Staring at the strange blue liquid he knew well enough to not touch random things, especially not goopy fluids you just expelled in a fit. Linking this to whatever Sky did to improve his soul he waited for an answer. Nothing in the few pages he received explained this event.
Over the next few minutes he found the original pain vanished to a faint memory, odd considering it happened so recently, and the warmth within ebbed away. The man’s voice only stated some facts after it vanished once more, ‘ask for a caster to come by and destroy it. This is the mass of your soul that formed a minor alignment before I came by. It’s best to keep your soul pure.’
‘You forced out a chunk of my soul! Actually… why didn’t it hurt?’ The message starting with mock aggression over the matter. With the living core crystal literally residing in his soul the idea that it actually weakened him never came to pass. If he wanted Melo dead then he had way too much time to follow through before this.
Ignoring his exclamation, the ancient soul found no benefit in answering these questions. The reply deflecting without much exertion, ‘Don’t worry about it. Your soul is about 25% stronger now. Get this cleaned up and repeat it all.’ Shooting down the relatively major increase he experienced.
That was one the weakest goblin soul cores he owned, and it gave a 25% increase! What if he used something like the water angel’s soul?
Pulled out from the wonder of such quick improvements he clambered over to the door, knees still wobbly even if he felt fine, and stood in the open doorway looking for someone. Barely half a minute passed before a servant entered the corridor. Calling them over with a simple gesture. Asking for a 3rd grade mage proved easy in this castle littered with royal guards, as 10 seconds later one appeared in front of him.
“Is something the matter dungeon master?” Still on duty the mage approached with a standard introduction.
“I need some help cleaning something up. Please enter.” Leading the way, he pointed out the viscous fluid. Splattered on the floor it looked relatively inert, and mostly was unless used in certain ways.
For this guard, any mage at his level would recognize this fluid with a few quick magical checks. Concern in the room growing once again, “Soul remnants… Dungeon master, I must ask you to enter the infirmary for the time being. If this persists your soul might crumble.” An assumption that would be correct in any other circumstance, but this time he encountered Melo.
Without a better choice he obliged the mage with a made up explanation based on the numerous fantasy stories he remembered, “don’t worry about it. I used a soul training method for the first time just now and it involved removing impurities from myself. If it happens again I’ll check myself in.” A thankful smile hoping the mage moved on with this lie.
Without the position to overrule the demon’s choices he sighed and completed the immediate task. A simple chant cast a 4th rank spell, and a simple wave of his hand sent out a blazing white flame to reduce the remnants to ash.
Seeing such a wondrous fire made Melo’s heart throb, like finding a video of an adorable kitten. He just wanted to interact with such a thing, and it mystified him immensely. Displaying such emotion for a crude flame that lacked any spiritual nature, this natural reverence stemmed from his bloodline. He could suppress such thoughts, but the desire remained.
At least the reappearance slimmed with his home being a swamp.
Thanking the servant and mage, they went on their way to complete further duties. In either case they knew to place whatever current task on hold for a guest’s matters. A consideration of basic decency for a guest, providing they make reasonable requests.
The mess dealt with he could finally sit down and investigate the changes given by his new and improved soul. And…
There was nothing.
Fumbling around in attempts to locate his soul or asking Shio to dump a few pointless economic reports into his mind, neither played out differently. Well, he could attest that the report’s transfer hurt less than similarly sized bundles but Sky literally stated that effect from the start.
Only with nothing happening for long enough did he wisen up and toss the soul trainer up like a ball, at some point grasping it as another bundle of mana travelled down his arm. Similar in size to all the previous ones, he prepared for another stabbing, silently hoping that his soul’s improvement mattered enough to reduce the pain.
It did, but that came at a cost. The originally breath-sucking strike weakened to a bruising blow. Akin to walking into a lamppost, a comparatively minor ache centralised on the side of his torso which both relieved him and worried him. When reading the original manual he made a guess that each improvement slightly increased the mana cost, and while Sky kept silent he now knew it to be correct.
Unless his soul entered a partially damaged state, one that is easy to recover from, it openly refused to accept foreign soul mass. Finally arriving at the conclusion, he needed to use more mana and endure a similar amount of pain anytime he wanted to perform this.
Every. Single. Time.
Mentally he could endure it, but he prayed to one day exact vengeance for this torment. Especially since that old man never bothered to explain why traditional soul improving methods were inapplicable.
The bundle of mana increased in small increments. Alongside, the pain increased in bounds. At first increasing in area and quantity, but at some threshold warping into a sudden sharp pain. Funnily enough, after so many tests another bland message indicated the next soul core consumption.
The soothing warmth reappeared and pushed away his worries, this time not ending with a coughing fit. As promised it was a one-time deal to clean up his soul.
His proper mental preparation allowed him to pick up the device minutes later and start again. Sending a message to Sky, who opened the communication channel in case of anything going wrong on his end, confirmed a full repair using the remnant soul mass. A repair only necessary to consolidate the improved soul.
His inputted mana increased once again using larger separations than before. Only three strikes in did he find that same feeling and stabilise there, continuing for ten more attacks before stuffing another soul core inside him. The chain of flaming skewers sending him into a dull cycle of thoughts.
Even with the similar warmth he slumped to the side, unable to resist the appeal of giving up and sleeping. He could just complete it another day…
‘You’ve been resting for long enough. You still have soul cores on you, so hurry up.’ The rare impatient voice of Sky addressing him. The strange crystal exhibited a range of emotions, but very rarely did Melo find a lack of patience in the man.
Although his body felt broken he could still gather enough willpower for a simple message back. Sent in monotone from his lack of strength. ‘No more for today, please. I can’t stand this crap anymore, so just let me sleep.’
In such a dozing state even the floor satisfied his overbearing bedding requirements, and eyes closing he began to fall asleep.
Tried to begin at least.
His body shuddered, shook, spasmed, suffocated, and spiralled into a depth of brutal pain leaving him teetering on the edge of waking and unconsciousness. Like someone tased him during the plummet into a vat of acid, unable to stop the searing hellscape once more.
It only lasted for seconds, destroying every feasible part of his body at once. At the same time none of the damage was physical, his soul experiencing the destructive qualities.
The last of his breath released to shout a cry for the end of such torment. “STOP! I’ll– “
‘That was equal to a 2nd rank spirit’s attack. There will never be a day I trust you to continue something at your leisure.’ With no intention to justify such a debilitating attack against the demon, he finished with a simple order, ‘Ask for a replenishment potion, I can’t patch this up.’
Some horribly spiteful words spoken through a bitter truth. Melo could only blame some poor luck that Sky already knew exactly how someone like him worked. If he put it off today then that would be the case every time from here on. At the same time, he was not a pushover, or rather he did not want to be one. But when this is your strength it is the best you can be.
Crawling over to the bed, he supported himself on the frame but on his knees. Both arms bent weakly with every attempt at exertion, while two shivering legs refused to move. Waiting for everything to begin working he heard a message from Shio come by, ‘Did that thing just attack you? We can have the committee remove it once if need be, especially if it’s placing you at risk. Master?’
Remove? As vindictive and painful Sky was, his existence gave Melo the best chance of growing stronger. Such an act only implied a short-sighted relief.
On a more realistic problem, did the committee even hold the capabilities to remove such a highly advanced living crystal? Not to mention the part where he could vaporise Melo’s soul at any point if he did not mind dying alongside. Although his means demanded ruthless action, at the same time they represented high reward.
The physical embodiment of ‘No pain; No gain’.
Taking long breaths constantly, he still responded calmly, “it’s okay… Shio. I’m just not… trying hard enough for hi– it.” A tool residing within you and a being with its own soul are two massively different concepts to the committee, and the latter asked for immediate attention.
Sapped strength eventually returned to him. Previously unmoving legs were capable of standing and bent arms remained rigid under force. Limping towards the door he found someone outside immediately, who likely waited outside after hearing his initial shouting. Now only staying put in case the dungeon master needed something, and it turned out they did!
A potion fit in with the servant’s observation of these events and they hastily fulfilled the request whilst waiting for someone to confirm the delivery. Such healing objects are stored in the castle, given to squads of royal guards as some duty calls them away.
And low and behold as one such potion arrived in little more than a minute, but a teensy problem came attached to it. A remarkably familiar 3rd grade mage held the vial whilst staring at the clearly injured demon, a disappointed gaze looking down on it like a parent.
Putting on a pair of rectangular spectacles he glared up and down the demon’s body, slowly searching for a concentration of energy. Unsurprisingly he found two such hotspots, one extremely weak when compared to the other. From there a simple spell gave him sight of the weaker soul, the discovery distressing him far more than earlier.
But it only worsened as he realised a small hole bored its way through the soul’s paper thin defences and wreaked havoc on the less important internals. Not damaging anything necessary for function but still enough to leave him completely distraught. On top of that, why was this demon’s soul so weak?
“Drink it here. If you aren’t fully healed after it then you’re coming with me.” With physical evidence he relinquished Melo of any self-control, willing to drag him to the infirmary for any possible complications. The dungeon master killing themselves through training both sounded like and was the most idiotic mistake they could allow.
Pulling the vial’s top off he downed the potion in one go, ignoring the bitter taste followed by a lip-squeezing sourness. A cool sensation led him to shiver, but overall it soothed the ongoing pain that a literal hole in his soul left. Sky easily controlled the restorative process to mend this relatively useless soul mass, then patching the beaten outer shell. If left naturally this sort of potion requires nearly 3 hours to take full effect. Melo may not be capable of seeing this but he could feel it, and returned the vial with a smile.
“But… how?” Such confusion is the normal reaction for any mage. He just saw a yellow tier potion instantly heal someone in seconds. A soul restoration process matching that of a magical regeneration skill, an advanced form of the ability only seen in extremely powerful creatures.
Rather than embarrass himself further, the mage teleported away with a vial clutched tightly. Making a report that a few mages claimed as ‘falsified’ but at the same time shocking more than just a group of royal guards. Luckily, the committee dealt with that issue…
Back inside, his body invigorated yet tired, he bit the bullet and simply started again. What use would thinking it over or talking do? Reaching Sky’s quota and sleeping drew him in far more than another potential showcase.
Fearing the initial hit, he visibly clenched only to feel disappointment and relief make him question it all. The grimacing pain still applied, but it really lacked to the insanity Sky put him through. Although it makes sense that his attacks hurt way less considering any 2nd rank creature attacked with far more mana than these simple attacks.
Exhausted after 12 piercing attacks he swallowed the fourth soul core of the night and waited for a repair to begin the fifth rerun. Once again using 12 attacks to obtain the signal from Sky and swallow his final goblin soul core. Only seven 2nd rank cores remained, but something else came first.
Sending out the first attack of this set, he wanted to complete a few before asking for the soul core. As usual the mana transformed and flew back into him, creating a dull ache as he still needed to adjust to the slightly more powerful soul. Sitting on the bed, his body fell to the side suddenly.
Unable to move, but also unwilling, his eyes closed against any attempt and in mere seconds he slept. Too spiritually exhausted to keep himself awake, and nothing Sky did could solve this. As such the tormenting old man let him rest, satisfied that Melo grew up enough since their first encounter to understand his reasoning.
No part of him enjoyed torturing the demon, regardless of how much pleasure he took from leaving that alien girl to endlessly exist in a cage. At the very least he could back up all the forceful remarks with Melo’s progress.
His soul transformed from an unremarkable, impure lump to a pure soul with strength on par with the normal inhabitants of this world. This represented the first step on the path of Melo’s soul, but simply one of many on his journey here.
“Hey, wake up. You already missed breakfast.” A calming, dreamy voice calling out for him to awaken. Shifting his limbs each weighed a ton, eyelid even more apparently. Forcing them open he saw Vendrill nudging him gently.
He replied with words slurred from exhaustion, “I’ll get up. Why am I so tired?” Legs still hanging off the bed’s edge, he pushed his body upright. Each inch of leverage draining an already destitute pool of strength.
“I heard you started some sort of soul training last night; you aren’t overdoing it… Are you?” More explicitly, he read the reports on Melo’s self-injury and expected a far worse outcome. Though from the looks of it no one needed to worry over this.
Slouched over on the edge, the last step came about, but a reply came first. He mumbled, “Only until I fell unconscious. Permanently scarring my soul isn’t in my… plans.” The final word evading his tired thoughts for several moments.
“No reason you’re tired, you went well past your limits this time. We’ll buy some pills to deal with this first.” Vendrill knew unsurprisingly little about anything soul related, but anyone under a mage’s tutelage could identify that source of tiredness.
Melo’s body stood up in its half awake state. Arms supported by the wall and bed’s headboard, but legs screaming to sit back down. Shaking it off he shuffled over to the ensuite bathroom to wash up, splashing freezing water over his face in a null attempt to awaken properly. It certainly helped keep his eyes open, but the reducing sense of exhaustion remained.
Moving out with Vendrill in front he used tangent thoughts to distract the foreboding desire to sleep. One such thought was wondering exactly what left him utterly exhausted.