Using the full force of her aura Kara ran farther and farther from the horde. They were heading to the farthest fort with the simple goal of capturing it as quick as possible and then moving on.
Gunthar sat next to Rainer as Kara carried them forward. Once she simply ran out of energy completely Gunthar would carry them both. The goal was as much distance as possible. Their previous action had likely been predicted which means now they needed to go beyond the nearest forts.
Rainer had a thought to head directly to Nalmar but the fear of both a 2nd Class undead and the fact that there may be numerous classless undead kept him from such an action. He looked down at his ring and wondered if he should try transferring again but decided against it. It was too much of a risk the first time. They should have tried to break through the horde instead of getting trapped. Such a trick of escaping through the top of the tower won’t work a second time. And he already used nearly all his mana to get Kara to land here. He'd be defenseless following a transfer.
Furthermore, there was a more serious problem. Judging by the experience bonus the [Lich] he killed was at level 25. Which meant now their capabilities would be judged as perhaps needing a 2nd Class undead to deal with them. They needed to get away as fast as possible before that happened.
Perhaps all feeling the serious mood the group was mostly quiet. In terms of Gunthar carrying the group, Rainer went on his back followed by Kara. The enchanted gear allowing him to bear such a load amidst supplies. It was a silly scene with Rainer on his shoulders and Kara wrapped around him with the assistance of magically created belts courtesy of Luna.
But with her demonic nature, Kara was quick to recover. And so they went on searching for any forts they could capture as quickly as possible.
Rainer looked around the small library he was in. This was the third empty fort they successfully captured, leaving the last 5 for reaching level 25. By the time he needed to capture The Shield clearing away the classless undead that may have been left there won't be a large challenge. More importantly, he only needed to kill the small portion that stayed inside rather than all of them. Every level also meant more Arcane Power and a higher conversion rate. Meaning his effective mana pool grew rapidly.
It had taken them close to a full day to travel to all these forts, with Kara getting faster with every quest completion.
[Half Wolfkin/Demon, Female Blade Dancer lvl 9, Demonic Werewolf lvl 7]
Rainer recalled his most recent appraisal of her. Her total level still outpacing his at 15. Though since their party wasn’t set to share experience Rainer was catching up quickly.
Demons ordinarily have a massive experience penalty due to their race's natural power, but quests and dungeons circumvented that penalty. This was precisely why Kara, who was able to enter all dungeons, was both priceless to the demons and an enemy to everyone else. Demons, of course, experimented for years in trying to create half-demon hybrids, but their blood would always overpower the non-demon half.
Though she did split the quest experience between her two classes. Not that it mattered too much with a rare class like [Blade Dancer] also having great bonuses.
As usual he checked to see if the content of the small library differed but always found himself disappointed. All these libraries within the tower were nearly identical having only the spells often used by paladins and a few assorted reference books.
Standing in this room within the fort simply called Dawn he couldn’t shake the feeling that something was different. He recalled soon after the strange sensation of when he formed the spatial bubble around the party. He could sense the air around him, every inch of fur over Kara, Gunthar...as well. It was exhilarating, confusing, and slightly displeasing but all the same, he would use it once more.
Now he altered gravity by the smallest factor he could manage. He extended a bubble around him. Increasing gravity slightly, was in fact, easier than decreasing slightly. In actuality, Rainer guessed he could just directly sense the space around him with [Spatial Manipulation]. But, as of now, he needed to alter gravity as a crutch to do such a thing.
He tried to spread his bubble of spatial magic even further around the room. Trying to see what made it feel so off. And then he understood.
The room was too small. The towers with the exception of The Shield were identical. So did Rainer manage to notice the room was too small through pure memorization and talent? Of course not. When did he have such a talent?
He simply noticed the hidden room behind the bookcase…
Yet he did not try to move the bookcase or destroy it.
A genuine hidden room! It must be given the proper respect it deserves!
Carefully and with bated breath Rainer looked over the bookcase. He specifically looked for any book he hadn’t noticed before in any other library. He felt it would be cheating to check every book to open the door.
And then he finally found it. It was a book on cooking. Something that was most certainly not in any of the other libraries. And with a small pull the bookcase opened.
Rainer immediately jumped back prepared for battle upon seeing what was inside but an appraisal calmed him.
[Human, Male, Deceased]
It was just a normal skeleton. Though even as he was reassured by the use of [Appraisal] he still cautiously walked into the room before poking the head of the skeleton a few times. Seeing no reaction he started to look around what exactly was hidden in this room. Some empty boxes were on the left of the small stone space looking similar to the food storage units within the tower. On the floor beside the skeleton was a simple journal that was unaffected by the time it should have been. The skeleton itself wore only brown rags having no similarities to whatever it was before along with many rings on its bony fingers.
What interested Rainer most was the well-preserved journal and sitting down at a table within the library he opened it up. Yet a violent flash of light erupted suddenly. He hadn’t even been able to react as the massive surge of magic exploded out.
He slammed back onto the ground covering his eyes and screaming. Though soon the pain faded as suddenly as it came. Wearily he stood up and walked back over to the table still rubbing his sore eyes. The book was simply there opened to the first page and with a cautious approach, Rainer read it.
To you who has found my final record I apologize for such magic. To allow my work to fall into the hands of an undead would bring me far too much shame. So long as you are one of the living this book shall not crumble upon your touch.
Even as his eyes watered Rainer read on with a renewed excitement.
Within this journal I leave behind my final and greatest work of magic. I had hoped to save my city with such a thing yet now I can only shatter my soul so that it may not be used for the Arch-Lich’s purpose. My magic nearly crippled and my mana no longer recovering.
Once more a surge of magic came from the journal as Rainer turned the page. He struggled against it for a moment but soon found such an effort pointless as it overtook him.
Now with a headache, he still read on. Focused entirely on discovering what magic lay within.
You have been proven a foe to my foe. Deemed worthy of attaining my final work. I will not say that you should use it for protection or value your own survival first. Take my will and smite our foes. Leave none of their filthy existences within this world.
Rainer thought right after that whatever magic had been used was either too advanced or not advanced enough to understand his relationship with Gunthar.
Immediately after the first two pages containing these messages burnt away leaving only an introduction to the spell that lay within. Titled at the top of the page was a single line.
Deliverance: Tier 7 Light and Space-Time Magic.
Rainer stumbled out of the library after a loud aura filled yell from Kara that it was time to move on. His head in so much pain from reading runes he could barely see straight yet his face had an indescribable happiness. Did he learn the spell? Not in the slightest. Just looking at the Runes reminded him of when he first learned magic. Yet this was exactly what he sought in this world.
Within his arms was the body of one High Priest Yalin Velhinhem covered in his overcoat. He planned on asking Gunthar on how to perform the funeral rites for their people. On Rainer’s fingers were two new rings he hesitantly took from the High Priest. The others were either damaged with time or the same [Ring of the Nalmar Knighthood] he already possessed. In fact, every finger of the Priest was covered with a ring and he wore two necklaces. But all these adornments lacked the presence of magic.
He had already given him such a gift but Rainer still valued his own survival first.
[Spatial Ring: allows the user to access a small pocket dimension outside of normal Space-Time for storing and retrieving objects.]
The spatial ring was a pure black ring lined with white on its edges.
[Ring of Nalmar’s High Priest: Increases the power of Light Magic by 40%]
This one looked similar to the [Ring of the Nalmar Knighthood] but instead had a single spear, likely representing a spear of light, behind the gold carved sun. The ring itself made of blessed steel as well.
As he went down the stairs of the tower he noticed Luna flying towards him who had originally been spending time with Gunthar.
“Why is Rainer carrying bones Luna wonders?”
“Not bones, my benefactor.” he replied simply before asking what he needed.
“Can you go ask Gunthar to prepare a burial rite as best as he can for a High Priest of his people?”
“Luna flew all the way up here and now Rainer just sends Luna away. But Luna is by far the best so Luna will do without complaint.” She proudly said as she flew back down the stairs.
Trying not to retort that she did complain he continued making his way down.
After some time Luna found Gunthar in the courtyard and transferred Rainer’s request. Mostly.
“Gunthar, Rainer said to prepare a burial rite for...someone of your people.” Luna replied forgetting exactly what Rainer had told her.
The fairy had already flown away before Gunthar could reply.
One of my people…
Gunthar thought a bit nervously and irrationally that for some reason Rainer wished to bury him.
Perhaps he thinks I wish to move on. I had thought I would wish to as well yet now seeing hope for granting judgment to those who corrupted my city I will see it to the end. And then after…
Gunthar had since meeting these three begun to think of an after as well. Though what exactly that entailed he did not know. With an unneeded courage and steeled will Gunthar marched towards Rainer to tell him that he wasn’t so weak that he couldn’t bare his current form. Kara currently sat meditating within the courtyard. Gunthar himself was replenishing their supplies when the fairy came to find him.
“Sorcerer!” Gunthar called out vigorously seeing Rainer exit the tower. Though seeing the body wrapped within his coat changed everything he was about to say.
“Yeah? Did Luna tell you to prepare a funeral rite for a High Priest of your people? Do you not need anything on hand for that?” Rainer said wondering why Gunthar had nothing with him yet was already calling out to him.
“High Priest?” Gunthar asked a bit quietly. Kara as well got up from her meditation.
“Might I inquire if you know his name sorcerer?”
“High Priest Yalin Velhinhem”
“Yalin…” Gunthar spoke a bit sadly.
“So he did not allow them to turn him, good, he deserved to die with some dignity at least.”
“I shall go gather what is needed, you may set him down in the middle of the courtyard.”
Gunthar replied without even inquiring the situation as to how Rainer came across the High Priest.
“Rainer, is this the best time?” Kara asked having just walked over.
“It’s all I can currently do as a thank you. “ he said before speaking once more.
“We cannot always be running and training. I thought that's why you planned that date that night?”
“It was, though the direction it turned was a welcome surprise.” She happily replied before walking towards Gunthar’s direction.
“I’ll see if he needs any help.” She said right after.
Rainer set down Yalin gently in the courtyard still wrapped in his overcoat. Luna landed on Rainer’s shoulder and just sat quietly.
Sitting down Rainer took out the journal from the space ring and began to read once more. The ring itself contained only empty vials he assumed were used potions. Specifically, he was looking at the runes dealing with the space portion of the spell. He wanted to see if he could glean enough to make even the simplest spell relating to Space-Time with the aid of [Spatial Manipulation].
Though soon once more he had to stop from a headache. It ended up bringing his thoughts towards his planned school and a major problem regarding runes; they could not be taught from only books. It's why amongst all these tomes the reference book wasn’t particularly useful. To learn a rune required all your senses and more. The meaning, the shape, the feeling and others all combined together for a purpose. Two runes combined in different ways could have far different results if one wasn't careful.
He quite liked Nalmar’s way of training paladins focusing solely on learning the necessary spells and nothing beyond that. But this would not produce mages capable of creating their own magic or learning truly powerful spells. It was a tool for building soldiers, not mages. He himself understood the irony of finding fault with their methods when he has been relying on his manipulation skills so heavily and too didn't learn magic properly.
Rainer was brought out of his thoughts by the quick return of Gunthar as he carried several boxes along with Kara.
Setting down the boxes and breaking some pieces off of them Gunthar turned away from Kara who had for some reason unknown to Rainer begun to shift. Her clothes changed into silver rings around her wrists and legs.
Even after they spent their nights together she was still hesitant to let Rainer see her shift. And when he finally convinced her to let him he understood. It certainly wasn’t a flattering thing. Though once he got used to it he looked at it with just curiosity, even more so now having the [Demon Anatomy] skill. Wondering how such a small amount of aura could produce such extra mass. He was half tempted to just save up more skill points to put into it but instead had already decided to save skill points for the [Faraan Runic Language] which required far more per level. An amount most would simply be unable to obtain let alone use on anything other than their class skills.
Kara gave Rainer a weary glance still a bit uncomfortable with him seeing her shift but seeing not even a hint of disgust on his face she grew content and went directly towards doing the task Gunthar asked of her, digging a grave.
Seeing what she was doing Rainer as quickly as he could manage covered his mouth and stifled his laughter.
Way too similar, way too similar.
Kara paused for a moment her improved hearing most certainly hearing his laughter before she continued. She didn’t even understand what was so funny though she could definitely tell it related to her.
“Rainer what’s so funny. Luna wants to know, tell Luna.” Luna asked while pulling on his ear.
“I can’t...definitely...can’t say it.”
Kara still able to hear that from far away grew a bit nervous it related to her transformation but his next words eased that, though it did make her pretty angry. Comparing Wolfkin, and Demons for that matter, to similar animals was actually quite offensive, no matter how true. Though now remembering he wasn’t from here eased it a little. Just a little.
“Tell Luna quietly, Luna won’t tell.”
“Fine..she’s digging exactly like a dog. It's identical, I can’t even watch.” He whispered not understanding Kara could still hear him.
Luna just scratched her head not understanding what was so funny as the other two continued their work.
It was still midday, though the sun was still covered by the overcast when they finished their preparations. Kara was ignoring Rainer while he ignored Luna thinking she told on him. None were truly angry at one another, though. Rainer himself actually felt quite awful for what he said. He should have just shoved it down.
The funeral rites were quite simple in this case since Yalin had already prevented himself from being raised as an undead. A task that was usually performed by the priests in the form of a special carving and spell on the deceased. Something they could not do preventively on the living unless they themselves used a powerful magic to kill themselves in such a manner preventing resurrection.
Yalin was buried in the ground with a symbol carved from wood marking his resting place. Rainer noted it was the same as what was carved into his ring, though a bit less nicely. A single spear of light with a sun overlapping its center. Carved was Yalin’s name by Gunthar.
“May the Holy one receive this lost one towards his grace. To forgive his mistakes and accept his devotion.”
It was a simple burial rite. In reality for someone of Yalin’s station, the entire city would be in mourning following a large funeral and a procession through the city before he would be buried within a tomb. Rainer thought to bring him there when it was all over. Himself only giving a silent thanks for what was given and apologizing for taking his possessions. Leaving the rest for his true funeral.
The group walked away from the the fort of Dawn. They assumed their foes did not even know where they were now, having traveled so randomly and afar. Nor would they know they now had no more plans to capture more forts for at least some time. They headed to a dungeon that was once the training ground of paladins. Ordinarily risking painstakingly trained forces in a dungeon was a poor idea, but with the numerous enchanted gear on every member of the order it turned into a training gold mine. This was alongside the dungeon the city of Nalmar was built around, one that had multiple difficulty levels even 2nd Class individuals could enter.
The one the party headed to had more facets toward being useful as a training ground rather than hunting for rare materials or even food.
Gunthar wouldn’t receive benefits from the dungeon and he would take up a space in the party but he could enter with them. Gunthar knew the dungeon intimately and had suggested it. He considered them more than capable of completing it even with their smaller group. The rewards would not be anywhere near as plentiful since the dungeon had long since been completed but they would still receive bonuses for having such a small party and for it being their own personal first completion.
They, however, weren't even sure if they could enter it being sent here for a Main Quest. Rainer personally saw no reason why they couldn’t apart from perhaps possible guards at the entrance.
They walked forward for several hours intentionally choosing Dawn as the last fort they’d capture so they could head to the dungeon right after.
“Kara I’m sorry for laughing earlier. I can see how myself being compared to an ape would be unpleasant. Especially since they actually have smaller…”But she covered his mouth before he finished.
“I do not wish to know what is smaller about them. It is fine, I accepted it as a cultural difference I was merely waiting for an apology."
"Are Wolfkin of your world okay with such comparisons?” She asked right after.
“There’s no such thing. Rather Humans are the only race of actual intelligence.” He replied to both their surprises.
“Oh! Then there are no fairies either? Luna says your world is sad. Why would first hero want to return to such a silly world.” Luna piped in.
“Family, friends, loved ones.” Rainer spoke back a bit sadly.
“Luna is sorry..”
Seeing he unintentionally made the fairy sad Rainer put a smile on his face and picked her up.
“It's fine, I have new loved ones, besides, can something as simple as a boundary between worlds stop Rainer the Arch-Mage, Traveler of Worlds?” He said with mock arrogance while looking toward Kara as well.
“By accident.” She coughed out right after.
With laughter brightening up the mood, the group continued until they reached the end of the forest. They approached a large temple surrounded by several buildings.
They all hid behind trees seeing if the place was guarded. Even if they got in if they were surrounded as they exited it would have been a pointless and deadly affair. However, Rainer saw the [Arch-Lich] as cautious and at the very least not stupid having properly sent mostly classless undead against them.
The [Arch-Lich] likely now knew that he had killed a level 25 [Lich] by himself. By definition, a dungeon that has a level limit of 20 would be useless if one thought by the common sense of this world. A [Lich] at level 25 was an ancient being having countless years to perfect his magic. Compared to a normal level 25 human it was already a massive gap. Even more so for that human to be low leveled. Without [Appraisal] it'd be silly to assume Rainer's level was below 20. Yet this also meant a far greater chance of a 2nd class undead being sent out to find them.
Feeling nothing with his [Mana Detection] and nothing to suggest undead connected to a master through his [Magic Detection] the group moved forward. Passing by the aged buildings they quickly and quietly moved to enter the dungeon. Rainer carried months of supplies within his spatial ring along with the journal as well as everything of use in the library. Even if they eventually got surrounded they could hide for a while.
Different from the entrance to the first dungeon Rainer saw, this temple, or perhaps a cathedral, had a peaceful look. Were it not for Gunthar telling him that this was a dungeon he’d see it as nothing more than a well-built temple. The shape of it actually reminded Rainer of the cathedral-looking building they fought the previous dungeon’s boss in.
It seems this may be where they got their architecture from…
Giving one final look to their surroundings and with Gunthar a bit behind them covering their tracks they entered the temple.
Walking through its open halls they finally saw a portal at the end of it.
“Remember to follow me the moment we get in. I’ll take us to a safe area from there we can progress in the first stage I spoke to you of.” Gunthar reminded them.
And so they stepped forward fully confident in their victory.
The view before them was not one reminiscent of a dungeon but a wide open prairie. Gunthar had only begun his description of the first stage from after they reached the safe area so Rainer was surprised by this sight. Kara was already shifted and Rainer jumped up on her as she prepared to follow Gunthar as quickly as possible. Yet Gunthar just stood there frozen.
“Gunthar what's wrong?” Rainer yelled out worried that him being undead affected him somehow. But his guess was completely off.
“I...have never seen this place before…” Gunthar replied quietly as the sound of wings and loud screeches filled the air.