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Helial was twirling Curse of the Demon right in front of him. Every slash gave birth to wind blades that cut through the ground. Spheres Black Mana appeared from nowhere and dashed towards his as he engaged in what seemed an endless deadly dance.

The Devil, meanwhile, was leisurely sitting under a beach umbrella. He was sipping the freshest orange juice in the hot morning weather. A fan of white feathers suspended in midair was moving back and forth to cool him down. The kid had gone for a new technique; he would perfect Helial's fighting style by casting Mana bullets in his every opening.

It was as if Helial had been put under a huge roller made of sandpaper. Every imperfect move was continuously polished as his movements became swifter and smoother. Also, he was training to fight left-handedly. This way he would learn how to best master the Longsword in every situation.

The Devil nodded in satisfaction. With an imperceptible move of his right forefinger, he increased exponentially the training's difficulty level. Dozens of spheres appeared all of a sudden. They dive-bombed Helial relentlessly.

Helial slowly put his right hand on the sword and began to let all the Mana inside his Meridians flow throughout him.

Fwoosh

Boom

He suddenly disappeared. He left an afterimage behind. Where he had stood until a second before there now was a web of cracks.

Fwoosh Fwoosh Fwoosh

Without activating any of his Skills, he unleashed Mana blades from the tip of the sword. He was using Mana as his only weapon; the most basic by-the-book attack possible. It was probably the first attack that was taught to every disciple in the Mana Congregation whose goal was to become a Mana Warrior.

The black spheres were split open one after the other. They exploded sequentially. Helial escaped a number of near-misses by performing evasive maneuvers that pushed his body to the limits of physical strain.

Boom! Boom! Boom!

After every single sphere had blasted out, a new gigantic sphere darted from nowhere right toward Helial at breakneck speed.

The Devil wanted the training to end with that last, lethal attack. Helial narrowed his eyes. He let Mana reflow inside his Meridians and then inside Curse of the Demon. He had indeed found out that by flowing Mana inside the sword, the latter cleansed it before reflowing it back with a purer essence and an amplified power. It was as though it both purified and invigorated Mana at once. It was a mechanism he had discovered just recently, and he was still trying to trace back the principles behind it. The Devil had seen him trying to grasp this mysterious process many times, yet without giving him any answers. He was waiting for Helial to come up it the answer alone. Having someone feed him wouldn't be of great use to his personal growth, would it?

Once condensed all his strength inside his limbs, Helial slightly bent his knees, closed his eyes and focused on every fiber of his body.

Skill Activated:

Perception

Lv: 14

Grade: Mind's Eye

Range: 12,000 yards

Mana Control allows you to perceive the outside world with incredible clarity.

You will be now able to distinguish other people's unique Auras.

From now on, any physical disguise people might use will not be able to fool you.

Exp: 57 %

Perception was now much more powerful than before. Helial was beginning to vaguely detect in which spot the density of something varied. According to their Mana agglomeration, every single thing appeared to have at least one natural weak point indeed.

Once sensed a faint fluctuation near the vertical axis of the Black Mana sphere, he didn't hesitate and heaved the sword in a devastating slash that generated a far sharper energy blade. After striking the blow, Helial turned slightly pale. He had clearly employed all his strength to deliver the attack.

Fwoosh!

The blow hit the sphere. After a few seconds of silence, the sphere was cut in half and blasted away.

Clap Clap

The Devil's tiny hands applauded him in a thud that let out a dull echo through the training ground. "Not bad, not bad. Now we can finally go, the others are ready too. Time to level up, guys. Now, you all have reached the peak. You won't be able to gather any more Mana at this point. The First Phase is waiting for you."

When, after all the weeks spent waiting for those words, Helial finally heard them, he nodded in relief.

Suddenly, while he was practicing on the training ground as usual, a servant came running. He stopped a few yards from Helial and said: "I'm here on behalf of the Merchant Guild, young master. Young master Caliban asked me to inform you he has something that might be of your interest." After speaking these words, the servant stood still and waited to be dismissed.

Helial narrowed his eyes. Caliban?

The young heir of the Merchant Guild?

That guy had given Helial the best impression since second one. The geniality that went on between them could hardly go unnoticed. Helial could not but appreciate Caliban's frankness in business affairs. The boy slightly nodded and said: "Thank you for coming. I'll go and visit to the Merchant Guild right away."

***

About half an hour later, Helial arrived at the Merchant Guild followed by Snowflake, Lumia and Lulu. Helial seized the opportunity to ask Snowflake and Lumia to get something useful for Lulu, since she might need it to start off the long journey that expected them outside Orma's walls. He also suggested that Snowflake bought an Interspace Ring filled with food and the gear they would need to survive. Once arranged everything, Helial followed the servant of the Merchant Guild down a corridor.

Helial was in need of some Equipment too, since he had nothing to wear anymore. He was still wearing the same clothes he had received on the day of his arrival. They were full of the patches Lumia had sewed up after his training with the Black Phoenix. Despite Caesar giving him free access to all his funds - which basically meant he could buy almost everything -, Helial only wanted to invest on highly valuable artifacts…

A sinister grin spread over Helial's face. That was the day he would make the King broke.

Helial reached the end of the corridor and stepped in a private room. It was clearly designed to receive the most prestigious guests, in order to keep them out of the racket that went on in the other floors. Some guests deserved a special treatment, and the lack of hustle was one of them. Who wouldn't appreciate the gesture? Helial concluded that the members of the Merchant Guild must be very clever negotiators. Otherwise, they surely wouldn't have reached that high position in a social class that required them to be patient and persuasive bargainers.

As he stepped in the room, Helial saw a young guy with straight yet relaxed eyebrows. He was sitting on a chair nice and comfortable. As soon as he saw Helial enter the room, he stood up and welcomed his with the brightest smile: "We meet again, finally. I heard about your feats." Caliban laughed. He had naturally heard about the day when Helial had razed half Senate to the ground.

Helial heaved a sigh, scratched his head and said: "I swear they forced me to."

They burst into laughter.

It was the first time Helial could interact with a peer and enjoy that kind of company. In his childhood, Helial had frequently felt the urge to talk to some peer. He had wanted a friend to hang out and occasionally vent with, but he had never got the chance to find one. Even though he had recently met Snowflake, Frankenstein and Lulu, the perils they had to face prevented them to turn their relationship into a true friendshiè. They were all too tense, always immersed in training. They hardly had any conversation on something other than Skills, fighting or dangers from the outside world.

Helial inhaled deeply. He was ready to enjoy these short moments of calm. Caliban offered him a tea and began chatting casually about Orma. Despite the conversation being easy, Caliban's vast knowledge of the capital struck Helial. The roots of the Merchant Guild's network of informants must run deep in Orma's social structure.

After a while there happened to be a pause, which Helial seized to grow a little more serious and ask: "Well, I guess chitchat isn't the only reason why you sent for me."

Caliban grew serious as well. He became as collected as would be expected of the young master of the Merchant Guild. "Well, I received some information. At first I believed it was just waste paper, but then I recalled the young human wandering around the Goblin capital who took interest in Runes. Runes have long been lost. It's an unknown technique to us, but you can still stumble upon a few leftovers. The thing is, last week our recon squad found a Dungeon with First Phase monsters. According to their reports, the walls were covered in Runes. Once cleared the Dungeon, I think we might uncover something new about Runes. I have sent no squad yet though."

"How come?" Helial asked curiously.

A malicious smile spread across Caliban's face: "I've heard that you and your friends have been training hard lately, but you still have to reach the First Phase. Knowing you, I guess that facing monsters below the First Phase it's completely pointless. If you want to gain Experience and level up, there will be nothing better than First Phases Dungeon Bosses. This pure coincidence was incredible, so I saw it fitting to ask you to explore this Dungeon before telling anyone else. You might as well find something interesting in there."

Helial raised an eyebrow. He was surprised by Caliban's cunning. The young Goblin had indeed done him a huge favor. He was in his debt. With a calm smile on his face, he replied: "It's perfect. As fate would have it it's time for me to advance to the First Phase. I might have to bother you, since me and the whole group will definitely need the proper Equipment for our level. I don't need anything for my current level, but we do need the best possible Equipment for once reached the First Phase. Feel free to put it on the King's account."

Caliban smiled conspiratorially. "If you put together a whole set of the best First Phase Equipment, you wouldn't still match the price of a single piece of Sixth or Seventh Phase Equipment. Today's the King's lucky day. You'll have everything arranged in a couple of hours. You just need to tell me what it is that you want, exactly."

Helial started to list out all the requirements of the Equipment needed on the basis of each Class they would choose. He selected some items for everyone to increase Intelligence, and added some pieces with Strength and Vigor Bonuses for himself. After all, in the fight inside the Dungeon Helial would be at the forefront. Unlike Paladins, Heavy-Armored Warriors and other Defence Classes, Helial had never focused on Defence Skills, but his terrifying legacy and capabilities actually made him more than fitting to play that role.
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