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From time to time, Helial glanced at the others to check they were doing okay. But he only got glared back. If it weren't for his bright idea, now they wouldn't be assaulted by hordes of murderous cockroaches from all directions. He slowly began to believe that his friends were venting their anger at him on the monsters they were so furiously slaughtering.

Flashes of Mana flew all around them as dozens of cockroaches were dismembered relentlessly.

Giant Cursed Cockroach lost 12,234 HP!

Giant Cursed Cockroach lost 13,552 HP!

Giant Cursed Cockroach lost 12,263 HP!

Giant Cursed Cockroach lost 13,590 HP!

Helial ignored all the Exp pop-ups as he kept killing monsters. Those damned cockroaches were bigger than dogs and their sharp teeth could likely bite a human being to pieces. Helial though was no common person; his body was basically indestructible and couldn't be possibly injured even by opponents in the Second Phase.

He continuously shook Curse of the Demon at the monsters. They were cut off like grass blades. Helial shook his head; those cockroaches were far too weak. They were far from posing a real threat. They must be just as strong as the wolves he had fought against in the Dungeon where he met Snowflake. Helial though had improved a lot meanwhile, and what used to pose a problem to him now it could no more. He was something other than the defenceless guy he used to be. Even though he hadn't reached the First Phase, no one in his same level would ever be able to defeat him - of this he was sure.

"MEEEEEEEEOW!"

It wasn't the first time Helial heard Snowflake cry that way; it was the same shriek he had let out inside the Wolves Dungeon. He shot a glance at the cat. He was slaughtering dozens of cockroaches at a time at daring speed. That damned cat was indeed so swift that Helial was induced to suspect that wasn't even the highest speed he could reach. The Devil had done a good job with him, but it was Snowflake's capabilities that had made him evolve drastically. According to what the Devil told Helial, Snowflake was no ordinary Heavenly Star Tiger. His past was an arcane, but Helial wouldn't investigate.

Each of them had their own secrets. It wouldn't make any sense to force their way out before due time.

All of a sudden, Lumia's voice resounded out. "Heli, watch out!"

Helial felt the earth quake under his feet as he turned towards his sister and took notice of four cockroaches thrown in mid-air. With the smoothest move, Helial split the four of them open. Curse of the Demon now weighted over 6000 pounds and most likely, even a practitioner in the Second Phase wouldn't recover easily after being hit by that sword.

Meanwhile, Lumia kept defending herself against the cockroaches. Beside Titan's Shield, Lumia had acquired a new Skill that would allow her to alter the ground any way she wanted.

Skill Activated: Divine Gravitational Field

Lumia planted the staff into the soil and formed a pointed rock. It immediately thrusted a cockroach that had been alarmingly sneaking towards her. That girl appeared to possess a frightening amount of Mana. Maybe it wouldn't compare that of Helial, but a Manipulation Skill that took such control over the soil was either a high grade Skill or would likelier require a great deal of Mana.

Helial felt the urge to ask his sister about this transformation, but he had a feeling he couldn't just approach her the way he had always done. Despite the fact that she often acted like the same sweet, innocent little girl as always, her gaze betrayed that there was more to her. Lumia's gaze was now stunningly similar to that of Helial; from time to time, a shadow flickered in her irises, a shadow that hinted that… she had suffered profound wounds, somehow. All in all though, that transformation was no damage. Helial knew perfectly well that in a world where the strong suppress the weak, a girl needed to temper herself. Even though…

A flash of light engulfed Frankenstein. It was emitted by the staff held by Lulu. The little Goblin girl activated a Buff Skill that would help her teammates recover Mana far quicker.

Their ability to restore Mana had also increased thanks to the Devil, who had taught them, beside others, the most basic Skill possible, Communion with Mana. Along the first levels, it helped restoring Mana quicker, but later on it could be developed even farther or be replaced by another Skill that would amplify its effects. The Devil had taught that Skill to each one of them, trying to point out how difficult it was to lead Mana in the most functional way inside Meridians.

Helial realized that up to that moment, he had considered himself pretty good at creating Skills from scratch, but once understood the difficulty in commanding Mana through Meridians, he had thought it better to stop being an arrogant. Real Mana Control, the outside-inside control throughout Meridians, was still too challenging a task for him. He could only brush against the real understanding of that knowledge, in the hope he would learn how to absorb it given time.

Helial twirled around and another cockroaches fell dead. In front of him, in the distance, he spotted Lulu as she hit one monster after another by employing her Buffs. Suddenly, a cockroach walked away from the horde to rush right towards her. She was unable to react. Before Helial could even move though, Frankenstein threw a long-ranged palm and without the least hesitation, he smashed it to pieces. Then he went back to fighting against the horde that surrounded him.

"Thank you!" said Lulu in a shivery voice. Frankenstein smiled a smile she couldn't catch sight of.

Frankenstein was doing well. Unlike Helial and Snowflake though, he had suffered several injuries – minor ones, fortunately. He was moving maniacally, as usual; he bent down in the weirdest poses and dodged the blows by twisting his body unnaturally. He let the monsters strike blows that brushed against his nose just to strike his terrifying energy palms in return. Frankenstein's level had improved greatly in the shortest amount of time. He couldn't compare yet with the two humans and the cat, but after all he had started from the lowest step, just like Lulu.

At last, the group cleared the area. Helial began to pick up the dropped items, but threw them away after a few seconds.

You found Cockroach Leg!

Effects:

It helps crafting weapons and armors.

Description: it once belonged to a lively cockroach.

He found nothing valuable. Then he started rummaging through the ruined house; hopefully, he would stumble on some hidden treasure. But he got disappointed. All items – from weapons and armors to necklaces and bracelets – were basically unusable. Time had left its mark on them. Being common items, they couldn't resist the inexorable passage of time.

"What level are you now?" asked Helial as he looked at the bright 52 inside his Stats window.

"42," Lumia said.

"51," Snowflake said.

Frankenstein and Lulu had made significant progress too, since they reached level 34 and 38 respectively. The experience gained by a group was divided into its members according to their contribution, an then added to their previous points. During the battle, those three monsters had clearly helped more than Frankenstein and Lulu.

Maybe me and Frankenstein only weight them down, Lulu thought sadly to herself. Without us, they could clear this Dungeon all the same… After a moment though, her eyes flashed with resolution. Helial had taught her a tough lesson; one could only survive relying on their strength. It didn't matter whether she was weak or not. She couldn't afford to think like a weak one anyway, or she would deprive herself of any chance to become stronger.

Helial activated Perception and probed out the surrounding area to plan what to do next.

"Let's go," he said peremptory. They needed to acquire more strength. After they realized how insignificant they were in Orma, this grew more urgent with each passing day.

For how outstanding Helial's capabilities were in theory, everyone from the Fourth Phase on could kill him almost effortlessly. He could maybe escape from the grip of a not so terrifying opponent in the Third Phase, but if he were to fight against Circe or Pseudonym, Helial wasn't sure he could even hide away from them.

They went on clearing the undergrounds, until a flurry of pop-ups boomed out all around them.

Congrats! You advanced to the First Phase!

Check your Stat window and scroll through the new Classes unblocked.

You can now acquire Masteries!

(NdA: "Sword Mastery" or "Spear Mastery" are a particular kind of Skill that points one's capabilities of wielding a weapon.)

They had finally reached the First Phase. Helial looked at his hands as he levelled up to Level 61, the one that marked he had advanced to the First Phase. He felt a new power envelop his Meridians and remold his flesh. Black blood started gushing out of his every pore, eliminating any impurity inside his body. The same went on for each of them. Once the process came to an end, they wound up covered in a gunky mug. They did their best to wash it away and then checked out their Stats window to witness what they had just gained access to.

Helial tried to spot the differences too. He began by examining his body. Mana seemed to reflow far more naturally than before, but apart from this he didn't seem to have undergone any extraordinary change. Helial had deluded himself into thinking he would improve in leaps and bounds once reached this Phase. His eyes betrayed all his disappointment for the tiny changed he could sense. He had expected to gain much more power than that.

The Devil sensed his bad mood and decided to remark something: "Generally, the very change you undergo when reaching the First Phase is basically in Skills. Before the First Phase, you can't acquire really powerful nor Class-related Skills, just like you can't learn Masteries. This means that the upgrade you experience once in the First Phase is boundless, but just as far as these two things are concerned." Helial shot a glance inside his Soul and noticed that the kid had upholstered the chairs in silk. He was now placing the new-covered-chairs all around the table. "You completely exceed this planet's standards. You guys are unparalleled here. Most likely, no one in your same Phase could compare your power. On this planet, at least. You won't see any great change for now, because you already have pretty powerful Skills and solid grounds. But you're now able to command the Sword Mastery. You can acquire it just by fighting in this Dungeon. The same goes for Snowflake and Frankenstein with the Melee-combat Mastery, as well as the Staff Mastery for Lulu and Lumia."
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