B1 — 28. The System

Scarlet’s POV 2/3

Scarlet appeared behind Relica; she slashed at her back, but a light circular shell surrounded Relica’s body moments before she struck.  The resistance she felt against her scythe increased for a moment as her blade struck, penetrating the shield by two inches before it shattered.

Her senses exploded with warning signals; instinctively darting back, her blood shot out to defend against four clawed hands that shot out of Relica’s shadow, fingers wrapped in purple energy.  She had more shadows?  Are they invisible in her…  Purple light broke through her crystalized blood, making her eyes widen.  It broke through my blood?

She quickly shifted her scythe, four-foot blade intercepting the advancing claws.  The weight of their strike was weak, allowing her to recover; even though they broke past her blood, it still circled to envelop them, but quickly returned to her side as she sensed the arrival of five more creatures.  Her blood wrapped her in a protective shell as the creatures leaped at her. What the heck?  

Dispersing in shadows, she appeared behind one of the alien-like creatures, her blood breaking into a wall to separate her target from its fellows.  She curved her scythe into an inverted arc, cleaving the monster in two; she felt a bit of resistance, but it wasn’t that difficult; blood exploded from the corpse.

Scarlet leaped back, her blood flowing around her body, but her eyes were still locked on the bony, gray-skinned creature as it fell to the ground.  It didn’t even hit the sand before sinew and blood latched onto the halved body, pulling it back together.

“Are you kidding me?”  Scarlet muttered.

Relica giggled.  “Oh, that was thrilling!  Scary aura too; a shame my pets are mentally broken and unaffected.  You look terrifying; if it weren’t for my passive Legend’s Heart ability, I’d be trembling in fear.”

She shifted her weight, running the side of the dagger against the little girl’s neck.  “And yes, as you can see, they have incredible regeneration, but your scythe cut through their magical defense with ease.  The poor things; they’re the product of a lot of research and experimentation.”

Scarlet backed up a little further as the creatures spread out between her and Relica, releasing a sharp clicking resonance.  The sound made a shiver run down Scarlet’s spine. “What are they?”

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“They used to be humans; well, more accurately, they were Champions, more specifically, Fighters; it’s like calling you a Mythickin Vespertine Reaper.  They were humans with abilities; I’d like to compare them to classes from a bit of the study I’ve done. You have Espers, Magus, and Fighters to name a few, but there are subspecs and Trees.  It’s really quite complicated. Of course, the same thing for Legendkin.

“They’re the product of my experiments.  I get to pick what skills they gain since I broke them in; it’s an interesting spell that links us as master and pet.  I grew fascinated with one of Circe’s legends as I searched her online; the legend with Scylla and Charybdis.

“The details are a bit vague between stories, but it’s stated in a few that Circe turned Scylla, a sea nymph into a monster.  With some testing, I found a branch that resembled that in Circe’s Tree. There are certain conditions, but I met them.

“Oh, and my little shadow’s new Corrosive Touch seems to work well; I saw your panic.  I was a little worried the first time we met when you blocked their strike. They’re supposed to be my deadly assassins; so, that wouldn’t do.  I put a lot of points into that skill … although,” she muttered, pursing her lips for a moment. “You blocked it; your scythe must have a high toughness stat.”

Scarlet’s vision moved from the recovering creature to Relica’s shadow.  Seriously?  She’s talking like this is literally a game.  They’re back inside her shadow … she’s so prepared!  Has she slept at all? Probably not, she probably has some skill that prevents it.  At least she’s talkative, but I guess this is all just another test to her. I need to calm down and think about it; she’s countering me by knowing how to use this system … it really is like a game.

Humming, Relica examined her scythe with a furrowed brow.  “You know, it might have actually been your scythe’s magic dispelling quality that stopped the Corrosive Touch, not that it is necessarily durable, but you just got that … the proficiency level,” she smiled with a soft sigh as she shook her head.  

“I don’t think I have a choice.”  She turned to the little girl beside her; hand gripping the back of her neck, she plunged the blade into her chest.

“Hey!”  Scarlet yelled, taking a step forward.  “You…” 

“You forced my hand,” Relica removed the dagger, and the girl dropped to the ground without a sound; Scarlet watched the blood pumping out of her chest, staining her light blue dress as Relica knelt beside her.  She’s more of a monster than I am!

Teleporting behind her, Scarlet slashed at her neck, but a purple magical circle appeared by her stomach; the pulse of energy was too quick for her blood to react.  The blast sent her flying back several feet. She winced but felt no pain as she landed on her feet, skidding across the sand. When did she make that?  I can’t get close to her … then I’ll bring her to me.

Her blood began to pool above her as she tried creating a blood portal, but was forced to redirect it as four of the five gray-skinned creatures rushed her.  This is so stupid!  She has a million spells and pets!  She says she can see glimpses of the future … how the heck do I fight her?

Blood spiking, it shot through the creature’s bodies, causing them to lock up as it spread through their circulatory system.  If I lock them down…

Her thoughts paused as Relica began to speak; it was as if she were strolling through the park, talking to a friend.  “Scarlet, you know, I assume you gain your powers through blood. I find that fairly fascinating, actually. One of my drawbacks is that many of these spells require a massive amount of energy; way more than I currently have.  However, I can bypass that through several methods, but the best, most efficient method that I’ve found is Magic Sacrificial Conversion. It’s essentially a base ability in Blood Magic that has several chains.”

Relica placed her hand against the girl’s chest and the gushing blood turned a bright purple that formed into a ball in Relica’s left hand.  She turned to Scarlet with an uncertain frown. “Hmm, but I’m not sure if I should…”

System-thing, Scarlet, whoever, I want a long distance attack that will kill her … Bloody Edge of the Crescent Blade … sounds like one of those crazy long Chinese names.  It uses the blood energy I gathered from my victims? That works, I have a lot of blood from those two gangsters.

Scarlet raised her left hand, right gripping her scythe, blood holding four of Relica’s creatures in place.  Relica paused in her speech as her fifth creature finished regenerating. “Um, yes…”

Slashing the air, a long, thin crescent blade of red energy emitted from her hand, speeding toward Relica; Scarlet didn’t wait, slashing several more times.  Relica’s eyes widened as she watched one of the blood blades cut clean through one of the mutant creature’s torsos, continuing toward her.

An umbra separated itself from her shadow, racing to her left.  She swapped places with it moments before the blades struck, cutting her umbra into strips as it took her place; the energy continued several meters beyond its target before dispersing.  Scarlet moved her hand to follow. I’m not done…

Relica’s cheery emotions had plummeted, and she bawled her hand into a fist, purple energy shining through her fingers.  She opened them, pumping her arm into the air, and yellow light blasted the area. All of her energy blades seemed to vanish in the blaze.

Pain shot through Scarlet’s mind as the light touched her, blood reforming into a partial wall to protect her from the onslaught, and her scythe dropped from her hands, dispersing into smoke as her Fear Aura deactivating.  It hurts … why does it hurt?  She could sense her energy draining rapidly as the bright light illuminated the area.

A loud huff shot through Relica’s lips.  “Honestly, I didn’t want to use this, but if you can just sit back and throw those bloody projectiles over and over, then I have no choice.”

Looking to her left, Scarlet saw a shack a little further up the beach.  Teleporting to it, she winced as her heart burned. She clutched at her chest, pressing herself against the wooden wall as she slid to the ground, eyes squeezed shut.  The Reaper’s sleepy voice echoed in her mind. “Hmm…”

“It hurts…”  She felt like crying, but no blood wet her cheeks.  It was the first time she’d felt burning pain since becoming a vampire.  Whatever that beam was, it drained a significant amount of her stored energy, and her reserve continued to plummet.

Relica’s voice held her interested tone as she moved toward the shack that she hid in,  “Oh? Could the little vampire be hiding in here?” She could hear her soft footsteps in the sand as she approached.  “Your blood is making this too easy, Scarlet.”

My blood?  She understood as the burning pain in her chest began to fade.  Her blood entered her body, seeping through the walls of the shack.  If my blood gets too far away, then I’ll feel pain … increasing the further away I am.  Why do you never warn me about any of these things?

Scarlet opened her eyes as the pain eased, bloody tears now beginning to fall down her cheeks.  There was a bright glow that shone around the door’s cracks; Relica’s umbra slid through it, forming into her shadow puppet.  She clicked her tongue as the umbra’s hollow eyes appeared. “I must say; you took that way better than I feared. I was afraid it would turn you to ash.”

“What did you do?”  Scarlet whimpered, trying to regain control of her emotions.

“Bloody tears?  Did it hurt?” The umbra cocked its head, smile appearing.  “I think you can guess what that was; it’s pretty self-evident.”

“Sunlight?”  Scarlet muttered.  “How?”

The umbra shook its two-dimensional head.  “You’re so innocent and naive for a vampire.  You know so little about the system, yet you still charged in to play the hero.  I already gave you the information, but I suppose you wouldn’t have an extensive history of different gods.  Helios, do you remember?”

“Helios?  Is that a…”

“Yes, the sun god from Greek mythology.  Although, he is a minor deity, but still, your worst nightmare.”  She chuckled, shadowy eyes showing several fuzzy spikes. “This simple ability is called Elektor’s Radiance.  Elektor was one of Helios’ daughters, interesting, no? It’s in Helios’ tree, but the ability has the name of his daughter, even though there are separate trees I have for a few of his other daughters and granddaughter.  This system is most interesting.”

Nose twisting, Scarlet’s fingers stiffened, and she slashed at the shadow with her energy, but the umbra simple bent backward, letting the crescent blade soar over its torso to cut through the shack’s opposite wall.

“Now, now,” Relica giggled.  “Don’t get flustered; I’m not going to kill you.  I want to explore, to talk, perhaps bond even.”

Scarlet’s fangs ground against her canines as she glared at Relica’s shadow puppet.  She has an answer for everything!  No … calm down. Taking a deep breath, Scarlet closed her eyes.  Alright, she’s super confident … just calm down.  Why am I getting so emotional? Is it The Reaper’s feelings, bubbling up from below or is just stress?

She opened her eyes as Relica hummed.  “Getting control? Good, now, tell me your Trees.  I’m so curious! Do Mythickin Trees differ from all the others?  I’ve been studying all sorts of types; from Beastkin to Abberationkin, Faekin to Champion, from Espers to Magus, there are so many different races and types and kinds, but I haven’t had the chance to study Mythickin yet.”

“So,” Scarlet tried her best to keep the heat out of her voice.  I hate her; she just killed a little girl in front of me, and she wants to bond?  She’s crazy…  “You want to talk … after I tried to kill you, like a dozen times.”  The sting she felt at her own words shocked her. I failed to kill her so many times … I really don’t know anything about being a vampire.

“Well, I’ve prepared quite thoroughly for our chat,” Relica cooed.  “I wouldn’t expect a normal American girl to think things through that well, but I was hoping that horrific undertone I received would surprise me.  Which, I have been a little surprised by some of your abilities, but overall, you’re just a little vampire girl. Long distance attacks were definitely not high on my list with a vampire, and I thought it would be more shadow based with your previous abilities, but I had failsafes.”

“Sunlight is pretty OP,” Scarlet muttered.  Still lying against the ground, she glanced to her right, looking through the wall; Relica was smiling at her with a small blazing globe of yellow light in her hand.

“Hmm,” Relica’s umbra tapped a sharp finger against its mouth.  “OP … what does that mean? Is it a part of this system or some teenager acronym?”

“Overpowered,” Scarlet murmured.  Since the start of The Oscillation, she’s been pushing herself to get stronger.  She used Blood Magic to gain an unlimited amount of energy … she’s been using people’s lives as fuel to push her spells and abilities to their limit, and she’s had a lot of lives to play with.  No wonder I’m struggling, but she’s like my complete counter! She has sun magic…

Relica’s shadow nodded.  “Ah, I see. Well, I wouldn’t call it that; I mean, it has no other purpose than producing light.  It doesn’t damage people normally, but I suppose it would seem overpowered to a vampire.” She giggled.  “You keep stalling though. Come now, tell me!”  

Okay then, I’ll use her confidence.  Maybe I can learn something to counter her.  Scarlet’s Blessing probably gives me a pretty big advantage … she better for the crap she’s put me through.  “Alright,” she muttered.  “I asked, and it told me I have two trees; I have a Reaper Tree and Scarlet’s Tree.  Why do you have four and I have two?”

“Oh, interesting, Scarlet’s Tree, you say?  I haven’t seen a tree named after themselves, and I don’t know why you only have two.  Perhaps it has something to do with the differences between Legendkin and Mythickin?”

“It’s not named after me,” she straightened against the back of the shack.  “Scarlet is the god that’s possessing me.”

The umbra’s eyes narrowed.  “Excuse me? Possessing? What’s that supposed to mean, and is your vampire side in the Reaper or the Scarlet Tree?”  Obviously, Scarlet’s.  Is that right, knowledge-thing?  Does Scarlet’s Tree have my vampire skills?  Yup, thought so.

“Scarlet’s Tree; Scarlet is a blood god that my parents worshiped.  During The Oscillation, they did some kind of ritual and made me her avatar … or something like that.”

“Huh,” the shadow shifted to the left, becoming almost invisible with its two-dimensional frame.  “I can’t tell if you’re stringing me along or telling the truth. What level is your blood protection and attack abilities, and their proficiency grade and rank?”

Scarlet fell silent as she thought on the question.  That’s right … skills have levels.  I learned that from Scarlet’s Blessing … no, wait, levels, grade, and rank?  That’s so complicated. What is my blood protection called? Wait … really? It’s a sub-ability of Blood Link.  How many sub-abilities are there in Blood Link … don’t want to tell me? What about, how many sub-abilities are unlocked in Blood Link … wow.

Blood Manipulation and it has Blood Defense, Blood Weapon, and Blood Collection.  Blood Defense has Danger Activation turned on … I can turn it off, but I suppose now isn’t the best time for that.  Blood Weapon has a few modes, Cocoon, Razor, and Spear … Spear has a sub-effect, Spike. Blood Collection has Personality Assimilation and Conversion.  Blood Portal doesn’t have any current sub-abilities. There are some weaknesses too…

Relica’s emotions told her she was becoming impatient.  “Well? It seems you’ve discovered something.”

“Give me a second to understand it all,” Scarlet muttered, straightening her skirt with a huff.  What level and proficiency is Blood Defense?  Level four, and proficiency, Novice, Maxed. What about my Blood Weapon?  Level five, Proficiency, Rookie, Maxed.

Okay, so the rank of proficiencies can increase based on level.  I can’t get to the Rookie grade at level four, but I can at level five, and increase the rank.  I’m guessing the rank must be maxed before it moves to the next grade though … right. What’s given from proficiencies?  Guess that’s a secret, but I can assume it has to do with knowledge on how to use something, like me suddenly knowing how to use a scythe.

 “Okay, so, my Blood Defense is level four, and its proficiency is Novice, Maxed, while my Blood Attack is level five, and its proficiency is Rookie, Maxed.”

The umbra’s eyes widened.  “Your proficiency is Rookie, and it’s maxed?  How did you accomplish that? Has it been active since The Oscillation?  I only have three level five spells, and only one of those is Rookie Grade, Rank Zero; I haven’t even been able to raise its rank by one.  How did you max it? Does that mean Rookie is the max proficiency you can reach at level five? At what rank is maxed; is it ten, like Novice?”

“Umm, I don’t know,” Scarlet shifted uncomfortably.  “I just learned about this stuff.” Scarlet’s Blessing is maxing all of my proficiency Ranks and Grades.  I have a massive advantage over her then. She must have dumped a lot of points into that Corrosive Touch, but she may have a ton from how many people she’s killed.  What level is my Bloody Edge of the Crescent Blade? Three, so it’s maxed Novice.

Is there any special sub-effect with it … Penetration, level one.  I could have gotten that from maxing the proficiency. Where does the ability come from?  Blood Emission chain in the base table of Scarlet’s Tree. What are chains? A list of abilities that are unlocked in sequence.  Alright, so they’re like upgrades to the skills then?

“Well, did you ask it?  Maybe ask, how are my proficiencies maxed or some variant of the question.  There must be a reason, perhaps another passive that’s helping you advance so quickly.”

She’s rather sharp…  Scarlet licked her lips eagerly.  “Give me a second.” This really does function like a game skill list, just a lot more complicated than any game I’ve played.  Is there anything I can get in the Reaper Tree that will help me survive in sunlight? Crap, well, maybe I have to want it, not just ask the question … it does seem like I can only ask questions about things I already have.

Feeding the desire, the information popped into her head as the skill activated.  Her sailor uniform was swallowed in pitch-black shadows as a cloak enveloped her, tendrils of dark smoke slowly dispersing into the air.  She looked down at her left hand, fingers spreading as her skin seemed to fade, showing her skeletal fingers; her white bony hand was filmed by red veins and dark red energy.

“What—what are you doing?  Your skin—your face … a skull, filled with red light; even your fangs are showing.  Is this a part of your Reaper Tree?”

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Scarlet rose to her feet; she almost felt ethereal.  Cloak of the Reaper, level five.  It can only be used while in the Guise of the Reaper state, and it uses my Vampiric energy like crazy, but I should be protected while within it.  I can’t use any skills from Scarlet’s Tree though … all my hate, it’s gone. I feel so liberated; even though my Vampiric energy is fading, I don’t feel hunger, no prickly emotions, silence, stillness, tranquility.

She turned to stare at Relica through the wall, red tint gone.  Everything was clear and she could see Relica’s life force; it was strong, she instinctively knew she could live for centuries.  “I’d much prefer being a Reaper over a Vampire.” Her scythe emerged in her hands as she called it, wisps of dark energy frothing off its blade.

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