476 The Harsh Truth
Norma was silent for a bit before answering slowly. "It was the Origin Gods of the various Tradeskills. They had communed and assisted me in preparing the Treasury, going so far as to hide it from prying eyes, as well as preserving my legacy."
She said this with a lot of pride. Then again, it was clearly justified. Who in this world could claim to have the unconditional support of any Origin God, much less that many? Even Draco had only met two who simply favored him a little.
What they had done for him and what they had done for Norma were leagues apart. However, Draco exhaled through his nose lightly, unsure about what to say after he asked his third question.
"You have not really answered the 'and why'." Draco pointed out.
"According to them, there would be a war happening between the various gods in the Divine World that would even affect those mortals of the main plane. It was going to be a disaster of epic proportions, and due to how close I was to completing my path, they couldn't allow me to be harmed since many factions had their eyes set on me."
"As such, we'd brought all my descendants here and created this Treasury. The tests were only added in later, when I felt my natural lifetime coming to an end due to the lack of organic energy."
Norma waved her hands lightly. "What you see and feel to be potent energy in here is basically from me shedding my corporal body, not a natural occurrence of this Treasury."
"If you want to understand this in simplified terms, if I were a mortal, I had been slowly dying from asphyxiation." Norma concluded.
Draco nodded. Her example was apt. It certainly sounded as if her situation was not too different from someone who had been buried alive. Sure, such a person would have oxygen to last them a while, but the longer they stayed inside, the more it would be converted into carbon dioxide, which was not exactly the favored palette of the lungs.
In her case, it was energy. She radiated Divine, Aetheric, Worldly, and Origin Energy that had eventually filled up the Treasury and had increased the quality of life for all residents here, but those were her 'exhalations'.
Since she kept 'breathing' them back in, it had ruined her until her life came to an end, at which point she must have transferred her consciousness into this spirit form. However, why had she called it a 'natural' end though? Who would ever think that a mighty God could perish because they ran out of 'oxygen'?
"Final inquiry. Why did you not leave the treasury occasionally to get fresh energy?" Draco asked solemnly.
"I had done that every now and then at first, but I was forced to stop after I felt many eyes on my person. The last time I headed out, I was almost killed and if it hadn't been for the intervention of the Origin Gods at the last second, my enemies might have discovered the location of the Treasury as well." Norma recounted with a heavy expression.
"This…" Draco sputtered as he was left utterly speechless!
He couldn't believe this! This was something he would never have dared to think if the facts didn't conveniently align themselves together in this angle! This was utterly crazy!
Scandal! This was a huge scandal!
Draco slumped into his seat and began sweating in silence. He was unsure whether to reveal the truth of everything or to let Norma die in ignorance. However, he decided to let her know in the end.
After all, despite trying to 'delete' him, she was still about to 'give' her Inheritance to him in its totality. This was the least he could do as thanks for the great boons he would be enjoying henceforth.
Draco sighed and rose to his feet. He gazed at Norma for a long second, while the Refinement Goddess looked back with an almost blank expression, like she was unbothered by any of this.
"Madam Norma, forgive me for my behavior towards you up until now. I've only acted that way due to the confidence I had in being the only one to fit your requirements in all these years."
Norma was alarmed. She had an elementary understanding of this fellow's personality and knew that for him to apologize like this, he must have seen or learned something about her that garnered his pity.
"Hybrid Draco, what are you trying to say…?" Norma asked uncertainly.
Draco took in a deep breath and began.
"Norma, after hearing your story, I can only come to one conclusion. You likely were never hunted by any True Gods. Even if you had been, they likely could have never harmed you."
"I do not know exactly what your Tradeskill path is, except that it must have to do with Refinement. This, to those in the know, is a field so valuable that they had been willing to do anything to acquire it."
"The Origin Gods themselves valued your path but could not claim it, because they already have their attributes and - correct me if I am wrong - they can only have one of those."
Norma seemed lost, but still nodded. "Yes, this is the barrier that stops all Semi-Origin Gods. Some, like me, have gathered huge amounts of Origin Energy over time due to our particular attributes/skill, but still cannot become Origin Gods precisely because we haven't yet perfected that attribute/skill in question."
Draco nodded. So, in other words, they had to raise the Rank of their path/attribute to Origin Rank. That would give them the Origin Combat Rank. Then with the Origin Energy they accumulated, they could kickstart an Origin-grade Source Origin and produce Origin Energy naturally.
Sounded simple enough on paper, but… Draco could feel the intense struggle Norma and her kind must have gone through to even achieve Semi-Origin Rank.
No, they should be called Quasi-Origin. Semi-Origin would mean that they either had a genuine Origin-grade Source Origin that produced Origin Energy naturally, or they had carried an attribute to the Origin Rank, giving them the ability to actually use the power, but still lacked the other.
It's here the distinction should be brought forth. Combat Rank/Origin Rank would mean that the entity in question could utilize skills/spells of that grade, and the power they manifested would naturally be of that grade as well.
A simple punch would be Origin Rank, a sneeze would be Origin Rank, any item created through a Tradeskill at that same grade would be Origin Rank as well.
However, the Source Origin/State of Being denoted the ability to generate the purest energy of that Rank organically. Your blows might not be Origin Rank, but the power fueling them would be, meaning that they would morph into something greater.
To put it simply, Combat Rank/Actual Rank was like the engine/vehicle while the Source Origin/State of Being was like the fuel. For the purpose of this example and clarification, if one put top-tier fuel in a shitty car, it would make that shitty car move faster and better at its own expense. If one had a high-tier supercar but used shitty fuel, it might move quickly but its performance would be lacking for a car of that standard.
Draco rounded up his thoughts and got back to the matter at hand. "As the Origin Gods themselves were unable to claim your special and much-desired path, the next best thing would be to make sure the person practicing it would be in their good books. I'm assuming they showered you with much love and attention?"
Norma was still lost as to where this was going, but her heart began to thump. A fear that surpassed the one of death started to raise its ugly head inside her, an emotion so suffocating and visceral that she found herself speaking in almost a trance.
"They did. Even though it had led to great instability at times, they would take turns to briefly pause their eternal work to help me along my way or warn me of dangers, also granting me many boons. Even though my path allowed me to gather a lot of Origin Energy, I would have to admit that many of the resources you see in this Treasury had been bestowed on me by them."
Draco wiped his forehead lightly and smacked his lips with discomfort. This was making him feel… very bad. Really, really bad.
"I see. And what about you? How did you interact with them? How did you treat them?"
Norma paused and reminisced. "In the beginning, I was eternally grateful for their assistance. It was a heaven-sent help to me who had been far from Divinity back then, and had only begun trudging along my long and arduous path."
"However, it soon became too much. They wanted to monitor me at all times and always checked over my shoulders. It didn't take long for me to become quite annoyed with them, though I initially didn't dare to show it."
"However, the more powerful I became and the closer I came to reaching my goal, the less I paid them any respects. I was a Semi-Origin God on the cusp of upgrading. Not to mention my path was the foundation of all of theirs and was superior in every way."
Norma smiled thinly. "Had I become a True Origin Goddess, I could have handled the work of over 10,000 Origin Gods. Many of them could have taken a break to experience what it's like to live. They needed me to achieve that goal, and I had been aware of that. As such, I had stopped letting them lead me around by the nose."
Draco hiccupped. Shit!
"While that is absurdly amazing, I fear that I have to correct you first. From all you've told me, a path or attribute can be developed by any person and brought to the Origin Rank. Your particular path would see that the work of the Origin Gods would be reduced greatly and as such, they had invested heavily in you but also wanted to control you… which you resisted ultimately, correct?"
Norma frowned. "Yes, that is an apt summary. What's the issue?"
Draco shook his head. "No, pay attention to my wording. A path or attribute can be developed by ANY person."
Draco gazed at the Refinement Goddess as calmly as he could. "What the Origin Gods need most is a fellow Origin God who can use your developed path of Refinement at that Rank. That 'fellow Origin God' doesn't need to specifically be you…"
Norma froze. Her mind quaked at the revelation Draco pushed onto her and her breathing hitched. The fear that had been quietly building up and simmering was beginning to show signs of exploding.
Draco continued to hammer down. "You've never received a direct threat or so much as a warning from any other True God during that time, have you? From what you've told me, the ones to inform you about everything were the Origin Gods... You must have believed them, because why would such being lie to you, but think about it, which True God would have the balls to challenge a Semi-Origin God?"
"Sigurd and his pantheon? They only got lucky because they had a weapon specifically meant to cull Dragons and Sigurd had slowly built up his power by killing weaker ones before climbing up the hierarchy."
"Who would even try to kill you? At that time, you were the favored Deity that the Origin Gods had been grooming. Someone whose path meant so much to the current Origin Gods that they'd gone so far as to take breaks from their eternal duty, who would dare?"
"Why couldn't they simply protect you? There is no such excuse as something preventing them from intervening. When the Ultima Sunt race had been showing signs of being a threat, wasn't it an Origin God who had punched down and extinguished the entire race?"
"Why couldn't they simply do the same to the offending True Gods? The answer is because there had never been anyone to strike in that situation."
"They had noticed you growing rebellious, so they wanted someone other than you to reach the Origin Rank. For that, they must have waited until you were on the cusp of achieving it before executing their plan. Naturally, they couldn't just tell you to die and leave an Inheritance. What if you got enraged and destroyed everything? Then where would they cry to?"
"Their best option was to convince you to lock yourself away and then trick you into killing yourself. Upon reaching death, your instincts as a Tradeskill master would force you to make sure that you would look for someone to continue to finish your lifetime's work. Then, as if they had predicted it, they assisted you in setting up an Inheritance for future generations to inherit your work."
"It would take time and a lot of luck to find someone as talented as you in Tradeskills to finish your path. The probability was low and the time it would take could range from the very first Inheritance competition to 70 million years later. if not longer."
"But what is time to Origin Gods who have existed since the beginning of time itself and are beings equal to the universe? Were they wrong for waiting? After all, a being like me had appeared eventually, a perfect replacement for you."
"Hence, two Origin Gods nonchalantly blessed me in order to win my favor as they deduced that I would likely be your next Inheritor."