It was a natural instinct to be alert to the unknown. So, Theo couldn't touch it carelessly.
Theo didn't know how long he would've hesitated if Gluttony hadn't spoken up at that moment.
-…Hoh? You've brought me an interesting food, User.
At the same time, Theodore was able to feel a little bit of Gluttony's mood through their connection. There was an intense hunger and appetite due to the presence of Umbra. It was even more than when Gluttony saw the elder lich's Life Vessel.
Theo noticed this fact and asked, 'Do you know what that bead is?'
–Of course. It may not be a grimoire, but it is too taxing for you to digest right now. Gluttony continued speaking, That quarter dragon's explanation is half right, half wrong. Umbra isn't technically a species but a two-dimensional thing. It is a world where there are no boundaries between material and nonmaterial things, and it can't be understood using human common sense.
'In other words, Umbra is a type of other world?'
–You understand pretty fast. To be more precise, it is a primitive spiritual world. Unlike the material world, the other dimension is a place where only spirits can exist.
Magicians, who emphasized understanding the world more than aura users, recognized the existence of spiritual worlds a long time ago. Among them, the representative of spiritual worlds was the Elemental World. The Elemental World maintained the laws of nature and was one of the spiritual worlds closely linked to the material world. It was said that the first elementalists could access the Elemental World directly.
Throughout the worlds, there were also the Abyss, where evil spirits or evil gods resided, and spiritual worlds like Chaos, which was a whirlpool of chaos, but…
According to Gluttony's explanation, Umbra had a different shape.
–Hmm, don't be so concerned about it. A primitive world is incomplete and easy to collapse. In fact, Umbra is a world that was destroyed a long time ago, and this is nothing but a fragment of the destroyed world. If it hadn't been fixed by magic, then it would've vanished.
The prey suited its taste, so Gluttony wriggled its tongue.
–I will eat to my heart's content. I will take care of it!
At those words, Theo stretched out his left hand. Umbra struggled in the air as it felt an ominous feeling, but Veronica was prepared for this and her magic power bound it tightly. Above all, there was an existence more magical than it, so Umbra couldn't escape from the magician's hand.
Eventually, Theodore's left hand gripped the bead gently.
[+15 Umbra Fragment (???)]
[This is a lump of debris which floated into the material world after the two-dimensional world Umbra collapsed a long time ago. A magician fixed it into the form of an emerald bead. As it is based on another world, there is a strong resistance to attacks in the material world. If the power of this fragment is absorbed, it may be possible to manipulate Umbra's law.
* The rating of this ??? is 'Treasure.'
* When consumed, the power of Umbra will be absorbed.
* When consumed, there is no digestion time.
* When consumed, your spiritual awareness will increase greatly.
* When ingested, the user still won't be able to use this ??? perfectly. A portion of the absorbed power is sealed, allowing for only 20% of the abilities to be used.]
'20%, that is the limit for me right now.'
Theodore had a larger capacity than another magician of the same circle, but even he could only absorb 20%. It meant that the essence contained in Umbra was enormous. Umbra had the same rating as the elder lich's Life Vessel, but it was much more powerful.
However, the remaining 80% potential wasn't lost. Theo didn't hesitate as he focused on Umbra in his left hand. The bead on the palm of his hand naturally disappeared.
[The 'Umbra Fragment' has been absorbed. A heterogeneous power has accumulated in your body.]
[From now on, you can get in contact with spirit bodies directly.]
[From now on, you can see spiritual bodies with the naked eye.]
[The mark of 'Umbra' is engraved on your body.]
[Gluttony has fallen asleep in order to save power.]
It was different from absorbing the artifacts. Umbra didn't require a separate digestion time, so it immediately melted into Theodore's body after being eaten by Gluttony.
A strength which was completely different to magic power flowed through his veins. The overflowing power of Umbra turned the capillaries under his skin into an emerald colour, before focusing on Theo's right arm.
This was only 20%, but it felt like his bones and muscles were going to burst.
Then a strange stamp appeared on his right arm. 'Is this Umbra's mark?'
The emerald patterns made of complex lines and shapes reminded him of characters of an ancient kingdom.
Then finally, the mark of Umbra disappeared after being engraved on Theodore. It engraved only 20% of its power and then fell asleep, waiting for the time when the remaining 80% would awaken.
After the mark disappeared, Umbra's abilities flowed into him. It was similar to when he received knowledge about magic.
"…Indeed, it is a miraculous ability," Theo muttered as he examined the knowledge inside his head.
The knowledge conveyed from the mark of Umbra on his right arm was literally breathtaking. He pulled back his sleeve to reveal the shining green tattoo and then carefully touched the surface. However, someone else touched his right arm before he did.
"Oh, it is used in this way? How strange." Veronica came up from behind him without any notice and grabbed Theodore's forearm.
As he stiffened from the unexpected contact, she continued to observe, rubbing the green tattoo with her finger. The tower masters couldn't easily take out the national treasures, so she couldn't help being interested.
At that very moment…
Theodore's arm suddenly turned translucent, and he escaped from Veronica's grip.
This was Umbra's first ability, Fluidization. Theodore, who triggered the ability reflexively, and Veronica were both surprised. Theo's body turned fluid without him even muttering a word? It was something that even magicians who learned the 7th Circle magic Astral Body couldn't imitate.
Veronica looked at Theodore's right arm with shining eyes as it returned to its original state. "I-It's been awhile since I was so surprised! Is this the power of Umbra?"
The surprised Theo nodded silently. He knew that he could use Umbra's Fluidization ability, but he hadn't expected to invoke the ability just by thinking 'I want to get out.'
If he could always use Fluidization like this, he would be able to avoid flying arrows effortlessly. Additionally, it was possible to utilize it to pass through a wall or other similar situations. It was a useful ability for any circumstance.
'If I have this ability… I can beat a master level opponent!'
Certainly, the existences in the material world were very limited in their abilities to affect the spiritual world. Even a sword master's power would drop when it came to a spirit body. Additionally, most magicians wouldn't know how to fight against the fluidity. Theo would be able to gain the advantage in any situation just by turning his body into fluid.
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However, he was too optimistic.
Theo experimented with his newly acquired ability a few times, but suddenly experienced a headache and shortness of breath.
'What, why is this happening all of a sudden?'
His stamina and magic power were in a perfect state, but his condition suddenly deteriorated. Just calculating a magic formula or moving his body caused him to be tired. Veronica noticed the change and approached Theo to help him.
She was experienced, so she quickly realized why Theodore was in a bad physical condition.
Veronica laughed as she held his side. "It seems like this national treasure consumes mental power. Kid, is your magic power and stamina not good right now?"
"Yes, it is as you say…"
"Geez, this is completely unexpected. If I knew, I would've warned you beforehand. Well, don't be so depressed since there is a saying that lessons should be learned with the body." She giggled as she directed him to sit down on a bench. Then she pointed to his right arm that was still glowing green. "The concept of mental power might be quite strange, but its recovery is quick. If you sit and rest for a while, you will soon be able to move around."
"…Mental power, what is that?"
"Umm, let me explain it briefly." Veronica sat down next to Theo and explained the concept of mental power, "In short, it is the most basic force. It is no different from using magic, aura, or even elemental power. The only difference is the importance. Magicians who tend to rely on mana and circles often don't know about the concept of mental power."
However, mental power was crucial in manipulating forces based on other dimensions, such as magic, aura, and Umbra. If mental power was non-existent, they wouldn't be able to control magic based on mana. The most primitive mental power was the only one capable of controlling Umbra's power.
Theo's mindset was restored due to his mental power being temporarily exhausted.
'This means I need to train my mental power in order to master Umbra.'
There was no easy gift in this world, so the mark on his right arm was just another homework. An ability like Fluidization couldn't be used with no cost. By the time the quick explanation ended, Theo's power had come back.
"Then my explanation will end here. Can you get up now?"
"…Yes." He carefully raised his body up from the bench.
Fortunately, the dizziness had completely disappeared, and the muscles which had felt weighed down returned to their original condition. After experiencing mental power depletion, Theo calmed his breathing.
Veronica turned around first and said, "Kid, what will you do now? I still have to return to the ballroom, but you can leave first. It seems like your personality doesn't like balls too much."
"…Well, that isn't wrong." Theo smiled bitterly and shrugged. Any other day, he would've left without being noticed. However, today was Theodore Miller's ball. There would be bad rumours if he left without saying anything.
…Finally, he turned to Veronica.
"Let's go. I will be happy to mingle just for today," he said softly while holding out a hand to Veronica.
It was minor revenge for always being dragged along by her.
Veronica's golden eyes widened like she was startled, then she said, "Ah, right. Maybe I was kidding about the few years?"
She smiled widely and grabbed Theodore's palm.
The song of the young hero who challenged the red dragon… It was still an unknown story.