The world spirit stared in shock as she processed James’ words. Clearly, he considered that she was in no real danger, as the wolf would only turn its attention towards her according to his battle plan after it had consumed the ‘curse’ on his arm. However, there seemed to be some problems with that logic.
“What would you have done if the energy wasn’t transferred?” She asked with teary eyes. “You saw what it did, it just ate your arm, right? What if it had broken your promise?”
James shook his head with that same smile. “I knew that wouldn’t happen. When it ate my arm the first time, I could sense that the energy was still there, and in the same form as it was when I had it. It had merely taken the energy to reinforce itself. If it ate mana, it would use that mana to enhance its own.”
“As long as that was the case, it was practically impossible for the mark of the promise to not be transferred, so long as the creature itself did ot know to avoid devouring it. Thankfully, although it was considerably smarter than your standard beast, it can’t comprehend saint-level energies in a short period.”
“But… it knew how to avoid your eye.” She remarked, commenting on how it had hidden among the other wolves in order to avoid being assaulted by the Eye of Ruin. To this, James simply let out a small chuckle.
“I said in a short period. If my guess is right, it had a sort of mental link with the other spirit eaters here. After seeing me use the Eye of Ruin against two of them, it noticed that the only things destroyed were the spirit eaters themselves, and not any of the surrounding energies or plants. That was enough for it to know that the eye was highly selective in its destruction.”
“With that knowledge, it hid among its spirit eaters and charged together to test its deduction, a hunter taking a daring gamble by placing itself in its own trap.” James shook his head as he came to that point. “I thought that they had simply produced another one while we were hunting. A lot of species of spiritual creatures are able to reproduce like that. Anyways, since the only thing it knew about was the Eye of Ruin, I could make use of my promise to kill it.”
The spirit continued to stare at him for several long moments, before suddenly flailing her arms, beating them in vain against his chest. James simply smiled at that, letting her get it out of her system. “I knew it couldn’t hurt you, or I would have never placed you in that kind of situation.” He said in a gentle tone, eventually calming the spirit.
“Still… please don’t do that again.” She muttered under her breath. “Any of it… No more promise or anything like that. If it hadn’t gone for my arm in that first clash, and went for my heart instead…”
She left the rest unsaid, but James knew what she meant. If the spirit eater had gone for an immediate fatal blow against the target of its hunt, he would have been the one killed. It was hard to tell if the beast had aimed for her arm to torture her, or if the light of the Eye of Ruin had disoriented it enough to make it lose its initial target. Either way, the results would have been irreversible if it had struck a truly fatal blow.
Thinking about that part, James offered a small nod. “If you want to go back, and just tell me where the other two are staying, I can go and get rid of them on my own.”
She shook her head at the offer. “No, I’ll go with you. But this time… just protect me normally, okay? If it’s too much, we can ask for help from the Keeper.”
James thought about it for a moment, before asking. “How strong are the last two compared to the one we just fought?”
The world spirit thought it over for a long moment, possibly sensing their presences herself. “They’re… about the same, I suppose? Neither of them feel overwhelmingly stronger than the wolf, at least.”
“Then I don’t really need to worry.” James smiled, shaking his head. “As long as I’m properly prepared for a fight, I won’t lose to creatures like that. Speaking of… do you have any information on them, or where they are right now?”
The spirit shook her head at the first part, before blinking. “One of them is… a hundred and seventeen thousand kilometers south by southwest, sleeping in an overgrown bush. The other is sleeping at the base of this layer’s spire, absorbing some of the ambient mana. It’s fifty-thousand kilometers east, if that helps.”
“It does.” James nodded his head, before closing his eyes. His energy spread out, first going to the closer of the two creatures located to the east. Detecting the spire was an incredibly easy task, and so he was soon able to find the giant bird nesting at its base.
This bird seemed to be composed entirely of plant matter, looking like how one would expect a monster to appear within a sylvan’s forest. Its eyes remained closed, and it never seemed to detect the energy that James was using to observe it, even as he scanned through its energy composition.
Afterwards, he did the same thing once again, this time targeting the bear-like monster sleeping in the bushes far to the south. Although this distance was enough to wrap around some planets several times over, it was hardly a significant distance within the layer that they were currently on. Only once he had fully scanned through and memorized the structures of both monsters did he pull his energy back.
To the spirit, it appeared as if James had closed his eyes and sank into thought for several long minutes. She could tell that the two monsters had remained sleeping, but her eyes still scanned the horizon nervously. Once he opened his eyes, James had a confident smile. “There. Now that I’ve scanned them, the Eye of Ruin won’t have any problems.”
In order to allay her fears, James used the most foolproof method of ensuring that the monsters would pose no threat to either of them. In fact, it wouldn’t be hard for him to simply teleport to their location and kill them right now, but he did not want to look down on the bravery that the spirit had shown in coming this far.
“Let’s go. They are both diurnal, so they won’t be active until the crystal fully lights up.” He said as he carried her into the sky once again. In honesty, he had sensed many other monsters within this layer than just the two of them while his energy swept past. However, all of those monsters were within the relative scope of power for this floor, or only slightly stronger. It was only these two that drastically surpassed the scope of power allowed in this area.
“Why are they here, then?” The spirit asked in confusion, looking at James as the world sped by below them. The researcher merely shrugged, not having the full answer.
“Maybe they came through by accident, and haven’t found their way back yet. Maybe they are treating this as a hibernation paradise, where they can sleep for long periods without worrying about any form of natural predators. Either way, I can’t predict what will happen when they wake up in a couple hours.” James had already pushed far beyond the speed of sound, his energy serving to dampen the shockwaves of the wind brushing against them.
When he had scanned over the bird, he had also managed to roughly grasp the situation with this floor’s day and night cycle. Due to the excessive vines draining the mana from the crystal, the night period lasted a full twenty-two hours, after which there would be a brief two hour period of twilight. At a glance, the mana was being fed through an underground network of roots that ran throughout the surface of the floor.
This mana was then fed directly to the plants as nourishment, allowing them to grow excessively even without the need for the artificial sunlight provided by the crystal. This also served as a catalyst to turn roughly one percent of the vegetation within this layer into ferocious monsters. In the back of his mind, James even considered telling the sylvans about this place, and letting them establish a grove of their own to act as the caretakers of this massive forest.
Having scanned the two creatures with his sensory energy, James had no problems in dispatching them the moment that he reached their vicinity. The only thing that the spirit noticed was that the light in his eye seemed somewhat faded after using it the last time, no doubt a sign that he had used the energy to its limits for the time being. Seeing that, she felt a brief pang of guilt, shaking her head. “Thank you again.” She said with a small smile, to which James shook his head.
“It’s no problem, really.” He smiled warmly, patting her on the head. “Let me know if you find any more monsters that you can’t handle. It’s been a long time since I got out of the office.” The spirit nodded to him, but he spoke up again. “Uhm, by the way, could you call the shadow user back? I can’t return without proper dimensional coordinates, and I don’t want to run the risk of appearing in the void after all this.”
Her eyes went wide, and she quickly nodded her head. “Sure.” She quickly contacted Petra, letting her know that the job was done, and that the floor was as safe as it was going to get.
James smiled again as he was pulled into his shadow, seeing the two girls he had met once before. Naturally, they both thanked him just like the spirit did before sending him on his way. Soon, he was lining up at the Fairy Ring to go back home, only using a short distance teleport after he had arrived.
The first thing he saw when he returned was Chel sitting at his desk, patiently waiting for him. She jumped to her feet with a happy expression, starting to run over towards him. “So? How’d it go? Meet any–” Her words cut off as she saw his face, her eyes going wide for a brief moment.
“What’s the matter?” He asked with his usual cocky grin, though Chel only walked over and gently held his hand. She stared up into his eyes, gripping his palm hard enough that it actually hurt, though he didn’t let it show on his face.
“You used up that much?” She asked quietly, and he knew that he had been found out. He only offered a soft nod in response. “Was it… was it really necessary to do that?”
“If I’m not wrong, there were around three creatures near level five thousand.” He answered in an equally soft voice, doing his best not to alert the other assistants.
Chel’s grip tightened slightly more, but he still didn’t let the pain show as she guided him over to his chair. “You’re barely holding your body together. Can you even see right now?”
James shook his head. “I’m using my energy to directly interpret the area in front of me, and any sounds entering the area. I’ll be good as new in a few days, don’t worry.” In truth, the battle had been far from as easy as he made it look to the spirit.
In order to utilize the Eye of Ruin, an energy equal to half of the target’s own energy had to be expended. When you combine the powers of ten spirit eaters, as well as two of the monsters at nearly his own level, the consumption was enough that it had almost made him collapse. In order to hold his body together in a way that wouldn’t worry the spirit or those around him, he had shut off most of his senses.
That was why he could not simply teleport back to his lab, despite being more familiar with the location’s dimensional coordinates than anywhere else in existence, and why he had rushed out of Fyor without staying around long enough to chat. The use of interplanar teleportation would have forced him to reduce his body size, creating a visible difference that would alert others.
Thankfully, his sensory energy had ample reserves, so he was able to use that to replace his normal senses for quite some time. Ciel nodded her head, gently biting her lip. “Go lay down for a while.” She said in a louder tone, allowing herself to be heard by the rest of the staff. “You’ve been overworking yourself for days, and nobody will begrudge you a vacation.”
James had a bitter smile on his face as he nodded. “Yes, ma’am.” He chuckled, before beginning to move towards the hallway once again. Thankfully, his quarters were located within the same facility, so it would not take him very long to get there even without the use of supernatural means of travel.