Jake’s perception-related abilities, primarily courtesy of his Bloodline, were quite mysterious and odd at times, even to himself. As he sat there in meditation and felt Identify after Identify hit him as nothing more than a background stream of information, he constantly felt how the skill worked.
He had the ability to know whenever someone looked at him. Jake always had that skill. Perhaps it was an extreme version of that sixth sense every human seemed to have, which made one aware someone was looking at them even when one shouldn’t.
This was merely intuition and instinct. The same was true for Jake detecting danger… detecting anything related to anyone, really. But he also took it to the next level. While others could perhaps get a feeling someone was looking at them, Jake could feel where they were looking and sometimes even had an intuitive sense of what they were looking for.
Why this was relevant for programming the Shroud of the Primordial quickly became apparent the more time passed. For every passing moment that Jake just focused on sensing it and understanding it, the more powerful his bond with the Shroud became. The more the skill became familiar to him, the more control he could exert. It was like any other skill: the more you used it, the better you got at using it.
Now, Jake had to admit that, like with other skills, he had tried all his tricks to somehow make the skill more “his” but failed at every turn. No amount of arcane affinity could affect the Shroud, at least not at Jake’s current level of ability.
All of his other tricks were also in vain as Jake just kept trying his tactic of slowly figuring out whatever parts of the Shroud were triggered by Identify and then proceeded to control those. He slowly began forming a map and model of the Shroud and what parts were affected in his head. As with most other things, it was just a metaphysical representation that only really made sense to Jake… but that was fine. It wasn’t like Jake planned on teaching anyone else to use the skill.
Like this, time passed. Days turned to months as months turned to years. Jake barely registered any of this as he was too busy forming his model. Within his Soulspace, he looked towards the sky that was now no longer black, but filled with countless stars, forming hundreds of constellations. This was his metaphorical model of the Shroud… the sky that covered his soul.
As he stared up at them, certain stars repeatedly lit up as an Identify triggered them. He began rearranging the stars, creating new constellations out of them, or simply using the same stars to form identical constellations corresponding to another form of Identify.
Most of his time now was spent within his Soulspace by now.
The only reason any of this was possible was due to Jake feeling the Shroud so vividly now. It was to his soul like an atmosphere protecting a planet. The Shroud did not only create something new, but it also empowered some existing parts of the natural protection of Truesouls. All of it used concepts and levels of magic that were truly outside the scope of comprehension for someone like Jake.
This is why it was the stars in the universe. If the usual protection to a soul was the standard atmosphere, the Shroud of the Primordial constructed an entire galaxy of protection. And slowly, Jake was now beginning to comprehend many of the stars inhabiting that galaxy as he got nearer and nearer to his goal
Vilastromoz stared at Jake as Duskleaf appeared by his side.
“You called me… but he is not done?” his disciple asked.
“It has already been a bit over three months, hasn’t it?” Duskleaf asked.
“To you, maybe. To Jake, it has been thirteen years, give or take,” the Viper answered with a smirk. “But I have a feeling he is nearing comprehension.”
“Partial comprehension of a divine skill in only thirteen years?” Duskleaf asked, nearly in disbelief. “Doing so in less than a few centuries in D-grade is remarkable.”
VIlastromoz looked at his disciple as he raised an eyebrow. “I am surprised you aren’t questioning a mortal who was less than thirty before this began how he could spend thirteen years sitting still in meditation.”
Duskleaf just shrugged. “Wouldn’t make any sense to? It seemed like it would be hard to do, so of course, Jake was all for doing it. He would probably have spent even longer with the alchemical puzzle box if he wasn’t on a time limit back before the Trial of Myriad Poisons. I am more questioning if it won’t be harmful to him to spend this long in distorted time. The utter backlash when he returns to Realtime should be enormous.”
A valid concern. Besides the negative effects on Records, spending time in areas with dilated time did have the benefit of less or more Realtime passing in the rest of the multiverse, but to change back and forth was a process, not unlike diving deep beneath the water and going up again. This process was often slow, or the backlash would leave someone crippled as their bodies and souls slowly acclimated themselves. This was actually a method many chronomancers used to attack, primarily just to cause heavy confusion and disorientation.
“Jake’s affinity to the concept of time has only grown since last. This level of dilation was chosen not because it was the most he could handle, but because it was the most I could do without it having any backlash.”
The constant actions of Jake's time-slowing trigger skill were odd in every way to the Viper. Primarily because it didn’t make any sense at all. Vilastromoz had seen it activate hundreds of times already and had become clear on one thing – it consumed no mana, stamina, health, or any other resource. It was a skill that only consisted of will and conceptual manipulation.
It was Jake forcefully imposing his will upon the concept of time to temporarily create a relative time slowdown. Not because he made the world around him slow down, but because it untethered Jake from the usual rules of time to, in essence, be faster. This was not something a mage could learn… it was no spell or even a real skill in the Viper’s eyes. In fact, based on the Viper’s theory, it was only a skill because the system had forcefully made it one.
VIlastromoz knew of this skill a bit as Jake had spilled the beans about it when he explained his Bloodline. He had told how the system had upgraded it from rare to legendary and created a new one that even carried the same name as his Bloodline. Which meant Jake was the true Origin of the skill, or more accurately, his Bloodline was.
This meant the system had made it. Based it on something a Bloodline had done. A Bloodline existed outside the system much like a Transcendent skill, so what happens when a Bloodline does something that would break the rules and create a Transcendent skill under normal circumstances? There really was no unified answer, but the Viper was sure of one thing.
In Jake’s case, it had chosen to limit the skill. It had capped it at Legendary. The internal cooldown of the skill was arbitrarily imposed, the actual slowdown and duration probably less than it truly should be. The reason?
Probably that Jake could, in theory, keep the skill he referred to as Moment active near-infinitely or at least every time he was attacked. Well, he would do so until he just outright died due to over-exhaustion if someone or something kept triggering the skill. However, it had removed this activation cost in trade of the cooldown, breaking another fundamental law. This meant the skill served both as a limiter and a protector. But it also meant it had plenty of room for growth, coupled with giving Jake a high affinity to time magic. Ah, but not necessarily using time magic, just tolerating it through continued exposure.
Now, there was the question: why did the system not just remove the skill? Vilastromoz was very clear on that one, at least. The system would never take away a skill given during a level upgrade unless you yourself chose to give it up through some upgrade. It also seemed like the system had chosen not to offer him a skill he could similarly upgrade again to perhaps balance it out a bit. Of course, it was only a question of time before another one appeared anyway based on the ridiculous power of his Chosen’s Bloodline.
“So, when he goes to the academy, should he learn some time magic?” Duskleaf asked.
“No, but he should learn about the concept of time and to control time energies for crafting purposes,” Vilastromoz answered.
“Alright. By the way, I have been looking into tailors for the school unifo-“
“Jake was against that idea,” the Viper cut him off with deep sadness.
“Oh…” Duskleaf said as he stared back at Vilastromoz. “You knew he would be against it and still made me figure out how to make the uniforms as well as embarrass myself by showing off those ridiculous designs? You told me Jake would no doubt want it as it held significant cultural importance to Earthlings. I should have known it was untrue… those clothes were borderline lingerie.”
“You’re just conservative; Jake is from a free-spirited world,” Vilastromoz protested.
“I am not even-“
Suddenly they felt a change from the chamber Jake was in. Inside, Jake opened his eyes as if he had just awoken from a dream. Vilastromoz smiled as he felt the change, and Duskleaf at his side frowned deeply as he muttered.
“Level 169 Malefic Dragonkin?”
Jake suddenly felt everything click into place. Like a clockwork with thousands of gears all turning independently or in small groups linking up together and working flawlessly. Jake could almost feel the evident system assistance as he now had a clear sense of control over his Shroud of the Primordial.
Within his Soulspace, the sky of stars was fully alight, with endless patterns and constellations ready to form at any moment to give a response to an Identify. Something he had done right away as Duskleaf used the skill on him.
With a thought, Jake changed the default Identify to say he was a level 169 Malefic Dragonkin – the evolution he had skipped over. As for the level? Well, because he thought it was funny and he had childish humor.
He actually did want to make it 69 but found that he couldn’t. He was still confined to his grade, it appeared, but within that, he could freely make himself appear to be any level from 100 to 199. He also instantly modified the part related to his Blessing and made it appear as if he had a Divine Blessing like Sylphie and-
“Jake, go lesser Blessing, or you will stand out a lot,” Villy said as he appeared in the room.
Jake did as told as he changed it, so it looked like he had a lesser Blessing. He also instantly cleaned up some of that heresy stuff by just blocking it in entirely. He hoped it worked, and luckily he didn’t have to wait long before finding out.
Dusleaf also appeared in the room as he nodded in interest. “I can’t even feel that overwhelming aura of a heretic anymore.”
“Wait, you could feel I was a heretic all along?” Jake asked Duskleaf. “Also, hey, long time no see.”
“Not that long,” Duskleaf commented. “As for knowing you were one? Of course. It took a bit of time to build up, though. When you came here after the Tutorial, it was faint, but feeling you here practice made it obvious you were a high-tier heretic.”
“Huh,” Jake said. “And you never said anything?”
Duskleaf just shrugged. “I didn’t see it be relevant.”
Jake just looked at him a bit before shaking his head. He had nearly forgotten how little Duskleaf seemed to care about things unrelated to alchemy.
“Anyway… what now?” Jake asked Villy,
“Now, you need to get your affairs in order. Go back to Earth, handle things on that end, and prepare for your absence. Make sure there are no immediate disturbances, and then come back. Then… then it will be school time!” Villy said with a huge grin.
Jake had already resigned himself to his fate as he nodded. For some reason, he saw Duskleaf sigh in relief at this, making him realize the poor alchemist had been put through a lot of stuff without knowing if Jake would even attend.
“Is there anything I should know before going?” Jake asked.
“You will be informed of all the important stuff upon getting there. But there are a few things that no general orientation will tell you. With Shroud of the Primordial under your control, you can now disguise your level, Blessing, and the fact you are a heretic. For the level, I would recommend putting yourself well above your current one. A level 150 human being able to do what you do is suspicious. Also, you are at least centuries old if someone asks, okay?” Villy asked.
“Sure, I guess. But only one century old. I don’t wanna look like a slow-ass weakling in front of the other kids,” Jake agreed with a smirk.
“Fine, and I choose to ignore you just insulted more than ninety-nine percent of D-grades in the multiverse. Anyway, there is still one final thing to address. While the Shroud can hide nearly everything, it cannot hide your Bloodline. Anyone with a Bloodline will be able to feel you have one, and there are even special items made by many of the more powerful factions of the multiverse able to detect them. This works through anything. Unless you have a Bloodline that revolves around being undetectable or a Transcendent skill to hide it, any Bloodline holder will be instantly identified,” the Viper explained.
Jake frowned. “Will this cause any problems?”
Maybe he could try to suppress his Bloodline like he had done before the system? No… that would also make it inactive or weaker, wouldn’t it? That is considering he could even do it, which was a big if.
“That depends. Bloodlines are rare in the wider multiverse, but in the Order, many have them. Primarily because they come from ancient clans and families with an ancestor possessing one, having passed it down for generations. What you need to watch out for is being identified as a Bloodline Patriarch. Even if this is discovered, which it has a good chance to, remember to hide the actual specifics of your Bloodline.”
“So… I have one giving me resistance to presences and some suppressive effects while amplifying my own in some form?” Jake asked.
They were parts of the Bloodline he had no way to hide. He couldn’t fake being suppressed by someone more powerful than himself even if he wanted to, as they no doubt could detect him not being affected. His own aura also wasn’t something he could hide, at least not in the long term.
“Yeah, and even then, that is no simple Bloodline. It will already cause some issues for you. You just have to take care, or you may be hunted down,” Villy warned gravely.
Jake also turned more serious. He knew being powerful or standing out could lead to danger, and having a Bloodline was no doubt something that made him stand out. But it really didn’t make any sense either.
“Will people within the Order really hunt me down for my Bloodline? What benefits would that even give them? And isn’t it kind of stupid for those with powerful Bloodline to get killed?” Jake asked skeptically.
Villy suddenly completely changed his mood as he made a goofy smile. “Who said anything about killing?”
“What?” Jake asked, confused, catching Duskleaf facepalm off to the side.
“A strong young bachelor with a powerful Bloodline with seemingly no ties to large existing factions… you will need to be wary at all times,” the snake god grinned.
“Wait… are you serious?”
“Hell yeah,” Villy said, giving him a thumbs up. “Just try to keep it in your pants when it comes to the crazies, and if you do find yourself cornered, avoid making any kids or commitments and just keep it casual, okay?”
Jake once more began reconsidering that entire school thing.