The Oracle Paths-Chapter 1042 Why The Cockiness?
1042 Why The Cockiness?
As the Spirit Enchanter, the officer, and the gathered conscripts stared in disbelief, Jake zeroed in on his own sensations. A frown quickly furrowed his brow.
'Too diluted to affect me,' he concluded internally after letting his hand wade in the decanter for nearly half a minute.
It's not that the water was useless. Even diluted, Spirit Lumyst Water was no laughing matter. The spiritual energy in that small decanter could likely vault a freshly condensed human's Spirit Body up to level 10. On Quanoth, that would be equivalent to leveling up a dozen times—something unheard of without vanquishing a significantly higher-level foe.
But the true allure of the water was elsewhere. Jake sensed—almost imperceptibly—that the spiritual fabric of his mind was undergoing an internal restructuring, teetering on the brink of evolution.
Or rather, it was as if the water was trying to awaken something already within him, but due to its diluted state, lacked the catalytic punch to do so. Still, he felt repeated attempts to tip an internal domino and trigger a sweeping overhaul, but each time it failed.
It was hard to articulate. If he had to pick a word, it'd be "maturation?" It was more about quality than quantity, although the water was also teeming with spirit power.
He was hypothesizing, but Jake felt he was edging close to the truth. The Spirit Enchanter profession made sense now. Properly utilized, this water could perform wondrous spiritual enchantments.
"However…" Jake's expression darkened as he continued his scrutiny.
Each time the water unsuccessful to tip that internal domino, he noticed that his Spirit Body took damage. Intuitively, he felt even if the potency of this Spirit Lumyst Water was sufficient, it offered no guarantees that its mysterious agenda would succeed.
With his heightened cognitive abilities, Jake could sense an underlying Aetheric law in Twyluxia directly affecting the probability of success. Limited by his mental scope, he estimated it at... 50%.
"Ugh...Coincidence? That number seems arbitrarily precise."
Regardless, whatever the fallout of failure, he knew it wouldn't kill him. He couldn't say the same for the other recruits.
Beyond this looming danger, Jake also corroborated the shaman's warning that the water drained his lifeforce. No longer a novice with the Life Element, he felt this sapping extended far beyond mere vitality.
Like all conceptual elements, the Life Element existed only for those who practiced it. Normally, lifespan had less to do with lifeforce than with telomere shortening, random DNA mutations, mitochondrial slow-down, irreversible stem cell differentiation, and other biochemically observable factors.
Only those skilled in the Life Element or gifted with a unique constitution could transmute all these biological parameters and tie their lifespan to their lifeforce, making them immortal as long as the latter was not exhausted. Clearly, these Underworld Barbarians weren't inherently endowed with such lifeforce.
To drain both lifeforce and lifespan without directly damaging their organism, this water had an intrinsic spell of its own.
'Death Energy,' Jake surmised calmly, before reconsidering. "No, it's a conversion spell. From Life Energy into some sort of spiritual power."
On that note, he sharpened his mental focus, resisting the spectral aura attempting to drain and convert his lifeforce into spiritual energy. After this observation, he also understood why it would be unwise to ingest the water.
Unless entirely drained, its special properties would continue to sap his lifeforce to replenish lost spiritual energy. While it might theoretically provide him with an inexhaustible source of Spirit Energy, his health would pay the price.
Still... Jake was not intimidated by a mere jug of water and knew how to execute a Conversion Spell. It was a shame that his mental scope was so limited, or he would've turned the tables on this decanter.
Sighing, he reluctantly disengaged his fingers, aware that whatever this ritual was supposed to accomplish had failed.
"It didn't work," Jake stated matter-of-factly to the genial shaman, the tone as if lamenting a defective TV purchase.
"I can see that, but these things happen," the Spirit Enchanter consoled him with a forced smile. The overseeing officer wore a similarly bewildered expression.
This never happened! Either the initiate would perish, drained of vitality, or their soul couldn't endure the Spirit Lumyst Water purification, leaving them more foolish than before, or in the worst case, a vegetable.
To see someone walk away unscathed, wearing the disgruntled expression of a swindled customer, was undoubtedly a first in the annals of Twyluxia.
Because Jake was clearly one of these enigmatic foreigners, the shaman hesitated on how to handle this unexpected curveball. Logic dictated not to give him a second chance, but the disappointed pretty boy was obviously special.
Something told him that Jake wouldn't leave without his blessing. If he wished to survive the day, he would need to satisfy this difficult customer. Searching the gaze of the commanding officer, he found a discreet nod in his direction.
With that endorsement, confirming that the warrior was also in on the game, a weight lifted off the Spirit Enchanter's shoulders, restoring his initial tranquility. Smiling at Jake, he said,
"It seems you'll need more Lumyst Water to earn your blessing. While I prepare for your second baptismal attempt, you can stand aside and watch how it unfolds with the others."
"All right," Jake accepted without hesitation, also inquisitive to see how the ritual usually played out.
The timing was impeccable. His inconsequential failure had rekindled the confidence of the other recruits. Many were even kicking themselves for having believed the ominous rumors about the Lumyst Water baptism.
Without the shaman needing to raise his voice or single anyone out, a towering barbarian with a knotted, unruly beard soon broke away from the crowd, striding forward with his chin held high.
"I'm ready for my baptism," the half-giant in tatters haughtily proclaimed, flexing biceps as broad as Jake's head.
The Spirit Enchanter encountered such boorish brutes daily and was far less optimistic about this one's odds than he had been about the previous candidate. Still, he betrayed nothing, maintaining an inscrutable facade in the face of the barbarian's misplaced bravado.
As he had with Jake earlier, he extended a carafe filled with clear water and said softly, "Whenever you're ready."
The antsy barbarian didn't need to be told twice. He plunged his left hand into the vessel, quickly followed by a gut-wrenching "AAAAAAARRRRRGGGGGGHHH!"
The agonized scream pierced everyone's eardrums, although the Spirit Enchanter had magically sealed his own the moment the barbarian stepped out of the crowd. He'd done the same for Jake, but it had turned out to be an unnecessary precaution.
Jake, casually standing beside the shaman, suddenly stiffened, his eyes widening as if attempting to escape their sockets when his brain processed the unfolding scene.
'Damn, if you're so weak, why the cockiness? In a hurry to die?' he thought, exasperated and lost for words.
Before him, the hulking, eight-foot barbarian writhed in pain as though his hand was engulfed in flames. His robust physique was withering before their very eyes, a crash-course therapy far surpassing any miracle weight-loss regimen.
In mere seconds, the once-vigorous barbarian, not much older than twenty, aged to resemble his middle-aged self. Still, he clung on, teeth gritted, refusing to relent.
Jake and the other conscripts held their breath through his ordeal, the latter silently praying for his soul and questioning whether they would fare any better.
In the end, the question became moot. After withstanding for eleven or twelve hellish seconds, the barbarian's gray eyes rolled back into his skull, and he collapsed like a marionette with its strings cut.
A quick scan with his Cosmic Eyes told Jake all he needed to know: this barbarian was beyond saving. His shriveled body still breathed, but his soul had crumbled.
Clinically, he was in a vegetative coma—a coma from which he would most likely never awaken.