After passing the portal, the trio appeared in a big clearing. In the distance, the tower was much closer than before.
An exclamation mark displayed the plus button at the top left of his screen. He focused on it and a notification appeared.
[New Title Acquired
Title acquired after killing 1000 wolves or being the first to conquer a wolf-related dungeon.
10% Bonus damage against wolf type creatures.
Looking at the minimap, Shesmu knew that he was still in the wolves' territory. He then changed his noble title to the new Wolf Slayer one.
"Guys, it's the final sprint. Let's just blitz through the monsters and be done with this forest," Shesmu said with confidence, his attention fully focused on the forest ahead.
"Yeah, I'm getting pretty bored actually. I wonder what's in the Tower of Might for it to take so long to reach it."
Ryan's musing made Leo interested too.
"Yeah, it better be interesting. All this work for nothing would be pretty anti-climatic."
Shesmu's eyes lingered on the Tower of Might in the distance before finally saying, "Now is no time to dream. Let's go."
The three made their way through the forest, the light of the moon their only guide. Soon enough, they reached their destination. The ivory tower was surrounded by many buildings and secured by walls on all sides. When the party reached the gates, they found a guard.
"Milords, congratulations on reaching the tower of might. Your party is the second to finish exploring the Forest of Beginning."
Hearing this, both Leo and Ryan were dumbstruck.
[Congratulations on being the second party to reach the tower of might.]
Boots of Mobility]
[Congratulations, you leveled up!]
[Congratulations, you leveled up!]
With the system confirming the guard's words, the duo jumped in joy.
"We did it! We actually got second!"
"Holy, I can't believe this. We started so late but we still got here before everyone? This is insane!"
Looking at his teammates being so jumpy and happy, Shesmu couldn't help but smile. Well, I already told you guys that you shouldn't worry. His eyes then turned more serious as he thought, Though I wonder who got here first.
"I welcome you, people of the golden generation, and your grace holder of the golden eyes."
The gates opened and a man in his thirties came out. His hair was golden, eyes blue, and smile radiant. He looked at the team of three for a second before continuing.
"My name is Aldrien, I will be your guide and instructor for this phase of the trial. Here I'll be showing you some of the secrets of this world that you need to master before challenging the world."
"You have used the skills given to us by the holy aspects, I presume. You must have felt that energy flowing from your belly and nourishing your sword whenever you use Empowered Slash or Thrust." His eyes then fell on Ryan, "And for you, cunning use of the shadow. You must have felt its calling, its power."
He paused for a second, looking at each and every single member of the part. "Now, I'll show you the secrets of that energy, the secrets of Ether."
"Ether? The secrets of Ether? Is this the energy that we use for skills?" asked Leo.
"Yes indeed. Ether is the power that we harness. It's in the air that we breathe, the meat that we eat, and the water that we drink."
He unsheathed his sword and green energy flowed through it. "Ether, however, is unusable in its raw form. That's why, we warriors, turn it into Ki first."
The green energy flowing through Aldrien's sword focused on its tip. Then, with one slash, he threw a crescent-shaped energy towards the forest.
The party turned around and looked at the damage caused by Aldrien's sword. Entire patches of the forest were raised. It was as if a giant stepped on the forest and crushed the trees. Total devastation.
Aldrien smiled and put his sword back in its sheath. "Milords, that's the power of Ki."
Looking at the power Aldrien showed, Shesmu couldn't help but smile. This was the Ashes of Gods that he knew. The over-the-top strength, the overpowered magic. That's what made Ashes of Gods fun for him, it was its charm.
"Milords, your grace holder of the golden, let us enter the main hall before continuing the explanation. I'm sure that staying in the cold here is not pleasant for you."
"Sure, let us do so."
Shesmu gave his confirmation and Aldrien led the way in the vicinity of the tower.
As they walked, Ryan couldn't help but whisper, "Damn, that guy got swag. He just flexed on us so hard and then acted as if it was nothing."
Leo laughed in response, "Guess that's the power of an instructor."
Shesmu stayed silent all the way to the main hall. Once they reached it, they entered a room similar to the one they first appeared in. The same wooden floor, the same shade, and the same size.
"We already talked about Ether and Ki, so I will not bore you with the details of the theory. It's convoluted at best. Instead..." Aldrien unsheathed his sword and raised it horizontally, at the level of his eyes. "Let me show you how to do it practically."
Green energy flowed in the sword. The aura behaved like the flames of hell, its tongues lashed out in all directions.
"Summon your energy. Whatever skill you use to summon it, use it. However, don't follow the motion. Just let the energy rage on within your blade."
Shesmu unsheathed his sword and looked at its blade. Empowered Slash. The familiar green aura flared up. From within his stomach, energy burst and coursed through his veins before reaching his sword.
Ryan and Leo did the same. Green aura covered Leo's sword while black shadows cloaked Ryan's dagger.
"Good, now, I want you to focus on where that energy comes from. Trace it back to its origin. Only then will you feel its pull, its attraction. Surrender yourself to it, become one with it."
Shesmu did as told. He focused on the path of his energy, its source, right at the middle of his stomach. He could feel its pull, its whispers. Shesmu accepted its calling.
Shesmu floated in darkness. Like the deepest abyss where the light could never pierce, he floated, carried away with its currents. Suddenly, he stopped, and from the darkest black, light emerged. He stood before a gate-no, one couldn't call such a monstrosity a mere gate. Gates were for humans to walk through, this one was for dragons.
As Shesmu stood in front of the gate, he heard tapping coming from a distance. A smile crept up his face. He turned around to look at the new arrival. Fiery red hair that reached her waist, blood red horns protruding from her head, and tanned skin like that of chocolate milk.
"It's been a while... Zyra."