After falling for less than 10 minutes John could no longer see anything. The waterfall blotted out all the light, and covered him in freezing cold water. Snakey had started gathering fire elemental mana the instant the water hit her, and they were still falling without an end in sight.
"Well, that was anticlimactic." Steven said from just behind John.
"No kidding." John said, as he tried to turn around to get a look at Steven. 'That was stupid!' John thought as his open mouth was suddenly filled with water and he turned back around spluttering and coughing.
"HAHAHAHA" Steven laughed at John, "You're lucky no one else was close enough to see that."
"Screw you!" John yelled, just before his body was covered in a white light and he and Snakey disappeared.
"What the?" Steven said as he kept falling, passing the location where John had disappeared a moment later.
A mote of light shimmered and slowly expanded before turning into John and Snakey. Suddenly, the light switched off and John fell a couple feet to the ground. Looking around, John found himself in a humid cave system. Trying to move towards the only exit, John realized that he couldn't move his body at all. Before he could freak out, the disembodied voice of a Mr. Parker echoed throughout the entire cave system.
"Welcome to the Dragon's Nest! Centuries ago the principal of Gallandwell High got pissed off when a Dragon Monster decided to attack the school. Instead of killing it, he trapped the dragon here. It's become tradition for to welcome transfer students by sending them into it's nest and seeing who can survive the longest. There are special events at various stages offering prizes to the winners and each of you has been given a teleportation talisman. Don't be afraid to use them!"
When Mr. Parker finished talking, the formation hindering John's movement disappeared and the temperature suddenly spiked as a jet of flame shot through the only opening in the cave. Diving to the side, John just barely managed to dodge it before pulling out his weapons and activating his newest skill.
"Illusory Swap" was a skill that created illusions of yourself using light and then allowed you to switch places with the illusion at a moments notice. At it's peak, practitioners of this skill can create hundreds of illusions across a 5 mile radius and instantly swap with any of them. For now, John could only create a single one and hadn't mastered the swapping. He was only able to pull that off once every 20 tries.
However, it made for a great distraction and scout. Closing his eyes, John saw through the illusion's eyes as it walked forward, looking into the corridor to see a Rank 9, level 2 salamander taking a deep breath.
Another jet of fire was launched into the room, but at least this time it was aiming at an illusion and John had been smart enough not to stand directly behind it. Keeping focused on the salamander, John rushed out of the room as soon as it stopped the stream of fire to recover and dove over the molten rock at the entrance of the room firing armor piercing bullets directly into the Salamander's eyes.
Walking over, John pulled a knife out and cut out the monsters core before finding a place to hide. "Alert me if anything comes near." John said to Snakey as she started eating the dead salamander with gusto. 'Hopefully that'll put her over the edge.' John thought as he smiled. He'd spent a lot of credits buying Snakey higher leveled fire attribute monster meat over the past 2 months and she was about ready to break through to level 2. So far Snakey had been more useful as a scout than anything else but John knew that when she got stronger she'd be a terror to deal with.
Closing his eyes after he made sure Snakey would keep watch, John controlled the illusion to slowly walk down the corridor. About 50 feet further down, John's illusion came across a young man with a long tongue tasting the air. His skin was too smooth, and sometimes scales would appear on the surface before hiding again. As John's illusion got nearer, another salamander appeared and shot fire at the young man.
The young man fell to the floor and shifted into a massive cobra that struck with such ferocity that it made John flinch. Not 10 seconds later the Monster was dead and the cobra was shifting back into it's humanoid form slowly.
"Come out." The cobra hissed, and John made his illusion walk forwards.
The cobra tasted the air in confusion for a moment before it realized. "Ah, you are a scout?"
John made the illusion nod it's head. He wasn't strong enough to incorporate sound into the illusion yet but in the future he would be able to make it talk.
"Leave me alone and I won't hunt you down." The snake hissed.
John made the illusion nod it's head in agreement again before turning and walking down the right fork as the snake took the left.
As soon as the snake was out of sight, John dispelled the illusion and stood. He couldn't maintain the illusion for more than a few minutes at this point and his head was covered in sweat. He wasn't precisely scared of the Cobra Beast, but he also didn't want to waste energy fighting when the entire goal of the trial was to survive for as long as possible.
Seeing Snakey had finished her meal, John had her slowly move down the corridor ahead of him. Hopefully he could get to the fork in the road without any trouble.
Elsewhere in the Dragon's Nest, Mike's arms had melted slightly into the base of his rifle as he hid in the corner of a room. He was watching in amazement as a massive man covered in fireproof scales waged war with more than 20 fire breathing monsters. Salamanders, Snakes, Iguanas, and even a molten spider surrounded the giant. The fireproof man was slaughtering them with ease, ignoring the constant stream of fire so hot that it was melting the rock around him. Suddenly, Mike saw a Giant Toad appear and spit poison at the man.
"ARGH!" The man covered in scales went down, his back melting a bit as the corrosive poison went to work. Knowing he had no way to take out so many monsters in such a confined space, Mike decided to help out. Taking careful aim, he gathered energy into his Spirit Rifle and fired just before the toad was about to release a second stream of poison at the scaled giant.
The toad slammed backwards, flipping several times before hitting the ground with a crunch. A 6 inch wide hole appeared in the toad's forehead running through the spot where it's brain used to exist.
The giant stood back up and roared in anger, going to town on the monsters. In just a couple minutes the entire room was clear of monsters and the giant turned to stare in the direction of Mike.
Deciding to take a risk Mike stood up from where he was hiding and said, "I'm Mike, the goal of this trial seems to be to survive for as long as possible so how about we work together?"
The giant crooked it's head to the side slightly as it carefully examined Mike and spoke in a voice that sounded like rocks grinding together against each other, "You aren't scared of me?"
Mike laughed, causing the giant to look affronted before Mike said, "Of course I am, you're a scary dude. I just prefer to have the scary dudes on my team."
Several miles deeper in the Dragon's Nest, Steven slammed his foot into the ground causing the floor to shake even as he increased the pull of gravity.
A three foot tall man wearing a suit fell to the floor, struggling to get up even as it glared at Steven. "Stupid human!" The man said, his features shifting as he turned into a giant black, white, and brown hamster. "What right do you have to fight me! I am the grandson of the great..."
Before the hamster could say who he was related too, Steven upped the gravity yet again and forced the breath out of the hamster's lungs. "I don't care who you are." Steven said as he approached the hamster with a malicious smile on his face that didn't match his usual appearance very well. "Anyone or anything who attacks me.. DIES!"
Steven went to slam his foot down on the ground, but stopped suddenly before releasing his technique and running as fast as he could in the opposite direction. The hamster shuddered, trying to figure out why the human had suddenly stopped when he felt the aura. Turning, he saw the massive face of the dragon. Instead of breathing fire, it started sucking in air with such speed and ferocity that it created a vacuum. With nothing to hold on to, the Hamster was picked up and flew through the air towards the Dragon's mouth.
"DAMN IT, I WILL HAVE MY REVENGE!!" The hamster yelled as it broke the teleportation talisman and disappeared right before it would've been eaten.
Slamming it's teeth together on empty air the Dragon roared it's anger and blew a massive jet of flame down the corridor that Steven had abandoned just in time.
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