Janus lifted the runescribe, reading the words etched into its flat, metal face. Janus Alamy, it read, A unique opportunity has presented itself. Dario Wall approached our campus asking for information on students with unique skills or classes. We have recommended you as one such candidate. After your regular classes today, you will be meeting with Dario in the commons.
Janus set the runescribe back onto the table. This was it. Dario Wall was a name nearly everyone in the stations knew. If he could prove to Dario that his skill was worth it, maybe he could finally get some real instruction.
He grabbed his pack, patted the wrinkles out of his clothes, and left home.
The rail station was buzzing with morning activity. The station itself was enormous. The vaulted ceilings reaching higher than anywhere else in Crow Station. Softly glowing runes were inscribed in the walls. They would brighten as the morning progressed.
Several rail lines dominated the center of the rail station. Some sub-trains were already pulling in while others pulled away. They would be heading to the other stations.
Janus made his way through the crowds and waited to cross one of the rail lines. There was a system of bridges that lowered and raised depending on the rail station schedule so that people could make their way across. The sub-train to Bear Station would be be arriving soon from one of the inner rail lines.
Minutes after Janus reached the appropriate rail line, the sub-train pulled up. It was a great chain of interlocking passenger cars. Runes covered the surface of each car from bottom to top. The doors on the cars slowly opened and a small crowd made their way out of the sub-train.
A soft buzzing noise notified Janus that it was time to board and he made his way into one of the sub-train cars, finding a seat near the door.
The intercom crackled with static before it flared to life, “Departing to Bear Station, ETA 15 minutes.”
Janus fidgeted in his seat. He sat between a sharply dressed businessman and a mother trying her best to corral a pair of toddlers. His brown, shoulder length hair continued to drift in front of his similarly brown eyes. Lamenting his decision to leave his hair ties at home, he yawned, covering his mouth with one of his hands.
Just another day on the sub-train, he thought, well, maybe not just any day. His excitement to meet Dario Wall was overshadowing the usual boredom of his daily commute. He peered out of the window behind his seat. Small, bright lights were inlaid on the wall outside the sub-train car. They zipped by in one streaming line of white.
He was lost in thought when a man bracing himself on the railings overhead stumbled and bumped into his leg. Unfortunately, Janus wasn’t the only one he disturbed.
“What are you doin’ small man, just stumblin’ around and invading my space, eh?” A burly man in a leather jacket with a shaved head shouted at the unfortunate soul.
Janus identified the bald man in the jacket. Baldy is Level 24, this is going to be an issue.
Baldy continued, “Aye look at me mate, say somethin’!”
The man who’d lost his balance was flustered, “I’m sorry, it’s just hard to keep my balance. I’ve never left Crow Station. I’m not used to these sub-trains,” he blurted out in a hurry.
Baldy looked unimpressed. “You’re gonna disrespect me? I’m a Jack. You gonna disrespect the Jacks?” He said. With that, his fist started to glow a pale gold.
“No, no! Please! it was just an accident, a misunderst-” the flustered man was cut off before he could finish, Baldy's fist connecting with his midsection as he lost his balance and fell to the floor.
Baldy looked around the train, pausing for a moment on Janus. “That’s what any of you’ll get if you disrespect the Jacks.” He tilted his head and spit on the man he grounded.
The Jacks… lovely folks. Baldy's level is pretty high for Crow Station.
Janus kept his head down to avoid the confrontation, drifting into another daydream.
His latest reverie was broken when the intercom blared through the sub-train again, “Mana interference detected on the rail ahead, speed reduced. Bear Station ETA 30 minutes.”
Interference? They can’t mean- a sharp grinding noise rang out through the sub-train car and Janus felt a sudden lurch. The sub-train had halted. People were beginning to panic, and he heard a shout from further back in the sub-train car. Mana interference meant something big was manipulating the ambient mana up ahead.
Janus had read about these occurrences in class, but it was always a far away thing. Not something that could ever affect him.
Once again the intercom started, “Mana interference obstruction ahead. Assistance en route. Do not panic.”
Sure, yeah, don’t panic. Sounds good. Janus panicked.
Mana interference was always a bad deal. The sub-trains scanners must have picked up something strange. Maybe even a new dungeon forming on the rail line.
We’re too far out. If it’s a dungeon, everyone here could die. Janus eyed Baldy, who was now looking around nervously. I should stick with him.
Suddenly, the sub-train lurched forward violently and the distinct sound of metal tearing reached Janus’ ears. He looked toward the noise and saw a hole being ripped in the side of the sub-train car. A squat three legged creature, its body a single large eyeball, was slowly pulling its way inside. Janus identified it.
[Rail Balor - Level 34]
The sub-train was slowly inching forward now, but it didn’t feel like the smooth, magically powered propulsion Janus was used to. Almost as if something was pulling the train, yanking on it.
Suddenly, a notification appeared in Janus’ mind.
[You have entered the Rath Rohen dungeon]
The balor began to advance from the front of the sub-train car. Those who were near the front were pushing past each other to move further back.
The surge of people pushing to get away from the balor reached Janus. Those unfortunate to be left behind suddenly seized up, blood leaking from their mouths and eyes. Janus could see the balor glow a blood red.
What is it doing?
The balor's eye opened along the middle, revealing a long row of razor sharp teeth. It leapt forward, latching onto one of its paralyzed victims.
Most of the crowd had already made it behind Janus. He didn’t remain out of bravery, but because his body wasn’t responding. He was paralyzed in fear. Against a level 34 enemy there was almost no chance.
I’m only level 6! This is insane!
Baldy was still standing near Janus and seemed to make up his mind. He squared up and approached the balor. “You wanna fight? You wanna go?” His fist began to glow like before. The concentration of energy seemed to get the balors attention as it released its victim and faced the new threat.
This guy is a moron.
Janus looked around at the other passengers and asked, “Is nobody else here high enough level to help?” Some passengers avoided his gaze, others were too panicked to even register that he’d said anything.
Baldy had reached the balor by now, his fist crashing out. A silvery barrier erupted between him and the balor, deflecting his strike away. Janus saw a trickle of blood starting to form at the side of Baldy’s mouth.
Janus quickly looked through his list of skills, hoping to find something useful.
What did I expect? I don’t even have a class yet.
Janus readied himself, lifting as his pack as he got up from his seat. Baldy was still struggling against the balor at the front of the sub-train car. Maybe I can push more mana into that guys' strikes.
He would have to be careful given what happened to the others that got within the balor’s range. After all, Janus was not eager to bleed out of his eye sockets like the others.
The [Mana Manipulation] skill was, after all, the reason Dario Wall would have been interested in him. The ability to directly manipulate mana was a rare one.
He could feel the ambient mana all around them, a little more dense than usual, likely because of the newly formed dungeon. He could see the concentration of mana around Baldy's fist accumulate before each strike. Before Baldy’s next attack, Janus tried to push as much mana from around himself into the strike as he could.
It’s not enough, this isn’t doing anything.
The balor opened its mouth and latched on to Baldy’s leg. It didn’t look like the balor was going to lose this fight.
Frantically, Janus called to the crowd, “Use your mana! Use any skill! I can use it to strengthen his attacks,” he gestured to Baldy, who was still engaged with the balor.
This time some people in the sub-train car came to life and Janus could see mana flare up as people used their skills. He pulled as much mana as he could from their abilities and redirected it to Baldy. The next strike on the balor resounded outward with a bright flash of light and the balor dislodged itself from Baldy’s leg.
Janus spoke up, “Keep it up everyone! We need more mana!”
Baldy struck again, shouting, “You think you can get the best of me you freak?.”
Janus could see burn marks on Baldy’s arms. He can’t take the extra mana, it’s slowly destroying his arm from the inside. Even though Janus knew he was hurting their savior, he had to keep pushing mana into each attack to ensure everyone got out of this alive.
[New skill obtained: Strength Enhancement]
Cost: 20 Mana
Cooldown: 5 Seconds
Description: You have learned to use ambient mana to increase the power of physical attacks, either for yourself or for an ally. For the next 10 seconds, the first physical attack your target makes will deal [30%] increased physical damage.
Bonus Stats: 1 Int per level, 1 Str per level
Hopefully, this will be enough to make a real difference. I guess professor Carter wasn’t lying when he said life or death combat was the best way to gain and level skills.
Janus activated his new [Strength Enhancement] ability, targeting Baldy, who was still struggling against the balor. A subdued blue light mingled with the pale gold energy on Baldy’s fist as it came down upon the balor once more. This time a small blue shock wave erupted from his fist and the balor staggered back.
Baldy did not relent and started laying about the balor with both his fists, some of the strikes not even enhanced by his own magic.
Janus was using Strength Enhancement as often as he could, but his mana was starting to get dangerously low. He could already feel the effects of mana exhaustion; a strain in his chest, shortness of breath, and a fatigue down to his bones.
[Your party has defeated a dangerous enemy: Rail Balor]
[You have gained a level]
[Your Strength Enhancement skill has gained 2 levels]
[Your Mana Manipulation skill has gained 3 levels]
[You may learn new skill: Bravery]
Requirement: You must unlearn an existing skill to free up a skill slot.
This is the first time I’ve hit the cap on skill slots. I guess Math is going to have to take a backseat for now.
Janus pictured his status in his mind and willed for the [Mathematics] skill to be removed. It vanished a few moments later.
[New skill obtained: Bravery]
Cooldown: Always Active
Description: You have stood against a fearsome creature with a much higher level than your own. You approach dangerous situations more calmly.
Bonus Stats: 5 Wis per level
It’s more useful right now than being able to solve equations a bit faster.
Janus looked around himself. People were cowering near the back of the sub-train car and Baldy was slowly inching his way back towards the crowd.
Baldy called out, “I need a healer! That freak nearly tore my leg off.”
A lady with red hair and a crisp suit jacket made her way out of the crowd, “Move aside, I have [Lesser Healing]” She brushed past the shocked crowd, nearly tripping over a man sobbing on the ground. She reached Baldy and held her hand out, which began to glow with a green light, “I’m Layla, how much health do you have left? There could be more of those things outside.”
Baldy looked toward her and grunted, “I’m Fao, thanks for the heal. I’m at about half HP. If there’s more of em, that just means more XP.” Janus took the chance to identify the man again.
[Strongarm - Level 26]
Interesting, he gained two levels. I guess his contribution was greater than mine.
Janus made his way towards Layla and Fao. Fao was working himself into one of the sub-train seats with a gasp of pain. Layla looked on with concern and said, “I’m already running low on mana, what’s your life at?”
“About 80 percent. We should be good if another one comes through. I don’t know about two of the bastards though.” Fao looked toward Janus, “You were the one that was pumping my attacks. That’s some good work, kid.” Fao let out a string of coughs before he could continue, “What’s your name?”
“My name is Janus, I was on the way to the campus in Bear Station. Honestly I didn’t even know if the mana manipulation thing would work…” Janus said and stole a quick glance at the hole in the sub-train car, worried that more creatures would slip inside.
“Yeah, well thanks for the assist. Burned my arm to shit, though. We’re lucky there was a healer in this car.” Fao tucked his chin down with a pensive expression on his face, “You want a job kid? Could use an enhancer in the Jacks.”
Janus was about to reply as the sub-train car lurched again, this time to the left.
That shouldn’t be possible, we’re in a tube.
A loud screeching noise echoed out and a blue glow suffused the interior of the sub-train car. As suddenly as the movement began, it stopped.
A magically enhanced voice rang out, “We’ve got survivors here, Gerrick! Start reversing the sub-train, we’re headed back to Crow Station. Cover the front Noel, make sure none of those balors make it to the sub-train.”
Fao gingerly got to his feet, nearly falling as the sub-train started to slowly move backwards, “Looks like the cavalry's here.”
One of the sub-train side doors began to glow with a more intense blue than the rest of the interior. It slowly slid open. A tall man covered head to toe in intricate runed plate armor stepped through, his face completely covered by a savage-looking helmet. He swept his head side to side, noting the dead balor, “You guys had a rough one, just count your stars that you weren’t in one of the sub-train cars further up.”
Janus tried to identify the armored man.
Author Note: 15,000 character limit means that the chapters are a little off. The very end of this chapter will appear at the start of the next. There is nothing I can do to help this :(
Comments (0)See all