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Jason needed to claim most, if not all of the vast extradimensional space he found himself in. If he failed, a wound would appear in the side of reality leading to the Earth’s rapid annihilation. He could bring about the transformation by expanding what his powers described as a spirit domain, something he only moderately understood. Thus far, he had managed to convert the top three floors of a dilapidated hotel, turning it into a cold place of dark crystal.

His progress was far too slow but he had a new weapon - or an old one, reborn. The sword that Gary had forged in the hope of it helping Jason when his need was greatest. Now that it was newly-empowered, Jason believed it would live up to Gary’s intentions. Before he set out to use it, though, there was more power to potentially invest in it.

Standing by the stairs leading down to the second floor, Jason took an item from his inventory. The soul-imprinting triune had obvious religious connotations from the name but took the form of a plain pyramidal object, the size of a melon. Running his fingers over the smooth surface, Jason couldn’t tell if the dark material it was made from was stone or metal, but it was quite heavy for its size. Jason had previously not met the qualifications for its use and had even vaguely considering scribbling numbers of it with a white marker and using it as a novelty four-sided die.


Item: [Soul-Imprinting Triune] (unranked, legendary)

An object with the power to allow imprinting of the soul on three soul-bonded objects. (consumable, magic core).

  • Effect: Select three growth items that are soul-bound to you. These items will become a unified set. When all three objects are on your person (not contained within a dimensional space), each will gain an additional effect. The specific effects are determined by the types of objects included in the set and the nature of your soul.
  • Current soul-bound items: [Amulet of the Dark Guardian], [Cloud Flask], [Dread Salvation].
  • You meet the qualifications to use this item.

The soul-imprinting triune would allow Jason to turn his soul-bound items into a set. It was an exciting opportunity but there was also one noticeable problem. One of the items, which were required to be carried directly on his person, was the cloud flask. There was no problem with his amulet or sword, but the cloud flask was the size and shape of a round-bottom boiling flask. It was not exactly the most convenient item to be carrying around in a fight. He needed to weight up the pros and cons of using the triune now.

“Pro,” he mused out loud. “If I include the cloud flask, the extra effect might be a flying cloud, like Monkey Magic. I mean, yeah, I’m not short on flying powers. I have Shade and I can fly with my cloak, but still. Definite pro.”

There was no one to tell Jason off for having inappropriate ideas but he couldn’t help but feel the shadows of Shade and Farrah looking at him with disapproval.

“Con, I’ll have to lug the cloud flask around if I want to use the extra abilities.”

Another pro to using the item was that it offered him power now. With his abilities sealed and the world itself at stake, he needed every advantage he could get. The attendant con was that there were no guarantees the effects would be any good. If he held off until he found a better-suited item, the dividends of patience could be great. Of course, he had no idea when or if he would get another soul-bound item, or if it would be any more convenient to carry around than the cloud flask.

As he considered, Jason wandered back up the stairs to the rooftop. Looking out at the dark realm around him, it was largely hidden from his eyes by a pervasive gloom that seemed tangible. The starlight struggling to penetrate it barely let him make out vast silhouettes in the distance that could be diamond-rank monsters for all he knew. It was entirely likely that even at full strength his efforts to stabilise the vast area would be futile. In the face of that, there was little point in holding off on taking power he could get now for some potential power that may never come.

The cloud flask was empty, the contents still in the form of a boat docked in Venice. Farrah, Dawn and his family were awaiting his return there. Jason couldn’t even be certain that the triune could be used on the cloud flask without its contents, although, with the decision made, he was about to find out.

Looking around at the flat rooftop of dark crystal, this was the substance that Jason’s portals and the structures within his soul were made of. Originally it had been simple obsidian, but that changed after he absorbed the Builder’s magical door.

Jason held out his hand and concentrated, employing methods he used to manipulate reality in node space. He stood for a long time, pressing out with his aura as he tried to understand the nature of the otherworldly dimension he inhabited.

The space was abnormally blended the physical and the spiritual, much like Jason himself. The immediate area was also part of the spiritual domain he had claimed, so he should be able to control it. He used his aura like a microscope, trying to grasp the fundamental underpinnings of the mutable reality of the transformation zone. He closed his eyes, his physical senses being useless in the endeavour.

Slowly, he was able to make out some of the properties of the space around him, his experiences with node space and studies in astral magic being pivotal. It was far from a complete understanding but it was enough that he could get around some of the basic underpinnings of how the reality worked. Compared to a full-blown physical reality, the transformation zone, still in flux, was much easier to comprehend.

Using the same mental commands that let him control his cloud house, combined with the reality-bending techniques he used in node space, he tried to make an active change. It took some time before he got it quite right, but finally, the crystal surface of the roof flowed like liquid, rising to take the shape of a table before once more setting firmly.


  • Your understanding of your spiritual domain had improved. Evolution of ability [Spirit Vault] had advanced due to your insight.
  • [Spirit Vault] evolution status: 1.784%.

Jason took out his cloud flask and set it on the table. The sword came off his belt and the amulet from around his neck, both of which he laid out as well. He held the triune in his hands.


  • You meet the qualifications to use [Soul-Imprinting Triune].
  • Use [Soul-Imprinting Triune] on [Amulet of the Dark Guardian], [Cloud Flask] and [Dread Salvation]?

Jason gave his mental assent and the triune started dissolving into a mist that spread over Jason and the objects on the table. They floated into the air and started drifting around Jason’s body. Jason felt his soul reaching out to the objects, striving to deepen the shallow connection it already had to them. As it did, he could feel each of the three objects. The mist started condensing into lines, connecting Jason to his magical items.

The amulet had the strongest affinity to him already. The last item produced by his old quest system before that ability evolved, the power had left him with a potent final gift.


  • [Amulet of the Dark Guardian] has been added to set [Regalia of the Dark Hegemon].

 

Item: [Amulet of the Dark Guardian] (silver rank [growth], legendary)

A protective amulet with the power of a shadowy guardian. Has the power to express the will of the hegemon (jewellery, necklace).

  • This item is bound to [Jason Asano] and cannot be used by anyone else.
  • Effect: For each instance of an affliction applied to an enemy, gain an instance of [Guardian’s Blessing]. You may bestow all instances of [Guardian’s Blessing] upon another person by touch.
  • Effect (set bonus, Regalia of the Hegemon): For each instance of an affliction applied to an enemy, gain an instance of [Hegemon’s Authority].

 

  • [Guardian’s Blessing] (boon, holy, stacking): Instances are consumed to absorb damage from any source. Additional instances have a cumulative effect. For each instance consumed, gain an instance of [Blessing’s Bounty].
  • [Blessing’s Bounty] (heal-over-time, holy, stacking): Heal over time. Additional instances have a cumulative effect.
  • [Hegemon’s Authority] (boon, holy, unholy, stacking): All allies within your aura have increased resistance to aura suppression. Additional instances have a cumulative effect. Consume instances of this boon to enhance your aura suppression strength.

The amulet was a reproduction of Jason’s personal crest on a delicate obsidian chain. As Jason’s soul imprinted on it, the chain transmuted into the same dark crystal that made up the spirit domain around him.

The cloud flask was the work of some unknown diamond-rank craftsman and felt more distant and nebulous than the amulet. Jason had been using it for a couple of years now and they had grown stronger together, but the flask still felt like it still had secrets locked away until they grew stronger still.


  • [Cloud Flask] has been added to set [Regalia of the Dark Hegemon].

 

Item: [Cloud Flask] (silver rank [growth], legendary)

A vessel containing the power to generate sophisticated cloud constructs. Has the power to serve as a tool of the hegemon (vessel, tool).

  • This item is bound to [Jason Asano] and cannot be used by anyone else.
  • Effect: Use the energies within the cloud flask to create buildings and vehicles made of clouds. Available forms are restricted by rank.
  • Effect: Items contained within the cloud construct when it is returned to the flask are stored in a dimensional space and cannot be recovered until another cloud construct is formed.
  • Effect (set bonus, Regalia of the Hegemon): Shrouds the wearer in mist. Mist can be controlled through aura manipulation to condense into small cloud constructs. Constructs only provide effective defence against attacks lower than the rank of this item; attacks of its rank and above are minimally impeded. Shroud can be withdrawn into the flask.

 

  • Available forms (iron rank): Cloud house (grand), cloud house (adaptive).
  • Available forms (bronze rank): Cloud vehicle (grand), cloud vehicle (adaptive).
  • Available forms (silver rank): Cloud palace (grand), cloud palace (adaptive).

The cloud flask shrank down the size of a thumb, floated over to the amulet and attached itself to the crystal chain.

“Well, that’s convenient.”

***

In Venice, Farrah, Dawn and Jason’s family were in a cloud construct disguised as a yacht, watching a news website covering the transformation zone in Slovakia. There was little information as no media personnel were allowed close to the dome. Jason’s arrival had been witnessed at a distance and they had seen many of the forces around the dome go running up the dome after him, despite the steep, slick surface. No information was coming out, though, reducing the coverage to little more than endless rounds of postulation.

“I’m sure your uncle is fine,” Erika assured her daughter. “You don’t need to sit watching this for hours on end.”

“Your mother is right,” Farrah said. “You know what he’s like. He’ll swagger back in, insufferably smug, and won’t shut up about saving the world for a month. He’ll probably even get some stupid new power or a crazy magic item or something.”

Suddenly the cloud palace was flooded with Jason’s aura, which everyone but Emi could sense.

“Is he…?” Farrah asked of Dawn.

“This isn’t him,” Dawn said. “This is the cloud construct.”

The disguised exterior of the cloud construct rippled, like the surface of a pond after a stone was dropped into it, although no one was around at the abandoned dock to see. On the inside, the cloud stuff started to change. The white cloud stuff turned a dark but vibrant blue, while the sunset gold and blues become bright, wild colours and patterns of a space nebula. There bright reds and greens, yellows and purples, churning and flowing.

“What’s happening?” Erika asked. “Did something happen to Jason?”

“Did he take a bunch of LSD?” her husband Ian wondered.

“I don’t know what’s going on,” Farrah said.

The colours started to slow their kaleidoscopic swirling across the wall, the white colour coming back. The other colours became more subdued, although they were different from what came before, the sunset colours replaced with the brighter and more varied nebula shades. The sense of Jason's aura diminished but didn't vanish entirely.

“Do not be concerned,” Dawn said. “It would appear that whatever Asano is experiencing, it has allowed him to forge a deeper connection with his cloud flask.”

“You know almost everyone here is an Asano, right?” Emi asked. “You should call him Jason or you’re just being rude.”

Dawn was uncertain how to respond to that so she didn’t and turned once more to Farrah.

“It would appear that you were correct, Miss Hurin, in positing that he would reap gains during this event.”

“See,” Farrah complained. “Even dying makes him come back stronger. That guy could fall into a pit trap and he’d crawl out with a beautiful woman and a sack of cash.”

***

Inside Jason’s spirit domain, his sword was taking longer than the other items to deepen the soul-bond. The sword felt the most discordant of the three items, filled with potential but hampered by the limitations of its form. It strained to exert the power constrained within it, yearning to be reforged.


  • [Dread Salvation] has been added to set [Regalia of the Dark Hegemon].

 

Item: [Dread Salvation] (bronze rank [growth], legendary)

A sword awaiting the chance to be the iron fist of the hegemon. The original creator must demonstrate his growth and reforge the weapon for it to surpass its origins and fulfill its potential (weapon, sword).

  • This item is bound to [Jason Asano] and cannot be used by anyone else. This bond allows the weapon to share the wielder’s ability to ignore rank disparity.
  • Effect: You may imbue your aura into the weapon, increasing its damage for an ongoing mana cost. Damage and cost scales with the amount of aura strength imbued, up to the limitations of the weapon’s current state. Aura strength over that required for the maximum damage output reduces the mana cost.
  • Current rank: Bronze.
  • Current maximum damage increase: Moderate.
  • Current maximum mana cost: Low. Decreased from moderate by wielder’s aura strength. Mana cost cannot be eliminated entirely, regardless of the wielder's aura strength.
  • Effect: ??? (Sealed).
  • Effect (Regalia of the Hegemon): Enemies struck with this weapon are subjected to a mild mana drain effect and are inflicted with [Hegemon’s Tribute].

 

  • [Hegemon’s Tribute] (affliction, magic): Anyone affected by Hegemon’s tribute is subject to a mild, ongoing mana drain effect by the wielder of [Dread Salvation] so long as they remain within the wielder’s aura. If this affliction is cleansed or the subject dies, a final burst of mana is drained.

 

  • Growth conditions (silver): Sealed.
  • [Dread Salvation] has reached the maximum potential of its current form. It must be reforged by the original craftsperson in order to advance further.

The items stopped floating around Jason as the mist that the triune had turned into faded away. They gently drifted back down onto the table as Jason looked over the extensive description windows. After reviewing it all, he placed the necklace with the amulet and the miniaturised flask around his neck. The sword he slid back into its scabbard. Then he looked out over the dark landscape that seemed a little less intimidating than before.

“Alright,” he said to no one. As when he first arrived in Farrah’s world, he found himself alone and talking to himself. He was eager for Shade to be released so he had someone to make wildly outdated and barely relevant pop culture references to.

“Time to get to work.”

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Shirtaloon (Travis Deverell)

  • Australia

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