Thelsa walked calmly within the superstorm of Thormir, the name given to the twenty-first floor of Fyor. Her black cloak billowed in the terrifying wind, but her expression was calm. She was out alone for a single purpose, and that was in order to identify the location of the next gateway, the path to the twenty-second floor.
Thelsa Whitefallow had long since staged her own death, deciding to live in the shadows of society. With the powers of her unique title, hiding her own identity was a simple matter. After all, nobody but Thelsa herself was able to see the information related to her titles.
Currently, she was going by the name of Julia Storms, a rather renowned identity that she had built for herself as a human from Earth. But even that identity was one that she was able to discard if need be.
As she walked through the windswept valleys of Thormir, between two great mountains, she scanned the horizon with her eyes. “Where are you…” She muttered to herself. Thelsa had previously cast magic in order to determine the general direction of the gate, and knew that it should be somewhere in this area.
So, she continued her slow trek, the mountains offering little shelter from the ever present storms. Her magic was not precise enough to give her an exact location, forcing her to check every cave she encountered.
Her search took three full days after arriving at the valley, during which she checked over a dozen caves every day. By the time she found what she was looking for, her rations were beginning to run low. Thoughts of turning back had begun to enter her mind, but she pushed on.
As she had devoted some time to becoming a Priestess of Aurivy, she knew that she would be able to return back to Gate’s Rest at any time. However, unless she found the next gate, she would be required to walk back manually. Not an exciting proposition.
Near the end of the third day, as she was walking through one of the dark caves, she saw one wall that was… unusually smooth. This region of Thormir had not yet been inhabited by the people of Fyor, so finding an unnatural rock formation such as that was, well… unnatural.
Walking towards the wall, she silently cast a spell to conjure a light in the cave, using the magic of Earth. As the cave was lit up by a brilliant white light, the smooth, black wall stood out even further. “Found you…” Thelsa said with a small smile, walking closer to the wall.
However, a part of her was cautious as well. She brought out a special card from her inventory, looking down at it. This was a product that had recently begun circulating within Deckan. They called it a Synthesized Composite, a card that was created to merge the three branches of magic together. Apparently, it had been discovered by some young genius among the kitsune, and they immediately began research on her discovery.
This particular card was a shield spell, which she didn’t hesitate to activate. The card began to shine, thin strands of light emerging and wrapping around Thelsa’s body to form a barrier. Only when this was complete did she dare to raise her hand to the wall.
“Water… earth… wind… is fire next?” She muttered, recalling the elemental nature of the most recently discovered floors. Depending on which elemental lore she went on, life or metal could be options as well.
Either way, the moment her hand was about to touch the wall, it split open, revealing itself to truly be the gateway she sought. What entered her ears was not the roar of a raging inferno, nor the rumbling of a volcano. In fact, she wasn’t even able to hear anything from beyond the gate, not when Thormir’s storms hammered against the mountain.
But she could see green. A grassy meadow with gently swaying trees. Steeling her resolve, she stepped through, one hand gripping at her breast pocket to prepare for the worst.
The moment she stepped through, she felt the temperature rise a few degrees, the warm light of the sun falling over her. She could hear the insects and the birds, and the distant roars of animals--and since when did Fyor have a sun?
As soon as she made that realization, Thelsa lifted her head to look at the sky. It was not one sun, not two, but countless fireballs littering the sky. Their light shone bright across all that was below them.
“So it is fire after all…” Thelsa confirmed, though it was not the type of fire she had been expecting.
I don’t like it here. A familiar voice spoke up, coming from her shadow. Thelsa simply shook her head with a small smile.
“Sorry, but we’ll have to put up with it. Once we’re ready to advance, I’ll get us to the next floor so that we don’t have to deal with this.” As the Shadow Saint, she had long since gotten used to conversing with her shadow, especially once the life granted to it had become permanent. She was no longer ever truly alone.
However, as she was looking back to her smile with an apologetic expression, she heard another voice entering her mind. Thelsa Whitefallow.
She froze when she heard the voice, her eyes going wide. This wasn’t the first time that she had heard the voice of a goddess before. She had even interacted with the Keeper himself once, if only briefly. Still, it wasn’t something that someone could ever simply be prepared for.
“B-Bihena?” She stuttered out, the identity of the voice coming instinctively to her. “My Goddess. What do you wish of me?”
Let’s start with you calming down. Bihena spoke softly. I have a favor to ask of you. A mission from the Keeper himself. In accomplishing it, you will be preventing a disaster from engulfing all of Fyor.
Thelsa’s eyes went wide, and she immediately dropped to one knee, her hands over the other as she lowered her head. “Please, just tell me what is required of me.” She did not ask for any rewards, nor did she care to. The moment that she heard that her help was needed to prevent a disaster, her mind was set.
I’m relieved that you are accepting so quickly… Very well. The Council is attempting to violate the pact of neutrality made in my name to the people of Spica. They seek to offer troops to aid in that world’s war. In doing so, they risk sparking a war that will drive the other three worlds against them.
Thelsa’s brows furrowed at that. “Such a thing… is that not the epitome of idiocy? They wish to set everyone against themselves, even breaking a vow made in the name of a goddess?”
Unfortunately, things are not so simple, as you once saw in the past. For many, many years now, the Council has been researching their own central spire. The pillar that allows the system of the world to be updated with new orbs. They seek to hold this pillar hostage, to force the world of Fyor to stand with them, or risk stagnation.
To those of your world, this pillar is the key to progression. Without it, you will never again be able to increase the level limit and access new areas. Furthermore, destroying the pillar brings no risk to the Council. The first floor of Fyor has always been inhabitable, being the origin of your races.
The gravity is gentle, the food is abundant… they will simply be able to mine the pillar generation after generation, until eventually even they forget why they are doing it. A tradition passed down in their families that would exist for no reason other than to harm the rest of Fyor. This is the disaster that I seek to avoid.
Thelsa had to nod her head. The actions of the Council in recent years had truly become more and more erratic. So, while she did not agree with these actions, she did believe that the Council was capable of doing it. More importantly, she had already found the evidence once in the past that they had begun experimenting with their pillar, chunks of it hidden away in their vault.
“What is it you wish of me, my Goddess?” She asked in a reverent tone, her head still lowered.
I ask of you a very dangerous mission, to conceal yourself within the first floor. If word of war reaches you, and the Council truly does make a move against their spire, you must ensure that it is protected at all costs. If a battle ensues, you must gather the pieces together and repair the spire.
“As you wish.” Thelsa nodded, not hesitating even as she was ordered to walk into the enemy camp. It was hard to say how long it would take for this war to occur, so she had to make preparations. “May I take time to gather the supplies needed, my Goddess?”
Of course. But it must not take more than a week for you to make your way to the Council’s territory. Depending on how quickly the situation devolves, that may be all the time you have to reach there.
Thelsa simply gave another nod. A week was more than enough time to secure herself a large supply of rations to last for months. Finally, she stood, dusting off her pants and opening a portal next to herself. If she was given a week to prepare, that meant that she could at least inform others of the location of the twenty-second floor’s gate.
I gave a small nod, happy that Thelsa had accepted Bihena’s request. Having her act personally offered me some reassurance, though I wasn’t entirely aware of her combat strength. The fact that Bihena had suggested her was enough for me to believe in her.
Closing my eyes, I thought about what I should be doing next. As of now, I was simply watching, waiting. Waiting for the news of my invasion against Vanity to come back, waiting for the system to designate my next match. One of those things I had no idea how long it would take, and as for the other… forty-two more days.
That meant that it would be ninety-two days before I advanced to a second rank Keeper. Until then, I had to make sure that my worlds were all stable, and keep them from advancing early. In other words, I couldn’t continue to blindly fast forward, especially not when I considered the existence of Jonas Bayrun.
While he was not the only one studying the possibility of ascending to godhood, he was by far the closest to the truth. Simply by obtaining the Perfect Self class, he was far ahead of his peers. Realizing that he needed to train his divinity and add it into the mix meant that he would likely reach godhood before even Tsubaki. Assuming, that is, that Tsubaki even intended to aim for that at all.
The point of the matter was, I could not fast forward and risk Jonas’s research hitting a major breakthrough. If the knowledge and ability to ascend to godhood were to leak out, I would surely advance in ranks ahead of schedule.
It was a better move, in my mind, to simply allow the worlds to advance at a normal rate without fast forwarding. In the meantime, I would spend time with my heavenly host, and maybe reach out to some of the Keepers I was familiar with. It can’t hurt to socialize every now and then, right?
As I thought about that, I began setting numerous alarms. If a disaster truly did occur, I wanted to be notified immediately. That way, I could rush back and resolve it before the damage became too extreme. Only once that was done did I let myself relax, standing up from the desk and stretching. “Time for a… vacation? Does this count as a vacation?”