“She said… that your soul changed?” Allan said as Rakna stood up from his meditative stance. “Now that I look at you, your ears and tails do look kinda different. Your eyes too…”
Rakna paused for a moment. ‘My soul… I see. So, The Harvester goes as far as modifying my soul. I can’t tell if that’s a good thing or not,’ he thought then looked at Evelyn. “I think I know the cause of the change but why is she like that?”
The succubus breathed in when she heard the question. She recovered her balance and smiled at Flavia for her help before answering, “Sorry… when I was sensing your soul, I think it reacted reflexively and attacked my own. At one point, I was looking at you and in the next, three beasts appeared around me and a lion jumped at me.”
Rakna blinked in surprise. “Interesting… Soul Breath might have caused it. This would mean that there’s a chance I can summon the souls of those beasts…” He muttered to himself.
“Am I the only one who has no idea what’s going on?” Allan uttered. Nyx and Flavia shook their head and only Evelyn seemed to have some understanding of the situation.
“Well,” Rakna spoke up. “I guess this is another hint I can give you about my Nirvana Skill. What she saw has something to do with it.”
“The three beasts, huh?” Nyx scowled and looked at Evelyn. “Can you describe them?”
“One of them was a nine-tailed wolf. Another was a sort of griffin-like creature, though it seemed to be half-eagle and half-wolf. The last one was a large lion with black fur.”
“I see…” The former goddess smiled faintly. She had solved the puzzle.
“Going by that smile, it seems you figured it out,” Flavia remarked and she nodded. “Mind telling us?”
“Only if he allows it,” Nyx replied and glanced at Rakna for confirmation who simply shrugged and sat down on one of the couches.
“Do as you please. I don’t mind you knowing as long as the secret doesn’t leave this room.”
“In that case; I believe that your Nirvana Skill allows you to absorb the powers and main features of a creature,” she declared. “That would explain how you turned into a therian and while how you met a nine-tailed wolf eludes me, you probably assimilated it during your Initiation. As for the winged beast, it was probably the result of you using that skill on Aquila.”
“I see,” Flavia said. “This new change must be from another beast too then.”
“On top of that, I also remembered what Baires mentioned when you sold the bodies to him. They had their hearts missing. That would mean you have a use for them. This, along, with what you told us after the Tutorial, I believe it is by eating them that you acquire new abilities,” Nyx added and this time, Rakna’s eyes widened a little, impressed that she had made the connection.
“Ah! So that’s why you said hearts taste good!” Allan exclaimed. “Damn, I thought you were joking.”
“Now you know,” Rakna said offhandedly. “My ability aside, are you done with your training?” he changed the subject.
“For today, yes. What about you? What did you use your Nirvana Skill on? Evelyn saw a lion, but what kind?”
“I’ll keep it a surprise,” Rakna said and they all sent him a blank look. “In any case, I will stay here for the night so you guys can do whatever you want.”
“Here?” Flavia frowned. “It’s not a healthy way of sleeping…”
Rakna snorted. “Technically, I won’t be sleeping per se. I will be using the soul meditation you saw me do. It works as a substitute for sleeping and helps me improve my control of soul power. One stone, two birds.”
“And I guess you won’t be here in the morning?” She asked with an exasperated expression.
“Perhaps. I think I will go to Trafford at about 7 am then I will probably spend the day resting or practicing with soul power. In the meantime, you four can continue your training.”
“If you say so…”
“Oh, and I recommend you buy some basic skills from the Shop if you haven’t yet. With the money from the gold eater, you four could can all get something decent,” Rakna added. “Of course, if Nyx and Flavia don’t mind sharing.”
“I don’t have any complaints with that idea,” the former goddess said and Flavia agreed with a curt nod. “Rather, don’t you want some of it as well? We know you sold those bodies for a decent sum but it’s still less than what we could share with you if you just asked.”
“It’s fine,” he shook his head. “I have more than enough money at the moment thanks to my recent excursion. If anything, I should be the one to ask if you need some.”
“Really? How much do you have?” Allan asked in curiosity. He had already been told how much the squirrel had been sold for from the girls.
“About two million and a half.” The blond did a double-take at that and Rakna seemingly ignored it and continued, “Though, I originally had something closer to three million; I spent some to buy a skill and a few consumables. I’ll probably use a bit more tomorrow too.”
“I can’t believe this guy…” Allan facepalmed and the girls weren’t much different. Only Evelyn was stuck in the ‘shocked stage’ since she had yet to get used to Rakna’s abnormality.
“Whatever. I’m going to bed. I heard they have a hotel in the commune section,” Allan stated as he unceremoniously went down the stairs and exited the Filter Dimension.
Flavia chuckled wryly with a shake of her head. “I will follow his example, I think. Have a good night, Rakna,” she said and left together with Nyx who simply nodded at the werewolf with a smile.
After they were gone, the only person that remained was Evelyn. She had a nervous expression as Rakna eyed her inquisitively. “What’s wrong? Do you need anything? If it’s about Sonata, you can keep it until I’m finished recovering.”
She shook her head and replied with an embarrassed tone, “No, it’s not that. I wanted to ask you… if I could stay… with you… for the night…”
Rakna raised an eyebrow. “Even for a succubus, that’s a bit too brazen, don’t you think?”
“Eh?” She exclaimed in confusion at first before she realized the possible connotations of what she had said and devolved in a stuttering mess. “N-no! I d-didn’t mean that! I just thought I could try and meditate with you! I think I could learn a bit more how to manipulate my soul…”
Her outburst died down when she noticed the slight glint of amusement in his eyes. “That’s mean… you’re just messing with me,” she muttered with a pout and he snorted.
“I see that your title of Virgin Succubus isn’t an empty one.”
Evelyn whimpered. “You saw that…”
“I did. My analysis skill is pretty advanced. At your level, there’s nothing much you can do to hide your status from me unless you have a counter-skill,” Rakna casually said and crossed his legs so that he could enter his mediation again. “Anyhow, you can stay as much as you want. Hm, let’s see… compared to the others, you know how to sense soul power to some extent, right?”
The Cambion nodded, with a bit more serious countenance, and sat close to him.
“Then, it’ll be easy for you. I’ll give you some advice. I’m not privy to how a Phantom’s body works but you should try to gather your soul power into a specific point to create a soul organ; a sort of catalyst made to unconsciously dictate the flow of your soul power. At least, that’s how I see it.”
“From there, try to circulate it across your body by pumping the organ and mixing your own mind to the process. If you manage that, learning Soul Breath should be intuitive to you,” he explained and glanced at Evelyn who was deep in thought. “Good luck now. I will not respond to you until the morning. You can try to sense my soul power while I meditate to help you if you want.”
She nodded at him and he closed his eyes with a deep breath. He was about to shut down his mind when Alexa spoke to him, [Would you like me to turn off the lights?]
‘…you can do that?’
‘Well, I don’t see why not.’ As soon as he thought that, the floor was plunged into darkness and Evelyn yelped at the sudden change. “Focus. Don’t forget to breathe,” he uttered without opening his eyes. “I expect you to have grasped this skill by the time I wake up.”
“You sound like an obnoxious martial master…” She grumbled with no real hostility behind her words and before she knew, the teen in front of her already couldn’t hear her.
She could see his soul spinning now. The nine tails appeared to be creating a harmony with the wagging of the wings and the slight flails of the black fur. She breathed in and began to follow what she had been told in earnest.
* * *
Rakna let himself fall deep within the depths of his mind and soul. The longer he used Soul Breath and the more it leveled up, the farther he could go. He didn’t know how long he had been plunging down this hole but he barely had the drive to even care about it.
He felt like he was getting close to something. In fact, it felt like he could almost concretely touch it. At first, it was just a few blurry visions but they quickly turned into something much more.
Fleeting lights were revolving around him as if to beckon him somehow; guide him. He had tried to follow them but they always disappeared before reaching their destination.
After more than a hundred attempts, something new finally happened. The lights blinked, shone, and switched from a color to another before flowing into his eyes, effectively blinding him.
When his vision returned to him, he gawked at the landscape presented to him. Under a starry night sky with exactly twelve moons laid an endless field of purple roses that gleamed under the moonlight.
From the sky, black petals freely fell like rain and turned into particles whenever they touched the flowers on the ground or himself. The curvature of the horizon was also extremely visible as if the terrain he was standing on was a very small planet.
Rakna then looked down at the ground and observed that the roses in his direct vicinity were of a pure crimson. He tried to take a few steps and the roses that he got close to would turn red while the ones he distanced himself from would revert to a beautiful purple.
He had no idea what this place was or how it worked. But, for some reason, he felt at peace, as if he had always been here; as if he had lived his whole life in this place.
“That would be an accurate way to put it,” a booming female voice, both soft and authoritative resounded and Rakna froze on the spot. He looked around vigilantly but failed to find anything or anyone that might have been the source.
“Do not seek me. We are part of you and part of this realm. If your wish is to see us, just grant it to yourself. It is in your power to do so.”
Rakna stopped inspecting his surroundings and decided to trust those words without hesitation, almost unnaturally so. Then, with instinctive proficiency, he called them forth. Who were ‘them’? He didn’t know but he nonetheless willed them to answer his call.
Then, some of the black petals in the air began to whirl and gather in three different spots. Three figures were formed by their congregation and when the first of them was completed, Rakna found himself staring at the deep crimson eyes of a towering lion.
“We are you; you are us. We respond to you. Nice to meet you, Rakna Xiorra.”