41. Soul Core
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Rakna’s eyes snapped open right when the clock displayed exactly 8:30:00 as if his body had been programmed to do so. Which, in fact, wasn’t that far from the truth. His internal clock was adjusted through years of training.

 

If he decided to only sleep for eight hours, he would not sleep a second more or less. While conscious, he was able to keep track of time for at least 24 hours without seeing a single timepiece.

 

He grunted and got out of bed while Pronos was still peacefully sleeping on the pillow. He loosened up his shoulder and went to the bathroom. He took out the clothes he had bought got himself and took a shower before wearing them.

 

They were composed of black jeans loose enough to not bother him when moving, a silver belt, a black and red shirt, sports shoes, and a leather jacket to finish.

 

Rakna let the water flow in the sink and rinsed his face with it. He looked at the mirror with a blank expression and he couldn’t help but immediately focus on his wolf ears.

 

“I will have to get used to this…” He muttered and glanced at the magic necklace he had placed to the side. He wondered if he still should hide his features or even if it was any useful considering most of the people he would want to hide from would be able to see through it with a glance.

 

He shrugged and ultimately put Ulvia’s Veil around his neck but didn’t activate the illusion. The item itself added 5 to his senses and he wouldn’t want to pass on that. He stifled a yawn and took a look at the time.

 

He still had ten minutes before their agreed time. He pulled out a cigarette from Obsidian’s Smoke and lit it as he walked toward the see-through wall of his room. He stood silently as he observed the city outside.

 

With the morning sunlight, this landscape had another feeling to it. He squinted his eyes and while channeling both his soul and mana, triggered his Fabled Sight. From what happened to him when he learned how to fly, his Eyes of the Soul could somewhat be used as an active skill to boost his instinct to a completely different level.

 

It would change from something that allowed him to grasp most things with ease, to something that made him one with the action itself. Then, there was mana. He was sure that he could use that energy in the same way.

 

So, as his eyes glowed with a golden hue, he was pleasantly amazed as he heard three bell-like sounds that announced the appearance of three prompts.

 

❮ ◈ ❯

Eyes of the Soul has leveled up!

Mana Control has leveled up!

Fabled Sight has leveled up!

---

You have found out how to channel your mana to different parts of your body. You have learned a new skill; Reinforcement.

Reinforcement (Lv.1): Any combatant that respects themselves must learn this skill. It is not considered magic as it merely represents the manipulation of internal energy without attribute molding.

Statistics other than Stamina, MP, MP Regen, and Atr Cap can be increased when the skill is active. The skill can be concentrated on one particular stat to maximize the effects.

Minimum Cost: 3 MP and 3 Stamina per min.

---

You have found out how to channel your soul to heighten your perception of the world. You have attained a spiritual skill; Soul Core.

---

Soul Core (Lv.1): One who is a step into the spiritual world. By getting closer to your soul, you have developed a spiritual organ. Whenever you perform an action of any sort, skills included, your Core will guide your very soul to support you.

Additional Effects: +100% Senses | -10% Mana and Stamina Consumption

❮ ◈ ❯

 

There was one thing Rakna hadn’t been prepared for and that was the moment the second new skill took effect. Last time, it had been uncomfortable and mildly painful. But this time, after having his senses doubled again, his brain almost stopped functioning right then and there.

 

His breathing stopped and he lost control over his body as he helplessly collapsed on the floor. His eyes started switching back and forth from purple to red without stopping.

 

[Rakna! The Trickster’s Sleeve!] Alexa suddenly shouted.

 

Rakna growled and his fangs grew a bit longer. He opened his mouth and struggled as he spoke three words, “[Two… of… Hearts.]”

 

A card instantly materialized above him and surrounded him with warm light. He then gasped as the air returned to his lungs. At the same time, his brain finally got the oxygen it needed and he hastily sat up while panting.

 

Under his mask of forced serenity, Rakna almost felt scared of what just happened. What had just happened wasn’t just mere pain. No; pain would have been a thousand times better than what he had just experienced. It was as if his mind, soul, mana, and even body were about to explode.

 

“Sssss!” A hissing sound reached his ears and he winced as he tried to cover his ears at how loud it was to him. He glanced at his left to see Pronos looking at him in both confusion and worry. He seemed to have just woken up or he might have freaked out if he had seen Rakna paralyzed on the ground.

 

“Well…” He paused and took a deep breath before continuing. Trying his best to control his senses and make it so that his eardrums wouldn’t be hurt by the sound of his own voice. “Good morning, little guy. You want to know what I just found out?”

 

Pronos tilted his head in wonder.

 

“Large increases to stats and attributes appear to be extremely fatal if you’re not careful with it,” he said and slowly stood up. He saw his extinguished cigarette lying on the floor and groaned. “I even had to use another Trickster Card so soon,” he muttered. “Still, thanks for the heads up, Alexa. I owe you one.”

 

[It’s… no problem. I’m here to assist.]

 

Rakna snorted. “At least, I’m lucky that the lowest card rank was enough to help me; it will be back by tomorrow. Now…”

 

After getting his breathing to a perfectly normal state and flexing his sore muscles, he looked out of the window again while his Fabled Sight was still active. He almost fell again when his vision zoomed on the first thing that he saw; a flying car passing by at high speed. He even saw the small details about the driver’s appearance.

 

❮◈❯ Fabled Sight has leveled up! ❮◈❯

 

Before he was struck by another fit of ‘over perception’, Rakna decided to disengage the skill. He had learned his lesson. If he wanted to experiment with his soul, among other things, he had to make sure he wouldn’t get killed in the process. Or at least, he would have to prepare a healing measure each time.

 

Rakna looked at the clock and it was time for his group to assemble. He gestured to Pronos who seemingly was in the middle of a yawn and the little snake jumped on his shoulder right away. After that, he passed by the bathroom to splash his face with water again and wipe the sweat away.

 

When he finally came out of his room, he saw Nyx leaning against the wall with her eyes closed, wearing a casual black dress with red accents. When Rakna came out, she opened her eyes to look at him.

 

“Your mana flow is hectic,” she uttered. “Were you training?”

 

“You could say that,” Rakna nodded and he mimicked her, waiting for Allan and Flavia. “I wanted to experiment something. I think I almost killed myself in the process but the results were worth the fright.”

 

Nyx’s eyes widened a bit. She looked at him with a scowl. “I see… Try not to do that in the future. It might cripple you.”

 

“I’ll keep that in mind,” Rakna replied evenly and the hallway turned silent. A minute later, this silence was broken by the sound of a door opening. Flavia came out of her room and smiled when she saw them. She wore a white shirt and a gray long skirt.

 

“Good morning, you two. Have you been waiting for long?”

 

“No, barely a few minutes,” Nyx responded. “However,” she added and turned toward the door of the room belonging to their common lazy friend.

 

Flavia sighed. “Yes… I’m afraid this might take some time.”

 

Rakna closed his eyes with a sigh. “Alexa, call Allan’s HL. And if you can, make the tone ring as loud as possible.”

 

[Understood.]

 

Two seconds later, they heard a short scream followed by a loud thud.

 

Flavia giggled. “Looks like someone fell off their bed.”

 

Nyx smiled as well and Rakna then told Alexa to hand up the call; it had done its job. Five minutes later, a sleepy Allan opened his door with an equally weary glare.

 

“Goddammit, I wish mornings didn’t exist,” he grumbled as he walked out of his room with a coat hanging from his shoulder. He sported black cargo pants and a sleeveless shirt.

 

“I’m sure you do,” Rakna quipped dully and started heading toward the elevator. “Let’s go.”

 

“Aye, aye…”

 

A few minutes later, the group was leaving the hotel and entering the lively streets of Dark Steel again. The day ambiance was different from the night one, contrasted by a vastly lower number of passersby and a clean atmosphere caused by the fresh air of the morning.

 

[The Pavilion is hard to miss. It is the oval-shaped building that you can see sticking out between skyscrapers to the north. At normal walking speed, there is about thirty minutes worth of distance from here to there,] Alexa answered the obvious question the second they came out.

 

“Well, I guess we’re walking again,” Allan said as the four of them walked on the pavement. “Hey, Rak, I was wondering. You’re not going to hide your tails and ears anymore?”

 

“There is no point. So, no. At least, for the current circumstances.”

 

“People at the level of overseers can easily notice low-grade illusions, after all,” Nyx remarked.

 

Rakna nodded and as he was idly observing his surroundings like a tourist, he suddenly stopped moving as his wolf ears twitched. Which, once again, made Flavia grab her own hand to stop it from reaching for them. Allan noticed with a snort that even Nyx’s hand had contracted.

 

‘Lucky bastard,’ he said inwardly before asking, “Why’re you stopping?”

 

“Give me a second,” Rakna replied and closed his eyes. His senses were picking up something quite strange. He was sure he heard the screams of a little girl for the split of a second but the noise of the airborne cars quickly drowned it. At the same time, he briefly felt a wave of… intent? His sense of smell also picked up something that tasted foul.

 

It was like… “Negative intent,” he muttered to himself much to his companions’ confusion. What they couldn’t know was that Rakna’s sensory stat had already gone above 200. It had become possible for him to detect things such as malice from a distance now, on top of having very strong sight, hearing, and smell.

 

But he couldn’t tell where that intent came from precisely. That’s when he got an idea. He raised his hand, palm facing the sky. “[Call of Fangs,]” he whispered and, at the cost of one mana, a very small shadow wolf pup appeared in his hand, which happily barked at him.

 

“Can you locate the source of that intent?” Rakna asked simply and the pup jumped off his hand and ran off into one of the alleys to their right.

 

“What are you doing, if I may ask?” Nyx raised an eyebrow.

 

“I’m not sure yet. Could you go on ahead without me? I have to check something. Don’t worry, I’ll catch up to you. I should be able to smell your trace,” he said and ran off after his shadow pup.

 

“The heck just happened?” Allan uttered.

 

Flavia shrugged. “It’s just Rakna being Rakna. He’s too elusive for our mortal minds,” she jested.

 

“True. Though, did he just say ‘I should be able to smell your trace’?” Allan grimaced. “Damn, that’s weird… What do you think I smell like?”

 

Nyx and Flavia blinked and shared a look before continuing to walk, ignoring his question.

 

“Hey!” He shouted as he followed them. “I mean, it was rhetorical but you didn’t need to ignore me like that!”

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