When the group awoke, the number of yawns instantly put everyone on alarm.
They instantly realized that no one had stood guard, leaving them completely defenceless except for the presence of their theoretically neutral supervisor.
Phloria and the others felt greatly embarrassed, but nothing could compare with the exhaustion and disgust that still lingered on their minds.
Despite using darkness magic to cleanse their mouths and teeth before going to sleep, they could still feel the taste of puke and blood.
How do you guys feel now Phloria asked.
Like a dirty rag. Friya answered, causing the others to agree.
Good gods Lith, do you really do stuff like this for a living
Yes, it\'s part of the job. He nodded.
And soon it will be part of yours too, except maybe for Quylla.
Friya, Phloria, you are Mage Knights your swords aren\'t made to scare or protect, but to kill.
Yurial, as a feudal lord and a Warden you\'ll have the lives of both your enemies and allies in your hands.
Quylla, even if you choose to become an academic, like Professor Marth or Manohar, you still need to know how to defend yourself.
The group pondered on Lith\'s words and on the implications of the test.
They had trained for years on dummies or with sparring partners, never fully understanding what their skills were meant for.
Linjos was forcing his students to put them into practice, to experience the consequences of their choices up to that point, before deciding what path they wanted to take in their future life.
Before we move out, is there anything else Quylla and me need to know about our new weapons Friya asked.
There was no blame or resentment in her voice, but Phloria felt guilty anyway.
Sorry for not telling you before. She blushed in shame.
- Gods, I\'m so stupid. Phloria thought.
Now I am supposed to be not only their leader, but also their elder sister.
Not teaching them about the Ernas\'s custom blades was a major blunder on my side. -
It\'s just that my… I mean our father\'s gifts and this exam left me so dumbfounded that I completely forgot.
Our weapons have been forged and enchanted using a secret technique of the Ernas family.
It makes them unnaturally sharp, allowing even a light weapon like your rapier to cut as well as to pierce.
You are no longer limited to stabs.
As long as your opponent doesn\'t wear heavy armour, you can also slash.
It also makes them sturdy enough to cut through rock without a scratch.
Last, but not least, they have a limited ability to change size to adapt to confined spaces without hindering their wielder.
I don\'t know the details, though.
I\'m no Forgemaster.
Quylla, your long knife can turn into a short sword if you need extra range in battle.
Quylla nodded, trying out the weapon for herself.
Her movements were awkward, but the blade was light and easy to use, giving her a sense of security.
Can I see it, please Lith extended his hand to Friya, who passed him her rapier.
Lith used Invigoration on the weapon, studying its complex pseudo core.
He was no swordsman yet, but even he could appreciate its workmanship.
He used it against a small rock, that was easily pierced producing a silvery sound.
The blade was unscathed, and with Fire Vision, after giving his back to the bonfire, he could see the whole blade turning green for a second.
I don\'t know how your father achieved the mass displacement, but I have an idea or two about the rest.
The weapon is enchanted with air magic, making it vibrate on hit and enhancing the edge\'s effectiveness.
Also, I don\'t think it\'s actually sturdier than a normal blade, more like it absorbs impacts and dissipates their energy as heat via earth magic.
Lith was amazed by the effects forgemastering could apply.
Kinetic shields and vibro-weapons were things he had only read about in sci-fi books.
Well, duh! Phloria replied.
Everyone knows they are enchanted with air and earth magic, but not how.
Also, I didn\'t understand a word of the gibberish you just said.
Lith sighed, he couldn\'t explain them what kinetic and potential energy were, nor how the vibration frequency could affect solid matter.
They were all terms that did not exist in the new world.
It would have been like trying to explain the television to someone that didn\'t know about electricity or waves, so he dropped the matter and returned the weapon to Friya.
I have something to say. Yurial chimed in.
Since we are in a dungeon, it\'s better to avoid using fire magic.
There isn\'t much air to begin with, so we could suffocate if we consume too much of it.
Also, despite fireballs are a mage\'s best friend, both the flames and the noise could bounce off the walls.
Just the noise could deafen us, not to mention that only the caster would be immune from the spell\'s direct effects, while the rest of the group would suffer from the heat.
That\'s how the term \'friendly fire\' was coined, after all.
Yurial felt that he had to prove useful to redeem his honour.
So far he had been as helpless as Quylla, but she was just a healer with no specialization.
Not to mention she was three years younger than him with.
Those are all good points. Phloria nodded.
Now we need to coordinate our actions, we cannot repeat the earlier mistakes.
The group spent the next hour making plans and preparations for the rest of the trip.
In the new formation, Phloria would walk in the middle, ready to block any incoming enemy.
Quylla was tasked of holding the map, and to keep note of their movements, since she was the only one beside Lith that could write with water magic.
Friya and Yurial exchanged their position, allowing her to easily assist Phloria or protect Quylla.
It didn\'t take long to meet another group of goblins, but this time things went very differently.
Phloria ignited her tower shield blocking their path, while Quylla and Friya used tier one magic to slash and stab their assailants with ice shards and air blades.
Some of the creatures had slings and bows, but their projectiles were easily deflected by Yurial\'s air shield.
They managed to cleanse the corridor right after the fight, but Friya and Quylla puked again nonetheless.
The wounds made by magic were even more gruesome than those made by the swords, and they had yet to get used to spilled guts and bloody stumps.
As for Phloria and Yurial, their pride was stronger than the nausea.
In the following hours, they met more and more goblin\'s nests, getting better at every encounter, to the point that not an enemy managed to reach Phloria\'s shield anymore.
Yet Lith was disappointed.
They would always make a mess of the cave, needing several spells each to get the job done.
Let me give you a freebie, guys.
Thanks to Life Vision, Lith knew they were about to meet another nest composed of about twenty goblins, so he took point.
You have already cleared bigger nests, so this should not influence your score at all.
Lith let the goblins run toward him offering no resistance, until he tapped once with his staff, making the cave\'s humidity coalesce into a layer of water on the ground.
A second tap turned it into ice.
Goblins had no concept of ice so they kept charging, falling head first on the ground because of the now slippery surface and incapable of getting up.
A third tap turned the ice into blades that sunk into their eyes, hearts and brains, killing them on the spot.
The group was in awe, their mouths agape for the surprise.
Was that first magic Yurial asked, still not believing his own eyes.
That\'s why no chant, no hand signs, no warning for the target.
After checking with Life Vision that no one else was around, Lith turned back, facing his friends.
You are just like I was until a few years ago.
You use magic like a club, instead that like a scalpel.
If properly used, the simplest spell can have the most destructive effect.
Did Lady Nerea teach you magic like that Phloria couldn\'t help but admire his skills.
I had… a lucky encounter. Lith had no other way to explain his mastery of magic.
He had learned from life and death fights against Irtu and Gerda (*), and by fighting alongside Protector.
If he had not met so many magical beasts, he wouldn\'t be half the mage he was.
Lith left them to ponder about his words, resuming his position in the backline.
Even if fighting was getting easier, it was still exhausting both physically and psychologically, so the group rested again, this time with a proper guard-duty order.
Lith didn\'t sleep, only pretended to, using Invigoration to recover his strength.
When they started moving again, they passed through several corridors and caves, sometimes ending up in dead ends, but never losing the way thanks to the map.
They kept finding traces of past struggles and goblin\'s bones chewed clean, but they met no enemies.
Phloria could feel the tension in the air, they were getting inside the territory of a bigger predator.
Wait! Yurial said, stopping the group.
The next corner is too narrow.
If we get attacked while crossing it, the group would be split in half, making hard for us to coordinate properly.
I know, but it\'s not like we can make it wider or see through the walls. Phloria replied.
Lith inwardly smiled, since he had just done that with Life Vision.
True, but we can set up the board properly.
It\'s an ambush only if you are unaware of it.
Yurial casted one array after the other, marking their borders with true magic to make it easier for his teammates to spot them.
When he finished, Phloria moved several steps in front of the others, keeping the shield up in front of her and ready to retreat.
She peeked behind the corner, discovering a short corridor leading to another sharp curve.
Phloria was about to signal the others to move forward, when she heard sounds of battle.
There were screams and yelling in a guttural language she was unable to identify.
The source of the noise kept getting closer, until a group of humanoids came rushing toward her.
They were all very tall, above 2 meters (6\'7) high, with muscular bodies that could have passed for humans if not for the greenish skin, the spiky red hair and the long and pointy ears and nose.
Ogres! Phloria yelled.
Um-pha! Yelled an ogre, pointing at her with a claw ending finger.
Unlike goblins, they wore clothes, mostly made out the skin of other ogres, goblins and whatever they usually had for lunch.
An ogre wearing a necklace made of skulls from small animals waved a huge staff toward Phloria hiding spot.
In-foi! A fireball flew from the staff, leaving Phloria only enough time to step back and take cover behind her tower shield before being engulfed by the explosion.
Her magic shield shattered, but still took the brunt of the spell.
Her uniform was burned in more than one spot, and her hears were ringing, making hard for Phloria keep her balance.
Friya took point, while Quylla started healing her injured friend and Yurial casted another array.
As soon as the ogres stepped inside the first array, Yurial activated it, turning the space they were into a thunderstorm that burned many to a crisp, lightnings assaulted them from all directions.
Even the survivors didn\'t come out unscathed.
The ogres were already looking forward for the rare taste of human flesh when the second array activated, turning the ground into quicksand and making them drown.
- Yes! Yurial thought.
A clean victory without having to attack even once.
The ogre shaman was as clever as ruthless.
He had survived the thunderstorm by using the other ogres as meat shields while casting a protective earth spell only for himself, shielding others would have required time and compassion, and he lacked both.
He also survived the quicksand by using the others as stepping stones, brandishing his staff as a club towards the nearest enemy, Friya.
Despite being injured and smaller than the other ogres, the shaman still hit with the strength of a kicking horse, almost shattering the magical shield from the impact.
Friya was at disadvantage, the opponent was heavier, stronger and had a longer attack range than her, since the staff was over 2 meters (6\'7) long.
The shaman followed up with a kick, catching her unprepared and sending her tumbling on the ground.
The shaman smiled, pressing forward and ready to crush her skull like a melon.
Quylla\'s ice spears pierced the ogre from all side.
Blood instantly gurgled from its mouth while its knees hit the ground, having no more strength to stand.
Lith felt flattered, the spell closely resembled his Checkmate Spears.
In-foi! The shaman weaved his staff one last time, unwilling to die alone.
Alas, Yurial had already completed a very small array that negated fire magic.
He had prepared it since the moment he had noticed that one of the enemies was crazy enough to use fire magic inside the corridor.
The shaman looked at his staff with a dumbfounded expression, the pain from the betrayal of its only true friend showed on his rough visage.
Friya expressed her condolences by piercing its head in one fluid motion.
The group was about to celebrate, when something else walked past the corner.
It looked like an alligator, but it was humanoid.
It stood on two legs, at least 2.5 metres (8\'2) high not considering the tail.
It wore a belt to which were hanged several trinkets, while his hands wielded a double headed axe and a hammer axe respectively.
It was chewing what seemed to be an ogre\'s still bleeding thigh.
It stared at them with a playful look, before taking the thigh out of its mouth and saying:
Ah, fresh meat!