Shout-out to Kremuss for his surprise. Kremuss is a good guy. Be like Kremuss.
The Glory City's Glory River was a collective of five different streams that intersected in the southern region of the city. Each stream had its individual name, but after multiple onomastic changes, the five streams collectively came to be known as the Glory River. Nik landed on the river's bank. It was a clearing with no spirit beasts in his sight. Unlike Spirit Masters, who can only utilize a spirit technique from a spirit ring, in some cases, spirit beasts were far worse. They were physically enhanced, could use their racial capabilities well, and, most of all, the spirit beasts reside in a domain suited to their growth.
In essence, they will have a home advantage. Of course, all of this would trouble other spirit masters. Nik's target, or targets if he was fortunate were rigid in nature. The Carnal Bats grew wild under daylight and peaceful during the night. Their natural habitat was to hang upside down on tree branches under the moon's gentle glow.
The Carnal Bats, just like other spiritual beasts, had specific features that determined their ages. For these cute creatures, it was the number of sections of their leathery wings. One section on both of the wings meant that they had reached a hundred-years in age. Two sections meant the thousand-year milestone, and three sections meant a ten thousand year milestone, and four sections meant a hundred year thousand milestone. Needless to say, Nik did not have any reason to hunt the upper three tiers.
The three spirits of his just required a spirit ring of specific living beings. According to them, the older the spirit ring, the potent its power, and the harder it is to truly assimilate all the integral structure and skills of one specific beast. Lilith believed that in her memories, as far as she could remember, the age of the spirit ring did not classify the spirit ring's power or color. It was the opposite. The energy stored within the spirit rings determined the strength of the spirit ring.
Anyway, Nik was not an experienced cultivator and was still new to the concept. Instead, he focused on the cute, little creatures and felt his heart falter for a moment. His expression was grim, and he pushed his [Perfect Eyesight] to its maximum capability, observing the nest of Carnal Bats. The carnal bats had a fuzzy brown body that stretched up to the size of an a.d.u.l.t's palm. The bats hung upside down and covered their bodies with their leathery wings, allowing Nik to quickly identify more than forty, hundred-year spirit beasts and less than four, thousand-year spirit beasts.
Of course, he targeted the weakest one.
Being receptive to heat from any source, these bats were not so different from moths... except, they lived to see the next morning. Nik observed the river bank and then measured the distance between himself and one of the weakest bats around the edges of the nest. Finding the weakest one was easy. He just had to activate his [Life Vision], and even though the limit of the distance made it harder for Nik to differentiate between the multiple sources of life energy, he simply focused on the one that looked quite fading even with the standards of his blurry [Life Vision].
These creatures were quite tricky to capture. They could instantly release ultrasound cries that could spread up to two kilometers in radius. So, Nik controlled a giant blob of water from the river while creating a head-sized fireball right above his open palm. After manipulating diverse forms of energies, even if Nik hadn't focused on his elements, his control did not seem to slip, and he threw the massive fireball beside the bat that was entirely on the edge of the nest.
The fireball shot towards one of the unfortunate trees and set it to the blaze, instantly attracting a loud screech from one of the nearest bats as the brown critter flapped its wing with unusual glee and took rounds against the large bonfire. Before the others could wake up and screech before pulling the bats nearest to them out of their sleep, Nik controlled the blob of water and shot it on the opposite edge. There, one of the bats slept quietly, unaware of the sudden emergence of a source of light and heat and also its unfortunate demise.
By the time Nik covered the sleeping Carnal Bat in the ball of water, most of the bats had woken up. But all of them were busy flapping their wings around the slowly spreading fire. Meanwhile, Nik rushed to pull the bat towards his direction. The moment a spirit beasts die, it would leave its spirit ring precisely in the location it breathed its last breath. And Nik felt that absorbing a spirit ring in midair was harder than absorbing it on the ground.
The operation was smooth and unwilling to make the cute creature suffer longer than it should have, Nik created a thin blade from wind that could easily slice through steel and split the blob of water into two halves, dividing the bat, too.
Nik whispered reluctantly. As the fallen bat breathed its last breath, a small yellow spirit ring emerged above its corpse. White, Yellow, Purple, Black, and Red. These are the color of spirit beasts of the ages surpassing ten, hundred, thousand, ten thousand, and hundred thousand. Looking at the spirit ring, Nik summoned Sky, and with his body getting covered in a dark coat, a pitch-black bat flapped its wing and materialized behind Nik.
"Thank you for the meal."
Sky's voice rang into Nik's mind as she dived towards the spirit ring and opened her small fuzzy face, inhaling the spirit ring within herself. After a flapping her wings and letting out a screech of delight, Sky dived back into Nik.
The scene turned silent except for the happily flapping bats as they witnessed a small portion of Star Dou forest getting burned.
They screeched wildly and revolved around the flames as if they are singing and dancing on a piece of tribal music.
"Is that it?"
Nik imagined the process of the absorption of the spirit rings to be something spectacular. But Sky gulping the yellow spirit ring was anything but fascinating. It was a rare moment since Sky was feeling quite happy and decided to humor Nik with a chuckle, "You did not believe it to be some sort of law defying act, right? To spirits like use, Spirit Rings are a source of nutrition that can complete us.
It is no different than eating."
"Hmm, I guess it's cool."
Nik once again floated and propelled himself up and inquired a question that has been bugging him since he arrived, "Sky, you are supposed to by my spirit. Unlike Lilith and Asmodeus, you should have your form, right?"
Nik inquired casually. Alas, he did not receive any reply even after four minutes of gliding. Nik barely felt offended by Sky's silence on the matter. He had already come to know that his spirits were quite rigid when it came to secrets. The only thing he could do was to help his spirits swallow eight different spirit rings and then stop at the ninth one until they reveal the truth. He believed that Lilith and Asmodeus did not remember much about their past but the same couldn't be said for Sky.
She felt way too integral and distant at the same time!
After Sky's requirement had been fulfilled, Nik kept on scouting the outskirts of the forest for other spirit beasts. Most of the spirit beasts required by the three were strong right from their birth, so he had to have an elaborate plan and quite a number of help to achieve his goals. But a few of the spirit beasts and herbs were not that strong but quite a rare catch.
After two hours of scouting from above the river, Nik finally decided to return to the city. Even after a spirit ring was absorbed, he did not feel any changes but the moment he landed near the western gate, Sky's voice emerged within Nik's mind, "Lilith and Asmodeus were not entirely wrong. If a spirit ring is also nurtured from a lower stage instead of absorbing it at a later stage, then it is far more beneficial."
Alongside her words, a flood of knowledge rushed into his consciousness. Ordinarily, his head would have felt dizzy. But after binging on the [Tome of Battle] for such a long time, the amount of knowledge felt quite short and compressed relatively. It took a few moments to understand the key points. The technique was nameless and not many knew about it. A person could store spirit energy within the spirit rings and then evolve the spirit rings to a higher tier using this technique.
In essence, Nik was provided with a technique that could increase the age of a spirit ring by cultivating it.
Nik nodded without much thought. The use of this technique was far away from Nik's reach. After all, he couldn't use this technique even if he wanted to since all the spirit rings he will gain in the near future would be fused with his spirits.
"That isn't all, Nik."
Sky suddenly spoke, "Stop looking for answers."
Nik frowned as he passed through the cobblestoned pavement.
"Even if you find a few, it will only lead to more questions. Mystery is a concept best suited to pretentious philosophers and the free minded.
You are neither but a man motivated by past adversaries."
"So you did know Undead Lucifer."
Nik pointed out.
Sky did not deny anything and accepted Nik's words, "We had our skirmishes."
"By 'we', are you implying Undead Lucifer and you...
Or 'I and you' we?"
"I meant the three of us."
Sky whispered and Nik frowned, "I thought you were a spirit birthed from me."
"In this life, I am."
"You are not making any sense."
"Exactly my point about mystery."
Nik flinched before chuckling.
"Whatever. I cannot bother with all of this now," Nik spoke before inquiring, "But what's with the part where I have to infuse spirit energy within various items and plants?"
"This world's law only allow the Spirit Beasts to leave a spirit ring. I reckon that this wasn't true in the past and every entity capable of holding a consciousness could have cultivated spirit and would have left a spirit ring after its demise."
Sky replied as realization touched Nik's expression, "The spirit rings for poison plants needed by Asmodeus and few swords needed by Lilith."
Nik nodded after a moment.
"Alright, thank you, I guess."
"No need to thank me," Sky chuckled softly, "Just..." She hesitated for a moment before speaking up, "Just remember to visit your spirit world every now and then. We all are your spirit... so we enjoy looking at you."
Asmodeus' hot coo rang and disrupted the conversation as Sky's presence flinched and disappeared. Meanwhile, Asmodeus' cackled, "Nik! We ought to have purple poison next! That way, we can quickly make me more awesome!"
Previously, Nik had no way but to find the grass in the wild. But now, he might have another option that was relatively easy.
Nik nodded as he could see the outline of the Holy Orchid Institute when Lilith's voice rang out, "My spirit rings, too."
Nik grinned broadly and entered the institute.