Chapter 475 – The Regimen

[Still, one advantage you have over monsters of your tier is that you have a fairly capable basis for multiple thought threads, which is the optimal way to grind your mental Skills.]

[That’s what I’ve been doing. At least lately. The idea was to advance my magic as fast as possible to try and unlock the Gravity Magic Affinity. I have a feeling that once I get it, it’ll be strong.]

Granin nods.

[I’ve no doubt of that. Space magic is one of the most advanced forms of magic known and only old boulders like myself manage to level our Skills to the point we can unlock it. Even then, it levels up extremely slowly. Only the most powerful and gifted of Shapers can do more than create and open gates with it.]

Thinking of an army of ants teleporting around through magical gateways, I mutter: [yeah, well, gates sound pretty good.]

[You aren’t wrong. They form a huge part of every Dungeon civilisation. I’d go so far as to say, colonising the Dungeon would have been impossible without it. If your Gravity magic is as fundamental as that, it may be some time before you’re able to unlock the affinity.]

[Dammit.]

[Agreed,] Granin sighs, [acquiring that skill would be the easiest and fastest way to power you up. Since you don’t have access to it, and we don’t know when you will, there’s little point in trying to grind for it now. If we throw all our eggs in that basket and the Skill doesn’t show up, then you’ll end up in a bad way.]

[I don’t know about that,] I protest, [it’s not as if that last battle was a real struggle. I dealt with that supposedly powerful monster with ease.]

Granin gave me a long steady look at that point. I could almost hear his thoughts turning in his head, I could see how hard he was struggling not to call me an idiot.

[Out with it then,] I sigh.

The Shaper shrugged heavily and sat down before looking me in the eye.

[Look, Anthony. That Rhino was a stupid thought experiment. Had it landed that charge on you, you would have exploded into a thousand tiny pieces in an instant.]
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[What about my Diamond Carapace?]

[In an instant,] he insists, [your carapace wouldn’t count for squat. It was carefully raised over a period of years, fed cores and Biomass, tested in battle after battle. It took the blood, sweat and tears of a team of three Shapers to create that creature and it was a certified killing machine. Luckily for you, it wasn’t that smart, and it was inflexible. I don’t think the poor creature even considered you would use Earth magic to open a tunnel beneath you whilst casting all those other spells.]

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[So you’re saying I was lucky.]

[In a way, you were very lucky. The opponent was lacking in intelligence, which is something you have an unfair advantage in, since you’re a reincarnator. Most of the monsters that you’ll face will be smarter, most of them will be just as clever as the average human.]

[I thought it wasn’t popular to invest in mental stats at this tier?]

[That’s true, but creating a hulking brute without a brain is just asking for your expensive, labour intensive project to club its own brain out with a rock. Remember, these aren’t pets. They are true, wild monsters that have undergone extensive core shaping after spawning.]

He makes a good point. Tiny has been as much a hindrance as he has a help at various points. In some ways it just adds to his loveable charm, but in others it’s nearly got us killed. It’s all trade-offs.

[So what’s the play then? What do you think I need to work on?]

Instead of answering directly, the Shaper asks me another question.

[What are your basic elemental skills like?]

[You mean, fire, water, earth and air? I mean. I have them. None of them are past rank three though.]

[Oh? That’s better than I thought. If you can get all of them to rank three and fuse them then you’ll have a bit more firepower in your corner.]

[To rank three? Is that all? I thought fusions would be better the higher rank the Skills were. Shouldn’t I try and hold on for rank four at least?]

Granin hesitates.

[Yes. Technically, yes. The rank four fusion is much stronger than the third rank one. The fifth is even better than that. I’m not sure that anyone has done rank six. Certainly I’ve no idea what that fusion results in. You’d have to level up the four skills seventy five times, which would take a heck of a long time.]

[But it would be worth it in the long run…]

[Surviving in the short term has to trump planning for the long term at some point…]

He has a point there. But nobody got anywhere without taking risks! I have a feeling like if I compromise too much then my path to power in the future is going to get cut short. Compromise now, compromise in the future, when will it end? I need to push hard, right now. Also, I have an advantage that Granin doesn’t know about. The Gravity Bomb. I know it’s a risk, but if I get deep enough into this tournament, hopefully the Cult won’t be so prepared to sacrifice me to learn about my magic and I can snag a free win by blasting some poor monster into a compressed ball of their former selves.

[You’ve got to go big or go home, Granin! We’re shooting for a more powerful fusion! Rank five! Hit me up top!]

I raise a foreleg for the inevitable five but to my mounting shock it appears as if Granin fully intends to leave me hanging. Perhaps he’s able to sense my mounting despair over the mental link because he speaks up after a moment.

[I have no idea why you’re raising your leg up in the air. I need to hit you where? And by the way, you do realise that in this case ‘going home’ means being murdered and then eaten?]

[It’s a ‘high five’, you need to… never mind. Yes, I understand that I’m taking a significant risk. I just feel like if I can get as much strength as possible from the base elements, then I won’t need anything else to push me through until I can finally get my Gravity Affinity.]

Granin thinks about it for a few minutes.

[I take your point. If you can get hold of a more powerful fusion then it may prove to be more efficient going forward. I just hope we can keep you alive to that point.]

[If I don’t manage it, it’s not as if I’ll have to worry about what comes after.]

[True. Just what sort of life did you live on your world?]

[Pretty ordinary I suppose. I mean, I think so? Stabbings are common, or so I believe…]

[You died from stabbing? That sounds rough.]

[What? Nonono. A stabbing is just a hospital visit, no worries there. Got patched up a few times. No, I starved to death.]

[How the hell…]

[Doesn’t really matter does it? Bug off, Granin. Time for training!]


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