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Once I had bought the system, Accalia immediately went to work. I could feel her eyeing me with her divine power, which no doubt helped her find the power of a target. It was the only way I could imagine her understanding the abilities of the mutant monsters who were born in an environment where their powers could never be shown.

“Hmm, hmm… Okay, good. I think I can build a good opponent for you. I just need to ask you a few questions.” Accalia’s mood was rapidly improving as she opened an interface window in front of herself.

“Go ahead…”

“First, would you like to fight a ranged opponent, or a melee one? There are drastically different styles for fighting between the two, as I’m sure you know by now.”

Hearing her question, I sank into thought… “I’ll let you decide.” My future opponents wouldn’t be handpicked for me, so it seemed like a good idea to let Accalia surprise me. Though, judging by how her slowly wagging tail stopped abruptly and her eyes widened, she was fairly surprised herself.

“Okay… uhm… how hard do you want me to make it for you?” She asked, seeming a bit more timid when it came to this question.

“I don’t expect to win.” I answered bluntly. I hadn’t been expecting to win fighting Accalia, let alone a monster of her creation. “What I’m looking for is a strong opponent that can help me find the flaws in my skills. With you watching, that should be even easier.”

Accalia’s head nodded slightly as she heard that, and I saw her focusing. “Okay, I made a good game for us. It’s a bit nonstandard, but is based on a training simulator that was already set up in this system. Long story short, I make a monster, then you make your ‘character’ to fight it. I set it to allow spectators, so I’ll be able to watch.”

“Now, give me just a few minutes…” As she said that, her hands went fast at work. “I’m going to make monsters to fight you at your full power. You can think of them as being every bit as strong as a Keeper of your level. That way you won’t have to adjust your profile when entering a match.”

“However, fighting a monster is different from fighting a person. It’s… something that you really have to experience yourself enough to understand.” Accalia shook her head when she said that. “Good, good, this should work fine. Sorry in advance. Oh, and will you be using Leowynn to help you?”

I thought about that for a moment, before shaking my head. “Give her some more time to play with Aurivy and her mother. I need to test the abilities I’ve learned myself.”

“Good idea.” Accalia answered with a small nod. “At your full level of power, Leowynn’s help wouldn’t be significant. None of her forms would be too much stronger than your natural abilities. If she wants to be useful to you later, you’ll need to take her somewhere that the two of you can absorb a lot more spiritual energy.”

I wanted to refute Accalia’s claim, but I honestly couldn’t. Out of all of the gods, she had proven herself the best at analyzing something’s capabilities. And I couldn’t tell if that was just from her Hunt domain, or her Wisdom one, or some result of the two of them combining. Either way, I knew that she was likely speaking the truth. Leowynn would need to do some serious training of her own in order to go through the games with me like she wants to.

“And done!” Accalia declared, smiling to herself. “I saved it as ‘Accalia Monster One’, so if you don’t want to spoil it for yourself you can just load it as your preset enemy.” When she said that, the screen shifted from being in front of her to being in front of me instead.

It was a fairly simple interface, more so than the ones for the games at the Keeper meeting. No explanation of the rules, no mention of level limits or anything like that. It looked more like a game lobby than anything else. Accalia was already listed in the Spectator column, but both the Player and Enemy columns were empty.

Going into the Player column, I found that it seemed to have all of the same options as the tournament that I had participated in at the meeting, but also held a rather convenient button near the top. ‘Import all settings’. When I clicked that, there was a brief pause before the information rapidly began to fill itself out. All of my systems, classes, everything filled out in just a few seconds.

I gave a small nod of my head, before going to the Enemy column. Here, I saw a long list of names, as well as two options in the top. ‘Import all settings’ appeared here again, right next to ‘Customize opponent’.

“Wouldn’t it be a good idea to have the enemy be myself?” I asked out of curiosity as I eyed the button at the top of the screen.

“Not yet.” Accalia firmly declined. “You aren’t familiar enough with the usage of your own power yet. Unless the system copies your skill levels as well as physical and magical prowess, then it would be safe to assume that the copy the system creates would be able to perfectly utilize all of the skills you don’t even know you can use. Sure, you’d be able to get a glimpse at your current maximum potential, but you’d be wiped out before you could appreciate it.”

Once again, I couldn’t really refute that harsh truth. “Alright…” I scrolled down the list of names, even spotting Alkazar on it as I reached the section where Accalia Monster One appeared. I guess that entities listed on the market are automatically imported as possible enemies.

Once I was done selecting the monster, all that was left was the map. “Any ideas for this?” I asked, but Accalia simply shrugged her shoulders, leaving it to me to decide. Well, that’s helpful…

Shaking my head, I simply selected a wide open stone floor. Since I didn’t know what kind of creature I’d be facing, I did not want to offer it any special terrain advantages. It was safe to say that Accalia wouldn’t throw me a curveball on the first go, so it was either going to be a powerful ranged opponent or a living tank.

Once I had made the decision, I found myself warped into the stone field that I had created. There was no sun in the sky, yet the entire field was illuminated as if it were day. Far across from me on the other side of the field, I could already see my opponent.

A monster with long, slender arms and legs. Sickly pale skin clinging tightly to bones. Each hand with six fingers, sharp pointed claws tipping each. Its face held no eyes, merely a giant, gaping maw with seemingly endless rows of serrated teeth. It stood on two feet, and had two arms, but I could think of it as nothing but a monster.

Probably a melee type at least. Just looking at its claws and mouth gave me the impression that this creature liked to tear you limb from limb. However, my thoughts were soon broken by a voice from overhead. “Please choose your weapons.”

There was no weapon rack appearing before me, or any type of list, so I assumed that the choice would be a verbal one. “Steel longsword, forged from a blood specter’s heart, and possessing the Transmutable quality.”

The blood specter was a ki ability of the third tier, which allowed you to forge a complete clone of yourself out of essence blood. The essence blood had to be entirely from the same creature, and its heart had to be an essence of life, the next grade beyond an essence orb. Once the blood specter had taken shape, its essence evolved into a true beating heart of ki, which was the next step for third tier ki refining.

As I called for my weapon, it appeared in my hand. A long blade, its normal silvery steel tainted with a dark red, as if the sword itself had bathed in blood. I could feel its weight even with my full strength released, my body reinforced by my new ki path. Just this sword alone likely weighed nearly a thousand pounds, going by a rough estimate.

Injecting my ki into the weapon, I caused it to shorten to become more convenient to wield with one hand. And again, the voice called out to me. “Choose your armor.”

“No armor.” I called back. I could create the best armor possible with the third tier of magic, but that would defeat the purpose of this fight. I only chose to use a third tier sword because I wanted the ability to change its shape on a whim. This would allow me to better fight to my full ability.

“Are you ready to begin?” The voice asked again, and I once more looked at the monster in the distance, which had been frozen in place the entire time.

I took a stance, the sword at my side facing forward to prepare to attack. “Begin.” I answered, and suddenly the creature sprang to life. It did not disappoint, rushing straight at me. Its body lowered to the ground, its claws scraping against the earth to propel itself along. Thick chunks of rocks flew up behind it whenever its hands or feet dug into the ground.

I took a deep breath, and allowed my ki to fill my blade. The bloodstained steel began to glow with a golden hue before I gave a slow, wide swing. An arc of light was formed in midair, slowly moving forward as I adjusted the blade to perform a vertical swing next, this one slightly faster.

When this blade of light reached the first, they merged into a cross that gained the speed of the second strike. However, I wasn’t done. I added in two more diagonal swings while the monster continued running closer, each slightly faster than the last. Each one empowered the attack as it charged forward, until it nearly reached the monster itself.

Finally, I pulled my sword back, and did a sudden, thrust. This was a straight attack, far faster than any of the others, and a beam of light shot out of the blade. When it hit the speeding waves of energy, it did not just add to them. Rather, they seemed to fold around it, turning into a single massive lance of ki. This was one of the new insights I learned from the information spheres, the concept of overlapping strikes.

And while this was all approaching the presumably blind monster, it kept rushing forward. I almost thought that it would run straight into the attack, before its body suddenly lunged into the air. It twisted above the lance of ki which represented my strongest attack, before kicking off the air to charge straight towards me.

My chakra threads quickly spread out around me, and I vanished from my spot moments before its claws came tearing down on my previous position. Just like with my own attack, the earthen light of ki shot out in waves from its claws, digging deep trenches in the ground for several meters.

Unfortunately for me, it seemed able to sense my exact position. It turned and lunged at me again, though something seemed strange. I stepped through my threads a few meters away, and it kept going to my previous position to launch another attack. It doesn’t see me… it is sensing the energy. The threads are obscuring it slightly, and confusing it.

Just as I was beginning to think that I might be able to use this to my advantage, the monster stood fully upright, bringing its head back in what I had originally thought would be a roar. Instead, though, I felt my threads beginning to distort, the energy outside of my body being drawn in towards the creature. I hastily cut off my threads, in order to prevent it from being able to suck me dry once it got ahold of them.

And once my threads were out of the way, it charged at me yet again. However, this time I could see that its teeth had a faint blue glow to them, similar to the chakra it had just absorbed. I wasn’t entirely sure what that meant, but I knew that it would not be a good idea to find out.

Reaching out towards the natural energy, I was glad to see that it had not been absorbed as well. Before the monster could reach me, I attempted to intercept its path with a stone wall. Unsurprisingly, it charged through the stone wall as if it hadn’t been there. The stone spike that came next shattered against its skin.

Okay, so fighting a monster specialized in ki use is scary. I made a mental note while noping right out of that confrontation. My feet kicked at the ground, bringing me up to run along the air. Rather unfortunately so when I saw that the creature chasing me was capable of the same feat. Think, think Dale! What can you use here? Magic? No, none of your practiced spells are strong enough.

Looking back again, I saw that the creature was quickly closing in on me, its speed seeming a bit faster than my own. At this rate, it would only be a matter of time until it caught up. Okay, now or never.

I took a deep breath, letting the sword fall from my hands as I spun around. I had at most three seconds before the thing was upon me, and tearing me apart. My hands began to glow as I brought them to my chest, forming a golden ball between them.

Two seconds left. I quickly clapped my hands together, letting the ki wash over the ki path that I had prepared for it, and then thrust my palms forward. A golden wall of energy formed in front of me, a shield made of condensed ki.

One second… The creature struck against the shield and briefly stopped, before suddenly appearing on the other side of it. I could see that its teeth no longer had the blue glow of chakra, and gulped as it reached me. As soon as its hand landed on my body, the simulation ended. At that point, I was already marked as dead. Though, I wasn’t sure if that was because it killed me with a touch, or the system simply chose to spare me the pain of being torn in half.

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