Inertia got the hounds to take one last step forward as their head fell to the ground. Then they collapsed. Snowflake had truly exceeded Helial's expectations. The boy had always believed that the cat must have an extraordinary strength, but that was beyond extraordinary.
Helial inhaled the moist air soaked in death. He had watched the cat attentively. Before every Snowflake's sudden movement, the cat stood still for a split second. The human had a strange feeling about this. It didn't seem a foolish thing to do, not at all. As soon as he noticed that detail, it had occurred to him that the Skill seemed perfect for an emperor who was terribly sure the common folk could never touch him.
No other word could define Snowflake, at this point. Helial pondered for a moment; he concluded he was far from being an opponent for such a quick target. Probably, only a Third Phase practitioner could hope to equal Snowflake in speed. How was it even possible for someone in the First Phase Intermediate stage to reach such terrifying speed levels?
Helial promised to himself he would delve deeper into this.
For now though, he could only stand there and ponder he didn't even had a Movement Skill. When will his turn to acquire one come?
The Devil could feel very easily Helial's every mood swing, and smiled in response. He swept his bangs from his brow with a hand, while holding a baking pan he had just took out of the oven in the other. "We'll go into that. Be patient."
A warm whiff of soufflé filled Helial's Soul. The Devil leaned slightly forward to have a smell of the sweet baking scent and nodded in satisfaction, making the bat-patterned chef hat bounce on his head. As he saw the hat, Helial caught himself wondering why he would only meet people with serious psychiatric issues.
The group advanced slowly, Snowflake ahead. He went in a weird frenzy as he slaughtered every Rabid Hound from the Netherworld that dared step in his way. Helial and the others cleared the area from the Zombies. This went on for a while. Then suddenly, Helial gave a sigh. That Dungeon really didn't pose a threat to them. There was no point in keeping training there.
"Hey everyone," he said, "I think it's time we find the Dungeon Boss. I'm afraid we won't make much progress by fighting against these ones." The others nodded in agreement. The thing also was, Helial couldn't wait to see the Runic item the Boss would drop.
They were all in the First Phase Intermediate stage, about Level 85. According to the Devil, it was the best moment to stockpile Mana and train hard, which was why they had blocked the Experience. By advancing too quickly, they would slow down their Mana stashing within the First Phase, and they wouldn't have time to reach the peak of their true potential before levelling up.
Presently, they were traversing a narrow crossing which required them to walk single-file or double-file at most. Helial inspected the surrounding area through Perception. When he made sure there was no danger around, he decided to stop and rest for a bit before going any farther.
Lumia seized the chance to move close to Helial and rub her face against his arm like a fearful kitty. "Hug me, big bro."
"Lumia, we've got a situa-" Helial tried to object.
"HUG ME." Lumia gazed up at him with teary eyes.
"But-" Helial was helpless. He gave sigh and held Lumia in his arms, his lips brushing against her forehead. After planting a kiss on her brow, he said: "How are you? You afraid?"
"I am, so much," Lumia said in a misleading worried voice, in striking contrast with the smug grin on her face. Fear made the perfect excuse to enjoy that long hug. And indeed, her brother kept cuddling her for a few long minutes more.
"Stop this fucking incest thing you two, I have nausea now," Snowflake sentenced as he twisted his face.
Lulu interposed with all her sweetness: "We should really keep walking and leave this place."
Helial nodded and let Lumia go of his arms, when suddenly, as he glance up, he noticed something semi-hidden by the rot musk on the walls. He left Lumia free and slowly walked towards the wall, his eyebrows furrowed. The others stared at him baffled.
"What is it now? I'm fucking hungry," Snowflake cursed. "Let's kill this shitty Boss and leave this stinky place."
Helial ignored the cat's protests and stretched his arm to reach for the wall. He removed the putrescent musk from that segment.
His expression grew solemn.
Along the naked wall ran dozens and dozens of incomplete Runes.
Helial removed the remaining musk with his palm.
Helial stared at them as a flash of excitement flickered in his eyes. His mouth curled upwards in a grimace. "These Runes are incomplete… But why do they look like someone wrote them down here to practice? Since they're incomplete it wasn't even possible to dissolve them without using further Mana, so they're totally useless. Apparently someone made a practice chalkboard of this tunnel."
Helial could now boast a decent knowledge of Runes, and he could easily distinguish simple patterns like those on the wall. They were Offensive Patterns used to amplify the power of an attack.
For some reason he couldn't grasp, Helial felt a shiver run down his spine.
You've received a new Quest
The Enigma of the Dungeon Runes
You found Runes on the wall of an unexplored Dungeon.
Now find who formed the Runes.
Aim: 12 hours left to find who wrote the Runes.
Reward: Runes Study Material
Do you accept?
Yes I No
As soon as he was the system notification, Helial immediately furrowed his eyebrows. It was the second Quest he had received; the first one was the Goblin Quest. But that was classified as a Grade D, whereas this was a D+. It suggested that this was harder. The previous one was classified as such due to the fact that he was supposed to kill an entire Goblin army. How could this Quest be harder than that?
Once again, Helial felt that there was something fishy about this.
What kind of quest did the system just give out to him? Why a D+ one?
Grade D+ Quests could even be assigned to Third Phase warriors.
For how strong he might be, Helial would still be afraid to face someone much more skilled than he was. After all, his offensive capabilities didn't go beyond the Second Phase anyway. He wasn't sure he could defeat even someone in the Second Phase Late stage, let alone a Third Phase expert. Also, a Quest Grade usually reflected the strength of the Boss! If the Boss were to be a Third Phase monster, running away would turn out to be highly dangerous, if not impossible.
Except for Helial and Snowflake, the group showed several weaknesses. Lulu, Lumia and Frankenstein weren't melee fighters. Frankenstein himself fought through long-range palms.
What should he do? Should he complete the Quest and risk his life? Or either renounce like a coward?
Maybe I should do this alone. If I went alone, I might not be able to complete it, but at least I wouldn't put anyone's life at risk. If things get hard I will run away, Helial thought to himself.
"You sure?" the Devil asked.
"Would it be a wrong choice?" Helial asked.
"How about you think for yourself, huh? You're strong. You have a long road ahead if you wanna become independent and maybe, one day, a leader. You have no Movement Skills. You could hope to end up slightly damaged, but if you were to stumble on a stronger monster than you are, it would only be a matter of time before it knocks you out as you flee. But you've got some pretty nice ranks in your group. Lumia and Lulu are top quality Supporters, and they complement each other. Lulu can heal while Lumia's CC Skills can lead the flow of the battle wherever she likes best. Snowflake is swift. He complements your weak points. Frankenstein might not be as monstrously powerful as you are, but his damage output is enough to exceed any normal standard. Why renounce to such a formation? Even if you happen to face a Second Phase Late stage monster, your teamwork will let you survive. If it were a Third Phase one… Well, the fight could either end up deadlocked or you die, guys. Who knows."
Helial pondered over his words. We definitely won't grow stronger by running away from challenges. I have two of the most terrifying Legacies in the universe. Am I really afraid of a D+ Quest? "Fuck this shit."
You accepted the Quest!