Chapter 30: Last Leg
INSIGNIFICANT ADVENTURER’S POV:
“Hey hey, did you hear about the rumor going on?” I say as I put down my mug of beer.
A burly man sitting in the same table finishes off his cup before slamming it on the table. “If you’re talking about that famous masked swordsman, I say bullshit!”
I could tell he was a little drunk by his flushed cheeks and glazed eyes.
“No, apparently it’s true! An acquaintance of mine supposedly partied with him. He’s traveling with Jasmine Flamesworth so it’s hard to miss him.” A skinny lad with his hair tied in a bun came over to our table to join in on the gossip.
“So? What did your so called ‘acquaintance’ say about him?” The drunkard exclaimed, getting impatient.
“Well they went together to explore a minor dungeon that’s been cleared already. Apparently, he’s pretty short! I think the rumors are true in that he’s not a mage.” The thin lad just shook his head in wonder.
“Bah! I call bullshit! It’s either that masked swordsman is an Augmenter, or the rumors are just exaggerated! Did you hear some of the stories going around about him? There was even one rumor that he solo cleared a dungeon by himself? Is that even possible? B class Augmenters can’t do that, even if it’s a low level dungeon and you expect me to believe an ordinary swordsman can?” The drunkard waves his empty mug for a refill on his beer.
“Yeah man, I would take some of those rumors with a pinch of salt. That solo clear rumor… didn’t the guy also say that Jasmine Flamesworth went in with him? She probably helped him inside right?” I take another sip, feeling a little lightheaded.
“Right right? I’m telling you dunderheads, that swordsman is probably not even that strong! Half those rumors are probably rumors of Jasmine Flamesworth! That half-wit warrior dares call himself a swordsman? Bring him here! I’ll take him on any day!”
Things were getting loud as the burly drunk was getting more and more intoxicated.
The hottest topic these days amongst Adventurers were about the masked swordsman. Some stories say that he’s Jasmine Flamesworth’s apprentice, but that was a little far fetched. It was made known that he took a rank exam to place into B rank, which was really rare. More shocking than that though was, he was now an A class! Moving a full rank up in two years time?
I just shake my head as I pity myself. Here I was, a borderline C class Adventurer. I failed the exam to move up a class three times this past 3 years. Once you gather enough merit points from going into dungeons and completing missions and quests, Adventurers are allowed the chance to move up a class upon passing an exam.
The exam differs for each class, but supposedly, to go into the A rank, which is first class considered ‘elite’ the examinee has to fight two on one with two A rank Adventurers and last for 10 minutes.
The weird thing is that when some of the rumors reached the examinees that were there with the masked swordsman when he took his exam, they all said that he was an Augmenter. The rumor got so big around him because everyone who has been on a dungeon exploration with him has said that he uses no mana but was still a monster.
The burly man was sobering up a little now, and was just annoyed by the fact that a midget swordsman was better than him. He was a veteran B class Augmenter after all; I could imagine that was a pretty big source of pride for him.
The squeaky door to the pub opens and I drop the fork that was in my hand as I see a figure entering.
“Well speak of the devil! The little midget swordsman everyone’s hyped up about is here! Where’s your little guardian?” The burly man gets up from his seat with a snide grin on his face; cheeks still red.
The very same masked swordsman; the one responsible for all of the crazy rumors, he was here in the flesh.
I see his blue eyes underneath the mask look up at the burly man with an unknown expression. He was wearing a simple black coat that came down to his mid thigh, the hood on the coat covering up what the mask couldn’t. If I were just passing by, even with a mask and two swords, I probably wouldn’t have noticed anything particular about him, but when you look carefully, he was an odd sight. The masked figure stood at about 1.6m, which wasn’t that tall. He had a very slim figure underneath his coat, which either suggested he was a normal person, or a Conjurer. Strapped behind him were a normal short sword on top and a sleek black stick on the bottom. I couldn’t help wondering if he was actually a Conjurer and that was his staff.
After casting a glance at the drunkard that was calling him out, the masked man simply walked past him, uninterested, as if he wasn’t worth the time.
“Are you fucking ignoring me? Just because you’re a little famous for your bullsh*t rumors, you think you’re better than ME?!” The drunkard hit his last straw as he unsheathed his giantsword from his back and held it above his head to swing down.
“C-calm down! You know you’re not allowed to kill someone in here!” I try to quell the man, holding my arms up to stop his sword from swinging, but the masked man didn’t even turn back and just kept walking towards the front counter.
This pissed off the drunk even more as he augmented his body and sword, which both glowed a silvery glow, pushed me aside, and swung down at the masked swordsman.
I look in horror as I imagine the bloody corpse that was probably cleaved in two from the force of that blow. However, contrary to what I expected, the sword created a small crater next to the masked man, missing him by just a hairs breadth.
Whew… At least the drunk had enough sense to not kill the man; he probably just wanted to scare him.
I stand back up about to calm the burly man down from swinging again but when I turn to him, I see that his face is twisted into a shocked, seething expression.
“GRAAH!” He swings his sword again, lifting it out of the small depression he made on the ground. The customers that were seated in the dining room of the inn were all staring now, some cheering for gore.
With mana reinforcing the burly man’s body and his greatsword, no matter how drunk he was; his power and speed were no joke. He attacked with a flurry of swings that obliterated the wooden seats and tables in the way but no matter how much he attacked, his sword always missed. The masked man was actually staying in place, not taking a step away from his position but every time the sword was about to cut him in half, he just turned into a blur, while the only thing the sword hit was an afterimage.
After about a 5-minute barrage of attacks by the burly man and his greatsword, he was sweating profusely as his face showed his frustration, but he was more cautious now as he took a step back.
“Is dodging the only thing you can do? I guess your guardian did all of the hard work for you while all you did was run away!” The man gave him a menacing smile, still confident that he could win against the masked man. He puts both hands on the grip of his sword and swings again, this time much faster than his previous attacks.
His greatsword that probably weighed more than the masked man himself was sent flying but I don’t know how. The sound seemed like it was knocked away by another sword but I couldn’t see it. I couldn’t even see the masked swordsman pull out his weapon.
“Are you done?”
“A-aah…” was the only sound I heard from the drunk before we all dropped to the ground.
I felt like I was deep underwater. I couldn’t breathe and the surrounding atmosphere seemed to want to crush me.
I’ve heard that some elite fighters are able to produce a killing intent that could scare mana beasts away, but what the hell was this? Was there such a thing as a killing intent that could actually kill people?
Slowly turning my head to face the masked man who was obviously the source of this bloodthirst, I feel the blood drain from my face as I look at him.
I couldn’t tell what sort of expression he had under his mask but I didn’t need to. There seemed to be this dark, baleful aura bursting out of him. I swear I feel like that dark aura around him was alive and raging. The killing intent isn’t even focused on me but I had to will myself to keep from wetting my pants.
I see the sorry state that the drunk is in. His eyes are wide and his body stiff, as if he’s petrified. He’s muttering something and I can see tears stream down his eyes while the crotch area from his pants are a darker shade.
Suddenly, he retracts his bloodthirst and I can breathe again. I take deep gulps of air and end up coughing. I could see the other Adventurers and the workers of the inn doing the same, some in a worse state than I am.
The masked man turns back to the counter and faces the trembling waitress at the front desk, as her face is a full 3 shades lighter than it was before.
“I believe there is a sack of rations under the name ‘Note’ that a friend of mine ordered not too long ago.” The masked man speaks, his baritone voice clear and precise.
“Y-yes! I’ll get that for you right away!”
He gives a slight bow to the waitress as she hands him a sack of food and he leaves as the whole inn just watches him go off, not daring to make a sound.
ARTHUR LEYWIN’S POV:
“What took so long?” Jasmine divides the food and puts it into each of the pouches attached to the saddle of our horses.
“Ah I had a little quarrel with one of the Adventurers at the inn! Haha.” I scratch my head as I hop on my brown mount.
I could feel Jasmine staring at me suspiciously, her half closed eyes judging me.
“Don’t mind don’t mind! I didn’t make a big deal out of it! I didn’t even hurt the guy!” I just wave my hand to try and convince Jasmine from going back into Dragonspine Inn.
Jasmine just shakes her head and gets on her horse as well, snapping at the reigns to go.
“Haap!” I do the same as we head towards our destination.
I think back over the last two years. Jasmine wanted me to get to A class as soon as possible to explore the dungeon we were heading towards today. Along the journey to raise my class, she ranked up as well, becoming an AA class Adventurer. There was still quite a bit of a level difference between her and Kaspian but she did improve a lot during these two years. When we weren’t on missions or exploring low class dungeons, we were sparring. At night, I made sure to meditate for at least a couple of hours before I went to sleep. During these past two years, I broke through into the light orange stage, which I count as a success considering how much time I spent meditating.
No. The biggest improvement throughout this period was definitely my body. Not using mana made me take a step back and remember how to use my body and sword efficiently so I can be that much better when I augment myself. I can’t say I’m at 100% in terms of strength, since the physical reach of my limbs and my muscles are not as developed as it was when I was an adult, but I no longer feel awkward or restrained when I fight now. I fine-tuned some of my sword techniques to better fit my current body, which I’ll need to improve along the way.
I can’t say it was an easy ride and I have scars on my body to prove it, but I know it was worth it. Coupled with my Dragon Will assimilated body and the use of mana rotation, I could finally be at ease in knowing that I was on the right track for the future.
Jasmine has gotten stronger than ever before. While journeying with her, I noticed that her biggest flaw was in her swordsmanship. Growing up while only learning fire attribute skills for a little until she was deemed unfit, she was on her own to learn how to best control her swords to fit her wind attribute skills.
I wasn’t the best at wind but that didn’t mean I couldn’t teach her skills regarding it. She passed the AA class examination by utilizing the new skills I taught her along with her double blade techniques she developed on her own. I wanted to take the AA class exam as well, but the merit point requirements made it so I needed to complete a lot more missions or clear dungeons before I’m eligible to.
I send out a mental transmission to Sylvie. She’s been acting strange ever since we came to the Beast Glades. We would always keep in touch, but for some reason she didn’t want to come meet me yet, even when I go back to Xyrus to visit my family. Every time I tell her to come back, she says there’s something she needs to finish before coming back. I could definitely tell how much she’s matured though. We can hold conversations and her emotions have developed to become more complex.
While I went home a couple of times during the first year, since last year, it’s taken too long to make the trip back to Xyrus and come back to the dungeons every time. Instead, we stuck to letters and meeting Father or Mother every so often at Guild Hall, where the transportation gates are. She has been pretty dissatisfied by this fact but she doesn’t keep me from being an Adventurer. I could tell my father has been keeping up with his training because he broke through into the solid orange stage now, which is impressive for someone his age. He smiles at me proudly both at himself and at his son who’s doing well.
They’ve also been telling me a lot about what’s happening at the Helstea House. My sister is still quite a bit away from forming her mana core, but I was surprised when I learned that Lilia awakened a couple of weeks ago. Her awakening caused her bed to implode, which was about average for a mage. Her parents were ecstatic to say the least by this and didn’t wait to enroll her into Xyrus Academy. After being tested, while her mana core was about average, it turned out that her mana veins were excellent. She had a high capability to absorb mana from her surroundings, which was essential for all Conjurers. I guess she’ll be my senior at school when I start going next year.
Snapping me out of my thoughts, I hear, “We’re here…” as Jasmine slows down her mount, approaching a clearing in the woods we were traversing.
In front of the dungeon entrance, which was just a cave in this case, was a group of people clearing their camp and getting ready to go in. I guess we were the last to arrive.
“Cheh… I guess we’re stuck with more Augmenters.” I hear an all too familiar, snotty voice. Getting off of my mount, I walk towards the group of Adventurers when the blond fire Conjurer from the examination site gives me a distasteful look. Jasmine follows behind me as an armored Augmenter steps up and holds up his hand in front of him, gesturing for a shake.
“Please don’t mind Lucas and let me introduce you to the party. My name is Reginald Brooks and I’m an A class Augmenter. I am an Earth Attribute yellow stage core that specializes in using a hammer.” He points at the giant hammer that was on the ground where the group was.
Reginald had a short, messy brown hair that matched his eyes. He had a very square face that made him seem more masculine with his short beard and 1.9m height and broad shoulders.
The group consisted of Reginald, Kriol, and Brald as the Augmenters besides us. Kriol was a very defensive, water attribute Augmenter that only used a gigantic shield as his weapon. He was rather short, at around 1.7m and was kind of fat. I could tell he was strong though, by how firm his body was overall, despite his belly. Brald was a very noble-looking man that stood at about 1.8m. He wore a white metal armor that covered his shoulders and chest only, with a cape behind him. With a trimmed blond hair with sharp hazel eyes, he seemed like a real lady-killer. To my surprise, he was a real gentleman and offered us handshakes and a smile.
“I go by Brald and just became an AA class, light yellow stage Augmenter. I am a fire attribute Augmenter that specializes with the broadsword and shield. I’ll be the one to lead us today.” He beams.
After the Augmenters introduced themselves, the Conjurers stepped up. Aside from Lucas, there were 4 other Conjurers. One of them was a lanky man and the other a girl, while the last one was the serious-looking, bespectacled black haired boy that was also at the examination site! What was his name again…?
“My name is Elijah Knight. A class, dark orange stage conjurer… single specialization in Earth.” He says simply.
I can’t help but eye him carefully. There had to be more than that. He wouldn’t be able to get by with skipping the exam and being placed into B rank by just being an Earth Conjurer no matter how young he was.
The beady-eyed lanky man that looked well into his thirties came up next. He had a smug look on his face despite his less than attractive appearance, with his crooked nose and parted brown hair. “Ahem! I go by Oliver and I am an A class, dark yellow stage Conjurer. I am an Emitter deviant, specializing in healing.” He sticks his jaw out smugly while crossing his arms.
Despite his attitude, I can’t say I’m not glad to have a healer this time.
“Hi! My name is Samantha but you guys can just call me Sammy! Dark yellow stage, A class Conjurer with a Single specialization in water at your service!” She throws in a wink at my direction. Samantha looked to be around her mid twenties and was an attractive woman but by her attitude, I’m sure she knew it too. She had wavy blond hair that flowed down her shoulders and light blue eyes that looked almost grey. Her eyes were big and round; making her look cuter and her short height of about 1.5m complimented that well. While her assets weren’t abundant like a certain wind Conjurer from the Twin Horns, she had a nice figure and I could tell Oliver had a thing for her by how he kept taking side-glances at her.
“Jasmine, light-yellow stage, AA class Augmenter. Wind attribute with dual swords.”
My partner says without batting an eye.
“Note, light orange stage, A class Augmenter. Fire attribute with specialization in sword.” I said simply.
Brald smiled at us, “Welcome you two! I’m certainly glad to have another AA class in the group!” The other two Augmenters nodded in agreement while Oliver and Lucas had faces that showed they didn’t care while he simply announced that he was a fire specialized Conjurer who was at yellow stage. Elijah kept his stone face while I notice how Samantha keeps looking at me, trying to look through the mask somehow.
“I can’t help but ask. Mr. Note, there have been various rumors about you saying that you are not an Augmenter, yet you clearly just announced that you are.” Reginald asks, picking up his giant hammer and leaning it against his shoulder.
“I haven’t been using my magic for a while due to personal reasons. That must’ve been the reason why those rumors came up.” I just shrugged, signaling them to move on.
Noticing that I didn’t want to indulge their curiosity, he simply coughs and sets up the formation for the party.
It would basically be Brald in the front, since his shield and sword style was the best fit for the front line. Beside him were Reginald and I, who both specialized in offense. Guarding the rear was Kriol with his gigantic shield to prevent us from getting flanked and Jasmine beside him ready to kill anything that may get past him. We were all in charge of protecting the four Conjurers with Oliver in the dead center, the most protected since he was the healer.
“We should head out immediately!” Brald declared. He was assuming the position as the leader since he was the front line and the only other AA class besides the quiet Jasmine.
This dungeon was deemed AA class, meaning parties with only A class and above are allowed to enter. Brald recently found out that there was a hidden tunnel that leads to an unexplored portion of the dungeon, which we would be exploring today. This meant that most of our dungeon exploring would be through uncharted parts. Everyone unsheathed their weapons while even the smug Conjurers put on a serious face as we stepped into the dungeon named by the first explorers “The Dire Tombs”.