*Plop*

“Gosh!”

Water droplets fell onto Pram’s head . He immediately shook his head to rid himself of the water . Looking up, the water droplets that had accumulated on the ceiling due to condensation, were falling down at regular intervals .

Pram moved away and turned back towards his party .

“I felt it when I first came in, but I really don’t like it here . ”

It had almost passed the four hour mark since entering the dungeon . Two hours had passed since entering the second stage .

It was inevitable for hunger to start setting in . It was now time to take a break and refresh .

“I agree . I don’t like the food either . ”

Romantica said while frowning . Desir’s party, which was attacking the second stage, sat down for a while and started consuming their packed food . It wasn’t a luxurious meal since it had to be easy to carry . The water was in a bottle made out of iron, hence it tasted like iron too and the briskets were rather unpleasant .

‘It feels like I haven’t had a fine meal recently . ’

Frankly, this was still fine . She could still handle an inconvenience of this level .

‘But most of all, what I can’t stand… ’

Romantica used her eyes to gesture ahead . At the point where she was gesturing at, Desir and Adjest could be seen sitting together . They were holding a conversation a little further away from where the party was eating together .

They were probably talking about this dungeon raid .

But even so…

“Desir seems to think of Adjest as a sub-leader to our party . ”

Romantica responded nervously at Pram’s observation .

“Don’t be silly, Pram . ”

“But if it is Adjest, I think it fits her . It’s a bit vexing to admit though . ”

Romantica couldn’t respond .

It was natural, if one thought about it . Adjest was stronger than her . No one could disagree that she was the strongest one in the party, excluding Desir .

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She had talent as a swordsman and a lot of experience, even if she was at the same Third-Circle of wizardry as Romantica . She also had experience participating in the conquering of Shadow Worlds before entering Hebrion Academy .

She was talented to a whole other level .

“Well, she is pretty too… ”

“She might also be the second most famous amongst the first years, right next to Desir . ”

“And she was the leader of the freshmen when she was part of the Blue Moon party . ”

She was already a different being to Romantica .

‘Can’t I catch up to her in any other way… ever…? ’

*Crunch*

Romantica chewed her briskets angrily, startling Pram and Freechel who were sitting right next to her .

While they discussed this, Desir and Adjest who had already finished eating, got to work disarming traps on the path that the party would need to pass through .

Desir unlocked traps whilst teaching Adjest .

“Adjest, there’s a trap in front of you . If you check the flow of mana, you can feel that it is different only around that area . ”

“Oh, it sure is . ”

“It’s easier to check the trap’s grade by the amount of mana it uses . And when it’s a lower level trap, it’s better to deal with it by just preparing a defense and triggering it . But if you can’t figure out what the trap is, like I do, it’s better to just avoid it . Just in case, if you do have to trigger it, then do it like this… ”

Desir put his hand against the ground . Mana then flowed down into the ground from it . The flow of mana that powered the trap was slightly distorted as a result . After that, Desir then stepped on the trap .

Something mechanical clicked but nothing happened .

“You can break a trap with just a little change to its mana flow . It should feel like you’re changing the flow of water in a rippling stream by putting stones down to disrupt it . I’m putting my mana on the flowing mana and changing the flow ever so slightly . This can be applied to most of the trap spells that are driven by mana . ”

It was not a technique that could be learnt, regardless of how much you paid someone . It required practice . Adjest tried to familiarize herself with the technique, but she couldn’t help but be worried .

“Desir, you look very relaxed but I’m honestly worried . ”

“Huh?”

“Can we keep up with the parties ahead of us?”

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Adjest checked the leaderboard on her communication pad .

1st: Blue Moon Party . Leader: Argeria G Roglan Nimbias

Progress Points 2300, Party Points 1700

2nd: Red Dragon Party . Leader: Radoria von Dorice

Progression Points 2100, Party Points 1560

3rd: Unknown Party . Leader: Desir Arman

Progression Points 1700, Party Points 1800

The points of each party were scored in real time by the professors watching the party competition through the display panels and the results were shared via the communication pads .

“We are ahead with party points, but far behind other parties in progress . That means we are that much slower than the others . ”

The party points were a measure of how well the party worked together to effectively clear the dungeon, and the progression points quantified how much of the dungeon they had completed .

“We lost a lot of time on the first stage giving our new party members experience . Thank you for teaching us but the purpose of our participation in this party competition is to win . I’m worried that we can’t achieve that goal . ”

“You don’t have to worry . It’s not such a big problem to worry about . Our party can always take the first place in this competition . ”

“Do you have a plan? Due to the structure of the dungeon, it will be very difficult to reverse the standings at this point . ”

The second stage was a labyrinth consisting of a total of five zones . The distinction between each zone was demarcated by the presence of halls leading one to enter the next zone . The structure of the labyrinth varied from zone to zone and the goal for the second stage was to proceed to the fifth zone that contained the way forward to the third stage .

It was very difficult to reverse the standing since it required a minimum amount of time to break through the labyrinth varying from zone to zone .

“But there’s always a way . ”

At the same time as Desir finished speaking, the Desir Party, which had since stopped resting, arrived at a huge hall marking the end of the first zone .

As soon as Adjest recognized the three paths in the hall of the second zone, she could hear the announcement in her ear .

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– You’ve reached the Hall of the third zone in the second stage .

Before entering the third zone, a normal passage to the third zone as well as two additional options are given to parties that reach this area .

-The passage of folly .

This is a passage filled with monsters and traps at the level found in the first stage . The difficulty will drop but the length of the labyrinth will be much longer .

-Passage of suffering .

This is a direct route to the fifth zone which is guarded by Tyrant-Tula .

The passage is completely straight but Tyrant-Tula has nested here .

Tyrant-Tula targets invaders who pass through the passage in the dark .

The difficulty of this passage is much greater but the length of the zone is shorter .

The passage of folly is the choice of a party that has lost or lack sufficient power, and the passage of suffering is a choice that strong parties might opt to take .

Most of the time, the majority of parties chose to use the normal passage way or the passage of folly . The difficulty level of the Tyrant-Tula, which was described as appearing in the passage of suffering, was comparable to fourth level Shadow Worlds .

Reaching the third stage would be made much more difficult for most parties if they lost just one member, hence there were very few parties willing to take such a risk or make such a sacrifice just to quickly break through .

The risk was just too high in comparison to the benefits .

It was better to traverse the labyrinth at a suitable level for the party, even if the path would be a little bit longer . In fact, almost every party would make such a decision .

“But we’re entering here . ”

With what Pram was saying, Romantica could only sigh .

“Well… it is not the first time . ”

“Do you mean to take a gamble?”

Adjest enquired and Desir shook his head .

“Of course, I’m not suggesting it out of desperation . I have a clear plan . I promise you that we’ll not drop out due to this choice . ”

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Desir spoke with confidence while choosing a passage .

“We’ll be reversing the rankings and snatching first place . ”

– You’ve entered the passage of suffering .

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