Chapter 603: In unison
"So he managed to get there before me, huh? Well, at least I don’t have to worry about someone else." Eiro said to himself while swimming through the water of this plane at high speeds, trying to find this realm’s tower of books. The most annoying issue with this place was that there weren’t any sort of landmarks to orient himself by. In the elemental plane of fire, there were still mountains, rivers, or forests on a relatively flat plane, so as long as he had the right maps, the duplicate Eiro in that realm had an easy time searching for his destination.
However, the one in this realm was often struggling to even find the right direction to go in. The only things that he could orient himself by were the large bubbles of crystalized magic, but those were few and far-between, and the density of water didn’t change too much otherwise. On top of that, the people in this plane ‘went with the flow’ a bit too much in annoying situations, so the maps weren’t particularly detailed either. It seemed like the people simply didn’t care about these things, adjusting to the situation they were in, in usually the simplest way possible.
However, it seemed like Eiro was finally on the right route. The water was pretty dark around here, but that made it even more likely for the water to be around here. The tower couldn’t just be placed in a random location, after all. Putting it somewhere, where it would be hard to spot from a distance was the best choice, naturally. And then, as if he broke through a wall, the water around Eiro became brighter and less dense. In front of him, in the center of this bubble of darkness, was a huge crystal formation just floating in the water. Different to most other forms of crystalized magic that could be found in this plane, this seemed more natural. Most others were perfect spheres, as if they were bubbles of air in the water. But this looked more like a chunk of the inside of an enormous geode placed in the water, with spikes and natural crystal towers stretching out above from the ground.
And in the center of that magical formation stood a tower, shining in colors of corals and decorated with shells. There were a few magic beasts swimming around here that Eiro hadn’t seen anywhere else in this realm, "Heh… yeah, this is what something like the tower of books should look like." He pointed out, already noticing the other Eiro grumble to himself in annoyance. The tower in the elemental plane of fire was something that anyone could have built, it just looked like an old building placed in the middle of nowhere. But this? It really did look like it belonged to a being capable of doing such a thing, creating towers like this together with such huge organizations, all spread throughout multiple planes of existence.
With a few more flaps of his wings, Eiro pushed himself through the water, soon hovering right in front of the tower’s entrance. He was already holding the coin that he got from the library in his hand, and pushed it into the socket made for it. The door in front of him opened up, and without further ado, the Demon swam inside.
The inside seemed to be mostly the same as the tower in the elemental plane of fire, just that it was decorated in a way that fit this plane more. Just like how the outside of the tower was painted in colorful patterns and decorated with shells, the inside was rather similar, even if the base structure of the tower was practically identical.
It didn’t take long until one of the doors opened up, and a being swam through the door. Just like in the elemental plane of fire, they seemed to be a half-spirit, just in this case, they were half naiad, and half of a person of this plane. They still had the same androgynous look and build, with a mostly emotionless, albeit slightly annoyed, expression. And more importantly, even though some of their features were different, taking into account the way the beings on this plane looked, their face and build was practically identical to how the one from the fire plane’s tower of book looked. It could be compared to the difference between the duplicate Eiro in this realm, and the one on the plane of fire. As if someone, or something, had created them by hand.
The half-spirit just gave Eiro a quick nod, "I welcome you," they said, floating there in a relaxed way. Even their mannerisms seemed to be identical, "Since you passed the first test, it is time for the second."
"Right, right, just get to it, I already know the deal." Eiro explained, "And before you ask ‘how could you possibly know what is about to happen’, I’m not going to explain it to you either way, so simply proceeding as planned will save both of us some time."
Slowly, the half-spirit’s expression seemed to become a bit annoyed, considering the way that Eiro acted. But in the end, it didn’t seem like they actually minded all too much, "If that’s what you want, then so be it," they replied, soon swimming to the center of the room. The eyes of Eiro and the half-spirit met, and this time, the Demon made sure to use all his senses and concentrate on what was happening, and how exactly this half-spirit was going to do what it was about to do.
"%$§/=?!$" They said, and once more, a stunning flow of information entered Eiro’s mind as a whole book’s content was conveyed to him in the span of a single word. It was just that this time, he was prepared for it, so it didn’t take him as long to recover, and the duplicates in the mental library were already busy at work trying to decypher everything. Meanwhile, this actual physical duplicate was thinking about how to possibly replicate what the half-spirit just did. However, he quickly realized that it most likely wasn’t something physical, but rather, a special ability or skill allowed them to do something like this. Maybe it was related to the librarian themselves. It would make sense if they had abilities related to conveying knowledge quickly, and compressing so much information into a single spoken word was basically the greatest way to do that.
"Would you like me to repeat myself?" The half-spirit asked, and Eiro raised his brows, looking back at them, "Huh? Oh no, thanks, I’m fine." He replied, and held his hand in front of his body. Luckily, he had done the same preparations as the other duplicate Eiro, and bought some books and a pen, the latter of which the original was gladly duplicating for him a few times. And then, after pulling all those things out, Eiro pulled over a weighted desk as well, that allowed the Demon to work at it properly.
"Give me… about two hours, I guess. I should be done by then." Eiro told the half-spirit, before carefully pulling the crystal pages out of one of the books, placing them down on a small pile beside him. The half-spirit was confused to see what was happening, but of course, the Demon didn’t wait for much longer to actually start, and quickly proceeded to write down the decoded book on the crystal pages, while the half-spirit watched him curiously. Just a few hours later, Eiro was done, and placed the pages back into the book as if he had never pulled them out in the first place, before throwing it over toward the half-spirit. Of course, since they were in water, the book just carefully floated over to them.
The half-spirit flipped it open, carefully flipping through the pages. Soon, they confirmed that the content matched what they said, and then they seemed to move on to take a closer look at the book itself, since Eiro had pulled the pages from it so smoothly, just to reattach them with ease.
"…With this, I have confirmed that you passed both the second and third test," the half-spirit explained, and Eiro couldn’t help himself but keep on grinning, "Eh~? That so? That mean I can get into the tower’s first floor now?"
The half-spirit frowned slightly and looked back at Eiro, "You keep acting weirdly. Have you been here before?"
"Well, not ‘here’ directly. I’m currently also in the tower of books of the elemental plane of fire, though," he replied immediately, and the half-spirit widened their eyes confused, "What do you mean?"
"Hm… can’t hurt to just say it outright. I’m a unique demon from the central elemental plane. The Monster King used the Sage’s soul to create me. But well, technically, I have a splinter inside of me that completely absorbed the splinter of ‘The Sage’, so that being simply ceased to exist. Anyway, I became the guardian of two spirit gateways, one to this plane and one to the plane of fire, after being acknowledged by the former naiad queen and current salamander king. And then, I used the Mirror of Duplication to create duplicates of me that all share the same mind, fused them with magic, and then had them travel through the gateways. Although technically, it wasn’t ‘I’ that did it, but the original." Eiro explained, and the half-spirit looked into the Demon’s eyes, trying to figure out if what he was saying was actually the complete nonsense that it sounded to be. However, after thinking for a few moments, they closed their eyes. Meanwhile, in the plane of fire, the other half-spirit did the exact same thing in front of the other duplicate Eiro.
The mouths of both half-spirits opened up, as if they were suddenly linked together in complete synchronisity, so the two Eiros figured they would do something similar. The half-spirits asked, "Is it the truth?"
The duplicate Eiro’s both smiled, and looked back at the spirits, speaking in unison, "Yeah. Obviously it is."