Lino trembled for a moment as he jolted his eyes open. As his vision recovered from a brief blur, he saw that he was in a completely unknown and unfamiliar environment. Rather, it would be better to say that he found himself at a form of a crossroads of worlds. His jaw slackened for a moment as he stared around, in complete disbelief as to what he was seeing.
Currently, he was surrounded by four spectacular sights that couldn’t be more different. In front of him, toward the north, was a world of fire, with hilltops rolling up in the skyless world, magma flowing through them. There were all sorts of flames, of all shapes and sizes and colors, numbering in hundreds of thousands. To his left, toward west, was an ocean of crystalline clear water, stretching underneath a clear sky as far as the eye can see. His eyes were easily able to penetrate through the surface of the ocean, and he saw numerous living organisms living in the depths, occasionally glancing at him for a moment before completely ignoring him. Behind him, toward south, was a single, massive mountain akin to which Lino never even dreamed existed. The mountain was barren of life and any form of green, its surface entirely composed of brownish earth, elongated up beyond the sky, far surpassing the point his eyes could measure. And, finally, toward his right and east, was an open field of green, encompassed by forests of massive trees constantly swayed by the eternal wind.
Lino was sitting on a small patch of land at the very center of all four worlds, and even though he was able to see them, he wasn’t able to enter any of the worlds. He felt that there was a barrier bordering him off, similarly stretching in-between each of the worlds, gating them into separate entities. It took him about ten minutes to fully calm down and close his eyes in brief contemplation. A mere moment later, his eyes flashed with a glint of understanding as he suddenly looked up. At the very beginnings of the worlds, plastered against the barrier, were four marks. Toward the north, where fire eternally burned, was a seven-tailed flame, encompassed of seven natural colors. It didn’t seem to burn but appeared to be frozen in time. Toward his left, where ocean stretched beyond reaches was a singular, round, azure-dyed pearl, barely thumb-sized. Behind him, where mountain rolled above the sky, was a gigantic, five-meter-tall totem with strange, runic carvings throughout its surface. And, finally, toward his right and east was a single, golden feather that kept hovering up and down, fixed in that pattern.
“… the Writ said that I’ll be able to choose four Primal Spirits,” Lino mumbled to himself. “Fire, Water, Earth and Wind… is this it? To hell with that!!” he suddenly roared. “Where the hell am I?!! How the hell can there be four worlds completely contradicting each other just existing like this?!”
After he cursed his bad luck for a while, he finally calmed down and took a deep breath. Somehow, he knew that he didn’t really go anywhere – he was still in his room, probably passed out. So, this was either an illusion or astral projection of sorts. Whatever the case was, Lino knew that the only way to leave this place was to choose four Primal Spirits.
“Okay… I figured that out,” he said, looking around. “So… how do I choose them? Should I just randomly point at something and say ‘you’…?”
However, before he even had a chance to attempt testing his theory, the four world buzzed as the translucent barriers gating him off retained some color. A mere moment later, he saw three, palm-sized beasts appear at each of the worlds. Astonished, his jaw slacked again, but he quickly pulled it back up from fear of having it disfigured for the rest of days.
“What the hell…” he mumbled, scrutinizing the twelve beasts. Suddenly, a flood of information surged within his mind, large enough to cause him a massive headache. He cried out in pain as he began slowly processing everything; in reality, as he slowly figured everything out, there wasn’t much information. Rather, there was barely any causing him to curse yet again. “Am I really that much of a retard that I get a headache from few sentences? Pu, Lino! Straighten out, you bastard!”
Taking a deep breath, he closed his eyes for a moment and began examining the new information he attained. Everything was in relation to twelve beasts; he learned their names, and their most basic usage. He also learned that each time he broke through a new realm, he’ll be summoned here to choose four Primal Spirits, except each time the grade would be higher, and that there was also a chance of obtaining Spirits of other elements. It also mentioned that there are other ways to be summoned to obtain the Primal Spirits, but there was no mention of the ways themselves.
From what Ella told him, all Primal Spirits – similarly to martial arts and cultivation methods – were divided into Mortal, Mystic, Ethereal and Divine categories, further segregated into low, high and supreme ranks. Surprisingly, all twelve Primal Spirits were actually Supreme Mortal rank. Discarding the information about the future, he focused onto examining the properties of twelve beasts.
In reality, within each major category of Fire, Water, Earth and Wind, all three beasts had similar properties with some basic differences. Ella was mostly right; every single Spirit would enhance his body in some way. However, he had absolutely no clue as to how much, so he could only blindly guess. After about half an hour of pondering, he finally chose the four he deemed to be most suitable for him. His chosen Primal Spirit of Fire was a wisp of sorts, with three threads lingering about a small, almost invisible flame. Although it appeared insignificant, Lino was able to sense faint pressure coming deep within and even a spark of intelligence. As for the Primal Spirit of Water, it was a slanted, crescent-shaped blade that was no larger than a thumb. It was dim blue in color and had somewhat ragged edges, yet it exuded an ancient aura no less impressive than that of the Primal Spirit of Fire.
The Primal Spirit of Earth he chose was a seemingly ordinary pebble, entirely shrouded in uneven edges, dark brown in color. It kept on rotating slowly, causing space around it to distort as if it was terrified of approaching it directly. As for the Primal Spirit of Wind, it was a translucent blob of sorts, completely weightless and colorless. It appeared to be floating in the air, hovering up and down, without releasing even a bit of aura. It seemed the least impressive on the surface, but Lino chose it nonetheless because of the benefits it provided.
[Primal Spirit of Fire – Ra – gain Tri-Spirit Flame – Level 30 Great Boundary Flame]
[Primal Spirit of Water – Ye – muscles become more flexible. Centered attacks ripple throughout instead, spreading out damage]
[Primal Spirit of Earth – Gu – impervious to ordinary strikes. Any earth-related defensive martial art has doubled effect]
[Primal Spirit of Wind – Li – running in a straight line increases speed in increments. Maximum speed is increased by levels]
Relatively satisfied, he randomly poked at the four Spirits, figuring that was the way. The four chosen Spirits suddenly shuddered and turned into blaze of lights, each of which sped in-between Lino’s brows before he even had a chance to react. Suddenly, four roars bellowed out from the depths of the four worlds, causing his blood to freeze and mind to momentarily become numb. The roars carried with them aura far surpassing the vestige of time, as though they came before all else. Suddenly, four roars congealed into a singular voice which spoke in a voice that cannot be described with words.
“Empyrean Writ is Declared! Four Races Kneel! Eight Immortals Worship! Twelve Gods Follow! Eighteen Domains Fall!”
In a place far, far away, beyond the boundaries of the world Lino lived in, within the void of the infinite space, a singular mountain stood like a sword. It was entirely black and reeked of death, and one would be able to see occasional flash of silver. Upon closer inspection, one would realize that flashes were clear bones; some were human-sized, and some were as large as a trunk of a massive oak. Deep within a mountain, in a large cave, a throne of bones and swords stood erected atop the platform. The throne itself was nearly fifty meters wide and two hundred meters tall, and was symmetrical in design, while constantly exuding strange aura of death. Atop the throne itself, coated in black mist, sat a massive humanoid figure. Its skin was entirely charcoal black, and its eyes suddenly opened; they were crimson red like blood, and seemingly immeasurable. The figure looked up toward the sky and suddenly sighed.
“Empyrean Writ descended…” the figure mumbled somberly. “Hmm… no Bearer of it appeared since the Titan Era… ah, I’m tired. Better go back to sleep.”
The figure slowly closed its eyes and returned back to slumber, as though nothing out of the ordinary occurred.
At the same time, within a valley deeper than the world’s core, surrounded entirely with crystalline glaciers, a human woman sat cross-legged. Her hair was entirely white and her skin paler than the snow surrounding her. In-between her azure eyes was a brilliant gem, shimmering in faint cyan. She wore simple, white gown, and appeared ethereal, far beyond what a mortal could be. Her body suddenly shook as a trail of crimson dripped down the side of her lips. Frowning, she looked up toward the sky.
“Which fucker activated that shitty thing?” she mumbled in anger. “Tsk, fuck, if you want to instigate chaos, go ahead. Don’t drag me in, you bastard!!”
The woman slowly wiped the blood from her lips and returned to her calm, ethereal state. Unfortunately, it didn’t last long as she leapt onto her feet in anger and started smashing glaciers around her while cursing the instigator's line of ancestors down to the very first one. Only after doing so for nearly a week would she calm down.
A lake of blue fire was centered around six towering mountain peaks. At the very center of the lake was a small patch of land, large enough for a single house and a garden. Currently, within a garden, an elderly man was humming a light tune and watering a strange flower with a human face. He was bald and had long, white beard, while wearing simple, tattered robes. Suddenly, he cried out in pain and spat out a mouthful of blood. Wiping it, he looked up toward the sky, his emerald eyes shimmering in strange glimmer.
“Fuck off, I’m too old for that shit.”
And thus, the old man went back to watering his garden, completely ignoring the strange occurrence.
Meanwhile, within a castle of a certain Kingdom, its King was currently reading through the reports while furrowing his brows lightly. He wore noble clothes and had a golden crown on his head with a strange, crimson gem embedded at its center. His eyebrows were sharp like swords and his two, black eyes appeared to be deeper than the abyss itself. His body suddenly shook as he swallowed back a mouthful of blood, creasing his brows further as he looked out the window.
“No way… my Kingdom is almost broke! If you come here, I’ll give you good spanking!” and thus, he went back to reading the records, completely forgetting the strange occurrence.
Thunder and lightning boomed in unison above, dark clouds entirely eclipsing the sun. Beneath, several thousands of human-sized cages floated around freely through the air as though they had strings linking them to the sky itself. Each cage hoisted a single individual, and bars were entirely black, with occasional flicker of lighting surging through. Within one of the cages, a black-haired, handsome youth sat with solemn expression, his eyes almost watery. He wore black robes and had tattoos scattered throughout this fair body.
“Aii, the world is so boring… I thought escaping Qe’ll Clan’s Devil Prison would at least get my blood moving… alas… this is pathetic…” the youth suddenly shuddered and spat out a mouthful of black blood. Shocked for a moment, his lips suddenly twitched and curled up in a grin, beaming from ear to ear. Lunging his head backward, he suddenly burst out in maniacal laughter, startling everyone who looked at him. “Finally!! Ha ha, finally there’s something worth living for!! Aii, when I meet the bastard who instigated the Writ, I swear to god I’ll kiss him for ten years straight!! Ha ha, adventure, adrenaline, bloodshed, massacres, here I come!!”
The supposedly foolproof cage suddenly burst out into smithereens as the youth flew off into the distance, his maniacal laughter still echoing out through the sky.
Across the various places and dimensions, similar scenes repeated; some appeared solemn, some were cursing angrily, some were, like handsome youth, laughing in joy, and some simply ignored it as if it had nothing to do with them.
Unbeknownst to Lino, he had instigated something that many had long since buried in the trail of time. As for the instigator himself, he slowly woke up in his room, blinking a few times until headache suddenly assaulted him. Moving his hand onto his forehead, he felt a strange bump the size of a small grape there, prompting him to grunt in anger. Getting back up onto his bed, he quickly ignored the pain and slowly swallowed everything he learned. As for the voice that sent him off, he ignored it, as it appeared too scary.
He suddenly flipped his palm and moved it up front, whereupon a flame appeared flickering atop of it. The flame had three colors – red, blue and green – and appeared rather ethereal. Lino’s lips curled up in a massive, innocent smile; he knew very well how rare the flames were, especially multi-colored ones. Surprisingly, he obtained a great harvest this time around. Although it’s only a Level 30 flames, he wagered it’s still among the best in the entire Umbra Kingdom. In addition, it was a Great Boundary Flame, and not a simple, Moral Boundary one! Absolutely elated, he began laughing like a maniac for a moment before coughing and looking around, afraid that someone may have seen that brief lapse of sanity.
After realizing that he was still very much alone and ignored, he nodded in satisfaction and pulled the flame back into his body. He then began inspecting the flexibility of his body and, to his surprise, it improved by a lot! He was able to easily bend himself backward to the point where his head nearly reached the calves of his legs! He could easily do splits now, and even raise his legs slightly off the floor during it. He then struck himself on the chest and felt the pain ripple outward from the point of impact; the result was that he barely felt anything!
“Aii, what the hell is this cultivation method?” Lino lamented for a moment. “Ella is absolutely insane for keeping it a secret, and those sects are retards for thinking it’s useless!”
Unfortunately, he was unable to test the Spirits of Earth and Wind, but he figured there’d be time for it. He himself was now Level 21 and had officially stepped into Core Realm of cultivation world. According to Ella, most of the Disciples in Sects and Clans would step into Core Realm by the age of 6, but Lino didn’t care much for that. After all, he didn’t want to be a fighter, but a legendary blacksmith!
In addition to those changes, he also felt presence of strange energy fluttering around him, spreading infinitely. He quickly realized it was the energy only those who stepped into the Core Realm were able to sense: World Energy! Through the cultivation method written in the <Empyrean Writ>, he would be able to absorb it into his body, strengthening himself without doing any actual training.
As though thunder struck him, he suddenly slapped his forehead and exclaimed: “Crap! It’s my birthday today! That old bastard better let me craft something!” Leaping off the bed, he ran downstairs and saw Ella and Eggor in the kitchen. He hurried over and then turned frozen stiff as he looked at the table. Atop was a massive, round cake, surrounded with all sorts of delicacies and drinks. Ella and Eggor looked at him with warm smiles before they suddenly started singing ‘Happy Birthday’. Lino felt his heart boil for a moment as a tinge of pain pierced through, causing his eyes to water. For someone who was completely neglected as though he was nothing every other birthday, the scene struck him so deep he started crying.
Ever since the day he was born, his birthdays were like any other days; he would always wake up hoping someone would at least remember and congratulate him, but no one ever did. He got into the habit of sneaking out of the orphanage to a nearby farm and spending time with cattle during his birthday, joking around with them and celebrating the day like that. While he expected this birthday would be different, seeing and expecting were two different things. However indifferent and aloof he may appear on the surface, it can hardly hide the fact that he was mostly just… lonely. He never had parents or siblings, or even a friend. No one ever made an entire table of food just for him, or sang a song to celebrate the day he was born.
“… waa, waa,” he started wailing like a kid. “Stop… stop you old bastard… you can’t sing for shit… waa…” Pa! He felt a palm strike against the back of his head as he stumbled forward. “Oi bastard, be gentle!! Humph! You can’t even take a proper critique! How will you ever improve like that? Humph! Go away, you’re not allowed to touch anything on this table, you hear me?! Humph, that will teach you!”
“…” Eggor stared at the cursing youth who sat down and began gulping down whatever his hands touched. He pushed down the anger and sighed; before he went back to his usual self, Eggor realized just how tough it must have been for him. Despite everything, he was still… just a kid. Sixteen years is hardly enough time to mature properly, especially when no one could ever be bothered to give him any proper guidance. Which is why Eggor swore deep down that he will steer the scoundrel back onto the proper path lest his name be spelled backwards!