FOURTH GATE OPENS
Lino felt shame yet, at the same time, he couldn’t help but feel slightly proud of how he pulled wool over many eyes with his act. Still, shame far outstripped that pride, so in order to calm his bleeding soul, he decided to retreat from the battlefield altogether and undergo official transition into a Mythic Realm. From Mortal Realm to Core Realm, it meant stepping into the world of cultivation, forming a Core and being able to sense Qi. From Core Realm to Soul Realm was the first ‘awakening’ of sorts, where one would become aware of the tiny dot which is one’s soul; their entire being would undergo a change as they’d begin feeling deeply connected to Heaven and Earth.
A transition from Soul Realm to Mythic Realm was both small and gigantic at the same time, depending on what one valued. Mythic Realm in and of itself didn’t offer a complete metamorphism; that change would occur only when one entered Purity Realm. However, it offered a period of consolidation, where one would re-value their fundamentals and practically decide their ending point in the world of cultivation. It is by many considered one of the most important points in one’s life, as it can be a final determiner to one’s future. However, naturally, it was completely different for Lino. His fundamentals couldn’t be shaken as the Writ itself cultivated for him. He didn’t need to consolidate anything, and one could say that Mythic Realm was simply a necessary evil for him. If he could, he’d definitely choose to skip it and proceed onto Purity Realm.
Still, ascension came with its benefits - primarily the opening of the Fourth Gate. Lino learned from the Writ that there are in total 72 gates to be opened; since the Writ’s birth, throughout all cultivators who bore it through many eons, the highest number of gates that were opened was 31, less than half. Even Q’vil, who Lino deemed to be beyond this world, had only managed to open 16 Gates by the time he died. Usually, Lino wouldn’t have gotten to open the Fourth Gate so quickly; however, as most of the burden was borne by Writ itself, his body could handle it.
Gates themselves were more of an abstract notion that Lino didn’t truly understand; nothing inside of his body ‘opened’ per se. It was his mind that undergoes the blurry transition; one could consider these Gates as ‘eyes’, and with each new opened one, Lino’s mind would grow clearer and sharper. This not only allowed him to perceive things far more deeply than others, it also allowed him to comprehend realities far quicker. However, as it was a forceful opening, Lino couldn’t even fully use the Second Gate, let alone the Fourth. He knew that himself the best, which is why he’d often walk through the Hope Town while the rest of his group were doing the missions. He wasn’t merely lazing around; he was trying to understand so-called ‘Facets of the Universe’ - 72 Base Laws of existence.
Despite his attempts, he’d only comprehended one and a half, which meant he could fully utilize only one Gate out of four. However, he wasn’t disheartened; though his speed of cultivation was heaven-defying, he knew it meant a lot of sacrifices on his part that he simply had to make up somehow.
Lino was currently floating in an absolute void, where neither light nor darkness existed. Within, there was only primal energy that tickled softly against his skin - Chaos. The most primordial of all existences, Chaos in and of itself had neither mind nor will; it only had a solitary purpose which reflected the reason for its existence. With the opening of Fourth Gate and ascension to Mythic Realm, besides the Gate itself, there were other rewards.
As he’d already gotten Flame which could accompany him for a while, the Primal Spirits he’d have chosen had changed from Flame to Chaos. It was Lino’s first time actually encountering Chaos first-hand; though he cultivated the energy, the way it was now was its primal state rather than refined one under which it existed within Lino as Qi.
No matter how much he tried, he couldn’t grasp a single idea about it. It wasn’t because he was too dumb, but because the Chaos itself was origin of all other matter within the world. It was complex beyond complexity, and to say someone understood it wholly, perhaps only Writ itself could claim and nobody else.
Within the void, three flashes of light radiated for a moment before they appeared before Lino. He immediately realized that they were three Primal Spirits out of which he could choose one to embody him. The three had similar appearance; they were just a fingernail-sized mass of gas. Lino knew these weren’t even their real forms, as Chaos itself was ever-changing and had no actual form. Same was the case with Primal Spirits which represented it.
The three Primal Spirits were named Rhogtha, Astub and Yekub. But, when Lino tried to see what they can do, all that registered was ‘???’, similarly to how he perceived things when trying to see status window of someone who had much higher cultivation than him.
“You can’t understand what they can do because you can’t understand the concepts tied to them,” the familiar, robotic voice explained. “If times were ordinary, I wouldn’t have let you encounter them for hundreds, if not thousands of years. Primal Spirits of Chaos are simply not something that can be trifled with.”
“... can’t you at least give me a hint?” Lino asked.
“Take Astub,” the Writ, surprisingly, replied. “It’s the mildest. The other two might attempt to murder you the moment you choose them.”
“...” Lino’s eyes twitched for a moment as he bit his lower lip. Fuck you! Then why even give me a choice, you fucker?! “Fine, I choose you, Astub!” two flickers of light flashed yet again and two other Primal Spirits disappeared, leaving only central one. It flickered in and out of existence for a moment before it departed toward Lino’s forehead. It was accompanied by a sigh so ancient Lino felt the core of his soul shake. His entire being froze under that sigh, as though the sigh alone could end the world itself. I’m so sorry!! But don’t blame me, goddammit! Blame that fucker inside of me!
The moment the gas-looking thing entered Lino’s forehead, his entire being shook. A concept beyond vague, archaic and strange emerged inside his mind. He couldn’t comprehend a single iota of its meaning, yet he felt by just sensing it for a moment, his understanding of the World grew immensely. After all, the Primal Spirit was that of Chaos; even if it wasn’t the Chaos itself, it embodied its ideas. Chaos was source of everything, and by just having a Primal Spirit of Chaos residing inside of him, Lino’s perception of other matter grew exceptionally. He was certain, though, that wasn’t Spirit’s primary purpose; as to what it was, he could knock his head against the rock for eons guessing, and he most-likely still wouldn’t be able to guess properly.
He couldn’t help but feel relieved as he realized he was sucked out of the endless void at last. He was back in the familiar room, covered under blankets. He sighed lowly and closed his eyes; besides the Primal Spirit, the Writ had given him another mantra - <Sword of Chaos>. Why’s the bastard pushing me toward Chaos so early?! Dammit! He kept his complaints to himself, though. He realized that in order for one to cultivate <Sword of Chaos>, they had to be in possession of Primal Spirit of Chaos, alongside being able to absorb Chaos Qi itself. Lino’s brows twitched again as a realization dawned on him; no more than five people since the dawn of time cultivated this, right? Right? Hm, that’s pretty cool.
<Sword of Chaos> was similar to Spear Scripture, as it denoted style of sword rather than a single, particular move. Lino was given access but to a first couple of pages which simply denoted three images. Even so, the images in his eyes were more akin to blurs than actual images. Haah... looks like I’ll actually have to begin comprehending things myself and not just rely on him.
Lino realized that despite the fact he already knew how to actually use the few moves of <Sword of Chaos> that were present, he couldn’t even begin to actually understand them, similarly to Spear Scripture. It was a shortcoming of the Writ forcibly stuffing the ability to use the mantra despite Lino’s lack of comprehension; as Lino wasn’t a puppet, Writ can’t actually inscribe the comprehensions inside of Lino’s mind since it’s not omnipotent. Lino had to rely on himself to comprehend it, similarly to Facets of the Universe. Not matter how well-versed Writ was in them, he couldn’t pass its own understandings onto Lino as the latter’s individual will would reject them.
However, Lino didn’t mind; he himself was rather curious about the Universe’s Laws. He was drawn to the mystery that was the world itself; for most, world simply existed and that was it. Lino, though, wasn’t like that; similarly to how he was when crafting, bearing attention toward every single detail, his outlook on many other things was the same. World had its own mechanisms, its own gears that drove it, rules under which operated. Even if Gaia was a sentient being, Lino realized Writ was still inherently more capable, yet even he wasn’t omnipotent which meant Gaia wasn’t either. She - the World - had to operate under some form of Laws, and he was rather interested in learning those Laws, not just out of curiosity, but the fact that he would have to face her one day. Knowing her inside out would be more than beneficial then.