When Jason used the dark essence it had turned into smoke, painfully invading his body until he passed out. The blood essence instead melted over his hand, becoming a viscous liquid that crawled up his arm and started coating his torso as it seeped through his pores and into his skin. It savagely burned its way into his flesh, leaving him sprawled on the ground as he fought to endure the pain. Gritting his teeth, he barely managed to stave off unconsciousness. By the time the pain subsided he was on all fours, rapidly panting. His clothes were wet with perspiration.
- You have absorbed [Blood Essence]. You have absorbed 2 of 4 essences.
- Progress to iron rank: 50% (2/4 essences ).
- [Blood Essence] has bonded to your [Power] attribute, changing your [Power] from normal to [Iron 0]. Master all blood essence abilities to increase your [Power] attribute.
- You have awakened the blood essence ability [Blood Harvest]. You have awakened 1 of 5 blood essence abilities.
“That was interesting,” Farrah said, voice clinical. “Functionally it appears similar to how a confluence essence is absorbed, although the strain on the subject is clearly increased. Too many unanswered questions for one subject. I wish I had more of you.”
“The subject has a name,” Jason groaned painfully.
“I wonder if the type of essence affects the process,” Farrah mused. “You said you passed out last time, yes? Perhaps subjects adapt with each event.”
“The first one was definitely worse,” Jason said. “Not that this one was a lot of fun. I’m still going to need a moment.”
“What’s your new ability?” Gary asked. “You should be able to feel it, right?”
As Gary suggested, the new power had engraved itself into Jason, making itself a part of him.
Ability: [Blood Harvest] (Blood)
- Spell (drain).
- Cost: Low mana.
- Cooldown: None.
- Current rank: Iron 0 (00%)
- Iron: Drain the remnant life force of a recently deceased body, replenishing health, stamina and mana. Only affects targets with blood.
“Looks like it’s for healing up after a fight,” Jason said.
“Sounds like a good one,” Gary said. “Abilities with restrictions are usually more powerful. Especially if it makes them hard to use in the middle of a fight.”
“Who doesn’t love a balanced ability,” Jason said.
“A healing ability, too,” Gary said. “That’s especially good when you don’t have a healer with you. We go through a lot of potions.”
“Yes we do,” Farrah agreed.
“But you have a healer,” Jason said.
“Anisa isn’t a permanent part of the team, remember?” Rufus said. “This contract is for her church. They asked us to take her along, give her some field experience. Seemed like a good deal for both sides.”
“Seemed?” Jason asked.
“She can be a little judgemental,” Farrah said.
“A lot judgemental,” Gary said.
“Also cold,” Farrah said.
“Weren’t you just calling me ‘the subject’ a minute ago?” Jason asked.
“Don’t talk behind her back,” Rufus scolded. “If you can’t say it to her face, then don’t say it.”
“Now you’re being judgemental,” Gary said.
“Should I use my other essence next?” Jason asked. “Or should I use some of these awakening stones to get more abilities?”
“Essences first,” Farrah said. “Your abilities are based on the essence and stone you got them from, obviously, but also on the essences and abilities you already have. Using all your essences first means your abilities will better complement one another.”
“If you awaken too many abilities before you have all your essences,” Rufus said, “your abilities will lack focus. There will be more random powers that don’t work as well together.”
“Synergy,” Jason said. “Makes sense. Another essence it is. Not quite back in shape for the next one, though. I might just lay here for a little bit.”
Jason lay back on the grass while he recovered his strength. He took the chance to ask the others where they were going once they left the manor. They told him about a city on the coast, the only city in the entire desert region.
“Alright,” Jason said, sitting up. “I think I’m good to go again.”
He sat cross-legged on the grass, the sin essence in his hands.
> You are able to absorb [Sin Essence]. Absorb Y/N?
The white and gold cube started to shrink as motes of light emerged from it to float around Jason. By the time the entire cube vanished, the lights swirling around Jason had become a bright corona.
“Are you sure that’s a sin essence?” Gary asked, only to by shushed by Farrah.
The lights began sinking into Jason’s skin, a feeling of internal pressure building as they filled his body. More of the lights pushed their way inside and discomfort became pain as he felt like someone was trying to inflate him. Eventually the sensation passed, the pressure giving way to relief. It felt like finally taking a wee after needing one really badly.
- You have absorbed [Sin Essence]. You have absorbed 3 of 4 essences.
- Progress to iron rank: 75% (3/4 essences).
- [Sin Essence] has bonded to your [Recovery] attribute, changing your [Recovery] from normal to [Iron 0]. Master all sin essence abilities to increase your [Recovery] attribute.
- You have awakened the sin essence ability [Punish]. You have awakened 1 of 5 sin essence abilities.
“That one wasn’t so bad,” Jason said. “I think I’m getting used to it.”
“Good,” Rufus said, “because you need to do it again.”
As if to punctuate Rufus’s words, three shimmering, incorporeal cubes emerged from Jason’s torso and started spinning around him in the air. The cubes were images of the essences he had absorbed, plainly lacking in substance. The images converged in front of Jason, interposing themselves over one another. Once the three cubes merged into one, the result was a new cube, swirling with light and shadow. The patterns shifted like thick oils mixed together.
- The confluence of your essences has produced the [Doom Essence]. This is a confluence essence that you may claim or reject. If you choose not to claim this confluence essence it will not be available to you again.
“It’s like a yin-yang lava lamp,” Jason said. “What happens if I don’t take it?” Jason asked.
“Then I slap you over the back of the head,” Gary said.
“If you refuse your confluence essence,” Rufus said, “you can only replace it with a normal essence. I promise you that is not the way to go. Only the clergy reject the confluence essence, because their gods give them divine versions of regular essences.”
Jason nodded, reaching out with both hands to grab the essence. The immaterial image become solid the moment Jason touched it. Light and shadow started streaming out, wreathing Jason in a strange mix of light and darkness. It then moved in on Jason, sinking into his body. Compared to the previous essences it was uncomfortable at worst.
- You have absorbed [Doom Essence]. You have absorbed 4 of 4 essences.
- Progress to iron rank: 100% (4/4 essences ).
- [Doom Essence] has bonded to your [Spirit] attribute, changing your [Spirit] from normal to [Iron 0]. Master all doom essence abilities to increase your [Spirit] attribute.
- You have awakened the doom essence ability [Inexorable Doom]. You have awakened 1 of 5 doom essence abilities.
Once the essence was completely subsumed into Jason, a light started emerging from within his body. It was a strange, grey light, washing out the colours of everything it touched, from the grass to the adventurers sitting around him. They were unconcerned, Rufus smiling broadly while Farrah laughed and Gary clapped enthusiastically.
- You have absorbed 4/4 essences.
- All your attributes have reached iron rank.
- You have reached iron rank.
- You have gained damage reduction against normal-rank damage sources.
- You have gained increased resistance to normal-rank effects.
- You have gained the ability to sense auras.
- You have gained the ability to sustain yourself using sources of concentrated magic.
Jason leapt to his feet. He felt like he’d just been stabbed with a huge adrenaline needle, bursting with energy. He laughed out loud, looking down at his own arms. The light was shining right through his skin.
“This feels amazing!”
The others also got to their feet.
“I feel like I need to go climb a mountain or something,” Jason said. He was too caught up in the sensation of power surging through him to notice the others giving him sympathetic looks.
“Yeah, well,” Gary said, “just give it a moment.”
“What for?” Jason asked. “Why are you all backing away?”
The light started to diminish, drawing back inside Jason’s body. As it did he experienced a rising nausea, the sensation growing and growing as he resisted the urge to throw up. He collapsed to his hands and knees, vomit spraying out of him. Red-brown pus started oozing from his pores, staining his clothes and coating his skin in oily filth. He kept vomiting and vomiting, bloody tears pouring from his eyes.
Finally, he fell unconscious, dropping into a pool of his own body fluids. A terrifying stench was coming off of him and the others backed even further away. Even in unconsciousness, pus and vomit fought their way free of his body. The others looked on until it finally subsided.
“That was a lot,” Gary said.
“I’ve done a lot of essence rituals,” Farrah said, “but I’ve never seen anyone purge that many impurities before.”
“What do you think he’s been eating?” Gary asked.
“He’s from another world, so there’s no telling,” Farrah said.
“Do you think we should have told him about this part?” Rufus asked.
“Not at all,” Gary said. “Did you see the look on his face? Completely worth it.”
“I kind of feel bad, though,” Rufus said.
“It isn’t like it would have been any different if he knew,” Farrah said. “We all went through it.”
“And he’s an outworlder,” Gary said. “He didn’t absorb his essences the same way we did. We couldn’t be sure this would happen.”
“Probably should have told him to strip down first, though,” Farrah said. “There’ll be no getting the stink out of those clothes.”
“Gary,” Rufus said, “at least go drag him out of his own filth.”
“You can do it, if you want,” Gary said. “I’m not going over there.”
“Farrah?” Rufus asked, but she shook her head.
“If you’re so concerned,” Farrah said, “then you go move him.”
Rufus looked over at Jason, splayed out in the stinking puddle.
“I’m sure he’ll be fine.”