Chapter 10 - The Immortal Crusade
The Royal Palace was located in the center of the capital. Leaving it, the carriage traveled the wide and well-maintained Imperial Road — an interesting name since Aaron had never heard about any empire —, which lead straight to the city gates and beyond.
It was Aaron's first time leaving the royal area of the capital, and even so, he had only visited two places in there, his father's mansion and the Royal Palace. And yet, he couldn't care less about the city or his newfound freedom.
What sights hadn't he seen before in his very long life? How could he not have gotten used to isolation after staying confined many times, either by choice or otherwise?
Instead, he had more important things to care about. He had learned that true names were even more powerful than he thought. It was past time he changed his.
Change Name, he thought and the World's Writ appeared before him.
Are you sure you want to change your name?
You can only do so once in your lifetime.
Please, state your new name.
That was a name that properly told who he was, where he came from, and where he wanted to return once he was done with this universe. It was also something no one would be able to guess.
Are you sure you want to change your name to 'Aaron Earthborn'?
Your name has been successfully changed.
Show Full Status, he thought, to check if it had really worked.
Name: Aaron Earthborn
Level: 7 — Champion
» Strength: 1 | Speed: 1 | Resistance: 1
* Soul: 9
» * Mana: 7 | Control: 10 | Resistance: 12
He nodded satisfied when he saw his new name.
It was also always good to see his progress in the soul control attribute in the last eleven years, from level 7 to 10. Due to the knowledge he had accumulated on mana and the experience working with it, he now had much better control over it.
After changing his name, he also changed his rate of mana usage. The day the first Mana-Sucking Ring was put around his finger, he had decided to wait until his mana pool was ninety percent full, then use his mana until his pool got to ten percent full. Rinse and repeat.
Now, while he still needed to keep using his mana before pubescence hit, so his mana pool could grow faster, he also had to be careful about situations where he might need to use more mana than ten percent. What if he got into a fight and died because of lack of mana?
Thus, he changed his limits, ninety-five percent for the upper limit, ninety percent for the lower limit. The change would make things a bit annoying, as he would have to pay more attention to it, but it was certainly better than risking death.
It was a shame that there was a time limit to the prepubescent bonus. He was still wondering if he should try to bypass it. Multiple mages had failed before but maybe he might find a way to keep the bonus for the rest of his life. Now, that would be great.
He left his musings to see Sara sitting in awkward silence in front of him. Aaron nodded at her, then started to think about mana and magic.
Sara looked at the boy in front of her. She could hardly believe he had selected her to come with him! What were his intentions?
She didn't trust him one bit, even though she had been present when Ancestor Quasi-Overlord Firestar told all agents about his conclusions on the boy just last night.
"Most likely, he isn't possessed," Ancestor Quasi-Overlord Firestar had said. "A demon strong enough to hide from a Quasi-Overlord wouldn't choose to possess such a young boy. Even if it did, it wouldn't expose its intelligence the way the way Aaron did. Moreover, it would take too good an actor to pretend to learn magic the way he did beside me. I'm most confident about him being just a rare genius."
She, herself, had checked only to fail to detect anything wrong. Of course, it didn't necessarily mean that he wasn't possessed, it might just mean that the demon in his body was strong or cunning enough that not even the Ancestors could detect it.
She would pay utmost attention to it during this trip. Demon-possessed individuals had brought great calamities to the world in the past and it was everyone's duty to kill anyone who was even suspected of being possessed. She was tempted to put a knife in the boy's neck right now.
However, her orders, secretly given when Ancestor Quasi-Overlord Firestar nodded to her in a specific way before she left, were to protect his life at all costs no matter what.
Yet, she had to wonder if everything wasn't a hidden plot inside a plot. What if Ancestor Quasi-Overlord Firestar had influenced the boy to choose her, a Champion who specialized in assassination, to deal with him if the need arose?
She had learned early that the Ancestors were like gods and their wisdom knew no bounds. She had to think hard about the nod Ancestor Quasi-Overlord Firestar had given her. The nod to 'protect him at all costs' was very different from the nod to 'be ready to kill him at any moment,' but what if she remembered incorrectly? What if the boy was really a demon and had influenced her to see things incorrectly so he could deal with her in some other way?
She wondered if orders to kill him would be waiting for her when she reached the next city with an outpost of the Valdian Family.
She sighed, took a book from her spatial bag and started reading. She kept aware of the location of her knife the whole time.
Mark had only one thing on his mind: protecting the boy.
The mages had ruled the world for too long, using their mighty spells to subdue all opposition. Now, the boy had given the warriors a way to stop being lackeys and becoming rulers of their own destiny.
It didn't matter if he was a demon or an Immortal, or if he was going to destroy or save the world. In him lay the path for the warriors, in him lay their hopes of freedom.
Mark had checked around after he became strong enough; even the best martial arts used to increase a warrior's level still killed one in three warriors before they could reach the Two Stars level and one in five before they could become Three Stars Warriors. He had never even heard about warriors leveling up without risk of dying.
Just by removing the risk of death for young warriors in training, Aaron was already worthy of every warriors' reverence. Mark wasn't stupid and could guess that it wasn't a coincidence that mages could level up without health issues, while warriors had to risk death or crippling. He had thought about it for a long time and it was evident that the mages had always limited the warriors, to keep the latter strong enough to be useful but weak enough to not become a danger.
But the boy... His words in the competition, which had been recorded in secret, were now engraved in Mark's heart.
"Now, the question would be", the boy had said, "is the family bold enough to allow its warriors to become that strong? It would bring forth a great change to the family's structure. Junior believes it to be beneficial, especially since mages could also use these skills to improve their bodies without the previous risk of death, so only laziness would allow the warriors to overtake the family."
His words were much bolder than the boy himself seemed to realize. Mages training their bodies except if they were lazy? Speaking something like that was akin to lunacy! A mage family with warriors in key positions? That was downright heresy!
But the boy had not only 'theorized' it. He hadn't said it in an academic way, merely stating the possibility, like many idealistic but weak mages had before.
No. He had been direct.
"Junior believes it to be beneficial."
He believed in the warriors. He believed in a different world order.
Word had spread. By now, in less than a day, most of the warriors in the continent should've heard it, including the pigs who spied for the mages, which meant everyone with any kind of connection should've heard the boy's words.
More importantly, every warrior should've seen the Valdian Martial Arts. Mark knew for a fact that Firestar had detected the recording device and was aware of the warriors' news exchange network. And yet, the Quasi-Overlord had allowed the recording to be sent to the world.
For that alone, the Valdian Family had earned respect from all the warriors and enmity from countless mage families.
And it was all because of the boy.
No, not 'the boy.' Mark had to stop thinking like this.
His name was Aaron, and he was the Herald of Change.
A woman was sitting on a throne made of blueish transparent mana stone, looking bored at the hologram that came from a recording box. The hologram showed a boy talking about martial arts.
"These are just the musings of a smart but naive boy," the woman said.
"Queen Overlord Bloodvine, please, don't be so quick to dismiss—" A man, who had been bowing low since he entered the room to present the recording, tried to speak but was interrupted by the woman.
"Enough!" The woman said. "I gave my verdict. Leave at once."
The man suppressed a sigh and obeyed, leaving dejected.
The woman kept looking at the boy, the same one whom her brothers and sisters at the Immortal Crusade had reported about. It seemed even Quasi-Overlord Firestar, who had allowed such recording to leave his family for unknown reasons, had his doubts about him being demon-possessed or not and had sought help from the Crusade.
Then again, after the boy had shown so much knowledge in public, it would be suicide for him to not seek the Crusade, so he might just be pretending to care.
There was even the possibility of Firestar being much more devious than he seemed. All Overlords in the continent were at least honorary members of the Immortal Crusade, which objective was protecting humankind, and all Ascenders also received direct orders from the Crusade even though they weren't actual members.
Now that the Crusade had been tipped off about the boy possibly being a demon, all the Overlords and Ascenders in the Fire Continent had been ordered to leave him alone until the investigation concluded, as the law dictated.
Such law was in place to protect humankind from false accusations, to prevent people from using the might of the Crusade to get rid of their enemies, and she herself was a supporter of it, even though it could be abused sometimes. Of course, if she confirmed that Quasi-Overlord Firestar had been using the Crusade for his own gains, she herself would order the boy killed after the investigation concluded, be him a demon or not.
She snapped her fingers and an Ascender seemed to materialize in front of her in a kneeling position. The person was covered by shadows as if darkness itself was warped around his or her body.
"Yes, my Queen?" The shadow said with a genderless voice.
"Go check if the boy is a demon or not," she ordered.
"At once," the shadow replied and disappeared from where it had been kneeling.
Bloodvine then used her best spell to completely seal the throne room and looked intently at the recording that was still playing at the center of the room.
She had never even heard of a spell to tear muscles and strengthen it with mana, but the boy had shown its spell signature and it was simple enough for her to confirm its purpose, if not its efficacy. If the spell really worked, such ways of strengthening the body were something never seen in the Fire Continent before! It was akin to something the people from the hidden Heretic Continent would've devised, except it worked for mages too!
As the Warden of the West of the Immortal Crusade, she was well aware of how the Fire Immortal had done his best to prevent the warriors from getting strong. The boy was lucky that the only level 11, Saint in the continent, the Emperor himself, had long since retired to his chambers for closed-door meditation and study, and no one had any way of contacting the Fire Immortal beside him. The Imperial Regent was a level 10, Overlord who also had to obey the Immortal Crusade, so he could do nothing against the boy either, not even in the Emperor's stead.
Well, he could, but then he would be in such a political shitstorm that his head would end up rolling no matter his backing.
She stood up and did some warm-up exercises as the recording instructed. Power was always tempting, and riskless power was even more so. By now, every mage who wasn't a complete moron would be training in the Valdian Martial Arts.
Be the boy a demon or not, he was indeed what the warriors had been calling him, the Herald of Change.
Aaron was forced out of his musings when his head hit the wooden door of the carriage.
"Ouch!" He complained.
Hearing him, Sara immediately stopped reading, put the book away and looked anxiously at him.
"What?" He asked, massaging his head.
"Aren't you going to teach me?" She asked.
Although she hadn't heard the boy's discussion with Ancestor Quasi-Overlord Firestar when the boy was about to depart, everyone had been forewarned that the Ancestor would ask the boy to take a warrior and a mage from the family with him. Supposedly, there was much to gain from learning magic from him.
As much as she didn't trust the boy, she had standing orders to grow stronger. If she was careful about what he taught her, she would be safe enough.
He suppressed a sigh. As much as he wanted to improve his Myriad Arts at his every waking moment, he had told Firestar he would train her, and anyone who was spying on him would be expecting him to do so. "Yeah, yeah. Tell Mark to stop the carriage, I must talk to you both."
Sara obeyed, using a small slit at the carriage's front to relay the message to Mark. The carriage stopped and soon, the three of them were standing to the side of the paved Imperial Road that crossed the continent.
Aaron put his hands to the back and looked at Sara and Mark. "I can teach you both, but you must properly accept me as your master first," he said. "Kowtow three times and call me Master, then start acting respectful and all that."
He said it in such a nonchalant way that both people looked at him as if this was a joke. Still, Mark eventually obeyed, putting both knees to the ground and bowing low enough for his forehead to touch the ground. He repeated the gesture three times, then said, "Master."
Aaron nodded. "Good. You?" He asked Sara.
She had her eyes open wide. "Are you serious?"
"Do you remember me ever joking around?" He asked.
Her eyes widened even more. Thinking about it, she realized that no, even when he was a small kid, Aaron had never played around. She felt a chill go through her entire body and a single word left her mouth in a whisper. "Demon."
Aaron rolled his eyes. He had no patience for such people, even if he intended on helping them. "Narrow-minded. If you don't work on your attitude, I'll have to ask you to leave." He waved his hands.
That's when Sara attacked. There was no warning, only action.
Aaron felt the mana disruption inside her a moment before a wind blade came his direction, aiming for his neck. A surprise attack at such close range might take the life even of an Eminence, to say nothing of a Champion like him.
Sadly for her, even if Aaron hadn't been expecting an attack from her from the beginning, he was always ready to protect himself.
Myriad Arts — Spellcasting — Single Element: Space — Seventh Barrier!
Space itself twisted when he used the spell, hardening and creating an invisible barrier in front of him. The wind blade hit it hard, creating small cracks in the barrier that immediately regenerated.
Sara was already moving to get some cover while grabbing her knife and casting a new spell. Aaron counterattacked with two spells of his own.
Myriad Arts — Spellcasting — Double Elements: Earth, Space — Seventh Chains!
Myriad Arts — Spellcasting — Single Element: Soul — Seventh Mana Lockdown!
The earth from the ground rose in the form of chains, with a glint on them that revealed the reinforcement of Space mana. The chains almost instantly coiled around Sara's entire body, making her stop in place. At the same time, Soul mana from Aaron entered her soul, cutting her access to her mana pool, making her as weak as a klutz.
As she fell in a daze for being cut from her mana pool, her eyes were wide in disbelief.
Had she been defeated just like that?!
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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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