After I left the palace of Bloodhaven, there were still more places I had to visit. Currently, there were two strategic weak points within my world. The first, and most significant was perhaps Fyor. If the invasion happened there, and the invaders destroyed the spire of whatever floor they appeared on, this invasion could last for decades.
In order to shore up this weakness, I needed a way to transfer between world layers even when the crystal was destroyed. Unfortunately, it had been proven that even interdimensional magic arrays weren’t capable of bypassing that restriction. There was, in fact, only one thing that I knew of which had proven effective.
Although the ‘lockdown’ prevented magical methods of traveling between floors, it did nothing to hamper ‘natural’ dimensional gates. For instance, the tidestones native to Fyor. It was still possible to move between worlds as long as the conduit used as a naturally occurring mineral which possessed the ability.
There was an altogether different difficulty with this method, however. And that was the fact that one had to navigate through the tidestones on the other side to find where they were going. Navigating the elemental plane of water was not something that even I was willing to do casually with my main body.
As such, for this mission I required the help of Bihena and Ryone. Getting the two of them to find clusters of tidestone that were linked within the elemental plane, which would allow me to use my domain to instantly look through all of them. Then, place chunks of these clusters within each of the explored layers of Fyor.
Once I put them to work, I knew that this primary weakness would be taken care of before too long. What was left now was the secondary weakness, which was Sher Dien. Although this world has accepted the Divine Registry that Tsubaki and Dana created, they had not yet achieved significant strength of their own. Let alone any half-gods, there was not a single Perfect Self within the entire world.
Helping them to fix this weakness would take an altogether different strategy. One which I was currently facing with a faint sigh. “And that is my offer.” I spoke, looking towards the draconic centaur before me.
His face was contorted in a thoughtful expression, his scaled arms crossing over his chest. “Are you sure that this will succeed?” He questioned, looking to me with none of the respect one would typically show towards the Keeper. However, that made sense, as I was not revealing my identity to him. Instead, I had assumed a different identity for this mission.
“Not at all.” I shook my head honestly. “It will entirely depend on the aptitude of those that you choose. While I can guide them to the five lights, whether or not they are able to grasp it will depend on their own talents.”
That’s right, in order to cover the weakness which was Sher Dien, I once again decided to impart the knowledge of the Ki of Beginning to the world. My last attempt… did not go so well, but the worlds had largely grown since that time. If it worked, they would obtain a power that was no weaker than the Perfect Self, one that they could train far more easily since normal centaurs had a natural inability to control mana.
“I’ll need to consult with my advisors before I make such a decision.” The centaur king told me, and I merely offered an understanding nod. It would seem suspicious if someone came offering power without a price, and so I had indeed given them a price befitting the power I offered.
My price was an entire world. Not the world of Sher Dien, but a world that they had discovered through their planar exploration. This world itself held little value aside from resource harvesting, and my act of requesting it was merely an excuse to convince them that I was not doing this without reason.
As for why I did not reveal myself as the Keeper, that was far easier to explain. If the Keeper was seen granting Sher Dien the secret of an entirely new class, every other world would begin to feel wronged. Why did I bestow it to the centaurs, but not the elves? Why not the halflings, or the dwarves? In order to avoid these questions, I had taken on the identity of an old hermit wishing to own a world of his own in exchange for imparting his teachings.
After my nod, I saw the centaur walking out from the room which we were in, leaving me in the room by myself. I gave a soft sigh, leaning back and closing my eyes. It was hard to tell how long it would take to nurture a group of ‘Saints’ as I had offered. I was confident that I would be able to finish with enough time to spare before the invasion began, but whether or not I had time to properly train myself afterwards was yet to be determined.
Part of me wanted to simply create an avatar to handle this task for me, but I felt that it was more fitting to oversee it myself. As for what I’d do with the world after I got it? I wasn’t sure on that detail yet. Maybe I’d just close it off, or give it to Tubrock to mine for as much materials as he could ever want. Once they gave me the key to it, I had ways of making sure it was locked off from the inside.
While I was debating my plans, the door opened again. This time, three figures entered. One was naturally the draconic centaur king, whereas the other two were young centaur girls. The first was a pegasus variant, while the second was a normal centaur. If I didn’t know better, I’d have assumed that they were simply the daughters of local nobles rather than the king’s trained guards.
“These are my two most talented subordinates when it comes to the manipulation of ki.” The king spoke, gesturing towards the two girls. “After consulting my advisors, we agreed on an answer. If these two are unable to achieve the results you’ve offered, then there will be no deal. If it works, however, we’ll be willing to move forward as you suggested.”
I gave a faint nod, looking at the two girls. The pegasus had golden fur matching her short hair and folded wings, which seemed to almost shine under the light. The normal centaur girl, on the other hand, had pitch black fur with long hair tied up in a ponytail. Only now did I have to wonder… was the term ponytail offensive to a centaur?
“Sir, we shall be in your care.” The two of them said in harmony, offering a faint bow. I gave a nod, standing up and stretching. Best show off just a bit to really get their attention.
“Well, let’s get started then.” I said, before lazily swiping my hand through the air. My fingers laced themselves with ki and tore through the empty space, creating a dim void. And when I clenched my fists, sending a series of signals through my own ki, the void stabilized into a portal.
The three centaurs in the room let out surprised gasps as they saw what was clearly the plains outside the castle walls. This was the power of the fourth tier of ki, which I had given to Scarlet after studying myself. The technique required delicate control, as well as a certain type of ki path, so it was nowhere near as easy as I made it look.
Still, it had achieved the desired effect, the two girls following me through the portal with a determined expression. As for why both of them were girls, and the king did not give me a male disciple? Maybe he thought I’d be more lax on someone I found to be endearing. Unfortunately, I wasn’t particularly attracted to centaurs.
“What would you have us do first, sir?” The pegasus asked, her hands linked behind her back. I took a moment to study the two of them, not their outer appearances but their internal ki paths.
After doing so, I shook my head in resignation. “First, I’ll have the two of you abolish your current ki paths. They won’t be of any help to you in this training.” The two girls looked at me in surprise as I said this. Their ki paths were at the standard of the second tier, which was already quite impressive for a normal person. People who were able to create third tier ki paths on their own could be regarded as geniuses due to the complexity involved.
Without waiting for the two of them to agree, I struck my hand out and made a grasping motion. “This is probably going to hurt, but bear with it.” I told them as I halted the flow of ki within their bodies, and forced it to flow in reverse, back to its origin.
The two girls seized up, their faces going pale as they bit their lips. However, they did not scream, even when blood began to trickle down their chins. Centaurs have two hearts, each of which serve as a natural ki source. In this way, they are more compatible with ki than any other race, which was why I had chosen the Ki of Beginning as the power to grant them.
Once the ki had been entirely extracted from their established paths, I clenched my fists to remove the latent traces that the paths had created in their bodies. With this, their established ki paths, the foundation for all of their training so far, had been removed. “Now that I’ve reset you… it’s time to do it the right way.”
After saying that, I first turned to walk towards the normal centaur girl, Sarah apparently. Her eyes were shaking, her face pale as she watched me approach. Clearly, she had yet to recover from the pain of having her ki paths forcefully removed. But that was fine. This next step wouldn’t hurt so bad.
I walked around to her side, placing my hand on her flank. “Now, relax.” I told her in a firm tone, beginning to inject her body with a small trace of my ki to begin guiding it along a new path.
Oh Father! The centaur girl shouted in her mind, praying for some relief from the pain assaulting her. She felt as if her hearts were about to burst open from the reversed flow of ki, and yet the elderly man had already begun walking towards her. She wasn’t sure if she could withstand the next stage of his training, whatever it entailed.
Regardless, she stood firm. She had dedicated her life to her king, and would not crumble under pain. When she and her sister had accepted this mission, they knew that it was entirely possible that they would die in this training. Merely, they hadn’t expected their potential deaths to arrive so soon.
When she felt a hand on her flank, Sarah tensed up. “Now, relax.” The command entered her head but did little to truly help her. She could feel the overpowering energy pulsing into her body, the foreign ki that led hers around as if on a leash. At first, he started with the ki produced by her lower heart, the one which handled primary ki production.
She felt her ki being led in strange patterns, unable to determine just what it was that he was doing. However, after a few minutes she seemed to realize something. The ‘knots’ that he had tied with her ki had begun producing ki of their own. She had heard rumors that this was an ability that belonged to the monks of Lorek and Spica, creating new ki sources within themselves.
This man did not stop at just one, though. He continued to lead her ki through her body, forming one ‘ki heart’ after another until she had half a dozen spread throughout her form. “It’s a good thing that you weren’t already an elemental monk.” She heard him mutter. “Purging the elemental energy from your ki would have likely been a more difficult task.”
Sarah’s eyes went wide as she heard that. Naturally, she was aware of the significance of those words. Elemental monks were not rare within the ranks of the king’s guard. Rather, monks that maintained pure ki like her and her sister were far more difficult to find. No doubt, that was the reason that he had told the king he only wanted those of pure ki.
Once he was done establishing the framework of Sarah’s ki path, he began walking over towards Mara, her sister. Mara had already had some more time to recover from the earlier pain, so her face was somewhat more relaxed. Regardless, she tensed up as soon as she saw the man walking closer.