Chapter 30: Floating On Fire-Water
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Level 10 Reached!

Analyzing Potential Reward Choices…

Only One May Be Selected.

The thought-light disappeared for a moment before returning in all its thought-like glory.

Revealing Possible Rewards Unlocked Through Species: Snake And Its Interactions…

Size: Your body mass increases greatly, with all of the increase in strength and health that comes with a greater size. (Provided by: Snake)

Hardened Scales: Your scales harden, strengthening far beyond their natural measure, becoming an armor that protects you in your every moment. (Provided by: Snake, [Piercing Resistance])

Enhanced Venom Capacity: Your venom production increases greatly, both innate and acquired. (Provided by: Snake, [Venomous], [Paralyzing Venom])

Illusory Camouflage: Your scales are not what they seem, automatically pulling from your light reservoirs and shifting themselves to match any surrounding colors. (Provided by: Snake, [Illusion Spark])

The choices that the thought-light revealed to me were all tempting. The battle with the most recent bad-things had once more shown my vulnerability; if it weren’t for the presence of the Coreless, I would have been defeated by the very first of them to arrive, let alone the entirety of the group. I would have been doomed. Much of that came down to my size; while I was able to slither through the wall-cracks and small-tunnels with ease, a great advantage in avoiding a fight, I was vulnerable once I was in one. Against the Aridae, it hadn’t been as big of a problem - many, though not all, of them were of a similar size to me. It was becoming clearer to me - though only a little, as I had already been well aware - that there were many bad-things that could easily crush me.

A larger body would help with that; it might even let my venomless bites inflict more injury, which would be extremely useful.

The most important thing, though, was the possibilities that it opened for obtaining new Blooded Traits - right now, most bad-things were too large for me to consume. It was difficult to guess how much the size increase would affect me, but I knew that it would help at least some. My mouth salivated at the thought of consuming the corpses of the bad-things near me, my mind wandering to thoughts of increased strength and power.

It was tempting.

Hardened Scales was somewhat less tempting. It didn’t offer the extra ability to obtain more Blooded Traits like increasing my size did, so I doubted that I would choose it.

Increasing my venom capacity was similar, though more tempting than Hardened Scales. Without my venom, I would always have a difficult time fighting against the bad-things that roamed the World Dungeon - so increasing my venom production would do quite a lot to make me feel safer.

Meanwhile, Illusory Camouflage could be useful in allowing myself to blend in and hide. However, it working automatically meant that my light reservoirs would constantly be straining themselves - they might run out when I needed them most.

It was a difficult choice.

Yet, before I could make a decision, the thought-light flickered again.

More options were revealed.

Revealing Possible Rewards Unlocked Through Species: Ouroboros And Its Interactions…

Life: You are a symbol of the eternal, just as you are of many other things. You are a symbol of life. You gain the ability to transform mana into the essence of life, using it to fuel life-giving abilities. (Provided by: Ouroboros)

Death: You are a symbol of the eternal, just as you are of many other things. You are a symbol of death. You gain the ability to transform mana into the essence of death, using it to fuel deathly abilities. (Provided by: Ouroboros)

Rebirth: You are a symbol of the eternal, just as you are of many other things. You are a symbol of rebirth. You shed your skin, marking the birth of a new cycle. (Provided by: Ouroboros, [The Endless Cycle])

The choices created by being an ouroboros were...significant. The snake-specific options had been focused on things like size, durability, and damage in the most simple of ways, but those presented to me now were far different. They were far greater.

I still saw the appeal in growing larger, so that I could gain more Blooded Traits than I could currently, but the size increase had its own drawbacks. Depending on how large I became, I might no longer be able to hide from the bad-things that I encountered. I might be barred from the wall-cracks and fractures that had become my sanctuary, forced to confront those that I had no hope of defeating.

The more that I thought about it, the less that I wanted it.

Not with the other options that I now knew I had.

Unlike the options created by being a simple snake, the new options were much more vague. They didn’t tell me what the end result of the choice would be in simple terms, just giving me a general idea of how things would be directed. They gave me a theme.

The first, life, was interesting. I had already found mana to be extremely useful, even with only having [Mana Venom] to use it with. Learning life-giving abilities might, in some cases, be even more useful. If the Great Core continued to gather more disciples - as was only expected, with its great power - being able to help keep them alive would be helpful. The battles that I had already had with the Coreless at my side had shown how useful allies could be. It might also provide a way to heal myself faster than [The Snake That Eats Its Own Tail]. The ability was powerful, but I couldn’t use it in the middle of a fight; not without making myself vulnerable, at least.

The second sounded just as good. I had already noticed my difficulties in defeating large or numerous bad-things. Deathly abilities, whatever that might mean, could be what I needed in order to break through that weakness.

And yet, the last option was the most interesting to me.

Rebirth - the start of a new cycle.

While it didn’t have the immediate power growth that the other options provided, it gave something important: security. Something within me was eager at the thought. Eager to rid myself once and for all of the Aridae; if I chose Rebirth, I would never have to go back. I would never return to being weak and helpless in the way that I was. If I died, the Great Core would instead bring me back to the new start of the cycle. It was tempting. I had already gained much, and some of what I had gained was only through the Great Core’s grace. If I had not been able to gain [Mana Manipulation] from the flame-gaze bad-thing, for example, defeating the Aridae might have been impossible.

No, it would have been impossible.

It was only through the Great Core’s blessing that I had encountered it.

Did my creator want me to choose rebirth, cementing the power that it had allowed me to gain? I certainly did - especially with how dangerous the lesser Core’s Dungeon was beginning to feel.

Revealing Possible Rewards Unlocked Through Titles And Their Interactions…

Mana Restoration: You are a unique being, the embodiment of the cycle of renewal. Now, you have taken that even further. [The Snake That Eats Its Own Tail] gains the ability to heavily increase passive mana regeneration when activated. (Provided by: [The Snake That Eats Its Own Tail], [Minor Mana Core])

Mana Blood: Your blood, already storage for toxins, has become a storage place for mana as well. Greatly increases capacity to store mana. (Provided by: [Venomous Retribution], [Minor Mana Core])

...I was beginning to understand how some bad-things were so powerful. Even ones that hadn’t been blessed by the Great Core in the way that I was could still heavily increase their power once they reached level ten. The options were probably different, of course, leaning more towards ones similar to what being a snake gave me - increased strength, size, durability, and so on. The less simple rewards seemed to be related to being a species with high potential or having received titles.

For now, I put those simpler rewards aside. Of the four of them, only the size option really spoke to me - for the ability to consume larger bad-things, if nothing else. Still, it would mean that I could no longer flee into the wall-cracks and small-tunnels if an undefeatable enemy attacked me. Until I could better defend myself, I wanted to avoid that.

The options created by my titles were powerful as well; my victories against the Aridae had almost entirely hinged on my usage of mana, so having the ability to regenerate mana or store it in greater quantities would be welcome.

Yet my mind kept going back to other things.

Namely, the rewards created by being an Ouroboros. I had the feeling that those were what I should focus on first. They were what the Great Core had designed me for.

They were the source of my great potential.

It was tempting to choose either Life or Death. Both of them would have immediate effects on what I could do, unlike Rebirth.

But in the end, I didn’t want to go back.

I didn’t want to risk it.

I wanted to ensure that I kept the blessings that the Great Core had given me in this life. They were too precious to risk. The thought-light flickered.

Reward Chosen: Rebirth.

Condition Met.

Core Skill - [The Endless Cycle] Renewed.

Creating New Cycle Start.

A budding pressure built within my scale-flesh, quickly transforming into a wave of fire-pain that pierced through my insides. I felt as if I was burning alive, as if I was floating on fire-water.

I felt as if I would die.

My scale-flesh began to glow, giving off the luminescent magnificence of the Great Core that had created me. The light flared, overpowering the fire-water and the Flame Wisps, the intensity enough to blind my eyes and force the Coreless to cry out. My body became tight, as if it was too small to contain me. I scratched and scraped against the stone below, desperately attempting to shake it off.

I shed my constricting scale-flesh.

The cycle was born anew.