Tsubaki stood alone in one of the secret rooms of the Sky Citadel. To her knowledge, this appeared to be a training room of sorts, meant to block out any energies that might leak as a result of training. She understood that it was likely meant to offer the Keeper a place to train where they could not be disturbed.
Tsubaki felt guilty using this room for her own purposes, but she had made her resolve. The Keeper had given her permission to attempt to unlock the Perfect Self. And she had worked for over thirty years in the library, studying every text she could come across. She knew that there was still far more to learn in the citadel, but she was confident in her chances.
First step, merging the spirit with the mind and body. Complete. Tsubaki recounted the months that she had spent in secluded meditation, slowly merging her spiritual energy into both her ki and her chakra.
Second step, complete detonation of the body. Studies suggest that a barrier to contain the energies would be beneficial, to enable them to properly reform without escaping. This was the reason that she had come to the training room. It would perfectly isolate her energies, and increase her chance of success.
In truth, she had found a number of secret passages and hidden rooms within the Sky Citadel. Mostly while she was cleaning the halls, her eyes would catch the faintest hint of a lock placed along a wall. Naturally, her curiosity often got the best of her, and she would spend long hours secretly studying the lock, referencing its components with the books in the library until she managed to deduce the key.
There were still some locks that she had found, but could not solve, but she was in no real rush. They were more of a hobby than anything else, and once found she typically added those rooms to the list of areas that she maintained. She would not make use of any of those rooms without extenuating circumstances such as the ones she was in now.
In the back of her mind, Tsubaki thought she felt something, a presence watching over her. Likely just her imagination, or one of the goddesses paying attention to her at the moment. Still, she had made her resolution.
Tsubaki raised her hands up in front of her chest, her body releasing a faint golden glow, interspersed with flecks of white and blue. This is going to be a nightmare to clean later. She thought to herself as the glow focused on her hands.
She was no longer a young woman. When she had been chosen, she was barely twenty-three years old. But now? Now she was approaching seventy. If not for her ki rivatilizing her, she would have likely appeared much older than she did now. Even still, her face was showing distinct signs of age.
Steeling her thoughts, Tsubaki slammed her hands down onto her own chest, sending her own ki to run rampant in her body. Detonate! With a simple thought, the kitsune known as Tsubaki ceased to exist. Her body exploded outwards, painting the walls around her with her blood.
Yet still, her awareness did not fade instantly. She would have bit her teeth to stop her from screaming out at the pain, if she had either teeth or a throat. And, in front of the place where she once stood, she perceived a message appearing.
You have died.
Not yet I haven’t. We live for our Lord, we die for our Lord. Tsubaki mentally repeated the motto of the Servant Corps in her head, feeling her thoughts growing faint. She forced herself to focus, trying to grab up every scrap of her energy while she recited her own, newer version of that same motto. I die for my Lord, so that I may live for my Lord!
Throughout the room, golden mist seemed to rise up from every drop of blood, every scrap of viscera, and every shard of bone. This mist floated towards the center of the room, where Tsubaki had once stood. They condensed further and further, spiraling inwards under her control, her will that persisted even after death.
Slowly, a body began to form from the mist, as if sculpted from pure gold. The body of a grown woman, her hair flowing down her back. Her tail reached down to the floor as her body curled in on itself. Her eyes, first tightly shut, flew open, glistening light shining out.
When the mist was finally spent, the glow around Tsubaki’s body faded, as if returning her to normal. Now, her body had reverted in age, crafted by Tsubaki’s own hand to appear as she had when Dale first met her. There was only one difference, one which even Tsubaki herself took a moment to realize.
Is this room bigger than it was before? She asked inwardly, glancing around the room. In truth, her size had shrunken drastically. Now, she was no more than six inches tall, enough to stand in the shadows of even the smallest children. But she knew… her power was no less than it had once been.
Perfect Self has been unlocked!
Perfect Control ability has been unlocked!
Congratulations! You have earned an achievement!
You have suffered through death and rebirth, and stepped on the road to Perfection. You are the first person in all of history to take this step, and it has earned you the Origin of Perfection achievement. All Stats +2, All Energies +10%
Congratulations! You have earned an achievement!
Few people can offer such undying loyalty to those that they serve. It takes resolve, courage, and no shortage of luck. For the sake of the one you serve, you have ended your own life for the chance to better serve. Knight Class automatically bestowed. You have earned the Loyal Beyond Life achievement. Charm +2, Knight Class Affinity +20%
It seemed… she had even grown stronger now that her size had been reduced. Both of the achievements were powerful, more than enough to make anyone envious. And she had seen a Loyalty achievement such as this before. It was uncommon, but there were times that those in the Servant Corps were ordered to kill those that they loved. If they did so, they would earn the Loyal Beyond Love achievement, assuming that their love was genuine.
It was impossible to know the details of such an achievement, as those who earned it had proven that they were loyal beyond a fault. Naturally, they would not reveal any information without their lord’s approval. However, the rewards for it would never be able to compare to Loyal Beyond Life.
As Tsubaki was looking at her two new achievements, she decided that she should equip one as her title. Until now, the only achievement that she had earned throughout her life was ‘Walks With Death’. However, that was not an achievement befitting a Servant, so she had never equipped it as a title.
Without a moment of hesitation, she equipped the Loyal Beyond Life achievement as her title, and immediately noticed its effects increasing. While the other achievement offered a better benefit to her… this one showed that she was truly the best Servant that she could be.
“That was incredibly foolish.” A familiar voice spoke out from behind and above her. Turning around, she saw the Keeper towering over her in his human form. “And foolishly incredible.” On his face was a soft smile, as if he was thankful.
Tsubaki felt warmed by that smile. The fact that the Keeper worried over her insignificant life showed all the more that he was worthy of her devotion. Her instinct and training compelled her to immediately drop to one knee, her head lowering to look at the floor. “Tsubaki greets the world’s Keeper.” She said, her voice higher pitched and quieter due to her shrunken state.
“I would tell you to rise… but I do not think you would get very far.” He said, a hint of jest in his tone. “Tell me, do you understand why your body has been reduced to its current state?”
Tsubaki hesitated for a moment, mentally rechecking her information to ensure that she did not give an incorrect answer. “This should be the result of my body being destroyed, Keeper. With the raw energies condensed enough to give me a body, this became my new maximum size.”
With her position so close to the ground, she could easily see the shadow shifting as the Keeper nodded his head. “That’s correct. If you train the Perfect Body class, your energies will all grow together. You should be able to create a body closer to the one that you had originally.”
“I understand, Keeper.” Tsubaki spoke respectfully, nodding as well. “After I have finished cleaning, I would like to request that I be sent to an area where I may train myself. Although it will mean a brief dereliction of my duties, I do not believe that I can properly maintain the Citadel as I have been in my current state.”
The Keeper seemed to freeze at that, caught by surprise. Tsubaki instantly worried that she may have upset him with another selfish request, before he spoke up slowly. “Tsubaki… before you came to the Citadel, what is the highest level monster you have ever killed?”
“I do not have a way to measure the levels of beasts and monsters, Keeper. I apologize for my lacking in this regard. However, if we are to discuss the strongest opponent I have slain… It would be the guardian of the dungeon which won me my position as your Voice.”
Again, there was a pause, the Keeper seeming to process that information. “I see… Tsubaki, do you believe that your skills have dulled in the years that you have been here? I know that you’ve already discovered most of the hidden rooms of the Citadel.”
“Sir!” Tsubaki lowered her head just a bit further. “No, sir! I have maintained my training every day for the last forty-eight years of my service! I do not believe that any of my skills have dulled, Keeper.”
“Understood. In that case, there is only one area where I believe that you will be able to gain the training that you need.” He said, sighing softly. “Tsubaki… I am going to send you to hell. If it were before, you would have died the moment I did so. But now… you need not breathe. Food and water are irrelevant to you. And you have control over your spiritual energy.”
Tsubaki was just about to speak up when he continued. “But I must warn you… the monsters that reside in hell are far more powerful than any that live in this world. They are the refuse, the spirits of monsters collected over thousands of years that have devoured each other to grow stronger.
“At one point, a single one of these creatures broke out of hell, and threatened to destroy an entire continent. If you go there, I cannot guarantee that you will survive. However, it is the only training ground available among the regions I control where you will be able to fulfill your goals.”
Tsubaki nodded her head sharply. “I understand, Keeper! Please, send me there… in an hour. I will need that long to prepare and tend to cleaning this room.”
“Ah, right.” The Keeper glanced around the room. “I must ask, where are all your hidden weapons? I don’t see any metal in the… pieces.”
“They are in my room with my clothing, Keeper. I did not want to create an additional mess.” Tsubaki quickly answered, completely unabashed by her nudity in front of her lord.
“Ah… I see.” The Keeper seemed to clear his throat, once more glancing away. “Right, I’ll return once you have finished making your preparations. But… don’t take your weapons with you. They won’t be able to help you in hell. The only thing that you will be able to rely on will be your own power.”