[su_accordion]Chapter 162: Schooled[/su_accordion]
Author’s Corner: So, got another chapter for you guys! As I had hoped, venting the ideas for my other story has started to help get the creative juices flowing again, and I can(hopefully), write more for World Seed now. I won’t be stopping either story until they reach their natural conclusion, as I have no intention of dropping one half way through(hence going to such lengths to keep myself writing World Seed. We’re at 163 chapters now, this is WAY past the point of no return!)
For those that are interested, you can find my second story, World Keeper, in the link below. I hope you guys continue to enjoy my work, and please don’t throw sharp objects at author-sama!
It only took a couple of hours to get everyone back on board the Ariadne, and ready to leave. Talia and Maeve were both there to see us off with a smile, and wished us the best. Our next stop was going to be the Deus Ex homeworld, followed most likely by Chimera. Although there was not a signal from the New Human Empire leading to Chimera, I still felt the need to check the place out, if only to see what damage we caused by neglecting it for these last few years.
Thanks to our increase in speed since our last time making this journey, the travel time was only expected to take a few weeks. Still, that’s a few weeks of doing nothing except watching out for the potential space monster attack. Due to the rare experience of actually wanting to actively train, I decided to move towards the cargo bay with both Kismet and my mother. What I wanted to train this time was the Dark element, which the two of them could be considered experts in. Especially my mother, as she actually trained to her level of power, versus Kismet who was born into it.
Naturally, since I was pulling my mom away to train, my dad followed along as well. And, since Kismet was coming, Yo decided to join too. Somehow, Celeste and Yang ended up meeting us in the hallway and decided to watch as well. Doubt they’ll actually say anything to interrupt us, but they are still present. Must do my best not to forget them.
“So, what do you want to do to train? Isn’t your Dark element stronger than ours?” My mom asked me curiously after we got to the cargo bay. By now, her body had been upgraded enough times that she looked indistinguishable from a normal human, and I would never guess that she was a Deus Ex if I hadn’t been the one to make her that way.
“Ah… well, yes. My affinity should be higher than either of you, I think. But.. my understanding is still lacking. I had the knowledge from the Qu’Lopti world, but there was only so far that they could understand. And even less that I could understand from their writings.” I did my best to explain. I mean seriously, half of the Qu’Lopti’s explanations on magic contain written sound effects. Saying that it goes whoosh does not help! Without Celeste filtering through the information for whatever was usable, I doubt I would have been able to learn anything from them.
Kismet nodded his head, an amused smile on his face. “In other words, you let your cheat items build up your power, without ever actually figuring out the new ways in which you could use it.”
“…Pretty much, yeah.” I couldn’t help but nod, since that really was what had happened.
“Alright.” He chuckled, before a wicked smile came over his face. “Do you want to do a hands on lesson, or a boring lecture as we try to explain what we know of darkness?”
His smile made me really want to choose the boring lecture. But… I knew that I’d get the most out of actual combat experience. Since I already had the ability to manipulate the darkness as well as I needed to, I just needed to know what all it could do. Right now, it was like I could form a fist, but I didn’t know how to properly throw a punch. And they are the best in my crew for a specific element. After them, I would probably need to consult Sharon’s animals to learn some of the other elements. And some, I will have to rely on myself.
“I’ll go hands on.” I said after thinking about it for a few moments.
He nodded his head again. “Alright, do you have any duel tokens?”
“Ah, I have some!” My mom called out, surprising both of us. “What? I thought it would be nice to use for sparring sometime. Not my fault I never found anyone to really spar with that was at my level.”
“I don’t even know what your level is, mom…”
“97?” She smiled sweetly, before pulling a bronze token out of her inventory. Actually, her level could still be considered fairly high for the crew, regardless of the large distance between the two of us.
She held the token in her hand for a moment, before exerting enough strength to crush it. Closing her eyes, I could tell she was sending some kind of invisible command. A few moments later, a message appeared in front of me.
Mary Hulett has challenged John Hulett and Kismet to a three-way duel.
Do you accept? Y/N
I mentally hit the accept button, and felt as a field of energy wrapped around us. Once it was done, Kismet smiled to me. “Now, I don’t think you’ve ever actually been in a duel before. No matter what happens between now and the end of the duel, we will be restored to our current state when it is over. However, the surroundings are not so lucky, so we should avoid anything that could cause damage to the ship.”
I quickly agreed to that, having no desire to get vented into subspace and destroyed by the exotic mana. “Alright. So… what kind of things do you two have to show me?” As I asked, I extended my Mana Sense to cover the entire cargo bay, using my Spatial Comprehension to track every movement or magic they did.
No sooner had I done so, before I noticed that my mother had already disappeared. I could detect a trace of dark mana along the floor where she had previously been, as if a shadow still existed there. However, before I could act, I felt the point of a blade on my back. Not against my armor, but directly on my skin. “First lesson.” She said, standing behind me suddenly with a smile in her voice. “Darkness is everywhere. Learn to use it, and you can be everywhere, too.”
Since this was a duel, and I knew that none of us could actually be harmed, I made a series of wind blades around my hand, before spinning around to strike at her. I know, a son should never try to hurt his own mother, but this WAS a duel after all. Plus, she did just embarrass me. However, when my hand made contact with her, her figure twisted, and seemed to flow apart as if made of gas, before she turned pitch black and vanished.
“Second lesson.” She was now standing back in her original position. “Shadows are shapeless. Become a shadow, and physical attacks won’t touch you.” She smirked triumphantly, having embarrassed me twice in as many moves. Given that she was less than half my level, she did have the right to boast. My standard of fighting generally consisted of putting as much pure firepower into an attack that I could, without thinking too deeply about it.
“Third lesson.” This time, it was Kismet who spoke, a barely contained grin fighting its way on his face. “Never lose your way in the darkness.” As he spoke, a bubble of black energy seemed to radiate from his body, covering the entire area in shadows. I could not see anything beyond my own hands, and even my Mana Sense was being restricted. “Darkness can mislead even the most trained hunters.”
Although I hadn’t heard him move, his voice seemed to be echoing from all around me. “Once you’ve lost your way, the darkness has you. And it rarely lets go.” I felt as though a cold liquid were running up my leg. Looking down, I saw as my leg seemed to be vanishing into the shadows. This ability I knew, the shadow prison. I knew that if I let this cover my entire body, I’d have to force my way back out.
Closing my eyes, I called on my own Darkness Manipulation to push back Kismet’s attack, restoring my leg to normal. Focusing on the dark mana around us, I pulled that into my body, soaking it up to disperse his area effect. When I opened my eyes, the two of them were standing exactly where they were before, having not moved a single step. I began wondering if my mom had even really moved when she ‘attacked’ me earlier.
“Now, that’s enough free lessons, don’t you think?” Kismet asked with a mischievous smile, looking towards my mom. “Time to see if he can keep up.” She giggled lightly, and nodded her head. “Remember, John, we’re only using the Dark element. Wouldn’t be fair if you used any of your other elements, either.”
I nodded at that, agreeing. I was training my Dark element, so even if I was at a disadvantage, I would only use the Dark element now. Besides, I still had confidence in my ability to forcefully tear control away from them if things got too bad, though that felt like cheating.
Seeing my nod, both my mom and Kismet instantly began moving. My mom walked in a slow, even manner to her right, her form seeming to distort with every step. Soon, she seemed to produce illusory shadows of her walking in front and behind, each one moving at the same pace. As for Kismet, he had gone for a more straightforward method. Instead of using a fancy trick, he had materialized a spear of darkness in his hand and was charging straight at me.
Okay, so maybe I didn’t train as much as I should have, but I could at least create basic weapons out of darkness. So, I met Kismet’s shadow spear with one of my own, moving to intercept him. He gave a small smile as he slashed downwards with his spear, but I simply raised mine to block it. However, at the point of contact, the body of his spear suddenly bent towards me, the head shifting to look like a snake. I barely had a moment to react before it bit me, and I could feel a foreign dark mana being injected into my body.
That’s not how you block a snake! – 30 HP, Poisoned
The next instant, my mother arrived behind my back… and on both sides of me. There were now five of her, and I could not tell the difference between them with only my eyes. However, my Mana Sense was still deployed, and was able to notice the different mana types from the original. After all, the copies were still constructs of only dark mana.
Raising her dagger, all five clones made a stabbing motion at me, my hands still holding back Kismet’s spear. Since I could not physically block, I had to use my magic to do so. Five more spears rose up from behind me, one stabbing into each form of my mother. The real one reacted to the damage, clutching at her stomach where the spear had hit her. However, the other four all continued with their attack, seemingly oblivious to the damage as four daggers stabbed into me at once.
Blocked one out of five daggers. -200 HP, Bleeding
By now, my health was dropping at a rapid pace, both from bleeding out and from the mysterious venom that Kismet had injected me with. Focusing, I shattered one of the snake scales on my forehead, instantly restoring my health to the maximum. Although this stopped the bleeding, the dark mana poison still seemed to be in my body.
“Time for round 2, then?” Kismet asked with a chuckle as he jumped back, and slammed his palm into the ground. My mom also leapt back, still holding onto her stomach. She seemed to focus for a moment, her body becoming hazy, before she resumed her stance, the wound having closed completely.
This time, I decided to go on the offensive, donning a full set of shadow armor, and equipping myself with a shadow sword and shield. I did manage to learn a couple of things from Kismet in the first exchange, although I hadn’t quite been able to make out what my mother had done. As such, I was more than happy to use Kismet’s teachings against him.
As I charged towards the Shadowborn, he slowly lifted his hand up, a gooey black ooze dripping from it. The closer I got, the more there seemed to be, before it exploded out like a bubbling wave of tar. When I thought that this would simply be an attempt to slow me down so he could prepare a sneak attack, the tar-like wave lashed out at me with a razor sharp tentacle. It slipped past my shadow armor and sent me flying back a dozen meters.
The Thing That Lurks in the Darkness doesn’t like you. -50 HP
Although I managed to land on my feet, that did not help me much. The shadow monster was slowly charging at me, and Kismet was flying above it, inky black wings sprouted from his back. It was at this point that my mother made her second move, sinking down into her shadow, which began expanding in all directions.
I… don’t think I could actually win this without cheating. The thought suddenly occurred to me. Although I unquestionably had more raw power than either of them, they were both more refined in their methods. With my mom, she was specialized in assassination techniques. She could strike unseen, create doubles of herself, and hide in the shadows. And with Kismet, he specialized in creation. He could make and control constructs of darkness.
Any of these powers were theoretically possible for me. I had the required skills to train them. It was just a matter of understanding them. Just because you see a man light a fire with two twigs does not mean you’ll be able to do it yourself. This… was going to take a while.
For now, though, time to cheat! Reaching into my own shadow, I formed a copy of myself, putting a fragment of my own mind in it. If they were attacking from two fronts, then I would defend from two fronts. Next, I attuned myself fully to dark mana, giving myself roughly 95% affinity. I was only allowed to use one element, so might as well go full power, right?
Finally, I used my newfound power over darkness to wrest away the dark mana holding the tar monster together. I ripped away Kismet’s wings, and I yanked my mother back out of the shadows. They both had wry smiles on their faces after that, knowing that I had opted to use raw force to win, since I couldn’t win in technique. But I swear, I’ll try to learn some of these techniques!