”Do we know what’s behind the doors?” Dee asked, guessing that information might have appeared along with the way to open them.
“No, just that the contents are important. Otherwise what’s the point to even lock them behind a door and make opening the doors difficult?” Croestia still looked like a ball of light, but the shoulder shrug was audible in her voice.
“Well, we’ll see the particulars when the doors open then. What does it take to open the first door?” Dee asked, realizing that Croestia had no choice in the matter.
“Firstly, there’s a definite third door, but there’s no clear first and second door. It’s easier if I just tell you what the opening conditions are and you’ll see what I mean. One of the doors can be opened when you become immortal. That’s it, rather simple. The second is a little bit more complicated. That one can be opened when you figure out with relative certainty what form your totem will take. So like I said, theoretically you could figure out the second door first.” Croestia explained her earlier words. Her older personality had been much more adept at controlling its powers, and the new her couldn’t do much about the blocks placed by the old persona.
”Well, that’s true in my case, but not in most cases. Most people have a vague idea at best about their totem until they become immortal, so that’s meant to be the second door. I just have the opportunity to jump ahead due to circumstances. Any idea on the third door?” Dee asked after voicing her own theory.
“Yes and no. I don’t know what the opening conditions for that door are, but I do know when I will find out. Apparently I’ll get that information once the other two doors have been opened.” Croestia’s tone was slightly apologetic. She hated these memory blocks just as much as Dee did, and cursed her old self for creating them. She guessed they existed for a reason, but that didn’t make her feel any better.
“I can make a fairly educated guess based on the other two doors. If it follows the pattern then the third door opens upon reaching a certain milestone in my power. I guess these checks are in place so that I can cope with whatever is behind the doors. If I were to guess, the third milestone will either be reaching class twelve or the more nebulous class thirteen as a psion. I’m guessing it’s also based on my psionic strength and I can’t cheat the blocks by reaching that rank with holy power. That would make sense, seeing as the old you and mother only knew me as a psion.” Dee mused while chewing on her lip a bit in thought.
“That would make sense, thought there is another possibility. While I don’t have my own memories of Selvaria, the memories you shared make her seem a little airheaded. She might have missed the possibility entirely.” The pendant suggested with slight resignation.
“She was airheaded and forgetful, but she wasn’t stupid. Though, the fact that she gave me the wrong bloody manuals for cultivating may suggest otherwise.” Dee’s voice became decidedly unsure towards the end. Was her mother really that dumb? Selvaria had sent her alone to this world after all. Dee had assumed that something had happened to the person who was supposed to wait for her at the teleportation station, but had her mother bungled that one up too? That was a worrying thought.
Dee looked at the glowing ball of energy floating around her. Her life had significantly improved after Croestia had woken up. It was a subtle difference, but to her the difference between the time before Croestia woke up and the time after was like night and day. And not just because the situation surrounding her had gotten a lot more pleasant. She wasn’t forced to work as an assassin or used as an experimental guinea pig anymore, but her life after Zabaniya hadn’t been luxurious and easy either. She wasn’t beaten anymore, except by the cursed old man, but her life was still filled with hard training punctuated by occasional death. She chose the training herself, but still.
There was an important difference however. She was no longer alone. The nights spent alone in the Zabaniya dungeons had been the worst. Even the physical torture might not have been as bad as the mental isolation. That’s why she still had split feelings when it came to the one man that had worked as her handler, Lord Malik. The man was far from a friend, but he had been the closest thing to a friendly face Dee had seen during those years. She absolutely hated Lord Malik for all that had happened, but at the same time she was also thankful of his presence in a twisted way. She was fairly sure her mind would’ve collapsed if he hadn’t been there.
Now she could push away the loneliness because Croestia was here. Sure she had other friends like Faylen, Mazatl, Mina and Moirai, but they all had their own agendas. Until recently she couldn’t truly trust any of them, and now she only had real trust in Faylen and to a lesser extent Moirai. The former had found out about her past and had gotten over it, and Moirai had already seen Dee at her bad moments and wouldn’t care about minor details. Still it was clear that both of them would use her when the time came and their bottom line was at risk.
That didn’t make them bad people however, just normal, but there were also limits to their bonds for now. Besides, neither of them had really seen what Dee could really do when pushed. They knew Dee could take lives, but Dee hadn’t really shown her true darker side to them. What would Moirai say if she knew Dee could kill the entire Four Winds alliance without a shred of remorse if that would save Moirai’s or Faylen’s life?
Croestia was different, because of obvious reasons. Dee could trust her implicitly. Croestia wouldn’t be able to betray her even if she wanted to, and the pendant’s alignment would shift with Dee’s so she wouldn’t want to. Croestia was always present and would be in the future. Dee rarely saw Faylen and while Moirai was currently always present, that might not be true in the future. Croestia was with her every hour of every day, and would follow along with Dee in the future.
Dee’s and Croestia’s relationship wasn’t one filled with constant exchange of opinions or even conversations. Instead the two could go months without exchanging a word and still be comfortable in the other’s presence. There was an obvious reason to the lack of conversations as well. As they were constantly together they saw the same things, heard the same things and experienced the same things. Because Croestia’s new personality was based on Dee’s own they already understood the other’s opinions without words, so there was no need to say anything unless something unexpected came up. Simply knowing that Croestia was there was enough for Dee. She had not quite developed the emotional maturity to consider whether it was enough for Croestia as well.
Their wordless communication had already reached the level where Croestia used her boosting abilities in combat without Dee having to say a word. Croestia knew when to shift between boosting strength, speed, fortitude and so on. She also knew when Dee wanted to fight without help. On occasion Dee would give instructions just out of habit, but it wasn’t really required. What else would you expect from years of working together? That ability had been pretty much maximized.
Which reminded Dee. “You once said that you might be able to get other abilities, only that we should maximize the first one before picking others. I think we have reached that point.”
“I was actually about to talk about that. We have something of a unique opportunity thanks to your recent fight with the feral dragon. I told you before that I could cover for your weaknesses or I could make your strengths even stronger. The first ability you wanted me to develop was a general supportive type, but now I have another idea. You noticed how one of your tails turned blue to resist the cold, yes?” Croestia asked, already knowing the answer. She just wanted to focus the topic there.
Dee replied with an affirmative nod, which looked odd since she didn’t really have a body inside her Domain. The message was delivered however, and Croestia continued. “You were not aware of this, but during the time you were within the elemental rift, you absorbed a lot of the elemental power present. Your other tails also changed color, and I’m pretty sure they also have a certain amount of resistance to the respective elements. Those resistances are far from absolute however, as you noted with the dragon’s frost breath. What would happen, if you combined those resistances with a magic resistance similar to the one possessed by the dragons?”
Dee’s eyes widened with a realization. “The mages would piss themselves. The biggest problem of the dragon’s resistance is that it only dampens the effect of magic cast at them, but with another source of resistance helping with that…can you do that?”
“With certain sacrifices, yes. I don’t like to brag, well actually yes I do, but I’m a very powerful magical item with the possibility of growing ridiculously strong. A magical resistance like that is not beyond the realm of possibility. I’ll need a little help though.” Croestia always wanted to be helpful to Dee and now she had the chance. She felt a little ashamed that it would not be so easy though.
“Little help?” Dee asked, dreading the answer.
“Well, I’ll need a catalyst to get the whole ability started. The body of the dragon you killed should suffice. The ability will naturally grow stronger over time, but I expect you want actionable results sooner rather than later. That means we have to hurry the development. I can think of three ways. First, I can absorb more creatures with a resistance like that. So hunting dragons and their kind basically. That’s the fastest way but…well you’d have to fight dragons.” Croestia’s voice sounded apologetic.
“We’ll have to table that for now. Maybe later when I have more power. What else?” Dee had expected this was one of the options and skipped it as impossible for now. Just one fight with a young feral dragon had almost been too much for the current her.
“Secondly, you can be around a lot of magic being thrown around. You don’t have to be the target, but being in close proximity is important. Also, this is the slowest method but least dangerous. You could pick up a mission working as a protector for some member of the Mystic’s guild, and that would do nicely. Third option is absorbing huge amounts of elemental energy. The same way your tails got their current power. This one is faster than the second choice, and might help with your own resistance. But I guess it depends on luck?” Croestia made the last part a question in case Dee had ideas and wasn’t disappointed.
“Not necessarily. I mean we could go hunting for elemental rifts just like the beings who saved me last time. Maybe Razark has more information.” Dee was lost in thought but got distracted. “By the way, I’ve been meaning to ask. If you’re showing up as an orb of light, then what’s that?” She pointed at another orb of light, the difference being that the other orb was fully black. An orb of black light? Light could be black?
“We’re inside your soul not mine.” Croestia replied a little defensively. She was a little miffed that something else was within Dee’s Domain besides her. She could forgive the blessings and the totem, but the other orb of light made her a bit jealous if she was being honest with herself. Which she wasn’t planning on being. Ignoring such things was much more satisfying.
Dee made a grasping motion and the ball of black light floated over like a puppy waiting to be patted. “It’s the Authority I picked up years ago.” She commented a little surprised. “It doesn’t’ seem to have a real mind yet, and isn’t in any way self-aware. It has the basic ability to recognize its master and follow simple commands though.”
“Oh?” Croestia muttered almost happily. A mindless Authority wasn’t a problem. “Can you find out more about its abilities?”
Dee considered for a while. “Yes. It seems both the previous owner and me have been using it a bit wrong. It’s originally an Authority that takes the form of an item. You’re supposed to wear it on your head in some way. The hood of a cape, a helmet, maybe a diadem of sorts? Anyway, once you do wear it, it passively blocks anyone from noting your level of power. That’s kinda useless to me in my normal form and kitsune form as my level is shown by the number of tails I have, though I suppose I could hide them under a cloak. When supplied with power and used actively it basically hides my power, aura and mind from the world. So when it’s active no one can sense the power within my body, the same way I can see other people’s power, as well as hiding my mind from others. It’s like it creates a stealth pocket of sorts and no energy gets through. I assume that applies to Mindscape as well.”
“That really is suspiciously convenient set of abilities for you. I can’t quite decide if the Authority is supposed to be stupidly strong or borderline weak.” Croestia commented. They had long suspected that there was something fishy going on with the way the Authority ended up in Dee’s hands. The set of abilities provided suited Dee just a bit too well for it to be pure coincidence.
“I suppose we’ll find out later on. For now I’ll just be thankful it exists. I think there was some saying about gift horses and mouths, but I don’t quite see what the mangy beasts have to do with anything.” Dee had developed a dislike for horses after the steeds of the order had shown their fear of her.
Dee took a last glance at the desolate scene of her Domain. “I suppose it’s time to go. The old bastard will start to kick my body around if I don’t wake up soon.”
“Really?!” Dee asked incredulously as she opened her eyes only to see the old man winding up for a kick at her prone body.
“What? I could feel your body was fine and I didn’t give you permission to just lie around sleeping all day. Also I wanted to test those scales on your feet.” There wasn’t even a shred of shame in the old man’s tone.
“Come on! I just killed a dragon. Shouldn’t that at least get me a day off?” Dee asked almost pleadingly.
“You already got a day off, which you spent sleeping you lazy git. And that baby lizard barely counts as a dragon! If I hear a whiff of you calling yourself a dragonslayer just because of that sorry thing, then I’ll be coming after you.” The old man looked at her sternly, emphasizing the seriousness of his words.
“As if it would be any different to how things are now.” Dee mumbled to herself while getting up.
“Did you say something?” The old man asked with a raised voice, while walking off.
“Nothing. I need to see the body of that dragon by the way.” Dee decided not to repeat her earlier words.
“So what did you want with it?” Razark asked with curiosity, as the corpse of the feral dragon was splayed in front of Dee.
“Give me a second.” Dee said while putting her hand on the corpse. Incidentally there had been no changes to her normal body. She got the feeling that she had gotten off easy and might not be so lucky next time. They had not yet explored the changes to her kitsune form yet, but she knew that was next on the agenda. ‘Do your thing Croestia.’
Suddenly the dragon’s corpse was surrounded by a light and it seemed to turn into a liquid and flow inside Dee’s hand. “Well, I didn’t expect quite that.” Dee remarked out loud before asking silently: ‘Did it work?’
‘Yes.’ Croestia replied. ‘I’m now providing you with a very base level of magic resistance. I wouldn’t rely on it to defend against anything truly dangerous, but combined with your current body, simple fireballs and similar level spells should be nothing but an annoyance. And that’s assuming one of your tails isn’t resisting fire. I still wouldn’t jump into a magical volcano even if one of your tails does go red though.’
“That’s…interesting. Mind explaining what that was?” Razark asked with a slightly confused look. “Even though it was a young and low level dragon, the parts from it could’ve been quite useful.”
Dee considered for a second if she should keep it a secret, but was reminded of the fact that she was trying to get rid of her habit of keeping everything a secret. Razark’s connections could help, and there was really no reason to keep it a secret since he would notice fairly soon anyway.
“So you’ve probably noticed that I have a spatial storage, right?” Dee pre-faced her explanation.
“Yes, but don’t bother trying to tell me that was about storing the body. I could see the corpse turning into…something.” The old man interrupted from the side.
Razark also interjected. “I think I see where this is going. The item that you use for storage also comes with other abilities.”
“Ah, so that’s why you sometimes gain a sudden boost in your physical abilities!” The old man also connected the dots. “You have a boosting item of some sorts.”
“Well, yes that is one of the item’s abilities. However, the item is a little different from what you would expect. It can develop new abilities and the dragon’s corpse was used for that purpose.” Dee gave a quick and dirty explanation, futilely hoping they would not ask more. Those hopes were immediately dashed.
“You have an item that can evolve?” Razark shot back, his suspicion confirmed. “What abilities does it have, and what did it just gain?”
Dee had expected this so she started to reply with a sigh. “You know about the boosting ability and the storage. As far as I can tell, there’s no limit to the amount of stuff it can store so there’s that. I just gained a very basic version of the dragon’s magic resistance, which can be developed further.” She also listed the three ways.
“That…is a very intriguing possibility that we will have to explore further. Especially the rifts. There’s a large amount of competition for such rifts though, so it might be problematic to gain access. The Revenant are a community that is dependent on such rifts for their power, and even I’m not stupid enough to pick a fight with the rank eleven community.” Razark started to weigh the options. The idea of Dee gaining even a medium level magic resistance would be a huge boon.
“That’s all fine and dandy, but you’ve been cheating. It’s time you fought me as yourself and not with the help of your little bauble. We need to test those new changes to you body as well.” The old man said starting to drag Dee towards the practice grounds.
“Waiiit! Shouldn’t I learn to fight with the assistance of such help since I have access to it?!” Dee tried to futilely defend herself.
“Bullshit! Using things like that is a crutch! Besides, you’ve ranked up. It’s time to see how you fare now with your new rank.” The old man replied with a mirthful laugh.
“Help!” Dee silently sought Razark’s aid with her eyes, while he suddenly found the ceiling very interesting as he ignored Dee’s pleas.