The group tore through the next level with only a minor complication. The four jenglot they had found were easy prey for the bolstered group. The problem began with the jenglot which had tried to sneak up on them.
Arthur had dispatched it and then taken its core. An argument arose afterwards, when the others realized he had acquired the core. After all, Mel’s group had not been party to his initial agreement. On the other hand, they did not try to renegotiate it, a fact that left him feeling a certain degree of goodwill towards her.
And paranoia. After all, if they intended to betray him, there was no reason to renegotiate a bad deal.
It was why, that night, he spent a good portion of the time drawing and churning refined energy directly from the monster cores he owned into his own core, pulling the energy in to boost his own cultivation the moment it crossed over.
Triggering the upgrade from 4 to 5 points in Spirit also meant he got to choose a trait. He had chosen Spirit to increase cultivation speed, which would also increase his energy resources. Since at least two of his techniques used his energy pool to empower them—Focused Strike and Heavenly Sage’s Mischief—it seemed the more important attribute to upgrade at this point.
An upgrade to Body would actually expand his energy pool. But it mattered little if he could not fill up that expanded pool. Hence the need to increase his cultivation speed first, to fill that pool faster.
Admittedly, if he could learn a better cultivation technique, he could probably increase his base cultivation speed, since each cultivation technique he studied would improve upon that. Still, he was rather chuffed that the new Yin cultivation method taught to him by Uswah had improved his speed so far. He was now getting close to his theoretical maximum in cultivation speed.
However, he was not there yet. And whilst he had an idea of what he meant to acquire as a Spirit trait, his new Yin Body had made things a little more complicated.
Spirit traits could be broken into a few major areas. First, willpower-based traits. They allowed individuals to push aside soul attacks, everything from directly-damaging soul attacks to fear effects. Secondly, there were the aura effects. Killing Intent and fear auras, for instance. Even attractive, charismatic or presence-based effects all came under this heading. A powerful aura could be used to deter monsters from attacking you, and when grown enough, the aura could be wielded like a weapon. The third major area involved the formation and management of energy, whether it was manipulating one’s aura more easily to unleash attacks like his Refined Energy Dart, or directly speeding up cultivation efforts.
“Got three options, where there’s no floptions.” Another grimace. That wasn’t even a word.
Three options, three ways to go.
“Options three, for there be a tree!” Much better.
While he could pick a specialized trait from one of those three options, he could instead choose general reinforcement of the entire soul with a trait like Flexible Soul, which would provide marginal improvements all across three aspects.
Initially, his plan had been to gain a general energy collection method to increase his cultivation speed. It would benefit him in both the long- and short-term. A trait like Energy Vortex was very popular for exactly that reason.
Unfortunately, he now debated if he needed a second method of increasing his cultivation speed. Right now, he was trying to learn how to properly cultivate only Yin chi. Once he mastered the skill as taught by Uswah, he knew his total cultivation speed would increase significantly. As such, he dismissed that particular path.
No. Better to find another method of improvement, which meant one of the three specialized options: willpower- or soul-strengthening, aura improvement, or more manipulable energy.
Aura improvement was an interesting option, though he was not sure if it was useful. From what Arthur had read, it was hard to wield aura at the early stages, since beginning cultivators were just not powerful enough to output much energy. In that sense, it was more often purchased at later stages, which was why things like Killing Intent could only be wielded by higher-level cultivators.
Fear auras were the same, useful for driving away normal animals but not monsters. Not at his current cultivation level. And the same applied for each of the charisma or presence benefits of a powerful aura. He could go esoteric, making use of his aura to chill or warm himself and others. That could make it even easier to wield certain energy types later, but none of it was directly useful.
No, aura improvement was interesting but it very much a later purchase. It would offer him little short-term benefit so he discarded it entirely.
Willpower- or soul-strengthening improvements were defensive improvements for the most part. Again, useful for the long-term but none of the monsters that Arthur was currently facing utilized skills like soul attacks. In general, creatures like that did not make their presence known until at least the third floor of a Tower.
Which left him a lot of time to purchase something that would aid him in such a case.
If he did not improve his cultivation speed, perhaps he should work on improving his overall control of energy. That improvement came in two forms: either making it easier to control—speeding up his manipulation of energy, such as making Refined Energy Dart fire faster—or making it more efficient overall, thus reducing the energy use.
He could also aspect his energy at this point, or create the beginnings of favoured energies, but making such choices so early on was rather a good choice. It might work out for those cultivator families and rich kids who had the funds to know where and what kind of cultivation to acquire. But for someone like Arthur, his best choice was to wait and see.
Anyway, he was already tied down with Yin energy. So making it Cold Yin Energy or Fiery Yin Energy made little sense. Though it might be cool . . .
Shaking his head and dismissing casual fancies, Arthur made himself to concentrate on what was important: picking out the trait he needed. It was obvious that he needed to work on energy control. The first form would see the most obvious increase in his martial strength. The second form was likely a greater advantage over the long-term.
Thinking about it, Arthur recalled some posited builds that focused on efficiency as the main trait purchase for the Spirit as one progressed. Also known as “spammers” colloquially, these individuals also focused on gaining a large number of low-cost attacks; they would “spam” these attacks on a continual basis, overwhelming their opponents by the volume of attacks rather than any great skill.
So: speed or efficiency?
Considering previous interactions and his most recent fights, Arthur came to a conclusion at last. And made his choice for his Spirit trait, feeling the shift deep within as the Tower System put it into effect. He hissed as the pain erupted throughout his body, and he battled it as he grasped the changes, helping them along as best he could.
“No pain, no gain. And it ain’t no movie, that did poorly.”