Now that James had found the path to resolve his crisis, it was only a matter of time until it could be handled. In that case, I went ahead to see which one of my timers it was that had been triggered to halt the fast-forward process.
The void defense timer is still missing a couple of levels. Lifre’s not in any immediate danger. No apocalyptic void entities have appeared, and there aren’t any major crises at the moment… Ah! Once I found the timer, I quickly directed my attention at it, only to be disappointed.
The timer that was resolved was the one to reach the sixty-first layer of Fyor. As it turns out, someone had only just done this after twenty years of mass exploration. The reason that I was disappointed was the fact that they would not be able to return safely.
I looked at the scene of the sixty-first floor, where faint red mist was scattering in front of the gate. Looking back through the records, I saw a dovah woman walk through the gate naturally, looking around in shock before her body suddenly began to dissolve. There didn’t seem to be another entity attacking her, which led me to investigate the ambient energy of the floor.
Sure enough, the entire sixty-first floor was shrouded with a dense, invisible energy. The moment that the dovah woman emerged through the portal, it immediately drained her of all of her ki, which caused her energy body to break down.
As Chel hadn’t left yet, I glanced over at her to get her opinion on the situation. Unsurprisingly, she had a rather troubled expression. “This reminds me of the twenty-sixth floor.”
“The crystal maze?” I blinked, before remembering. “You mean how it devoured those that had high mana levels.”
“That’s right.” She nodded her agreement. “However, this effect is far more insidious, taking effect immediately and without regard for how much of the targeted energy one has. Any creature without the proper protection will be immediately killed the moment that they enter this floor, so long as they rely on ki in the slightest.”
So, only aeons and world spirits are safe? But, Aeons probably can’t go without their summoner, given the situation with the preceding floor.
As those thoughts flashed by, I furrowed my brow. “Would gods be protected? They convert their ki with their divinity, so it is no longer purely ki.”
Chel shrugged her shoulders, unable to provide me with a solid answer. “Without conducting tests, I won’t know. However, it seems we got rather unfortunate with this lineup. The sixtieth floor can only be passed by relying on absolute luck for the first time, while the sixty-first floor will kill almost anyone that arrives before they can turn back.”
“Until someone survives long enough to retreat, this floor won’t be open to the public. Not unless you do something on your end.” Chel looked up at me, gauging my reaction.
However, I simply shook my head. “They’ll soon know that the next floor is dangerous, though they won’t know the exact nature of the danger. The fact that this one explorer won’t be able to report for their regular pay will be enough to tip people off that they found the next floor. After all, the sixtieth floor has been guaranteed to be completely safe, so there is no reason for her to have died there.”
Chel hesitated, lowering her head. “The first thing that they will do is call together all explorers and make sure that none of them harmed her secretly. Although the floor itself is safe, there is still the possibility that people were involved. Maybe they will think that she stumbled upon a criminal act, and the perpetrators silenced her.”
“That’s… certainly a possibility.” I admitted with a sigh. In fact, it was more likely that she was killed by other people than miraculously finding the entry point of the next floor. “Still, I think it’s a good idea to let them discover this for themselves. At most, it will delay the progress of Fyor’s exploration by a few more decades.”
“In that case, what are you going to do next?”
Hearing that question, I crossed my arms in front of me, thinking. There were quite a few things that I could do to benefit myself. I had already comprehended both types of martial intent that I initially trained, but I could train in additional weapons, such as the sword or bow. I had become proficient with the three styles that I chose from the selection we purchased previously, though I was by no means a great master of them.
My goals should be to either fully master the three styles I chose, obtain a new style unique to me as my trump card, or… perhaps I can learn from Lifre in order to combine the styles that I possess. Up until now, I had created a total of eleven creatures from the Beasts of the End, though I had not obtained any practical experience with training them.
Aside from the shadow hound I made with Dana, I think some of the others can be recycled… As I thought about that, an image came to my mind, causing my eyes to widen.
“I’m going to train.” I said as I stood up, blue light flashing around me. With a thought, I left behind a confused Chelsea and Tsubaki, descending to one of the training rooms in Olympus. “Athena, please patch in Vivi’s training program. I think Tubrock should have given you access to it, correct?”
“That is correct, sir.” Athena’s voice spoke up, before a holographic figure of a woman appeared before me, a surprised look on her face.
“Keeper, sir, I was not expecting this visit. Is there something that I can help you with?” Vivi asked politely, her hands folding in front of herself.
“I’m planning to retrain the Beasts of the End. I’ll need your guidance along the way.” I said, focusing on the brands in my soul. Aside from the shadow hound, I immediately destroyed the other ten brands, cutting off my previous training of this technique.
Vivi looked confused, and more surprised than anything else. “Sir… I believe you should be fully aware of how to cultivate your beasts at this point. Is there any need for me to guide you in this matter?”
I gave a small smile, nodding my head. “I’m not making normal beasts this time. Let me show you, first, and you’ll see what I mean.” As I said that, I sat cross-legged. I closed my eyes, bringing my hands together. Establish a seed… visualize the concept. For this concept… strength, the power to crush everything in one’s path. An unstoppable force.
I could feel the seed forming in my hands, the concept taking root. Next was designing its appearance. Once that was done, I felt the egg responding, and so I threw it into the distance. Vivi watched curiously as the egg grew, larger and larger. Only when it was more than twenty meters tall did it shatter, revealing a bronze humanoid sitting cross-legged.
The summon’s hands were together, as if in prayer, and sprouting from its back were hundreds of tendril-like arms spreading out in fan-shaped layers around it, each arm having a large hand at its end like an ancient Bodhisattva statue from my old world. Vivi… still looked confused, but I was already standing. After all, this was the part where I had to subdue the summon in order to make it one of my beasts.
Its eyes opened, and an aura of strength radiated from its body. Its main body didn’t move, but its hands all spread out, as if trying to smash against me from all directions. I took a deep breath, assuming a familiar stance, and pressed my own palm forward as it began to radiate with ki. “Spirit Shattering.” I muttered, a powerful wave of ki spreading forward and shredding the nearest arms.
I took a half step forward, and thrust my hand out again, this time with my fingers curled inwards. “Army Shattering.” This time, the ki spread in all directions, directly shattering the rest of the arms attached to the summon. At the same time, the first wave of power reached the summon’s main body, smashing it against the wall.
I focused, immediately forming the soul brand and placing it on the forehead of this creature. Once that was done, I unsummoned it and began making modifications to it. Vivi still looked like she didn’t entirely understand what was going on, but that changed when the summon was released again.
When I resummoned the statue-like figure, it once again radiated a powerful aura of strength, but this time it also contained its own aura of ki, adding a feeling of life to the bronze form. “You can’t mean…” Vivi’s eyes widened, and I had the statue demonstrate. One of its arms flew forward, fingers curled inwards to release the same Army Shattering technique that I had just used.
Seeing that my idea was possible, I turned to Vivi with a smile. “I want to create a beast for every style. It should be possible, right?”
Vivi hesitated, but ultimately agreed with the concept. “If you create one beast for each of the styles uploaded into my program, aside from one for the Beasts of the End itself, that will be a total of nine summons. In that case, what do you want to do with your last beast?”
My smile only grew wider at that. With a thought, blue threads began to emerge from my body, filling the air around me. “I still have one additional style that I can give to a beast.”
Vivi blinked, nodding quickly. “I see… however, you will need the beasts to perform individual training. Upon creation, they will only have the understanding of the style that you imbue them with. I suppose that’s why… your goal isn’t to have me help you with creating these beasts directly, but lecturing you on the principles of the other styles…”
“That’s right.” I snapped my fingers, indicating that she had gotten it correct. “This is what the Keeper should be like. I embody all powers of the world. Each of my summons should represent one of these powers.”
With that said, I began to create the beasts that would be trained according to Vivi’s teaching. The first was the Absurdity of Fate. For this, I imbued the concept of Effect into a humanoid body looking like a scholar with a longsword in one hand. He wore a light blue robe with a tall, black hat.
For the Twin Swords of Joy and Sorrow, I created a more colorful jester wielding twin scimitars. Its face was a masquerade mask, one half smiling while the other half cried. Its limbs were long and narrow, looking like something straight out of a nightmare. The concept that I gave to it was Hope. Hope can bring joy when fulfilled, and endless sorrow when crushed.
Next was the Essence of the World’s End. For this one, I created a humanoid turtle, wrinkled with age and walking with the aid of a cudgel. Its appearance could make anyone underestimate the power that its art contained. The concept that I gave this summon was Flow, controlling the movement of all things.
The Way of Hidden Truths was easy. For this one, I created a stereotypical ninja figure, a mysterious humanoid wrapped from head to toe in black cloth, only a pair of softly glowing eyes peeking through. This one was given the concept of Deception, for reasons I thought rather obvious.
Following that was the Heart of Combat. This one turned out to be a bare-chested soldier wearing armor over his arms and lower body, his chest full of scars. In one hand, he held a sinister, serrated blade. Because of his theme, I gave him the concept of Slaughter.
Elemental Embodiment broke away from the humanoid form, first appearing as a red crystal surrounded by inextinguishable fire. Its body would change into whatever form it wished to take with the element that it composed itself of. Similarly, the concept given to this one was Change.
Nature’s Wrath, in a way, was similar to Elemental Embodiment. At least, the final technique was. This was what Lifre used against the boss monster previously, the ‘embodiment’ of Nature’s Wrath. Whereas Elemental Embodiment directly turns your body into elemental energy, Nature’s Wrath allows you to control natural energy as if it were part of your own body. Thus, the entity I created for this one was a woman with short, blue hair and silver eyes. Additionally, I empowered her with the concept of Wrath.
To finish off the new styles, there was Will of the World. This one allowed the user to set up prohibitions and boons by imbuing the natural world with their will. For instance, forbidding mana from exiting the body to create spells. Thus, I made the image of one who was most adept at creating rules in their favor… a man with well-combed hair in a suit, carrying a black briefcase. This was perhaps the most satisfying one to punch in the face, and I gave him the concept of Law.
Last, but not least, One Thousand Arms, Ten Thousand Threads. This was my original style, and the one that I was most proficient in. To embody this style, I created a woman with long, flowing black hair in an asian-style dress. To finish things off, I gave her the concept of Tapestry.
Once I had all of my summons created, it was time to get Vivi’s help with training for those that I didn’t know. After all, the only ones of these that I had trained myself were Twelve Shattering Hands, Elemental Embodiment, and One Thousand Arms, Ten Thousand Threads. Thankfully, once I trained them in the basics, it shouldn’t be a problem to have them train more advanced techniques on their own. Dana was living proof that a properly made Aeon could learn still train without direct guidance.