“So, what’s the plan?” Sarah asked.
Still having used the small boat to carry them all, the party had just spent the last few hours under Rainer’s flight spell. With the exception of Lilia and Luna, who either played with Tiamat or napped, every member of the party had a passive way to pass the time. Whether meditating on the improvement of their Aura pool in the case of Gunthar and Kara, or attuning her Affinity in the case of Sarah.
Rainer reminded himself to teach Lilia the starting point for how to attune it herself.
They now sat in a small clearing in the jungle, away from both the town and the farmland to the east of it.
Sarah shrugged before deciding then to think far more generally than she and likely Rainer had intended, “For establishing the Academy.” After all the thought interested her as well, though for reasons different than her brother’s. The idea of having an organization to protect them from any overzealous Mages wanting their bloodline was a thought Sarah had many times growing up.
A darker thought to bring said forces back to Earth entered her mind as well.
She had always wondered what her life, and that of her family’s, could have been like if their Grandfather wasn’t alone, but instead a leader. One who controlled a world power rather than wielded personal strength.
“The first and easiest step…probably an etiquette teacher. Like it or not, we’re going to have to deal with nobles. Nobles that already have a low opinion of mages. And royalty, and whatnot.”
“Does a noble’s opinion of you truly matter?” Kara asked. Nothing about Rainer made one believe he had any respect for those in political power.
“Of me? No. They really can’t do anything to me. And before long I doubt they could do anything to any of you…But me also affects what I’m the leader of.”
“For the Academy it matters,” Kara spoke, understanding.
“Plus, you’ll have to deal with the fallout of charming half their wives with your Charisma,” Sarah chipped in.
“But that’s for later,” Rainer added, having not even decided which King he would start with. Though at the very least, learning about the Wolf King’s territory and nobles might be a needed first step.
“I hope your ‘that’s for later’ was referring to the etiquette teacher…”
“So now I’m charming the etiquette teacher too? You have strange tastes, Kara.”
“Strange enough to fall for you.”
“And Luna!” The fairy chimed in, looking quite proud of herself on her perch, said perch being Rainer’s head.
“And Luna,” Kara said with a smile, “So the immediate goal?”
“Head to the largest cities in the Wolf King’s territory and look for anyone from his line to talk to.”
“I think she meant why did you drop the boat off in the middle of a humid jungle with bugs everywhere,” Sarah grumpily corrected.
“I’ll Void-walk us into the Port Town, no reason to go through the gate,” Different from a small village, it’d be far harder to point them out as not having gone through the proper procedures. And Rainer didn’t particularly wish to leave a trail behind given their altercation with the Skyborne Guild.
“And we’ll go find a thug and have him take us to his leader?” Sarah questioned, having already heard Rainer’s plans to use the seedier parts of society as a tool to gather information. She herself thought it a good plan, given that criminals clearly had to understand the landscape of power to exist at all in a world so heavily based on one’s own personal strength.
“I’ll go alone.”
“Rainer?” Kara said, confused. Weaker she may be, but she was hardly weak enough to be counted as a liability when dealing with some criminals in a small port town.
“Stop pouting, you unfairly cute Demon, these are criminals. If they hit on you or look at you funny I’m obligated to react or it’ll cause problems. I need to project a certain image.”
Sarah kept herself from rolling her eyes at how a random compliment made Kara move her tail side to side even as the wolfkin’s face betrayed nothing. “And what about our finances?” Once more stopping herself from rolling her eyes, this time at Rainer for how little worth he placed on money, even on the far more valuable Fae Gold. Giving a coin of Fae Gold to a sailor because he was forced to explain the basics of sailing was something that should be reserved for people with a vault of them, not a small bag.
“I’m meeting with criminals. What’s a few coins from people who don’t deserve any in the first place?”
It took several Void-walks from the nicer section of town where they got a room, using most of their remaining money, before Rainer started nearing his less-wealthy intended destination. Using both [Soul Detection] and [Aura Detection], he continued to walk across the Void, taking care not to be seen.
His search turned up no Auras of any significant power, but he did find something that drew his attention. He felt a Soul that contained something oddly familiar, something he recognized as Draconic in origin, that was currently in distress.
“What are you looking so scared for? If we kill you, how will we get our money?” The question was followed with a whimper and a growl.
Void-walking into the alley with the interesting soul, Rainer saw a beaten boy and his now collapsed dog lying in front of him.
“Casey, this damn mutt tore my pants…”
“Well there you have it, we’ll put the little mutt of yours out of its misery. Maybe next time you won’t miss your payment,” The man added moving forward to step on the downed animal.
“No!” the strange hybrid-race boy shouted.
Rainer moved forward, hilt already in hand. Yet before he could act, he found himself frozen. The boy rushed to cover the dog’s body with his own beaten one. Barely even managing that as the dog, herself tried to do the same. The boy took a kick for his efforts alongside a chuckle from the group surrounding him.
How often did dogs offer it that it became assumed? A part of their inner nature. And yet when was that loyalty ever returned?
Defiant eyes stared at the assaulters, who merely sneered at the interruption and went on. A sight of sharp and short metal denoted they’d have their way despite anyone blocking.
Or at least they would have.
Fate showed herself a fickle mistress.
A flash of Arcane left the leader of the group headless, his killer not even bothering to check him with [Appraisal]. Movements that carried no weight behind them ended the others. Balance above all else and a reliance on an ability to cut with no effort. A skill tailored for such actions. Actions that looked no more than simple gestures with one’s hand to end a life.
Rainer spared only a slight glance towards his leveled up skill.
[Arcane Blade Mastery has reached level 2]
[Experience Gained: 0.01%]
The boy, loosely clinging to consciousness already, didn’t last much longer after a pointed but gentle use of [Arcane Presence].
“Luna, heal them both,” With a glance up and down the alley he found no witnesses. The fairy returned to full height, needing that to fully control the full strength of her now stronger Flame than in the past.
A warm fire of violet and silver covered the downed pair. Words of Spirit Magic followed, Luna putting both of them to a deeper sleep soon after.
Rainer looked on to the scene with [Arcane Revelation]-covered eyes, checking to see whether he needed to intervene. It was in this moment he checked the strangeness he noticed earlier, now knowing it related to the black furred dog.
A touch of magic?
He wondered, confused. Had he not viewed Tiamat so often and so closely, who was nearly all Magic and a small part Aural, and nothing else, showing her heritage as a Monster, he wouldn’t have recognized it in the dog.
Looking closer, he saw the signs of a Monster as well. Though, it appeared so faint as to not even matter…
In all other cases but this one.
[Canine, Female, Level 1 Adult Dog]
A simple [Appraisal] showed no difference from the ordinary. An ordinary that was clearly not the case to Rainer’s eyes.
Placing a hand on the not fully healed animal, Rainer poured his own Mana in, moving along the Magic addled parts. He gently brushed the fur, remarking how well she seemed to have been taken care of.
[Skill Gained: Canine Anatomy level 3/10]
A combination of crossover from skills, past knowledge, and his viewing with [Arcane Revelation] granted a high base level.
Mixed into the black, hints of silver appeared. As the mana flooding the dog temporarily overpowered Luna’s spell, the dog’s eyes could be seen, including the violet flecks now spotting the brown iris.
[Familiar contract initiated, Make Yami your Familiar? Y/N]
He wasn’t planning on taking in every kid he found in a bad spot, but he saved him. And making sure he didn’t die in the street the next day mattered to Rainer.
So, Rainer rejected it. But with his Soul’s new sensitivity, he held onto the tentative connection using his [Soul Manipulation] and [Mana Manipulation].
It, being a connection of Souls with Mana as the medium. A bead of sweat dripped down his forehead as he found the action far more taxing than expected and his Mana began quickly depleting.
Luna, finished with her healing, flew quietly back into Rainer’s jacket.
With a final herculean effort, a creative use of [Devil’s Soul Language] to create a small gap in the boy’s Soul, [Soul Detection], Rainer attached the budding connection to the boy, now aided by the tiny pool of Mana and Aura the, formerly ordinary animal now Monster, had. And a touch of something beyond just the manipulation of Soul and Magic.
[Canine, Female, Young Draconic Dog lvl 1]
[Soul Manipulation has reached level 4]
Rainer let out a deep sigh, his Mana having fallen to 40 points. He glanced at the three headless corpses, lacking even the tiniest remorse as he looked in their jackets for any money. There was a chance that the boy, looking 15 or so, wasn’t innocent in whatever he did. Maybe if it was just him, Rainer would have intervened, but left them all in mostly fine health.
But he found little sympathy for abusers of the truly innocent.
Before he could dispose of the bodies with Arcane-Fire, a burning sensation on his shoulder gave him another solution. A suction force devoured the bodies, their mass disappearing into the strange abyss that was a serpent’s maw.
Souls and all.
Rainer stood in the same alley across from the brown-haired [Half-Lizardkin], a loyal companion resting by the young hybrid’s side. Strangely, he lacked a second half. Or perhaps normally for a hybrid without enough blood to be considered the half of something else, and subsequently receive system bonuses or negatives, Rainer wondered.
He had a straight and long tail of red scales, with black feathers covering the end. Slightly pointed otherwise-human ears tipped in small black feathers made it clear he held the blood of some sort of mix. It was just a question of which species.
[Half-Lizardkin, Male, Classless]
Now awakening, the boy blinked his blue slitted eyes with red scales underneath them covering tan-skin.
“Finally awake?” Rainer asked, tossing a bound stack of magically created papers into the boy’s lap. And soon after a small pouch of coins liberated from the Aura user of the group. The [Archon] wrote a basic primer on Aura use in this place’s language while he waited for him to wake up. The boy had no Talents to speak of, but it couldn’t hurt. Though he likely couldn’t read in any case.
A lick from the boy’s nearby companion and a strange message brought the Half-Lizardkin back to reality.
Jean stared at the figure imposingly standing in front of him for the briefest moment. His last memory being the sight of a dagger meant to take his dearest friend’s life. Even less time did he spend on the bag of money now in his lap as he recognized the slightly altered, but ever-loyal companion licking his face.
Tears dotted his eyes, to be then buried in the fur as he gripped her to him. In usual dog fashion, she pretended to want to escape the hug all the while enjoying it.
A few long seconds later, Jean wiped his eyes and finally saw the message in front of him.
[Familiar contract initiated, Make Yami your Familiar? Y/N]
“Well, are you going to accept?” The strange man’s voice brought him back to reality.
Jean blinked a few more times, before absentmindedly accepting, not even understanding what it meant.
“You should head to the World Tree Branch,” The angelically beautiful man added, his visage now clearer with the fogginess leaving Jean’s eyes. The man’s body and face now glowed with strange angular lines of Violet shining even through his clothes, “You should have at least an okay class available now.”
“Well…” the figure continued speaking, now slightly distracted and looking off into the distance, “Good luck.”
Jean blinked his eyes rapidly, now almost convinced the man had only been some strange illusion. That is, until he looked at the status screen he could now see from his familiar.
“Thank…you…” He, in confusion, mumbled into the empty alley way, now fully aware of the heft coming from the bag of money on his lap. Though the strange binding of paper, a far greater proof of what just happened, attracted his attention far more.
“I’m…a Monster Tamer…” He mumbled to himself in disbelief. An Okay class…As if having a monster, a Draconic one, as a true familiar would only grant an Okay class…
Jean started laughing to himself, causing his nearby companion to bowl him over, and lick his face again.
“I’m fine, I’m fine…” He said, pushing her far enough away that he could at least breathe. He spared no time, grabbing what was on his lap and getting up, before taking off in the sprint. Yami followed directly behind him.
A light laughter could be heard. He knew what this could mean. A rare class. It was precisely why any Talent was valued. If one had a rare enough class whether it was as a Monster Hunter, a member of the army, of the royal guard, any would happily support them in their future.
And so, he ran, seeking the World Tree branch and a far different future.
In a dimly lit room, several feet below the ground, a meeting took place. A black-haired man looking in his 20s, leaning back against the front of his desk, addressing the small group in the room.
“We’ll pull back in Baker’s District, I don’t-“
But any further speech was halted.
A stifling pressure erupted across the room as the [Grand Bladesman] lost his words. In the center of the underground room, a figure covered in Violet angular lines and two eyes of glowing power appeared.
No warning, nor sign spoke of his coming. The world turned a shade of a violet, a shade that stopped any of the otherwise battle-ready men from even reaching for their weapons. A shade that saw the tier 2 mage previously relaxing in the corner shaking. Spells that were once familiar in use, all but forgotten.
“I require a moment of your time,” the voice spoke with friendliness, even as the Gravity in the room pushed them down.
“W-who the fuck are you?” the [Grand Bladesman] stumbled out. He reacted without even thinking. Only a moment passed as he took in the strange angular lines covering the Magus’ body.
And then the man vanished.
A powerful hand gripped the stunned Aura user’s face. The unknown figure grew in height and size. And so too did the room itself grow in weight.
His jaw frozen in movement and noises of bones cracking with a surge of pain brought Tanner to the present. In front of him irises of pure swirling darkness, outlined in a glowing blue met his own brown. The rest of the room vanished and only the eyes remained, the entire world feeling as if it had closed in on him. All of existence declaring him as nothing more than a speck of dust.
His breathing hitched and his muscles tensed, and yet lacked the use of Aura he trained for so many years. The words that came next brought about just as much terror as they did relief.
“I wasn’t talking to you.”
Rainer sat in the now vacated desk, as its original inhabitant stood obediently in the corner, doing his best not to meet the guest’s eyes. To not breathe too loudly. To seem far smaller than his 6-foot height and large body would suggest. To not be even the slightest inconvenience to whatever the man in his chair, or rather, his chair wanted.
[Human, Male, [Flame Warden lvl 1](2nd), Enchanter lvl 16]
Rainer glanced at the reason that he came here in the first place now sitting across from him.
“H-how might I help you?” the grey-bearded man stumbled out, still pressured with gravity even despite his attempts at resisting the magic.
“You could say I’m a foreigner to these lands. Rainer Nvos, of the Arcane Order,” Rainer spoke, already thinking of plans to leave a good impression on at least this mage, though hesitating slightly as he was after all, a criminal, “I simply seek information that might not be so freely given by other members of society.”
Denor stared at the ludicrously powerful Mage as he resisted the effects of gravity on him. Any thoughts of fighting, however, were put away. He merely wished to ease the pain in his old bones.
The eccentric mage clearly didn’t wish them dead or he would have done it from a distance. With Tanner looking like he was barely containing his bladder from sheer terror, some of that inevitably rubbed off on Denor.
That, and the combination of him being able to easily teleport in the magic of the Dragon Isles, alongside his absolute lack of spatial fluctuations in doing so, made Denor deeply frightened of this mage. The casual use of such a crushing gravity, an otherwise impressive act, seemed almost a bit unworthy in comparison.
“Might I have an example of what you seek, esteemed Lord Magus?”
“For starters…how is it the King simply doesn’t come and remove you?” A simple yearly tour would rid most crime while providing a training and experience opportunity, Rainer thought.
“They can’t often act so freely, leaving important resources unguarded for longer periods of time,” The ambient Magic of the Dragon Isles made it rich in many ways, “And, after all, they may be the most valuable military resource today, but it is their most talented subordinates and children who are their country’s future. Besides…someone with less restraint would merely fill in the gaps.”
“And why not anyone else high ranked?”
The dark-skinned old man shrugged, “Almost anyone capable of freely traveling isn’t strong enough to kill us without risk.”
Rainer only hummed thoughtfully in response. It made sense. The risk wouldn’t be worth it to clear up a few criminals that would only be replaced soon after.
And so, it was then what kept these very people in the room safe. Only the King himself and a few other higher ups could kill a tier 2 Aura User or Mage without risk to themselves. And the effort of doing so often wasn’t worth the payoff.
“And so long as you don’t overstep your bounds or have terrible luck, you’re safe from true retribution?”
The [Flame Warden] nodded. It was true that they could run into and anger a powerful wanderer, case in point. But for the most part they need only contend with others of their type seeking their own wealth.
“Now onto other business…”
Having now Void-walked back to the Inn, Kara was the first to speak to the returned [Archon]. They all sat in the same spacious and luxurious room, though a lack of funds had prevented them from getting more than two rooms, Lillia and Sarah being left to share one.
“How’d it go?” Kara asked.
Rainer grinned, taking out a bag of coins from his Spatial Ring. An enchant infused-Sarah, however, soon grabbed it from him.
“I’ll be handling the money.”
Rainer raised an eyebrow at her, but seeing her serious expression , he let it go. Having no idea what brought that on, he didn’t particularly feel like asking nor did he care about the money beyond necessities.
“I assume it went well, Sorcerer?” Gunthar asked, ignoring the Nvos strangeness as best as he always tried to.
“As well as it could. There is one huge weakness I’ve been made aware of. Mobility. Not only is teleporting extremely difficult in the Dragon Isles, the Kings themselves have limited range in acting when they aren’t gathered to war against outside forces.”
“Limited how?’ Gunthar questioned.
“To say the least, it wouldn’t be the first time a King left his capital to find his most Talented wife murdered, his magically altered and extremely valuable magical plants torn from their roots, his vaults raided, or his heirs crippled. Really, so long as there aren’t tidings of outside war on the horizon, the Kings are quite brutal to each other. I can only guess that if there’s ever a chance of it, we could very well end up with 6 kings of the Dragon Isles.”
“Meaning so long as they aren’t all united against us…”
“Then our future Academy is at least partially safe, from their power in any case. But this is a place of far stronger monsters. As well as a place of otherwise rare and secretly kept resources.” Rainer truly gained an understanding just how much Group Spells protected the Northern Continent along with their near monopoly on powerful magic. Whether versus Demons, the Dragon Isles, or the Tarainen Empire.
“Everything else is just usual business, as well as a probable location for not only the King but also most of the royal descendants. The place for our search should start with the Capital.”
“How long should we stay here?” Sarah asked.
“I wouldn’t mind a few days living in such a lavish Inn,” Kara added her own thoughts.
“We have the money for it,” Rainer added, earning himself a dirty look from Sarah, though, she didn’t argue, quite liking the idea of a few days in such a nice place. She remembered the innkeeper had mentioned their servants here also offered massages. The hint of what else that entailed was all but clear, though Sarah looked forward to the literal meaning of it.
“Then that’s settled.”
A few minutes in the White Void, and Rainer sent away his party members onto auto-pilot. While last night’s session seemed to have no effect, no one saw any reason to chance it, and the alternate-day schedule of aware and unaware was put forth.
Staring at the emptiness, Rainer waited a few moments to see if Talvara would appear, she never showed herself in front of anyone else, and soon sank into his thoughts.
His hand naturally drifted to his recently acquired scar, a slightly angled horizontal line under his right eye. An attack that permanently damaged his Soul. At least, permanently damaged by Amer’s knowledge.
Yet one thing that bothered him even more about the fight was the sheer uselessness of any of his spells he could get off fast enough. His spear spells, while strong, required not only a longer cast time, but physical movement by his body as well. And [Absolute Frost] carried a far heavier cost when there was no Miasma to supplement him.
His armed [Arcane Lance]s seemed more a waste of mana than anything else.
Only his use of [Arcane-Spatial Domain] let him think otherwise. But even that would be far more of a benefit if it didn’t use such a large portion of his consciousness. Holding someone down with gravity, someone stronger than a common thug, that is, and using something like [Void Call] or [Void Hold] simply wouldn’t be possible. It ended up being a tool of assistance once more, all bolstering [Arcane Blade]. Something that required him to be put at risk of death to properly use.
But that was a problem he already had a solution to; Absolute Dominion. Even if combining Void and Arcane in such a manner proved impossible, at the very least he had a plan for a way forward.
Yet in terms of finding a powerful enough balance between his weaker [Arcane Bolt]s and [Arcane Lance]s and his Spears, there was none. It was partially what made him a bit excited at the prospect of [Arcane Repulsion].
But if he was to fight on the front lines, directly in the fight as he always had been, he needed something in between. Something that wouldn’t require him to always risk close ranges where the border between life and death was a single wrong move.
Had the [Priest] been just a bit closer, perhaps a user of the sword rather than a spear, Rainer wouldn’t have been able to recast his [Arcane Blade] in time. And all he would have accomplished was revealing his back to a warrior far stronger and far faster than him in close combat.
And if he truly died…what of those left behind? Kara…there was no happy ending for her at her current strength. Gunthar would likely remain an undead skeleton all his life. Luna, either used for dust or retreating back to the Fae Realm and perhaps dealing with all the problems having that flame could cause. Or worse, given her reliance on him that only seemed to increase.
Lilia, once more an orphan. Like it or not, he had essentially taken on the role of a parent in becoming her teacher. She would also be possibly killed for possession of Tiamat before the dragon could grow old enough to defend anything…assuming Tiamat wouldn’t die from a lack of Draconic Essence without him there.
Rainer’s thoughts drifted for a moment on his own skill he did have that was both faster than a Spear to cast, and incomparably stronger.
[Arcane Awakening: Final Arcanum]
A beam of pure Arcane destruction. Efficient to the point where Rainer doubted he’d ever create a spell that could produce so much death with so little relative cost of actual Arcane Power.
And incomparably expensive. Besides the cost of the entirety of his Arcane Power, the skill itself blocked off any usage of his Mana Pool and Arcane Power after use.
But what if it wasn’t ‘my’ Arcane Power…
A mana packet in any form wouldn’t work. Mana packets had purpose in their creation, they weren’t pools of energy to be used as one pleased. He couldn’t just suddenly decide mid-cast of [Absolute Frost] to instead make all the Mana he gathered and condensed into a fire spell.
At least, not without a huge loss of efficiency. The only time such a thing would be a net plus would be in stealing someone else’s Mana packets.
He started thinking along another line.
[Arcane Awakening] improved through the [Faraan Runic Language]. Its very power leveled by body enhancements based off the lines of magic. It’s angular lines similar to the Runes that made up the language.
[Arcane Invigoration] followed the path of Blood. Blood as the representation of life and power, and in turn seen in Draconic Magic. Rainer ventured the path towards leveling this lay in [Draconic Runic Language], not that he had an example of a person enchanted with Draconic Magic to base it off of.
And in the end, what path of magic did [Arcane Weaving], and perhaps it’s [Archon] Equivalent he had yet to unlock in the skill store, follow?
Rainer felt a path existed. The [Archon] was a class of the Origin of Magic, stated as such by the system itself. And perhaps he had found it in Ritual circles. Circles drawn with power to represent a certain task.
So he recreated a book from his memory, wanting the physical copy, as another series of thoughts went through his mind with every turn of the page.
Finding the page he needed, Rainer read over this ritual in particular. From his memories, this ritual seemed the closest to what he desired in creating a separate pool of energy. Something obtained from the hidden library of Nalmar.
The ritual itself was mired in blood sacrifices and specific instructions for how to tenderize victims prior to sacrificing them and guiding the power of the blood in the proper manner. The resulting ritual circle was designed more as a trap, lasting indefinitely, just like the echoes of what was done to its ingredients. Waiting to be activated and unleash an outward force of Death Magic to encompass an entire area.
Even more so, the ritual would persist. The Death magic taking on a semi-sentience of its own, fueled by a fake pool of Mana until it ran out. Of course, said creators found only failure when trying to apply this to anything other than Death Magic, but they didn’t seem all that bothered. Compared to Self-Sacrifice, when it came to be using outside sources of blood or sacrifice, the factors involved were innumerable. Often the method of sacrifice would limit its purposes.
But beneath the cruelty was a framework for creating what he desired. Though, he wouldn’t build it on blood…
To draw ritual circles with [Arcane Weaving] instead of blood. He hadn’t considered it up until this point.
Rainer had other goals for [Arcane Weaving]. Creating the weave was one thing, but finding a way for it to be armed or a quick cast was something else. In the past, back in the Wyvern-filled dungeon, Rainer was unable to arm the weaves he created. If this spell couldn’t be armed, Rainer would be back to his original problem.
But before anything else, he wished to find out what type of magic, if any, related to [Arcane Weaving].
So, Rainer began with the ritual he knew best, the one that sent him or his target to sleep. One written with blood on his forehead.
He first drew the one in blood on the ground and stared at it deeply with [Arcane Revelation]. He watched how the power within his blood seemed to change and contort with the shape and purposeful designs and pathways of the small ritual circle.
But he suddenly realized that without activating it, he wouldn’t be able to truly observe how the power flows, and adapt that power to [Arcane Weaving].
“Rainer?” Kara asked a bit unsure, before becoming a bit excited. He had mentioned at night the interesting thought of seeing what it would be like to have the limitless energy of [Sleep Learning] for nighttime ventures.
“I need your help with a small experiment on my sleep ritual.”
Seeing Kara oddly disappointed, Rainer understood.
“Oh? To think you see me as just a body to use for your pleasure,” Rainer said, 'aghast'.
“It’s better than being seen as a body for experimentation.”
“So, you don’t deny it?”
Kara tilted her head to the side and her ears twitched slightly, “Why would I deny the truth?” She responded, expressionless.
“Strangely, I’m okay with that. Now let me cover your forehead with my bodily fluids.”
Kara rolled her eyes at that joke and sat in front him as he stabbed himself with a dagger.
“Doesn’t it get…annoying,” She said, not finding any other word for it that wouldn’t be completely obvious, “to always stab yourself when you practice this?”
“You get used to it.”
“To the pain?”
“No…I mean I have [Pain Resistance], but it still hurts pretty bad. Rather, you just sort of accept that pain is a part of the cost.”
Kara nodded. She couldn’t claim anything that extreme, but train enough and you just sort of accepted, if not even looked forward, to the burn that occurred when you pushed yourself past your limits. And then the soreness that followed the next day while extremely unpleasant could be enjoyed just the same.
Rainer drew the ritual circle on her forehead, taking care to use [Arcane Revelation] the entire time.
“Do you need me to let it affect me?”
“No, resist as you like.”
Activating the finished circle, Rainer watched the magic in his blood activating and forming the intended effect of bringing its target to sleep. He noted every movement of magic, every change in direction, every usage of the power that was once in his blood. A sight only fully visible with his Arcane covered eyes.
“A dozen or so more times should be enough, I just need a quick Auto-pilot to solidify the memory.”
“Then I’m off to train unaware again?”
“I know what you’re thinking and I am too, but I’d rather not worry about Talvara coming in on us. Until I learn how to block her from coming in…”
“You said she avoids us? Would she actually…”
“She seems like the type, just to get a rise out of me.”
“That one better not have been on purpose.”
“I’m ashamed to say it wasn’t.”
Rainer spent the next few hours trying to create that same flow of magic with an Arcane Weave ritual circle. But he was stuck on the first step, drawing it. And that was making the circle thin enough to at least come close to blood, and the second was having parts of the ritual circle that weren’t directly connected such as some of the runes within and around it still be a part of the same weave.
Even worse, he struggled to get the proper details in when drawing such a small circle and then also the same distribution of power that magic affected blood would have. When drawing a ritual circle with blood, some of the smaller designs could be influenced with your Mana and intention, naturally guiding the magic in the blood to the proper form.
Rainer let out a laugh. Why did it have to be small? He was in [Sleep Learning].
With an outpour of Arcane Power far exceeding his capacity, Rainer started weaving a massive ritual circle beneath his feet. The details that were once small, came easy to him, and while still thicker than he would like, it took only a few minutes. He went around, strengthening certain parts and weakening others to match the blood version.
And now, he prepared to activate it. While the circle itself, lacking a target, wouldn’t do anything. Something should still happen.
With an outburst of power, he instead powered his Mana directly into the circle, the same way he would activate a ritual circle.
The circle of [Arcane Weaving] lit up in response to the Mana within. Then that mana escaped and in a slight glossing of light, far too dim for the amount of power contained, the circle vanished.
“Success?” Rainer asked himself. He shrugged, deciding he needed a more visible ritual to test. And he doubted it had truly succeeded. The flow of magic seemed off when he activated it, and it still didn’t have anywhere near the same thinness as written blood, changing said flow even further.
“Hard at work I see,” The voice came from behind Rainer, though far more used to her entering this space, he showed no surprise.
“Just about done actually...” Rainer stood outside a large ritual circle made of [Arcane Weaving]. It was bits and pieces he brought together to try and create a ritual circle that stored energy akin to a Mana Pool.
With a flare of power, the circle activated…and nothing happened, leaving the massive amount of Arcane energy to simply fade away.
“Is it impossible without the sacrifice…” Rainer mumbled. He had taken out what he figured to be the parts of the ritual that actually accomplished something. Instead, he left the part that created a storage of Mana. He still struggled to make the ritual circle itself thin enough, despite the recent level up.
[Arcane Weaving has reached level 7]
“Good, for I come bearing gifts.”
Rainer frowned for a moment as he felt the power of the White Void being used, but didn’t stop her. Moments later a black stone archway appeared beside Talvara.
Feeling the enchantment, Rainer covered his eyes in [Arcane Revelation] only for them to bulge in shock. He did not have a clue what this was or what it did. But it was…
Talvara couldn’t hold back a light laugh as she watched the [Archon] caress and look at her gift as it were his greatest love.
“I had to carefully watch the process of Dwarven enchanters making it for over a year, you know,” Talvara finally added. It was only a tiny part of her that actually watched, but she saw no reason to share that little detail. She tried recreating it before but found herself unable. Whether because it was foreign to her, or because it was simply an item that required more, she couldn’t say.
“What is it?”
“Something related to the Void...some form of enhancement maybe…”
“What shape is it…”Talvara asked, a bit exasperated. If he could understand that much why not the final step?
“An Arch...Oh. Oh. A Gateway! It allows anyone to walk through the Void?”
“No, I’m afraid not. Rather it enhances, and empowers, making long-distance Void-Travels almost free. Though the negative to it being…”
“If you travel too far, you can’t get back.”
“Which is exactly what happened to Aurora and her group,” Talvara added. “ And on that note, I should caution you to take care. The Oracles of Divines are quite good at finding those they seek.”
“Through their Divine Powers?” Rainer asked, now turning around.
“Then I should be safe, right?” Rainer questioned again and then shared his title.
Talvara gaped at the message in front of her before tamping down her excitement with her entire will.
Had he figured out what I wanted? To share the full information of it so easily…
“Y-yes, you should be safe.”
The Void-being sank into thought.
“You know it’s an entertaining story how I got this title,” Rainer said, now sitting across from her. As usual, not at all paying attention to her lack of clothing.
Talvara looked at his face and saw the all-knowing smirk that went across it. He knew. He knew somehow how important this was to her.
What could she offer him? The service of all the Void Lords now in this world? Perhaps 5, no 10 times his current Void Will. it would leave her severely weakened to grant so much over a short period of time but it would be worth it.
Is all that even enough?
Seeing the look of interest of her face, Rainer happily told the story, all the way up to reaching the second tier. Of Undead and quests.
“I do not understand, you created this ring as your Trial reward?” Trial rewards were given, not created, Talvara thought.
“Based on your titles, you get a certain number of points to spend on a Trial Reward. Anything you can think of or imagine. And then the system erases your memory and so it’s played off as an automatic reward.”
‘The potential of such knowledge…” Talvara spoke more to herself than to him. The whole time she was waiting with rapt attention for when he’d reveal the knowledge of the title but leave out the details she truly needed. She still rapidly thought over rewards she could offer.
“Exactly,” Rainer didn’t mind sharing this. He quite liked his discussions with Talvara and he didn’t want to lose her as a resource, or perhaps a friend, after their deal was done and he gained all he needed on [Void-Traveling].
“What possessed you to make such a ring?”
“Paranoia. And you know how usually a familiar doesn’t affect your Trial’s difficulty? Well for mine, it did. So I don’t actually remember why, but I imagine it was related to feeling like the Trial was deliberately made to be impossible.”
“And then with said ring?”
Rainer continued on, speaking about his quest and then at the very end how they tried to steal both his friend and the final reward.
“And with the aid of both my class and my ring, I obtained [Divine Resistance].”
“Impressive…” Talvara could have never guessed there was such a resistance. Now she waited for how this would all lead to gaining the title of [One who defies Divinity].
“Really, I have to thank you for showing me an example of this gateway…” He responded, seemingly done with his story to her disappointment.
“I can have my Void Lords bring a real example,” She offered, accepting his hint.
“No need. I’d appreciate it, but it wouldn’t be worth the effort. I’d just study it in here, in any case.”
Being so close to what she wanted, Talvara having not spoken to someone in so long, lost her will and just asked directly. She also assumed he already knew what she wanted, just not how much.
“How did you get the title then, [One who defies Divinity]?” She chastised herself for not hiding her excitement well enough. When had her voice ever sounded so desperate? Who knows what she’d lose before gaining this knowledge now...
Before she could even make an offer, he answered, no longer even paying attention to her but the gateway.
“By gaining [Divine Resistance], though I’m not 100% sure it was just that. It could have been taking back my friend after they tried to force him to stay back there. If I had to guess, I’d say it’s primarily the resistance,"
“I...see…” Talvara’s eyes opened wide.
He tells me so easily…?
“That was the second-time, or rather, first time I Void-walked under the system. The first actual time was a complete accident…”
Talvara barely listened to what was clearly an embellished tale of magical lunacy that came after as she thought over this new knowledge. Knowledge so easily given…
She glanced at the large back of the still talking [Archon], who now paid most of his attention to the Gateway again, and found herself more and more glad her followers failed in their task.
The next morning, the party’s plans for staying at the inn another few nights were overturned by the town itself. The harbor town acted as one of the many trade hubs for merchants and sailors from the Dragon Isles and the North, with the services and shops all geared around its most common visitors. There was little for the group to do here that would warrant staying any longer than needed.
“Rainer how come you couldn’t come grab me back when you first entered the Fae Realm?” Sarah asked, even if she already knew the answer. She heard mentions of plays that with Illusion magic were basically movies, on top of the whole town geared towards entertaining a long-lived and currently peaceful society.
“I’m your older brother. How could I let you hang around in a place where absurdly attractive male Fae would be all over you for your mana?”
Sarah narrowed her eyes before turning away in a huff.
“Besides, I’m sure we’ll find more things to do in the Wolf King’s capital.” Based on their current location, with a few stops between cities, it shouldn’t be longer than a 2-3-day flight. From their east most territories, the countries of the Dragon Isles went from the Serpent King, Tiger King, Wolf King, Flame King, Rat King, and the Bear King.
Though all their territories intermixed to a degree rather than being a straightforward ordering. The seventh king, the Sea King, held scattered islands and numerous settlements below water, making his territory more difficult to define.
They now headed to find a carpenter, or several, to build a more suitable small boat for their goals, or perhaps modify one. Something both comfortable and a bit larger, while light enough for Rainer’s flight spell and still buoyant. It wasn’t the type of thing they could likely outright buy.
“Let’s hope we have enough for them to build what we want, and quick enough.”
“Don’t even try to use the Fae Gold.”
"No promises," Rainer grinned.
And so they went with the goal of commissioning something only someone with Rainer’s flight abilities would ever find a real use for.