Chapter 422: The Life of a Shadow
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Looking through the guild members list, I noticed that it had Meatlover listed as in a match against a Keeper whose name I didn’t recognize. However, once I joined the chat, things started to get lively…

EarthForceOne: Hey, everyone.

Aerial: Ah, it’s the new guy! Glad to see you’re still around.

EverLasting: Good afternoon, Dale. Is there something on your mind today?

EarthForceOne: Not particularly. I’m getting ready to advance in rank, and just need to wait a little bit for everything to be ready.

Aerial: Oh? You’re going to become Rank 2 now? Corona’s almost gotten back her original rank as well. How is it? Pretty different from back when you were just starting out, huh?

EarthForceOne: That’s one way of looking at it… It’s certainly become more difficult to manage multiple worlds at once.

EverLasting: If you don’t mind me asking, how is Vision Expanse treating you?

EarthForceOne: It’s going well. Thanks to that, I managed to get my people back on track.

My chat with them lasted for quite a while, with us mostly talking about what we’ve been up to. Sarah gave us an explanation of the new game that she was working on, where she was trying to build an entirely new system of magic exclusively for the game. It was… hard to understand, if I’m going to be honest.

The magic that she was working to create was one that required the user to have an extremely high spatial awareness. This was because it was a more advanced version of geometric magic, with the spell diagrams forming entirely around the caster in a bubble. Personally, I didn’t see the allure to something that was needlessly difficult, but she seemed quite passionate.

After the conversation ended, I received a private message from Sarah…

EverLasting: Congratulations on getting ready to advance. Since you haven’t actually done it yet, I’m guessing that your System Companion hasn’t been able to tell you what kinds of perks you will unlock yet.

EarthForceOne: Not yet, at least… Is there something else like the Calamity Spawner and Monster Spawner that will be unlocked?

EverLasting: Not something like that two of those… however, there is a new feature that becomes available at rank 2.

EverLasting: Rank 2 is the dawn of the Divine Age as Keepers tend to call it. It is the time when your people either gain the ability to become gods, or gain the power to fight against them. You’ll need to keep in mind that any enemy you face will come prepared with that level of power.

EverLasting: As for the new feature, it is known as the Champion’s Guidance. Since your worlds have expanded as much as they have, I doubt that you use the basic aura reading techniques anymore, correct?

EarthForceOne: Not in a while… It’s a bit troublesome to search through so many people for specific kinds of auras.

EverLasting: Well, with the Champion’s Guidance, that actually becomes a bit easier. What this feature does is allow you to spend points to alter a person’s aura. You can enhance their natural talents, grant them new ones, or even give them the ‘golden aura’.

EarthForceOne: Really? That seems kind of… counter-productive, right? After challenging us to get so many powerful individuals, what we get in return is a system that lets us grant extra talent to only one person at a time.

EverLasting: Well, you’re not exactly wrong. However, the benefit of this is that you get to pick and choose who you empower like this. And depending on how you choose to alter their aura, and if you provide them any additional guidance, it is likely for those chosen individuals to become deities in their own right.

EverLasting: If you properly use Champion’s Guidance, you can build your starting lineup of deities out of those you respect within your world. Of course, there’s also the option of just ‘ascending’ them directly to the Admin Room to make them gods like that, but those types of gods won’t be able to help during an invasion.

EarthForceOne: By that method… you mean basically killing them and creating a Companion that was a copy of them, right?

EverLasting: That’s right. It’s not a very popular method, unless you find someone that you just can’t bear the thought of losing. For example… most of my companions are people who ascended with that method.

I didn’t really mean to insult her methods, or anything like that. Given the fact that you were creating a perfect copy, I could understand how many people would consider that to be a good idea. Personally, though, I preferred the thought of the gods being able to freely remain within the world. Even among mine, although they had learned to descend more often, there was always a time limit.

EarthForceOne: I’ll keep it in mind. Anyways, is the ‘Champion’s Guidance’ the only system unlocked at rank 2?

EverLasting: Afraid so. Most of these systems are only unlocked due to a common need for them. For example… as a rank 1 Keeper, you gained the ability to spawn monsters and disasters. Some people use these defensively, setting up spawn conditions for ‘extra-dimensional travel’ to target invading armies. This is a good method for new Keepers to protect themselves, but it becomes less effective over time.

EverLasting: As a rank 2 Keeper, those disasters and monsters are unlikely to cause any problems for a serious invasion. From now on, it will be possible that enemy gods will be sent to your world.

EverLasting: I should also give you another warning. There are far more of the Monster and Gamer Keepers in the second rank than the first. They have the tendency to quickly pass the first rank, and settle in either the second or third, so you should be careful.

Subconsciously, I gave a small nod when I heard that. A part of me had hoped that most of the monster Keepers were kept to the first rank, but that was unrealistic. They were monsters, after all, and thrived on strength. It’d be odd for them not to grow to the level of gods, if they were aware of the method.

Sarah and I continued to talk for a few more minutes, before she had to go to work on her new game. Shaking my head, I got up from my desk once again, moving out towards the hall. I was not at all surprised when I found Aurivy sitting on the couch in the living room, a bucket of popcorn in her hand.

She grinned at me as I entered, waving one arm. “Wanna join me? Been a while since you came up here to just relax.”

I gave a small nod, moving to sit next to her. She was watching yet another show that I had never seen before, though it appeared that this one was likely one from my current world as opposed to the old one. “Well, I’ll be up here for a while this time…”

“Are you sure that this information is correct, Miss Storms?” A burly dovah spoke up within a dimly lit stone room. He was standing behind a desk, holding a hand-drawn map and studying it.

The woman opposite him nodded with a smile, her black hair flowing gently down her back. “Of course, guildmaster. If you would like, I can send one of the Travelers there personally, so you can have easy access from now on.”

The dovah blinked in surprise, before nodding. “Right, you were a Traveler yourself, weren’t you? Alright, that would be appreciated. And you said that the sky of the next level was on fire?”

The black-haired human simply nodded again. “To be more precise, I believe that it should be something similar to Dawn’s tidestones. It wasn’t the entire sky that was on fire, merely large chunks of it. But it should be safe to assume that the twenty-second floor will have no such concept as night-time. Otherwise, the landscape that I saw was ideal for living.”

“Thank you for this.” The dovah nodded with a long sigh. “I’ll pass along word to the excavation team, and we will begin digging towards this location as soon as the information has been confirmed. As promised, the bounty--”

The woman shook her hands quickly. “Please, I don’t need anything like a bounty for this, sir. I’m just doing this to help. If you must use the money, use it to help outfit the exploration team you’re going to send. This is a new layer, which means new dangers that we aren’t prepared for. I’d rather your coin be spent to preserve their lives than to line my pockets.”

The guildmaster paused for a moment, before his lips curved upwards into a grin that looked all too feral on his canine face. Still, the woman recognized it as a kind smile. “Alright, I got it. Though, I take it that means you don’t want to be part of the team yourself?”

She simply sighed, shaking her head. “I’d love to be if I could, sir. But, I’ve got a rather pressing engagement. I received a mission from the church, and can’t afford to delay.”

“Oh? A busy one, aren’t you?” The dovah laughed heartily. “Alright, I won’t keep you. Let me know whenever you’re finished with your business, and I’ll include you in the team if I can.”

The woman bowed politely. “Thank you for that, sir. Now, if you don’t need me for anything else, I should be off. I need to prepare for my mission.”

The dovah shook his head, allowing Julia Storms to leave his office. As she did, Julia heard a voice speaking up from her shadow. You could have accepted a little bit of the reward, at least. It would have probably helped us get the rations we’ll need.

Ah, right, sorry about that Thelsa. Julia spoke to her shadow mentally. You know how it is. Don’t worry, we still have plenty from our last job to get what we need.

This was the secret to the woman known as Julia Storms, and the true power of the Shadow Saint. At first, Thelsa was only able to grant her shadow life for a limited time, treating it as if it were an aeon. Now, however, her shadow had become its own being, able to trade places with Thelsa at will.

More importantly, this shadow was a blank slate in its completed state, a being with no classes or levels. She could train in these classes, sure, but only in ones that Thelsa herself had unlocked. While Thelsa prided herself as an elementalist and a rogue, she had unlocked numerous other classes, enabling Julia to primarily act as a mage and priest.

Of course, this did not come without its downsides. Since the two were independent entities, they did not share their stats. As Julia did not train heavily in any physical classes, she was forced to wear a ring that negated the powerful gravity of the higher floors of Fyor.

I’ll let you take care of buying the food for our trip, so let me know when you’re done. I need to focus on cultivating the second shadow. Thelsa’s instructions spoke into Julia’s mind, making her blink in surprise.

You’re working on the second one already? Do you even know what you want to make her?

She could see her shadow ahead of her thanks to the passing lights, and how it offered a faint nod. She’ll be our warrior and archer. Sorry, but after this Council business, we might be forced to retire your identity. Hopefully, it won’t come to that, but I wanted to warn you.

Julia began to grimace, before shaking her head with a sigh. It is what it is. Just make sure you only wipe out my name and class levels this time. I still can’t remember half of who I was the last time before you had me ‘retire’.

I did say sorry about that… I’ll do my best, though. I’ve been practicing, so I think I should be getting better at targeting specific information.

Wait, you’ve been practicing!? Julia shouted out in her mind, red flags suddenly going off. On who? I’m the only one here!

Don’t worry, don’t worry. Thelsa’s response came back with a laugh. I just do little tests after breakfast every morning.

Breakfast? But we never eat brea-- you cheeky woman… Okay, but at least don’t make me forget anything important.