Chapter 968 Is It Because I've Already Passed The Test?
Minutes turned to dust, yet no further magnetic eruption occured. The Resonator maintained its steady orbit, unmoved. Perhaps the Field Disruptor activated only hourly, or perchance merely once a day.
Given Jake's knowledge, waiting was a luxury he could ill afford. The chilling number of Digestors that had infiltrated the funnel before them was sobering, and he was acutely aware that Epsilom and Drakon were also within.
'Should I inform them of the Digestors or not...' Jake found himself wrestling with indecision.
His hesitance stemmed not from a lack of trust in these disciples, but rather from his apprehension of exposing one of his most valuable trump cards: his mental sense when his bracelet was designated as an Artifact Incarnation. Even the Digestors were unable to scramble his signal when he utilized it, the spiritual impulse emitted was swift, fleeting, and so effectively camouflaged that it verged on undetectable.
Unlike a conventional Oracle Scan, this one was not merely tethered to his Grade 10 Energy, but also his mental strength. A year prior, his intelligence was already his greatest attribute by a considerable margin, and that gap had only widened over the last twelve months. If one were to consider his intelligence and his intelligence alone, he was an absolute anomaly amongst Players of his level.
[I would advise against it.] Xi firmly dissuaded him. [Cekt might have recruited them, but we do not truly know these disciples. If I go by how he recruited you, I get the feeling he doesn't dig very deep. A background check via the Oracle System and a single meeting with you where you effectively bribed him with the blood samples of two Grade 7 Bloodlines hardly seems a solid basis to judge someone's character. Especially not that of a disciple.]
Jake's hesitation evaporated in the face of Xi's reasoning. He had no doubts that Cekt had his ways of assessing his disciples, such as reading their aura, but no method was truly foolproof.
'Alright, in that case, we'll bide our time a bit longer.' Jake conceded. 'Let's hope I'm worried for nothing!
Jake was not overly concerned for the two Oracle Knights, but the same could not be said for the remaining disciples. What vexed them was not the improbable notion that something could happen to Epsilom and Drakon, but rather the fear that they would get so far ahead in Cekt's test that the gap would become insurmountable.
Syrbarun, in particular, was especially anxious. As one of the weaker combatants Wendok's disciples, he could only rely on his creation of Aether Cores to make up for lost ground if all the Digestors were slain by his two companions...
"Damn it, why are those two fuckers the ones who can pass the barrier unscathed!" His wrath erupted, and he struck the barrier barring their path with a forceful punch.
It was not the first time the minotaur had lashed out against the force field, and the other disciples watched him make a spectacle of himself with mirthful anticipation, expecting another instance of him breaking his knuckles against the barrier, followed by a matched howl of pain.
"Ahhhh! Ah? WHAT THE
Jake and the remaining disciples sprung up, their expressions suddenly alert. Instead of smashing his fist against the barrier, Syrbarun's fist had passed through it, and caught off guard, he had been swept away by his momentum.
The barrier was erected at the edge of a precipice; the grumbling Vrusug had just plunged headfirst into the void...
"Is the barrier now letting us through? That makes no sense." Siri couldn't conceal her skepticism. This raised further questions. "Unless our master is behind this. In which case, he wants us to in a certain ord-"
Before she could finish, someone usurped her words with action. The Gorgonite charged fearlessly at the barrier, his rocky contours blurring with speed.
A ripple spread omnidirectionally from the point of impact, flinging Rigel back twice as fast as he had approached, a shower of rock and gem debris splattering the barrier in his wake.
"Or a fluke?" Hade suggested, arching an eyebrow. "Maybe the energy influx of the force field fluctuates, causing these rare moments of vulnerability. Perfect timing would allow you to slip through."
"But I don't detect any fluctuations indicating a power failure." Siri reported flatly, after running another scan.
Meanwhile, Rigel had already picked himself up. Debris that had separated from his cracked skull was reabsorbed into his body, reforming a glistening, smooth forehead.
"That was unexpected..." The Gorgonite grumbled, rubbing his forehead to assure it was all in place. "Beyond a certain inertia, the barrier throws our kinetic energy back at us, amplifying it hundreds of times. I thought I was a goner... Luckily, I'm hard-headed."
Jake and the others threw him a sympathetic glance. That explained why the Gorgonite had suffered such damage despite his low speed.
'Low speed' was, of course, relative. For a post- Fourth Ordeal Player and a mineral lifeform of his weight, Rigel was actually quite fast.
"If it's a matter of turn order, why don't we let someone else try?" Lucia suggested, advancing towards the barrier.
Jake expected her to be halted by the barrier like Rigel, but to everyone's surprise, she passed through it effortlessly, like Drakon and Syrbarun her. Meanwhile, Syrbarun had just managed to halt his fall and clamber back up to the surface.
Seeing him open his mouth but not hearing a sound, they deduced that the barrier also blocked sound waves-a logical expectation, considering the lethal cacophony that would result from the clashing magnetic fields. The plasma storm within could easily exceed 200 decibels.
In air, the theoretical maximum decibel is 194, beyond which a shockwave forms. However, while the decibel scale in the air capped at this point, the power of the resulting shockwave could continue to gain strength indefinitely.
Of course, there was no atmosphere on the surface of the Magnetic Resonator, rendering Syrbarun's attempt at verbal communication pointless. By straining his voice, he was wasting the air produced by Cekt's gifted helmet.
However, Jake reacted differently when Lucia began to excessively and slowly articulate, inviting him to read her lips.
"Hmm?" Jake realized it wasn't Syrbarun who was being foolish, but the barrier that was also blocking their telepathy attempts. 'But if I retain the same Artifact Incarnation, my mental sense can still go through.'
With this understanding, he enveloped Lucia and Syrbarun with his mental sense and asked them not to panic.
"You can hear us?!" Syrbarun exclaimed, both elated and shocked. Jake found his admiration somewhat insincere but attributed it to his inferiority complex.
"I can. But they can't," Jake responded vaguely. "We'll find a solution, so wait for us."
Lucia nodded with absolute confidence, but Syrbarun showed a hesitant expression. He finally had a chance to catch up, but lacked the courage to explore the funnel alone. In a creepy, loaded gesture, he turned expectantly towards Lucia, flashing his best smile.
"What do you want?" Lucia stepped back immediately, but after hearing his explanation, she was struck by a wave of excitement. "Okay! Let's go!"
"Don't rush and wait for us," Jake ordered in a patronizing tone.
Lucia pouted, but ultimately she obeyed. Syrbarun wore a wry smile but did not move either. As crucial as the test was, they still needed to be alive to appreciate the results.
Encouraged by Lucia's success, other disciples tried crossing the barrier but failed. Minutes passed, but unlike before, they were determined to test the solidity of the barrier, hoping to pass through by sheer luck.
Ironically, this method bore fruit. Less than two minutes after Lucia's successful crossing, Ulfar also made it through. Five minutes later, Rigel succeeded as well, followed by Siri ten minutes after, and then Hade half an hour later. Lyra could pass without assistance, leaving only Jake on the other side.
Assuming this was part of their master's plan, the others waited patiently on the other side. But when an hour and a half passed and Jake was still stuck, their attitude began to shift.
|·ƈθm "How about we start without you, and you catch up later?" Rigel suggested hesitantly. It seemed unfair, but they had already lost a lot of time.
Jake was not thrilled with this idea, but seeing the impatient expressions of Lucia, Ulfar, and others bored to death, he saw no way to persuade them to wait. Having already warned his companions about the Digestors infiltrating the Resonator, he vaguely said to the others,
"Start without me, but assume this place is teeming with Digestors. Don't separate under circumstances."
"That goes without saying!" Rigel agreed. "This is our master's test, after all."
Siri and the others nodded in agreement, following the eager lead of Syrbarun and Lucia, they plummeted into the bottomless funnel. Hade stayed a second longer behind and mouthed slowly to Jake,
"I will watch over them."
Watching him fly after them, disappearing into the abyss, Jake felt strangely abandoned after the departure of his three friends, including his new girlfriend.
'Is it because I've already passed his test?' Jake thought with a trace of derision. It was the only reason he could think of.