally broke.
“I want it found now!” Her mana-charged voice vibrated throughout the entire palace as an emerald swirl of wind consumed the prison cells around her.
An entire week of travel had passed uneventfully for the Winter’s Guardians and Rainer. They would be reaching the small outpost that had begun to be constructed around the newly formed dungeon. Rainer had wondered why its discoverers had bothered reporting it to the Hunters Guild; a guild formed of Monster Hunters offering support, a middle man for selling monster goods and information, and as well certain missions. Though apparently, the reward for such information was good enough that taking the risk of trying to conquer the dungeon wasn’t worth it.
After a week of [Sleep Learning] on Kara’s teachings and his own practice, he had managed to raise [Weightless Blade Mastery] to level 2 and [General Blade Mastery] to lvl 2 as well.
Rainer had spent about half of his time with Kara asking questions and discussing her blade technique while training. She happily indulged a student who learned the skill so quickly, while completely ignoring the method of his speed of learning it out of respect for his secrets.
Another part of his time focused on creating a shield from Arcane Energy, but all tests ended up simply creating a fat blade or a large thin bolt. He believed he’d need an example of an elemental shield spell. He tried using mana as well due to the goblin mage’s shield seeming similar to that, but he hadn’t the slightest clue on how to materialize the mana into a physical form. His [Mana Manipulation] only allowed manipulation of a ethereal mana rather than something more solid.
The rest was spent with Leaf who discussed with Rainer various strategies for conquering the dungeon. As of now, little information was known as Leaf’s group had left for the dungeon just a single day after the news was posted at their nearby Hunter’s Guild. They hoped the new Hunter’s Guild might have some new information. For Rainer, the strategy simplified down to saving his magic and mana for emergencies and boss fights. Otherwise, he would remain within the center of the group and keep his eyes open.
Walking into the outpost that had begun its construction only a month ago Rainer marveled at the appearance of it, the dungeon entrance itself exceeding his imaginations alongside. A large shrine-like building juxtaposed the snowy landscape. Steps led up to an open but void filled entrance. No people seemed to be around it at the moment.
Not far south of the shrine, a stone wall was being erected. Further back, several buildings had already been nearly completed. A large stone fortress structure with words foreign to Rainer, but still readable, declared the Hunter’s Guild. Directly across from it was the Hunter’s Inn that was in a completely finished state with the noise of discussion coming from within. Beside that, the other buildings seemed to either be related to habitation or were perhaps stores. Even after the dungeon would be cleared, the town was meant to stay.
During nightly chats, he had discussed with Luna several subjects. She only knew Aura was a rare and often hidden attribute that various combat type classes had. She had mentioned this was how the Orc survived, though, she considered it still impossible that he did. Thankful for that information, Rainer knew why Kara gave off a similar feeling and it did not bother him.
She had also mentioned some of the greatest cities were built around dungeons of high caliber, often monopolizing the resources inside for use of trade and supplying the town. Generally speaking, it still held a high mortality rate, but that mostly applied to those who wished to gain experience related rewards. Simply gathering resources from the first level was not too lucrative but held a lower death rate.
Many Monster Hunters would retire and do such a job having no further goals or giving up on advancing to higher levels anytime soon.
Rainer’s first order of business was to register with the Hunters Guild so he could sell anything he gained from the dungeon. Soon, however, the Winter’s Guardians were stopped by a group of heavily armed men that exited the Hunters guild and approached them.