I did the math for my mana by using a calculator option in my status. It would take about ten days before my next evolution at my current pace. Considering the spike in power I'd get from it, this moved that further up in my priority list. At the same time, I couldn't lose sight of my goals. I still had to save Rivaria from some kind of invasion from Thisbey.
To make that happen, I needed more recruits. From my experience so far, no gialgathens came by during nighttime. Working in a bit of dungeon clearing and eldritch harvesting into my schedule wasn't impossible by any means then.
With that in mind, I helped two more gialgathens join my cause before heading out overnight. Throughout the night, I cleared dozens of opened rifts, focusing on ones where eldritch worlds were spilling onto Giess. This helped prevent gialgathens from dying or being trapped in those worlds. It also gave me more mana from the white pillars of light that sustained the portals.
While I ran through the countryside and silver wastelands, I kept focused on training Force of Nature. I drilled a variety of complex gravitational formations. While floating from area to area, I held complex patterns of sand and soil. At times, I rotated dozens of rocks, creating mini-solar systems hovering over my palm. This was far more difficult than it seemed.
I had to create a gravity well mirroring the pull of Giess. This let me hover a few dozen stones midair. After that, I melted one of them, creating a miniature sun at the center of the replica. After enhancing its gravitational pull, I tweaked it until the stones around it fell in orbit. Doing all that while punching mind controlling moles in the face was hard as hell.
I kept at it though, attempting to create small environments on each rock I hovered in my hand. This required precise manipulation of the heat around each stone. Over time, I created wet spots over the pebbles, mimicking oceans. I managed tiny little wind systems, keeping outside interference minimized with further gravitational manipulation.
By the time I was satisfied with this project, I had created hundreds of gravity wells. I balanced them in a dance of sorts, weighing the pull of each of them. I even attempted the creation of geological formations on the stones. I melted the inside but kept a thin layer of crust on its surface. After setting the cracks adrift, I hoped volcanoes and the like would form on the pebbles.
If they did, I couldn't tell. I did use the word 'attempt' after all.
Despite some lagging aspects of the exercise, I gritted my teeth and pushed through the process. Over the next three days, I gained a few levels and capped out my cores in the process. Despite getting to level 8,111, my mana regen didn't grow by that large an amount. That made sense considering the mountain of endurance I already stacked up. The ambient mana gains were minimal as well. Every little bit helped though.
On the other hand, my guild efforts picked up quite a bit. With only three days remaining before the award ceremony, I managed to get twenty-four gialgathens into the system and my guild. While it wasn't an army by any means, it would help out with the cause. If I were up against many hybrids as I suspected, I'd need all the help I could get.
With that in mind, I called in my three most significant advocates for a meeting. Sheom, Krog, and Chrona were all sprawled out in Chrona's home. The scars I left behind with all my armory work made it look and smell like a blacksmith's shop at this point. To be fair, Chrona didn't really care. She relished in the new combat that the system allowed. Sheom was the same in that regard, pursuing battle after battle.
Krog had been different, leading the recruitment effort. He was the biggest reason I gained so many gialgathens so soon. By speaking with many leaders of Rivaria, the old general secured me a guildhouse, the first one in Rivaria. Even more surprising, he campaigned for my cause, and he was cunning about it too.
He used Kessiah's unique skills to gain members. By offering to restore the limbs and injuries of war veterans, he added loyal, competent soldiers to our ranks. Malakai was one of the first gialgathens he went to, his burns still fresh from the bombing of our room. He among others were given a second chance to fight, and they were hungry for action.
Kessiah gained an enormous amount of training with her skills during this time, becoming proficient at turning her blood into flesh and bone. It was a miraculous turnaround for her. She went from one of the most useless, frustrating friends I had to a godsend overnight. She even gained experience when healing fellow guild members, boosting her exp gain. In between the healing, Krog took her out to destroy silvers, raising her level by over a thousand over the last week or so. Krog even sent updates on all this as it occurred, keeping me in the loop at all times.
All in all, it was a boon I never expected. Maybe that's because my expectations were low. I figured it's better to be that way. I was never disappointed and pleasantly surprised sometimes.
Krog was becoming one of those surprises. He was reminding me of Torix at this point, his political skill uncanny. Considering the guy was once a general, it made perfect sense. He was bound to have some skills in that department.
Unlike with Chrona and Sheom who were given their position based on their battle sense, Krog's logistical abilities made him invaluable. It kind of left me envious. He was using his resources better than I had, his social prowess dwarfing my own. I swallowed my pride though, remembering that as individuals, we each had our own strengths.
It was still a bitter pill to gulp down, however.
I shook off that bit of jealousy, glancing at the three titans. Though Krog's efforts impressed me most, they all supported the cause in their own way. With each of them here, I stayed standing up,
"It's good you all made it here so quickly. There's something important I need to discuss with each of you."
Krog gave me a curt nod, "What is it that you have to report?"
He was falling into the whole general more than I expected.
"Well, something is going to happen to Rivaria during the award ceremony in four days."
Krog's eyes widened, "Why didn't you tell us sooner?"
"I had no information about it, and I still don't. I didn't want to stop you guys from accomplishing real tasks to handle something so vague."
Chrona blinked, "If there's no information of the assault, then there's little we can plan to do. Perhaps we may host members of your army around the city to assist with evacuation. I can think of no more we can do."
Krog growled, "These gialgathens have grown lazy and fat since the war has ended. They won't listen to an evacuation order. Even my warnings of a storm on our horizons do us little."
Sheom's eyes narrowed, "That's too high a price to pay for simple knowledge."
Krog shook his head, "Some lessons may only be learned in exchange for blood."
It made sense why Sheom wasn't on their side during the civil war. From what I'd seen, they were always butting heads. I intervened before the issue spiraled any further,
"Enough. We're sticking with a simple strategy. We're splitting you three into teams, each of you having seven gialgathens under you. Decide who gets who amongst yourselves." I raised a hand,
"During the award ceremony, you'll be patrolling the city. If anything crops up, go in as a team and destroy it."
Chrona smiled, her sharp teeth showing, "That seems simple enough. It will prevent us from being overwhelmed should we face another Hybrid."
Sheom frowned, "What will you do?"
"I have to visit an award ceremony in Yildraza. I'll be rushing back to Rivaria right after its finished."
Sheom tilted her head, her eyes narrowing, "So a trophy is more important to you than Rivaria?"
I crossed my arms, "It's the mythical compendium that I give a shit about. It will help me progress rapidly in my goals. Those goals don't include being a savior to people who can save themselves." I scowled,
" If anything, I've done more than enough by informing you all and getting some gialgathens into the system. What do you expect from me?"
"Could this outing not wait until after the coming invasion? You're exchanging people's lives for your convenience." Sheom snapped.
Krog growled, "I see you're used to dealing with saints then, Sheom. We are not so helpless as to need his guidance in every matter, and he has a life to live as well."
Krog turned to me, his chest puffed out, "Allow me to thank you for all that you've done."
Sheom bit her lip. She murmured, "I...I overreacted."
I didn't give two fucks about this drama. I suppressed the desire to roll my eyes, "It's fine. Focus on what matters; prepare yourselves for an incoming invasion. You were all part of a war, right? Use some of those skills to get this shit done."
Krog gave me a curt nod, "Of course, Dark One." Chrona followed suit with Sheom. I raised my hands, "I'm your leader, yeah, but this isn't a militant organization."
Krog shook his head, "They may do as they wish. I prefer more formal lines of command."
Huh. This was a strange feeling.
"Uh, sure. Anyways, that was all I wanted to inform you guys of. Figure it out from here."
As I walked off, Krog turned to them and began a telepathic conversation. I went back to my day job as a blacksmith, fixing up some extra armors and runic configurations. After a half hour of talking the three of them left with some goodbyes. As they did, a message popped up in my status.
Althea Tolstoy, the Shapeless Arbiter(lvl 9,457 | Class: Breaker | Giess: 6:41 P.M. 4/16/26) - They've ramped up their assault on Rivaria. Everyone here is talking about it. I'll be stationed in Yildraza on the 20th during the award ceremony. After I kill Thisbey, we'll meet up outside the north side of the city. That ok?
I thought back,
Dimension C-138, the Harbinger of Cataclysm(lvl 8,113 | Giess: 6:42 P.M. 4/16/26) - Yes. I hope you're ok, and I love you.
We exchanged messages for a while about what we were doing. She thought my recruitment was a fantastic success, but she was pretty biased. She felt the same way when I complimented her on her assassinations. After that, our conversation turned into goofy rambling, and it made me miss her.
I had a task here though, so I pushed that out of my head before leaving for the night. For the next two days, I continued enlisting help and searching during the nights. I say enlisting, but no other gialgathens showed up. Rivaria was clean out of fresh recruits.
Not wanting to sit around with a half dozen extra sets of armor, I devoted the rest of my time clearing out dungeons and silvers. After my armor evolution, I'd focus my time on their recruitment. Perhaps I could find a few like-minded espens to join my cause, but I didn't know if I could trust anyone.
Thisbey's influence ran that deep, unfortunately.
It didn't take long before the fatal day arrived. I managed to get up to level 8,231, and my mana regen did rise by a bit. It wasn't enough to get the evolution just yet, however. I sent a few messages between Althea and me, making sure the plan was going smoothly. It was, so I got ready to leave.
Without any more time to spend, I went off to Yildraza with Chrona, Krog, and Sheom on high alert. After flying across Giess for several hours, I reached Yildraza's soaring skyscrapers peeking over the horizon. With the silver mining business peaking, pillars of black smoke rose up to the sky in the distance. All along the various buildings, flags were hanging with my image on them. It was my hand raised after defeating Chrona.
No doubt they spun that somehow into me being a bigot. I couldn't wait until Thisbey was gutted alive. With those thoughts burning in my mind, I flew through several alleyways before reaching the giant stadium were I faced Delilath.
As I entered the building, the crowds were in an utter uproar. Their champion was here in the flesh, the Gray Giant becoming a legend for the espens. This was to be my triumphant return after stomping the gialgathens into submission. They dedicated quite the set of resources for it as well.
The production company set up a gray pyramid of steps at the center of the arena, several spotlights set over a glass trophy with a book in it. Along the walls of the steel structure, images of gialgathens were etched into metal. They even scorched the edges of their flame breath as if the fire was alive.
At the top of the pyramid, a pillar of light descended around a gyroscope the size of a fist. With three rings circling around it, the cube at its center was floated with an iridescent sheen.
It was the mythical compendium.
Schema's protection ensured no one stole before I grabbed it. Around the seats, screens were set up to encapsulate the moment. It was a strange sensation. The next few seconds would mean so much to so many people, yet it mattered so little to me. I just wanted to get in and get out as fast as possible.
I wasn't ignorant of my surroundings, however. There was a bloody undercurrent to all the celebration. A few glares peaked from under shrouded hoods and masked. White knuckles gripped guns of all kinds, ready to open fire. I analyzed dozens of the audience members as I walked up to the center stage.
I found several warriors over level 3,000. Some of those were to be expected, but there were more than there should be. Without hesitating, I sent Althea a message about the situation. As I waited for a response, Kiki Mosk was floating over the arena as always. He gestured a hand to me,
"And as always, arriving right on time, we have the Gray Giant!"
As I stepped up to the gray pyramid, the lights in the arena shut off. I leaned over, prepared for a fight, but that wasn't the case. Glow in the dark paint covered the monument, showing the fierce gialgathens being killed. Either smashed with fists or thrown into pits of lava, the gory details popped out in the dim light.
Kiki Mosk gestured to me, "The hero of the espens and the one to rule them all has come here to display his dominance and gain his reward."
I had no intention of showing dominance here. As Kiki continued chatting, I glanced up at the side of my status. My inbox was still empty, no new messages received. Althea tended to be pretty quick with those unless she was busy. She could've been in the middle of the assassination at this point though, so I stayed calm.
Kiki went on and one about the history of the event, but I was too busy to care. I floated up to the mythical compendium and stuck my hand out to the white light. It receded while the gyroscope lurched out onto my palm. The many rotating spheres aligned like the rings of a planet before shining blue lines crisscrossed the cube. The many lines divided the compendium into fifteen smaller chunks.
They spiraled along an invisible center as a message popped up.
Analyzing skills, previous knowledge, and needs...
Ten seconds passed.
Mythical Skill decided after completing the analysis. Metamorphosis skill path set. Metamorphosis is a mythical skillset revolving around using mana to change one's inherent characteristics.
This style of magic utilizes Quintessence, a mixture of augmentation and origin magic. It allows for higher purity in personal enhancements, the manipulation of matter, and the manipulation of personal attributes. The unique skills involved are listed below, followed by the five skills required for their creation:
Quintessence - Origin, Origin Manipulation, Augmentation, Augmentation Manipulation, and Serenity.
Mutagenesis - Mutation, Growth, Deconstruction, Auto-cannibalism, and Anatomy.
Mass Manipulation - Spatial Awareness, Proprioception, Compression, Decompression, Mana Manipulation(Any type)
While there may be stalls in the process, this guide will allow the learning of the mythical skill within three days for a determined person.
Congratulations on gaining this reward from Schema. You've earned it!
The pieces of the iridescent cube latched onto the rings of the compendium. They expanded before floating over my forearm. Like needles, the metal sharpened as the gray rings snapped into the flesh of my forearm. A pulse of blue energy shot through me as the device molded to me.
I guess it would be hard to steal at least.
As I glanced at my forearm, Kiki coughed, "Ok, that wasn't the signal to go, but whatever. When it comes to the Gray Giant, you never know what to expect...especially as the commentator!"
Kiki both glared and grinned at me, holding both false joy and suppressed anger all at once. I smiled back,
"Eh, I'm not a ceremony kind of guy. Wrap it up. I'm leaving."
Kiki blinked, holding his grin by sheer will alone, "Ok. Thank you for the heads up. Better than last time I suppose. Anyways, we now have the final and new event for this year's Honoring of Lehesion."
The crowd glanced around, confusion spreading over their faces. Kiki said,
"Our sponsors have allowed us to continue this effort despite the effort and cost involved. With that in mind, we would like to give the floor to the man who made this entire operation possible."
My eyes narrowed to slits. My fists clasped tight as hungry jaws. Something wasn't right about this. Althea should've responded by now.
Kiki raised a hand, as the top of the stadium opened. Large sheets of metal powered by hydraulics lifted up in a slow reveal. Above all the ensuing events, a man in gialgathen leather was floating above the group. He hovered on a platform held aloft by blue fire. Two guards stood beside him, each of them masking their identities. With a smirk on his face and his hands gripped behind his back, the living piece of shit locked eyes with me.
Kiki gestured up to him,
"Thisbey Thorn has arrived!"
Hope you enjoyed it. Here's a link to a chapter ahead on my patreon: 213 Breach