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First Dungeon - Part 3

It didn't take them long to stop moving as Hineko noticed something and made the group halt. There was a slight opening on the wall that they would usually miss, but he trained his PERCEPTION with tips from Shingi. Unfortunately, his skill wasn't as good as Shingi's as he also had noticed it but said nothing as he kept testing them and knew it wasn't a trap.

"This seems too small for any of us to pass. I don't see any way to open it; what about you, Master?" [Hineko]

Hineko had spent some time with Wild Tycoon and Phoenix and seemed to bond with them even if Tycoon seemed annoyed with him, especially when he was near Phoenix or talking to her. Also, he started to call Shingi as Master, even when he said it wasn't necessary. Still, at least he didn't say when anyone other than them was around.

"Hmm... it doesn't seem like they made it to block the way or cover something, but just that someone dug that small tunnel through the wall. It was created most likely for the Oozes, as they could easily use it. But making something like that, I can think only one to had been behind it." [Shingi]

This wasn't something a simple Ooze would do. This was clearly the work of one with some INT, and they had met only one like that.

The Ooze with the transformation ability.

These Oozes were more intelligent than the typical Oozes and got more INT the more they got fed with their victims' memories. Since it could speak while transformed, it definitely 'ate 'a few times and had high enough INT.

"It is too dark to see the other side, and opening the way will take too much time. Unless any of you have any ideas." [Shingi]

Shingi knew an individual wasn't able to solve all the problems all the time. Some could consider solutions faster than him or find a way he hasn't, and he was ok with that. As long as it wasn't something wholly crazy or impossible, he would try it.

"How about we put Phoenix through the hole?" [Mizuneko]

Everyone turned towards him, and Tycoon was ready to punch him, but he raised his hands to defend himself and spoke before she harmed him.

"I mean, let her use her Shadow Abilities to move through the hole. She may make a Spell for it." [Mizuneko]

Wild Tycoon continued staring at him as Mizuneko could swear that he felt like blades were getting out of her eyes and stab him, but that was just in his mind.

"Hm... interesting approach. It may work." [Shingi]

The response surprised everyone, especially Mizuneko, as he didn't expect Shingi to consider what he said. He wasn't sure why he suggested it. Still, he understood Shingi liked for them to share any ideas, no matter how silly or crazy they sounded.

"But my ability to control Shadows isn't that good. I can handle a Low-Grade Spell, like DARK BOLT, but barely, and what you suggest should be not less than a Base Grade one. Creating one would take too long even if I could do it." [Little Phoenix]

Everyone got silent, and Mizuneko knew what she said was true. He was a Mage too and had more experience than her as he had played the game more, so he knew that this was a thing that wasn't possible for her to do for now.

"What is your current INT, Phoenix?" [Shingi]

This question surprised her, but she answered either way.

"I have 13 INT." [Little Phoenix]

Shingi seemed to think something after hearing this piece of information. Still, it was just an act as he already knew about her stats since he could see her Status whenever he wanted since she was his student, but only if she could see her. But he hasn't shared that he had a skill like that, so he had to act accordingly.

As for Phoenix's INT, it wasn't a surprise of being that much lower than his. Mages started with INT 12. Her INT increased by one because of the Shadow Training he put her through.

It surprised Mizuneko that her INT was 13 as it took him quite a while to raise his, and he knew that she didn't play the game for long. Still, after thinking of who was the one who helped her to train, he put that thought aside.

"Hm... it may be close, but it could work." [Shingi]

"Don't tell me you can do what the wet cat mentioned." [Wild Tycoon]

Mizuneko was angry about how Tycoon talked for him and how she used his in-game name, but he knew not to get on her unpleasant side, so he said nothing.

"No, I can't, but I can allow Phoenix to be possible successful. It could be an interesting experience for her, and if she succeeds, we will have a great tool for the future." [Shingi]

Then they made a temporary camp just a little further than the hole but hidden enough so if any Ooze came at it or from it wouldn't notice them.

Shingi started training with Phoenix. It was pretty similar to the training she had done until now to gather the Darkness element type. Still, instead of gathering in one place, she had to put it all around her body this time. It was like how his INVISIBILITY worked. Instead of making a layer surrounding her, she had to merge with it and become one with it.

Of course, they didn't focus on the whole body right away but trained to cover her hand first.

As time passed and a few Oozes have passed, Shingi let the rest of the party fight them while the two of them kept their training. Fortunately, no strong one appeared that needed Shingi's attention, but mostly Black Oozes and a few Yellow ones, so they could handle them with no problem.

And so close to six hours passed. They finally had success, as Phoenix's entire hand turned to shadow by merging with the darkness element she manipulated. Her MANA MANIPULATION was close to 36, so not too far to be considered Master Rank. But, of course, without doing something that difficult and without the help and tips of Shingi, she wouldn't be able to level up her skill that much.

But even if she could now turn her hand to shadow, her current limit. The System didn't consider it a spell yet.

"I don't think we can move further than that. We have already spent too much time on this." [Little Phoenix]

She felt a little sad about keeping the rest of the party, but she was happy to hear that it seemed like Tycoon could pass her challenge as there seemed like quite a few Oozes passed and wanted to use the tunnel.

Shingi smiled towards her and had a look at everything was alright and under control.

"Well, now it is where the genuine test of your skills is going to start. And you want to turn back?" [Shingi]

Phoenix didn't know what to say and didn't understand why Shingi was continuing with this plan. No matter how valuable that spell would be, could it worth the time they lost? They could always train on it some other time.

But her spirit raised, and she had a feeling that she could move on and succeed even if Little Phoenix couldn't understand why she felt like that.

"I am going to use a special technique that Master passed on me that is going to help you, but to work, one of my MANA HAND has to always be in touch with you. If it gets away from you even for a second, the Blessing will get lifted, and I can do it only once, so be careful of not getting separated by it." [Shingi]

He had spent some time gathering some Dark Element mana from the surroundings and used it to create a Dark Element, MANA HAND, which looked like they made it out of shadows. He commanded it to touch Phoenix's shoulder, but she barely felt it touching her, just having this weird feeling of something around that space but not the same as getting touched. Instead, it felt almost like something was breathing on her shoulder repeatedly from multiple angles.

Then, after Shingi was confident that everything was under control, he enabled his unknown Blessing's active effect, raising the INT of Phoenix from 13 to 29.

It wasn't a low number at all, as the maximum a player has ever reached one of his stats was 30, meaning she wasn't too far from it. Of course, some tried to pass the limit of 30, but the System restricted them from succeeding. Unfortunately, there was no explanation of why that was the case.

Shingi had tried the Blessing on himself, and it seemed like he really couldn't reach 32 but reached 25 instead. He didn't know why his limit was 25 and not 30. Even using it at Annoue, her INT increased to 28, so she didn't seem to have the same problem as him.

The Highest Level Arcane Practitioner Shingi knew they had an INT of 27. He was an NPC that was one of the most influential figures in the Circles of Magic. He was the reason for the creation of many new spells and enchantments. Now that Phoenix had more INT than even that individual, if she couldn't make a Base Grade Spell, there was no hope for her as a Mage.

After checking the System's notification, the feeling surprised Phoenix and let her know of the Blessing's effects. She may have been a beginner, but even she understood how game-breaking this Blessing was.

She focused on feeling and manipulating the mana around her and the Dark Element in the shadows. It surprised her how easy it was if compared to before.

MANA MANIPULATION was a mental skill, so the INT of its user mainly affected it. Her INT got that high that her skill control was like the difference between Hell and Heaven.

Mana gathered her and started surrounding her at an incredible speed like it was putting no resistance. In a matter of few seconds, a sphere of darkness enveloped her. She started manipulating it and making it take her shape and first become like a second skin.

It didn't take too long either, and she started focusing on slowly merging herself with it and turning herself into shadow.

Shingi concentrated on connecting his MANA HAND with Phoenix's mana to keep a connection with her so that his Blessing would stay active.

And so, in the matter of almost a minute, Phoenix was standing as her form was losing its shape.

Tycoon came and tried to touch her at that point, but her hand passed through her like a ghost.

Phoenix turned towards her fallen friend to check if she was ok, but Shingi drew her attention.

"You should hurry. I can't keep my spell too long for your current form, and without it, things won't be good." [Shingi]

Phoenix nodded and focused as her body lost its shape, became like a living shadow, and started making its way through the small tunnel.

For a few seconds, everyone was just staring through the hole and waiting for something to happen or to hear something, but nothing happened.

And then some grinding happened, like stones moving. Then, finally, a secret door opened that no one, not even Shingi, had noticed.

It seemed like it was perfectly part of the wall and very well hidden.

On the other side of it was Phoenix, who was in her standard form with the Shadow MANA HAND of Shingi still touching her shoulder.

"I found a switch, everyone." [Little Phoenix]

She said that with a rare smile on her face. But soon, the smile disappeared when Wild Tycoon came to her and bear-hugged her.

"Never do that again." [Wild Tycoon]

She whispered it so none but Phoenix could hear, but for Shingi, it was like she shouted it.

Shingi went through the secret door and saw that it led to a smaller room. In it there that there was a corridor that was continuing further in the Dungeon. He focused his senses to check if any creatures or traps were around, but it seemed like none existed.

He paid extra attention to the walls if there were more secret doors he missed, but he couldn't notice any for now.

"Should we follow that way? Quite a few Oozes seems to use it, so maybe something worthy to investigate is in there." [Mizuneko]

They all nodded at that, but Wild Tycoon stopped everyone before they moved further.

"We should take some rest. This action took a lot out of Phoenix, and so should have Shingi." [Wild Tycoon]

Since they were at the same party, she could see the current MP of Phoenix, which was almost empty. Her SP seemed to have gone low also, and even if she wasn't able to do the same with Shingi, she considered his situation shouldn't be much better.

Shingi had lost quite some MP out of it because controlling a MANA HAND made entirely out of mana that didn't come from his Mana Tree wasn't that easy. He even used some of his SP, but not at the same dangerous level as Phoenix.

"We will take an hour of break. It should be more than enough. No need to use any potions as overusing them would lessen the effects considerably." [Shingi]

They had used a few MP and SP Regenerations Potions during their training since it was using both, so it was better to rest naturally for now.

He used the switch that Phoenix had found to close the secret door while they were in and went into a corner, took a pillow out of his ring, and started taking a nap.

His action, especially of having prepared something like having a pillow with him, surprised the party, which they had never considered. Still, they didn't have the luxury of having a Spatial Ring as Shingi did.

Phoenix sat in a meditation stance, which differed significantly from Shingi's and Annoue's. Still, she was comfortable with it and had similar effects, and increased her MP regeneration slightly.

After a few minutes of awkward silence, the one who broke it was Hineko.

"I know it isn't my place to ask something like that, but how did the two of you meet. I mean before... our adventures in this word begin." [Hineko]

That question surprised Wild Tycoon and seemed like she was ready to answer in her usual way of minding his own business, but Phoenix raised her hand to stop her from doing it.

"We can share our story, but only if you share yours? Isn't that fair?" [Little Phoenix]

Hineko seemed surprised by the response, especially since Phoenix gave it, especially since she was shy, but he didn't mind.

A lengthy discussion and sharing of stories began as they kept their voices low, not to be heard by Shingi.

But little did they know he wasn't really sleeping, just pretending, and he could hear everything clear like he was next to them.

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6 Νοε 2021

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