Chapter 209: Nipping the Bud
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I crank my Perceptive pressure back up and focus on the Prismatic Butterfly, shrinking my perceptive area to only cover the mountains. I carefully watch the monster conjure its spells and look around for me. Its antennae wave around, and I can feel its Bond increase in pressure momentarily, probably in an attempt to find me, but with my Bond suppressed, I am safe.

Or I thought so. The Monster vanishes and reappears closer and waves its antennae again as it momentarily increases its Bond presence again.

It’s copying me?! 

Just like how I saw past its illusions with my perceptive pressure, is it using the same theory to detect me even when I am suppressing my Bond?

The butterfly teleports again, appearing dangerously close to me. I teleport to another Dungeon Waystone, much further away and hopefully out of its range.

How is it doing that?

I’d ask Kayafe, but she hasn’t made any direct effort to improve her Bond, so she likely doesn’t know what’s going on. I’d ask Safyr, but she probably doesn’t want to be bothered with something I can probably figure out myself. Wasn’t there someone else I could ask, though? It feels like it, but it’s like I have forgotten, which is strange.

In any case, it seems like I’m on my own for now, and as long as I can keep this game of cat and mouse up, I’m safe.

My best guess is that even though I am suppressing my Bond presence, I am not suppressing my Bond itself, so as long as I am in its resonance range, it can detect me. But how do I suppress my Bond further?

The butterfly sends out another pulse, like a radar, and again teleports closer to me. I try to suppress my Bond even further, but as my foe gets closer and closer, I abandon that idea. Even if it’s possible, I am not proficient in it right now, and considering that it takes months of practice, even if I did find out how to do it, I would still not be able to hide from the Prismatic Butterfly.

What’s worse is that the monster seems to be getting more proficient with its detection, so what if I blind it instead? How can I blind it? Maybe I can give it false signals? If it can detect my Bond skills, then maybe if I leave clones and illusions made from [Echoes of Reality], I can fool it?

It is worth a try. With the waystone key, I quickly go to several other locations in between its radar pulses. Next, I use my new breakthrough in [Sense Magic] to blind it's perceptive eyes in case it had a sensing ability; this will also have the effect of it being unable to feel my perceptive pressure which seems to only make it angrier at this point.

When the monster uses its Bond radar again, it appears confused, its antennae twitching erratically. I may not be able to hide my Bond, but it seems like I can fool the monster for now.

Now that I have bought myself some time, I examine what it’s doing with its Bond spells. It is using a lot of mana, and its mana seems strange, almost like a new form of spell. It’s very subtle and easy to miss at first glance, but the more I focus on it, the stranger it appears.

It’s almost like spell mana amped up to eleven; hyper spell mana? No, it’s somehow mana infused with the Bond’s concept!

Ting! Sense Magic has met the requirements for a breakthrough and will continue leveling past level 980!

49th Breakthrough: You have sensed Bond Mana; this will help you study the bridge between mana and Bond.

Essences, spell mana, unique mana, ritual mana, and now Bond mana is all related in some way. In truth, most of those are just elemental mana given identity beyond their element, with only ritual mana being unrelated to an element, which may explain why they don’t naturally exist. So it’s only natural that Bonds should be able to influence mana similar to how spells do it, but I completely overlooked this. 

I suppose with everything that has been going on, I just didn’t have time to really think about it. I just assumed Bond mana was simply its essence, but this is very surface level. I should have questioned if there were more since there are more specific essences under the base foundation essence type. 

What I suspect is happening is that as I focus my Bond inward, it not only fuses with my anima, but it may also transform my mana into Bond mana if I will it. This is why the butterfly’s illusions are more effective and why it is able to cause destructive illusory spells. This is the next level to the Bond and how I can further improve my Bond spells and Skills.

I continue playing Marco Polo with the monster, all while studying its spells to better understand what’s going on, until the prismatic butterfly uses up most of its mana and returns to its home.

I explain what I learned and how the butterfly seemingly learned a new ability from me to Kayafe, asking for her feedback.

“Not all monsters are the same,” Kayafe explains. “But you can group them into three rough categories: Animalistic, intelligent, and sapient.”

I nod, instantly understanding. Sylanna, the fairy, and dragons would be sapient, the Prismatic Butterfly and Treant would be intelligent, and most other monsters are animalistic.

“Sapients are the most dangerous but also the safest since they have the capability to be reasoned with, although some, like other people, may still fight. It’s better to just consider them a person who is capable of learning, deceit, and empathy.” Kayafe explains

“Intelligents are smart monsters that can learn and apply simple deceit and tactics, but generally don’t understand empathy. They only understand what they feel and can often hold grudges. This is where you should be careful since they can get quite obsessive. If that monster is among those, then it will surely try to seek you out.”

“So what you are saying is that it may keep trying to hunt for me, right?” I ask.

“Yes. What’s more, giving it time to think will only make it more dangerous, so you will want to slay it soon before it figures out how to differentiate you from your Bond skills.”

So I need to nip this problem in the bud before it grows any more dangerous.

 

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

 

The Prismatic Butterfly returns to her nest with fury still boiling at her insides. That lesser dares to humiliate her! Scare her into running away all the while that coward hides and flees!

You’ve felt it; you must have. A voice enters her mind. A small lesser stygian sits in the corner of her nest. The pest has been trying to ‘spread the vision of its goddess’ and pestering her with ‘visions of greater power’.

Stygian Seer (Heroic), Level 824 Chosen Gazer (Heroic), Level 611 Sightless Acolyte (Grand), Level 758 Ice Bond.

The stygian always keeps its eyes closed, but it has an icy gem in its forehead, what it calls its ‘third eye’; or maybe it was ‘gaze stone’ or some other nonsense like that? The Prismatic Butterfly listened before only because the lesser being amused her with mad ramblings, but now he irritates her.

She lashes out with [Altered Reality], showing the world the true beauty of destruction. Flames dance like forbidden entities of annihilation, and the ground smolders with a beautiful glow as lightning twirls with its fiery partner, stepping with wild abandon on the ground.

The true beauty of the world. Its short-lived dance of death holds value to those fortunate to witness it and live; that is what true beauty means. Eternal beauty has no meaning, no value. Why visit a flower that lives forever? One can always taste its sweet nectar later, but those that are short-lived must be tasted while she has a chance; the same concept applies to beauty.

The icy glow of the Stygian’s gem brings her out of her thoughts. Her dancing flame and lightning slows to a crawl as the monster casually walks out of danger.

You’ve felt her sight, the fear, the overwhelming pressure like the weight of the world is behind her gaze, yet you reject her gift? She has done nothing but show you the rightful path, even as you attacked her.

The Prismatic Butterfly shudders in rage and fires a multitude of [Disintegrating Rays] from her wings to shut the rambling lesser up, but then the Stygian’s gem lights up again, and it appears to zip out of the way.

Anger continues to rise in her as the lesser being continues to flee, just like that damned girl who seems to be approaching with a few of her fake bodies, according to Bond resonance. Fed up with the recent events, she unleashes a burning nova to scorch and melt everything around her. The overgrown building she claimed for herself collapses, forming a large puddle of lava that rapidly cools into black glass, but to her astonishment, the stygian is unharmed!

It seems the lesser was also caught by surprise, but it is in a circle of unaffected ground, and a shimmering globe shines around it. However, before either of them can digest what just happened, more of those winged things appear. 

Instantly she can feel the presence of a foreign Bond as dozens more signals appear with the glowing winged little people.

The Goddess has protected me! The Stygian says with relief.

The Prismatic Butterfly blasts out lightning at the annoying Stygian since she knows these Bond signatures are just a spell, but her spell seems to be completely drained again.

The summon spells strike at her, each hit like a needle that injected explosive mana. It hurts a lot, but doesn’t inflict any serious or obvious damage.

She stands there, taunting the lessers, showing them how weak they truly are; she doesn’t even need to heal herself. However, while she does this, she pulsates her Bond, feeling the foreign and weaker Bond skills around her.

There is an extremely slight difference between the bodies and these summons, so there should also be a difference between the real body of that coward and the fake ones. She needs to find a purer signature… or perhaps…

She almost freezes as she tries to work the problem out; all the while, she ignores the painful strikes. Her anger simmers down almost as if it knows that if she can figure out how to find the real body, then she’d be able to get revenge.

That coward doesn’t use the true beauty of fire and lightning; she uses weak and inferior beauty, so her Bond should reflect that. Her skills, on the other hand, should be influenced by a Bond skill and thus should feel different. Instead of trying to find where and who, she should try to find a difference between the Bond signatures.

After several minutes of thinking, the Prismatic Butterfly realizes that it is still being bombarded by attacks. This time there are those fake bodies wielding spears, trying to pierce her invincible chitin. They are even weaker than those summons, barely noticeable in their strikes. The Stygian has retreated and is nowhere to be seen.

She wants to gloat, to show how insignificant its ‘goddess’ is, but something else catches her attention. A massive sphere of liquid mana hovers high above. Whatever it is, it isn’t good, but she should be able to teleport out; all she needs to do is find that body.

She pulsates her Bond again, focusing on the tiniest details that separate her from her fakes, and finally, she finds that coward hiding on the outskirts of the plains! It will only take her two teleports to reach her, and she’ll slay that annoying girl!

The Prismatic Butterfly wills [Immaculate Destination] to bring her to the girl’s real body, except nothing happens. Why won't she go anywhere?!

That’s when she feels it, an emptiness as if her mana is all gone. How? When?! Was she so absorbed in her efforts to find her that she didn’t notice her mana being stolen?!

“Yeah, I’m not going to let you do that,” The many-tailed girl says. “I hope I used my classes enough for them to qualify for levels.”

Suddenly, something hits the Prismatic Butterfly, and everything goes dark.

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