Silence hung over the cavern. In the darkness, Nova could hear faint skittering. Her entire body felt tense at every sound but if there were monsters, none approached her. She could feel eyes on her but she already knew who they belonged to. She glanced over at Trixie. The demon peered at her with unbridled glee. She was enjoying this.
“You really are a demon,” Nova muttered.
“What else would I be?” Trixie said in a sing-song voice.
Nova glanced over at Mathius. The man had drifted back asleep. Nova frowned, debating whether to wake him.
“He’s fine for now,” Trixie said, curling a finger around a strand of her pink hair. “He won’t die yet.”
Nova looked at the demon, unsure whether to trust her but she figured it was fine. Trixie was too excited about Nova cutting off Mathius’s legs to let him die. Besides, the demon was using them as a mana source. Nova doubted she was ready to give that up.
She decided to let him rest and since she had no desire to talk with Trixie she pulled up her system. There was a lot that happened and she was curious to see what everything looked like.
[Name:] Nova Davis
[Level:] 1 (repairing)
[Title:] Weaver of Souls
[Mana Agility:] 8
[Mana Pool:] 990 (-110)
[DXP:] 10 [SP:] 0
[Unique Class:] Soul Traveler
[Secondary Class:] Artifactor (repairing)
-Mana Sense [Evolved]
-Mana Shift (repairing)
Summoner’s Deal – Stage 1 Quest
Demon Bond – Trixie
Nova stared at her screen. So many things had changed since the last time she looked at it. There was the title, her DXP, and even her mana agility, but the biggest change was her mana pool. She focused on it, taking a closer look.
The inner mana the user can draw from.
Penalty: Demon Bond – 10% reduction
Mana Pool: 990 (350/990 available)
Nova blinked at the amount. Her mana had more than doubled, though it looked like it was still in the process of recovering. She frowned and wondered just how long it took for her mana to recover. Though she wasn’t in a hurry to find out. The knowledge of what she had to do weighed heavily on her. Yes, Mathius told her it was fine but the thought of cutting off someone’s limbs wasn’t anything she had expected to do in her life. Sure, if she was a surgeon, maybe, but she hadn’t been in any kind of field that had prepared her for chopping up a person.
She shuddered and closed the window.
Nova focused on the bottom of the screen where she saw the notifications pending. That was new. She wondered if it had to do with her being unconscious. She focused on the notifications and alerts immediately popped up.
[Mana pool calculation complete. Mana pool increased to 1000.]
[Title effects applied.]
[5 DXP rewarded.]
[Leveling repair pending.]
So, her title wasn’t just a fancy name. It did something. She closed out the window and then paused. She wondered if she could set the system to default to storing notifications until she was ready for them.
System, store notifications.
[Notifications set to store.]
Nova blinked and felt a thrill. It meant she might be able to readjust her System set-up to how she preferred.
She waited but nothing happened. She frowned. Did that mean there wasn’t a settings screen? Did she just have to guess how to set it up? She frowned at that but decided she would come back to it. Instead, she turned her attention to her title. As soon as she focused on it, a new screen popped up.
[Weaver of Souls]
You have decided on your path and gained the ability to manipulate souls. Will you use your power to protect or control?
– Your Mana Agility is double your base.
– You gain 100 mana.
– New Title skills will be available to unlock.
– A greater affinity to soul-based items and beings.
She read over the text twice. It was a lot to take in. She wasn’t sure about having an ability to manipulate souls. Sure, it would be awesome in a game but this was her life and the lives of those around her. It felt like a huge responsibility.
Maybe she was overthinking it. Nova closed out the window. It just felt like a huge increase in power when before she could barely protect herself. She glanced over at her staff. A faint glow spilled from it. Instinctively, she knew how to use it but it didn’t mean she knew all its capabilities. On top of that, she couldn’t help knowing that it was fueled by the same souls that had been trapped in the Cradle tree. It was something she would have to think about later. Much later. Her current problems were Mathius and finding a way out of the dungeon.
She checked back on her mana pool. It showed 378. So at least it was increasing at a steady pace. Maybe in a few hours, she would be full again.
Nova’s attention turned back to the rewards, focusing on them. New alerts popped up.
[Blueprint – ‘Soul Weapon’ rewarded.]
[Mana pool increase rewarded.]
[200 XP rewarded. Error! Inefficient mana to repair leveling. XP stored.]
Some of the messages she had already seen. She dismissed the mana pool one so it had already been applied based on the notifications. She then focused on the 200 XP part and a more detailed screen popped up.
[200 XP stored. XP will be automatically applied once level repair is complete.]
Nova frowned. Well, that’s that.
She dismissed the window and started to focus on the next reward when someone cleared their throat next to her. Nova jumped and quickly closed her windows. A ghostly figure stood next to her. She recognized it as the young soldier that had left to scout the dungeon for her.
“Is everything okay?”
The soldier nodded. “There are more flesh sethers but they’re staying back. They seem afraid to approach.” His brow dipped in concern, making him look even younger. “I don’t know how long they’ll hold off for.”
Nova frowned. “I guess that means we’re on a deadline.”
The soldier nodded.
Nova turned over possibilities. Once they got Mathius from under the stones, they could try to dig their way out. It would be easier with the rock magnetism crystal but she wasn’t sure if it would draw more monsters to them. They could use the void crystal to muffle some of the sound but not all of it. She didn’t like the idea of being trapped against a wall of rock, especially if there was another wave of monsters. She barely managed to survive the spikey bull monsters.
No, it’ll be very bad if we get pinned down by them.
The other option was to wait and hope for help. She frowned. That option was a definite no-go. Waiting meant waiting for Oren. It was pretty clear he was done waiting for her to join the Sanitation Guild willingly. So, unless she wanted to become a prisoner it would be best for her not to make it easy for him.
That left only one choice. A choice she had already seen coming but hoped for a better alternative. She looked into the dark emptiness that led deeper into the dungeon. They would have to find a different way out. The task wasn’t as impossible as it first looked. With Mathius’s map shaping, they should be able to find a route out…as long as there was one. There was a distinct possibility there wasn’t.
Then it meant they would have to hide and then escape when no one was looking. She scratched her cheek. Would it be better for them to just be captured? It would certainly be safer. Going deeper into the dungeon could mean death.
Nova groaned and covered her head in her hands. “Damn it. What’s the best decision?”
Nova looked up and saw the soldier staring at her. “Maybe the commander can help?”
“Commander?” Nova asked.
The soldier nodded and looked pointedly at the staff.
“I thought you said there wasn’t enough mana.”
“You’ve gained someone since we’ve been waiting. It should be enough.”
Nova frowned. So the ghost could measure her mana. It was a little uncomfortable but she figured it was a good thing in the long run.
“Okay. Send him out.”
The soldier nodded and started to move toward the staff.
“What’s your name?”
The soldier’s lips twisted up and his brow furrowed. He started to shake his head and then he stopped and his eyes lit up. “Andy. My name’s Andy.” His words were filled with delight.
Andy nodded. Then he slid into the staff. A moment later, a bigger ghost stepped out and Nova couldn’t help smiling. She looked at the familiar ghost with relief.
“Axe. So you’re the commander.”
Axe hefted his ax. “It’s an upgrade but they needed someone to lead them. I was nominated.”
“I think it’s fitting. How many are in there?”
“32,” Axe stated. “At least the ones that are conscious. Some were more fully absorbed.”
Nova’s lips twisted. She hated that.
“Don’t get gloomy. You saved more than that, a lot more.”
“That doesn’t make it better,” Nova said bitterly.
“Yes, it does,” Axe said sternly. “Hundreds of spirits are free. Don’t look down on the ones who sacrificed to make that happen.”
Nova looked away. A stab of guilt went through her and she gave a short nod. She didn’t completely agree with Axe but she at least agreed with honoring their sacrifice.
“It looks like you’ve gotten yourself in a situation.”
“Yeah,” Nova said. “We’re trapped and I’m trying to figure out the best way out.” She then explained the situation and Axe listened to her intently. After she was done he frowned. “I’m not the best strategist despite what the kid might have said but I can at least share my opinion.”
“Okay,” Nova said. Right now, something was better than nothing.
“Give me a minute. I want to check things out,” Axe said and then he was gone, gliding deeper into the darkness.
A loud sigh came from near her. “It’s so boooring,” Trixie said, bouncing to her feet. “Why don’t you try calling up that weapon of yours. I think we waited long enough. Any longer and I might just forget how to help you.”
Nova glared at her but she didn’t want to chance losing the opportunity to help Mathius. She gripped her weapon. She could feel the mana thrumming through it. She felt her mind instinctively calling the blade. A moment later the staff thrummed with power and a curved black blade appear. It was smaller than before but looked just as deadly.
“Ooh! Now that is nice!” Trixie circled around the blade, her eyes gleaming. “Though, I wouldn’t suggest using it.”
“What?” Nova asked, surprised.
Trixie nodded her head. “You don’t have the finesse to use it properly. You might end up dissolving the poor boy in one cut. As fun as that might be to see, I did say I would save him.”
Nova felt her heart thump. She looked at the blade. It was made of void mana and when she used it on the Oracle tree, the entire thing had disintegrated. She shuddered at the implication. She frowned and let the blade fade. She would need something else.
She searched her mind and remembered the stone spear she had made. Maybe she could do something similar. She called to the weapon and it glowed brighter. Stones began to drift together. Relief went through Nova but it shifted to disappointment when she realized it had once again formed into a spear.
“That’s not going to work,” Nova said.
“You could always stab him multiple times until you have it completely cut off, ” Trixie said hopefully.
“No,” Nova said and frowned. “I’ll figure it out.”
She was still trying to figure it out when Axe came back. He took one look at her face and frowned.
“What is it?”
Nova explained the situation. The ghost looked thoughtful and then without another word disappeared. Nova blinked in confusion. Suddenly, the staff began to glow but then a minute later the glow faded.
Axe reappeared from the staff. “Tried to do it myself but I think you have to focus on calling it. Think about doing that whole stone thing but as an ax.”
Nova looked at him, unsure. “Okay.”
He flashed her a grin and then disappeared back into the staff. Nova waited a few seconds then grasped the staff. She concentrated. The staff began to glow and pieces of rock began to come together around the head of the staff until it began to form a replica of Axe’s ax.
Nova’s hand automatically dipped at the weight. “Heavy.”
Trixie clapped her hands excitedly. “Yay!” She danced around. “It’s time to cut!
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