58 Waste paper

Helial kept looking around the floor. He had politely declined Caliban's offer to guide them around the stalls of the third floor of the Merchant Guild. As Caliban had announced, the Merchant Guild was full of any possible item one might need on any possible Dao of Mana. However, Helial was no ordinary practitioner. If he wanted to strengthen himself, he would need resources that were out of the ordinary. His build was on a completely different level from that of a common mortal; he now possessed Body of the Qilin, that only existed in legends about Ancestral Creatures. Even though Caesar had provided him with Elixirs for Mana Creation, they couldn't be so useful to a peculiar build like Helial's.

He now possessed a Devil's Meridians and the Body of a Qilin. Even if he had swallowed hundreds of Elixirs for Mana Creation, the effects would have been weightless. Hence, he needed herbs with a far more violent effect.

"Master," Helial said secretly, "should we buy more Herbs of the Nine Deaths and Roots of the Sacred Phoenix?"

The Devil glanced behind his back and stopped with a napkin in his hands. "100 pounds each will suffice. It would be useless to buy more, because they would gradually lose their effect and you'll get more and more used to their active substance. We'll employ huge amount of both substances to let your body experience two opposite forces at the same time, and then we'll analyze how your body reacts."

Helial knitted his brow in a depressed frown: "You speak like I'm a guinea pig."

The Devil shrugged: "Because you are. You're the first person who seriously intends to step forward on this Dao of Mana. As I've told you at a thousand times now, one usually trains a single principle, either Life or Destruction, regardless of what they stand for. But eventually one principle will be absorbed by the other. For instance, one can meditate on Black Flames, a Destruction Skill, to mix their principle in the Heavenly Flames. Or else, one can meditate on the energy sprung by sun to blend its principle with Darkness. Got it?"

Helial slowly nodded. No road looked more unbeaten than the one he had chosen. He would be the first man to ever step forward both towards Life and Destruction.

As Helial was deep in thought, the Devil's voice resounded out in his mind: "And there's more. You already chose an Affinity, but what about the Class? As I warned you before, my Class was the Shadow Warrior. It's a powerful one, with very high requirements, but it could never fit you. Once in the First Phase, you'll see a Stat window showing the requirements for each Class you might choose and pick your own. Along the Dao of Mana, every Class can then evolve into different specialized Subclasses. When I still had a body, my Class was the Sovereign of Darkness. It's a Single Class, only one person can own it. There are various Classes, from Single to Hidden to Special. They can show a tendency towards an Affinity, towards Life, or Destruction… They're quite workable, and it's fundamental that you pick the Class that suits you best."

The Devil's words weighed heavy on Helial's heart, who asked gloomily: "Any suggestions?"

The Devil glanced up in the sky, deep in thought, and said: "Not really. No, I still don't. There's plenty of details you need to know about Classes, first. We'll go into that during our lessons. For now I can anticipate that the Classes for the path you've chosen are limited. Every Affinity-related Class shows a specific tendency either towards Life or Destruction. There's no specific Class for both. You'll need a neutral Class that only tends towards Mana, not towards some element. The Formation Apprentice makes for a good example, but I'm afraid it won't suit you. An Elemental could meet your needs as well, but you have definitely no inclination for Elements Control. You have a good Affinity with Light and Darkness, but since there's no Class specifically regarding one of them you'll have a hard time finding the right one, let me tell you."

Helial seemed to get his point. Class with an Affinity for one element in particular could not work, because each Subclass had a specific tendency either towards Life or Destruction. Light and Darkness repelled each other, so there was no point in picking a Light or a Darkness Class. Formations? Helial preferred melee-combat. Body of the Qilin would let him have a significant advantage on opponents in his same Phase, but only physically speaking.

To pick the right Class wouldn't be easy at all. Helial gave a sigh and his gaze turned back to look at the stalls, though no object caught his eye. He examined the displayed items with a distressed frown. Like him, the Devil was peeking without finding anything interesting either.

"Looks like there's nothing for you here. Try with the fourth floor," the Devil said. He was currently facing internal conflict. Where to place the dessert spoon?

Despite his previous nagging, Snowflake was scanning the third floor stalls. Lumia was twirling in a silk light-pink dress with very good Stats. Helial asked Caliban to put it on their account and informed him he would go to the fourth floor alone. The black-haired guy nodded and pointed at a huge staircase in marble. After a brief thanks, Helial hurried upstairs.

Once walked up the staircase, Helial found out that the floor was quite empty. If compared to the third floor, the objects were fewer but looked far more rare and eye-catching.

As he walked around looking about himself, a gentle voice resounded out behind him: "Wait."

Helial turned . In front of was a gorgeous girl. Her skin was goblinly greenish and looked as pure as jade. Two sharp eyebrows gave her gaze an amazing perspicuity, like that of an ambush predator. Helial smiled and cupped his hands: "How can I help you?"

The girl pointed at his tunic and said: "A human wearing the royal insignia. So much like my father, really. Who are you?"

Helial furrowed his eyebrows. The girl was indeed wearing clothes of the same workmanship as his.

Skill Activated:


Third Phase, maybe. Helial examined the girl's Aura, which was as sharp as a dagger, but lingered in the shadow and was difficult to probe. Without Perception, Helial could have likely mistaken her for an ordinary girl. A thought suddenly ran through Helial's head. Master, Helial's voice resounded out inside his Soul, she's an Assassin, isn't she?

The kid swept his black bangs away from his forehead and said, Wow, Shithead, you're not so retarded after all. Yeah, she's an Assassin, Subclass Shadow, Third Phase Early stage.

Helial answered respectfully: "I'm Caesar's new pupil, Helial. Is your father a member of the royal family?"

The girl smiled, yet without answering. "Well, then. This sounds fun. I'm Francesca, a member of the Clan of the Heavenly Eagle. Which means we'll get to meet quite often. Are you here to find something useful for your training? What Phase are you in?"

A quite embarrassed Helial answered: "I'm about to reach the First…"

"Oh, I see. To walk so calmly must be a struggle for you, then. Once dead you get no second chance, unlike someone in the First Phase. Not afraid some cute girl might kidnap you?" Francesca winked.

Master, are all women so damn aggressive? Helial asked inwardly.

The Devil decided his question wasn't worth answering and resolved for a sigh. "This Shithead… He made me stoop to this.. I once was the unrivalled lord of all things… now I'm a babysitter…" he went on grumbling something unclear and then kept quiet.

Helial scratched his head and said: "I was assaulted down the street today, actually. My life wasn't at risk, though. At least… I think it wasn't."

Francesca gave him a baffled look and said: "You serious? By whom? If someone bothers you just tell me, I'll deal with it! You can call me big sister from now on!"

Helial looked at her, puzzled, and said: "Uhm, nope, thank you Francesca. I'm fine. It was Circe who assaulted me… She, like… nothing. She assaulted me, that's it."

Francesca's lips curled up in a smile as she looked at Helial with the expression of who knows more than they show. "Circe, huh? Wild girl…" However, she didn't offer to deal with that and changed subject. "Since you're the King's personal pupil, you can't fall short of the expectations placed in you. Your role here in Orma…"

As Francesca went on talking, Helial, whose Perception was still activated, took notice of a scroll that emitted a dazzling light. That was Mana! But why was a scroll emitting so much Mana? Helial stretched out his arm and reached for it. It was hidden in a bunch of ancient scrolls containing Breathing Techniques and high-level Skills.

The scroll was crumpled and scrunched up. Its characters were faded, almost illegible, but some Runes were shining on the surface like a thousand tiny suns. Helial stared at them. Slowly, he made out the sketch of a man whose body was covered in Runes. The Runes seemed to dance all over his skin as if they were part of himself.

Francesca had noticed that the scroll had caught Helial's attention and said: "That isn't a Skill nor a Breathing Technique. Just random Runes. Useless, basically. Runes usage went lost time out of mind. Not even the King knows anything about them. They're ancient artifacts and don't belong to anyone. I wonder how that waste paper ended up here. Is the Merchant Guild running out of steam?"

Helial's gaze turned enigmatic and asked Francesca: "What's so particular about Runes?" He already had some vague knowledge of Runes, but it wouldn't hurt to go a bit deeper.

"Runes look vaguely like Formations, but their basic principles are quite the opposite. Formations catalyze Mana by employing external objects. They're made of various minerals or artifacts that catalyze Mana from the outside or, even, from other people. On the other hand, you create Runes with your own Mana. Runes don't need objects, which is also why Runes are extremely weaker than Formations. How can one person's Mana be compared to a Formation's artifacts?"

Helial inspected the scroll. He looked uncertain. Despite Francesca's words, he had the feeling that that scroll was something more than a mere piece of paper.

Suddenly, the Devil drew his attention to those Runes and a spark of fire flashed in his eyes. "Do you know what you've just found, Shithead?"

What? asked Helial, struck by his sudden interposition.

A mischievous grin spread over the Devil's face: "Your Class."
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