“Introduction to the Arcane Arts” wasn’t a particularly rare or expensive skill-book… at least not when Goliath acquired it. However, when the Academy of Arcana was destroyed by a certain gigantic snapping turtle, things changed.
If Michael brought the tome to the Universal College of Magic, he could receive a rather sizable reward. Although, that would require him to travel over a thousand miles to the northeast, to the United Elven States.
On the first page was an index which listed the volumes from first to last: Communing with Arcana, Mana-Core Forming, Cultivating Aura, Vocal Magic, Ocular Spells, Physical Enhancement, Electrical Manipulation, Telepathic Communication, Mental Fortitude, Illusory Combat, Telekinetic Training, and Transcendence.
While the crystalline object was shaped like a small book, it actually contained over a hundred and twenty chapters: Each of those were at least ten-thousand words a piece. It was a guide, meant to last from when a child first learned how to read, all the way until they managed to evolve to rank-F through training… thirty years after they started practicing.
With such a ridiculous time requirement, it wasn’t surprising that Humans and other short-lived races rarely ever evolved more than once or twice in their lives. As he was skimming through the first volume, Michael muttered “Holy shit, this is all just to get the Arcane Affinity…”
Skipping past Mana-Core Forming, he started with what was quite possibly the most important part of the whole skill-book. Most spells, regardless of their Element, required the Aura stat to either increase range, potency, effectiveness, or pure power.
However, each affinity had a series of methods to slowly and quickly gain Aura-points. For basic Meditation, it was basically the same as what Sarah was doing; a person could take a number of different poses, and then concentrate on drawing mana into their bodies, breathing it out, and back in again.
That particular technique mainly focused on the Wisdom and Intelligence stats, but Endurance, Vitality, Perception, and Willpower would each play a part as well. Luck was the most important factor though, because it determined when ‘breakthroughs’ would occur; that was essentially when the actual Aura-points would be acquired and how many of them could be earned at a time.
Nothing happened to Michael, even after he read about Meditation for nearly an hour, but once he started learning about the second method, a message popped-up: “Arcana has challenged you to a game. Would you like to play: Chess, Checkers, Go, or Shogi.”
After making his choice, an illusory, black and white checkered board appeared a few meters away from his face. The moment that she felt that enormous presence, Sarah opened her eyes and stared at the naked man, who was just laying on his back with a crystalline book in his hands.
Then she noticed a strange square object that suddenly appeared in front of him. Michael causally said “I always pick red, but you can go first kid.”
She would normally yell at him to be quiet, but even Sarah wasn’t audacious enough to make a sound in front of a ‘divine’ entity. Even though, all she could see was a very vague and blurry outline, there was certainly a humanoid figure floating only a few meters away from her.
A gentle and melodic female voice whispered “Very well…” It was unlike anything that the worm-girl had ever heard before, and she instinctively recognized it as a ‘Goddess.’
Michael snickered as he quickly made moves without any planning or strategy, and his opponent played in a similar manner. After five minutes, the game was already halfway over, and they seemed relatively evenly matched.
It was at that time that the naked man asked “Are you letting me win? Cause my Checkers skills definitely aren’t that great… Actually, I don’t even remember the last time I played a board game. Hmmm~, should I call you Kana or just Arcana? No offense, but I’m not really into the whole ‘Goddesses’ thing.”
The illusory figure smirked and murmured “This Avatar was created with Intelligence and Wisdom that are equivalent to your own. I have had many names over the eons, address me however you wish, within reason.”
He smiled and said “Well, that makes a bit more sense… Otherwise, I doubt that I would have much of a chance at any kinda game. I’m pretty amazing at some things, but I’m only mediocre at Checkers, and that’s among Humans.”
She giggled and whispered “It’s still interesting, with the limitations I’m currently under, I don’t know if I can win. The game would be meaningless if I couldn’t lose.”
Michael sighed and told her “Well, an easy victory is always better than a hard-fought defeat. For me, winning is always a lot more fun than losing.”
The illusory, nearly transparent woman appeared to be Human, but with long, elven ears; she wasn’t wearing any clothes, but all of her features were blurry and indistinct. Hair could be seen to some extent, though it was colorless and seemed to extend for miles, up into the sky.
After another five minutes the game was finally over, and Michael won rather unceremoniously. At her loss, Arcana simply giggled and murmured “Congratulations… I can play with you again in twenty-four hours. Oyasumi Nasai…”
He smiled at her and said “Buenas noches~” as the checkered board and the illusory Avatar vanished abruptly.
After a few seconds Sarah yelled “What the fucking hell was that shit?!” If Elina had been awake, her reaction probably would have been far more dramatic.
Michael snickered and nonchalantly explained “It was one of the training methods in this book. Basically, Arcana likes to play games, and if you manage to win… Well, the reward is kinda obvious.”
A little notification told him “Aura has increased by four points.” The amount gained was based on his Intelligence stat, so the higher it was, the better.
She asked him “Do you have one for Darkness Affinity?” He was actually a little surprised at how deadly serious she was.
After smirking, a message popped-up before her eyes: “Quest Shared: Goliath the Devourer has been starving for over a thousand years; although he won’t die, the hunger has turned the ancient Raid Boss, into a docile, but desperate magical-beast. He has accumulated an extraordinary amount of wealth over his lifetime, yet he would sacrifice it all, in order to finally sate his appetite. Rewards will depend on the quality and quantity of the meal.”
Then he told her “It should be marked on your map, but you’ll need to go with the puppy: She’s the only one of us who can take you there.” Michael sat-up and pulled out two pearly-white beads, and a dark-red one, calling out “Inari! Wake up, it’s time to eat!”
The sleepy fox immediately smelled the scent of those mana-cores and opened her eyes, darting across the riverbank and quickly devouring them without hesitation. Her bright-green body suddenly began glowing with a blinding light, and her status-screen appears.
Titles: The Feeder
Race: Quad-Tailed Nature-Fox
Mana Regen per minute: 20
Health Regen per hour: 40
Attack Rating: 12.5
Defense Rating: 2]
For the first time he finally noticed a dramatic change from altering stats. When he placed the three points into Agility, Inari’s body began rapidly shrinking, condensing down to from the size of a black-bear, until she appeared more like a very large wolf.
Of course, aside from the stature, she still looked like a fox-kit, but a lot less intimidating. Michael smiled and said “Aww~ so cute~; okay Inari, go play with Sarah for a while.”
As he was speaking, the naked girl teleported next to him and had a terrifying fang-filled grin, as she slid her slimy worm-like tail from his left leg, all the way up to his face. He complained “Now I’m gonna have to masturbate and take another bath before I go to sleep…”
After that, a set of crude leather armor appeared on her body and she was about to leave, but Michael yelled “Wait! Don’t go yet!”
Sarah frowned and slid the mouth of her tail onto a certain part of his anatomy, and he sighed dramatically, while explaining “I wasn’t asking for a worm-job, though it definitely does feel as disgusting and kinky as I always imagined…” Hearing that, she immediately stopped and he continued “If you head out in that shitty gear, you’re definitely gonna die the instant anything manages to hit you. Hell, it doesn’t even increase your stats.”
As Michael removed mana-cores from five of the level-nine, rank-G Bengal Tigers he had collected, he immediately fed four of them to Inari. Then he turned those carcasses into pelts, and used them to create a set of fur armor.
It all happened so quickly, that by the time Sarah asked “What the fuck are you doing?” he had already finished inputting the specifications. There was actually a feature that allowed him to set a target, and have the equipment be custom fit for that particular humanoid.
He raised his left hand towards her, and a set of tiger-pelt clothing suddenly appeared. It was essentially just a pair of small boots, a relatively short skirt, and instead of a belt with pockets, it was meant to cover her almost nonexistent breasts.
Since she didn’t have the ‘Scan’ ability, he used it for her and allowed her to see the description. “Pristine Novice Bengal Tiger Fur Armor: Grants the wearer six Defense Rating, and three Agility points. Made to fit a female Goblin very small breasts. Uncommon Quality, requires level nine to equip.”