"Mirabelle, are you prepared?"
She looked into his eyes.
Her voice was unwavering.
It was just the two of them, alone in the room while the rest were off doing various drills according to Ramesthes's requirements.
Otto had called her out of the virtual pod to finally give her a portion of his soul.
He also felt anticipation towards this ceremony as well.
This would make five soul splits.
Which would allow this trait to evolve.
Otto checked his status as he prepared to part with another 10% of his attributes.
Mana Pool 210
Magic Power 179
He finally felt the weight of his decision not to split his soul immediately.
The attributes he would lose here would be significantly greater because of his own caution, his worry that he wouldn't find a solution for Mirabelle.
Otto closed his eyes and pondered.
His lips pursed.
He couldn't honestly tell himself that he didn't regret his decision.
Just as everyone else, Otto knew that as a person, he also had room for improvement.
One of his flaws, which was more evident in the past, was that he was too cautious.
He never dared to take large risks, always preferring to prepare himself before diving in.
It was the reason he had lived for so long in such a dangerous environment.
But it also caused him to miss a few critical opportunities that may have been key to improving his strength.
He closed his eyes. Though he had made great strides in this life, caution was almost an instinct embedded deep within his soul.
It wasn't as if he could go back to the past…
Otto stretched briefly and without further ado, began to split his soul.
The dense ball of cotton candy appeared again in his mind's eye.
Its structure had thickened significantly, but it was about the same size as before.
The strands of Otto's soul were now much denser, brighter, and overall more tightly woven with each other.
However, the power of <Split Symbiosis> still managed to find a series of loose ends, thinner strands, and strands that led to nowhere.
They slowly emerged from the knot.
Under the pressure of his trait, they began to condense into a small, glowing gem.
The gem was even brighter than before.
Now somewhat used to the sense of loss that accompanied the split, there wasn't a speck of indecision as Otto pulled the gem out of his body and injected it into Mirabelle.
She gasped as it entered her heart.
Her body swelled as it was filled with power.
Her muscles condensed slightly beneath her clothes, her brain rewiring connections to accommodate her new speed.
But that was nothing compared to the effect of Otto's magical attributes.
Her mana pool swelled until it felt like it was about to burst. The mana in her magic network heated and spun through her mana veins, faster and faster, compressing and accelerating with each cycle.
Even her brain started to feel some pressure accommodating such a large increase in her <Intuition> that was not given through the standard method of AP.
Otto checked his status as the slight sense of weakness overtook him once more.
Strength 65 —> 58
Agility 105 —> 94
Stamina 80 —> 72
Sturdiness 105 —> 94
Mana Pool 210 —> 189
Intuition 184 —> 166
Magic Power 179 —> 161
Regeneration 245 —> 220
Mirabelle also checked her own attributes, and was astonished at how much they'd grown.
Strength 28 —> 35
Speed 47 —> 62
Stamina 36 —> 44
Sturdiness 41 —> 52
Mana Pool 28 —> 90
Intuition 25 —> 61
Magic Power 45 —> 81
Regeneration 83 —> 154
She inhaled, and her grin was filled with excitement.
With so much power, her support spells would be extremely powerful!
The thought of how much more help she could be to her teammates who were so kind to her, made her giggle uncontrollably.
Otto breathed out.
His soul was stable in his mind's eye. There was no sign of the splitting apart that had happened previously.
But suddenly, as Mirabelle adapted to the changes in her own body, Otto's soul began to rumble and vibrate.
Otto clutched his chest.
It was an odd feeling. There was no pain, just a deep sense of an even scarier instability.
The sensation lasted for a few seconds before halting.
His soul began to glow as <Split Symbiosis> condensed it further.
He checked on his soul again with his consciousness only to find that it had suddenly changed color!
From its previous white, it now glowed in a dim pink.
As if on cue, a series of notifications appeared in Otto's mind.
It was what he had been waiting for.
His trait had evolved!...
And it seemed to have brought some additional surprises…
[Your soul has been enhanced in grade.]
[White —> Pink]
[+1 All Priority]
[+1 Extra Life]
Otto sucked in a breath.
He felt…different, somehow.
It was like his brain had a better connection with his body as his soul improved his strength.
Somehow, he also felt that every aspect of him had grown in power, though he couldn't understand how, and he couldn't understand how he knew, either.
He walked, then jogged, then sprinted around the room.
Mirabelle just stared at him quizzically, but Otto didn't give her an explanation.
Running felt…slightly easier? His stamina consumption had even decreased.
He squinted before shaking his head.
His status didn't show any additional changes, either…
But Otto was quickly distracted by another number.
[Extra Lives: 3]
The life he'd lost from choosing his class right after the <Tutorial> had returned!
Was that how lives worked in the <Tower>?
Did they have something to do with the soul?
Either way, it could be considered a sort of additional insurance while he stayed in Area 1.
It was possible it would come in handy during the apocalypse…
As for priority, though Otto had never 'officially' come into contact with the term, he actually already had an inkling as to what it was.
In the past, monsters would often hit him and other team members with attacks that carried effects. Things like 'Bind' 'Slow' 'Paralyze' 'Weaken' and so on and so forth.
Otto remembered one particular trait that he had, called <Aerial Ethereality>, one of his strongest traits that made him immune to the 'Slow' effect.
Supposedly, if he was hit by a 'slow' effect, it would run right through him without making contact.
Now, on most floors, against most monsters, this trait worked perfectly.
However, as he continued to climb the <Tower>, he kept running into monsters, usually BOSS monsters or elite monsters that could ignore this trait and 'slow' him anyway to oftentimes lesser effect.
It wasn't true for all monsters, and most common monsters even on the 50th floor, for example, still couldn't 'slow' him at all.
Otto had long been confused about this phenomenon.
Perhaps it was related to this 'priority' metric…
The notifications continued.
[Congratulations. Your personal trait <Split Symbiosis> has evolved.]
Evolving Trait } Bronze
Allows trait owner to split off up to five portions of your soul and implant them into other challengers.
Soul portions remain connected to the soul owner.
Any challenger implanted with a soul will be unable to betray the soul owner.
Challengers implanted with a soul will gain a portion of the soul owner's current attributes.
If in danger, challengers implanted with a soul will be able to call out the owner's full might for a brief duration, in exchange for a temporary <Weakened> status that lasts for 10x the duration of the initial strenghtening.
Soul owner may contact connected challengers freely regardless of distance. Limited to once per challenger per day. Connected challengers may request to contact soul owner. Accepted communication will result in the depletion of the communication use.
Soul owner receives 5% of the attributes of connected challengers as AP.
50% of all new attributes gained by connected challengers will also be automatically replicated and stored by the soul owner.
Stored attributes can be added or burned.
Attributes can be added to soul owner's status at a ratio of 5:1.
Attributes can be burned to temporarily fuel a large increase in the soul owner's status.
10% of the soul owner's current attributes will also be replicated and added to the status of connected challengers.
Soul owner may choose two non-innate traits of his connected challengers to replicate for use on each floor.
If all parties successfully clear the floor, these two traits will become permanent on soul owner's status at 10% power.
If all parties do not successfully clear the floor, these two traits will be impossible for the soul owner to reselect.
A single trait can be chosen for multiple floors. For each floor cleared with the trait, the permanent version of said trait will grow by 10%.
A connected challenger may choose to sacrifice one extra life for the soul owner. The soul owner will temporarily gain all the connected challenger's attributes and traits.
Connected challenger will then be <Severely Weakened> for 1 week.
Upgrade Conditions: ???
Otto read through the new and improved <Split Symbiosis>.
Then, he sighed.
It was not a sigh borne of unhappiness.
He only had one word to describe his new trait: Overpowered.
It was absolutely worth risking his attributes and even his life by splitting his soul over and over so seriously.
First of all, <Communication> could be a huge help in the right circumstances.
In the future, if his team members were on different floors, and if one person finds a hidden piece, they would be able to relay that information to Otto who could then tell the others such that they would all be able to nab it.
A team strengthening!
<Symbiotic Growth> would allow Otto to quickly gain back the attributes he lost to the initial split.
There was also an additional option for what to do with these attributes.
If Otto ever found himself in a pinch, he could simply decide to burn the attributes to give himself a boost in a time of need!
Of course, his team would still receive 10% of his attributes all the time. It also seemed like the penalty of burning attributes if they needed to call on his own might was no longer there, replaced by a temporary <Weakened> status instead…
The new portion of this trait that Otto was most excited about, however, was the ability to pick two of his team's traits to use on a floor!
This was something completely unheard of for him, to literally be able to replicate the traits of others.
Each of the kids had quite a few excellent class traits.
Otto was thrilled to be able to steal a few.
Julia's <Berserk> or Jeremy's <Slippery>. Heck, even Mirabelle's many traits from <Jack of Support> would come in extremely handy during fights.
Moreover, if he used a single trait on ten floors, he'd be able to permanently use it…giving him all of the advantages of other classes with the extreme versatility of his magic.
Otto flipped his hair as his lips curved up into a devilish smirk.
Was it finally time to train?
Otto said goodbye to Mirabelle and was just about to head back into his virtual pod when he felt a tug on his mana coming from his spatial storage ring.
He pulled out a small golden card.
It was brightening and dimming alternately as Otto stared at it.
A message was scrawled there.
"Meet in five minutes."
Otto raised his brow.
Then he thought of something and rubbed his hands together.
He wondered what good things there might be at the auction this time…
Otto's body vanished as he let the card do as it would. Thankfully, this rented house was still 'marked' by <Ofrand's Boots> so Otto was able to return here whenever he wanted.