Chapter 64: Widow’s Crypt
“BROTHER! WAKE UP!!” My sister’s voice echoed through my head as she screamed at the top of her lungs directly next to my ear.
“What? What’s going on?” My eyes still half closed, I look back and forth to see if there was an emergency.
“Sheesh! You suck at waking up, Brother.” Ellie probably woke up not too long ago, evident by her bed hair.
“Haha, you hair looks crazy.” I shoot her a grin as I ruffle her hair.
“Eek! Stop it! Your hair looks weird too!” My little sister gets out of bed and escapes out of my room. Before closing the door behind her, she reminds me to hurry and wash up.
“Aye aye!” I give my sister an exaggerated salute, making her giggle before going downstairs.
Sylvie woke up on her own from my sister’s shouting but her eyes kept blinking slowly as she unstably toddled behind me.
After washing up and making sure I had the few basic necessities on me, which included my seal bracelet, my dimension ring with Dawn’s Ballad stored inside, the ring used to signal Mother, and Sylvia’s feather wrapped around my bond mark.
Sylvia’s feather probably isn’t really needed to cover the bond mark, but I liked to keep it on me just as a memento. Having a part of Sylvia with me comforted me.
Walking downstairs, my nose picks up on the soft scent of some sort of soup. When I reach the kitchen, I see my parents and little sister sitting on the table, their face still tired from being up early at dawn.
“Hope you don’t mind. The chef is cooking breakfast for you. We’re probably going to go back to sleep after we see you off.” My mother gives me a tired smile.
“Not at all. In fact, you really didn’t have to wake up and see me off.” I take a seat across from my mother, next to my sister.
“Be vigilant, no matter how easy you think the dungeon may be. It’s called a dungeon because you never know of the dangers inside.” My father warns me, his bead hair ablaze.
Looking back at my mother, I notice the strain on her face as I can almost feel her contemplating something inside her head. “…Just, please, be careful Arthur. I know how strong you are but I can’t stand it every time I see you hurt, it’s just that…” Her voice fades at the end.
“Hmm?” I had the feeling that she was thinking about what my father said in the hospital room back at Xyrus Academy; the thing that made her unable to heal anyone seriously injured.
“I-It’s nothing. Just be safe…. and keep your eyes on that girl, Tessia as well. You have to protect her if things get tough, okay?” Giving me a gentle smile, she reaches forward and pats my head, but her mind wasn’t completely there.
The house chef brought in my food at this time, which consisted of dry bread and a creamy soup that I assumed was used to dip my bread in. After Sylvie had a nibble on the bread, she whined and just curled up again. By the time I finished, the sun had just started peaking out from the mountains.
“Are you going to be coming home right after your dungeon excursion?” My father asked after giving me a hug.
“No, not right after. I will be back for a whole week though next week for break. There’s some kind special festival going on in this city, right?” My professors all announced it a couple weeks in advance that once every 10 years, there’s a phenomenon that occurs. Supposedly, during that entire week, the mana density in this Continent reaches its peak, giving mages the experience to make breakthroughs and even allowing non-mages to experience what it’s like to feel mana. For that week, classes are cancelled and students are allowed to either stay in campus or back home to meditate and train as much as possible.
“Ah, right! The Aurora Constellate is happening next week. So you’re going to stay here for the festival too?” My mother’s mood brightens up a bit
“Wow! A whole week?” My drowsy sister perks up at this and pulls on my sleeves.
“Yup, that’s the plan! Let’s all go to the festival together.” Looking at my family, I give them a smile and hug my sister and mother before walking down the stairs and looking back.
“Be careful!” My mother shouts one last time while waving. Waving back at them, I get inside the carriage, copying Sylvie and catching up on my sleep until we arrive.
“Arthur!” Stepping out of the carriage, I see Curtis waving at me, his smile wide and genuine making me smile and wave back.
“How was your trip back home? Did you get to catch up with your family?” Claire pats me on the back when I reach the group of students waiting in the front gate.
“Good, you made it!” Professor Glory gives me a smile too as she begins counting heads. Looking around, besides Curtis and Claire, I see Clyde, Lucas, and a few other students that I never really pay attention to. I do one more quick check but I don’t see Tess, and by the frantic look on his face, neither does Clyde.
“Sorry I’m late!” Running through the front gate, I see Tess catching her breath, her face a bit flushed and hair a bit messy.
“You’re the last one, Princess Tessia. We can start heading out now.” Professor Glory does one more quick check and nods to her self in satisfaction before turning around and leading the class of 10 students to the teleportation gate just a bit away.
I look back to see Tessia walking alongside Clyde when she catches my gaze. Giving me a shy smile of affirmation I give a small wave back but otherwise continue making small talk with Curtis and Claire.
After talking and confirming a few of things with the guard, he adjusts a couple of things on the gate before Professor Glory signals us to enter through the gate one by one, stepping in herself after all of us. Again, my stomach turns from the feeling of traveling through the gate. Luckily the trip never lasts more than a couple of seconds.
“Welcome! I assume for most of you that this is the first time you guys have stepped foot in the Beast Glades, correct?” Professor Glory harrumphs while placing her hands on her hips.
“Hmph. I’ve been here countless times. I was an A-class Adventurer after all.” Lucas steps forth with his chest out in pride.
With this, a couple impressed murmurs from the students made Lucas even more arrogant until Professor Glory chimed in.
“Ah yes. I’ve heard from Director Goodsky that you were indeed an Adventurer. I’ve also been notified that you had your license revoked due to classified reasons.” Raising an eyebrow, Professor Glory continues on.
“Tch. It’s all because of that fuckin’ masked bastard.” The professor doesn’t hear Lucas mutter under his breath as he leans against his staff.
“Right now, we’re near the edge of the Grand Mountains. If we walk a few hours this way, we’ll arrive at a famous pub of gathering called Dragonspine Inn. Back when I was an Adventurer, that was the place to chat and get information on various mana beasts and dungeons. We’ll be going to a rather low-level dungeon so don’t worry too much. I will also be with you at all times but I’ll refrain from helping unless it is absolutely necessary so don’t look to me for answers.” Professor Glory waves her right hand and from her dimension ring comes a small pile of black cloth.
“These are shawls that you guys will need to wear inside the dungeon. The dungeon we’re going inside is called Widow’s Crypt. It’s a fairly straightforward dungeon without any traps or mazes so don’t worry about getting lost. It is, however, very cold in there, which is why you need these shawls. The mana beasts you’ll mostly be facing are nasty little creatures called Snarlers. There are two types of Snarlers in this dungeon that you’ll need to be very wary of, the Minion Snarlers and the Queen Snarler. The Minion Snarlers are the ones you guys will be facing. Their Queen burrows in the bottom floor of the dungeon so you won’t see it, but just know the difference. You’ll see what the minions look like once we go inside, but for now, we’re going to split you up into two teams of 5.” As Professor Glory finishes informing us, she takes out a small piece of paper from the inside of the shawl she was wearing.
“I’ve already decided on how teams will be split so take a step forward as I call you. Curtis, Claire, Dorothy, Owen, and Marge; you guys will make up the first team.” Our professor motions for them to pick up their shawls and step to the side.
“That leaves us with Arthur, Lucas, Clive, Tessia and Roland. Any questions?” She says as she points at the pile of shawls left.
I had to be in the same team as Lucas? Did she do this on purpose? No, there’s only 10 students in the class and she has no idea that I was an Adventurer before. Debating whether or not to ask to change with someone, I ultimately decide to stay after remembering what my mother said this morning. Even if she didn’t say it, I don’t trust Lucas being in the same team as Tess. I should be there just in case.
“No? Okay, then it’s settled. It shouldn’t take us more than two hours to reach the dungeon entrance so let’s hurry.” With that, we take off, taking long strides amidst the thick trees covering most of the sunlight.
We all traveled in silence, most of the students scared that they might attract unwanted attention from the mana beats that might be nearby. Soon, the trees cleared up as we began descending down a slope.
“We’re almost here. There’ll be a place to be on standby next to the dungeon so do not go inside.” With that, the professor stays in the back, doing a headcount again while each of us carefully slid down the steep slope leading to the dungeon entrance.
“Before we go in, are you sure you want to bring your bond inside the dungeon, Arthur?” Professor Glory gives me a concerned look.
‘What do you say? Do you want to go hunting since we’re at the Beast Glades anyway?’ I mentally transmit to Sylvie.
‘Ye~es!’ With that, Sylv hops off of my head and disappears off into the woods for the wrong reason that everybody else is thinking right now.
“Good choice, it’ll probably be safer if she stays out here and lays low.” Professor Glory gives me a nod before climbing up onto a rock so she could see everyone.
“Now. Split off into your groups and get to know each other. You guys have probably seen what everyone in your group is like from class but share your strengths and your weaknesses that need to be covered. You’ll also have to decide on a leader before we go inside.” As our professor takes a seat on the rock, our group came together and sat in a circle. While everyone looked at each other, not wanting to really speak up, the only one in our group that I didn’t really know, Roland, spoke up.
“Ahem! My name is Roland Alderman and I am a water attribute Augmenter! My hobbies are relaxing, shopping, going on dates with pretty girls and…”
“No one asked for your hobbies.” Clive interrupts while massaging the bridge of his nose in irritation.
“Well someone’s a little grumpy. Anywho… My strength is in mid range fighting, using a water whip skill that is passed down from my family. My weakness is in close range. Next!” He finishes, tossing the imaginary baton to me, who was sitting to his left.
“Arthur Leywin. I’m a Wind and Earth attribute Augmenter. I’m capable at all ranges but prefer mid to close.” I state simply, looking directly at Lucas who was across from me.
“Clive Graves. Wind attribute Augmenter specializing in long distance fighting with a bow. I don’t really have a weakness.” He harrumphs.
“Lucas Wykes. I am a Conjurer with a single specialization in fire. As for strengths and weaknesses, let’s not bother going over that.” Rolling his eyes, he just leans back as he sat cross-legged.
Sensing the hostility in the air, I notice Tessia looking a little uncomfortable. “Tessia Eralith. I am a conjurer with a dual specialization in wood and wind. My strong suits are middle to close range fighting…” Letting her voice trail off, our group becomes silent, as we all know what the next topic will be.
“I elect myself to be the leader.” Lucas is the first one to speak.
“Oh? By what standards do you see yourself as the leader of this group?” I tilt my head, giving him an innocent look.
“By strength of course. Let’s be real… I can beat any of you guys in a fight. Isn’t it natural for the strongest one to be the leader?” Lucas gives me this face as if I asked the dumbest question he could think of, baffling me even further.
“I vote for Tessia! She’s the only girl and is pretty so I like that. We can even name our team the Queen and Knights!” Roland has this sparkle in his eyes as his mind wanders off into his own little fantasy land.
“I also think that Princess Tessia should be the leader, ahem… not for the same reason of course, not saying that she isn’t pretty but I mean… Since she is the Student Council President.” Clive ends up looking down as he mumbles, his cheeks a bit flushed.
“Wait I don’t want to be the leader! How about Art…thur? Arthur Leywin.” Shaking her hands in defense, Tess almost calls me by my nickname.
“I also think that Tessia should be the leader.” I raise my hand up, everyone ignoring Tessia’s comment. I don’t mind just as long as Lucas isn’t the one leading.
“Tch. Idiots.” Lucas just rolls his eyes once more before we all get up.
“All right, since it seems like everyone is done, let’s head in. Brace yourselves once we get inside, it’s going to be chilly!” Professor Glory says before stepping inside the entrance, which appeared to be a narrow stairway going down into the darkness.
In a single file line, we all started making our way down the stairs and I swear the temperature dropped noticeably for each step we took down the stairs.
“W-w-w-what the hell? W-w-w-w-why is it s-s-s-so c-cold?” Roland mutters in between his teeth chattering.
“Augment yourself, you dolt.” I hear Clive’s voice from behind. It was really dark so I couldn’t really see anything more than the vague outline of each person.
As we walked down the stairs, I felt something on my hand but before I pulled away, I realized what it was. Looking back, just a step behind me, I could see the vague outline of Tess’ head. Even without seeing, I could tell she was already blushing by how warm her hand was. Accepting her hand and holding it tightly, we silently walked down the seemingly endless flight of stairs.
Even without augmenting myself, the once cold dungeon felt a lot warmer just for a bit as our class made our way down. I admit I was a bit disappointed that it started getting brighter as we kept making our way down because Tess pulled her hand back but once we reached the first floor of the dungeon, my inner warrior became excited at the scene in front of me.
The cavern stretched out for hundreds and hundreds of meters, making me wonder how it supported itself. The stone that made up the large cavern sparkled with a dim blue light as a thin layer of ice covered the floor and even formed icicles on the ceiling. Looking next to me, I realized that the reason that the almost transparent moss that covered the cavern let off a soft glow, illuminating the entire area.
“That’s odd, usually, we’d see a fair amount of Snarlers already. Why don’t I…”
All of a sudden, hideous noises started echoing all around us. Peeking out from behind the numerous boulders and from small caverns spotted around the walls of the cave were an uncountable amount of beady red eyes.
“Th-that’s a lot of Snarlers…” I could hear Roland gulp as his eyes widened. It wasn’t just him but everyone in the class, even Curtis and Claire looked hesitant at what they were seeing. I looked at Professor Glory and from her expression; I don’t think she anticipated on seeing this many Snarlers either.