Lulu was too insecure. Lumia wasn't. Despite being a couple of years younger than her, Lumia looked older and more mature. The wildest confidence was carved in her emerald eyes. Her figure exuded an elegant grimness that gave off an awe-inspiring resolution. Before the test though, Lumia was different. Lulu had noticed too, even though she had never really got to know her before that day.
Lulu pondered. After training with the Devil, Helial's master, they had all changed drastically. However, no one seemed willing to speak too light-heartedly about what they had gone through.
Lulu's training had been tough, and Helial had risked a lot to help her, but he had always kept a way out just in case, even when he had risked being bled dry completely. After all, he couldn't boast the defence of a Black Turtle or the natural generation of a Phoenix, but Body of the Qilin had nevertheless such regenerative properties as no other divine creature but the two mentioned above could compare.
Lulu felt a shiver run down her spine. My training was terrible. If I had made a single mistake, Helial would have lost his life… But they… they have changed completely, as if something pushed them to the point of no return.
Lulu was abstract-minded. She had lost Lumia's train of thought, but took noticed when she stopped talking. Only then did she raise her head and catch sight of a towering mountain that rouse up just before them. On the front side was a thirty-feet-tall opening.
You discovered a Dungeon!
Name: Old Spectral Ruins
Helial inspected the Dungeon entry, but there seemed to be nothing awry. He turned towards his friends with a serious expression on his face as he said: "Time to show me all of your Skills. We need to arrange our formation."
Everyone gazed back at him with equal solemnity except for Snowflake, whose eyes sparkled with excitement at the thought he could showcase his new Movement Skill. Actually, the cat was still astonished by his terrifying Skill. After all, he could still compete with other Heavenly Star Tigers despite the… well, despite that thing. Compete? What an euphemism! Snowflake swelled his chest proudly as he got lost deep in thought. That Skill was indeed far more powerful than any Movement Skill his Clan had ever known. Every Heavenly Star Tigers generation perfected the profound Skills that were handed down from one member to another. Thanks to this, Heavenly Star Tigers were well-known for their unparalleled speed. The Skill the Devil had showed him though was enough to make the Clan leader himself hide his face in shame!
After everyone had showcased their techniques, Helial began to explain what tactic they would use once entered the Dungeon. Curse of the Demon flashed into existence in a dark beam. Helial clutched it in his right hand and let himself get burnt by the spontaneous combustion of the white flame enveloping it.
Flame of the Qilin
Flame of the Qilin had no cost. Helial could kept it activated without any restriction. It was a terrifying weapon indeed. A prolonged activation though would deplete his mental energies quite quickly, leaving him exhausted after a small amount of time.
Helial turned and walked towards the Dungeon entry. The other four followed him. As they stepped inside, a notification popped-up in front of each one of them.
Welcome into the Dungeon "Old Spectral Ruins"!
Helial ignored the system pop-up. There were ruins all about them. There seemed to be no path to follow. It must be some sort of labyrinth. Probably it once was an underground city that had long been abandoned. From that moment on, it had bustled with monsters until it slowly became a Dungeon.
Helial sensed the presence of several monsters inside the Dungeon. The city seemed to be arranged in three levels. One would find three floors when venturing down, Helial guessed. After the second level though, he couldn't detect anything neatly. His Skills seemed to collide onto something.
He plumbed that level deeply as he mentally mapped out every building and monster. He decided what path was the best to travel by. He looked for a solitary monster to begin with. Caliban told him that the Dungeon had already been ranged over, but only on the first level. The others were still unexplored. Helial knew that the first floor was inhabited by giant cursed cockroaches, while he expected the lower levels to be inhabited by the Un-Dead.
Judging by the number of monster lurking about that floor and their respawn rate, advancing to the First Phase wouldn't be much of a problem.
(NdA: by respawn rate, video-gamers mean the speed rate by which a monster reappears.)
Actually, reaching the First Phase was far easier that it seemed, at least as far as Exp was concerned. The difficult part was to increase strength in parallel to one's Phase. They had waited for their capabilities to reach the peak before advancing to the First Phase.
A Mana-based training could be compared to filling a glass with water. By levelling up from one Phase to another, the glass capacity grew bigger. It varied in proportion to the height of the previous Phase. Through Breathing Techniques, one could train their ability to "contain" more and more with each Phase. Despite the fact that very few people chose to stay in a Phase until they reached its peak, those who tried would definitely benefited from it.
Helial and his friends had very solid grounds for common people. By levelling up and reaching the peak of every single Phase, their strength would increase exponentially. Despite the great geniuses of the capital - Circe, Pseudonym and Comodus -, basically nobody would train the way they did.
Finally, after a long way and a great deal of turns that had everyone's orientation lost but Helial's, they stumbled on a three-feet-tall, sharp-toothed cockroach.
Helial activated Perception once again.
Giant Cursed Cockroach
Health: 10,234/10,234 HP
Now he could see the attributes of the weakest creatures. Presently, Perception only allowed him to examine someone's number of HP, but one day, given practice, he would be able to find out a lot more about his opponents.
As soon as it saw them, the cockroach dashed forward. Helial motioned Lumia to act.
Lumia raised the spear she was holding and closed her eyes. Meanwhile, she activated her Mana, that rushed through her Meridians like a waterfall.
Knowledge Grade: Earth is Life
Create a powerful shield made of the Mana you employ.
1000 Defence/100 MP
Sometimes protecting is better than attacking.
Lumia formed a half moon that temporarily blocked the cockroach. Helial wanted her to go first in order to analyze the actual power of her two Skills.
The cockroach's shell hit against the rock-hard shield.
The cockroach bounced off the shield without cracking it in the least. The recoil left the cockroach stunned. After a few second though it tried again, this more violently, and cracked it open.
Helial glanced at Frankenstein and said: "Your turn."
Frankenstein took a step forward. He was ready to show off the result of his studies.
Knowledge Grade: Physical Manifestation
It allows you to converge elemental energy in your Palms, whose pure energy contains the principles of the four elements.
Cost: 200 Mana/sec
Who wields the power of handling the elements can choose whether to give birth or death.
Frankenstein bounced up and threw two palms in quick succession. Helial watched carefully as the air flexed when the Goblin darted his arms out. A moment later, two imaginary palms appeared half a palm away from Frankenstein, each with four different flares.
"He extracted the principles of each element and then made them resonate with his Mana, so as to amply every natural particle and make even the simplest palm full of energy. Well, this is to sum it up. The reasoning behind such a Skill is a million times more elaborate than this. The actual procedure to create something like that is way more complex than it sounds. Frankenstein is a damn genius, but more than talent he fights relying on his solid studies," Helial heard the Devil remark inside his Soul.
The two palms hit the shell of the Giant Cursed Cockroach. His carapace was destroyed at the first blow. The second one shattered its head. The power carried by that attack was stunningly tyrannical.
The only ones still left to take action were now Snowflake and Lulu. Helial, however, knew he could trust in them both. He had already witnessed what the cat was capable of, and he had trained Lulu personally. Even though she couldn't claim to be the most talented Healer in Orma, the little Goblin girl had nevertheless worked hard and could now compare the ability of many famous geniuses.
A strange smile spread across Helial's face. Meanwhile, a bunch of monsters had gathered around them. After checking their whereabouts once again through Perception, Helial fixed his evil eyes on a ruined house beside him.
"Ready, everyone?" he asked.
"Ready for what?" they all answered.
Helial raised Curse of the Demon. Under the gazes of his speechless friends, he slashed down and blew the house to pieces.
Suddenly, the horrific shrieks of the cockroaches spread all over. The noise boomed out throughout the level as dozens of monsters rushed towards them.
"Ready for this," said Helial as he shrugged.
Lumia was chatting with Lulu as they all approached the Dungeon entry. The young Goblin girl looked slightly frightened, while Lumia was getting familiar with her Skills. Being a Support Healer, Lulu hadn't just a couple of Skills, but at least a dozen. Not only couldn't she remember every Skill's usage and function, but she was also afraid to use the ones with a longer Cast Time, that would likely be a burden to the entire group.