Well, that’s one problem taken care of. I muttered to myself, sitting at my computer desk in the Admin Room. I didn’t want to take any risks jeopardizing the mission, or lose track of what was happening, so I had immediately chosen to ascend to the Admin Room after leaving Thelsa. Now, it was a matter of seeing how the Council reacted to these ‘attacks’ against them.
There were a number of possibilities that they could take. First… they may use their influence to try to uncover Thelsa’s real identity, or put a bounty out for her underworld alias. This would cost them a lot of funds and manpower, given that she seemed extremely capable when it came to escaping.
They could also choose to ignore what had happened, and try to reinforce their power over the currently dominated floors. With the existence of Dawn, they could no longer guarantee ownership of any floor beyond the first eighteen. But, adding in new restrictions would make people form a more negative opinion of the Council, and choose to immigrate to either another world, or Dawn.
Next… there was the possibility that they perceive this in a similar manner to what Thelsa did, as an undercover retaliation for their attempted assassination. If that was the case, then perhaps they would continue to fight Dawn in the shadows. Though, without their Shadow Council, their methods of doing so were largely limited to the criminal underworld.
As I began to gradually speed the world along, keeping a close watch on any movements from either side, I noticed that they chose a fourth option… For the time being, they ignored Thelsa, viewing her as a pawn in a greater game. What surprised me was that they also didn’t make any other moves against Dawn, or organize training parties to rapidly increase their own power.
No… instead, they called in all of the strongest adventurers on their payroll. They began patrolling heavily around the fourteenth and fifteenth floors of Fyor. Their focus seemed entirely taken by the fifteenth floor, Nexus. The floor with the Fairy Gate.
They weren’t worried so much about Dawn, but rather that they would have new, powerful enemies attacking from the other worlds. Worlds that now had a much more loose restriction on who could be sent. With a level limit of six hundred, there were only a select few people that were still unable to pass through the gates of Fyor. If just a couple more levels were conquered, their orbs found as well… even those people would be granted passage.
Thinking back to that, I suddenly had an odd thought appear in my head, sending a mental whisper to Terra. I’ve got a… strange question.
I’ve probably got an even stranger answer. She responded lightly after a moment.
Probably. What happens when someone keeps getting stronger, without training the Perfect Self? Jonas had more energy to start with than Tsubaki did when she first trained the class, and he started out a bit larger than her… so what if someone had so much energy that, even when condensed into the Perfect Self, they would still maintain their full size?
It took a few moments before Terra gave me an answer. They pop, Dale. There’s a limit to how much energy a physical form can hold. You’re able to get around it to a degree with your Keeper powers, because that energy is not all contained within your body, but rather a metaphysical construct sewn into the world itself. But, once an individual’s energies become so much that they occupy too much space in a compressed form… they have to find a way to immediately relieve those energies.
Think about it like how Irena dealt with her extreme mana production on her former incarnation. Because she was blighted, her body produced more mana than it was able to hold, and it made her physically ill, wracking her with pains until she spent a massive amount of that energy.
There are multiple ways to go about this alleviation. One is like how she did, to spend the energy gradually as it became too much, to always keep yourself below the limits of the mortal body. Another is like what you or Tsubaki did, assuming forms comprised of energy. For people like that, they can continue to grow stronger, and the only downside will be that they get larger when their energy becomes too dense. But, that also leads me into a third method, one which has only somewhat been explored in your world.
Separating the power into avatars. I spoke up, interrupting her. It was an ability I came to see first from Tsubaki, who used it to handle simple chores. Then, later, when I had the perfect soul, I was able to create my own avatars as well. I still used one within my soul to limit the leakage of my power.
That’s right. Terra confirmed in an approving tone. This is something that even those who retain their flesh bodies can do, if they find a suitable power formula. That’s why you are able to benefit from certain classes, such as the perfect self, martial spirit, or world spirit. It’s possible for an individual to partition their power with the proper formula and create a remotely controlled avatar.
However, there is still a flaw to this method. A lifeform will always have a core. This is true for all things. Tsubaki must always designate one self as her true self. A flesh body will always be the core controlling the remote avatars. Even for the complete world spirits, their core is the world itself. If the core is destroyed, the being dies.
I gave a small nod at that. I was worried that something like this would be the case, that it would come down to a limit of the flesh. Terra had once described my world as moving along the ‘energy’ path, so it only made sense that one of the endpoints of that path was to become an energy being.
Yet, there were more things that concerned me about this. Is it possible for people to reproduce after reaching that point? If the strongest people in the world all abandon their flesh bodies, will that cut off the possibility for future generations? It seems like… it would be counter-productive.
Again, there was an approving tone to Terra’s voice. It’s possible. However, it will require experimentation. I can’t tell you the exact method yet, but what I can say is that there is a way to ensure a future generation for those that transcend the flesh. You don’t need to worry so much about that.
That was a relief. I let out a long sigh as I nodded my head, returning my attention to the computer. It had been a month now since Thelsa’s actions. Sure enough, there were many people flooding in to Fyor now, from the other worlds. The majority were the heroc, and those who valued personal strength over anything else.
Many stayed behind, yes, able to train on their own worlds while enjoying other comforts. But for the heroc? No, they valued a true battle. It was rare to see any of their kind playing Vision Expanse, because they did not view it as a real fight. There was no real risk when they could just be reborn, and it was that risk that fueled their battles.
So, many heroc rushed towards the twentieth level of Fyor, crushing the waves of insects that tried to overwhelm them. They set up multiple camps, carving out large caverns to make their homes. Few people even cared for finding the next gate, or any orbs that might be hidden on the level. Instead, they wanted only to hone themselves.
As for the Council? Once they realized that there was no immediate danger from the other worlds, the first thing that they did was to strengthen the defenses around their own vault. As it turned out, there were individuals who remembered that the orbs were located within their own treasury, and so they knew that their precious vault had been infiltrated.
In secret, they even recruited a third party to post a bounty on Thelsa, which made me furrow my brows in annoyance. The bounty wasn’t incredibly high, as they didn’t want to draw attention to it. Definitely not something befitting of her breaking into Council territory. No, it was closer to her stealing from some prestigious noble.
That didn’t stop the rumors from spreading, though. There were very few people that knew Thelsa was going for a ‘big score’, immediately before the messages were sent, one after the other. Those people were able to piece together that Thelsa was responsible. But, more importantly, those who knew Thelsa’s nature were also able to realize what it meant for her to take that job.
Because of this, nobody took the Council’s bounty. At least, not successfully. Those who tried to do so out of simple greed were turned away as soon as they began to seek out information about her. There were rules within the criminal underworld. And, because of this, a new rule had been written. ‘Never accept a Council mission’.
They had been blacklisted by the dark side of society. Their attempts to restrict power stones were one thing… but to shackle the power of every being within Fyor was something that could not be ignored. Sure… there were still people who didn’t care about this rule. But those people were the ones that operated alone, that did not care about joining the organization.
Thelsa sat within her safe house in the nineteenth layer, smiling happily as she looked at a series of eleven coins on a table. Most were silver, gifts from friends that had discovered what she had done. But, one stood out. Among the eleven, there was a single gold coin. It still bore the same pattern on its faces, the markings of Ryone and Irena, but there was more to it.
A subtle enchantment existed along the coin. Something that you wouldn’t notice unless you knew what to look for. It wasn’t an enchantment of magic, or even of the spirit. This was the power of the system itself.
Along the rim of the coin, a series of words were etched into the grooves. ‘For a service rendered to the Consortium, we grant Thelsa Whitefallow one golden favor, to be exchanged as she desires.’
It was possible to counterfeit a copper or silver underworld coin, but gold ones were different. A gold coin was no longer a currency, it was a favor of the highest order. Each coin was the manifestation of a quest, its counterpart held within the organization’s vaults. They could only be used by the one who had been named on them, but the size of the favor… It was the equivalent of earning a seat on the ruling council for one decision.
For one request, she could gain the operations of an entire floor as her business, or seek shelter from any adversary. If someone truly wronged her, making her hate them more than anyone else… she could even use her favor to send the entire criminal underworld after them. It was the highest reward that one could receive.
She swept her hand over the table, causing the eleven coins to vanish before she stood up, turning around. After that, however, she froze. Sitting on her bed, less than five meters in front of her, was the same halfling that she had met a month ago, the one that had given her the mission which earned her such favor.
“I suppose you want me to thank you?” She asked hesitantly, not knowing how to address this man. After completing the mission, and coming to her safehouse in the Dawn kingdom, she had been inquiring about powerful halflings, trying to learn his identity. It seemed unlikely, but nobody had heard of such an individual.
“Not at all.” He said with a brief shake of his head. “I just wanted to make sure that you were doing well after our last talk. Though… looking at you now, it seems you’re not concerned about the bounty.”
A wry smile came over Thelsa’s lips at that. In truth… she had been given two golden coins, not one. The first one, though, she had used the moment she learned about the bounty. She had called in her favor to blacklist the Council, reporting what they had done to the upper echelon. “I don’t think that I have to worry about them, for now.”
The halfling gave a small nod of understanding. “Is that so…” He seemed to be lost in thought for several long seconds. “In truth, I wanted to give you something myself. But, I do not know what would be suitable. What is it that you require? New weapons, maybe armor? Perhaps some special type of magical item?”
Thelsa raised her brow as she was given her options. In truth… what she wanted was to learn his identity. It had been a mystery that had been plaguing her for a month now. But would a simple name bring her any closer to understanding? If he was as unknown to the magisters as he appeared, then he was likely either a secret weapon, or a hermit. In either case, knowing his name would not bring her any closer to understanding who he was.
“Can I ask for… a favor?” She hesitated, before speaking up. There were many things that she could request, but most of them she could get through other methods. One, however… did not quite fit with the methods of the criminals she worked with.
“I’m listening.” He responded with another nod.
“My uncle runs a church on the seventh floor. Because it reveres all of the gods equally, the Council refuses to support it financially. I’ve been doing what I could to send money his way with my work, but… after what happened, I think that they might target him. My uncle’s a good fighter, don’t get me wrong, but the church doubles as an orphanage. Could you make sure that nothing happens?”
The halfling seemed surprised by her request, before a soft smile appeared on his face. “No wonder she recommended you. Very well… I’ll do as you have asked.” And with that, the air wrapped around him in gentle ripples, and he vanished, just as he did the first time they met. But, to Thelsa’s surprise, a window appeared in front of her the moment that she was alone.
Congratulations! You have earned an achievement!
For selflessly denying an unparalleled reward from a mysterious being, instead using it to protect others, you have received the Shadow Saint special title!