After a few hours of training, I ascended to the Admin Room once again. The first thing that I did was to spend eighteen hundred points on buying the third level of runes, before passing them off to Ryone, Bihena, and Aurivy. If there was some secret to the runes outside of the language itself, I was sure that the three of them would let me know. But, otherwise, I already had the greatest cheat when it came to this language.
Next up… I had to pass a message to Balu. Thankfully, she seemed to be ready for the message, as she responded almost immediately.
Starkiller: Dale! How’s it going? Did you pick out anything that you wanted from the list yet?
EarthForceOne: Actually, yes. But first, I’d like to ask something…
Starkiller: Sure, what’s on your mind?
EarthForceOne: Nearly all of your items listed were for ki cultivation. Did you get the spell recorder for me?
Starkiller: Nah! I’ve had magic in my world for ages. I just never put it on the list before because I specialize in ki, like you said. But, since you needed it, figured I could offer it up to help! Take it that you decided you want it?
EarthForceOne: That and the cultivation mat.
Starkiller: Sure, sure. Our invasion is scheduled for right after the meeting, so you can have Bibi give me the points there!
EarthForceOne: Alright… how any of these am I buying with these points?
Starkiller: Standard shipments are a thousand of each item. When purchasing races, anywhere between ten thousand to a hundred thousand, depending on things like their reproductivity and all that. That’s usually plenty to ensure that a race can continue, and enough items to ensure that they can be reverse engineered by a decent craftsman.
I gave a small nod at that. Between Ryone and Tubrock, I had no doubt that they’d be able to quickly reverse engineer the grimoire, once they were able to see a finished example of it. There were just some intricacies to the design that had been eluding Ryone.
In truth, these spell recorders would likely function much like her godly weapon. But that thing was completely impractical to mass-produce as it relied on divine energy. For what we were paying, these items should be completely worth it.
Thanking Balu, I closed the conversation, before turning my sights towards Lorek. From what I saw right away, it seemed like Tubrock had sped the world up by about five years…
Five years… within five years, there had been so many changes. The Lightning Clan had been all but destroyed, scattered remnants hiding in distant mountains, terrified every time they had to venture out for food. The Spear Clan had managed to slowly adapt, developing a second master in that time and ensuring their security.
But it was the Water Clan that had grown the most. They were no longer simply lurking within their mountain. They were on the move.
With twelve masters leading the way, they crossed the massive landmass slowly, always wary of potential dangers. If they sensed any powerful energies approaching, they immediately found somewhere to hide until it passed. Although they never made direct contact with the Lightning Clan, they had seen them from afar. Seen how scattered and disordered they were… that the Lightning Master had fallen.
Kishi had been a man that specialized in combat. While the former Water Master, Durak, held the same rank, his skills were not at all suited for combat. Thus, while it made sense for Durak to be slain by a master-level star beast, the same could not be said for Kishi. Clearly, there was a level of monster out here that surpassed the rank of master.
But, did this not also mean that there was a way for them to surpass that level as well? This thought once again caused the Water Clan to seek out a legacy. They were not aiming to gain comprehension of a new field, but needed the legacy as a guide for how one could reach the next stage.
Cultivate a star, imbue it with understanding, form a constellation. These were the main steps that were known to progress through the first three ranks. In theory, they applied to all types of legacies, so wouldn’t the next step be shared, as well?
It took them three years to find the next ruins, maintaining a slow march. Doing so kept their casualties minimum, losing barely a dozen star-level students who had gone too far from the group to forage or scout.
What they found after their three years was the shattered ruin of a vast city, crumpled heaps of once-giant buildings showing the true immensity of the ancient civilization. Maybe now, they would finally learn what had caused this great empire to fall to ruin…
When they cautiously entered the city, they were unsurprised to find the golems patrolling it, just as they had in the port city. Though, these golems gave off a feeling of power that even made the masters uneasy. Not wanting to cause any harm to their group, the clan split apart, searching through the ruins.
As before, they found many legacies. Or at least, they expected that what they found were legacies. The books resembled what Durak had once found, yet anyone above the star level was unable to gleam the secrets from them.
Those within the star level and below, however, would receive the legacies as soon as they opened the books. This caused the elders and masters among the clan to nod inwardly. The legacies were meant to be passed to a suitable heir, not someone whose path had already been determined.
Many of these legacies merely led to the master realm, just as with the previous city. But there were two that went beyond, to a realm that they did not know. It’s just… the next step that the two books detailed for advancement… it was a terrifying step to any master.
When the masters heard what it entailed, their faces went white in disbelief and horror. To advance from a master, into the next stage… the first requirement was twenty stars. This was easy enough to achieve, and there were already three among them at that level.
The second requirement was for the master to detonate all twenty stars within themselves in a controlled explosion. To condense their understanding of their path in a single cloud of gas and dust.
The legacies warned that this was an incredibly dangerous step, unlike the previous advancement paths that simply required talent and hard work. One wrong step, and the best case scenario was the shattering of one’s own energy. At worst, their entire body could explode.
When Jana and Abin heard this, they glanced at one another, thinking back to Durak’s dying moment. How his body had exploded to temporarily unleash a power strong enough to destroy a master-level star beast in a single breath. Without cultivating enough stars, he had forced himself to break through with ten in an uncontrolled environment, and it had cost him his life.
“I’ll do it.” Abin spoke up first, causing Jana to stare at him in shock. They both knew that the first one to practice this had the highest chance of failure. Abin had almost single-handedly led the clan to its current state after Durak passed, cultivating so many other masters.
When he saw her aghast expression, he offered her a warm smile. “I can’t rightly ask someone else to do what I’m not willing to, can I?” With that, he offered a small wave to the group, and began walking off. “Nobody follow me, ye hear? I don’t need the distractions.”
His words stirred the hearts of every elder and master in the clan, for they understood just how much he was risking for himself. They knew that they would likely never see him again. But, he wasn’t just going to die in vain.
When Abin found a secluded building, he made his way to its highest floor. “Oi, I hope this works…” He muttered inwardly, before twenty streams of light left his body. They formed three concentric circles, with a single dot on the inside. “Ripples of the Past and Present. Record.”
This was a technique that he had used before to help them avoid enemies. Ripples of the Past and Present held two functions… one was ‘Rewind’, to show what caused the ripples. The other was ‘Record’, to store a scene within an object for others to view later. He was just unsure if destroying his stars would allow the image to remain preserved.
Either way, he pulled a strong ball of iron out from his pocket, and tossed it into a corner of the room. The twenty hovering stars all shot out a beam of light, hitting the ball of iron and causing it to glow. Afterwards, the stars returned to Abina’s body, and he sat down with his legs crossed.
“If yer seeing this, then it means that I have died, but that my efforts weren’t for naught. I’m leaving this record to show every step I take. I hope that my experiences help another master after I’m gone.”
Abin took a deep breath, closing his eyes and focusing inwardly. “Following the instructions of the legacies, I am now bringing my stars together.” Sweat began to appear on his brow as silver light shone over his body.
“All twenty stars… are now close enough together that they are almost touch…” He began speaking with difficulty. “Now… detonate.”
The silver light erupted from Abin’s body as his brows focused more heavily, blood starting to leak out from the pores of his skin. The light condensed, turning into strands of prismatic mist that began to flow up and around him, bathing the room in brilliant light.
“The energy… is hard… to control.” Abin muttered, barely able to speak as blood burst out of his mouth with every breath. He had already accepted that he would not be able to make it out of this. “Whoever… finds this… don’t hold… too hard. Don’t fight it!”
And with those as his final words, he screamed, his head turning towards the sky. He had tried to practice the ‘control’ described in the books, but he had done so to too high of a degree. The energy had compressed, fighting against him, looking for any weakness to escape. And when it found that weakness… a blinding light shot out of Abin’s mouth, his body starting to blacken as the roof crumbled above him, falling down and crushing him beneath.
The last thing the image showed was scattering ash. In trying to hold his power in too tightly, his body had burnt to a crisp from within. The true master and leader of the Water Clan had perished, sacrificing himself to open a path for the clan’s future. Just as Durak had done before him. Perhaps this was how he had hoped to live up to his master’s legacy, to use his life for the greatest purpose he could find for it.
I closed my eyes, offering a moment of silence. Abin’s death had truly not been in vain. The recording that he had left had survived, his technique still lingering on it. When they found it later, they had learned why he had insisted on being the one to attempt it first.
For seven days, they mourned Abin. And on the eighth day, I was able to watch as Jana attempted the same feat. Just as with Abin, she created a recording of her event. However, her recording was never seen, because Jana had succeeded. She kept only a loose control of the nebulous energy rushing through her body, choosing to guide it rather than contain it.
Thanks to that, she was the first person in Lorek aside from Tubrock himself to reach the level of Nebula Cycle. Or, as they were calling it, the Grandmaster realm. Made me wonder what they were going to end up calling the seven stages that hadn’t yet been discovered...