Fluttering her eyelids - the early morning sun dyed her room yellow through the window - Nisha slowly woke up from her long dream. Unconsciously reaching up, the elven girl wiped away two dried streaks of salt where tears had run freely before.
Remembering bits and pieces of the dream causing her much grief, her drowsiness instantly disappeared, especially the incorporeal emotions lingering even now while she was awake. Rubbing her eyes with clenched fists to make it go away, Nisha replayed the whole thing from beginning to end to make some sense of it.
The dragon had felt sadness before, whether it was when she lived with her siblings, when she resided in the hunting grounds with Eldrin or currently in the capital Thurgau, however the sheer might the sorrow at present radiated … only losing Eldrin came close in intensity.
Maybe because they felt her confused state, the runes residing in her core emerged, floating freely in the air before Nisha and writing out a string of characters, none that the dragon knew yet somehow was able to perfectly read.
“[Thorns of the Night], huh? I’m sure the name is from my dream.”
Acting as a trigger, the runes gathered again in the air and returned to her innermost center, where an identical symbol appeared on the core, imitating the characters the rune spelled before, filling her mind with a stream of information regarding their content.
“I see. [Thorns of the Night].”
Lacing her voice with the turbulent emotion boiling in her soul as well as a strand of mana, the ability stored in her soul awoke.
Simultaneously, each and every shadow in the room came alive, pouring out from their confines and suppressing the light as it twined around Nisha, comforting her similarly to a dear friend, taking the shape of numerous thorny branches.
Thorns made directly from the night, that’s a good name.
A faint smile appeared on the dragon’s face as she wrapped her arms around the thorns. Even without a shred of clothing between her skin and the firm surface of the skill, which felt akin to wood, she instinctively knew the thorns would never leave a single mark on her, even the notion something akin to that could happen was absurd.
Additionally she still possessed the skin of a true dragon, despite currently looking like an elf. The wood capable of piercing through it without being reinforced by a skill or being enchanted with mana surely would be an exceptional treasure. At least Nisha hadn’t seen it before.
Shaking off the last remnants of her sad mood, the elven girl started to pull out several clothing articles from her space, the day wouldn’t get any longer if she lazed around in bed.
Rearranging the thorns to a small black bracelet, a flowery red dress covered her body, finishing her preparations for the day.
Curiously there wasn’t much to do after all the excitement during the previous day and now after this unusual dream.
Luthais and Galan will probably deal with matters related to the house, Henry has to attend academy and Aubrey has work to do. So I guess it’s either practicing some more with the skill books or visiting Hale. It might be possible she can tell me more about this new skill too.
Planning ahead how she wanted to spend her time, Nisha picked up a small lump of ore which had appeared overnight, the phenomenon followed her from the [Dragon’s Den] and resumed a few weeks after she settled in Thurgau.
Humming a quiet melody which contained the bittersweet mood the dragon was in, she descended to the first floor and took a quick breakfast together with the servants in the kitchen, who had long since welcomed her into their midst. Their apprehension of eating and working while a member of the duke family was present had gradually disappeared at the same pace as Nisha got to know them.
Greeting everyone she knew, she slowly migrated towards the garden, a sudden mood blocking her from going out. The blooming area greatly helped her enjoying her meal properly as well as basking in the sun on a bench situated near a patch of flowers, an activity she had not been able to enjoy ever since transforming into an elf.
Pulling the fire skillbook out of her space, Nisha started reading it, eager to see another ability she can compare her new [Thorns of the Night] to.
The dark thorns still wound themselves around her wrist, their dark gleam letting them appear as a high class material. They reacted to her intentions and formed a thin twined bangle, acting as a sharp contrast to Nisha’s pure white skin.
[Fire Lord Akarim’s Scroll ]. Well, at least it isn’t as bad as the title of my dark book …
Studying the instructions inside, the dragon dozed off every now and then, entranced by the warm feeling on her skin. If it wasn’t for the eagerness to learn another skill, she’d probably sleep all day in the courtyard.
The first skill proved to be fairly easy nonetheless, especially with her flame guiding Nisha, which was called [Ember’s Touch]. Applying a small amount of flaming wisps to a weapon, it increased its capability and added some flame damage even to normal gear. And to top it off, it could be cast on allies as well, unlike the [Shadowclad] technique she learned from the last book. Trying it out on one of her daggers, it looked good too, tiny motes of fire printed on its surface.
Happy about her success, Nisha continued reading and easily mastered the second spell as well, a defensive screen with the name [Hearth Mantle], which summoned a cloth made of fire akin to a mantle - as the name implied - which the user could wrap himself in. Also, it increased defense against attacks and provided warmth, a perfect combination for exploring dark caves such as the Dungeon.
Summoning the spell without the help of her flame as well, the dragon smoothly grasped the second spell too.
Considering the fact she had to actually injure something with the [Shadowclad] skill and not outright kill the recipient, it could be said that she mastered both her fire and dark spell books in record time. If anyone else learned about her feats, they would probably die from envy. Fortunately, the fire book also contained the incantations for the two common attack spells, in fact each book in the library contained a corresponding attack for each rank added on the regular edition, therefore the [Fire Lord Akarim’s Scroll] also contained the chant to invoke [Fireball] and [Fire Arrow], respectively classified first and second rank. However, there had never been a case where a mage had been unable to activate the most simple attack spells, hence Nisha didn’t bother with trying them out as well and ruining the carefully maintained garden.
Despite succeeding in activating her newest techniques, Nisha could only frown when comparing them to the [Thorns of the Night]. She was able to cast the others repeatedly, which came at a simple price. However, the elven girl was not able manipulate their nature at all, the chants accomplished exactly one goal and nothing besides that.
On the other hand, the bracelet on her wrist responded to even minute thoughts, tangling and entwining themselves in new and continuously more complex patterns now and then as when she imagined them.
Counting all those characteristics and weighing them against each other, Nisha was confident in saying the thorns were not a skill at all, seeing as they even used both mana and aura to sustain their physical appearance.
In the end her frown quietly disappeared and was replaced by a grin instead.
Why should I complain when I received a gift even better than a skill. Dark Spirit, whoever you are, I have to thank you from the bottom of my heart.
There was still the book called [Seals] left in her space, four bronze stars twinkling and enticing her to take a look inside as well. With only a few pages, it was the shortest manual she had borrowed from the library, yet it contained the most number of skills according to the stars.
Nonetheless, the sun already made it halfway across the sky, and Nisha still hadn’t gone hunting like she planned the day before. Gathering her equipment in the [Soul Space], she leisurely arrived at the Dungeon entrance near the harbor.
With a grumbling stomach, the dragon headed deep inside the first layer of the dungeon. Most of the regular monsters inhabiting the rooms only held the strength of the early to middle first rank, which she considered too weak to actually be a good meal. The richer the aura congealed in the flesh, the more filling it would be, therefore she roamed through quite a few rooms unseen, hiding her presence like she learned it as a hunter and proceeding with her [Flickering Cover] when hiding proved insufficient. Additionally, Nisha noticed she required less sustenance recently, which puzzled her at first. However, once aware of the changes, it wasn’t hard to figure out that the closer she became to the next rank, the less food she required, even if it was a miniscule amount overall. It made sense to her as well, the dragon remembered when she grew up in the Wilderness, there had been a similar pattern, first her hunger grew as she grew up, then became increasingly content as her rank rose, allowing her to laze off and explore the forest instead of hunting all the time.
A single room of late stage monsters equalled about ten mid to low rooms, especially if the room held several enemies at the same time. Their strength was at the level of a snack for Nisha, it didn’t matter to her if she faced one or ten of them.
Casually drifting around in her hunter attire, Nisha enjoyed the clean and crisp air flowing inside the Dungeon.
Thinking about it, the city had almost overwhelmed her the first time she arrived there. Considering that, the dragon had adapted fast, easily gaining a resistance to the various odours and stenches that occurred wherever humans gathered in large numbers.
Her luck was quite good and Nisha found three rooms containing various variant tribes of goblins, panther beasts and even a large colony of [Golden Weaver Boars] which were quite the delicacy.
Filled to the brim after directly devouring a few samples each time - without bothering to roast them, she was here to fill her stomach and not dine well - after tearing through the rooms while testing her new skills at the same time, she came across a room with a weird spectacle inside.
A group made of several young humans, each of them at the upper end of the first rank in either aura or mana, accompanied by an elderly dwarf, who currently crouched on the ground. His original strength should be somewhere halfway between the fourth and fifth aura rank, rousing Nisha’s desire to go against him in a match and measure up against a strong opponent as her own aura and mana neared the border of the second rank and showed signs of breaking through soon.
However, the dwarf currently sprawled on the ground, clear liquid spilling out of a gruesome wound running along his back, spasming from time to time from the pain.
The dragon recognized the monsters the group was fighting, a hated enemy she sometimes had to expel from the [Dragon’s Den] territory, who were annoying enough to make her shoulders sink in disgust.
[Black Grave Spiders] ran around the struggling group, hissing and shrieking whenever one of the humans waved around a flashy aura skill or finished the incantation to a first ranked spell.
Sadly, these kind of insects already reached the second level, a strong anomaly on the first level of the Dungeon, their strength indicated a brood mother would likely be born soon. Afterwards their combat power would soar even more, the only reason the group was able to fend off the spiders in the first place was because the monsters lacked clear coordination.
Given away by the clear liquid spilling out of his wound instead of blood, the reason the dwarf fell down in the first place should have been a sneak attack by one of the spiders when they entered the room. The [Black Grave Spiders] possessed a natural dreadful corroding poison in their fangs, with just a single bite it was said that it could send one to their grave. Of course this only held true in the same level, a third ranked mage certainly held enough power to neutralize or expel the poison while a warrior might be able to use his element to cleanse his body from it. Unfortunately it seemed that the dwarf was badly matched with the spiders, since by the time he recovered from his impediment, most of the humans would most likely be dead.
Usually Nisha wouldn’t mind a fight between two similar groups of enemies, whether the monsters or the humans accompanied by the dwarf won hardly mattered to her. At the same time however, the large quantity of early stage two monsters appearing in the first layer bothered her, this wasn’t a fair matchup at all. Hence she decided to lend the losing side a hand.
Retrieving one of the [Taurith Short Swords] from her space, Nisha applied both the [Shadowclad] technique as well as the [Ember’s Touch] spell with a single thought.
Carrying the demonic looking blade, the elven girl took one last deep breath before dashing into the room stained by the stench of scurrying spiders.
Even before she had no trouble taking on third rankers, not to mention now that she neared the border towards breaking into the third rank herself.
Making contact with the carapace of an enemy, the hunter in her took over, ready to destroy all that stood before her.