Once Thelsa had activated the gate, it felt like the next floor had ‘unlocked’ for me. I still couldn’t access the gate, but… my divinity was able to penetrate the layers now. After that, it was a simple matter to open up a portal of my own to step through and meet her on the other side.
The twentieth and twenty-first floors looked like the difference between heaven and earth. As soon as I stepped through, I could see Thelsa gritting her teeth as she braced herself against a powerful wind. But… I couldn’t see much further than that. The wind was heavy enough that dust was being picked up and obscuring my vision.
Deploying my world sight let me see that we were standing on the outer edge of a giant storm… a storm that went on for as far as I was able to see. I wasn’t worried about being blown away due to the weight of my body, but Thelsa… it looked like she was just barely able to stay standing. As if lifting one foot might topple her over.
“Appear, my pledge.” I spoke as my hand lit up, and the air around us grew peaceful. A single chakram hovered above my head, canceling out the incoming wind. Thelsa seemed visibly relieved once she was able to stand normally, nodding her thanks to me as I walked over. “You probably shouldn’t stay here if it’s that hard on you.”
She seemed to hesitate, before shaking her heard a moment later. She spoke in the runic language to cast a spell of her own. “Gravity increase.”
It was hard to see a real change from her spell, but since I was able to hear what she had cast, it was easy to guess what happened. And what it meant. “Okay… but I can’t promise that I’ll be able to protect you.”
Thelsa smiled slightly in response. “I wasn’t expecting you to, Keeper.” As she said that, she turned and began walking out of the protective ‘bubble’ of calm wind. It seemed as though she had made up her mind, and would do her best to train here. It was certainly preferable to a land crawling with giant insects… at least in my opinion.
Aurivy. What orbs are on this floor? I asked as I began walking as well, in a different direction. I knew that Thelsa had ways to escape danger, if she really got into trouble, so I wasn’t too worried that something would go wrong. In the worst case, she’d get a critical injury and quickly descend a couple of floors to safety.
Well, let’s see… another plus one hundred level orb… and another advanced class!
Hearing that, my eyes widened slightly, but… I had a feeling I knew what it was. It’s the elemental monk, isn’t it?
What? Huh, yeah… Her response confirmed my suspicions.
If I was right, then the next floor after this would contain the summoner class… After that, the next two should be the martial and world spirit classes, followed by the perfect self.
Fyor’s configuration was set so that the classes would appear at the ‘proper’ levels of power. The first six hundred levels, by this logic, would be the ‘entry’ training. Letting people build up their foundations and choose their paths of advancement. Between six hundred and a thousand would be the ‘advanced’ training, where they start to permanently create energy mixtures.
Finally, level one thousand would be the start of the ‘avatar’ training. But… if that were the case… it meant that I was unlikely to be able to get the world spirit class in Fyor before becoming a second rank Keeper. I wouldn’t be able to rescue Fyor’s world spirit from the elemental planes until then…
I shook my head, dismissing those thoughts. Sooner or later, I would reach that level. But… not until my world was ready for it. The only reason that I had even pushed through to this floor was for my own training, and because I was confident that it wouldn’t be seen as taking things too far.
Glancing up, I noticed silver lines cutting through the wind, crashing against the protective bubble protecting me. Unlike Thelsa, I was walking further in, towards the center of the storm. And, as I entered in further, the wind had become so powerful, so condensed that it formed tangible blades that cut through the sky.
This was definitely the work of the elemental stones. But for it to carry such strength… that meant that the stones had to be located near a mana source. One strong enough and stable enough to fuel such a massive storm. In other words… the pillar of this floor.
Of course, that meant that it was very likely that there were already creatures from that plane on this floor, hidden within the storm. Briefly, I considered asking Ryone to seal the stones, like I had previously for the twentieth floor. But… I could think of a few uses for a wind stone.
Before I do anything big… run a check. I want to see if there are any intelligent creatures that came over, through the stones.
As I waited for the deities to deliver their report, I focused, sending my divinity into the air around myself to form numerous mirrors. “Show me the beings that come from other worlds.”
The views in the mirrors began to shift just as Bihena spoke up. I’m not seeing any intelligent creatures. Plenty of monsters, but nothing that looks like it could possibly be reasoned with.
I had expected as much, but I wanted to make sure. So, I simply nodded my head as the mirrors began displaying dozens of different creatures to me. There was one that looked like a living lightning bolt, one that was a translucent bird, almost impossible to see amidst the heavy winds. One had a humanoid shape, seeming entirely comprised of elemental mana, but I did not think that it would be safe to try reasoning with it…
Mostly because the humanoid monster, its true image captured within the mirror, was walking up behind Thelsa now. Its arm extended, shifting into a sort of spike as wind began swirling around it. Just as I was about to act, I saw Thelsa’s shadow lunge upwards.
The human thief turned towards the wind monster and smiled calmly as her shadow slashed at the creature. “I thought I felt something odd… the Keeper wouldn’t target me like this, and there wouldn’t be another mage here… so that leaves you.”
Surprisingly, her shadow was able to inflict a wound on the creature, causing its health bar to appear above it. She didn’t waste any further words, drawing one of her daggers as she spoke in the runic language. “Temporary enchant, dispel wind. Appear, my pledge.”
Her body was wrapped in a dark shadow as she lunged forward, her other shadow moving to bind the monster in place. I was surprised that what was attacking the monster wasn’t her elementalist abilities, and so I focused in on it, trying to glean some information.
Level 425 - Saint’s Shadow
It was… a kind of monster? No… maybe it would be more accurate to call it an aeon… but how?
It took me a moment to recall that she had gained a new title, one that she had recently used to visit her uncle’s church. I thought that its only ability was the concealment, and hadn’t looked too deeply into it. But, if it had a second ability… the Shadow Saint was able to breathe life into her own shadow?
Still… the level difference between Thelsa and the wind monster was quite severe. Even with her abilities restraining it, it would take a while for her to kill it. Thankfully, she didn’t seem to be in any danger, so I turned my focus to the rest of the monsters. “Mass banish.” I channeled the spell through the various mirrors, watching the creatures shown within disappear one by one.
Ryone, can you set up a banishment enchantment on the area around the stones? It’s fine for wind to be able to come through, but I want any creatures to be sent back if they come out too far.
Ryone’s response was almost immediate. I was just waiting for you to ask, Dale! Can I keep a bit of the stone, first? I think they’d make great research materials!
I couldn’t help but chuckle slightly in response, nodding my head as I continued to walk towards the center of the storm. Soon, I began to see creatures appearing within my vision, though… none of them appeared to be immediately hostile.
The first one that I saw looked like a slick-skinned boar, its body two meters tall and three long. I watched the wind blades striking against its hide and having no immediate effect, and a realization dawned on me.
This storm has been around since the birth of the world itself, just as the tidestones had gradually flooded the nineteenth floor. The blades of wind influenced the evolution of creatures in a number of ways. First, any creature that was able to survive here needed to be heavy enough to not get blown away. Secondly, they needed either a strong enough hide, or to be fast enough that the blades didn’t threaten them.
Creating something heavy enough to not get blown away, but fast enough to dodge something like that… it was clear that there wouldn’t be many creatures like that. Similarly, they needed strong enough teeth to chew through the plants that were able to withstand the wind’s pull as well.
This was simply not an environment good for producing predators. Most likely, any predator that existed within this floor was one that had traveled from the elemental plane… meaning that I had just banished them. There may be one or two other species… but it shouldn’t be anything too extreme.
As I moved closer to the center of the storm, I found a literal wall of wind barring my path, kicking up dirt and dust to obscure my vision and even resisting the power of my elementalist weapon. This wall extended as far as I could see in every direction, prompting me to once again deploy my world sight.
I had arrived, after hours of walking, at the very center of the storm. This wall of wind was actually a massive tornado that surrounded the mana pillar on all sides… and inside of it, the weather seemed calm. The eye of a single, massive hurricane. In truth, I had walked all this way because I wanted to see this. I wanted to make sure that the pillar was truly within the eye of the storm.
If it wasn’t, if the pillar was simply in another portion of storm… this floor would be all but destroyed. The pillar would constantly be torn to shreds, faster than it could repair itself.
Another reason I had come this far… honestly, I was hoping to be able to fight things on the way. I didn’t realize until it was too late that I had banished the predators of the storm…
Shaking my head, I closed my eyes, activating my planar shift to return to the sky citadel. There was no longer a reason for me to remain in Fyor for the moment, as I couldn’t get the training that I wanted there.
When I returned, I immediately dismissed my elementalist weapon, but not before I was seen by a certain kitsune, standing in my throne room and offering me a polite bow. “Welcome home, my Keeper.”
“Thanks, Tsubaki.” I replied with a small smile. “I thought you would be in the game right now.”
“I just exited it a moment ago. Lady Aurivy had to leave to tend to some matters, and asked that I wait for her. When I came out… I noticed a… ‘version’ of you in the library. You seemed to be quite busy, so I didn’t want to disturb you, and chose to wait here until you were done.”