Chapter 30 - Onward to the White Sea City
"I'm being hunted by the Temple of Time for harboring someone they consider a traitor," Aaron said, "an Immortal Crusader is following me and actively investigating me, I was ambushed twice before reaching the city — once by an Eminence, another time by beasts —, and hunted by a crazy Duke of the family. Is that proof enough of my life being in grave peril?"
The man stood straight at his chair. "Hunted by a Duke? Which Duke?"
"The Duke of the West, of course. I killed a domain wraith in the Unleaving Forest, and he showed up a few days later with an army to kill me. I was lucky that they provoked a lot of beasts in the forest before they managed to get to me."
"So it was really you," Dark Fox said.
"The Immortal Crusade decided to investigate the Duke after he sent an army hunting for three people without apparent reason. They discovered him to be in cahoots with demons, there was even a pool filled with blood in his basement. The Capital of the West was vanquished by the Crusade, the Duke is missing, and the entire country is under lockdown for investigation purposes."
It was Aaron's turn to frown. "What do you mean, lockdown?"
"Flying ships filled with Crusader Mages are stationed all around the country, maintaining a mighty spatial formation that prevents anyone from entering or leaving unless they have special permission from the Crusade. The Ancestors themselves are behaving like lap dogs to the Crusade, doing whatever they can to please them so they leave as soon as possible."
Aaron turned to Shadow One. "You can get us past the barrier, right? I must get to the Three Towers and if I have to wait, I won't be able to visit the White Sea City first."
"The investigation will probably end in a week or so," the Crusader explained. "It should take us longer to get to the country's borders."
White Sea City was two weeks away from Lamia.
"How so?" Aaron asked. "It will only take one week to investigate the entire nation?"
"There are more formations being used than just a spatial lockdown one," she replied without providing more specific information.
That made sense. It seemed that finding demons who hadn't yet used demonic magic was very difficult, as seen by the Crusader who was personally investigating him, but a simple formation allowing people to spy anywhere in the country, and enough people to do the spying, and the chances increased considerably.
Not to mention that a formation to detect demonic magic would do wonders to find the demons who weren't that good in hiding, especially if news about the investigation was kept suppressed. Aaron, for instance, had spent an entire day in the market and heard nothing about it.
"Even if it's not complete by them, they don't want to waste more resources keeping us in lockdown for much longer than that, unless they find something big, or the Ancestors piss them off," Dark Fox said.
That also made sense. An Overlord might be powerful enough to fuel a formation to lock space around a nation, but it was unlikely that he would waste his time like so. Thus, equivalent mana energy had to be spent, be it by using Ascenders or mana crystals.
In either case, even by wasting an Overlord's time, the Immortal Crusade wouldn't want to just keep the spatial lockdown going on forever, especially in a small unimportant country like the Valdian Kingdom.
Aaron nodded. "So, not only was I ambushed by the Duke of the West, but he's also a demon-lover fugitive wanted by the Crusade. It should be enough to prove my life is in danger, right?"
Dark Fox nodded. "Yes, sir. Even though the Immortal Crusade is required to protect you for at least three days, that's not enough time in your circumstances."
"Wait, the Crusade is required to protect me?" Aaron wasn't aware of that, Sara had said nothing either, and even the Eminence hadn't known it.
It was clear that Dark Fox was a very special intelligence agent. The door, his identification or knowledge of Shadow One being a golem, his knowledge of the Crusade rules despite being only a Champion, everything pointed to there being more to the man than met the eyes.
"That's enough," Shadow One said.
Dark Fox looked at Aaron. If the latter ordered the former to disobey the Crusade, Dark Fox would, but he would rather not.
Aaron shook his head. "Anyway, the message to Firestar. Will you deliver it?"
"Alright," Aaron said. "Tell him to go fuck himself."
Everybody in the table, including the Crusader, froze in surprise.
"I..." Dark Fox started.
Aaron smiled. "Don't worry, he'll understand. It's a code between us."
It wasn't a code between them, but Firestar would understand. After losing control over Sara, and probably over Mark too, then being told to go fuck himself, Firestar would be aware that Aaron had figured some of the man's ploys and wasn't happy about them.
"Alright, sir," Dark Fox replied without much conviction. It just wouldn't be healthy to tell the most powerful man in the family to go fuck himself even if it was a coded message, and Dark Fox was already regretting having agreed to deliver it.
"Good." Aaron turned to Mark. "I found something in the market that will allow us to begin your training sooner." He produced a black flower from his spatial ring.
"What is this, young master?" Mark asked, his eyes gleaming in happiness for being able to get strong faster.
"A simple Dark Moon Flower, a fifth-grade ingredient. It can store an ability signature inside, which can later be forced upon the body of a warrior, speeding the process of learning new martial techniques. Sadly, using it consumes it, and although its grade is low, its rarity makes it expensive. Only wealthy warriors end up using it."
"It will allow me to learn a technique before my body is fully healed?" Mark asked, trying to guess how it could help him.
Aaron shook his head. "No, we'll try to test a conjecture of mine. As you know, one of the reasons warriors fail to learn Martial Arts, sometimes dying in the process, is that their bodies have muscle memories that affect their movements. The new Valdian Martial Arts change that by using both martial movements that are more familiar to anyone and completely different movements that won't be affected by faulty muscle memory.
"Now, your body is healthy enough to keep walking for an entire day, but I still won't allow you to practice Martial Arts. Why? Because a big part of your life was dedicated to the faulty Martial Arts that you learned previously and you still have muscle memory from that time. Although the new Valdian Martial Arts are harmless for a newbie warrior to learn, the same cannot be said for people who already learned different Martial Arts before. Your mind is almost hardwired to work in different ways.
"Originally, I'd need to completely erase your memories from the faulty Martial Arts for you to be able to learn the new Valdian Martial Arts, but since your whole life as a warrior of the Valdian Family was based on the faulty Martial Arts from an early age, erasing that many memories would leave you almost like a toddler, incapable of even walking straight.
"By giving your mind one month to create new memories of how to walk, run, eat, and so on, you'd be able to act like a proper adult after I removed the memories from the Martial Arts from you. And even if such walking and eating are somewhat based on your existing muscle memory, they should be different enough from the Martial Arts themselves for you to be able to learn the new Valdian Martial Arts without any risk."
Aaron fidgeted with the flower for a bit. "But then, I found this Dark Moon Flower. The way it acts is by affecting muscle memory, making it seem as if you practiced the ability signature many times before, thus making it easier for you to learn it. But what if I give you an empty flower? It was tested before, but only on a warrior with an existing martial foundation. If I give it to a warrior whose foundation was crippled though... I believe it will destroy your muscle memory without having to remove your conscious memories."
Muscle memory was a fancy name to the unconscious mind. Sadly, only Ascenders had enough control over their spells to affect the unconscious mind, so he could only use the right medicine instead.
"But there's a risk," Aaron said, lying. "Are you willing to risk it?" He wanted to test Mark's conviction.
"Yes!" The man almost yelled, then lowered his voice, embarrassed. "Yes, please, young master."
Mark didn't refuse it due to the high cost of the flower, despite thinking about it. It was only proper for a subordinate to accept his master's care without making it embarrassing for the master. Of course, the subordinate also had to engrave that kindness to his heart and do his best to repay the master.
Aaron smiled, and made the flower float to Mark. "Crush it."
Mark obeyed. A black aura covered his body for a mere moment and quickly faded away. It was only a low-grade item, after all, despite how useful it was.
He looked unsure at Aaron. "I... I feel different."
"I'm not sure..."
Myriad Arts — Spellcasting — Single Element: Air — Legendary Levitate Object!
Aaron used the spell to shoot a tiny pebble at Mark. The warrior saw the pebble coming, his eyes widened. And that was it. Mark didn't try to dodge, didn't get tense, or did anything that a man with decades of training should do. He just stared at the pebble as it hit his forehead and bounced harmlessly out of it.
"It worked," Aaron said. "We start your training this night. Let's finish eating and see if we're allowed to leave this city."
Aaron bought four common horses for him and his companions, Shadow One said she would rather walk.
Even though the city was still in partial-lockdown, Aaron's identity as a member of the Valdian Family allowed them to leave this time.
Of course, he had to remove his disguise, but not even Helina was surprised by his true identity. It didn't matter, though; the only reason he had used it was to prevent immediate capture when entering the city and delaying the Crusade finding him for just enough time to buy the right things.
Aaron told Helina to keep her Mana Sense spell going at all times since the Prophetesses could come for them at any moment. He also kept using Spatial Waves every now and then as to prevent any stealthy enemies from approaching.
The White Sea was located northwest of Lamia. To reach that place they would ride in a straight line there, using a wide road created and maintained by merchants. At the end of the road, they would reach the Wyvern Pass Fort, the border town of the Valdian Kingdom.
Wyvern Pass Fort stood at the foot of the mountain range that marked the end of the Valdian Kingdom, and the start of the White Republic, as was called the small country that made the White Sea its territory.
Death's Shadow was the ominous name of the mountain range. The survivability for Champions traveling through it was one to ten, and for Eminences, one to five. Even so, the rewards for merchants who survived going through it twice, forth and back, were among the most profitable in the entire continent. It was a great temptation for the brave and the desperate.
The White Sea was the perfect bait for a golem. It was a place filled with Earth and Metal Mana, where golems received a boost to their power. Now, Aaron only had to show Shadow One how awesome he was, so she wouldn't dare to attack him before she had the perfect opportunity.
Finding out from Dark Fox that he had two extra days to amaze Shadow One had been a blessing, albeit not one he really required.
Throughout the entire day, they saw only a few people traveling the road paved by yellow stones. Nothing noteworthy happened, except perhaps for the great food Sara cooked. Aaron kept silent, thinking about spells, formations, and his plan to get rid of Shadow One. At night, they set up camp to the side of the road.
"It's time," Aaron told Mark. "Let's begin your training."
And also begin impressing Shadow One, he thought.
"Yes, young master!" The man replied, filled with anticipation.
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I'm Ed, a writer of GameLit. So far I have released only two books, but I'm working on increasing this number by tens! No, by hundreds! Maybe thousands! xP
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