Finn sat under the sunlight, gazing into nothing, his mind in disarray.
What happened? What came over me? Finn remembered everything now that his mind was clear. He had felt a powerful urge to kill the beast. Not just that, he felt the need to make it suffer for daring to attack him!
Something's wrong with me... Finn couldn't help but feel fear at this revelation.
Several theories popped into his head as he struggled to understand the cause of his sudden bloodlust and cruelty.
Anger, he was familiar with. His past life was full of memories of being angry or even enraged at things. This though... this was different.
There was anger, yes, but it was tainted with a feeling of... Finn could only describe it as bloodthirsty excitement. Joy in the suffering of something that tried to hurt him.
That, Finn was absolutely certain, was not something he ever felt in his past life.
Finn's eyes opened wide. An idea had popped into his head, something that he had never considered before.
Maybe I'm slowly being influenced by the instincts and biology of my new form! This harrowing conclusion made Finn shudder.
Am I slowly and unnoticeabley changing? Will I start becoming colder and crueler? Will I still be myself in the future? These were several questions that chipped at Finn's confidence for the future.
Will I... cease being me? This was the deepest fear Finn held. He shook his head, banishing the depressing thoughts.
No! I refuse to believe that!
Finn had always believed in the power of mind over matter. No matter what influences someone, they always made choices. People are ultimately defined by those choices.
Finn nodded resolutely. I will not let myself become something I'm not! I just have to be careful in the future... Finn made a mental note of the unfamiliar emotions he felt before.
I'm the future, if he felt it again, he would remember to focus to maintain his self control.
Pacifying himself for the time being, Finn decided to worry more about his immediate surroundings. It seemed no matter where he went, danger lurked everywhere.
The surrounding forest, once seemingly calm and peaceful, now had a hint sinisterness to it as Finn looked around. For all he knew, there could be some other horrible beast hiding in the shadows.
Picking up no strange smells or warning signals, Finn turned his attention to the cooked corpse that lay in front of him. Walking to its oversized head, Finn carefully pried open its mouth.
Finn winced internally. Its teeth were huge! Each one was as large as a small dagger and just as sharp. They resembled sharks teeth, but these also had serrated edges.
To think that these would have been the teeth used to slice me up... Although Finn felt guilty for enjoying torturing it, he still was quite glad he survived the encounter.
Although, Finn suspected the only reason he was alive was because of his rationality. A regular beast would likely not have been smart enough to escape its death grip like Finn had.
Unfortunately, you met me. May you terrorize other lizards in your afterlife... Finn considered what to do with the body.
The skin color was now charred black from the roasting Finn had given it earlier, but underneath there was definitely a lot of fresh meat.
Oh yea! If I recall, it was able to resist my attacks somewhat... Finn wondered if this river monster also had a magic stone or core of some kind.
Examining closely, he didn't see a stone embedded into its body. Must have a core then... Finn resigned himself to digging through the body.
With fresh blood staining his claws, Finn held in his claw a dark blue, almost purple gem shaped like a smooth rock. As he flipped and examined it, he could sense power flowing inside.
Interesting... As he gazed into the core, Finn realized that he had never thoroughly examined one up close before. He knew what they looked like, but he had never personally handled one.
It's really quite beautiful! Judging from its size and color, it must be a rank two core with a water affinity... Finn glanced at the mutilated corpse he pulled it from.
It made perfect sense, after all. A magical beast that lives and hunts in the water would probably have a water affinity.
Now that he thought about it, there were certain trends he noticed before when reading the bestiary. Most flying magical beasts had wind affinities, while most burrowing magical beasts had earth affinities.
Although as with everything else, there were always exceptions... Finn pushed the distracting thoughts to the back of his mind and focused again on the core.
Finn could feel the energy contained within. However, Finn could also sense that the glowing bluish-purple energy seemed... hostile, as if it was rejecting him.
Why is this? Naturally, this only made Finn more curious. He suddenly had a novel idea.
Remembering how he had once tried to force his own energy into a stick, Finn was interested to see what would happen if he tried forcing it into this stone that was rejecting him.
For science of course!
Gripping the core tightly, Finn shut his eyes and concentrated.
Finn could feel his power manifesting itself in his claws. Opening his eyes slowly, he saw his own warm, yellowish-white energy starting to surround and envelop the darker stone like a cocoon.
Finn could feel a repulsive force coming from the core, like if magnets of the same polarity were pushed together.
However, as Finn focused more of his power into the core, something began to change.
Finn watched as his own light energy started seeping into the core, overcoming its natural resistance and slowly changing its color.
Amazing! The core started turning from a dark, bluish-purple hue, into a color similar to his own energy.
My energy is converting the energy in the core to my own! This was a mind blowing revelation!
Now Finn was beginning to understand how and why people would hunt magical beasts for their stones and cores.
If they could convert and absorb the concentrated energy from cores, they could advance in rank and power much faster!
Feeling as though he had solved a big puzzle, Finn continued to watch as the core finally turned a brilliant shade of white in his claw.
The rejection from before was gone, and the concentrated energy inside felt just as familiar as his own.
Continuing his experiment, Finn started directing the energy in the transformed core to his own body...
Whoa! As the first slivers of energy from the converted core entered his own body, Finn couldn't help but mentally exclaim. The energy was potent!
The energy flowed into his form through his arm and eventually traveled to his own core, saturating it with power.
This feels incredible... Finn felt his cells come alive with vibrant light energy. Heat was flowing through his veins, relaxing his muscles and providing feelings of contentment and comfort.
If it feels this good, I can see why other magical beasts hunt each other... Finn made another connection to his discovery.
However, Finn lacked any corresponding knowledge on how other beasts converted the power to their own, so he could only make assumptions.
He somewhat doubted that less intelligent magical beasts would be able to do what he just did.
Maybe they simply swallow them... Finn made an educated guess. If I ate one, would my body naturally begin to convert and absorb its energy?
As Finn pulled more and more power from the converted core into his own, he felt his core reaching a threshold.
Every day since he had broken through to rank two, Finn had been slowly absorbing more and more sunlight. As his core had been saturated with energy constantly, it had been slowly growing.
Now, Finn could subconsciously feel that it was beginning to hit some kind of peak.
Hmm? Something inside him began to react strangely. His core was beginning to turn chaotic, the energy within becoming violent and unrestrained.
Not good! Finn tried to stop channeling energy from the converted core in a bid to regain control, but it was too late.
Almost as if it had a mind of its own, Finn's core rapidly sucked the the remaining energy from the converted core like a sponge, before Finn could toss it away.
As the last of the energy was drained from the converted core, it quickly crumbled to dust in his claw, but Finn was too preoccupied to notice.
Gah! Finn let out an involuntary cry as he felt a sharp pain in his chest, he clenched his form up to prevent himself from convulsing, trying to ride out the storm brewing in his chest.
The pain he was feeling was akin to someone pushing a hot knife into his chest. Then, without warning, Finn felt the core in his chest shatter.
Roaring in agony, Finn collapsed to the ground, panting rapidly as terror engulfed him. The pain was excruciating and Finn felt confused and frightened, unable to form coherent thoughts.
However, just as quick as it came, the pain started receding. Like a cramp that finally relaxed, Finn felt a tremendous sense of relief followed by waves of exhaustion.
Upon inspection, Finn realized with shock that he could no longer sense his own core! Although he still felt completely saturated and full of energy, he had no core and therefore, no control over that energy.
What's happening to me? Finn sat with his eyes closed as he closely followed the changes occurring to his body.
Slowly but surely, Finn observed as the saturated energy that was filling his body began coalescing back into his chest area.
After many hours of sitting under the shade of a tree, the ordeal was finally over. Finn's core had reformed!
What was once a small hand sized stone, Finn's core nearly quadrupled in size! Now, it would be hard to hold with two hands.
Is this what advancing in rank is like for magical beasts? Finn had once read that magical beasts will be vulnerable during the periods when they were about to advance or during advancement.
Now, he completely understood why. It was incredibly painful!
Not only that, but I was unable to manipulate or control any of my own energy during the process. If another beast had attacked me during that time, I would have been severely hindered.
Although he could still move while it was occurring, he had felt much weaker as his core was reforming. It wasn't just that though, Finn also had an instinctual feeling deep down that movement would have been bad during the coalescing stage.
Finn remembered how his energy had become violent and chaotic for a short time. Was it possible that he could have exploded if his energy got too violent?
That thought made Finn shudder. Ignoring the negative possibilities, he began probing his larger core.
Unbelievable... The amount of energy I can now store has increased by a factor of ten! Finn could hardly believe it. He immediately wanted to test out his new strength, but ultimately decided against it.
Having just gone through a life and death battle, Finn decided to wait until his energy settled. Finn could still detect instability in his core, so it wasn't wise to push the limit.
Despite it only being the afternoon, Finn curled himself securely under the shade of a tree and fell asleep through to the next day.
Awakened by his growling stomach, Finn headed over to the corpse of the river monster. Beggars couldn't be choosers. He would have to settle for eating whatever was available for the time being.
Finn cut out a portion that looked the freshest, despite being a day old already.
I guess my food palette has really been totally numbed by this point... Finn felt shock at how little he cared at this point about the quality.
Shooting a beam of light to cook a portion he had sliced, all concerns were thrown out the window when he smelled the cooking flesh.
Oh, interesting... Finn felt his control over the intensity of the sunbeam had dramatically improved. There would be time to test this more later, though.
After eating his fill, Finn picked a random direction and headed off. It was time to keep moving. Every day he was in this forest was another day of fear and paranoia.
Finn internally sighed as he trudged along. He missed the peaceful days when he wasn't always being attacked.
I'm too old for this...