Chapter 6 - Master and Disciple
An epic battle took place in his soul. There were no spells used, only raw Prime Energy trying to modify his mind, and his mind actively fighting back.
The first thing he did was marking all Prime Energy as a hostile force. Merely doing so made his soul reject the energy, assisting him in the fight. The portal was immediately shut down, preventing more Prime Energy from directly entering his soul.
New particles of Prime Energy tried to invade his soul from the outside, as inconspicuously as the first particle, showing no hostility towards him, but they were all denied entry!
His soul resistance was grade 12, the max grade of that world. Since any attacks in that world were also limited to equivalent power, there was nothing his soul couldn't resist.
Since there was Prime Energy already inside his mind, his will fought the will of the world. How could a mere kid resist the world itself? It should've been impossible, his memory of the fight should've been erased, and he should revert back to being ignorant of everything.
This was a perfect trojan attack, for he could only recognize it as an attack after the particle flared. Then, it didn't matter if he realized it was an attack or not, no one should be able to go against the will of the world itself!
But he was no mere mortal. His will had been tempered by eons of all kinds of situations.
The two wills fought each other. Both had the exact same power, the maximum allowed in that world. Thus, the victor was decided from the way they fought.
The world, something with base instincts but no real intelligence, used his will like a wrecking ball, amassing it in a formless mass and using it to hit Aaron's will. Aaron, on the other hand, stretched his will like a burning web, both isolating the world's will and damaging it from all sides.
It was a complete loss for the world.
While doing that, Aaron also hunted and captured the particles of Prime Energy in his mind, expelling them one by one. Eventually, he defeated them all, and finally, he found himself free of them.
It felt like an eternity in his mind but outside his soul, a mere instant had passed. Firestar was still looking at him as if expecting the kid to hold no grudges after being almost killed.
That's what Prime Energy in this world was used for, to make sure the world's status quo would be maintained at all cost!
There would be no rebellion, no fight for power, no overthrowing the current world order. People would just get content with what they had and accept the rulings of their elders!
The episode also explained why the world lacked Prime Energy. Changing it into something resembling poison had made the Prime Energy of the universe avoid that world. Whatever amount of Prime Energy the world had, it had been created by the world itself and was used to control everyone in it, that's why it was so scarce. Especially coming from a world where the level limit was 12, right below the level that would allow people to produce and manipulate Prime Energy.
As a former Origin Immortal, he had a deep appreciation for Creation itself, and he hated that Prime Energy had been twisted in such way. He hated the Cage that made such corruption possible. He hated the Word Sovereigns that turned free-thinking people into mindless sheep.
What he hated more about the brain-washing was that it changed people in more ways than it intended. When people obeyed you and didn't hate you no matter what you did to them, it was natural to disregard their feelings in the long run, and then, you simply stopped caring about those below you. Firestar, for instance, showed no remorse for what he had done as if it had been something normal to almost kill a child.
As for love, one of the greatest forces in existence — not passion, but selfless love — it existed, but it was almost useless. Firebringer loved his grandson enough to live through torment for years for the boy but still couldn't bring himself to fight against Firestar for the boy's life.
Humanity itself had been corrupted in a way that made Aaron feel an unquenchable hatred for the Sovereigns of that world!
As for Firestar, while Aaron pitied the man for being born under such circumstances, and probably having lived a rather shitty life, he couldn't just accept to be treated like that.
It didn't matter if this was the way of the world, he promised to pay back for the attempted murder in the future.
For now though, there was no use in showing his anger. He knelt down and said meekly, "Disciple pays respect to Master."
"Tell me everything you know about magic," Firestar immediately ordered, not expecting any resistance to his order.
Aaron quickly assessed the situation. The old man likely just wanted to test Aaron's knowledge so he would know what to teach. Aaron didn't trust Firestar enough to reveal everything he knew, but he was already known to be too smart for his age, so he couldn't limit himself to things that were too basic.
Thus, he obeyed somewhat, limiting his speech to Third level spells. He included some of his own theories and suppositions, too, interested in how the Ascender would react to them.
Firestar would usually barge in with comments.
"The Sevenleaves theory was disproved long ago, where did you hear it?"
"An interesting take on energetic manipulation, but how much control would that require?"
"Hmm... Your father taught you that? Not bad, not bad at all."
"Ha! Are you quoting Williams-Raymond now? Those men are nutjobs, I tell you! Nutjobs!"
"Shut up for a moment, let me think about what you just said."
The more Aaron spoke, the more the man became agitated and respectful towards the boy in front of him. Likewise, by Firestar's comments, Aaron realized that the man was a studied one, having read far and wide to expand his horizons and move further in the path of magic.
It didn't change the fact that he had tried to enslave or murder a six-year-old though.
It wasn't a surprise to Aaron that most of his theories were credited to people whom he had never heard about. There's nothing new under the sun, and people certainly had thought about his ideas before.
Half a day later, Aaron stopped talking, and only because he limited not only the level of his speech but also its scope to spellcasting. If he entered the domain of High Professions — formations, artificing, alchemy, painting, beast taming, puppeteering — which he was a master of and had had insights on how to use mana with, he would've taken many days to finish.
Seeing that Aaron was finally finished speaking, Firestar nodded, and there was a new warmth to the way he looked at the kid. "Not bad, boy. Not bad at all. It seems your father does have some capabilities, after all. Maybe the Brigadier wasn't being as idiotic as we all thought when he said the man could become a General. Tell you what, kid. Win the competition against the other kids, be selected to go to the Three Towers, and get at least a fifty-percent scholarship, and your father will receive a promotion."
Aaron nodded back, unworried. Winning against kids? He might as well kill himself if he lost.
More importantly, while Firestar wasn't being nice to him, it was interesting to see that the man knew how to motivate Aaron. It hinted at the possibility of him being open to negotiations in the future.
"For now, we need to work on your basics," Firestar said. "There are many holes in your education. I understand you know how to read?"
The man waved his hand, and four bookcases filled to the brim with books appeared to the side of the room. "Start with these. If you have any doubts, ask me."
Excited, Aaron obeyed. Finally, he had access to good books to learn magic from!
Firestar would leave without warning at times and come back without giving Aaron any explanations. When the old man was in the room, he would read books or meditate in silence, only talking to Aaron when spoken to first.
Aaron limited his questioning, apprehensive about showing too much intelligence. The few times he couldn't find something in the books and ended up asking Firestar about it, the old man had to think hard about the answer. It wasn't that the man didn't know it, but that it involved many concepts that Aaron still didn't know.
It was as if a person who was learning to add in math suddenly asked about integrals. Firestar not only had to explain many new concepts to Aaron, but he also had to simplify them enough to not waste too much time in his explanations.
Yet, he never said something was too advanced for Aaron to learn. Rather, he seemed to be happy that the boy would think about such advanced topics while studying such basic books.
Other times though, Aaron could see in the man's eyes that what he was hearing was a complete novelty to him. Firestar tried to hide it but not too hard, probably because he thought a kid wouldn't even try to read him, much less know how to do so.
When that happened, Aaron felt tense for a couple of days, ready to try to escape if needed. Showing too much talent would sometimes make greedy people want to enslave the talented person, especially when they were young. Thankfully, Firestar seemed to have given up on such notions after failing the first time.
Six months later, Aaron finally finished reading from the four bookcases. He had learned a lot, and he wanted to meditate on it all for a long while. Alas, it wasn't to be.
Firestar stood up and gave Aaron a necklace. "Wear it and come with me. It's time for you to meet your competition."
Check Item, Aaron thought as he put the necklace on.
Name: Veiling Talisman
Level: Peak Magical Item
Just by its name alone, he wasn't sure what it was used for, but Firestar didn't look like he was willing to answer any questions now. It was a Magical Item, a peak one at that. Not bad for a backwater family like his.
They walked the luxurious corridors of the family's main castle. Every single person who saw Firestar bowed to him, while he kept looking straight, making it evident that he considered them below noticing. They would also throw curious glances at Aaron, who would smile back, wave, or even wink sometimes.
Some people grimaced at his actions, others smiled back, and even more gave him speculative gazes. His was the royal family of a nation, and politics ran in the blood of everyone in the Royal Palace, be it a family member or a servant. Seeing a kid so close to one of the three Ascenders who ruled over the nation, it was only natural that most people would think of ways to use him.
Aaron was grateful for not having any contact with politics in this life until now, for while he didn't abhor it, it was way too distracting. He would rather keep his focus on magic.
Eventually, the two of them reached a dining room with four people already inside, all sitting. There were no chairs, only cushions and small tables on the floor, two pairs of each close to each wall of the room, not counting the wall where the entrance was.
The cushions on the side walls were occupied, leaving the ones in the wall directly opposite to the entrance vacant, much to Aaron's surprise. He hadn't known that Firestar was the most powerful of the three Ascenders, as evidenced by him sitting by the middle wall, almost like the head seat of a table.
Such a dining arrangement was a common one. When too much power and not enough trust was involved, it was better to have some distance between different parties whenever they met, so they could protect themselves in case of an attack. Even the lack of chairs was common, as simple furniture could hide devious traps. The only reason tables were accepted were for their necessity — no one was willing to eat from the ground like a dog.
At least, that's how things worked in his old universe. In here, though, shouldn't hierarchy be set in stone due to how Prime Energy affected people's minds?
Unless it wasn't people's level, elderliness, or social standing that decided who should be obeyed and who would have their feelings messed with. Instead, it had to do with how people perceived others. The other Ascenders in the room didn't fully consider Firestar their superior, so they weren't affected by the world rules that much.
Likewise, Aaron had considered other people his superior in magic, but since he knew he was better than them in almost everything else, he hadn't been blindly following them and still had kept some of his personality and thought process, which had allowed him to realize something was wrong.
That was an interesting theory. The World Sovereigns could change whatever they wanted in the world, but since they themselves were all of the same level, 12, one of them might have bent the rules so the others would bow to him.
Keeping those thoughts in mind, he walked beside Firestar to their cushions, four sets of eyes drilled on him, two belonging to old men, one on each wall, and two to the kids beside them.
"You decided to take the failure in, after all, Leonard," one of the old men, who was wearing dark green clothes, said to Firestar. It was the first time Aaron heard Firestar's given name. "You're becoming soft with age."
Firestar merely sneered and sat down. Aaron sat beside him in silence, ignoring the obvious provocation aimed at intimidating him. In the past, Immortals had kneeled submissively before him, Prime Immortals had begged for his attention, and even an Origin Immortal had died by his hands. How could he be intimidated by mere words spouted by mere level 8, Ascenders?
That room was a social battleground. No matter how much he disliked Firestar and didn't care about his Master's image, Aaron had his own pride, and his teacher's actions also gave him the excuse to act arrogantly. Since his teacher didn't place the people in the room in his eyes, Aaron would likewise ignore them, as if they were ants in the background.
His haughty attitude made the four people unhappy, especially the two old men, but he didn't care one bit.
"Brother, cousin," Firestar said. "This is Aaron, the grandson of Firebringer, my temporary disciple." Aaron took notice of the fact that his teacher didn't disclose his level to those two.
The other old man, who was wearing white clothes, laughed. "Not so soft as to take him as a real disciple, I see."
Neither Firestar nor Aaron replied to that.
Servants came bringing food, which Aaron didn't touch. He didn't know any poison-checking spell, and now that he was competing against disciples of two of the strongest people in the family, who probably wouldn't be accountable for poisoning him, he'd better be careful about what he put in his mouth.
Mages didn't need to eat anyway, mana being enough to sustain their bodies. He had no reason at all to put himself at risk like that.
Firestar didn't share his caution at all and ate his fill.
"He's a shy one, isn't he?" The green-clothed man said.
"Don't tease the kid, cousin," the white-clothed man interjected. "He's just the son of a failure, after all."
That comment made Aaron annoyed. He loved his father, even though he speculated that it had been partly due to the Prime Energy mollifying his feelings towards the man. Now that the feeling was already there though, he couldn't just remove it before he became an Overlord.
However, even if there had been hatred for the man in his heart instead, Firebreather was still his father in this world. He wouldn't allow people to just offend his family like that.
He looked at Firestar. "Master, Disciple asks for permission to comment on the behavior of your brother and cousin," he said submissively.
Firestar shook his head. "That would be inappropriate. You're just a junior, and a kid to boot. It's not for you to comment anything about the family's Ancestors."
Aaron nodded. Since Firestar hadn't directly forbidden it, only reminding Aaron of etiquette, there was no issue in speaking his mind as long as he was dodgy about it. "Disciple understands. Disciple will refrain from commenting on how pathetic it is for two old men to feel so threatened by a seven-year-old that they would go as far as psychologically attack him. Disciple will also remain silent about their lack of respect towards Master since offending one's disciple is the same as slapping the master in the face. Disciple will not even talk about the deep respect disciple feels for people such as them, bold enough to offend Ancestor Ascender Firestar to his face."
Firestar said nothing, but the two old men's faces grimaced. "You dare talk to me like this?!" The green-clothed one yelled, slapping the table in front of him so hard that it broke in half.
Aaron ignored him, silently looking ahead. On the corner of his eyes, he could see how the two other kids' faces paled in fear from the outburst.
Inwardly, Aaron sneered. Meet his competition? What competition? Those two kids who would shrink from the outburst of an old man?
Seeing how Aaron remained composed despite his yelling, the man revealed surprise and looked at Firestar. "We agreed not to groom them about how to behave in this meeting," he said upset.
Firestar shook his head. "I didn't, brother. He was like this when I brought him in. You called me soft-hearted, but I almost killed him to take his true name from him, and he still resisted me. In fact, if it wasn't for his unusually strong soul resistance, he would be nothing more than a corpse now."
The men showed surprise at that and Aaron was even more surprised than them. Firestar dared to speak about it within Aaron's hearing range?
"You failed?" The green-clothed man said. "A six-year-old resisted you?"
Firestar nodded. "It's much more than that, brother. I could see in his eyes that he would rather die than submit, and it made me lose control of my temper, of which I'm deeply ashamed. I wanted to break him, to show him that resistance was futile in front of absolute power. He bled from his pores, he coughed blood, his inner organs were smashed into a pulp, and his heart almost burst open. I can only imagine the pain he was in and yet, not only he resisted me, the last thing he said before he passed out was a single word, 'never.' He didn't merely resist me; as I tried to break him, he spat on my pride, and showed me that in front of a strong enough heart, even absolute power is meaningless."
Shock was evident in the men's eyes. Firestar wasn't done.
"In the last six months, he read through the entire Basic Library and asked me questions that I never thought about before. Questions that made me wonder about things I never considered. Questions that made me meditate and advance leaps and bounds in my path." Suddenly, he released an aura of power that made the two other kids in the room immediately faint. "Brother, cousin, I'm not a mere Ascender anymore. I'm now a Quasi-Overlord."
That aura was even more oppressive than what Firestar had used against Aaron, but it affected only the soul, and it wasn't harmful. It was a kind of natural pressure that only allowed the worthy to stand in the presence of the powerful and made the weak either bow to it or fall unconscious. The kids succumbed to it, but Aaron's soul resistance allowed him to completely ignore it.
While the two men were even more shocked than before, Firestar stood up, got in front of Aaron, and bowed deeply. "Aaron, this one would like to beg for your forgiveness for almost taking your life."
Aaron had seen a lot in his long existence, and it took a lot to do something completely unexpected by him, but Firestar managed to do it.
The more powerful one was and the more authority one had, the harder it was for them to admit their mistakes to themselves and accept their failures. To ask for forgiveness towards a weak person was even harder. But to bow respectfully towards a weaker person and beg for the person's forgiveness without being forced to do so? That was something so rare that Aaron had only seen it happen twice, and he had been the one to do it.
He took a few moments to reply. Should he forgive the man? It might be some sort of trick, but he failed to see the purpose behind it.
Eventually, he sighed and decided to give the man a chance. Not because of the world changing his heart, for no particle of Prime Energy had entered his soul after that day. It was simply because he understood that even he could err sometimes, not to mention mortals much less experienced than him.
However, he would always require compensation with an apology. He still didn't know what he would ask of Firestar, but that debt certainly wouldn't just be forgotten just like that.
"The resentment I had towards you in my heart has been erased," he said solemnly and paused before continuing with a humble manner of speech. "Now, Master, please stand straight. If Master keeps bowing, Master's brother and cousin will never forgive Disciple."
Firestar did as told and smiled slightly before turning to the two old men. "As you see, he is smart for his age. You all know Undercover Agent Five Stars Sara, who we sent to investigate Major Notable Firebreather before considering his promotion, and there should be no doubt towards her capabilities. She was impressed enough with Aaron to wonder if he had been possessed by a demon. I doubted his impressiveness at first, but as I just told you, I was proven wrong."
It was the first time Aaron heard Sara was an undercover agent, and that she had advanced to become a Five Stars Mage. Last time he had seen her, she had been a Four Stars Mage.
Firestar gestured for Aaron to stand up and talked further to the old men. "Prepare your disciples for failure, brother and cousin, for I have no doubt Aaron will be one going to the Three Towers."
With that, they both left the room, under the aghast eyes of the two old man.
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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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