The first task is going to test your control. I will generate a great amount of Mana, ten times higher the amount present in your body and you will have to shrink it until it reaches your size.
Kirin was sure Helial was going to fail the first task, even before starting. Plus, if he failed, the Mana would have generated a terrifying explosion that was bound to wound Helial mortally. That kid could not possibly be able to control that amount of Mana with just a Black Mana Seed.
Nevertheless, Kirin had a bad feeling about this. His senses never lied, but he did not worry too much. After all, if he could not get rid of Helial that way, he still had the other two tasks.
Mana Control had always been one of the most impenetrable mysteries in that world. In ancient times, knowledge on this matter had made great progress, but the wars that followed on the continent had wiped out all the discoveries and now only a handful of people could boast to have a little more knowledge than common people.
"So… You will take all the Mana that I have in my body right now and multiply it by ten?"
According to logic, a person could not be able to control more Mana that he had available, yet… Curse of the Demon! Thanks to the Longsword, Helial's Mana was now one twentieth of what he used to possess and control… Even if Kirin had given him an amount of Mana forty times bigger than one he had now, Helial would have been able to manage it easily. Besides, his Mana Seed was Black only on the outside, so Kirin was underestimating him, having no idea of his real strength.
Kirin was snickering. As he cut the connection with the boy, he muttered pleased with himself. He is done for… No human being on this planet can control an amount of Mana ten times their own. Only a genius among geniuses could have such control over their own Mana and this is definitely not the case.
Kirin kept probing Helial's body. Mh? This human is really weak... He barely has 1500 MP. Fifteen thousand MP are really not much... I'll slip him a 25.000 MP sphere for good measure, he won't even notice!
Kirin was not willing to run risks. He feared all the Destructive Energy he had seen hidden in the tiny body of a man cub. He had never seen anything like that, despite him being billions years old. He could not let that boy transform into a Devil…
Devils were the supreme lords of the Forces of Destruction among men. It was told that the first Devil had almost destroyed the universe as people knew it, so he could rule a pile of rubble. At that time, not even Kirin had been born yet; he who was a being of supreme longevity among Dragons.
Kirin generated a sphere of Mana, almost twenty times bigger than Helial. Despite its size, the Mana inside it was of very low density.
Helial was laughing inside. That Qilin was trying to trick him. The sphere of Mana being created, Helial could tell at first glance that it contained almost double the Mana.
Human, put your hands inside the sphere and try to control the Mana. You must know that the metho-
"I know how it's done", Helial stepped forward. He had no time to lose, nor did he like those silly games. Someone else might have tried to look as if they struggled, to not make Kirin suspicious. Helial, though, was not that kind of person. Why should he give up the chance of breezing through three tasks, using his brains?
The boy put both hands inside the giant sphere. Mana was tickling his skin, like an electric charge running through his hands. If all that Mana had suddenly exploded, Helial was likely to get seriously injured. But Kirin had underestimated him, if he thought that it would have been enough to kill him. Helial had lost MP and his Strength Stats, but is Vigor was still high, too high for someone at his level.
Helial sighed. It was still a smaller amount of Mana compared to the one he had before the Malus hit him… When would he be able to restore his old self?
Focus, human, the chances of failing…
Helial rolled his eyes. That Dragon was a real chatterbox. He stopped listening and focused.
He closed his eyes and started condensing the Mana without any difficulty, as if it were his own. The giant sphere began shrinking rapidly.
... You must know tha-
If Kirin still had a physical body, his heart would have surely stopped beating. The kid was shrinking the sphere at a speed of three feet per second.
WHAT THE FUCK IS HAPPENING?
That kind of control was unimaginable, even if Helial had had any talent. No one could be able to control an amount of Mana almost twenty times their own. It was ludicrous. In just a couple of seconds, Helial had condensed a small ball of highly condensed Mana, the size of a fist.
"Done", Helial smiled. "Listen Dragon, this sphere of Mana contains around 25.000 MP… now I hope you have a good explanation for trying to kill me. All my life I have lived in a dumb little village, there's no need for you to fear me."
Kirin did not know what to say. The words of Helial did not leave him any chance to save face. How old was really that boy? Fifteen? He did not look any older. Could he be that smart? Did he really grow up in a dumb village? Kirin felt like he was facing a crafty old fox more than a teenager.
… kid, are you a Reincarnated?
"A what?", asked Helial taken aback.
A Reincarnated Immortal who has gotten their memories back?
"I have no idea what you're talking about", Helial frowned, "I have nothing against you. According to the legends, you should be a symbol of prosperity. Why on earth would you want to kill me? You have given me a test far more difficult than agreed and you did that on purpose, to make sure I would fail. So I cannot see any other reasons for you to act like that but to what I have already claimed: you seek to kill me."
Kirin was speechless. He kept quiet. This was definitely not going according to the plan. Why was that boy talking like that? Didn't he fear death? It did not make any sense. Even if he had noticed his trick, he should have kept quiet out of respect for such a powerful Entity as himself. Why hadn't he tried to pass the test pretending to be suffering, like everyone else would have done? Didn't he worry about Kirin giving him even harder tasks?
PWAHAHAHAHHA. I like you, kid! After all these years of contact with the man cubs I have almost forgotten what honesty sounds like. I have grown accustomed to the empty formalities the cubs of your race are fond of.
For Kirin, even creatures millions of years old were 'man cubs'. For a creature that was born at the dawn of times, dealing with million-year-old people was like dealing with newborn babies.
If you'll be able to pass all the tasks we'll have ourselves a good chat! You've passed one already. But two far more difficult tasks are awaiting. Now you cannot go back. Remember, the prize will b-
"No need to tease me", retorted Helial with a smile, "anyway… are you sure that you cannot raise the stakes?"
If Kirin were not just a fragment of Soul imbibed of energy shaped as a blurry Qilin, now he would have been gaping at Helial
In all likelihood you will die during the next two tasks.
"If they're all like the first one…" snickered Helial, teasing Kirin.
Human, do not think you can provoke me and obtain what you want. You were born a couple million years too late to try and level with me.
"So are you going to up the ante? And what is this Skill really?"
It's the Skill from which my actual body has been generated. You will be forged again by my flame and your body will become compatible with the same development of a Qilin! The Skill is nothing less than Body of the Qilin! I created it personally. If someone managed to bring it to Divine level, they would be able to have a body as powerful as mine. It's a shame that no one ever managed that… PWAHAHAHAHHA
Kirin was very proud of his own creation. It was a priceless Skill. There was no way to evaluate it according to a common human system; it went beyond any concept of strength known on that planet. There were many things Helial did not know about and that, probably, would not have discovered for a while.
Helial stayed quiet, staring at the sphere of Mana in front of him. obtaining such a Skill would have sent his Physical Strength through the roof. Maybe it could even compensate for the horrid Malus of Curse of the Demon, somehow…
But Helial was unaware of one thing: the Skill Kirin was talking about was one of the supreme Skills of the Forces of Life, even though Skills at a lower level usually did not belong to a specific genre. Over time, some were more inclined towards Life, some towards Destruction. At the top of the Skills of Life there was Body of the Qilin, a Skill that could have rivalled the strongest Skills belonging to the side of Destruction. The fact that it was one of the supreme Skills of Life had a very precise meaning: it could repel Destructive Energy!
No Curse, not even the most powerful one, could influence a Skill that existed thanks to the purest Energy of Life. It was a Skill born from the Creation and from the Fire of Puryang. Not even the greatest members of Destruction could have hoped to corrupt it. Despite it being a Partial Skill, the source was too pure to be easily tampered by some Curse.
The Qilins were known for their natural resistance against any kind of Malus and Curse. While Dragons were the Lords of Mana, able to evoke terrifying Skills, Qilins were the exact opposite. Despite being unable to control Mana, their body was a living treasure. Their scales were often used to create the strongest armors money could buy. An artifact made of Qilin scales was priceless. If Helial could have acquired that Skill, his body too would have become a living treasure, worth of being kept in the treasuries of the powerful factions in the Nation.
Among the great Clans and inside the Congregation, only the upper echelons owned equipment forged from Qilin scales. Among the independent warriors of the Nation, no one could afford such luxury.
"But… Will I lose the ability to use Mana?" asked Helial, just struck by that possibility.
No, not even I know why humans are able to acquire this Skill without losing the use of Mana. Nevertheless, cultivate this Skill is very difficult, so people usually decide to concentrate all their efforts on Body of the Qilin, instead that on developing their Mana. It is basically impossible to be strong in all fields, sooner or later one has to choose a style, to not become a Jack of All Trades.
Helial rolled the sphere of Mana in his hands. He still hadn't let go of it…
Human, are you ready to face the second task?
I can't give you more ti-
"You misunderstood. I want to know if this is really the highest difficulty. If you actually want to kill me, for sure you are not trying to simplify things for me, but at the same time, acquire such a terrifying ability can't be so easy…"
Exactly, this is only one of the three parts of the Skill, not the complete one. That's why it's called 'Partial Skill'. To obtain the complete Skill you would have to pass other tasks provided by my other two Soul fragments. Donate the complete Skill in just one go is not my intention. I need to make sure that the owner of the Skill is destined to great things, said Kirin, with the air of a great sage explaining philosophy to a suckling infant.
"Then raise the difficulty of the next two tasks. Sum the difficulty of these tasks and of the other tasks I would have to face if I found the other two Soul fragments. If I will pass them you'll give me the complete Skill", said Helial with eyes that sparkled. "I cannot miss this chance. I don't want to leave everything to destiny and luck. If you're not okay with this, let's end it here. After all, I'm sure no one could every pass the highest difficulty level. You have nothing to lose. If I win, you'll have found a rightful heir, worth of the honor of a Qilin's body, otherwise you will achieve your goal and I will die here. I don't see what you might have to lose, apart from a little exception to the rule."
Kirin seemed to be considering the matter. He sized up Helial. He had dealt with scores of arrogant geniuses, but that boy was not really arrogant, he only seemed genuinely overconfident of his own abilities. Kirin had never heard such a request and was slightly taken aback. After all, the tasks were almost impossible to be faced at the highest difficulty level, who would have been foolish enough to ask for increased difficulty?
Who is determined to bite off more than they can chew is destined to choke.
Do not regret your proposal, little human. You are naïve, but if you wish to die I will willingly give you a hand. You have my word: if you pass the next two tasks at the highest difficulty, plus the difficulty that you would have faced in the other six tasks, I will give you the complete Skill!
(A/N: the six tasks Kirin is talking about are the tasks that would be offered by the other two Soul fragments, 3+3)
"What is the content of the first task?" asked Helial.