Watching Terra get up from the computer and wander out of the room, I noticed that she left the screen up to what she was looking at. Alright, alright… I know how to take a hint. Pulling myself out of bed, I moved over to the computer, reviewing what had just happened in that area.
Once I saw what the Council had planned, I gave a small sigh, shaking my head. Ryone, Bihena? Looks like the Council is about to do something incredibly stupid ‘in my name’. How well defended are the mages in the new kingdom of Fyor?
The first to answer was, unsurprisingly, Ryone. Should be pretty good! I mean, there are ways around their wards, but you’d have to be pretty skilled to find them. They set up their defenses knowing how vulnerable they’d be while sleeping or logged into the game.
The Shadow Council is pretty skilled. Bihena chimed in, a rather tired tone to her voice. I’d bet that they have people who can get around those wards. Maybe not easily… but they could probably do it. Want us to do something about it?
I closed my eyes, sinking into thought. If I move the citadel to rest over the Dawn kingdom, even if it is to dissuade them, they will likely take it as my silent support. They might even think that I planned to join them in the attack. On the other hand, if I use a show of force to stop them… it’s likely to lead the Council to eventually revolt. Similarly, attempting to force a negotiation would end up breeding resentment within the Council.
While I wasn’t too worried about my life being in danger if the Council rebelled, there would be too many lives lost from a completely avoidable war. Ryone… when they attack, would you be able to interfere with the wards, twist them just a bit to make the assassinations fail?
It took a moment for her to respond, as if she was considering it. I should be able to do something. If anyone dies to the wards, do you want me to get rid of the bodies?
Please. I nodded my head slightly. The best case scenario that I could come up with was for the Shadow Council to fail their mission. For them to believe that the mages were too well protected to assassinate, without being discovered by their would-be targets. Send an image of strength from those mages, make the Council hesitate before doing anything foolish.
As I was closing the map, I noticed the notification icon blinking for a new message. Once I opened it up, I was able to confirm that it was the list from Balu. Unsurprisingly, the list wasn’t all that long. However, only two items immediately caught my attention.
The first were her race, the anthropomorphic rabbits known as the Baharan. As I expected, they came with a note stating that they were a culture focused largely on cultivation, with ki as their focus. I once again swore inwardly, wishing that I could accept them into Lorek instead of Earth.
The other item, however, was all the way at the very bottom of the list. When I saw it, I felt my lips curl upwards. She had chosen to list a grimoire as one of her available objects. Normally, I might think that it was a coincidence… if she hadn’t bolded the entry and underlined it.
I could easily recall back when I had Balu evaluate my world, and she recommended that I get an item like that. The fact that she was still able to remember that advice was surprising, given her memory, but it was likely that she had written it down for her ‘wall’.
I focused, passing the list off to Ryone. Let me know if there’s anything you want from there by the end of the month. Once I had set that off, I finally decided to return to the citadel.
As soon as I felt the warm light wrapping around me, taking me back down to my throne room, I was immediately aware that there was another presence within the room. When my eyes opened, I saw that Tsubaki was kneeling in front of my throne. She was… definitely not there when I left.
“Welcome home, my Keeper.” She said quietly, her head bowed. “I took the liberty of cleaning the training room.”
“You saw that, huh…” I was somewhat hoping that it would take a little bit longer for her to realize that I had been descended when she was logged in, but it looked like that wasn’t going to be the case anymore.
“I did. When I left the game to perform my regular chores, I sensed an unusual energy lingering around, which led me back there. Once I felt the divinity that it contained, I knew that it had to be you.” Even as she said that, she kept her head lowered.
I sighed, shaking my head as I stood up. “How’s your trial faring?” I could tell that a good amount of her energy had already started to return, her body no longer looking as cold and lifeless as it had back when she had just finished training the army.
Tsubaki finally lifted her head, the barest hint of a smile on her face. “I believe that it is going well, my Keeper. If all goes as planned, then within another week, I should be ready to ‘graduate’ on this character.”
I gave a faint nod. “So… have to ask now… what exactly are you hoping to get out of this trial? I know that the original trial of blood is to cultivate the strongest of the servants, to force them to endure a year in a level where they are the weakest of creatures. But… what is it you want to gain from this?”
Tsubaki hesitated for a moment, her eyes closing before she speaks softly. “Exactly what you said. I wish to become the strongest once again. I want to recreate all of the skills I learned when I was a child, learn them within this new world. My aim is to never spend coin to learn a skill with that character. If it is not something that I am able to learn on my own, or through the guidance of another, then it is not something that I was destined to know.”
Opening her eyes, she looked at me with determination. “My goal isn’t to become your sword within the game. I do not believe you need something like that. This is for myself… for my own growth. When I have trained myself within the game to reach the level I am at, I will be able to find a new power, a new path to move forward. This will serve as my practice arena, where I test and explore new possibilities.”
Well, I had to admit that I was happy to hear that she wasn’t doing it out of some misguided belief that it’s what I wanted for her. The fact that she was doing something like this entirely for herself showed how far she had come, for me at least. “Alright.” I consented with a small nod. “I hope you’re able to find what you’re looking for.”
Tsubaki gave a sharp nod of her head, before looking at me questioningly for a long moment. However, she didn’t say anything, simply seeming to wait for me to give her an order. Glancing into her mind, I could see that she felt the change in energy coming from my body, and she wasn’t sure what effects it would have over our daily routine. In my defense, I didn’t know either. This was going to be a learning experience for the both of us!
“You can return to your trial, Tsubaki.” I spoke up, before hesitating, another thought crossing my mind. “Actually… I have a mission for you, one that should fuel your drive to get stronger.”
Tsubaki had already turned around by the time I finished, looking as if she were ready to leave. Once she heard me, though, she stopped, turning to look back at me. “Please, my Keeper.”
“There is a leaderboard for Vision Expanse.” I told her with a light chuckle. “Naturally, your training will cause you to rise to the top of it. However… I want you to meet with the others at the top as well. Spar with them, train them, learn from them. You have a body that isn’t bound by time… you can study with the experts of every field. You can test yourself against the best, and learn from these experiences.”
There was a small light that seemed to shine in the back of Tsubaki’s eyes as she listened to me. “I understand, my Keeper. I will not disappoint you.” With that, her body broke apart into multicolored mists and rushed through the door.
Dale. Aurivy spoke up into my mind playfully. I think that you just created a monster.
Shaking my head, I walked towards the door, heading towards the control center of the citadel. Let’s be perfectly honest with ourselves, Rivy. Tsubaki became a monster a long time ago. I’m just adding some fuel to the fire.
It was true. Ever since Tsubaki came to me, she had been incredibly powerful. The feeling of blood staining her essence had been enough to scare Scarlet, and cow other martial spirits into submission. When she became the first Perfect Self, her power had only grown, giving her new ways to train herself.
Yet, she had grown stagnant. In her efforts to protect the world from the monsters that may spawn as a result of her presence, she stopped training. If I understand her trial correctly, it would even be safe to say that she has grown rusty. She needs a proper motivation to get stronger, to use her abilities to the fullest.
In my opinion, Vision Expanse is perfect for that. She’ll be able to compete against the most talented individuals from every world, mastering the skills she once had, and gaining entirely new ones. I’m not making a monster… I’m helping her wake up.
“Myrna shune krionna.” A voice spoke out in the darkness, two red eyes staring at a large door ten meters away. The eyes flashed, seeing an array of runes hovering gently over the door. More seemed to line the wall, gliding mystically in odd patterns that made it hard to properly discern them.
Still, it did not take him too long. And when he closed his eyes, his presence seemed to vanish entirely from within the hall. Or perhaps, it had never truly been there to begin with…
Outside of the marble walls of the Palace of Dawn, a young man opened his red eyes. He looked at the group of three in front of himself, and nodded. “He has a freezing ward on his door. Anyone that doesn’t use the proper spell will trigger it… however, the key spell comes from the geometric school.”
Crouching down, he grabbed a stick and began to draw the pattern he had pieced together while analyzing the ward. He was certain that he had found the various clues within the ward needed to properly disarm it, and thus didn’t hesitate to share this information with his colleagues.
“That makes three of them.” A woman muttered, her body wrapped in black cloth. All that could be seen of her was a patch of pale skin surrounding light blue eyes. “Just a few more, and we’ll be able to make our move.”
The red-eyed human nodded. They were in no rush to finish the job. Rushing simply led to mistakes. No, they would take their time… analyze each target, every layer of defense protecting them… Then, when they were ready, they would strike at once.
The Council guided the world, leading the different layers openly. But the Shadow Council… they removed the unwanted elements. Those that would threaten Fyor’s way of life. Those that would threaten the Council...