The group of astralites walked down the hill and ended up facing the outskirts of the Stabby Shrubs. The shrubs consisted of many small palm sized leaves, all densely clumped together in a piece of greenery almost eight meters high. They spent half a minute poking the shrubs (and getting poked in return) trying to find a clear path through. It wasn’t long before Melun spotted a small crawlspace, and after scouting the area ahead she beckoned the others over. Eventually everyone made it to the other side, and they were greeted by a strange sight.
Earlier when looking down upon the Stabby Shrubs they saw that it had a dense layer of greenery that acted as a roof, preventing them from looking into the area. Despite that, after crawling through and looking up they saw a clear blue sky, and even a bird which flew down and landed on one of the shrubs before disappearing inside it. All around them were small herbs and bushes which littered the ground. There was no immediate path to follow, so they took a moment to take in the scenery.
“Yup. We definitely have instanced areas in this game.” Q nodded in understanding. She looked around and upon seeing no immediate danger she began carefully picking off the leaves and stacking them together. Leslee followed her closely, and Kukis let out a sigh before joining in as well.
Seeing as they had no other direction to go, the rest of the group ended up following Q as she collected her leaves. Eventually they ended up at the edge of a clearing. At this point Q felt that she had gathered enough leaves, so she took out her staff and unceremoniously began smashing her way through the bushes. While everyone was surprised by her sudden action, it ended up benefiting them as Q’s wild strikes ended up breaking through a dense wall of leaves, and they found themselves facing a long corridor with turns at either side.
“Would you look at that. We’re in a hedge maze.” As a test Q tried to break one of the leafy walls, only to have her attack bounce off harmlessly. “Oh. No cheating on this one guys.”
Just as she was going to continue, the group heard a rustling sound coming from the left side of the corridor. The moment they turned to face it they found an angry looking Bash Boar, raring to go. While earlier they could easily dodge to the side or use trees for cover, this time they were in a narrow corridor with seemingly unbreakable walls.
Q was the first to react, sprinting past the group and used her staff as a vault to launch herself into the air. She drew a beautiful parabola and managed to land perfectly on top of the boar’s back. Then she pulled out her daggers and stabbed them deep into its head, yanked it to the left, and threw in a [Spark] for good measure. The boar squealed and veered to the left, hitting the wall and grinding against the pointy leaves. This alone did a significant amount of damage to its health, almost outright killing it, and another [Spark] was enough to finish its life. Q jumped off and dusted off her hands.
“I’ll be honest, that was a fluke,” she scratched her cheek sheepishly, “I’m not sure how many times I can perfectly land on top of a boar, so we need a better strategy to fight them here. The walls are a pretty good way to grind down their health though.” She noted, looking at the pointy leaves in a new light.
“I’ll take front.” Neira volunteered herself. “Well, Verne and I will take front. We’ve got some pretty high health, and he has his myth to rely on.”
“You really intend on treating me like a meatshield huh?” Verne had a wry smile on his face.
With a pair of tankers in front, the group set forth once more in a new formation. Verne and Neira walked side by side, and behind them were Fortis, Melun and Aeryn in order. Next was Leslee, followed by Q and Kukis who brought the rear. Using this new setup they were able to deal with the boars in a far more stable manner. When meeting a boar Verne and Neira would use their various skills, alongside Fortis’ barriers to stop the boar’s charge. Then Melun and Aeryn would finish them off with arrows and magic, while Q and the rest were on standby, just in case one of the other members needed to switch.
The group proceeded through the thorny maze, dealing with the boars that came at them. After about an hour of this they ended up killing enough boars that they could have finished the quest four times in a row. No one was complaining though (except for Leslee who felt sleepy) since the boars gave good amounts of experience and they were increasing their skill proficiencies at the same time.
The monotony of killing boars finally came to an end when they turned yet another corner and found a large clearing with a rock formation in the center. Immediately curious (and thankful that the maze was over), Q walked up to the rocks and saw a bunch of strange, repeating symbols on them. As she inspected the rocks she noticed a large, conspicuous one in the center which had a bowl of sand atop it..
“Hey guys, there’s a… thingy here.”
“Thank you for the useful information Q.” Kukis rolled her eyes. Her eyes scanned the area and she soon came to a conclusion. “Looks like a puzzle. The symbols on the rocks probably have something to do with the table in the center. I don’t know if we have to choose the correct symbol from the rocks, or if we try drawing them all in that sand bowl. Is there some sort of clue somewhere?”
“Heheh,” Fortis chuckled and raised his hand to his head as he pushed up a pair of non-existent glasses. “Now it’s my turn. I said earlier that my myth lets me see others stats, but it also alerts me to important items or clues!”
“Not very useful in combat though.” Verne added.
“Yes Verne, that is correct. Regardless, allow me to do my thing…” Fortis’ eyes flashed with a golden color as he closely scrutinized each and every stone with a symbol on it. Eventually he nodded, stepped back towards the sand bowl and drew a symbol resembling a squiggly line with a cross going through it.
The ground began to rumble, and each of the stones sank into the ground as if they were dropped into a body of water. Everyone huddled together for safety as they watched the large table slowly rise up from the ground, eventually revealing a large block of stone with a door.
“Damn I love fantasy worlds.” Q grinned like an idiot. “How’d you know to draw that symbol?” She asked as she approached the door.
“It was the only one that glowed,” Fortis shrugged, “and I didn’t really have to look at every single symbol because the answer was clear, but I figured I might as well anyway. It’s better to be safe than sorry yes?”
“It sure is, though I wouldn’t know the first thing about safety.” Q suddenly pushed hard on the stone door, and it slowly began to give way, revealing a set of stairs that led downwards. “Life’s about charging ahead and taking risks! Second guessing yourself just wastes a lot of time in my opinion.”
“You never know Q, there might have been a trap behind that door.”
“Psh, no one ever puts a trap behi-” Q began walking forwards, but her words were interrupted by a flash of blinding light and a burst of energy which sent her sailing through the air, landing a few feet behind the group.
“…Don’t say a word.”
“Pfffft- AHAHAHAHA!” Kukis couldn’t hold it in anymore and rolled on the ground, clutching her stomach as she laughed. The rest of the group followed suit, and even Leslee couldn’t help but chuckle a bit.
“I’ll remember this…” After glaring at the others Q stood up and inspected her body, finding that the explosion only reduced her health by a small amount which was quickly regenerated. “Okay, so that was a warning shot. Traps are there, and we should take it seriously.”
“Hehe… yup. Want to face check a few more for us Q?” Kukis jeered.
“…You know what? Sure!” Q stubbornly went down the stairs, leaving the group behind.
Despite her seemingly reckless behavior, Q’s eyes scanned the walls and floors, searching for anything that could have caused that earlier explosion. Soon enough she found on the third step down, a set of three wavy lines inside a triangle that was seemed embedded into the ground. She threw a dagger at it, and the moment it made contact the set of symbols glowed and then a powerful gust of wind came out, blasting the dagger right back towards Q!
Q’s eyes narrowed, and with a quick movement she caught the dagger at the hilt right before it hit her. Hearing the sound the rest of the group gathered at the door, wondering if Q had set off another trap, but instead of responding to their questions Q was staring at a new window that appeared.
[Detect Trap]: Indicates your proficiency in finding traps. At higher levels traps will be highlighted.
[Deflect]: Allows you to deflect ranged attacks with greater ease.
[Arcane Knowledge]: Indicates your overall knowledge and skill of the arcane arts.
|You have properly witnessed and experienced the power of runes. Learning more about them will allow you to unlock the Rune Meister class.|
Runes Known: [Wind]
Formation Known: [Strike]
Runes required for Rune Meister: 1/4
Formations required for Rune Meister: 1/3
“Oh. My. God.” Q suddenly felt a rush of excitement go through her body. “I’m going to get a new class!”
“Woah what? Hold up, explain.” Kukis asked.
“So like, those symbols are actually runes, and by studying them you can unlock a new class. I don’t even know how this class works, but I want it. If for nothing more than to be able to make people experience the humiliation of activating a trap immediately upon opening a door…”
“Right… Do you even know what that class is about?”
“Uh, let’s see…” Q fiddled around with her window for a bit, and she found that touching the ‘Rune Meister’ words caused a new window to pop up. “Okay. It says this class studies runes and uses them in a variety of combinations to create multiple effects that can turn the tide of battle. They’re also very good at enchanting items it seems. Oh, the runes are basically one-time use consumables so they have to keep drawing them to keep using new ones… I think it’s interesting!”
“Are you still going to fight in the frontlines? Mod’s going to throw a fit if you suddenly decide to be a caster.” Kukis knew that once Q had her mind set on something she wouldn’t easily change it, but still felt like asking anyway.
“Of course I’m still a frontliner,” Q snickered, “now that we’re in virtual reality there’s no way I wouldn’t put my martial arts to use. That aside, how about we start this dungeon dive? If you spot any runes, tell me. I’m going to activate ALL the traps!”
“I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone say that with such confidence before…”