APPARENTLY A CULTIVATOR
Lino was currently standing in the ‘backyard’ of the house, his expression a mixture of confusion, befuddlement, terror, and some more confusion atop all of that. In front of him was Ella, dressed in her everyday clothes, her hair tied up neatly in a bun, still appearing every bit a housewife as she always did. Yet, looking at the stats she allowed him to see, Lino nearly vomited ten buckets of blood in despair.
[Eleanor Qe’ll – Immortal Sword Queen – Level 140 – Mystic Realm Immortal]
Although he had no clue what the random titles represented, he had a clue or two about what her level represented. She’s a fucking god!!! Although he screamed so inside, nothing came from his sealed lips. The woman he’s been trying to ‘woo’ away from Eggor turned out to be someone capable of leveling the entire Umbra Kingdom into ash. However, strangely, while a faint presence of terror remained, he didn’t fear her. Deep down, he knew she wasn’t going to harm him, and that there was probably a reason why she disclosed who she truly was to him. After all, it was impossible to observe someone’s stats unless that other person decided to show them to you. In addition, Ella didn’t display all of her stats, just a small portion of them.
“Surprised?” Ella asked with a faint smile on her face.
“… fuck.” Lino mumbled, shaking his head lightly. “Who are you?” he asked, his expression serious. “Did I just get tangled in a plot to take over Umbra Kingdom?”
“Ha ha, no, no,” Ella said, shaking her head lightly. “Of course not. As for who I am… that’s a story for another time, when you’ve grown stronger. Do you know why I decided to show you this?”
“You’re vain and you wanted to see my reaction?” Lino guessed randomly.
“Humph, you really think that little of me?” Ella pouted slightly, as though she wasn’t a middle-aged woman but a teenage girl.
“… forgive me, oh… uh, what was it… right, Immortal Queen. So, why did you show me?”
“You’ve already taken Eggor as your Master,” Ella said. “And now, you’ll take me on as well.”
“… you’ll be teaching me the mastery of kitchen?” Lino said, tilting his head sideways.
“Mastery of murder.” Ella said with a smile so innocent a deaf bystander would think she was talking about apples and bananas.
“…” Lino’s lips parted in shock as he stared at her. She appeared slightly ethereal beneath the streaming moonlight, causing his heart to stir; strangely, it was not because of lust, but something much more noble.
“I very much doubt your aspirations end with this tiny Kingdom, Lino,” Ella said, her voice like a gentle choir. “You most-likely want your work to be admired by mortals and immortals alike, throughout the entire continent and beyond. Am I right?”
“… yes.” Lino replied honestly.
“And it’s a dream worth pursuing,” Ella said. “However, the world is a very cruel place. You’re but a tiny speck in its infinite terror. Were you to set out with your strength, no matter how talented you may be with crafting, you would never survive on your own. You would either be killed or swallowed up by someone to slave away for them. Is that what you want?”
“No.” Lino finally grasped why Ella showed him her basic stats. Although his thoughts were still in slight turmoil, his expression appeared calm.
“You’re Eggor’s only disciple,” she said. “And you will be my last. You know, there’s probably no living soul in this world that is as lucky as you, to become apprenticed to two Immortals.”
“… wait, don’t tell me that that old, bearded guy is as strong as you?” Lino said, furrowing his brows.
“Ha ha, no, not quite,” Ella said, smiling charmingly. “But, the two of us followed different paths. He pursued crafts, while I pursued cultivation. Nonetheless, there’s probably no one stronger than him in this Kingdom.”
“… damn bastard. No wonder I wasn’t able to sway you heart,” Lino grunted. “Humph, whatever. I’ll let him have you for now.”
“I’m sure he’s very grateful.” Ella said, still smiling. “You don’t seem surprised that there are Immortals in this world.”
“… why would I be surprised?” Lino shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t have any common sense to leverage against anything you tell me. Even if you told me there was a Clan of Dongs who were Immortals, I’d still have no choice but to believe you.”
“… aii, you really have a… weird outlook on the world.” Ella said, shivering slightly. “Do you wish to become my disciple?”
“I do.” Lino said calmly.
“En. Good,” Ella nodded, patting his head gently. “Although I don’t know how talented you will be in cultivation, I’ll do my very best to guide you properly.”
“Can I ask you something?” Lino asked; as a whole new world was suddenly opened up in front of him, it was natural that he immediately grew curious.
“Sure. Ask away.”
“… how strong are you when compared to other Immortals?” Lino said. “And I mean, those big-shots.”
“Ah, he he, I’m actually rather weak when compared to them.” Ella said, smiling bitterly.
“What?!!” Level 140 is considered weak?! What the hell?!!
“You can’t blame me for that,” Ella shrugged her shoulders. “I haven’t cultivated in many years. It’s only natural that I’d get overtaken by others.”
“… how strong… how strong is the strongest person you know?” Lino asked, dreading to hear the answer.
“Are you sure you want to know?” Ella said, smiling slyly.
“… am I?” Lino mumbled. “Fuck, don’t confuse me woman! Of course I’m certain! Just spill it out, it’s not like I’m going to shit my pants or anything!!”
“… when I was still cultivating in my clan,” Ella said, suddenly looking up, her eyes glistening in reminiscence. “Our Great Ancestor at the time had reached Heavenly Realm. In terms of Levels, he was nearing 780.”
“……..” Lino stared blankly, slack-jawed. Still, who could blame him? The Crown Prince of Umbra Kingdom was barely Level 50 and was considered amongst the strongest men in the entire Kingdom. Even Ella, at Level 140, could probably sweep Umbra Kingdom and all nearby Kingdoms by barely lifting a finger. What did, then, reaching Level 780 mean? Lino had no clue, and no matter how wild his imagination was, he was unable to picture it.
“Don’t overexert yourself with those thoughts,” Ella said, smiling gently. “They’re still too far away from you. In the end, you’ll probably be like Eggor. It is impossible to become both masterful blacksmith and a legendary cultivator. I’ll only be teaching you so you’ll be able to protect yourself during the initial stages of your development, before your name spreads throughout the continent. Understood?”
“…understood.” Lino mumbled.
“Good,” Ella said, nodding while her lips curled up in a gentle smile. Over the past five months, Eggor and her had mostly figured out this seemingly lunacy-inspired youth standing in front of her. Although he had face thicker than ten layers of alloyed steel, his heart was still honest, and determination firm. If he complied to something, he would do it. “I will teach you a complete method of cultivation. Along the journey, it will give you a few arts and spells, but you’ll still need to learn most others yourself.”
“Hmm… let’s see…” Ella said as she entered short thought. In reality, she had already figured out what to teach him. It was elementary-level cultivation method of her clan called ‘Sword Light’. It was also the one Eggor was cultivating. However, she suddenly remembered something. Her lips nearly curled up in a mischievous smile, but she managed to hold it back. Coughing lightly, she turned toward Lino again with firm expression. “I came across this cultivation method by accident when I went out adventuring as a kid. To this day, I was unable to discern its grade or even its origin. However, because there were strict requirements for the cultivation, I was unable to cultivate it myself, so you’ll have to figure everything out yourself. Are you willing?”
“… goddammit woman, just teach me already!!” Lino exclaimed. It seems that their entire conversation revolved around Ella asking him if he was willing, and him replying that he was.
“Very well.” Ella extended her finger and placed it between Lino’s brows. Faint, golden light shimmered for a moment yet, within the dark alley, it had the appearance of a blinding sun. Lino quickly closed his eyes and felt strange energy rush into his mind, followed by a mass of information. Headache immediately surged but he gritted his teeth and endured as he forcibly began storing all the information Ella was transferring.
The very first string of information that he had managed to decipher was the name of the method itself: <Empyrean Writ>. Following it was some basic information in regards to its cultivation; it focused entirely on re-forging the body itself more so than the energy, and, unlike what its name might suggest, it wasn't dependent at all on the element of flame. Rather, its source lied in strength and overbearing nature of the practitioner more so than anything else. Lino quickly figured out why Ella was never able to cultivate it, as requirements were indeed pretty strict. First, one mustn’t have cultivated any other method prior to learning <Empyrean Writ>. Secondly, they had to be fifteen years old or younger. Thirdly, they mustn’t have any special bloodline, any form of innate inheritance, any form of reshaped or re-forged soul or even body – in other words, they had to be completely ordinary, so ordinary no Clan or Sect would never even glance at them.
“Did you get everything?” Ella asked, waking him up from his stupor.
“En,” Lino nodded, scratching his head as though trying to force the pain out. “I was only able to understand the name, description, requirements and how to cultivate its initial stage. Everything beyond that is just a blur.”
“Oh? How to cultivate its initial stage?” Ella asked. Indeed, she was extremely curious about the cultivation method. The reason she never shared it with her Clan was because it was pointless – no ordinary person would ever be accepted into a Clan or Sect from where she came.
“… get stronger physically until I’m able to bend a steel sword with my bare hands.” Lino said.
“I’m sorry…” Ella said, sighing. “I’ll teach you something else…”
“It’s fine.” Lino interrupted immediately, smiling.
“Hm?” Ella looked at him strangely. Although getting to the point where it’s possible to bend a steel sword with one’s bare hands isn’t some fantasy, as Eggor himself could not only bend a steel sword, but even fifty of them at the same time, it’s not something that suited this youth in front of her, which is why she was surprised when he interrupted her.
“If I’m able to do it,” Lino said, suddenly licking his lips. “I’ll get something that’s called ‘Primal Spirit’, and I’ll get one for each of the four major elements: Wind, Fire, Earth and Water. Right, what are Primal Spirits? At least you should know that, right?”
“FUCK!!” Ella suddenly cursed, her jaw slacked, startling Lino. This was the first time he heard this beautiful, kind and almost ethereal person curse. “Are you sure it said Primal Spirit?”
“… oi, I may be dumb, but I’m not a complete retard.” Lino replied, feeling somewhat hurt. “Judging from your expression, they’re not something simple?”
“Simple? Heh, how could they possibly be simple?” Ella took a deep breath, shaking her head. “Almost all cultivation methods resonate with one of the Elements of the World. Even mine, although a method for the cultivation of sword arts, has resonance with the Element of Wind. Let me put it this way: if I could get my hands on a Primal Spirit, even the worst one in the world, I’d easily be able to double my level.”
“Ha ha, don’t get so excited,” Ella said, smiling lightly. “Primal Spirits correspond to personal strength, and they slowly grow alongside a person. From the description of the <Empyrean Writ>, it focuses mostly on body strength, so my guess is that the Primal Spirits you’ll obtain will be different than every other those cultivators dream about. For instance, there’s a high chance that they’ll fuse directly into your body, boosting its prowess; Wind will boost speed, Earth will boost your tenacity, Water your agility and Fire your overall strength. Even so, I never expected it to be so overbearing right from the start. Good for you. If you work hard, you can probably get there in about 3 months.”
“… oi, I’m not that muscle-headed husband of yours! Even if I’ve grown stronger recently, there’s no way I can get to the point of bending a damn steel sword with my bare hands!” Lino complained immediately. He knew that the moment she mentioned 3 months, more and more ‘chores’ would be given to him, to the point all his bones would probably break.
“Don’t worry. When there’s a will, there’s always a way.”
“You officially terrify me.”
“… should my heart break by the fact that my Level didn’t terrify you, but my choice to help you get stronger quickly did?”
Afterwards, Ella gave him a shoddy, nearly broken iron sword and told him to start swinging before vanishing someplace else. Bitterly gritting his teeth, Lino obeyed and began swinging, over and over again. Soon, his daily life turned into a mundane routine; in the morning, he would be given select few tasks and chores to complete before being thrown into the workshop to listen Eggor lecture him for hours upon hours without giving him a chance to craft anything else. When Lino told him that he needs to take his rod back to the market as he promised the woman he’d give it to her, Eggor slapped him so hard Lino nearly began seeing stars swim in his eyes. Afterwards, he was given a somewhat above average iron sword to take to the woman.
At night, following a few hours of book studying, he’d be trained by Ella. Sometimes she would just make sure he was swinging the sword, and sometimes she would instruct him, or even spar with him from time to time. Lino felt his strength rise steadily, which was followed by rather insane rise in levels. Within a mere month, he skyrocketed all the way to Level 20. However, he suddenly stopped leveling and, no matter what he did, it felt like it won’t go over.
“It’s because you reached a bottleneck,” Ella explained after he asked her. “Ordinary people who don’t follow the path of cultivation won’t hit these roadblocks, but cultivators will as, besides Levels, we are also further separated into major realms. Everyone between Level 1 and 20 is classified as a Mortal Realm cultivator, and reaching Level 20 is akin to reaching a thick wall with seemingly no passage. So, you have to find a way to break through. In your case, I imagine that you’ll break through once you’re able to bend the steel weapon with your bare hands. After breaking through, you’ll reach Level 21 as well as enter Core Realm, which is when you’ll be able to sense World Energy and begin refining your body with it.”
After his doubts were cleared up, Lino continued on with his mundane training. More and more knowledge began condensing into his brain, but Eggor still didn’t allow him to craft anything after the [Celestial Rod]. Still, he didn’t mind it much. His life was much better than before he met two odd Immortals. He had food to eat and water to drink and warm house to sleep in, and his entire being seemed transfigured at this point.
In a flash, three more months had passed, and it has been eight months since Lino had stayed with Eggor and Ella. Today was his sixteenth birthday, and Lino was currently immersed in the cultivation inside his room. His body seemed much more stout and muscular, but remained refined without excess muscle. He was sitting cross-legged on his bed, his eyes closed; although he was still unable to mask his young age, first refinements of his face began appearing, and there was a tinge of maturity between his brows. His two arms were currently holding a simple, steel sword. Roaring lowly, his eyes jolted open as his muscles bulged; his fingers wrapped around the sword as he pushed it over his knee before lifting it back up above his head and kneading it together like dough.
As if a dam has been breached open, he felt a strange surge and flood of energy swarm over his body, healing his exhausted state immediately and replenishing his stamina. His eyes glistened in strange, almost otherworldly shimmer as he watched the practically demolished steel sword in his hands. Suddenly, his lips curled up in a proud grin as he began laughing like a lion.
“Ha ha, finally!! Finally!!” his voice boomed out throughout the house, startling Ella who was currently preparing lunch and Eggor who was smelting ore. “Ha ha, look at this you damned beasts!! Ha ha, I’m invincible!!” just as he said that, he felt weakness overcome him and he plopped over onto the floor like an inanimate vase. Luckily, he still appeared to be breathing.