Jake sat in meditation as he felt his own body. Not just the physical one, but the metaphysical representation of it. He felt his stamina, mana, and health move as he tried to trace it all back to its source – the area around his heart.

Villy was standing with him as pressure was exerted. Jake felt his physical body slowly start to crumble as his skin flayed off and turned to dust. Every resource was exhausted, and Jake felt his metaphysical body begin to distort as it turned to nothing, and as it did so, he faintly felt something.

Just as fast as the feeling emerged, it disappeared along with the pressure.

Jake wanted to ask why the Viper had stopped but noticed he didn’t have any mouth… or much of anything, really. He was nothing more than a floating heart in the middle of the room, his entire body gone. Due to his sphere, he still saw everything, even when Villy waved his hand and Jake fully healed.

He opened his eyes and took a deep breath as he heaved.

“Anything?” Villy asked.

“A bit… I think…” Jake muttered.

They were already on the fourth day of doing this, and Jake had already “died” or at least had his body pretty much entirely destroyed hundreds if not thousands of times. Villy said it was for Jake to better understand his Soulshape, as he called it, which was the metaphysical representation of his body.

He needed to understand that first, to understand the Shroud that was several layers of his soul deeper under usual circumstances, and Jake had to “bring it out.” It was only when his body was destroyed that the Shroud became even faintly visible, and Villy told him why: because it was the time just before death, where the Shroud was designed to extend and cover up his demise.

Jake learned that out of everything, death was the easiest to scry. So many skills, abilities, and items existed that allowed one to detect the death of someone, so the Shroud had to extend and really show off if he was to die.

The reason it extended before actual death was that… well, if Jake died, his Shroud would naturally cease to be, so it had to be ready beforehand. At least, this was Villy’s description of how it worked. It was still early days, and Jake knew he was nowhere near close to being able to even grasp the Shroud, much less begin to influence it in any way.

“Any progress is good progress. We got time, and you feeling even a tiny bit of it is already faster than expected,” Villy explained with a smile.

Four days may seem like a long time, and they both knew it would take far longer than just a few weeks… so Villy had done some good old time manipulation and distorted time within the room, taking a lot of the pressure off. Jake had feared this would make feeling the Shroud harder based on prior descriptions of time manipulation messing with things, but the Viper had said that luckily the divine skill was bound to his own relative time.

How much time had been messed with, Jake didn’t know. All he knew was that it was even more than the last time he trained with Duskleaf and Villy.

“I think I need a breather,” Jake said as he kept taking deep breaths. He tried to move a bit, but it felt unnaturally exhausting, like he had just used and deactivated Arcane Awakening and was experiencing a lesser version of the weakness period.

“Understandable,” the Viper said. “It is exhausting to repeatedly have the entire body healed, especially at your grade and level of power.”

“How the hell does Eron do it?” Jake asked. Hey, now that he had a god to ask, why not?

“The other one with a Bloodline on your planet? Well, he, first of all, isn’t healed but regenerates himself, making it a bit easier, but he also isn’t truly ever close to death. I am not sure precisely how, but I have a feeling he has multiple health pools,” Villy answered with a shrug. “His methods are clearly deeply rooted in the power of his Bloodline, and like you, his Patron god has also given him a skill to hide from prying eyes.”

“Good enough to block even you?” Jake asked with surprise.

“See, this is one of those interesting things… yes and no. No, in that I can still pierce it if I really want to. But also yes, in that it would alert the god who blessed him, and I am unable to do it through the natural protection on your Universe. At least not without it becoming an issue,” the Viper shook his head.

“But on the positive side, I doubt he will die anytime soon, so I am sure you will have plenty of time to figure it out. Just don’t have the Fallen King fight him.”


“I doubt anyone on your planet besides a select few C-grades can permanently slay that Bloodline holder… except the Unique Lifeform. A master of soul magic is the most dangerous foe to someone like that human. Well, not like soul magic is a good time for anyone,” Villy said with a smirk. “But enough delaying. Even with you weak, there is no need to slack.”

The Viper waved his hand as the thousands of telescopes and mirrors lining the ceiling and walls turned towards Jake and began glowing with mana. Jake instantly felt the thousands of signals making him aware someone had just tried to use Identify, and he promptly entered meditation again.

Every single telescope and mirror was enchanted with the skill Identify, but it would be inaccurate to say they were all merely using Identify. All of them had different versions, and their power varied widely. Some of the items were so weak it barely mattered, while others felt like drills trying to bore into Jake’s soul to uncover what he was hiding.

All of it was stopped by Shroud of the Primordial. He vaguely felt the skill “activate,” if one could even call it that, but every Identify was too weak for him to truly experience anything. That was why he experienced thousands a second.

This didn’t expend any resources… but damn, was it tiring.

Vilastromoz just observed Jake as he sat in meditation while being bombarded by the many items trying to Identify him. Many potential training methods had been considered, and if he was honest, this wasn’t even close to the most effective one… at least not for anyone else.

Usually, the Viper wouldn’t even begin to bother having a D-grade learn to control this skill, and if he was honest, then the initial plan had been to get an item able to mask Jake’s identity as a Chosen and a Heretic. That plan was still an option, but Vilastromoz believed it possible that Jake could learn to manipulate the Shroud.

The senses the young mortal possessed were uncanny, and the Viper knew it was due to the Bloodline. His ability to know whenever he was being observed was proof that it was Bloodline related, and so was the fact that he managed to tame a curse that should, by all accounts, be able to consume even a C-grade. Some parts of him actually envied that ability of Jake’s… he still remembered the days when he had lost control. But perhaps it could be said Jake was able to stay in control and not act on impulses was because of how aware he was of them… or perhaps because his impulsive self was his real self. He recognized his own emotions far more than anyone else. He perceived far more related to himself than anyone else.

And that included the movement of his own energy. The activation of his own skills. The area around him. Knowing when someone Identified you wasn’t a usual ability and typically required a skill. Knowing when anyone Identified you, even if it was a god, was on an entirely new level. Feeling when Shroud of the Primordial blocked said Identification… that was the key to controlling it.

Insane Perception was ultimately the only reason Jake had any chance to begin to truly be aware of the Shroud, even with the Bloodline. Knowing when it triggered, “seeing” it trigger, and comprehending how it triggered were entirely different things. It was magic far too complex for a mortal to comprehend. Vilastromoz did not expect Jake to comprehend the skill either… but he did hope he could learn to control it nonetheless.

After all, Jake was not the sort of person to ever truly understand how anything worked. He was the sort of person to understand how it felt. To feel how it worked. Perhaps this was also a path of comprehension. A simplistic one, but a useful one. It would allow him eventually understand the intricacies and complexities behind his skills, sometimes only after using them for a long time.

This was nothing new. In fact, it was extremely ordinary. Just not among humans. This was more something reserved for monsters, primarily those with low levels of intellect often had extremely strong instincts to guide them to use even complex magic and skills. There was some comprehension, but it was often an over-simplification of the complex. Something he also knew Jake often did, to great success.

To sum it up… Jake just had to go by feel.

And the Malefic Viper was going to make him feel everything until he understood the skill in both body and soul.

Pain was such an odd concept to Jake. He felt it, and it hurt, and he wanted to avoid it in most cases, but his reception to it varied widely. In a battle, the pain was little more than a warning from his body he had been hurt: a physiological response to damage taken.

During training, the pain was just a thing that was there. Another emotion to take in and use to properly understand what was happening, not different from any other senses like smell or sight. He did not want to avoid it or limit it as many others would. This didn’t mean he enjoyed it. In fact, it was still rather unpleasant, but the gains of the pain outweighed the temporary mental anguish in his mind.

Jake understood his own senses more than anyone else. He knew what they meant. He knew if they were good or bad. He knew pain could be useful and not a demerit based on if it was truly “dangerous” pain or just “good” pain.

The way he distinguished? His sense of danger. If something just hurt but wasn’t lethal, he didn’t bother. In fact, it was odd how it worked at times. Jake felt his own body be broken down several times, and it sure did hurt like hell, but he never felt like the pain should be a distraction. There was no trace of killing intent from the Viper during it all. His danger sense did trigger a bit when Jake was essentially dead, but he trusted Villy to heal him, as quite frankly, it would be a shitty joke to just kill him like that.

Also, funnily enough, the near-death practice also triggered something else. Every four hours or so, as Jake experienced near-death from the Villy’s pressure, time would slow down around him as Moment of the Primal Hunter activated. This would heighten Jake’s senses even more and actually ended up helping to speed up trying to feel the Shroud.

It also allowed Jake to coincidentally become more familiar with the skill. Villy mentioned during a breather that the time-bending it did was at an incredibly high-level concept, even if it was simplistic in how it worked. Either way, Jake happily also began to understand that as time passed.

A week after he began the practice in the time-chamber, Jake began to feel the Shroud every-so-often whenever he was near death and every time Moment procced. Still no progress during the mass-identify part, besides feeling something being blocked.

Two weeks in, much the same, but slightly better.

A month in, Jake began to consistently feel something when near death.

Two months in, Jake now felt the Shroud every time he was near death and rather vividly when Moment activated. He also began to get a feel for something during the Identify training.

Three months in, Jake began to vaguely get a feel for something enveloping his body at all times. Something that didn’t quite exist, but on the other hand, did. It was a bit like his metaphysical body as it seemed to almost exist in a dimension above his own. It neither cared for space and time, and Jake noticed how its subtle moments were unaffected even by Moment of the Primal Hunter.

Four months in, Jake felt the Shroud. He felt the “impact” on it whenever an Identify hit the unpenetrable shield. He felt how it wrapped around him and how everything that passed through was slightly different than before upon exiting. It was as if the inside of his Shroud was one world and the outside another. Anything happening within was always separated from what was outside as if going through encryption, making the source unknown.

Five months in, Jake began to experiment. He began to truly experience the Shroud, and they had entirely stopped all near-death experiments as they were no longer necessary. Villy tuned down the Identification devices, so he was only hit by one every second or so as Jake concentrated on his goal.

Half a year in, Jake experienced his first success. He sat in front of a mirror that kept trying to Identify him, the surface showing the result.


He tried again to slightly move the Shroud.


Open it.


Allow the source through. Allow the Identification.


Only the Identification… only a single layer of the Shroud would need to be altered for a fraction of a moment. Jake knew he could not fully deactivate it even if he tried, but Jake refused to believe he could not allow one single Identify through.


With all of his will, Jake felt the Identification come, as he welcomed it. He didn’t know why, but this one felt slightly different. He felt a movement, a subtle shift, as on the mirror before him was a change.


Jake grasped onto the feeling with a vice grip as he felt his heartbeat speed up in excitement. Half a year had led to this moment as Jake pushed his will to the maximum He felt the Shroud, the thousands, millions, billions of layers it consisted of. It was everchanging, everflowing, impossible to truly understand… and yet it moved to his will, ever so slightly nudged.

The next hundred Identification were still just three question marks, but the response came faster for every passing one. Every second led to improvement as Jake rode on a high, not allowing a single thing to distract him.

Identification number one-hundred and fifty-five had a change once more as another of the Shroud’s layers allowed something through.

[Human – lvl ???]

His focus stayed impervious as a metaphysical Shroud only visible to him, and perhaps the god in the room with him slowly began to come under his will. Jake truly felt a connection with it for the first time, and he felt his success before the mirror proved him correct.

[Human – lvl 150]

Jake kept holding on to the feeling as he stayed concentrated. Success after success came in until Jake finally felt assured, and he let out a sigh of relief as he finally returned just a bit of his attention to the real world.

He only now noticed his own body. He had bit his own lips, tearing off the flesh in its entirety as he spat out his own meat in disgust. His hands were bleeding from clenching too hard, and he even discovered he had somehow managed to cause internal bleeding. Not that he cared about any of it as he looked up at Villy in triumph.

The Malefic Viper looked down at him as he smiled. “Good job, you have learned to deactivate a part of it. Now for you to learn to actually control it.”

A note from Zogarth

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