We didn’t need Alhorn to go back to the goblin dungeon. Socks could have probably handled everything herself, and even Kantrilla could defeat the goblins on the first floor quickly. Without armor, it just took one good blow with her mace and they were down. Because of that, she took a spot on the front lines next to me, which was nice. Though she didn’t wear heavy metal armor, she was still alright if they managed to hit her. In addition, because she wasn’t relying on it, any time there would have been a serious hit, she got Lucky and it either missed or just hit somewhere less important- but most of the time she dodged or blocked with her somewhat lighter shield. Goblins weren’t that strong, so anyone in our group but Kasner could beat them in Strength- though Kantrilla might have had trouble with the bigger ones on later floors. Meanwhile, Halette didn’t look that strong- she didn’t have big, beefy arms… but if we were going off of that I looked second worst instead of best.
Goblins were way below our level especially on the first floor- but we weren’t trying to level up yet. If we were, it would have taken quite a long time to figure out whether I could level up or not. Assuming it was generally the same as positive levels, going from -17 to -18 would be similar enough to -17 to -16, so we wouldn’t know until it happened which we got.
There was something besides practice fighting- which we could always use more of- that the goblins offered us. Loot. Most of it was crappy metal, but Carlos could carry that- we brought him with us because the goblin dungeon was safe enough. Besides, Carlos belonged to Halette so he wasn’t just like a normal mule- though he didn’t look much different, unlike Socks who made normal wolves look like puppies. Beyond the crappy metal that we would sell for scrap we also got magic stones- in larger amounts than would be expected. All of our party had above average Luck, and Kantrilla’s Luck was still growing, though it wasn’t where it had once been.
With the money we earned we could support ourselves and afford some new things, though most of us had our basic equipment sorted out. It was really only Kantrilla and I who needed new gear. Since Kantrilla was fighting up front with me, that included a larger emphasis on armor and weapons rather than improving her spellcasting. Magic items were expensive anyway. I missed my heavy mace… but maybe we’d find something else cool eventually.
I started to build out my selection of weapons- but I didn’t buy so much variety. A sword and mace for one hand and a halberd, spear, and greatsword for two hands. Slings were cheap, and we had some elven bows, so my ranged weapon options were covered. I could also throw a spear- but I preferred my adamantine dagger, since it didn’t need as much momentum behind it, and it was easier to pull back. It would be especially useful when the goblins were more armored and it could still kill them in a single hit from a distance.
Kasner mostly just practiced different methods of killing goblins- he was powerful enough to take out any single group himself in a short time, but what mattered was conserving his mana. Thus, he just took out archers or mages who might get a better chance to hurt us, along with Halette.
The goblin dungeon was easy- but we tried to avoid becoming careless. Regardless of whether or not it pulled new tricks, we didn’t want to be out of practice for other situations. Keeping our guard up and taking each battle seriously was important.
After a couple months split between dungeon diving and training, Alhorn was scheduled to return shortly. However, before that would happen there was another important event. That event was, of course, the adventurer’s carnival. Or more correctly, the Festival of Spring. That officially meant I’d been in this world for over a year and a half… which was weird. It seemed to have been much shorter and much longer.
“This time,” I said to Kantrilla, “We’ll go together. As a date, and not just… as friends.”
“Yeah!” she said, “Alright!” She was a bit more fired up than I had expected, but I guess this was our first exciting date. Spending time together was something, but there hadn’t really been any festivals- and there weren’t that many things to go see. Sure, Ekralas had lots of things, but it wasn’t really built on tourism.
The previous year, I had seen the carnival and guessed that another otherworlder had brought the idea over. This year, I wondered if Sage Norwood had been the one.
Truth be told, our experience wasn’t that different from the previous time, except we were holding hands. In a way, that was a good thing- it had been fun before, and it was fun again. We were still friends, after all. Not that much had changed, but that just made it feel more right.
This year I performed better in many of the games. Dexterity was important for some of them, as well as Luck, and even without the boost from a class, my Dexterity was more than one hundred higher than before. My Luck was also around sixty better. However, even with that it wasn’t much easier to get tokens. The reason for that was that I was being judged against a higher standard. I was a D-rank adventurer now, which couldn’t be considered a beginner.
Then I spotted the high striker again. Timmy was once again running the game. I considered how my Strength had changed. Though it had been up and down… right now it was just slightly higher than it had been the year before. I just also had the option to use Rage, which increased it by ten percent. I supposed that was allowed, since it was my own skill, though I wasn’t sure if Blessing from clerics was allowed. Well, it didn’t matter. Even though I was going to be held to a higher standard than the previous year, I was also much better at controlling my Strength and using it how I wanted. I waited my turn in line then took the hammer.
The hammer felt lighter- not because it actually was, or even because I was slightly stronger. Instead, I had just grown more used to carrying heavy weight in my hands. I naturally held it the best way to minimize the feeling of weight. I took my stance in front of the machine. I knew it wasn’t going to break, since I could tell it was enchanted… so there was no reason to hold back. I could use all my Strength and keep it controlled as I wanted… even when using Rage. I would still be a bit below six hundred, but that was plenty. My hammer swung down and the dinger rose rapidly, cleanly striking the bell. It was a much nicer sound than the year before… but maybe only because I’d been through so much.