Wuxiaworld > Babel > 31 Observer

While Linnaeus and Ryuuna were cooped up in their respective hovels, a group of nine entities could be found sitting around a circular table. Each was vaguely humanoid in build but, at a glance, it was very apparent they were more animalistic than the vast majority of sentient creatures calling Lumen home.
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The largest of these entities looked like a lanky lemur, complete with large ears and a tail. However, even whilst seated, its height was more than 3m and, rather than walk around baring its body, it had elected to wear a very prim and proper business suit. Though it had a face almost indistinguishable from an actual lemur, the golden monocle on its left eye and its neatly groomed tuft of hair gave it a distinctly uncanny vibe.

Seated alongside the humanoid lemur were its comrades, each having distinctly humanoid body structures dominated by the features of a bat, cat, fox, dog, sheep, tanuki, loris, and a sloth. They were all wearing formal attire, much like the lemur, while three of the nine even had on cocktail dresses that sharply contrasted their animalistic features.

Among the three female figures, the one with the features of a slot used her long nail to tap on a tiny bubble, one of an incalculable number floating above the table. She had an amused expression on her face that caught the attention of the female fox and male cat to her left. They preceded her in the ordering of chairs around the table, placing her at the third seat leading up to the tall lemur.

With a sly smile of her own, the fox woman asked, "Quo'aa, did you find something interesting~?" as she reached out to tap on the tiny bubble. In response to this, the sloth woman, Quo'aa, lightly swat the fox woman's hand away as she stated, "Mind the matters of your own Floor, Feena. These little ones are my responsibility now."

Feena barred her teeth in mock aggression after hearing Quo'aa's words before flicking the sloth-woman's face with her nimble tail and snatching the bubble. This caused the cat-man at the side to snicker in amusement while Quo'aa, with Feena's tail still in her face, just blew away the offending appendage with a slightly annoyed look on her face.

Since he was only separated from her by the cat-man, the lemur humanoid looked to his right and stated in a high-pitched tone that belied his seriousness, "Feena, do not interfere in the matters of other Floor Guardians."

Hearing her senior Guardian's words, Feena poked her tongue out playfully before saying, "Don't be such a stickler, Ringo. I'm not breaking any rules by taking a peek. Besides, it isn't like the challenge on my Floor needs close scrutiny."

In response to Feena's words, Ringo rolled his eyes before releasing a tired sigh. She wasn't actually breaking any rules so, while he wanted to reprimand her, there was ultimately no reason to. If they weren't allowed some small amount of freedom, most Floor Guardians would have lost their mind millennia ago. Since it was troublesome finding a replacement Guardian, he could tolerate a bit of selfishness on behalf of his junior members.

Seeing Ringo's reaction, Feena gave a victory sign with her right hand before turning her attention to the scene visible within the bubble. Despite its small size, this tiny bubble showed the scene of nearly every Fledgling participating in a given test all at once. As Floor Guardians, they could handle seeing the world through thousands of different perspectives simultaneously so it was a simple matter for her to view an additional nine.

Seated to the left of Feena, the cat-like man mused, "Tell me what you see, Feena. I'm curious." while trying to sneak the tiny bubble for himself. Unfortunately for him, Quo'aa snatched it away while her companion was distracted, causing Feena to snap her teeth aggressively while the cat-man began to laugh once again.

Quo'aa just snorted toward the two before shielding the bubble in her hands and taking a closer look for herself. There, she could see Linnaeus, Ryuuna, and seven other Fledglings all fighting to be the last group on the Third Floor. Though she normally didn't care all that much, Quo'aa was a little interested in the two Love Birds that had been toyed with by Feena. She rarely showed any emotion on her face but Quo'aa actually liked drama quite a bit, especially of the romantic variety.

Feena knew Quo'aa'a nature well as, for the last 7,319 years, they had been neighbors around the table. It was because she liked to tease others, Quo'aa included, that she had given the Love Bird Titles to Linnaeus and Ryuuna. Thus, seeing who Quu'aa was spying upon, Feena began to snicker before asking, "Are they having a lover's quarrel~? Ushishishishi~"

Hearing Feena's question, Quo'aa gave her a side-long glance before answering, "That little Dwelf is quite violent. She had a disagreement with the little Hybrid so she beat him up before running off into the wasteland. After that, the Hybrid ran in the opposite direction and now they are both slowly freezing to death due to their obstinance...young love is quite complicated, umu."

Feena immediately burst out laughing when she heard Quo'aa's words as the whole reason she had made Linnaeus and Ryuuna Love Birds was due to their contrasting, yet similar, natures. She knew it would cause them to be at odds with each other but, with very few ways to entertain herself, Feena didn't mind putting them through an extra trial or two. If they were able to overcome their personal differences and work together, the Love Bird Title was actually extremely useful.

Tired of being left out of the loop, the cat-man lay his head down dejectedly on the table, his face forming a pout as he said, "You girls...don't do this to me. Aren't we friends? I want to see what is so interesting..."

Ringo, seated to the cat-man's left, nudged the pouting Guardian in the side with his elbow before saying, "Don't slack off, Servalan. The challenge of the First Floor is one of the most important. If I review your work and find you made any mistakes..."

With the nudge to his side being less than gentle, Servalan's body jolted before his expression became even dourer as he said, "Boss, even you want to bully me? Just because I'm the newest Guardian...*sniffle*..."

Not convinced by Servalan's act, Ringo gave him a hard look that caused the cat-like Guardian to release a sigh before he began focusing on his own work. At any given moment, they had to view a total of 1000 groups of Fledglings so he couldn't really slack off for too long. As Ringo had pointed out, it was very important to organize the Fledglings and evaluate them on the First Floor as it could seriously disrupt future challenges.

What most people didn't know, even among the Eight Heavenly Families, was that the Guardians changed the rules slightly to level the playing field. Though they proactively rewarded those who put in an earnest effort to climb higher, they also intervened to give weaker Fledglings a chance. If they didn't do this, only those with combat-oriented Blessings would have any chance to reach the higher floors.

By observing every Fledgling in their charge, the Guardians would do things like alter the terrain to put obstacles between weaker and stronger Fledglings, assign Titles that would help foster attribute growth, and even manipulate the match-ups in some of the challenges that pitted Fledglings against each other. This was how Linnaeus ended up against the Rank 1 Fledgling as, after seeing how he used his [Barrer] Magic on the First Floor, they knew it would be next to impossible for the Rank 1 to hunt him down. As a result, Linnaeus' chances at survival were increased while the pressure he would experience gave him a stronger drive to become stronger.

Though unexpected occurrences happened all the time, this was largely due to the Luck and Karma of the individual Fledglings. Those with higher Luck were favored by the Akashic System, even within the Tower. This meant they would get more drops from monsters and, without their knowledge, they might even avoid a potentially dangerous situation purely by happenstance.

After Luck, Karma was the attribute that most heavily influenced a person's fate. It was one of the hidden attributes of the Akashic System that directly weighed the motivations of a person against their actions. This would cause the to accrue positive and negative karma which, quite literally, had an influence on their Fate. Those who had higher positive Karma tended to have more fortuitous encounters while those with higher negative Karma often experienced sudden misfortune.

Regardless of whether your Karma was positive or negative, you could overcome your Fate if you had high enough attributes and strong enough willpower. This meant that even 'evil' people could grow stronger, often without any upper limits. Though they would find themselves pitted against those with high positive Karma, this was just another way in which the Tower and the Akashic System promoted the growth of each individual.

Linnaeus wasn't aware of it, but his Karma had almost equal values of positive and negative Karma as, while he never really wanted to kill people, he had accumulated quite the body count. If not for his charity toward other Street Urchins, as he would sometimes hand out food and rescue those who were being beaten too roughly, he would have accumulated much more negative Karma.

Because it was very rare for a person to have almost equal amounts of positive and negative Karma, Linnaeus was a curious existence to the Floor Guardians who had observed him. Not only was he one of the few Fledglings that didn't actually care about climbing the Tower, but his contrary nature was interesting to observe.

Feena had been especially taken with Linnaeus and, due to sheer boredom, she liked to push the boundaries when it came to interfering with her challenges. Thus, when she had the chance to mess with him and Ryuuna, she simply couldn't resist the temptation. Her only regret being unable to watch the drama unfold directly but, as there were interesting Fledglings in every batch, she would soon forget he even existed.

This was the same for every Guardian and, unless there was a truly exceptional Fledgling, they would soon forget them in the vast, seemingly infinite stream, of other Fledglings. There were an average of 48,000,000 Fledglings entering the Tower every day so it was very rare for any of them to leave a strong impression on Guardians who had witnessed nearly two-hundred trillion Fledglings during their service as Floor Guardians. For those like Ringo, who had held his position for more than 20,000 years, he had seen double that amount.

The only Fledglings that were truly memorable were those who had been given the title of Daredevil and Frontier Explorer. These individuals usually left quite an impact on other Fledglings during their climb while the latter consisted of the top 100 Rankers in the entire Tower. Since the Tower was like a massive filter, the number of people on higher Floors exponentially decreased so, in the example of the 106th Floor's Guardian, they only had to keep track of a total of three individuals.

Once a group of Fledglings reached the 10th Floor, they would be given two ranks, one showing how they matched up to people in their same groupings while the other showed their overall rank in the entire Tower. Currently, there were close to 13 trillion people actively climbing the Tower while, on the Floors where communities had settled in, the population skyrocketed to nearly thirty trillion. This made it exceptionally difficult to stand out so, for the time being, Linnaeus had no idea how lucky he was to have the attention of two Floor Guardians...at least for a short while.