Reika had sat in the booth together with her great-grandfather as the auction of the Soul Renewal was underway. She was confused at his refusal to bid and had failed to hold herself back. When it was finally sold, without him even fighting for it, she failed to hold herself back.
“Choices have consequences,” he answered before she could even finish her question. “I made a choice, and now I bear the burden of that choice. I have already forced one change of season… let’s not break the balance more than necessary and force another.”
Still finding the answer unnecessarily vague, Reika nevertheless nodded and accepted his words. Deep in her heart, she just thought he was too proud to use such an item. Perhaps a part of him didn’t want to spend the funds of the clan on something so personal. Perhaps he truly did believe that he didn’t need it … maybe he even saw it as a test he had to overcome.
While Reika tried to take a logical approach and a scientific one where possible – something that had become quite a bit more complicated after the system – the Patriarch was different. He had always been a spiritual man who believed there was more between heaven and earth. He had been a good businessman and logical when operating his corporate empire, but a part of him had always found solace in the metaphysical. A solace and belief that had now translated to power.
“I understand,” she just said with a nod as she got up. “I shall take my leave and go discuss with the other branch managers now.”
He just nodded slowly in return as he closed his eyes to rest. The Sword Saint, one of the strongest people on Earth, was still too weak to walk around without his cane and found it exhausting. But… it was his choice.
Well… in some ways. Reika did believe he had enough Credits to compete, but she was unsure if he could have beaten the competition.
Jake was powerful and influential in every way. Even if he seemed to not realize it himself very often. There were archers in the Noboru Clan who would use the bow offered; some had personal funds to afford a bid, at least when it was below a hundred million. But none had made a bid out of respect and perhaps a bit of fear.
Reika understood why the Patriarch placed so much importance in hopefully making him an ally, or at the very least avoiding making him an enemy. Which is exactly what she was going to talk to the branch managers about… delegation of her responsibilities.
Because shortly after returning the auction event, it would be time for her to begin her travel towards Haven. Of course, she would not leave while the Patriarch was still in his current state. And if she did have to leave, she at least had to make sure there would be no problems.
The rest of the auction event passed without anything noteworthy happening. Jake had bound his bow to himself, chatted a bit with the others, and watched over the still sleeping Sylphie. When only ten minutes remained, everyone had returned to the booth as they prepared to leave.
“Would you like to return to Haven right away or stay in Skyggen a while longer and make your own way back?” Miranda asked him.
“I think returning is best, also for the bird on my head,” Jake answered. He had also spoken to Caleb about his parents before leaving, so him not returning to Skyggen was expected.
Neil chimed in as he had also just returned. “I have compared some notes with the space mages from Skyggen, and I think we are closer to a teleportation circle than ever. Shouldn’t take more than a month from now.”
“Nice,” Jake said. “Should make the choice easier then if I can just go visit again in a month or so.”
With all of that decided, they just kept chatting as Sylphie had yet to wake up. Considering she was on his head, he assumed that counted as physical contact, but he still wanted to make sure as he raised his hand, pressing down on her like she was a hat on a windy day. The fluffy ball of feathers was very squishy.
Miranda placed a hand on his shoulder just before the time expired, and his vision shifted for a moment. Shortly, Jake found himself back in Miranda’s office in Haven. Sultan appeared together with them, having had a hand on the shoulders of Felicia and Roman to give them an easy trip to Haven. Jake had never actually considered using this method as fast travel, but it appeared to work quite well, and it would in no way surprise him if other factions did it.
“Now this is interesting,” Sultan said just as they had returned. “Very interesting…”
“What is it?” Miranda inquired.
“I received the best title I could from the auction event and have gained some new interesting opportunities… something for us to discuss at a later time for sure, especially now that the System Store is gone,” the merchant answered.
Upon hearing that… Jake remembered something about how the System Store would only be available until after the auction event, but he had honestly thrown it to the back of his mind. He hadn’t used the store much himself but had people like Sultan and Lillian act as his agents instead. Honestly? It wasn’t that big of a loss.
It would perhaps be a bit more difficult getting raw materials to mass-produce potions with it gone. Luckily, Jake should have a large storage by now to get him by, but before that ran out, he wanted to establish some ways to cultivate his own herbs.
Jake got up as he bid his farewell to go back to his lodge, telling Miranda to have Hank come by to talk about the underground alchemy lab whenever the builder got time.
He also discovered only around an hour had passed in the real world during the event while making his way back. His trip to the lodge wasn’t the fastest as Jake had to travel carefully due to the still-sleeping Sylphie on his head. Could he have just lifted her down and held her in his hands? Sure. Did he? No.
When he got back, Jake saw that not much had changed even if he had been gone for a week. At least not above ground. With his sphere, he saw people underground, doing some stuff to the walls. Hank himself was not there, but a bunch of other workers, including someone Jake had seen with the construction chief of Haven, were present.
Seeing no reason to bother them, he would just wait for Hank. Jake took a seat on his porch as he leaned back to relax. With a hawk on his head, Jake did as anyone does when being done with a system event… he filled Villy in.
“So, Villy, got time?” Jake asked out loud as he established a connection with the god.
“Just been waiting for you to call first to not disturb your talks with the other mortals. That is just common courtesy, you know?” Villy answered more or less instantly. “Now give it to me. What happened in the event? Any good stuff?”
“Awfully curious, eh? Missed me?” Jake joked.
“Yeah, been a real downer. You know, it’s like when you were just watching a damn great video, and then suddenly the internet dies for a time, and you just have to wait for it to get fixed as the video buffers. Excruciating experience,” Villy returned his joke. “In all seriousness, it is an unsettling experience for many gods if their blessed are in special closed-off system spaces like that event. We have no way to know anything about what you’re doing, no way to contact you, and for many gods that aren’t me, it can even be dangerous as they lose their ability to influence the one they have blessed and control them.”
“That’s why we use that time to talk shit about the gods.”
“Not gonna lie, that would be the best time to,” Villy said. “But come on… give me a rundown. Including why the Sylphian Hawk has consumed a Gift of Wind.”
Jake finally relented as he quickly explained how the event had unfolded. The Viper was unsurprised and unimpressed at the entire thing, as apparently, it had been bog-standard… until he reached the final round. When Jake mentioned the system entity had appeared, he got especially interested.
“Yes… the shape they take differs. When you look at it, you see a human. I see a snake… the hawk on your head probably saw a hawk there. Or a human… it differs from individual to individual; it isn’t always a being of your own race. As for the things you explained about how time and space seemed weird… well, don’t try to think about it too much. Neither of those concepts have much meaning when the system is directly involved.”
“I know, I already gave up trying to understand it. But, how powerful is the system actually?” Jake asked. He already kind of knew, but he wanted to learn it from someone who should know more.
“The question itself is nonsensical. That would be like asking how strong reality is. How strong energy is. How strong the concept of existence is. There is nothing to quantify, nothing to compare. For a single event, the system has recreated entire universes on a whim, created beings more powerful than any god, even I, and facilitates everything we are. Without the system, none of us would exist. Everything is the system; the system is everything. Just think about it like that,” the Viper explained.
“So, overpowered times infinite?” Jake asked half-serious, half-jokingly.
“Infinite times infinite even!” Villy joked back.
“Huh. Where do I file a complaint about my bow only being legendary then? Could have given me a Bow of One-Shot or something.”
“Sadly… it appears even the omnipotent system has limited powers in the realms of customer support. Though technically, you just having voiced or even thought your complaints means they have been registered and are known,” Villy gladly answered.
“Well, I shall just make do then,” Jake relented, acting all offended. “Anyway, the final phase had some good stuff…”
He mentioned the items one by one, Villy being impressed with what the system gave out. The Heart of Darkness and Dungeon Core were both incredibly valuable items that would go for ludicrous prices in the wider multiverse if one could even buy them. The legendary equipment was all great, too, though Villy honestly cared little for those. Jake knew he only faked being all excited for Jake’s bow, but that was okay… it was like Jake getting his very first beater car and going to his friend with a parking house full of supercars. Sure, he would act happy for you, but he wouldn’t exactly be impressed.
Villy also found the Holy Marble a bit funny and said that the formation for the Noboru clan and the Horn were also both nice. According to him, both would be useful for the rest of D-grade and a good way into C-grade before they would begin falling off and requiring upgrades.
Only one of them so far had actually impressed him out of all the items. The Gift of Wind. It was the kind of item that could never, in any way, be bought. It was an item that even S-grade elementals would go on slaughter through entire galaxies to obtain, and gods would duel over.
It was an item that was more qualitative than quantitative in power. The exact effects Villy was not sure of, but it would likely just result in Sylphie upgrading a skill and affecting her Records for future evolutions. As she was categorized as a monster, natural treasures could also perhaps give her levels, though the Gift rarely did that. All in all… it was great for her.
“The final item was a bottle of Soul Renewal,” Jake said as he was done summing up what they got.
“… I have no idea what that is,” Villy just answered, with Jake hearing genuinely confusion in his voice.
Jake responded by summoning the bottle in his hand to show it off, as he Identified it again.
[Soul Renewal (Unique)] – A bottle of Soul Renewal offered directly by the system due to Earth’s performance during the Treasure Hunt event. Soul Renewal is able to heal any wound to the soul and restore any damage or temporary affliction imposed upon it, including afflictions of the Truesoul.
He waited for a moment as Villy didn’t say anything. After ten or so seconds, Jake was a bit weirded out. “So? Thoughts?”
It took a few seconds more before the god answered. “I can’t Identify it.”
“I said that I can’t identify it. I only get that it is an item called Soul Renewal. There is no description of it. What does it do? I assume it helps heal soul wounds or something?” Villy asked.
“Well, the description says that…”
Jake read the entire description out loud to the god, and he felt some reactions through the link between him Villy. Especially as he read the last part and mentioned how the system had directly stated it could be used to heal the backlash of using a Transcendent skill or a skill used to overcome death. Jake did also mention the D-grade requirement, but according to Villy, that didn’t even matter anymore.
“That is an entirely unique item created specifically for you and the old swordsman… it… isn’t truly an item. It does something items cant,” Villy said.
Confused, Jake asked. “What do you mean not an item?”
“That what you are holding might as well just be a bottle of purified water. It isn’t what is in the bottle that matters. It is pretty much just a bottle saying that the system will help whoever it is used on. There is nothing there. No Records. No mana. No energy. It truly is just a bottle of… nothing,” Villy said, Jake hearing some resignation.
“So I can’t eat it with Palette or scry any information from it?”
“No. No one can. There is nothing to scry from nothing. But, do know this does not make it any less useful. If you choose to hold onto it, I reckon you could get a lot out of using it for someone in the wider multiverse. Even if the limit is D-grade. But, I guess you plan on using it on your mask?” the Malefic Viper asked.
Jake nodded in affirmation. “That is the temporary plan right now if I don’t find anything else. But I am a bit unsure what it will mean. Though the King did say that he would make it worth my while. Even promised it on a King’s honor, whatever that means.”
“Sounds like a plan,” Villy answered.
“… come on, tell me, what is up with the King of the Forest? You said Unique Lifeforms have weird ways and all that, but give me something,” Jake insisted.
“No, that is between you two. All I will say is that you may have mixed feelings about the entire thing,” Villy answered, being purposefully vague and annoying.
“Also… I must say I gained a lot more respect for that old man. He has chosen to suffer and live with the backlash over an instant cure. While that may seem dumb, I applaud the decision. This period is an important part of his Transcendence and something he has to experience. This may seem out of the left-field, but do you think he would be open to being blessed by a god that may understand him?” the Viper continued, as he asked.
“I’m not sure about that. The Sword Saint seems stubborn, and while I talked to him during the auction, it sounded like he rejected all gods trying to contact him. But… what god were you thinking of? That Dao-guy you talked about? Seems to fit,” Jake asked while making a qualified guess.
“No, not him. While it may look like he fits on the surface, what the Sword Saint needs is not a teacher. The Daofather teaches and takes disciples. The old man is no disciple but a leader himself; he would not fit there at all. No, what he needs is someone who only offers perspective and gives him the power of the blessing without much interference,” Villy explained.
Jake nodded, the words making sense to him.
“So… who did you have in mind?”
“The Primordial of Time, Aeon Clok.”