Blood Emperor (Chapter Twenty-Eight)

Discussion in 'Original Stories' started by SilkwormLarvae, Jun 13, 2017.

  1. SilkwormLarvae

    SilkwormLarvae Member

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    Chapter Twenty

    Silence filled Kael's mind. He could not comprehend what Dean had just told him. No, he chose not to accept it.

    My leg. He thought. My leg will be unusable? He glanced at his bandaged leg, slowly moving his hands towards it. Dean continued to talk, but Kael couldn't hear anything. He clawed at the bandages trying to pry his leg free; he even started punching it hoping to feel at least something.

    Nothing.

    "Tell me you are lying Dean." Kael said, tears streaming down his face. "Tell me I won't lose it."

    "Kael, I wish I was..."

    "No!" Kael said, clawing at his leg once more. "Take it off. Let me see."

    "Kael. Stop." Dean said, grabbing Kael's flailing arms. "Don't worry. Everything is fine."

    "How can it be fine. You just told me I will lose my leg. I'm going to be a cripple."

    "I said you might. If we take care of it and use good medicine it will be better." Dean continued. " I will go to the sect and apply for a sixth or seventh grade herb. I will not let you lose your leg."

    "You promise?" Kael asked, his voice trembling as he met Dean's eyes.

    "I promise. I will not fail your father. Not again."

    Kael stared into Dean's eyes for a long time. It filled him with strength and trust. Giving him the reassurance that he would not let him lose his leg. The room constricted him. He needed to get out.

    "Dean I want to go back to my room."

    "Kael...that is-"

    "I need to. These white walls terrify me. I want to be in my room. I want to hold my father's journal." He said.

    "Okay, kael. Give me a moment." He said, exiting the room.

    A short while later Dean returned with a wheelchair and helped him get on it. The process only made Kael fall deeper into despair. Will this be how I will pass the rest of my days? He thought, clasping his hand against the armrests. Unable to walk or run ever again? Dean talked to him as they headed to the exit, but Kael placed his hands on the wheels—stopping it.

    "Let's get the rabbit first."

    Dean nodded and turned the chair towards the Medicine Hall’s beast section.

    Kael watched as the white walls grew gray. The rooms became smaller and an eerie blue light filtered through the bottom of some doors.

    "How come there is no one?" Kael asked, trying to distract himself and not think of his numb leg.

    "The rooms here are monitored by formations." Dean said in a calming voice. "It's that way since it's more efficient. The only rooms that have anyone physically checking the beasts are those with severely wounded beasts."

    "Like the one we are heading to now."

    "Yes," Dean said, sighing. "But that’s a good thing Kael. It means there are doing everything they can to keep the beas- your rabbit alive."




    Dean was right. The disciples were everywhere, filling every corner of the large room. Their white robes fluttering as they shifted. Some had blood stains; others had green, blue, and black stains as they hurriedly crushed herbs. As if on cue, Kael was suddenly ambushed by the rush of scents—too strong to breath properly.

    A disciple went forward to them. "You aren't supposed to be here." He said, his voice muffled by a white circular cloth.

    "We are here to retrieve a beast." Dean said, handing the disciple a piece of paper as he was about to protest. "Robin allowed it."

    "All right." The disciple said, reading the paper. "Wait a moment. I’ll get you some breathing masks."

    Quickly, the disciple returned with a pair of masks. "Put these on. They will prevent you from fainting."

    Nodding, Kael took the mask. It was simple at first glance—a cloth like cover in the shape of a circle with no straps—but as he looked closer he spotted runes on the edges. This thing has a formation? Kael wondered, momentarily transfixed on it.

    "Just place it over your nose and mouth," the disciple said. "It will automatically stick to your face."

    Kael flushed, realizing that it must have looked like he didn't know how to use it. As soon as he placed the cloth on his face, it was like the world had changed. The disgusting, gag inducing smells were long gone. Replaced with the sweet scent of cleanliness. Even his eyes had been affected. Kael could feel and see everything tined by a shade of blue. Looking at the disciples, he noticed several glowing spots on their bodies.

    "The masks," the disciple said, smiling and placing a hand on Kael's head. "Have a function that protect your eyes from any splashes. It also enhances your vision allowing you to distinguish problems easier."

    "So that’s what the bright dots are?”

    “No. The dots show us just how tired one is. Once we reach ten spots, we are required to take leave to rest. The work we do is very sensitive so if one is too tired he could cause mistakes and the death of a beast. The real function of the masks is to look inside a body.

    “You can see inside the body of a beast?" Kael asked eagerly.

    "Yes, although it only works within a range." He said, pointing at a red circle drawn on the ground, surrounding a table. "Want to see?"

    Kael nodded and pushed his chair forward into the circle. His vision changed the blue tint grew stronger, soon all he could see was silhouettes. Looking down at his hands, Kael was shocked. He could see inside as if his skin was glass, the beating organs, the blood flowing through his vessels—if he squinted he could even see the bones. Amazing. Kael thought, shifting his vision to the center table.

    The rabbit.

    A glass bubble enclosed the rabbit. It had several runes etched onto its surface. They move continuously in a set pattern. Kael tried to read them, but could only make out one of the simpler ones. Scan.

    The only reason Kael knew it was that he had seen his father and Dean use it multiple times. He smiled, but then frowned as he looked at the rabbit. The sight was horrible. And it was only enhanced by his new vision.

    Multiple broken bones, torn muscles and ruptured organs filled the small rabbit. Kael winced, imagining the pain it must feel. How can he still be alive? He wondered. And how come I don’t fell his pain anymore?

    The weird connection he had when he saw it being beaten by Brin was not there. Kael worried something was wrong with the rabbit. His guess turned more secure as he glanced to the side.

    Several disciples stood close—pen and clipboards in hand--taking notes outputted by the strange formation surrounding the room to a small glass display. Kael could see a stream of symbols each passing by so fast that he could hardly make out any of them. One disciple frowned giving Kael a sense of hopelessness. Quickly, the disciple walked and whispered to another.

    "Is my rabbit all right?" Kael asked.

    "It's stable for the moment," he said, sighing. "But he won't make it past a week or two. The wounds are too severe and we can't administer any higher-grade medicine. We did all we could. Sorry."

    The words shook Kael hard. He glanced at the rabbit—focusing on its rapidly beating heart. You can't die. He told himself. If you do...he tried not to think about it, but deep-down Kael knew it was his fault. If he hadn't antagonized Brin this would have never happened.

    "Can I take him with me?" Kael asked.

    The disciple awkwardly glanced at Dean, who gave him a small nod. Carefully, he stepped into the formation. His hands pierced the bubble like if it was mist and grabbed the rabbit. Slowly, he handed it to Kael. "Try not to move him much. Otherwise, his wounds might open.”

    "Thanks." Kael whispered as Dean took his chair and pushed him to the exit.


    ##


    Dean stared at Kael. His eyes looked lost and without hope as he rubbed the rabbit's head and occasionally glanced at his leg.

    It pained him to look at Kael. He had tried to talk and cheer him up, but couldn't muster any words. It's my fault he's like this. Dean told himself. I should have taken care of him. I should have paid more attention. He glanced at the lowering moon. Ian, I'm sorry. I let him get hurt. I promise that I will do my best to save his leg. Even if I have to give up my position and life.

    He unconsciously glared at the central tower—where the Council was located. He knew it would be hard to acquire any herb higher than common grade, specially with the current state of the sect. It was dying. The resources left were only enough to support a small batch of disciples for a decade or so. Or nurture a genius for five years; just enough for the Century Gathering. I still have to try. Dean told himself as he looked at Kael. He is Ian's son so he must have a bit of his genius. I saw him as he tried to tame the rabbit. His control and knowledge is perfect, even stronger than some elders.

    He'd just have to convince the Council that Kael was a genius. If he was groomed he would be the best candidate for the gathering. The hope for the sect. With that they would not let Kael lose his leg. If it comes to the worst, I’ll threatened to leave the sect. They won’t let a First Mender leave so easily. They will bend. He felt bad for even thinking that. He was and elder of the sect that had raised him and helped him become the man he was today. And he was using his own power to bend the laws. Laws which he deemed fair. He sighed and opened the door to Kael's room.

    Carefully, he picked him up and set him on the bed, tucking him in. Dean sat on the edge of the bed and made eye contact.

    "Kael," he said, "I will get the herbs. There's no need to worry about your leg. You will not lose it."

    "Thanks Dean. I believe you." He said, smiling. "If you don't mind can you hand me my father’s journal?"

    Dean nodded and searched through the messy room—cleaning as he went.

    “You don’t have to clean…” Kael whispered from the bed. “I’ll-“

    “You will get rest.” Dean said firmly. “That’s all you will do.”

    Finally, he found the journal and picked it up. It was open. Casually he flipped the pages. A surge of emotions ran through him. It was the first time that he had looked inside. He had assumed it blank when Kael took it for himself, but it was filled with symbols far too advanced. “Kael this…”

    “Father’s research.” He said.

    “Why haven’t you shown this to us?” Dean said.

    “So the elders could take it for themselves?” Kael asked.

    “Kael, you know how hard we looked for his final work in his other works, but never found it. This could be it.”

    “It was my father’s research. I have the right to keep it for myself. To finish his legacy.” Kael screamed. “I was supposed to rise beyond him. Make him proud. But look at me. I’m useless. I couldn’t even tame a rabbit and now I’m a cripple.”

    Dean felt his heart sting. He glanced at the journal—its pages beckoning at him to figure out their secrets—and closed it. Kael was right. The sect would have not allowed him to research what his father left.

    Sighing, he walked forward and gave Kael the journal. “Kael, you keep it. You are not useless. And I most definitely won’t let you become a cripple. Even if I have to steal the herb. I will get it for you.” He continued, “tomorrow I will head to the Council and sort things out. For now, try to get some rest.”

    Kael fell silent for a long time. “Dean,” he whispered, “could a person leave a formation inside another?”

    “Why the sudden question?”

    Kael looked up with firm eyes. “Is it possible?”

    “Well, theoretically it could be possible. In fact, we found several references to such things among your father’s research. Why?”

    “So I didn’t imagine it.” Kael said, smiling. “Dean, my father saved me tonight. He left a formation in me. It was set to activate in a death situation. He gave me the strength to beat Brin.”

    Shock filled Dean. He rushed forward happily. “Are you sure?”

    Kael nodded.

    “Kael, this changes things.” Dean said, smiling. “We now have proof that his research is true. If there are remnants inside you…just that alone would allow us to get the herbs we need.

    “Really?” Kael asked, his eyes turning bright.

    “Yes. The contribution to the sect would be enormous that they can’t refuse it. I need to head back and study your father’s notes. Hopefully, I’ll be able to figure out how to make the remnants visible by tomorrow. No, I’ll make it possible.” Dean turned to Kael and hugged him. “Rest. I need to go now and do some tests.”

    Dean headed to the door then glanced back at Kael. He was holding his father’s journal tightly. Ian. Dean thought. I hope I can figure out how the hell you did it. For the sake of your son.

    Then left.


    ##

    Sal sat in his study. He was glad that Nori was the one who examined Brin. When she had asked him to step into her office she had explained that Brin had indeed been taken by the Bloodverne. It devastated him. Surprisingly, she had hugged him and told him she would keep it secret. That’s the reason he fought Dean in the hall. It might have gotten him in trouble, but it gave him time to cure his son. Before the Council found out and executed him.

    I will have to repay her. He thought. Sal knew the reason why Nori would lie for him. She loved him. He’d known about it for years now; he just chose to ignore it.

    Sal glanced down at the black key in his hand. Its clean smooth surface felt disfigured. Its weight immense. Sal had repeatedly thrown it away, buried it or almost melted it, for it pained him to have it; yet, a moment spent away from it felt so wrong he would rush back to find it, unbury it and take it out of the fire with his bare hands.

    He looked at the vault in front of him, hesitating. He did not want to see what was inside. Trembling, he managed to insert the and unlock the vault. The door creaked open a musty smell seeped out.

    Twelve years. He thought. Twelve years...

    Tears welled up in his eyes as he took out crystal ball. A beautiful woman—hair red, eyes green and a kind smile—was pictured inside. It was his late wife, Elsa, before it took her. That damned disease. He looked at the orange bottle in the corner of the small vault. The supposed cure he spent a fortune and years to acquire—still in its pristine state. Unused.

    The memories started drifting in. Elsa had grown worse, her mind lost. She had been restrained for a week leading up to that day. He, however, was happy. Not because he enjoyed seeing her suffer but because he had acquired the cure not a week before.

    Sal read to her most days as it had seemed to help calm her. That day he had gone up to read to her and found her smiling. She was sane. In the ecstatic moment, he undid her restraints and took her for a walk around the house. They had spent the day conversing happily. She’d even picked the name for their son. As the conversation had gone well, he had chosen not to restrain her again when he left. It had been the worst decision he had ever made.

    His biggest regret.

    Ironically, he had left to get the cure. When he had returned, he found her dead in a pool of blood—holding onto Brin lovingly. She’d clawed her own stomach and ripped the baby out—two months before it was time. He had rushed to the medicine hall with only Brin in his hands for she’d long been dead. Fortunately, they’d manage to save him.

    Screams brought him out of his dream.

    Brin! He thought.

    Grabbing the cure, he rushed to Brin’s room. He was restrained, like his mother had been. Eyes red, tinting black at the edges, and that smile made Sal's legs go weak. Sal kneeled, despair taking him.

    It was the same smile his mother had when he found her dead.

    "Why!" he yelled, crying. "Why do the heavens punish me like this? Was it not enough for it to take my wife? Why does it still want to keep haunting me? My son?"

    He stood. Determined. “I will refuse you. You are not going to succeed. I have the cure. It will kill the curse.” He said, almost incoherently. Walking to Brin's side, he passed his hand through his hair. "Don't worry son. Your father is here." He whispered. "I will protect you from this curse. I will go against the heavens to save you. Don't worry. Everything will be alright."

    He opened the bottle the disgusting herbal smell filtered out, making him gag. Quickly taking the syringe on the bedside he filled it then rammed the needle into Brin’s heart. The contents seep into him and he convulsed violently. The screams got louder and all Sal could do was wait and hope the cure worked. He hummed a song, the one his wife used to sing to him when she was sane.

    It was the only thing that kept him from going insane during the longest wait of his life.
     
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2017
  2. SilkwormLarvae

    SilkwormLarvae Member

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    Chapter Twenty-One
    Darkness surrounded Eztli. He felt himself drifting in and endless void. Slowly, the world around him came into existence. Piece by piece it materialized, becoming clearer.

    He found himself back in a human body. His own body. Looking at his hands brimming with strength, he was confused. The last thing he remembered was being almost killed by that wolf and a bastard kid.

    What’s going on? he thought.

    "Master,” a voice sounded. “there is a strong commotion nearby. Should we check out what is happening?"

    Turning, he saw a man—red hair kept short, his face showing hints of fierceness. Wes.

    Anger permeated Eztli as he saw him. He tried rushing forward to grab his neck and twist it, but his body did not react. Instead he spoke.

    "We will take a look." He said undisturbed, unable to say what he really meant.

    So I'm not in control, he told himself.

    It felt awkward. He had a body. He could feel the strength and emotions; he, however, could only watch. The moon was high in the sky as they moved closer to the sound of metal hitting metal—a chaotic, but steady rhythm.

    The smell of slaughter filled the air and Eztli felt a sudden body rush of blood pass through him. Stimulating him. This strength was mine? Eztli wondered. as he drowned himself in the sensation. It had been about a thousand years since he last felt the Rush. His body had grown far too weak that any amount of bloodlust would had caused him to forfeit life. It was a sweet and warm feeling. The Blood would enhance his mind and body—making his sense, body and Blood control stronger.

    He tried to circulate in through his body, however, it didn’t happen. Right, Eztli told himself, sighing. It’s just a memory. I can’t change anything. I can only experience.

    Eztli glanced taking in the long brick wall, the rustling of leaves as the wind blew. He didn’t remember this, yet at the moment it was so vivid and familiar.

    It finally clicked, once he saw the iconic scene—a boy and a girl holding hands, their clothes splattered with blood, running through a battle ground.

    "Hurry we must get out fast." The boy said, urging the girl.

    "But father and mother they-"

    "They are fighting with everyone else. They are doing it to protect us. We have to run to safety."

    The boy turned pulling her closer, but a thrown blade landed on the girls back. They tumbled, the inertia carried them far.

    "Nala!" the boy cried.

    No. No. Why this scene? Eztli told himself. He tried closing his eyes, but it was all in vain. He just stared.

    "Master, should we help?" Wes asked.

    Yes, say yes! Eztli screamed inside.

    "No. It's not our problem. Let's continue watching it’s fun seeing the boy."

    "Yes, it is."

    You sick fuck! Why can't you help him? Eztli yelled at himself. It would only take a way of your hand to save them.

    The boy sat there clutching the bleeding girl as he was surrounded. Then he stood up and got in a stance to protect the girl. His white hair stained with blood. His eyes filled with fear, but he stood with determination to save the girl.

    The boy was Rhett.

    This was the memory of the night he met him.

    Sadness filled Eztli, yet at the same time he felt—and remembered—the sense of interest and fun. He tried to look away, close his eyes or something but all he could do was stare. Feeling happy.

    Is this how I was? Eztli thought as he took in the feeling. Something inside snapped at that moment. Back then he was merciless. He would slaughter wantonly. He was a true emperor.

    Wes was right. He laughed at himself. I’ve become but a shell of myself. I was living a delusion. He tuned the feelings of the memory—engraining them back into his soul. This is how I was. No. This is how I will become again.

    Yet, he couldn’t feel a bit sad as he viewed the young Rhett. He had seen the boy grow up. Taught him. Learned to love and trust him. Also, Rhett had done so much for him even almost sacrificing himself to save him. And what had he done in return? Just watched. Even for a second time. He only watched. He wanted to help as it caused his heart to ache.

    If Rhett knew the truth…he would probably hate me. He thought. I should have told him anyways.

    But he couldn't do anything now.

    Rhett punched out, but the man dodged and stabbed his blade into his stomach. Rhett kneeled but clenched his fists.

    "Master it looks like it’s the end." Wes said.

    "Yes, it’s gotten boring. Let's leav-"

    A purple aura formed on Rhett’s fist as he looked up at the man with hate.

    "I will kill you all."

    "Boy, it’s the end for you." He laughed. "You'll meet your family soon."

    The man lifted a second blade and swung it.

    At that moment, Eztli appeared in front of the man—stopping the blade with one finger.

    "What th-"

    Eztli waved his hand and all the men within three hundred feet convulsed—blood spraying from their pores. That easily, they were dead.

    "Boy are you alright?"

    Rhett! Eztli bellowed at him. His name is Rhett! However, at the same time he felt intoxicated by his own display of strength. Something he had lacked for hundreds of years. Something he needed back desperately, so he embraced it. Eztli also felt his older-self beaming with happiness. That’s right. He thought, still looked at Rhett. I offered help in order to use him. This is when I saw his astonishing potential in spatial arts.

    Eztli watched Rhett turn to his sister, dead by now, without a care for his own wounds and cried at the top of his lungs.

    "I'll help you get revenge against the one who caused the death of your sister. Not just these underlings." He said and turned to Wes. "Heal him, he will be my second disciple."

    The memory ended and Eztli found himself swimming in the void.

    Ironic. He thought. The one who caused her death was me. Not those men. But I guess ending as a rabbit, being betrayed and losing my strength was my punishment. Eztli laughed at himself.

    The void soon became distant and the pain shot through his body. He was back in his broken body. Quickly, he used his soul to inspect his body. Damn. He thought. With these wounds, I won’t make it more than a week. Deepening his scan, he noticed small traces of medicine lingering around one spot. Curious, he honed in on it.

    So fucking lucky. He thought, laughing. This is great. I can heal myself.

    Surprisingly, particles of the semi-precious herb he ate at Roan’s lab remained inside—its effects compounded by several other herbs inside him. However, he needed to stimulate it. Using his soul energy, he attacked and burned the particles.

    The particles expanded and spread through his body like an uncontrolled fire. It healed him at an astonishing pace; his broken bones mended, organs regrew, muscles reattached and skin closed. The process was painful, but it only lasted a few seconds.

    Eztli stood, body in near perfect condition, looked around and saw the boy. He sat depressingly on the bed—turning the pages of a journal. Kael’s face, overlapped with Rhett's at that moment. Guilt filled Eztli, but surprisingly, he shook himself out of it. The memory had changed him. He was back. The merciless tyrant, one who cared for no one but himself.

    No there is something. He thought. Rhett. I owe him so much… however, he is not Rhett. Eztli told himself, sighing. Still, I have to pay him back. The boy had saved him, put his life on the line for a rabbit. He didn't know if that was stupid or not but he had to repay him.

    Spotting the link stone, he got an idea.


    ##


    Kael traced the runes on the page. He was in a better mood after what Dean had said. Still, he couldn’t wash the sadness and worry away. What if Dean can’t figure it out? He thought.

    They won’t provide the herbs; And you will become a cripple. A voice rang in his head. Useless like you always were.

    Kael pushed the voice away, but it came back stronger.

    “No!” He screamed, throwing his father’s journal across the room.

    A shriek sounded. Kael looked near the contract circle and saw the rabbit glaring at him. “H-how are you…” he said trailing off as he processed what was happening.

    The rabbit was writing on the ground. He was expanding the contract circle. Kael rubbed his eyes, unsure if he was imagining things or not. He made an effort to read the circle, but his sight was block by the bed. Grabbing on to the side of the bed he pulled himself to the edge. He almost fell, but he managed to place his hand on the floor for support. The speed at which the rabbit drew the circle was unreal. In a short two breaths, it had added three layers to it.

    Five layers, Kael thought, widening his eyes. This is not happening. I’m dreaming. I must be. A contract circle with five layers with runes so complex that it felt as if it was constructed by the Heavens themselves; yet, it was drawn by a rabbit. Anyone in their right minds would think it a dream. Since the creation of contract circles, there had only been four layered ones passed down.

    The rabbit hopped towards him and carved a simple rune on his hand—half a circle with a line through its center at an angle. Kael winced at the slight pain, but if he moved his hand he would fall off the bed. The rabbit looked at him and a strange force suddenly pushed him back onto the bed. Then, the link stone on the ground flew into the palm of his hand.

    The rabbit immediately went back to the center of the new circle and nodded towards Kael.

    “Y-you want me to bind you?” he asked, confused.

    It nodded again.

    So many questions entered his mind, but they were ignored as a strange glow took over his hand. The energy within the stone was activating by itself; it only needed a slight push. Unconsciously, Kael controlled the qi in the stone—like his thousands of practice repetitions. This time, however, he was not making contact with the contract circle and the glow was red. Not blue.

    A ribbon of energy broke out of the stone. It floated in the air—twisting unto itself—and lengthened. One end spiraled around his arm and shot into his ear. The other shot to the contract circle, passing through and lighting each symbol. Finally, it spiraled around the rabbit and entered its ear.

    Pressure built inside Kael’s head. His vision turned blurry. He could feel something form inside his brain; it throbbed and crawled deep. Then everything stopped. His vision returned, the link stone turned to dust. After, the circle on the floor and the rune on his hand burned into mist—as if they never existed.

    Strangely, nothing appeared to have changed with him or the rabbit. At least it seemed that way, until a deep voice sounded in his head.

    “Boy can you hear me?”
     
  3. SilkwormLarvae

    SilkwormLarvae Member

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    Chapter Twenty-Two

    It was weird.

    The voice rang inside Kael’s head. It was an eerie whisper, like his own voice when he read to himself. At first, he thought he had imagined the voice, but it rang again. Asking the same thing only louder, more distinct and with a smooth but chilling deepness. Kael knew instinctively that it was the rabbit. His mind, however, refused to process it.

    It was impossible.

    There were only two methods that would allow one to communicate directly with their beast. The first, and most common, required a creature that could already physically speak. The second, only occurred when the bond between tamer and beast grew so powerful that it transcended into a Divine Link. It was something only found in the legends his father had told him. Supposedly, it required that the two souls to became so familiar with each other that the Heavens decreed their bond sacred and formed the link between them.

    However, none of the conditions had been met. The rabbit couldn't physically speak, and the contract had definitely not transcended into the divine. Heavens, they had just formed the link seconds ago so their souls couldn’t be so familiar. Yet, the feeling persisted—becoming stronger. They were connected.

    In a way, it felt like his bond with Leggy, but if he were to compare them; Leggy’s bond was like a thread of silk; the rabbit’s was a mountain one that only kept growing.

    The influx of information and new connections being created in his mind—only compounded by the arising questions—paralyzed him. Scared him. There was no pain, but he could feel the minute changes. The wiggling inside his brain contracting as the rabbit spoke.

    “Are you all right, kid?” It said, almost sounding concerned.

    All Kael could do was stare forward—into the rabbit’s beady eyes. No, I’m not okay. He thought. It’s all your fault. You did something with the circle. Something that wasn’t a binding.

    Kael’s mind shifted, thinking of the circle. It had five layers. Even renown scholars could only dream of creating or witnessing one in their lifetimes, like he had. He had even been subject to its effect—not that he was very happy about that. Still, his first thought was to draw and study them, yet something pushed him to control the qi in the link stone first. He didn’t know what it was, but it was the same feeling that woke him. The one that caused the convulsions and led him to Brin.

    So it was him. Kael thought. He was guiding me there…but how? More questions littered his mind. He wanted to ask what the layers of the circle did. Why the binding light was red. What they had done to him. How he had guided him. However, all those questions shattered replaced by a more important one.

    “What are you?” Kael asked, his voice trembling.


    ##


    Eztli sighed in relief as the boy spoke. He had grown worried that he had messed up the runes and caused the boy to lose his mind. It had been so long since he last created a binding circle—he had only used his Blood Art for thousands of years—that it was possible. Though the feeling was washed away by the sudden realization that the boy was only in shock.

    He smiled and looked at the boy. His mind momentarily overlapped him with Rhett again. It was too vivid that he lost himself in it. "Rhett, don’t you recognize me? It’s me Eztli, your master?” He said, approaching the boy enthralled by the illusion.

    “Stay away.” The boy screamed, sending a command at him. “What did you do to me?”

    A binding energy shot at Eztli, causing great pain and the will to obey. Something he had never felt before. It broke him out of his delusion and to another. Wes appeared in front of him, commanding him to bend at his will. Laughing and sitting in his throne. Anger spreading through him.

    Immediately, it sent his soul energy into to frenzy, attacking the boy and overriding his command. The boy grabbed his head—pulling at his hair—and bellowed blood curling screams. Then the backlash struck at him, stopping his frenzy shattering the illusion completely.

    Eztli shook his head. What the fuck happened? He wondered, glancing around at the boy—fear filled his eyes. His mind tried to merge him with Rhett, but he refused. He is not Rhett. Just some random kid. One that he owed his life to; And almost killed.

    Closing his eyes, Eztli inspected his soul. It shone brightly and had taken the shape of a rabbit—no longer fuzzy like before. Focusing, he noticed a thin red ribbon that wrapped around his soul’s leg. Following it, he sensed a small sphere of light attached to the other end. The boy’s soul. Unlike his aged and transformed soul, Kael’s didn’t show the slightest hint of shape. Still a kid. Eztli thought as he looked for inconsistencies in the connection.

    Eztli sighed when he noticed the small tear in the ribbon and a distinguishing mark on the boy’s side. Master. Hurriedly, he checked his own ribbon only to find the word “Servant.” He laughed to himself. In his emotional state, he had forgotten to modify the base layer of the circle and entered a master servant relationship with Kael. Although even then, the connection seemed too strong for some reason, like if it was reinforced multiple times. That should have kept anyone else under the “master’s” command, however, Eztli’s soul was too strong and old. When he felt the kid’s command, his soul refused to obey and frenzied. The effect was only increased by the strong pride embedded in him and the weird tear in the ribbon.

    Guess I did fuck up on the runes. He thought. Well, it will do for now. Not like I plan to keep it forever. He was only binding with him in order to communicate and help heal him. After he refined his body and activated the bloodline within, Eztli was leaving. By then he would have regained enough strength to break the binding without struggling.

    “Sorry about that kid.” Eztli said, inching forward. “I didn’t thing the binding would end so…weirdly.”

    The kid cringed back and almost sent another command.

    Stop. Eztli sent his own before the kid could; a benefit of his strong soul.

    “If you send a command the pain from before will return and I would frenzy again, probably.” Eztli explained. “I don’t mean to harm you, kid. I’m goin-”

    “What did you do to me?” Kael asked, still holding fear in his eyes. “How did you guide me to you when Brin attacked you? And how come you can command me? I’m your master. I bound you. So that can’t be possible.”

    Eztli burst out laughing. This boy really is amusing. He thought. He thinks he bound me. "First, you are not my master. I allowed you to bind me as a form of repayment for saving me.” He said, hopping towards him.

    "Repayment? You bound me and almost killed me. That’s repayment for you?”

    “That was an unfortunate side-effect caused by a…miscalculation on my part. As for the other thing you felt, that was probably caused by your persistent attempts at binding me. It created a lingering connection that guided you when I was dying. Even I couldn’t have predicted that. However, you saved me and my true intentions were to help heal your leg.”

    Kael’s eyes wend wide and filled with hope. “You can heal me?”

    "Yes. I will teach you an art that will heal you instantly. Onc-“

    "W-wait heal me instantly? You are trying to trick me. That’s impossible. Only a precious herb could do that."

    “Boy, my Blood Art can heal you better than any herb. Even if you were to cut your leg off you could grow another—provided you have enough time and reached a high-level mastery.” Eztli said proudly. “But for the severity of your wound, as long as you master the first level it should be fine. Hell, even a rare grade one herb should be enough to heal you twice over.”

    Kael trembled. "Y-you have seen such a precious herb?"

    Eztli’s eyes went wide. He’s this surprised over this low-grade herb. He thought. Just what backwater place am I in?

    "Boy, where are we?"

    "In the Reigned Phoenix Sect."

    "No, I mean what continent?"

    "Oh, we are in the Loras continent."

    Loras continent? Eztli searched his mind, but found nothing. It had been so long since he paid attention to what happened in the world. He had left it all to his loyal puppets as he worked obsessively on his body and the soul transfer process.

    "Did it have a different name before?"

    "Well, I think about a thousand years ago it was call the Teal continent.”

    Eztli shivered as he heard the name.

    I find myself once again in this cursed continent, he thought.

    The Teal continent. The place of his birth. Where the Blood Legacy sect—his sect—had been located and destroyed. The place where he spent the lowest point of his life. Starved, weak and on the verge of madness. The Cursed Maze. Eztli felt as a clash of emotions ran through him. He felt pain, fear, despair, and—strangely—hope. Even if he did almost die, he overcame death. Rose from certain doom and became the emperor of the world. Now here he was—at an even lower point, stuck in the body of a rabbit, his strength all but gone—in the same continent. But he would rise again, like he had before. He had something he didn’t before. Knowledge. With it, he would become emperor again.

    “So, can you really heal me?” Kael asked, bringing him out of his memories.

    “Y-yes. Once you train in my Blood art, you will feel the healing start immediately.”

    “Can you teach me right now?”

    Eztli glanced at Kael. He wanted to just teach him and get over with it so he could clear his debt, but he was too tired. The wounds from the beating, his old memory of Rhett, the binding, and the frenzy all took a heavy toll on him. He just wanted to rest, so he lied. “You are too weak from the attack and binding. If you start training now, you would only kill yourself.” He said, sighing. “Rest, I’ll teach you tomorrow.”

    With that he ignored Kael—who still shot him questions—and hopped off to a corner. Slowly, he drifted into a deep sleep.
     
  4. SilkwormLarvae

    SilkwormLarvae Member

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    Chapter Twenty-Three

    Two loud knocks brought Kael out of his soothing dream. Kael rubbed his eyes and glanced around for the Rabbit. Eztli. He told himself. That’s what he had called himself when he thought I was Rhett. Then he tried to kill him. Kael sighed. Supposedly, it had been his fault for sending a command; he believed him. It was weird. The night’s events were like a blur to him now. He hardly remembered all the details except for one thing. Eztli’s emotions.

    It was hard to explain, but for some reason Kael felt—through their connection—that Eztli was not lying. He had genuinely meant to help heal him. Still, he thought. It’s better t-

    The door split open, bringing him out of his thoughts. Three men—tall and dressed in black robes—walked in. Each stood in front of his bed as a fourth made his way inside. Unlike the others, he was older and wore a white cloth over his left shoulder. He searched his robe taking out a parchment and read it.

    “By orders of the Council,” he said, “we are to take you and your beast—willing or forcefully—for interrogation.”

    Before he could make sense of what the man continued to read, he found himself being tied and dragged out the door by the three men. The fourth picked up the sleeping Eztli and followed.

    Heading to the Discipline Hall.


    Kael listened to Eztli’s calm breath. His stomach rose steadily and his left paw twitched when he exhaled. How can he still be sleeping after that? Kael wondered. Before, a short man had come in and yelled at the top if his lungs. He asked about Brin. Kael had answered the all the man’s questions, but that had just made the man angrier and louder. To the point that Kael had wondered if his throat would burst. It hadn’t. The man, however, had riddled Kael’s emotions.

    Trembling, Kael poked and tried to wake Eztli. He wanted to speak with someone, but feared angering him. However, all of his tries had been unsuccessful. Eztli was in deep sleep. Sighing, Kael closed his eyes and focused on their connection. Darkness and a soothing calmness spread through his body—Eztli’s feelings.

    Kael needed that. Then, he glanced around—studying the walls. They were metal and had faint runes etched on them—to prevent anyone from escaping. The hall was one of the newer buildings in the sect. Active for only the last sixty years or so. Its task was to keep the sect in order. Arresting disciples and elders who broke the rules. Most members of the Discipline Hall were a proud bunch. They flashed their badges when they strode around the sect as if the black robes they wore weren't enough to distinguish their status.

    Kael had never been involved with them before. He had seen them around when talking walks, but he stayed off their watchful gazes. Dean had mentioned that they were too proud and sometimes too forceful. Kael rubbed his wrists—the pain still lingered from when they dragged him. He sighed again, shifting his weight on the chair. An itch bothered his right leg wiggling about he stretched his hand to scratch it unsuccessfully.

    The metal door creaked open.

    Hurriedly, he stood straight and watched the man entering. His robes were different than the previous men; they were still black but were lined with a red insignia over his right chest followed by his name. Captain Theo.

    It was a name that Kael was familiar with. He was the leader of the Discipline hall and the best fighter in the sect; the only one at the Eighth Fracture. Stories of his heroic battles spread through the sect like rain. One in particular mentioned that he could hold his ground against a First Mender. Kael always thought the story exaggerated, but as he looked at the man he started to believe it.

    The man was built like a mountain. Even in the dim light, Kael could notice the man’s muscles. They brimmed with strength and radiated white—ever so slightly. His heavy beard and long unkept hair made him appear threatening and wild. As if he would attack you at any moment. Kael couldn’t see the man losing a fight.

    He sat in front of Kael, across the placed a stack of paper on the metal table. "Kael is it? Would you tell me what happened exactly?" he asked.

    "Captain Theo, like I have already told the previous man everything."

    "I would like to hear it myself." He said, frowning. “Rick tends to…exaggerate.”

    "Alright." Kael said, sighing. "That night I walked from the library..."

    Kael recited the whole story the same way he had previously.

    "So, you are positive that Brin's eyes glowed red then turned black. Then he caused the wounds himself?"

    "Yes, that is what happened."

    Theo's demeanor changed, his eyes narrowed, killing intent poured out surrounding Kael and jolting the sleeping Eztli awake. "Boy, don't lie to me."

    "I'm not lying." Kael said, raising his voice. "Brin went crazy that time."

    What’s going on? Eztli asked, why did this bastard wake me up?

    Not now Eztli. Kael sent telepathically.

    "I have the medical report here." He said, raising his killing intent. "And nowhere here does it say that the wounds were self-inflicted. In fact, it states that Brin had his left cheek sunk in by someone..."

    "I-I did punch him...but it was solely to save myself and my beast."

    "What about peeling his skin off? Was that also to save yourself?"

    "W-what? N-no." Kael said, voice quivering. "He caused those wounds himself. I saw him clawing at his own arms."

    "That is not what I have reported here." Theo said, standing and placing both hands on the metal table causing it to bend. "Tell me the truth, boy."

    Kael felt intense pressure. He knew the truth, but as Theo stared at him, Kael had the urge to just agree with the reports. No, that’s not the truth. Kael thought. But why is he trying to blame the skin injuries on me?

    Boy don't worry about it. Eztli’s voice rang in his head. His emotions are chaotic. It seems that he really cares about what happened. To the point that he doesn’t accept the truth and is trying to bend your will. Just stare back at him and insist on the truth.

    Kael did as he was told and looked at Theo in the eyes, inside he was terrified, but he still managed a confident gaze. "I am telling the truth!"

    Theo's eyes widened for a short second then returned to their hostile state. "You are telling me the report is wrong. That Elder Nori is lying on her report?"

    Fuck. Eztli sent to him. Boy this is a plot against you. That report is false.

    What do I do then? Kael asked. They won't believe me...they'll take her word for the truth.

    Eztli laughed. Boy just stick to the truth. It's the best thing you can do. Soon it will come out. The man already believed you. His emotions were just replaced by sheer anger. I’m assuming he is looking for a way to justify the report. That's why he insists on intimidating you.

    "Yes it's wrong.” Kael said firmly. “I saw Brin. How he went wild. I don't know why the reports say otherwise, but the only wounds I inflicted on him were the punches to his face."

    Theo went quiet for a moment then turned. "I believe you boy. I will get to the bottom of this." He said and walked out the room. Before he closed the door, a faint whisper escaped his lips. “Thanks.”

    See boy, what did I tell you. Eztli said.

    "Thanks..." Kael whispered.


    ##


    Theo frowned. His heart refused to believe it, but his instincts told him the boy was telling the truth. If the boy was lying he would have told the truth under my aura. He told himself as he looked at the report in his hand. Is it really forged? Would Nori really risk lying about something so important? Why would she do it?

    The red eyes. Bloodverne disease.

    Theo tightened his fist and hit the metal wall—shattering it. He had lost his sister to that disease. Now, his nephew was possibly afflicted with it. But why would they try to hide it? Wouldn't it be better to admit it?

    No. He thought. Sal loves Brin. He wants him to succeed. He wants him to become the next sect leader. Yet he knew there was more to it. Sal was just as traumatized by disease as he was. Even now he chose to refuse that Brin was infected. However, he knew it was true. Kael wasn’t lying. Then, there were Robin’s recounting of the events. He opened up the second report and read.

    Dean had, supposedly, brought both kids in hurt. Nori had immediately taken Brin into a private healing room. Sal arrived later, slapped a disciple and talked to Dean. Dean had apparently told him that Brin was sick. Then, Nori called Sal and came out angry and attacked Dean.

    He could see something wrong. He knew that if he was in Sal’s position he would have tried to keep it hidden. After all, he has the cure. Theo thought. The one meant for sis. What better way to do that than to cause a fight. Only a possibility though. It still doesn’t explain why Nori would choose to hide it.

    Theo sighed and shook his head. He would just have to get to the bottom of it. For now, he needed to bring in the new information to the Council.

    Quickly, he made his way to the entrance. The doors were made of white marble—runes and intricate patterns carved into it. The outside was adorned with two large phoenix statues standing watch. A scripture under each one. Justice. Fairness.

    He pushed the door open and entered.

    Three elders sat in a triangle formation as they discussed the events. Their faces covered with a purple scarf hiding their faces, but it was just for appearance. Everyone knew the identities of the three elders. Loki, Tint and Junn.

    They held the highest position in the sect; they were even on par with the Sect leader. Every major decision was made by them. However, the three elders had given up so much for their pursuit of justice and fairness. They never took a decision for power or for their own benefit. The Oath prevented that.

    The Oath. Theo glanced at Junn’s hand—the one she always had exposed. Starting from the middle finger, a set of patterns and symbols spread. They expanded covering the back of the hand and going under the purple sleeve of her robe. Theo knew it followed and covered their entire bodies. It was a formation. One set to kill the holder if he lied or took a decision without fairness and justice.

    Theo didn’t know exactly how they worked, but he knew they were left behind by the sect founder. He also knew the extreme pain the process of engraving them caused. Unconsciously, he rubbed the back of his middle finger, tracing the patterns. It was his first set of runes; the rest would be done yearly, taking over a decade, until his body was covered. It could only be done safely that way. If one tried to rush the process, the pain itself would drive one mad or to their graves.

    Theo stepped forward, listening to their conversation.

    "So, is that what we will do?" Junn said.

    "Yes, it seems that it’s the best outcome in this situation." Tint responded.

    Loki was the first to notice Theo, he smiled and called him up. “What is it, Initiate Theo?”

    Theo smiled at the title. Initiate. He considers me one of them. He thought. “Elders,” he said as he kneeled. “I wish for you to delay your judgement.”

    “Theo,” Tint said. “We have read the reports and the accounts of the witnesses. And we see no fault in them. The judgement has been made. The boy went too far and even lied to the interrogator. He will be expelled and Dean shall be punished.”

    Theo winced. No. He thought. They made their judgement too early. And they took the boy’s story as lies? Just what did Rick write in his report? He steeled himself.

    “I request a Council Hearing. I have reason to suspect there was tampering done to the reports. I just need time to find the reason why.”

    “This is a severe accusation.” Loki said. “Are you sure you wish to follow through with this? If you are wrong you will lose you status as an initiate”

    That made him hesitate a bit. However, if he let this play out the way it would. Then, he would have not been fair. Taking a deep breath, Theo raised his head and stared at them. “I do.”

    Loki nodded. “I retract my judgement and request a Hearing. Do both of you agree?”

    “Agreed.” Junn and Tint said.
     
  5. SilkwormLarvae

    SilkwormLarvae Member

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    Chapter Twenty-Four

    The paper burned leaving behind a mound of ashes.

    “Another failure.” Dean said, sighing and sitting on his chair. His eyes grew heavy and his body relaxed. No, I can’t sleep now. Dean thought, pushing himself to stand. I need to find the right formation. Lest Kael won’t be healed.

    Dean was mentally exhausted. He had spent all night reading through Ian’s research and testing countless formations. Normally, drawing so many formations wouldn’t have been enough to tire him so much, but he had been using Orus paper and ink. And that required immense focus.

    One had to draw the formation with the flow of qi in mind and imagine how the flow of qi would travel when activating it—then draw it in reverse. Not only that, but you had to draw from beginning to end, without breaks. It was a mentally exhausting process, but it was the safest and most efficient method to theorize new formations.

    Orus paper and ink provided a way to test the stability of a formation without the need to waste ingredients or the danger of qi explosions. If the formation would end up in failure, the paper would just burn. At worst, it would burst, but never cause mortal danger. This was because it was made from the skin and blood of the Orus Bird.

    The creature had been known for its strange ability to deflect any qi attacks or formations by guiding them through their bodies. It was so strong that even Mending masters would not harm the bird in the slightest. The beast was not strong, however. One punch by a non-cultivator would kill it. That had baffled scholars for years until one day, a trainee messed up his formation—causing a flock of Orus to burn up—that they turn to study the bird in detail. Years later, they created the paper and ink.

    However, it was not perfect. Sometimes the paper would burn even with a perfectly working formation. The chances of it happening were slim, but still significant. Still, Dean couldn’t worry about that now. He was pressed for time. He needed to figure out how to implant a formation inside a person by the end of the day or Kael would really lose his leg.

    Focusing, Dean grabbed the last sheet of Orus paper—feeling the rough grain against his skin. One last chance. He thought, uncapping the bottle of Orus ink. It’s thick putrid smell jolted him awake as he began to draw. Soon, he had drawn all but the final line. Dean held his breath and finished.

    He stared at the circle—comparing it with a few notes—and nodded. Everything seemed correct, all he needed do was infuse a tiny bit of qi. Taking a deep breath, he collected qi in the tip of his index finger. A small yellow sphere formed and then he pressed it against the starting line. The qi glowed brightly and turned a deep shade of blue as it travelled through the ink; as if he was activating it. stepping back. This has to work. Dean thought, as he watched the light travel through the formation.

    The qi reached the end and dissipated. It hadn’t burned.

    “Yes!” Dean cheered, rushing forward lifting the paper. “it wor-“

    Then, it burst into flames—turning to ash between his fingers.

    “Fuck.” Dead cursed, toppling over a stack of books and slamming his fist on the desk. “Why didn’t it work.” He punched the desk again shattering it.

    Dean hugged himself, sinking into his own mind. Into his own powerlessness. I’m useless. I can’t find the answer. He thought, turning his mind to Ian. It’s all your fault. You had to write everything in code and not leave any key. You had to die that day. Searching for your stupid fantasy.

    No, another voice rang inside him. Not fantasies. He succeeded. He was proof of that. The strange energy he used to help him achieve his First Mend was not normal. He found what he had searched for, but it killed him.

    He closed his eyes and focused on his core on the area where the Tenth Fracture had been. It had a faint reddish tint to it—distinguishing it from the rest of his core. He turned to the Ninth Fracture. It was halfway mended, yet, it had the same coloring as the rest of the core. Once he reached his Second Mending, Dean was sure that he wouldn’t be able to tell that there was ever a crack.

    Why is it like that? Dean wondered, like he always had. Even now, he still felt Ian’s qi inside him. It was like he was embedded in his core—within his First Mend. As if he left something behind…

    Dean’s eyes lit up as a crazy idea—one that could kill him—flashed through his mind.



    Securing the rope to a beam on the ceiling, Dean fitted the noose around his neck and closed his eyes. He focused his energy and recalled it back into his core. The sudden loss of energy caused his body to grow weak enough to allow him to choke.

    Dean hesitated. He wasn’t sure that Ian had left a formation inside him—like he had with Kael—but he had to try. If he could experience the formation activating firsthand, then he would be able to reverse engineer the process. He just needed to believe that the caring Ian he knew hadn’t forgotten about him.

    Please let this be right. Dean thought as he took a deep breath and kicked the chair out from underneath him. He fell. The rope tightened with force around his neck, digging into his skin. His first instinct was to remove the rope, but he repressed it; letting himself die.

    His qi became chaotic and strands escaped the core. As if strands had life of their own, they made their way to his neck. Dean concentrated on the qi and tried to deviate it, but it was too strong. Unlike, his usual qi it was astonishingly thick and resistant. Last Will… he thought, It’s real…

    He had read about it in biographies and legends, but he could never wrap his mind around the concept. It just didn’t seem possible. Last Will would only occur when a Mending master or above was on the verge of death. Qi would somehow become alive and act on its own in an attempt to save the life. If it was another instance, Dean would have welcomed—even become fascinated—but right now he needed to stop it. Using every last bit of his strength, he fought. The strands halted momentarily then burst through, continuing their path to his neck. No, Dean thought, Please I need this. Surprisingly, the qi strands stopped—as if they had listened to him—and dissipated. Slowly, his strength seeped away and his vision turned dark.

    Still, nothing happened.

    Dean began to panic. He was long beyond the point of no return. He barely had enough strength to even lift his fingers. If Ian didn’t leave a formation inside him then it would be his end. Everything turned dark. Is this really how I will die? He laughed at himself as he imagined the reactions when they found him hanged.

    Suddenly, the darkness lit up. His body trembled as he felt a foreign energy burn. This is it. Dean thought, focusing his tired mind on the patterns. This is the formation. I have to remember the feeling. A figure materialized in front of him. Ian.

    “Hello, old friend. If this activated, it means I’m dead and you’re halfway there.” Ian said, his voice sounding sad. Then he smiled—a mischievous one. “Unfortunately, I’m here to tell you to get your ass back to the world of the living and stay there as I don’t want you here.”

    Dean could only stare as tears welled up in his eyes.

    “I wish I could say more, but if this drags you’ll really be end up here with me. So…” Ian said, forming a sphere of energy on his palm and pressing it into Dean’s chest. “This should save you and do a little more.” He winked. “Take care of my son and yourself, Dean. I know it must have been hard on him. Tell him I love him.”

    Dean let his cries out, tears streaming down his cheeks.

    “Oh, one last thing. I hope you are still wearing bright colored robes and keeping true to our bet. Even if I’m already dead, it doesn’t mean you can stop before the ten years are up.” Ian said, laughing as he faded away.

    Strength and energy filled Dean. His muscles bulged and he heard the rope snap. Landing on the floor he gasped for air. His energy exited his body and swirled around him. It gathered qi from the atmosphere—growing larger and tinting red. Then, it all went inside him. Directly into his core. Dean screamed at the pain, but it only lasted a short moment and a coolness spread through him.

    Astonished he glanced inward, into his core and let more tears fall. His Ninth Fracture was now tinted like his Tenth. He had reached his Second Mending.

    Dean laughed. Remembering the conversation with Ian. Then laughed some more. Laughed like never before.

    “That bastard. Even after he died, he still has the audacity to joke.” Dean said. As the moment passed, Dean turned serious and closed his eyes. “Ian, I don’t deserve the help you have given me. I have failed you. I let Kael get hurt. I hope that you can forgive me for that. I’ll make everything right and I promise not to fail again. If I do, let heaven be my judge and punish me. I won’t let your help go unrewarded.”

    A small light flickered and for a moment Dean thought he saw Ian’s smiling face again. Shaking his head, he stood and picked up a notebook—writing down the symbols he felt when the formation activated. He looked at his work and smiled. Kael, he thought, with this I’ll be able to get the herb and cure you. You won’t be a cripple. If this is not enough… he tightened his fist. I’ll use the strength Ian gave me and take it by force.

    The door flinging open brought him out of his thoughts. A short and bearded man, dressed in black robes, walked in.

    “What do you want, Rick?” Dean said, narrowing his eyes. “And why the hell did you just barge into my room?”

    “Dean,” Rick said, smiling. “I have the authority to barge in as I’m here on official business. By order of the Council, you are to present yourself immediately to the meeting hall. A Council Hearing has been requested.”

    “And you should hurry,” Rick said, smiling wickedly. “The order was issued half an hour ago.”
     
  6. SilkwormLarvae

    SilkwormLarvae Member

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    Well, all good things must come to an end. The marathon I put myself through is finally over. In total I wrote 21 chapters in 3 weeks. I really enjoyed every day of it and hope I can return to this one day. Unfortunately, Life gets in the way. My vacation is at its end and I must return to work. (Got to make a living.) However, whenever I get days off I'll update daily.

    From now on the release date will be 2 chapters a week, although I'll push for 3, Released on Monday and Friday. (If you see an update on wednesday that means you'll get 3 chapters that week.) There will be no chapters until next monday(July 31.) I need a little rest, plus it's my birthday on Wednesday!

    Lastly, hope you enjoy this big chapter(Technically 2, but I wanted the marathon to end in a "grand" way.) Took me longer to write than expected. I tried to hint at certain things, wrong with the sect in this one. Specially with the council. It might be a little weird though. So if you spot any mistakes or inconsistencies with story, please let me know. I'll fix them. Any comments and feedback, are welcomed.

    Enjoy!!

    Chapter Twenty-Five

    "Boy, are you sure his eyes turned black?" Eztli asked, raising his voice.

    "Yes." Kael said, shivering. "I can still remember them staring at me…"

    If this is really the Bloodverne...Eztli thought. I'll need to rethink my plan of leaving. At least until I can obtain it for myself. Eztli sunk into his memories.

    Bloodverne. The true power of the Blood Legacy Sect.

    Unlike what many believed, Bloodverne was not a disease, but a genetic disorder. One that began with Verne, The Progenitor, founder of the Blood Legacy Sect and creator of the Blood Arts.

    Verne and three friends had been exploring a cave when they discovered four slugs encased in crystal—frozen in what seemed to be an eternal battle. Greedy, they had approached the crystal and shattered it. Releasing the slugs. The slugs had then latched onto them—dissolving into their blood—and had controlled them, turning them into vessels to continue their battle. The fight had lasted days, until only Verne had remained.

    This had released him from the slugs control and had given him the power over his blood. The events had changed him—physically and mentally. He had been released from the slug’s control and been granted amazing power—engrained deep in his blood. However, it had been at the cost of his friends lives so Verne vowed to live a normal life. And he had. His sons, however, hadn't.

    Unable to control the bloodlust and power that had been passed down genetically, they were driven mad and had killed each other. In his grief, Verne created the Blood Arts—a way to reign the bloodlust. His attempt had succeeded and his new children could control the power and do much more. They had experienced enhancements to their strength, senses and cultivation. They had risen to the peak fast, and others had not liked that. And so, he had lost his sons again—killed by the envy in men.

    Maddened, Verne founded his sect and amassed and army; for his Blood Art was not limited to those afflicted with what he had dubbed Bloodverne—everyone could train in it, however, it only showed its true power if paired with Bloodverne. The Blood Legacy Sect had soon reached a powerful status and Verne had seven more children. After, they had gained the strength to protect themselves. Verne—aged and tired after the hundreds of years—disappeared; leaving his children in charge of his sect.

    Striving for even more power, his seven children begun a breeding experiment. They impregnated slaves, passing the Bloodverne down. Having created hundreds of third generation members was not enough for them, however; Some of the Thirds didn't have enough talent and failed to reach the full potential of their powers. So, faced with the dilemma, the Seconds had researched a way to extract the Bloodverne from those without talent. It had taken them a hundred years and the process killed the person, but it gave them a way to choose. Choose those who they had deemed worthy of the power. Those who had talent in the Blood Arts. Eztli had been one of them.

    He had reached an astonishingly high level in Blood Arts, that a Second had taken him as his adoptive son and gifted him with the power of a Third. The greatest gift he had ever received.

    I thought I was the last holder of the Bloodverne. Eztli thought, feeling his mind in chaos. After all, they hunted everyone down. I was only saved because of the Cursed Maze…

    “Eztli, are you all right?” Kael asked, suddenly bringing him out of his trance-like state.

    Shaking his head, Eztli asked. "When can we get out of here?"

    Kael shrugged. "I don't know, it might take a while."

    "Damn.” Eztli said, sighing then shifted his weight. “Well, wake me up once we do get out."

    "What about the art? You said you were going to teach me today."

    "Boy, I would love to do that, but the formation here prevents any sort of qi.” Eztli said, praising looking at the drawings on the wall. They weren’t complex but they had been perfectly engraved in the metal. Even the door had been carefully crafted to seal the room completely once shut. If there had been the slightest crack, the formation wouldn’t have worked.

    "You can still tell me about it so I can train once we get out. I mean we have the time right now."

    Eztli laughed hard.

    "Why are you laughing?"

    "At your stupidity boy. You think just by listening you'll be able to cultivate in my art?”

    “But isn’t that how you cultivate? You listen or read how to do it and then go try it yourself.”

    “Don’t compare my Blood Art to your trash cultivation techniques. One explanation is not enough for you to grasp it. My art i-"

    Eztli stopped when the door opened then shivered. Not because of the man that entered, but because of what he pushed. A wheelchair.



    Eztli fell silent. He ignored Kael’s attempts at conversation or the fact that they were being taken somewhere. He could only focus on the chair. Fuck. He cursed inwardly. Why do I have to ride a cursed wheelchair again?

    He was short of breath. His heart was beating fast and an immense pressure fell on him. He felt powerless. Withered. The old man he was started coming back. Only amplified by Kael’s worrying eyes. Rhett… Eztli thought. No. Snap out of it. He is not Rhett.

    Eztli turned to the carvings on the walls to distract himself. They were elegant. Most had elegant curves and only grew more lavish as they approached their destination.

    Two twin statues caught Eztli’s eye. Two Phoenix. They seemed alive; if you focused you could see their chest move as if they breathed. Eztli noticed the formation embedded in them. An illusion. He thought. That’s the first I’ve seen on such shitty statues. Underneath, the statues were horrible. Broken. Deformed.

    However, they appeared to be intentionally carved that way. Eztli laughed and nodded as he shifted his eyes down, focusing the writing engraved on them. Fairness. Justice. Now that’s something I agree with. He thought, praising the ingenuity of the sculpture. Eztli knew from experience that fairness and justice didn’t exist in the world. Even those righteous people or sects only appeared that way on the outside. But inside, they were like the two statues.

    Twisted and rotten in their core.


    ##


    Kael sighed. The way to the Council Hearing had been long and quiet. Especially since Eztli ignored him ever since they placed him on the wheelchair. He stared at the huge doors as they entered.

    The Council sat on their raised platform—looking down on the forming crowd of Elders. Kael felt their eyes lock on him immediately after he entered. He gripped the armrest on his chair as he searched for Dean.

    He has to be here. Sal is already there with Brin… Kael thought as he got the urge to vomit. I-I d-did that to him.?

    Brin had his whole body covered in bandages. Some tinting red. However, his face was the most gruesome. The bandages did a poor job at hiding his deformed left cheek. There was a large depression under his eye. Brin turned towards him. Kael saw his eyes flash black for a moment causing him to gasp for air. He felt Brin’s arm against his throat, choking him.

    Calm down. A command rang in his head. The feeling left him, replaced by an eerie calmness. He glanced at Eztli and nodded. “Thanks.”


    ##


    Damn it. Eztli thought, shaking his head. Now I have to deal with a traumatized child. Sighing, Eztli glanced at Brin and searched for any symptoms of the Bloodverne.

    There were none.

    That’s impossible. He thought. Once a person succumbed to the madness they couldn’t be brought back. Unless they brought someone who trained in Blood Arts, they wouldn’t be saved. Eztli urged to use his soul to examine Brin. He needed to know if he really had it. But he stopped himself.

    The presence of the three elders on the platform pressed on him. He focused on the woman’s hand. A strange set of runes—ones Eztli was not familiar with—littered her hand and presumably her body. His eyes shined brightly and his curiosity bubbled.

    Hurriedly, he used his soul and covertly wrapped around the woman; feeling and examining every inch of her body—taking in the runes. She only trembled slightly and narrowed her eyes, glancing around confused. Amazing. Eztli thought. These runes…the layers…their function…He got lost in them. Slowly, he managed to decode the outer part of them. It seemed to be an oath of some kind. If broken one would experience the worst pain then death, but that was just the surface. Who could craft such a formation? Eztli wondered, his eyes wide. Even in my prime, I wouldn’t be able to craft such a thing. Eztli pushed his soul deeper into her skin, reading the formation underneath.

    Who dares?” The woman whispered, expelling her qi.

    Fuck. Eztli cursed inwardly, retracting his soul as it started to burn. That was stupid. I can’t believe I got carried away. He glanced at the platform. The other two elders turn to her with worry and discussed a few words. Then, they searched the crowd. Not noticing anything weird, they returned to their conversation. Well, at least now I know I can scan the kid without being caught.

    Eztli closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Focusing his soul energy. It was harder as he had used up too much energy when he was attacked by the woman. He managed to form a concentrated sphere and sent it inside Brin. Quickly, it enabled him to view every minute detail of Brin’s body.

    It was in a horrible state. Skin, muscles, and organs torn. Bones crushed, but what took Eztli’s attention was his blood vessels. They seemed to have expanded and had tears on the inside—going with the blood flow. Traces of the Bloodverne.

    Eztli smiled as he turned his focus into Brin’s heart. He searched the walls cautiously—cell by cell. If the Bloodverne had survived on the continent for so long and only showed its effects the previous night, then it must be severely diluted. A sudden cell contracted as his soul pass through it. Weird. Eztli thought. The cell is definitely infected by the Bloodverne, I’m sure of it. But why isn’t its core in the shape of a slug? Then he noticed it. A small orange shell surrounding a ball. Fools. Eztli laughed. They must have used some kind of medicine to try and cure it. If only they knew what they have actually done.

    Eztli grinned as he realized that the medicine was trying to crush the source of the Bloodverne. Something that would only make it worse. It would mask the symptoms as the source was crushed. But once it shattered it would only transform into new cells and it would come back stronger. I’ll give it a boost. Eztli thought, guiding his soul to crush the source. It gave no resistance and shattered.

    Eztli’s soul energy ran out sending a wave of exhaustion through him. I really hate this body. He sighed, closing his eyes. His current form and lack of qi limited his soul greatly, but that would change once he refined his blood. Plus, now he had a way to increase his rise in strength. He smiled. Still, I guess I’ll have to stay in this place for a time. Hopefully, its only two or three years. I think that should be enough for the Bloodverne to grow back. Then I’ll extract it.

    Eztli fell asleep.


    ##


    Theo was beginning to grow worried. He had sent Rick to fetch Dean ten minutes ago, but he still didn’t show up.

    “initiate Theo,” Loki said. “Close the door, the Council Hearing will commence.”

    “Elder, Dean is stil-“

    “The Hearing will commence.” Tint bellowed. “We have waited long enough. Close the door.”

    “Yes.” Theo said, locking the large doors and sighing to himself. I hope this ends well. Without Dean’s testimony…I’m afraid Kael won’t be believed.

    “This hearing—requested by Theo—is to revise the events that occurred last night and to enact punishment on Sal, Dean, Brin and Kael.” Junn said.

    Theo noticed the shock on Sal’s eyes as he stood to speak.

    Junn, however, raised her hand to stop him. “Sal, it is not your place to speak, yet.”

    With that Sal sat back, grumbling.

    The introduction was long. It took turns to allow the parties involved and witnesses to speak their sides. Soon enough, Kael was being questioned.”

    “Kael, you state in your interrogation that you inflicted the wounds on Brin out of self-defense? Correct?” Tint asked.

    “H-he peeled the skin himself.”

    “I didn’t ask you about that.” Tint said, showing a hint of anger. “Did you or not attack Brin?”

    “He attacked my rabbit. So.. I stopped him.” Kael said, rubbing his hands together.

    “So, you admit to causing the wounds?” Tint asked.

    “Only the punches. And to defend my beast.”

    “I don’t believe this.” Sal bellowed. “Your rabbit is not even hurt.”

    Theo shook at the comment and glanced at Kael’s beast. He hadn’t noticed when he interrogated him. The rabbit was perfectly fine not a scratch on him. In fact, it was peacefully sleeping.

    “Sal does bring up a valid point.” Junn said, turning to Kael. “Kael, how did your beast heal? Or was it even hurt?”

    The boy seemed shaken he started to stutter and glance around. Not good. Theo thought. Say something. Anything. From the corner of his eye, Theo could see Sal smiling and Nori looking awkwardly. Theo focused on her. She seemed to want to say something, but she would glance at Sal, blush then close her mouth. No way. Theo was struck with the sudden realization. She loves him. I need to get her to speak.

    In the end, Kael said nothing.

    A bad choice.

    “Well, since you don’t refute it.” Junn said. “And there are multiple accounts that confirm you attacking Brin. We will return to our previous judgement. Kael, you are to be expelled from the sect and imprisoned.”

    “I call Nori to speak.” Theo said firmly.

    “Theo,” Junn said. “The judgement is set. There is nothing more to do.”

    Theo walked and placed his hand on Kael’s shoulder. “Don’t worry I won’t let them bring injustice.” Theo whispered at him. Then, he raised his hand. The set of runes of his hand glowed purple and the room shook. “I call forth the Oath. I place my life on the line for this boy I can’t stand for this unfair judgement. He is innocent. I know he is. I call Nori to speak.”

    The Council elders nodded as their bodies glowed with purple and in unison they said. “Oath accepted. Nori step forward.”

    “N-no I can’t.” Nori said and backed away. “I can’t.”

    “Step forward and speak” The council members moved their arms until their fingertips touched. The room lit up and a beam of violet light descended from the ceiling, shrouding Nori.

    Immediately, she spoke in a monotone. “I lied in my report. Brin caused the wounds himself.”

    The light then faltered and shattered, sending particles of violet across the room.

    “T-the judgement was wrong.” Loki said, his voice wavering. “Initiate Theo, you have proved worthy of the Oath. I resign.”

    The words shook Theo.

    “I resign.” Loki repeated. “Initiate Theo, you are to take my place.”

    Why? Theo asked himself, his face confused as he stared at a smiling Loki. No. They were all smiling.

    “W-why?” Theo finally managed to utter.

    “It was your test.” The Council elders said. “Loki is dying. We didn’t have the time to wait a decade for you to finish engraving your Oath. So, Loki proposed…this unorthodox method. We were to rush a false judgement to test you. And he was right. You are indeed a man of justice.”

    “But doesn’t the Oath prevent a false judgement?” Theo asked.

    “Only if we really did enact the punishment. The Oath would read us and if we did intend it—knowing it was wrong—it would end us.” Junn said. “We knew from the start something was not wrong. We even started the Hearing without Dean. In fact, we sent Rick to fetch him because we knew he would not go immediately.”

    So that’s why…Theo thought. That’s why Loki always called me by Initiate. That’s why they actually allowed the hearing without Dean being present. They waited for me.

    It was stupid to think that the Council didn’t notice the inconsistencies of the stories. That they proceeded without Dean.

    “Do you accept your Oath. To uphold Justice and Fairness above your own life. To be selfless and to dedicate yourself to the sect?”

    Theo took a deep breath. “I accept the Oath.”

    “I bear witness.” Junn and Tint said.

    Loki then raised his hand and his runes glowed. A light shot and surrounded Theo. Runes began forming around his body. However, there was no pain. It wasn’t an engraving. It was a transfer. The runes on Loki’s body moved and turned into the very light that shot at him. The process soon ended. Theo glanced at Loki—now runeless except for his Right hand. He nodded then retreated out the back entrance, leaving his seat.

    “Welcome the Council. Now stand with us. So that time can proceed.”

    Theo walked forward unconsciously. Then, he noticed. Everyone was still. Frozen.

    “H-how is this possible?” Theo asked.

    “There are many things you will have to learn. We are pressed for time right now. We must enact the true judgement. Sit.”

    Without a further word, he sat. The world began ticking again and everyone fell back into time.

    “You might notice Theo sitting with us. He has passed his test and accepted the Oath. All this happened under the eyes of the very Oath. Only for us—Oathtakers—to witness. The previous judgement was a ruse. A test. So, with our new member, we shall enact the True judgment.”

    Gasps filled the room, but quieted once Junn raised her hand. “The Hearing shall commence.”

    “Sorry for making you suffer like that child.” She said with a warm soft voice as she turned to look at Kael. “You are not going to be expelled.”

    “Really?” Kael said, his eyes lighting up.

    “However, you shall still be punished for hurting another sect member so severely. Thirty days confined to your room. No contact with anyone. That will be your punishment.”

    “That’s preposterous.” Sal screamed. “The judgement was set and he nearly killed m-“

    “Oh Sal.” Tint said. “do you think your little plan would fool us? We could literally see you grinning stupidly when we pressured Kael. You shall be punished for false reports. Colluding against other members and hiding the sickness of your son. Then there is the matter of your outburst with Dean and almost killing Robin’s disciple.

    “For that you will lose your position as Elder. You will be confined in the Discipline Hall for a year and must provide the funds for the disciple’s wounds.”

    Sal fumed, his face turned blood red and his left eye twitched. “I will not stand for this. I wil-“

    “You will do nothing Sal.” Theo found himself saying, his voice strong. “You will comply with our judgement.”

    “What about Brin. He was the victim here. He was accused of having the Bloodverne by Dean.”

    The word made him wince. For a moment, Theo stared into Sal’s eye he could see the defeat in them. And sadness. Theo’s heart softened even more when he glanced at Brin. He sat there with empty eyes.

    “As for Brin...” Tint said. “He will be given the best care. And placed under observation for thirty days. If there is no…Symptoms, he will be set free.”

    Junn nodded with his judgement and added. “Nori, will be placed under six months of imprisonment for her false reports. As for De-“

    Suddenly, the large doors rang. A crack formed on the lock another bang sent the lock flying and the doors flung opened.

    A bloodied, wounded and tired Dean waltzed in. His left foot dragging. Behind him lay a mountain of unconscious Discipline Hall members. His right hand held onto a robe as he dragged someone and threw in the center of the hall. Rick.

    “Where is Kael?” Dean asked, rubbing the blood off his eyes.

    “Dean,” Kael said, almost crying. Hearing his voice, Dean rushed towards him and embraced him.

    “Don’t worry Kael.” Dean said. “I won’t let them hurt you. I won’t let them.” Then he turned and stared viciously at them.

    Theo felt chills run down his spine. Those eyes weren’t the usual happy Dean. His robes, yellow and filled with blood, only enhanced it. “I heard from that bastard,” Dean said, pointing at Rick. “That you took Kael without informing me first. You dragged him him. I know the rules and those actions clearly broke them. Explain yourselves.”

    “We don’t need to explain ourselves.” Tint said. “What we do is always in the best interest of the sect.”

    “So, scaring a kid senseless is just in your eyes? You sicken me. The Oath should take your life.”

    Theo felt a sting in his heart as he recalled how he himself had scared the boy as he interrogated him. He began to doubt his position. Did he really uphold fairness in that moment? Was he being just? No. Theo told himself. I was only thinking about myself…

    “Watch your mouth Dean.” Junn said. “Words cannot be taken lightly. You will be punished. Punished for breaking into a Council Hearing forcefully and for beating fellow sect members. You will lose your position as eld-“

    Dean shot a glare again. His qi rose exposing his strength.

    “Second Mending…” Tint and Junn both said, surprised.

    “I’ll gladly accept punishment for my actions.” Dean said.” If they were indeed wrong, but I’m sure you know who is just.”

    Theo turned and saw both of the other Council members. They wore frowns on their faces. Their expressions, twisted. Conflicted and in pain. What’s going on? Theo thought.

    “Everyone dismissed.” Tint finally said. “The hearing is over. Judgement is set. Dean is to go free. It would…be unjust to punish him for our faults.”

    Dean nodded and picked up Kael. “I expect compensation for the unfair treatment. In the form of a high-grade healing medicine—delivered to Kael of course.”

    With that he walked out of the meeting hall.


    ##


    Kael could only stare at Dean with wide eyes as he sat on the chair next to his bed. Dean hadn’t uttered a word, but he wore a guilty expression.

    “Thanks Dean.” Kael said softly.

    Dean sighed and turned to him giving a smile. “What punishment did they set for you?”

    “Just thirty days in my room.”

    Dean let out a laugh. “They really put the benefit of the sect before all.”

    “Why do you say that?”

    “Well, thirty days in your room, only means that you’ll have time to focus on bonding with your beast. Even in this situation they still hope for a genius.”

    “So that’s why they also set Brin under Thirty Days of observation.” Kael said, with a sudden realization. “But how come they let you go without punishment?”

    “They can’t lose a Second Mending Master. Too valuable.” Dean said, as he ruffled his hair.

    A sudden deep hoarse voice rang by the door.

    “Dean. We need to talk.”

    Dean gave a sigh and stood. “Kael, I have to go. It’s important.”

    Kael looked at him. He wanted to ask who the voice belonged to, but Dean shook his head and left.

    I’ll asking later. Kael thought, smiling to himself. Dean was really cool today. I hope I can get that strong soon.

    He glanced at the Eztli, a fire of desire burning in his eyes and shook him.

    “Wake up.”
     
  7. SilkwormLarvae

    SilkwormLarvae Member

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    Chapter Twenty-Six

    Eztli couldn't believe what Kael had told him.

    After being woken up, he had asked how they had returned to the room and that's when everything went wrong. Thirty days, he thought as his vision drifted. Thirty days confined to this small room and with the kid.

    He had planned to just teach him the first layer of his Blood Arts as repayment then leave him. He would linger in the vicinity—he had to wait for the Bloodverne to incubate—but he never planned to spend it confined. Now, those plans were ruined.

    It's only a month, Eztli told himself, sighing. He really didn’t want to spend the time with the kid, but the more he thought about it the more he liked the idea. He could use those days to refine his own blood—making himself stronger before leaving. That sounds like the best possible outcome. Besides, the kid will be busy refining his own blood, increasing the qi flow in this area, which will only benefit me. He thought, nodding to himself while pushing down sudden fear.

    Atmospheric qi usually flowed very slowly unless someone actively focused and willed it into their bodies. Even then, most people couldn’t change the flow greatly; only those so called geniuses—with their superior control and absorption rate—managed to sustain and increase the amount of atmospheric qi. That was the reason many cultivators used specially crafted rooms—with formations that enhanced qi flow—to cultivate.

    Eztli had been one of those. Now he was a rabbit. The fear rose within him again. Will I be able to gather the change the flow at a fast pace? He asked himself. He wanted to regain his strength as fast as possible, but now that he thought about it, he might not be able to. No. You can do it. You already have the experience and if that doesn’t help, you can will the qi with your soul.

    That was the last option. Even if he could use his soul to guide the qi, it wouldn’t be efficient. It would tire him too quickly; there was also the lingering question of whether his soul would suffer from the repeated use. Currently, his soul had shifted to the form of a rabbit and was stable, but as it was not its true form it might be affected if he started to go crazy with its use. And he had been using it too often. I mustn’t use it that often. Eztli thought. I might be worrying for nothing, but it’s safer to restrain myself. At least until I can find a way to regain a suitable level of strength or escape this body. Sighing, he turned to Kael who looked at him with eager eyes—waiting for Eztli to start explaining.

    "Kid, what do you know about cultivation?" Eztli asked. It was necessary for him to know before he started to teach him.

    The sudden question stunned Kael for a bit, but he responded promptly. "Cultivation is divided into three stages. The first stage, Fracture, requires one to gather qi from the atmosphere and store it in their cores. This will cause the core to fracture and expand. Once a cultivator reaches ten fractures, he will enter the second stage, Mending.

    "This stage requires the cultivator to mend their fractures—in reverse—to reform their cores. Each mend will enhance the amount of qi one can store in their cores as there will be one less fracture to allow a leakage. “As for the third stage..." Kael said, taking a deep breath before continuing. "I don't know much about it—since there wasn't many books about it in the library—but it has to do something with nourishing the body with qi."

    Eztli nodded as he heard the explanation. He was surprised that Kael knew so much. He had been wrong about there only being three stages—there was actually five—and his description of the third stage was vague, but the other two were spot on.

    "All rig-"

    "Then there's Fighter cultivation." Kael said.

    "Wait. Fighter Cultivation?" Eztli asked as he took in the new term.

    "Yeah, they cultivate differently. I guess it's a bit similar to the third stage as they gather qi to enhance their muscles and bones, but they do it while they shatter their core."

    Eztli was stunned. What the hell? He thought. Refining their body while still shattering their cores. What stupid art was that? Eztli knew that shattering one's core while nourishing the body was a ticket to failure. He had seen several of his fellow disciples fall to the greed of using qi that they shattered their cores prematurely. They did get stronger, but they forever remained stuck at ten fractures.

    "Boy, do you know where this method came from?" Eztli asked.

    "Uh, I don't know if this is true, but from what I read I think it came from the Heavenly Sword Sect."

    That name paralyzed and enraged Eztli. Heavenly Sword...he thought. It was the same sect that hunted and ended the Blood Legacy Sect. The sect he destroyed once he rose to power.

    "You are wrong. That sect was eradicated thousands of years ago." Eztli said. "So there's no way they could they create a cultivation method."

    "They were, but some members survived and reformed their sect using the Fighter cultivation as a basis for it. Although they now live in seclusion."

    Those greedy bastards, Eztli thought, his eyes narrowing and leaking killing intent. After he had destroyed the Heavenly Sword Sect, he had found several labs deep underground that held dissected members of his sect. He had thought that they were trying to learn more about the Bloodverne, but now the purpose of those labs hit him. They experimented on the members of my sect they captured in order to steal our cultivation art. Fortunately, they failed to fully grasp it—or maybe I attacked before they could—and only managed to come up with a half-assed joke of cultivation manual. Still, I will need to look for them and eradicate them. This time for good.



    ##


    Kael gasped for air as he stared at Eztli. He could see—and feel—an intense pressure shrouded him; filling him with fear and death.

    "E-Eztli..." Kael said, his voice trembling and teeth clattering.

    The pressure stopped and Kael could breathe normally again. He was still sweating and shaking—the fear still lingered.

    "Sorry about that boy," Eztli said. "I sunk into my memories..."

    "What memories?" Kael asked.

    "None of your business." Eztli snapped.

    "Bu-"

    "Boy, if you want to learn my Blood Art just stop. I'm not here to get all friendly with. Once I teach you I will leave. If you keep asking about my past you won't even get that."

    "Okay." Kael said, looking at Eztli. But deep inside Kael was still curious about Eztli. He wanted to know what he had remembered. What had caused him to be so mad. Heavenly Sword...Kael thought. Could it be related to that sect? After I mentioned it he acted different-

    "So back to my Blood Art." Eztli said, breaking Kael's train of thought. "I will only teach you the first layer of the Nourish stage, Blood Refinement. This will be enough to heal you and help you get strong in the future."

    Kael grew eager and excited as he listened to Eztli, forgetting what he was thinking about. "Blood Refinement? I’m going to refine my body like fighters?"

    "Boy, don't compare my Blood Art to that lowly cultivation method." Eztli said, anger rising in his voice. "Unlike it, you won't be storing qi or shattering your core."

    "Then how will I train in it?" Kael asked.

    Eztli smiled then hoped towards him. "You will use the qi from the atmosphere—as if you were to store it—and use it to burn and refine your blood."

    "Refine Blood? Wouldn't it be stupid as you will lose it once wounded?" Kael asked. The concept of refining blood confused Kael. It was unheard of—at least he had never read of it in the cultivation records. It made more sense to refine parts of your body you wouldn’t lose easily, like muscles and bones.

    Eztli laughed hard. "Boy, once your blood has been refined you will have full control over it. So unless you wish to expel it, it won't ever escape your body. Plus, the refinement process alters it so that it enhances your body with each full circulation."

    "But how is that possible?"

    "How do you control qi, boy?"

    "I concentrate and will it though my body…" Kael said as a sudden realization flashed through his mind. "So once it gets altered it becomes like qi."

    "You are not as stupid as I thought." Eztli said, nodding. "During the process, qi and blood become one turning into Blood Qi."

    "But then how will you shatter your core if your blood becomes your qi? You can only have a certain amount of blood in your body."

    "That's the beauty of my cultivation art boy." Eztli said happily. "It doesn't affect your intake of normal qi, it just provides you with a second—more powerful—source of qi. You can still gather qi into your core to shatter it. In fact, that's were my art shines. Once you master all five layers of the Nourish stage, you will only ever need to fracture your core. Never mend."

    "What?" Kael asked, yelling. “Never mend? That shouldn't be possible.”

    "Shit, I got carried away." Eztli said. "You don't need to know. I will only teach you Blood refinement. After that, you can just train normally."

    "Come on." Kael said, grabbing towards Eztli. "You already mentioned it, why can't you explain?"

    Eztli back away and narrowed his eyes, shooting a killing intent at him. "Don't test your luck kid. I would have killed you just for knowing this much already, but as a token of gratitude for saving me I let it slide. Now are you going to keep asking me about that or start practicing?"

    He's not kidding. He thought, swallowing hard as Eztli stared him down. He really would have killed me.

    "I'll start practicing."

    “Great. Oh and just to be clear, the pain you will feel in the process will be beyond your imagination.” Eztli said, smiling.
     
  8. SilkwormLarvae

    SilkwormLarvae Member

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    Chapter Twenty-Seven

    Kael screamed at the top of his lungs as a wave of pain coursed through his arm. His screams became louder as the blood vessels in his arm filled with uncontrolled qi and blood. His fingers twisted involuntarily to the point of almost breaking the bone. Finally, he felt them rupture against the pressure, tinting his arm red. He rolled right, falling of the bed and hitting the wooden floor hard, sending another wave of pain—this time from his wounded leg—into his mind. Darkness started to fill his vision.

    "Heavens! I told you to concentrate and not let blood circulate." Eztli yelled in his mind, preventing him from falling into unconsciousness.

    Kael clenched his teeth and sat, looking at his right hand. It was a mess. His fingers remained cramped at weird angles. Trying to move them only caused them to tremble slightly. Sighing, he used his other hand to fix them. Fortunately, there was no pain, only numbness.

    I did concentrate, Kael thought, turning to face an enraged Eztli. Too much in fact.

    He sunk back into his memories. A moment ago, Eztli had taught him a special breathing technique and series of hand shapes that would allow him to feel and gather qi from the atmosphere. At first, he had wondered just how the hand shapes and sequence of breaths would help him. But after he had tried them out he had only felt them natural. Soon, he had managed to successfully pool the qi flow; at least enough for it to turn visible. It had been an enthralling sight.

    The qi glowed in synchronized pulses that grew in intensity as he breathed deeply. After another short moment, he had gathered enough qi to form a ribbon—similar to the one that exited the Link stone—that swirled around him at his will. Eztli had even given an amazed praise at how quickly he had managed to gather and control it, but just as quickly, moved on to explain how to absorb it. He had even guided it with a strange energy.

    Kael had asked him about it—for it was his second time seeing the strange energy—but had been met with instructions to worry about focusing on the pattern of qi travelling inside him. It had been weird at first, but the feeling soon grew so...intoxicating. It had sent him into a deeper state of mind that he had felt one with the qi. So much in fact, that he had visualized his own body as the qi flowed inside him; his blood, vessels and organs had become the only thing in his mind. Then Eztli's voice had beckoned him to encase a particle of blood in his index finger and burn it. And he had. That's when things had gone wrong.

    The pain of burning that minuscule particle of blood had been so great that it shattered his focus—allowing the particle to circulate and spread the pain.

    "This is a waste of time." Eztli said, sighing. "Even with me guiding you. You still managed to ruin it and almost destroy your hand in the process. You are on your ow-"

    "Again." Kael found himself saying, his voice carried a firmness that even he didn’t know where it came from. "Please guide me again."

    "Boy, do you know how valuable the energy I used was? I can't be using it for such useless things. Just use the herb they will give you to heal your leg. It will be less painful, for the both of us."

    "Please, one more time. I was only caught off guard by the sudden pain. This time I will do it." Kael said. Also, I need another try to memorize the pattern…Kael thought. He was embarrassed to admit that had been so lost in the feeling that he had forgotten to pay attention.

    Eztli fell silent. Kael could see the hesitation in his eyes, but suddenly it vanished and Eztli smiled. "One last time. Regardless if you succeed or fail, the herb will be mine not yours. That's the trade."

    Kael hesitated for a moment. Using the herb would guarantee that he would be healed. As for the Blood Art…only by cultivating in it would he gain anything. It would be foolish to continue debating—the route was clear—but his mind kept returning to the moment when the qi flowed through him. It felt so...right. Like it was part of me...Kael thought, focusing on the feeling. The sensation spread through him again—embracing him—and his uncertainty vanished. This is right. If I fail, I'll just became a cripple. Taking a deep breath, he looked at Eztli and smiled.

    "You got yourself a deal."


    ##


    Eztli was momentarily shocked. In reality, he had expected the kid to take the easy way and choose the herb—that way he wouldn't have to use his soul again. But never, with his thousands of years of experience, would he have guessed that Kael would agree.

    This foolish boy, Eztli thought, meeting Kael's eyes and smiled. Those eyes...there's not a hint of fear, just determination. Eztli smile became wider. Well, if he wants to gift me a rare herb—for my cultivation—then I see no need to refuse him. Besides, if he succeeds it only benefits me and if he fails...well, that's just not my problem.

    "All right. Begin gathering qi again. I'll guide it once it reaches a suitable level."

    Kael nodded, closed his eyes, breathed and formed his hand patterns. Soon, ribbons of atmospheric qi swam around Kael like before only this time they intertwined and merged—forming a bigger and more concentrated strand. The strand spun seven feet above Kael's head, elongating and growing until it formed a full circle. The circle's edges grew brighter than the center as qi merged with it. At the circle's center, a small sphere of qi started to form.

    This kid...Eztli thought, his body trembling as he continued to stare. He's a fucking genius! It's only his second time performing the technique and he already intuitively started forming a Qi Whirlpool. Looks like my luck is good. He laughed.

    A Qi Whirlpool, would enhance the flow of atmospheric qi and pool it into one point. There were Four Cycles to a Qi Whirlpool and only the best qi controllers could create one. The First Cycle—which Kael was currently in—consisted of forming the Base Ring. It was the largest and most important ring in the structure. Its function was to condense the qi into a sphere.

    The second Cycle needed one to create four rings underneath—each spinning in contrasting directions. This would cause a sliver of qi to branch out constantly from the sphere and break apart by the alternating forces—purifying it. The Third Cycle added three smaller rings underneath that spun faster. Their purpose was to reform the purified qi into a smaller and brighter sphere, right above the cultivator’s head. Finally, the Fourth Cycle would form one last ring that sat on the head like a crown. It was the smallest of the eight rings, but the most important. It would compress the sphere of purified qi even further—into one concise strand—and provide the most efficient point of entry.

    Currently, Kael had only formed the Base Ring—and it could have been a fluke of the moment—but if he managed to consistently create it and add more rings...Eztli's mind wandered as he imagined his strength returning sooner. Calm down, Eztli told himself. There's no use to get ahead. If the kid can't refine blood then there's no point in him forming the whirlpool. Taking a deep breath, Eztli flared his soul energy and guided a strand from sphere of qi into Kael.

    The amount of energy was negligible to what Eztli was used to, but it was enough to form the refinement rune. One needed to circulate the qi in this particular pattern at least once before beginning to refine. Carefully using his soul, Eztli guided the qi to form the ancient rune created by Verne. If drawn on paper one would see only a few lines—their shape resembling a simple slug—but it was more complex than that. This was only the initial rune of a set.

    Basing it on the Blood Slug, Verne had created a masterful runic art—the reason why it managed to reign over the Bloodverne. Each rune ingrained itself into its cultivator—although they remained invisible until one reached the peak—and merged perfectly. Eztli had seen it when he reached his exalted status. All runes served their own purpose and together they created a three-dimensional Blood Slug. The beauty and complexity laid in that, no matter which angle one looked at it from, the Blood Slug pattern remained the same. A true masterpiece.

    Suddenly, Eztli lost control of the qi. Panicking, he flared more of his soul, but stopped dead in his track. He shook his head in disbelief. No. T-this...it can't be. How can he refine it so...perfectly? Kael had entered a deep meditative state and was guiding the qi masterfully. His speed was slow—nothing compared to him when he started cultivating—but it was only his second try and he was already encasing and burning cell after cell of blood. To top it off, Kael was healing his previously damaged blood vessels in the process; something only experienced cultivators could do for it required one to split their mind. Soon, his arm only had a few spots of red littered here and there.

    Eztli returned to his senses and stared at Kael. Then, he noticed a strange red hue burning from within his core. Curious, Eztli used his soul to examine it; it was energy—unlike anything he had seen before. Interesting. Eztli thought as he looked at Kael. Really fucking interesting. He rushed his soul to go deeper into the strange stream, but was rejected. It’s like it has a mind of its own. That, or he I’m far too weak to penetrate the energy. Either way, it’s very interesting.

    This sect was in the middle of nowhere, yet there was an energy so strange that he couldn’t even guess its purpose. They also had formations beyond his knowledge—something almost impossible as he was the foremost researcher in the field. Then, to top it all off, there was that bastard with the dual soul and the kid with the remnant Bloodverne. Eztli smiled wickedly. Looks like once I regain my strength I will have a lot to do. All these pristine samples…He thought as part of his soul burned with an eagerness and excitement that had only burned when he had first stumbled upon the idea to create an immortal body. He itched to perform experiments and to understand. Calming himself, he hopped towards Kael. For now, I can't let this opportunity to cultivate go by. The kid's already doing most of the work. So I might as well start regaining my strength.

    With that, he sat on Kael's lap and started stealing most of the qi that gathered in the center of the ring. Thankfully, the process of stealing didn't require much effort so it saved him from having to use his soul energy. Slowly, he absorbed it and formed the rune four times—for compounded effect—before he burned his blood; bringing back a long forgotten, but familiar pain.
     
  9. SilkwormLarvae

    SilkwormLarvae Member

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    Chapter Twenty-Eight

    "Are you going to tell me why you brought me here or keep drinking your tea?" Dean asked, as he eyed Isaac not afraid to show his frustration.

    Isaac took another long sip as if mocking him then sighed. "You are not going to join me?"

    "Join you? You dragged me here an hour ago saying we had to talk, yet you hardly said a word," Dean said hitting the table.

    "Calm down Dean. This is exactly why I want you to drink some tea. Today’s events wer-"

    Dean tightened his fist and hit the table again as he flared his qi. The wave spread and shattered the tea cup. "You want me to be calm in this situation? After what the council did? You are the sect leader for heaven's sake. You should be the one to control them. Not sit here and drink tea as if nothing is going on."

    At the sudden outburst, Isaac dropped his tea and stood. "Dean, even if you have surpassed me in strength, you will respect me."

    "Respect? You had it once. But recently, you’ve hardly earned it.” Dean said, standing. “You've been hiding, letting the council run the sect as they please. Today’s events just enhance that fact. You have to get it together, Isaac.

    "Enough! You don't know the half of it. The sect is in a bad state. That's why I've been busy."

    "I know that we are dwindling and the sect is going to ruin. But that is no reason to ignore what the Council did. Isaac, they used sect members for their own purpose isn't that against what the Oath stands for? The Founder created the Council to promote fairness and justice in the sect and they have thrown that away. So what, we got a decade or so before we crumble and are unable to sustain or raise any disciples, but that still shouldn’t make us go against our principles."

    Isaac's expression twisted and he fell silent. Then, he walked to the teapot and poured more tea—overflowing his cup—as his hand ran through his hair.

    What happened to him? Dean asked himself, as he noticed the trembling in Isaac's hand. He wasn't like this before...before Ian passed away... Something clicked inside him as he connected details.

    Isaac had been the sect leader everyone wished for. He was involved in every decision and looked for the benefit of the sect and its members. And unlike the Council he cared—at least he had at some point. After Ian had requested the Council to give him permission to access the Founder's Chamber, he changed. The Council had called him for a meeting that went on for two days. When it was over, he gave his verdict to reject Ian’s request. After, he turned reclusive—locking himself for days in his room—leaving the Council in charge of everything.

    "Isaac, Ian's death is in the past. It was the Council's fault. Not yours." Dean said, his heart pained a little—deep inside he blamed Isaac for Ian's fate, yet he kept repressing it. You could have said yes. Dean thought. That would have saved him.

    "Ian's death was not anyone's fault, but his own." Isaac said, staring directly at him no longer trembling. "Let's face it. Ian was crazed for strength. It was his greed and pursuit for power—beyond that which he could control—that caused his untimely death. Unfortunately, that ended up affecting the sect far more than any of us could have imagined. That's the main reason why I called you here."

    Dean could only stare blankly. His mind was in chaos—memories of Ian flashed in and out, specially the message he left within the formation inside him. You are wrong Isaac, he thought, firmly. I grew up with him, became his best friend and travelled with him early on. There’s no one that knew him better than me. Ian did pursuit power, but he did it to protect those he cared about. The formations he left inside Kael and me only reinforces that.

    In fact, that's why Dean had accepted to meet with Isaac; he wanted to explain that he cracked one of Ian's research. But Isaac's final words and what it insinuated changed his mind completely. Than we imagined...he repeated in his head as his body trembled. So they knew Ian would die. No. Why would they do that? The Oath would have punished the Council...they would have died.

    "Y-you, wh-"

    "Let me continue," Isaac yelled. "His death was the misfortune of the sect. Originally, we could have survived for another two decades, but after he died, the other sects began pressuring us. We did not foresee how far they would go to and in the end, we had to give up resources in order to prevent an attack—one that we couldn't defend or escape from. But that’s no longer true. With you at the Second Mending we can finally fight back. We already have the plan to get our resources—and more—back. The sect will live on and it will be your own accomplishment."

    Dean let out a laugh. "After what you told me you still expect me to fight for the sect? You knew he would die and you let it happen? He was my friend, my brother. I thought this sect cared for us, but now I see how blind I’ve been. You bunch are as rotten and corrupt as the others. I should have left with Kael after Ian’s death like I had planned to. I shouldn't have hesitated."

    "Dean," Isaac said, sighing. "I can't force you to help, but this is for the greater good. Believe me. The sect needs you.”

    “Ian could have done a much better job.” Dean said, his body trembling and qi bubbling in his core. “But you let him die, even after all the contributions he made to the sect.”

    “If we would have saved Ian by letting him enter the Founder's Chamber, he would have destroyed the sect and possibly the world. That power...is beyond his control. Only the one chosen by the Founder himself could accept his legacy."

    Isaac walked to the wall, gathered qi on his index finger and started to draw complex runes. A blinding golden light and a click filled the small room as a door appeared.

    Dean stared, trying to take in what he was told and had seen, but Isaac spoke, breaking his thought process.

    "Normally, only members of the Council can enter. This is what they showed me during that long meeting and why I refused Ian. It’s also the reason why I spend my days like a hermit. I’ve been studying everything left by the Founder. As the situation is dire—and you currently being the strongest person in the entire sect—the Council has agreed to let you enter.

    “Follow me. The reason why we couldn't let Ian into the Founder’s Chamber, even if it meant his death. Once you see it you’ll understand. After, you will report to the Council to accept a minor Oath and begin helping us.

    Isaac walked down the set of stairs and beckoned to him, "Come, you will finally understand the true Legacy of the Reigned Phoenix Sect."

    He was uncertain of what Isaac meant, but it had something to do with what Ian hoped to find. Taking a deep breath, Dean paced forward into the dark and narrow corridor.


    ##


    Confinement robes…Theo thought as he watched Sal sitting on the ground. He wore a white robe with a green circle—the number thirty etched inside—over his heart. He looks so defeated.

    The robes were specially designed to react with the formation set in the entire Confinement Hall. Not only did they prevent the user from cultivation and seal the wearer's strength, but they prevented one unable to exit the confinement circle—a formation drawn on the ground that acted as their prison walls—until the green countdown finished. Of course, one had to willing put the robes on or at least be force to wear them. Fortunately, Sal had accepted them without a word.

    "Sal," Theo said, standing at the edge of the red circle. "Is it true that Brin has the Bloodverne?"

    Sal stayed silent.

    "Please, I need to know if he has the same disease as my sister. Maybe I can help."

    "Just stay out of this, Theo." Sal said, his eyes closed. "I already said what I had to. And you'd be crazy if I would say anything else to a Council member. You know how much I despise them."

    Theo cringed back for a moment as he was reminded of his new position, but then stepped inside the circle and placed his hand on Sal's shoulder. "This has nothing to do with that. I'm here as your brother-in-law and uncle. Is Brin sick?"

    Sal looked up at him and hesitated for a long time before finally nodding, a tear escaping his watery eyes. "Theo, you didn't see him. It was the same as her. The same eyes, the same smile. It's like she's haunting me."

    "It's not your fault." Theo said, helping Sal up and hugging him. "There was no way you could have known that she would take her life after she regained lucidity. I would have done the same thing."

    "I was so close to curing her. It's ironic that as I stepped away to receive it, I caused her death."

    "It's all right. Besides, we don't know if it would have worked and cur-"

    "It worked." Sal said as he stepped to the window and looked outside, then finally whispered. "I used it on Brin."

    "You did what? Are you crazy? That was an experimental cure and over twelve years old at that. You could have killed him."

    "But I didn't. I healed him. And if it had in fact killed him...at least he would have died a decent death and not in the hands of the Council. Those pigs…” Sal said, clenching his teeth and tightening his muscles, he punched the wall. “They burned Elsa’s body. Then they disposed of the ashes."

    “I know.” Theo whispered. He was also dissatisfied with the actions of the Council that day, but he saw their reasoning.

    After a long silence, Sal spoke again. “Theo, could you check on Brin for me? Keep him save…at least until I can see him again.”

    Theo looked at Sal, his eyes showed nothing but concern. Smiling, he placed his hand on Sal’s shoulder and nodded. “I will do everything I can to help him.”

    “Thanks.” Sal said, managing a small smile.


    Theo walked down the dark and humid corridor—located in the Medicine Hall’s sub-level—that seemed unused for years. It was It was empty. The only signs of life were the faint trails—left recently by few disciples—and the faint whispers of the only occupant. Brin.

    He picked up the pace and finally reached the only lit room. It was sealed. The door was bolted shut, but it had a large glass window—for monitoring the patient. Peering inside, Theo saw a huddled figure in the corner of the room, muttering to himself. Holding his breath, he tried to understand the whispers, but it was garbled nonsense.

    “Brin,” Theo said, knocking on the glass. “are you all right?”

    No response.

    He tried again several times, but Brin was not responsive. He stayed in the corner.

    Is he really cured? Theo wondered. He seems like Sis in the very early stages…he shook his head. No. Sal, said he gave him the cure. I have to believe it worked. Taking a deep breath, he knocked on the glass and called Brin again.

    “Who…” Brin whispered.

    “It’s Uncle Theo.” He said, not managing to hold back the eagerness. “How are you feeling?”

    “I’m fine. I feel good…most of the time.”

    “What do you mean?”

    “Well,” Brin said, hesitating he walked to the window and showed his arm. “Sometimes the pain comes back really bad.”

    The sight made Theo want to puke. The arm was uncovered—bandages torn off—it revealed the missing chunks of flesh and skin. It was pink and no blood seeped out. “Is that why you were huddled in the corner.”

    Brin shifted his gaze to the left and shrugged.

    “I’ll ask Robin to come heal you. As a council member, I have access to more herbs…” Theo said, ignoring the faint burning sensation coming from his arm. The Oath protesting. Damn it.

    “It’s fine. I don’t mind it much.” Brin said. “But can I make a request?”

    “What do you need?”

    “Can I get my bound beast back? I need to train for the aptitude test.”

    Theo hesitated a moment, but nodded once he saw Brin’s eyes. They reminded him of a young Elsa asking for things. He was never able to refuse her.

    “I’ll see what I can do. You might not be allowed to have physical contact with it, but I think I can manage to get it placed near you so you can train.”

    “Thanks.” Brin said, smiling. Then, returned to his corner and huddled.

    Theo was perplexed by the strangeness, but let it off as him dealing with the pain. Shaking his head, he left and headed to Robin’s Study to ask him about Brin’s beast.
     

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