Floors forty-one to forty-five were a bit special in that they never truly changed between the eras. Every single iteration of Nevermore had these floors, and while they did vary, all had the same intent behind them:
Inform the denizens of the multiverse about some of the multiversally agreed-upon rules and best practices.
The choice of placing it so “late” into the dungeon wasn’t a coincidence either, neither was it accidental it had been placed on the C-grade floors. C-grade was when one usually began to explore beyond one’s own planets and began to interact with other factions and cultures.
Cultures which often had very different ways of handling things. Some had very well-defined castes and societal structures that effectively made certain people be born into slavery and others into opulence, while most simply segregated populations based on power, where all those weaker were heavily controlled by the powerful.
No one truly cared about forces that were too weak to interact with the rest of the multiverse, but those that did would be expected to follow certain codes of conduct. Nevermore was effectively a way to avoid factions coming up with the excuse that they didn’t know about certain rules – made it so that a B-grade could not forcefully have a Bloodline Patriarch join his faction and then claim ignorance. This had led to it truly becoming common knowledge, enough so that few even dared to try and circumvent them.
Even the Holy Church had heavily adapted how they approached individuals with Bloodlines. In the first few eras, it was normal for the Holy Church to effectively arrange marriages between those with Bloodlines with the expectations of them having a lot of children and hopefully even a variant Bloodline or two in there. Even if they didn’t have anyone else with a Bloodline to pair someone with, they would instead just throw them at a powerful person to instead lean on their Records.
Now, whenever a member with a Bloodline was born or joined, their level of control over said individual would be heavily limited, and they would be treated as unique entities with different stations than regular members. This was even true for those with useless Bloodlines. The fact that those with Bloodlines couldn’t enter the Holyland was also a major factor in this different level of treatment, but not the biggest one, as just the insinuation that the Holy Church forcefully coupled those with Bloodlines would lead to severe consequences, even for a faction often referred to as the most powerful in the multiverse.
Mind you, this didn’t mean far more subtle means weren’t still being deployed. The way the Emberflight tried to entice Jake into joining them was considered an acceptable method of trying to recruit someone with a Bloodline, and so was trying to pair them up with someone in the hope that something would come from that. The problem only arose when force was applied. This even applied to societal force, which was why the Holy Church was so careful in how it approached things.
The laws about Bloodlines had taken a lot longer to get accepted than those related to plagues but were now far more well-known. Some factions did still use plagues, but it was in heavily controlled settings and with lots of oversight, with some forms of plagues – such as Karmic Plagues – entirely banned. Plagues could also only be created by a set number of powerful factions, with only a few forces walking Paths that facilitated the creation of plagues. However, Bloodlines could be found everywhere. That is to say, limiting the use of plagues only negatively impacted a few factions for the betterment of the multiverse, while the rules around Bloodlines impacted everyone – or had the possibility to impact everyone.
This did mean some factions or people within factions didn’t quite agree with the rules related to Bloodlines… and floor forty-two had been an example of one such faction.
In retrospect, the story of floor forty-two was kind of cliché. At least, Jake thought so.
A kid had been born into a lower-level noble family, with seemingly nothing special about him. Yet his body housed a grand secret, a hidden power: he had a Bloodline. He was a special boy who was bound for greatness, even if no one knew it yet.
Until the fire pirates attacked.
The day after Jake and company arrived on the floor, a giant spaceship broke through the clouds as a sea of fire descended upon the city. This fire somehow didn’t damage anyone but swept them up and forcefully brought them into the spaceship of the pirates, everything happening in mere seconds.
Jake and the others managed to avoid the flames but were unable to really do anything. It took a total of ten seconds from the ship appearing to it taking off again. It was a fast operation… but not fast enough. A beam of light shot out from somewhere so far away even Jake couldn’t see it, as an object slammed into the side of the spaceship.
The pirates didn’t stand a chance as this object turned out to be an A-grade human who, with a single strike, tore the entire spaceship in two and saved the people who had just been kidnapped. Everything had gone so damn fast, and within an hour, everyone was back in the city, safe and sound.
All of this just seemed like one big showpiece, and Jake was unsure what exactly the purpose of everything was… until the very end of this scenario. The A-grade was a human wearing golden metal armor, and right before he took off, his eyes lingered on the boy with the Bloodline.
Three days later, a C-grade “inspector” from the Empire came. She claimed to be a healer there to make sure there were no lingering issues after the kidnapping attempt and focused primarily on the children. The thing is, this was clearly one big ruse, as the woman had a Bloodline, and she was capable of identifying the kid had one too.
Funnily enough, despite Jake and the others having snuck into the city and gotten close to the Lunevile family through some subtle social engineering from the Sword Saint, she didn’t bat an eye toward Jake and Dina, as if their Bloodlines were entirely invisible. It was odd, but on second thought, the floor would probably be impossible if anyone with a Bloodline attracted the same level of attention as the natives.
Anyway… to make a long story short, the inspector turned out to be a higher-ranked noble from the Empire, and she wanted to adopt the kid with a Bloodline, but the Lunevile noble family refused as he was their only child and the heir. The noblewoman didn’t take this kindly, and shit went south quick when she decided to just kidnap the kid, something the C-grade patriarch of the Lunevile family wasn’t a fan of.
A small skirmish began, and the Lunevile Patriarch ended up injuring the noblewoman before she fled. This put the Lunevile family in a difficult situation as they found out during this skirmish that the kid had a Bloodline, but also that this noblewoman was the niece of the Grand Marshal of the Empire – the very same A-grade who had torn the pirate ship down.
One thing led to another, and Jake’s party accepted escorting the kid to the capital of the Aloft Empire to seek help from the royal family. This seemed like a simple escort mission at first, but they soon realized there was one tiny little problem… the capital was on another planet with the only teleporter to get there controlled by the Grand Marshal’s noble family.
However, there luckily was a powerful space mage who was an old friend of the Lunevile family; he just happened to live on the other side of the planet. So, with that in mind, they set out.
Sixteen months and lots of twists and turns later, including having to do a damn fetch quest for the space mage, they arrived in the capital city of the Aloft Empire. From there, they had to jump through a lot of hoops to actually get an audience with the royal family while avoiding spies and agents coming after them. Their status could not be used on this floor at all, and same as everyone ignored the fact they had Bloodlines, so did their identities get ignored.
The entire floor was quite contrived, but the only people that the Grand Marshal’s family had sent to search for the kid were in C-grade, most of them early and mid-tier C-grade. This was excused by everyone in B-grade and above being heavily kept track of by the royal family and military, but Jake honestly wrote it off as bad justification for why a random B-grade didn’t just descend to smack their skulls in before kidnapping the kid.
Eventually, they did end up having a meeting with the royal family, where they revealed what the Grand Marshal had been doing. Only for it then to be revealed that the Grand Marshal had been planning a coup for a while and had one of the crown princes in cahoots with him. It was an entire thing that was honestly just background scenery to Jake and company having to flee through a hidden passage… but oh no, the very first noblewoman they had seen trying to kidnap the kid showed up with a party of powerful people all around level 280.
From there, a final battle ensued, ending up with their party naturally winning and getting out the other side of the hidden passage. All while defending a damn E-grade kid who they had to make sure didn’t get squashed into paste by a C-grade or kidnapped. Again.
Yeah, they had one occurrence during the many months of travel where they split up, and someone managed to steal the kid right under the Fallen King’s mask – something he had gotten plenty of shit for over the last year.
Anyway, the floor wasn’t the most exciting, even if they did experience some novel things. It was heavily themed around stealth and social engineering, which made the entire thing not super interesting most of the time. Until the final battle, that is, where it was incredibly obvious the Wyrmgod really wanted to hammer home the rule that trying to kidnap a kid with a Bloodline wasn’t gonna fly.
The scene happened to play out right as they came out of the hidden passage, something that was clearly no coincidence.
“The Dark Witch was more challenging,” Jake commented as they approached the exit of the long secret passage.
“It was a slightly disappointing final battle, but I guess it is factored in that we need to protect the child,” the Sword Saint agreed.
“Ree,” Sylphie screeched, making Jake nod.
“Yep, Dina sure trivialized that.”
Speaking of Dina. She was currently walking at the back of the group carrying the kid with a vine. Jake had knocked him out with a little bit of poison the moment any fighting started, with Dina then proceeding to protect the kid.
“He has a name, you know,” Dina grumbled a bit.
“We know,” the Sword Saint shook his head. “And I am glad that the floor is soon over and that I will not have to speak it again.”
“Yeah…” Jake sighed.
“I thank the system that I cannot have children if that menace is any indication of what it is like,” the Fallen King said in an even grumpier voice than Dina.
Oh yeah, because that was another added layer of difficulty… the kid was downright horrible. He got kidnapped because he ran off on his own, and he constantly made a ruckus whenever they were anywhere.
It wasn’t that he had strong NPC energy. No, the exact opposite was the problem. He had way too strong main character energy, and in the first many months, he treated Jake and company like his personal servants until the Sword Saint managed to instill just a tiny bit of discipline in the little fuck.
Jake was ninety-nine percent certain that the kid being such a little asshole was a mental trial to see if the party would snap and just kill him. Something that was surely a viable way to pass the floor… alas, they had come this far.
Though he could admit that if they were forced to start over halfway through, it would be difficult to stop the Fallen King from snapping and killing the kid so they could move on faster.
Only Dina managed to handle the child somewhat okay. She had way more patience than anyone else in their group, that was for sure.
Anyway, back to just before they make it through the hidden passage, Jake raised a hand as he spotted the exit leading out into the large plains surrounding the capital. Even if he saw nothing with Pulse, it was better to be safe than sorry. “Alright, just ahead, and we are out of here… be prepared for another damn plot twist or random ambush.”
With careful steps, they exited the escape tunnel, protective barriers at the ready. Far up in the sky, lights flashed, and the entire planet rumbled as two A-grades were fighting. They didn’t truly feel any of the fallout, as a large formation protected the planet, and the two fighting – the Emperor and Grand Marshal – didn’t want to destroy the capital, considering one ruled it and the other wanted to take it over.
Jake and company had barely managed to exit the secret tunnel and oriented themself when suddenly everything seemed to stop. The deep rumbling ceased, the flashing stopped... and then the pressure came. Instantly, the barrier that covered the entire planet shattered like a broken mirror, and the aura of a being far above A-grade spread across the world.
A few birds fell from the sky, unable of handling the pressure, and even Dina, the Fallen King, and Sword Saint slightly buckled their knees. Jake instantly knew what they were dealing with.
Why the fuck is a god here!?
Jake didn’t even have time to process the thought before he felt a presence lock onto them, and three figures teleported in from out of nowhere. One was the Grand Marshal, the other the Emperor, and the final figure was a young man who looked barely twenty wearing what looked like jeans and a simple sweater. One could easily mistake him for some average guy if not for his clearly divine aura.
The Emperor and Grand Marshal were both standing like statues, entirely frozen and unable to move as the divine being looked over Jake and his party before his eyes finally landed on the unconscious kid.
“Is that the child?” the god asked, getting straight to the point as he looked at the Emperor, who promptly unfroze and fell to his knees.
“Yes, your excellency… I was informed he has a Bloodline and later confirmed it… however, when I sought to confront my brother about his actions, he-“ the Emperor began but was stopped as the god raised a hand.
He then turned his attention to the Grand Marshal, who was also unfrozen and fell to his knees as well.
“My lord… I… I thought… I was told the Pantheon didn’t care about who ruled the Aloft Empire… why…” the Grand Marshal said as he knelt deeply, utterly incapable of even looking up.
“We don’t,” the god said in an annoyed tone.
“That kid has a Bloodline, you know that, right?”
“I… I know, so I thought that-“ the Grand Marshal tried as he stopped mid-sentence, seemingly incapable of continuing.
“Well, you should’ve thought some more now, shouldn’t you?” the god sighed as he finally looked at Jake’s party. “I take it you five are the ones who have been protecting the Bloodline Patriarch during all this time?”
Jake would like to note that the god didn’t even comment on two of them being entirely immune to his presence and the three others barely buckling. This only played into his belief this was pretty much just a glorified cutscene. Hence he responded accordingly.
“Yes, we did all we could to protect him from any who wished to kidnap him.”
The god just sighed again as he looked at the Grand Marshal. “Now, how come a bunch of C-grades know how to act, and you don’t? Don’t even answer that… I don’t care. What I do care about is the fact that the Aloft Empire belongs to me, and I am not about to see myself be held accountable for having the Bloodline Accords be broken under my watch.”
The A-grade Grand Marshal seemed to struggle with giving an answer as the god shook his head and waved his hand, the entire body of the A-grade exploding into a bloody mist. The Emperor looked on with wide eyes as he didn’t dare try to lift his head, shaking slightly the moment the Grand Marshal, who was apparently his brother, died.
“I hope I don’t need to elaborate on how I expect things to go from here? Let the kid go back to his family, and if I see or hear of even a single attempt to coerce or force him into doing anything, that will be the final day of the Aloft Empire. Am I clear?”the god asked the kneeling Emperor.
“Y… yes, I-“
“Great, we’re done here then. Take the kid with you while you’re at. Remember, I’ll be watching,” the god said as he once more waved his hand, and the Emperor, along with the sleeping child held by Dina, disappeared.
Jake and company stood there, watching all this unfold as silent spectators until the Emperor and child were both gone. When referring to the final part of the floor being interesting, it wasn’t just about what happened with the Grand Marshal and a god appearing… it was related to what happened next.
Without any aura of grandeur, the god turned toward them and had an incredibly confused look on his face.
“How the hell are you the Chosen of the Malefic Viper? Isn’t he in seclusion or something? What the fuck has happened in the ninety-third era!?”
“Wait, what?” Jake splurted out, confused, before quickly gathering himself. “Eh, the Malefic Viper is back… but…”
“Damn, really? Must have caused quite the uproar… and for him to even have a C-grade Chosen, that is very surprising,” the god slowly nodded as he turned to Dina. “Oh, and you are related to Nature’s Attendant, right?”
“Ye… yes,” Dina said nervously. 𝙡𝙞𝓫𝒓𝙚𝒂𝓭.𝓬𝒐𝓶
“Quite the impressive party… a Chosen, a Unique Lifeform… geez,” the god smiled, shaking his head casually.
“This may seem odd… but are you aware of where you are right now?” Jake questioned, unable to restrain his curiosity.
“In an image of the Aloft Empire, taken in the early parts of the ninety-second era. Or, if you are referring to where from a more meta-perspective, we are currently on floor forty-two of Nevermore,” the god answered casually. “And I am effectively here to teach you about how trying to force anyone with Bloodlines into reproducing or anything like that is very much against the rules… but I get the feeling you already know all this.”
“Huh,” Jake muttered. “I thought people in dungeons weren’t really aware they were in dungeons…”
“It works a bit differently for gods, especially a god who is contracted and paid to be here,” the guy waved it off. “Anyway, while I would love to stay here and chat, it is a waste of time for both of us. My true self won’t be aware of anything this image ever sees or learns, and you five look like the types to aim for high scores on the Leaderboards, so I won’t delay you anymore.”
“If I ma-“ the Sword Saint began as the god just disappeared, leaving a teleportation gate in his place.
“I think that’s a no,” Jake smirked as they turned their attention to the gateway leading to the next floor.
Taking their cue to proceed, they did just that.
In conclusion, floor forty-two was very much a mixed bag.
Oh, and not just one - but two - more interesting did happen during the floor… Jake reached level 230 during the floor, his class leveling up after the fight in the secret passage.
And with that, he had gained not just one but two skill selections.