Chapter 216: True Illusions
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I learned a lot about primordial mana after two weeks. It supercharges mana, enchantments, and spells to the same degree that my applying magic via [Manipulate Magic] does. This supercharging is multiplicative with magic, too, but the only downside is we cannot create enough primordial mana to be effective in combat.

In crafting, it is just as powerful, although I am unable to apply it with surgical accuracy. I can’t just apply it to enchantments; I have to apply it to the whole thing, which seems wasteful to me. Otherwise, it is an incredibly powerful material.

“It’s hard to say what primordial is equivalent to since it doesn’t have a tier,” Urolon says, examining a crafted item we worked on in my shop. “But considering how hard it is to make and that it is as powerful as magical enhancement, I would place it maybe at Fable tier equivalent, which makes me curious because there seems to be a Legendary tier equivalent form of mana missing.”

“Where would you place all the mana if they had tiers?” Kayafe asks.

“Normal mana would be Minor.” Urolon answers. “Weaved would be Adapt, solid is Major, liquid, and vitality weaving at Grand. Super-solid mana weaving and solid vitality is Heroic, and finally, super-solid mana and liquid vitality would be Exalted. All of them can be achieved with [Manipulate Mana], so there should be one more that only [Manipulate Magic] can achieve”

Finding a legendary equivalent form of mana should help me a lot since I should be able to make it on my own, but I will only look for it once Urolon leaves. However, this has me curious as to where it’s hiding. Is it created by preventing mana from transitioning to another form, like how primordial mana is made? Or is it made by some other method? Or perhaps we are falling for a fallacy. Who says that there has to be a form of mana for every tier? Mana doesn’t have tiers, so why assume there’s such a rule?

Besides, I think we already have the Legendary tier mana if what Urolon says is right.

“Aren’t you forgetting alien and ritual mana?” I say.

“No, I simply don’t know where to put those. For alien mana, mana that normally exists in other layers, it should be considered normal for that layer, so why should it be anything special on this layer? Would our mana be more special on other layers? What if you made a normal enchanted item made of our mana on another layer before bringing the finished product back here? Would it be more powerful? Would it be reduced in power? The simplest answer is that alien mana is not special.”

Urolon makes a strong argument. Spatial layers aren’t different dimensions; technically, all of this realm is made of the layers that exist in the same space. We just live in one part of the realm, but looking at it from the realm’s point of view, no layer is more special than another.

“As for ritual mana…” Urolon trails off in thought for several moments before speaking up again. “Perhaps it is the Legendary version of mana. It would fit the criteria, but there’s more nuance to it. Rituals can be crafted by anyone, and it certainly uses mana and magic. But does that mana count as a material before being consumed by magic, or is it just consumed and it only becomes ritual mana to help the magical process? Either way, it can be gathered with [Manipulate Mana], and I suspect the tier equivalent of ritual mana depends on the ritual mana itself.”

I haven’t touched rituals since I made the Saintess’s Anguish, which now sits safely in a sealed box that is in a larger container made of supersolid mana and magically enhanced to suppress its aura. It is effectively sealed with no way, other than the use of [Manipulate Magic], to open it. Not even [Manipulate Mana] will be able to open it with my magic protecting it.

Urolon offered to help make a proper seal for it, but I declined. I don’t want to be indebted to Urolon, and besides, it’d probably take him a decade or two to devise the perfect seal for it. The current box for it is good enough, and no one except me or Kayafe can open it. Super-solid mana is very tough, so unless Safyr cracks it open, no one should have the capability of even denting the container, much less the box inside it.

I considered burying it and letting it be lost to time, but what if something happens where I need to use it? It would only be a last resort, but considering recent events, it’s something I should keep until I am strong enough to handle anything life throws at me.

“There doesn’t have to be a Legendary equivalent of mana,” I say. “Reality is as reality does. But I will still look to see if there is something.”

“Reality also has a lot of parallels, and if we notice a trend, we should investigate. But yes, you are right that there may not be a legendary equivalent of mana” Urolon shrugs his shoulders before standing up. “If you do find anything, let me know. It’s been a pleasure working with you”

Urolon transforms into a cloud of craftsmanship mana before flying off, effortlessly passing through the ceiling.

“So what do you think?” I ask Kayafe. “Where haven't we looked?”

“Let's try preventing mana from transitioning to the next phase of each phase and see what happens.”

Over the next hour, we do so, combining our efforts and attempting to compress mana but preventing it from doing so. We do not find anything new, but we quickly realize that doing this, no matter the phase of mana, will form primordial mana.

“I think what’s happening is that by preventing mana from compressing yet putting ever more pressure into it, we are somehow ripping the mana apart. Let's just skip the compression-preventing magic and see if we can’t just rip mana apart,” I suggest.

This method is actually a little easier, like we’ve been trying to push a ball uphill all along and finally reached a plateau. It’s still impossibly difficult to do, and we still require the Mana Arc to make primordial mana, but we should be able to make more at one time.

“It seems that this is the proper way to make primordial mana,” Kayafe has a hand on her chin. “But we are no closer to discovering a new form of mana.”

“It’s not like we can just dream it up; if it exists, we’ll find it eventually,” I say.

My training was interrupted, and I am eager to get back to it. I have, of course, maintained my efforts to fuse my Bond and Anima over the last two weeks, averaging about two levels per day. However, it really is going slow. It will still take me about three years to reach the next stage of my Bond, so unless I find a way to power level my Bond, I should just move ahead and evolve my Classes, even if they don’t go up in tier.

Now that I think about it, I should have asked Urolon… or maybe not; he probably would have wanted to trade for that knowledge. Yrania then? Where is she, anyway? Did she get put into time-out or something?

I look over the entire Nexus for the Mind Dragon but see neither hide nor horn of her.

“Yrania!” I call out, just in case she is playing Jedi again. No response.

I suppose I’ll have to figure this out myself, then.

Surely there has to be a quicker way to gain Bond levels, right? I don’t have three years to get to the next stage.

“What’s the matter?” Kayafe asks.

“We’ve been postponing our training, and I am worried it will take too long to get the strength I need before I meet with the other gods. At my current rate, it will take three years for me to reach the next stage of my Bond, but that’s nowhere close to the power I need. I am almost seventeen years old already!”

I informed Kayafe of my situation soon after Urolon arrived, so she is in the loop now.

“This is why Bond Classes are no good.” Kayafe huffs, not wasting a moment to slander Bond Classes. “Compared to most other beings, you are leveling your Bond at a lightning-fast pace, so imagine what you’d be at now if you didn’t rely on it. I’m not saying the Bond itself is bad, just the Bond Classes.”

“If I change now, I’ll just have to spend more time figuring out a new style to fight with”

My Classes fit my style, so I don’t see a reason to change them. I need to make them stronger and raise their tier, which means reaching the next stage of my Bond, but that’s not reasonable in the timeframe I have available to me. So, if I am not able to advance through levels then I need to seek another way to get a good Class. Of the few ways I know that influences Class growth, improving my Bond skills is the safest and most beneficial method as it makes me stronger, can be done without combat, and contributes to Bond level. I have two more days before we ship off to the Lunaleyan lands again. I wonder how many Bond Skills I can evolve by then?

I should start with either my teleportation, wings, or my clones first since they are my staple Bond skills. Of the two, which do I need more? The answer is obvious. My clones. I have [Manipulate Magic] if I need to fight.

I’m pretty sure I know what I need to do. It’s the same thing the Butterfly I fought did. Send the Bond spell inward and let the mana become Bond mana before casting it.

I channel [Duplicate Self] and send it flowing through my Bond’s presence, flowing through me, before finally casting the spell, a perfect copy of me materializes, completely identical to me. The apparent soul, mana signature, and even gravitational pull have no perceivable difference to the real me. It’s as if I conjured a real clone that I can control.

Ting! Your Bond skill, Duplicate Self, has evolved into Copy Self!

Ting! Your Bond has obtained levels 1089-1096!

A true illusion. It’s not just an image being conjured with mana; no, this goes far beyond that!

“Can your spells do this?” I smile smugly at Kayafe.

“Hmm, if I apply magic correctly, maybe?” She says, flicking a tail in thought.

“Then how about something a little more complex?”

I cast [Figment of Reality] with my new Bond casting method and watch as everything my perception tells me warps into a meadow, complete with beautiful butterflies fluttering around. Each facet of the illusion appears as its own individual and real thing in a way that would be extraordinarily difficult to achieve with even several spells.

Ting! Your Bond skill, Figment of Reality, has evolved into Personal Reality!

Ting! Your Bond has obtained levels 1097-1104!

Seven levels again, this will be a very welcome boost. If it’s this easy to evolve my bond skills, then I am sure I can evolve them even further. I wonder just what my Bond will be capable of now?


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


Clone POV:

I duck and weave between Esofy’s attacks, aiding my movements with [Acting], taking the role of a spear master. She redoubles her efforts and goes all out, safe in the knowledge that my clone can’t be hurt.

I take three cuts, two shallow and one deep. These can easily be healed, but it shows that I am not fast enough to dodge Esofy’s onslaught of attacks. I try to retaliate, but Esofy manages to land a good hit.

I had learned that my many long tails are a detriment in close combat since they make pretty obvious targets, and that would throw off my balance if I were to use my real body and I were to lose some of my tails. However, they aren’t all bad. I can more easily shift my body weight to dodge faster; I just have to learn how to keep them safe.

This is all without armor. We started with it, but Esofy convinced me that I should learn not to rely on it.

“Some enemies, monster or not, might be able to cut right through it. It’s better to learn how to dodge and save the armor for when hits are unavoidable”

I feel like her near-death experience with the Heroic tier void slime led to this philosophy.

So, that’s what I am doing. Evasion practice. More specifically, improving my reaction time, which may or may not work since I am not practicing with my real body. What it does help with is decision-making. Or more to the point, re-training my body’s natural instincts by beating out the bad reactions through repeated failures and training in the good ones that actually work.

Esofy follows up her hit with a feint, cutting upwards only to suddenly thrust. I fail to see the upward cut as a feint in time and take another hit.

“Don’t try to statically block attacks. It’s better to evade; stepping back would have prevented both the upward cut and the thrust. Or you can repel my sword, which would have made me unable to thrust; if you control your opponent's weapon, you control the flow of battle. And finally, put yourself in a position where your foe can’t retaliate by stepping to their offhand side. Like this!”

Esofy parries my next attack harshly, blowing my spear away from the force of the attack and side-stepping to my undefended side before holding her sword to my neck.

“Most monsters aren’t smart enough for feints and tactics but never let your guard down; some are deceptively intelligent.”

“I know. Most monsters can be categorized into either animalistic, intelligent, or sapient” I say.

“That’s a better way to put it; I’m going to use that next time”

I still have to train with my real body once I learn to recognize attack patterns, but I’ll save that for after I come back from the second trade trip to the Lunaleyan lands.

After an hour of this, Esofy takes a break while Chyzu steps up to train my ability to dodge spells. I don’t retaliate since I don’t want to hurt or stress the baby growing in her.

Dodging spells is a breeze for me. I can see the spell being cast before it even manifests, not to mention I can nudge it with my manipulation if I really need to. In the end, Chyzu needed to call several other caster and non-caster mages to join before I started having trouble.

I had to limit my use of manipulation since this should also train my ability to dodge physical ranged attacks. Regardless if it is a spell or arrow, my perception allows me to know of an attack long before it is cast or shot.

After a long day, Esofy calls for the end of the training. All the trainees go to the bathhouses while my clone flies off to a den to practice against some monsters.