As I passed through the trial, I found that each ‘trigger’ was different, as well as each one being in a separate section of the room, divided by one of the shifting walls. And… while I’d like to say that I got through it easily, that would be a lie. The second trigger was easy enough to find, but the problem was the third.
The third section of the room had the slanted floor tiles shifting in seemingly random patterns. And no matter how I searched the various spell formations laid into the tiles, the walls, or even the ceiling, I couldn’t find anything that matched the patterns of the first two triggers. Naturally… this led me to try the old process of elimination tactic.
My first attempt was a spell diagram that was positioned between myself and the area where I could sense Aurivy. Logically, it had the highest chance to be the correct one, with another shifting wall similar to the first room. So I took a moment to study the diagram, working out its trigger.
The trigger for this seemed to be ‘inverted pressure’, the triangles along the edge of the diagram flipped upside down. That was easy enough to accomplish. Using a quick chakra step, I placed myself next to the spell diagram, and pressed my palm against the surface of the wall over it. Pushing my mana into my hand, I stuck it to the wall and pulled.
Sure enough, the spell activated. And a torrent of flame surrounded me, searing at my skin. “Gah!” I screamed out from the sudden change, feeling my skin quickly heating up. I couldn’t even see where the two lightning bolts came from next, only felt the jolt of energy rushing into my body.
My mind locked up for a moment, and I fell to the floor… where there was another trap located. A stone spike speared out from the ground, directly against my chest and launched me back. Once again I winced in pain, but struggled not to cry out for fear that the lightning traps would reactivate.
Thankfully, either I was silent enough, or the traps had a cooldown period, because the lightning never came even after a small whimper escaped my lips. It took me a few moments to realize that my body had not been burnt to a crisp. In fact, the burns were rather light, as if I had just been out in the sun for too long.
As for my chest, which should have been stabbed through by the spike, I shifted slightly and felt an internal pain. Broken rib? I asked myself, closing my eyes and focusing my ki. Sure enough, I could feel two ribs broken in my chest from the impact of the spike. Mending them… was not pleasant, but thankfully within my power. I just had to shift them back into place with my ki, and fuse the bones back together.
Once I opened my eyes, I saw that the spike had instead not been as lucky. The tip that had stabbed me had shattered, and there were thick cracks running throughout the length of the spike before it slowly receded back into the ground.
Take that, trap! I celebrated my mental victory, ignoring just how panicked I had been a few moments ago. Curious, I checked my health, and found that only a few percent had been shaved off from the trio of no-doubt lethal traps. They still hurt like hell, but at least it didn’t seem like they could kill me. At least, not unless I just kept bashing my head into one over and over again.
And no, that was not the plan. “Back to the beginning, Dale.” Aurivy spoke from the other side of the wall in a singsong tone. “The triggers reset and change location whenever you get struck by a trap. Just to stop people from trying to tank their way through it.” I couldn’t help but grumble as I heard that, being rewarded for my effort with another painful jolt of electricity coming from the walls.
My second attempt was slower, more careful, but also more successful. The rules for the first and second triggers hadn’t changed, and I managed to figure out the trick for the third one. I hadn’t been able to find it with my chakra sight simply because it wasn’t actually a spell.
Instead, it was a mechanical trigger. One of the shifting and slanting tiles on the floor of the third area had a mechanical pressure plate on it. It took me a while to find, but once I enhanced my ears with ki I managed to pick out the distinct noise, too low to trigger any of the traps.
Once I had located the source of the noise, it was only a matter of activating it. Thankfully the activation sound did not trigger any of the spell diagrams, which I saw going dark the moment the third trigger had been activated. The wall where I had sensed Aurivy fell, revealing a smiling halfling standing in another corridor.
“See, that wasn’t so bad, was it?” She asked while placing her arms behind her back. “And you even learned some new tricks, right?”
Well, I couldn’t say for sure whether or not I learned new tricks, but… I had definitely gained some levels. Clearing the room had immediately awarded me with four levels in the ninja class, boosting me up to ten. And in doing so, I had unlocked the ability ‘Chakra Detection’, which was really just the same sight power I had used to find the spells.
“Well? Let’s head on to the next one.” Aurivy spoke with a carefree attitude. “This is one of my favorites. You can think of it as an introduction to proper ninja techniques.”
As Aurivy spoke, I followed along behind her while she led the way. The next room had a single pedestal, surrounded by four wide stone bowls floating in the air. “You go sit in the center, and the test will begin. This one shouldn’t be that hard for you, and really isn’t dangerous even for normal people. Well… unless they just really screw up.”
I raised an eyebrow at her curiously as I moved to sit on the pedestal, while she continued her explanation. “Anyways, this is an introduction to elemental chakra. Your goal is to create the chakra of an element that the bowl instructs you to. The instruction… well, it’ll be pretty clear. You’ll see in a second.”
And with that, just as I sat down, the room darkened. The only light remaining was a gentle glow coming from the bases of the four floating bowls. Slowly, they began to rotate, one of them coming to rest in front of me. The glow flickered, raising up from the bowl to turn into a familiar shape. The spell component of low grade fire.
I had already done something like this before, so I didn’t hesitate. As I was creating my chakra, I mentally passed it through an identical symbol, before holding my hand up in front of my mouth. Forming a ring with my thumb and index finger, I blew the chakra through it, creating a burst of fire that filled up the bowl.
The fire seemed to be drawn into the bowl, sucked in as if by a strange energy. And once I was done with my little fire breath, it rested there, becoming a torch that lit up the room. With that done, the bowls began to circle again, the second one resting in front of me.
This one held the spell component of water, so I repeated the same process as before with ‘water chakra’. Then the third… darkness. It seemed odd how a torch could ‘radiate’ darkness, but it formed a strange sort of contrast with the torch on the opposite side holding fire.
As for the final bowl, the spell component it gave was that of lightning. One quick lightning breath later, and I was shaking my suddenly numb hand while looking around, waiting to see what was next. To my surprise, Aurivy’s voice filled the room, though she didn’t speak. In fact, her voice seemed… deeper, rougher than usual. It made me think of it as a shoddy recording.
“Chakra can be both mystical and physical.” Unsurprisingly, the voice was speaking the beastkin language. “It can perform wondrous feats of magic, or it can enhance your body to perfection. You have passed the first four trials, and learned the first four lessons of being a ninja.”
At that, the real Aurivy began to speak up. “And completed everything I have ready for this dungeon.” She said with a slight pout. “I had wanted to get sparring rooms set up so that trainees could practice together, but that requires actual people.., and well, I haven’t really opened this place up to the public yet. These were the only four tests that I could come up with to have ‘automated’.”
“Okay… so what’s next then, if I want to keep training as a ninja?” I asked, wondering what Aurivy had in mind. I still had days until my little training period was over, and it was very likely that the only person who knew more about the ninjas than Aurivy would be Terra. But, then again, Terra will always know more about pretty much anything than pretty much anyone.
Aurivy’s face seemed to brighten up when she realized that I wasn’t stopping my training here. “First, go back to the Admin Room. I’ve almost finished my information sphere to give you for how to perform ninja techniques. Once you’ve practiced that… you can do some training with it back here on Earth. You’ve got just over four days now, right?”
When I nodded my head, her smile widened. “If everything goes according to plan, I should be able to have you as a level fifty ninja by then.” For some reason, her innocent smile, mixed with those words and my previous experience with her training methods caused my back to dampen with a cold sweat.
I’m only at level ten now! How are you going to get me to level fifty in four days! It took me over a year of constant practice just to get to level thirty as a druid! I screamed internally, though did my best not to let my thoughts surface. She seemed confident that she could live up to her claim, and I honestly didn’t know if that made me more or less worried.
Still, since the next part of the training would be held in the Admin Room, I nodded my head and ascended from the dungeon. Even if Aurivy’s training methods were a bit… brutal, I was curious to learn more about how the ninja class functioned.
The castle of Dukan, the capital of the Third Kingdom of Terraria, lay silent. For the last day, the queen had ordered that none were to enter, save for her personal guards. Nobody on the outside knew what was going on, as word had not spread. All that they knew was that the order had come shortly after one of the nobles had been dismissed from the castle.
Shortly after the order was given, news spread that the Keeper’s Voice had begun gifting knowledge to the royals of the different kingdoms. Many believed that the queen had closed the castle so that she could properly receive this knowledge, unwilling to allow others to interrupt her. And, they were both right and wrong at the same time.
In truth, the hope that Hipalya would be able to learn what had happened to her mother after so long had placed her in a state of mind where she could not think about matters of court. She eagerly sat in her office, waiting for another communication from Tsubaki. She didn’t know if it would take days, or even weeks, but for now she was determined to be patient.
Thankfully her patience paid off far sooner than she would have ever expected. Queen Hipalya? Tsubaki’s voice spoke into her mind, causing her to jolt upright.
“Ancestor, appear! She has spoken.” The queen called out in a hurry, summoning the guardian spirit of the capital. The golden haired felyn appeared with a relieved smile, standing behind the queen. “What is it, Tsubaki, do you have news?”
I do. The voice spoke far too calmly to be addressing a queen, but Hipalya could not care less. Those simple words were enough to make her treat Tsubaki as a true equal, even without her status as the Keeper’s Voice. These instructions are fairly difficult, so I will require you to relay them to your guardian spirit word for word…
The queen nodded her head, before she began speaking. “You must envision five hundred and forty-one silver ribbons of spiritual energy. The longer that you are able to imagine them, the further the range of detection, but the number must be exact. Once you have all of them in your mind, imagine that one were the person you wish to find. If they are within range of your detection, the ribbon will shift, connecting to them. If their spirit was in range within the last ten years, but was harmed, the ribbon will… turn red.”
As the guardian spirit nodded and closed her eyes to focus, the queen spoke up, her voice cracking. “Tsubaki, is this the only way that you found?” In truth, she was thankful that there was a method at all, but this method more seemed to test whether or not her mother’s spirit had been destroyed rather than simply lost.
No, but it is both the easiest and the most likely to get results. Tsubaki spoke, though her voice seemed to be more gentle.
The queen could only nod her head again, glancing fearfully towards the guardian spirit as she awaited the answer. Soon, the queen saw ribbons of silver energy beginning to appear around the spirit who had closed her eyes. One, two… ten… fifty… soon, there were more than the queen herself could count, constantly shifting to and fro to make it harder to judge their number.
Once new ribbons stopped appearing, they began to grow, stretching up into the ceiling. At the same time, the felyn spirit reached her hand out to the side, her eyes still closed. She grasped one of the ribbons firmly, and it began to shake almost violently.
Hipalya cried out in shock as blood seemed to spill from the spirit’s hand, dying the ribbon red. However, at that moment Tsubaki’s voice spoke again. Queen Hipalya, I will now tell you the method to discern what happened to your mother.
The queen could barely even register what was going on as she once again began to repeat the words that Tsubaki spoke, her voice seeming to have gone hollow. It was unclear if she even realized herself what she was saying anymore.