Ultimate Level 1

Chapter 169: Turning in Trophies
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Chapter 169: Turning in Trophies

Everett sat on the chair he had pulled up, still unable to form words. His eyes drifted between the five massive yellow crystals on the table and the group of five sitting on the two couches in his office.

Tom coughed to break the awkward silence and squeezed the Faction leader’s shoulder. “So, two rare spawns, one we have never faced before or have a record of in over a hundred years…” Tom’s voice trailed off as he struggled with the knowledge of what Max and the others had done in just two days.

“I wrote a report on the new rare spawn. Honestly, we almost lost to it but were able to pull out a win. I’m not sure a standard team at our level could take it out.”

Laughter came from Everett as he shook his head and finally grinned. “Why is it I don’t feel you’re bragging but simply telling the truth?” he asked, turning his attention to Cordellia. “Tell me, are you satisfied now with getting to join this group?”

Their archer nodded and grinned. “Part of me feels like I should not accept the reduced dues for joining the team, but I won't,” she replied. “All I can say is I doubt there is a party like this below the one hundred and twentieth floor.”

Tom’s eyebrows rose at that statement, and Max saw the man frown.

“The drop rate on the gems?”

“Eight or nine out of ten,” Tanila informed Tom. “I guess we should mention that each of us hit the first level for the tower already.”

“Of course you did,” Tom said, sighing afterward. “You really can’t share that information. Doing so would cause many problems not only in our Faction but in the others.”

Each of the team nodded, all knowing that wouldn’t happen.

“So let me ask a question,” Max said as he moved closer to the edge of the couch. “Are you okay with us going as fast as possible through the tower to the ninth floor? We want to maximize time and effort, and based on what I think I know of the creatures' strength and stats, we want to see what the bosses on the fifth and ninth floors are like.”

“Gods, you all are crazy,” Tom declared, throwing his hands up into the air. “Everett, they have no idea what they are–”

Their Faction leader held up his hand, and a wry grin appeared as he cut off Tom. “Actually, I think they have more of an idea than we imagine. Two days Tom… they cleared the first floor in two days, reached level one for tower experience and,” Everett turned his gaze to Max, Tanila, and Cordellia all sitting next to each other on the couch, “are how far along in the next level?”

“A little over halfway to level fifty-one,” Tanila replied.

“Holy mother of ogre tits,” Tom cursed.

“And halfway through their first level,” Everett continued. “Let’s trust their judgment and knowledge of their own skills. Cordellia is experienced and will give them the advice they need when moving through the tower. All we can do is support and encourage them.”

“Just don’t be stupid,” Tom added. “Seriously, the tower isn’t kind. One mistake can cost someone their life.”

Max and the others nodded, each well aware of how Fowl was almost killed by their lack of preparation and knowledge of the rare spawns.

“Anything else?” Everett asked, sensing how everyone appeared to be ready to go.

“We’ll be moving into the Faction house if that is okay. As much as we enjoy our room at our inn, the time has come to be close and take advantage of the amenities offered by being a member,” Batrire said. “Is there a date that we could move in?”

“Already taken care of,” Tom replied, pulling a key ring from his storage and starting to slide keys around. After a few seconds, he pulled two keys off and handed one to Max and the other to Fowl. “Those are for your rooms. You’ll find them on the third floor and across the hall from each other. The walls are enchanted to prevent noise from escaping or coming in, except for an alarm that hopefully won’t be heard for a long time to come.”

Everyone saw Tom and Everett’s posture shift and tensing of their bodies when he mentioned the explosion from a few days ago.

“Very well, if you don’t mind, we’ll leave and collect our things from the inn, moving in here.”

Tom nodded at Batrire.

Everyone stood and began walking toward the door except Max, who hung back as the others went ahead.

“Another one of those talks?” Everett joked as Max’s group didn’t even look back, already knowing he was going to stay behind for a moment.

“Yup, but I promise this one isn’t as bad as the rest,” Max replied. “What I really need to talk about is money, some new dimensional storage items, and a really weird question after the first two are dealt with.”

Everett’s eyebrow raised at Max’s last words, but the man moved to his desk and motioned to the two chairs that were facing it. “Let’s sit and discuss things there.”

As the three of them got settled in their seats, Max could see Tom still struggling with the memory of the passing of Baldin.

Leaning over slightly, he put his hand on Tom’s forearm, which was resting on the chair arm, and squeezed. “I offered a prayer for you and Baldin. I’m always here if you ever need me.”

This tale has been unlawfully obtained from Royal Road. If you discover it on Amazon, kindly report it.

The older man’s lips pulled into his mouth for a moment, and he nodded once. “I appreciate that, Seth. I really do, but… it’s going to take some time. That dwarf was like a brother and…” Tom glanced across the desk at Everett, whose expression was like unmoving a rock. “He was special to my friend. I’ll manage, but it will take time. Thank you again… for what you did.”

Squeezing Tom’s arm once more, Max nodded and sat back, looking at Everett, who had cleared his throat and had a book open on his desk.

“How much gold do you need?”

Max chuckled and smiled. “Like how much can I have or how much do I have access to?”

Sighing, Everett rubbed his eyes for a moment before studying Max. “Do you really need money, or are you just asking?”

“The answer is yes to both. There are some things I want to buy, and it shouldn’t be too bad, but part of that also requires us to get the dimensional storage items that have a greater capacity and allow for instant changing of gear.”

Tom grunted and waited till Everett was looking at him. “We have two that are technically available for loaning.”

Everett’s head moved side to side for a moment as he studied Tom’s face.

“You’re ok with that?” he finally asked.

Nodding, Tom shifted a little in his chair. “He would want it that way.”

Smacking his lips, Everett sniffed and then grabbed a piece of paper and wrote a quick note on it. “Come by tomorrow, I’ll have two for you that you can use. They won’t technically be yours, but Tom’s right. They would best be used right now by your group. I’m assuming they’re for you and Fowl?”

“Yeah… one doesn’t realize how uncomfortable it is trying to change out of gear covered in brains.”

Both Tom and Everett chuckled, each smirking at knowing how dirty tower climbing could get.

“Back to the gold, though, I need maybe fifty gold.”

Without hesitating, Everett opened his desk drawer and reached inside. In a moment, a coin pouch appeared. He tossed it to Max, who caught it easily.

“Fifty gold,” Everett stated. “Try not to spend it all in one place.”

Snorting, Max bobbed his head and put it in his storage. “I should have asked for more.”

“You could have, but it also speaks highly that you’re not asking for some crazy number. What’s the third point you felt needed to be discussed last.”

Running his hand across his bald head, Max frowned for a moment.

“Baldin was a crafter, wasn’t he?”

Everett’s eyes gazed down at the desk and nodded slowly. “He was… one of the best. Losing him… it hurt our Faction in more ways than you can imagine.”

Taking a deep breath, Max let it out slowly. He and Tanila had discussed this next part multiple times. There was no way to share the truth of what he could do or had with either of these men. Maybe when they were past the halfway point in the tower, but it was still too dangerous right now.

“How stupid would it be for an adventurer to learn a crafting skill?”

Tom coughed twice, pounding his chest, and looked at Max like he was a fool.

“You want to waste a skill slot and the skill ups on a crafting skill? What kind of idiot are you?”

“Tom, wait–”

“No, Everett, don’t,” Tom said, ignoring his friend and leader. “It’s the most idiotic thing I have ever heard in my entire career as an adventurer. To waste those precious skill upgrades is beyond stupid. Even if you managed to reach level one hundred as an adventurer, taking it even then would be worthless because you wouldn’t have any extra skill points by then to advance its rank.”

“I hear you. I was just trying to find a way to help the Faction if that was an option down the road.”

Max’s statement caught both men off guard. Each of them sat back in their chairs a little more and stared at the warrior before them.

“Seth… that’s… probably the most selfless thing I have heard in a long time, especially when we know how much potential you have as a tower climber. Still, we wouldn’t ask that or want that from you, knowing how it will hinder your potential growth. Even worse,” Everett continued as he leaned against the desk, “you could do far more by focusing on the tower and providing resources that will allow us to grow in different ways. Does that make sense?”

Max nodded and smiled. “Just wanted to ask.”

“We appreciate that, we really do. Any other questions you want to ask that will surprise Tom and me?”

Max laughed as he stood up and held out his hand toward Everett. “I’m good. It's time to catch up with the group and get ready to move in. Thanks again.”

Everett shook his head and pointed at the five yellow still sitting on the table. “No, son, we owe you all more than you know for those. At that rate, another one of your team could easily acquire an Epic skill.”

Max gave Tom a gentle pat on his shoulder, the older man still sitting in his chair. “You two behave then, I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Give me your thoughts,” Everett said as he moved to the table and began storing the crystals in his storage. “Tell me I’m not dreaming.”

Tom had only turned his chair around, choosing to stay seated as Max left. His hands were clasped together, and he was playing with his chin with both pointer fingers.

“It’s not a dream but, in some ways, a possible nightmare,” Tom finally replied. “If their team can actually make it past the fiftieth floor… it’s going to draw a lot of attention. Attention, I’m not certain we are ready for.”

Everett grunted as he put the last crystal away and moved to the chair beside Tom.

“We have time, though. Perhaps enough, even at the rate they seem to be progressing. Did Cordellia tell you anything?”

Tom closed his eyes, raised his head, and started to laugh. His whole body shook for a few moments as he laughed, eventually stopping with a massive sigh.

“Honestly? We’re screwed. Ogre size screwed,” Tom replied. “That girl won’t tell me anything worth knowing. She is completely different than before. Whatever happened on the floor and that goblin shite story they told us, Cordellia isn’t going to betray them.”

“We didn’t expect her to betray them,” Everett said, his eyebrows coming together. “We just wanted information about their true abilities.”

“That’s betrayal,” Tom replied, clearing his throat. “Just as I won’t share your true ability with anyone else, I doubt Cordellia will ever do the same about them. Something about that group feels like… a whirlpool.”

“A what?” Everett asked, blinking a few times in confusion.

“Boats on the sea have mentioned that occasionally, one shows up in certain areas. When they appear, everything gets drawn in by the power of it. Ships that have weathered giant storms are weak against its power, and some of the greatest have been pulled under by it. Those four…” Tom shifted in his chair, turning so he could stare into Everett’s eyes. “Those four are somehow touched by the gods, pulling everything to them. Soon enough, I doubt I could defeat Seth in a duel, and a part of me wonders if I would lose even now. Call it a predator’s feeling. Like a big cat stalking in the forest and sneaking up on another animal that looks like prey, it knows somehow that no matter how calm and docile the creature before it looks, attacking it might just end their life.”

Everett nodded, knowing Tom was right. The truth was that Tanila gave off the same vibe, and that made him even more nervous. Two in one group was a very scary thing.

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