Chapter 11 - The Old Days
Mark's heart was beating furiously.
The Herald had almost died right in front of him without him being able to do anything! And then, while Mark's mind was still registering the attack from the girl, the Herald had already defeated her!
Genius wasn't enough to define the Herald.
'Monster' was more like it.
Sara couldn't believe what had happened.
Had she just been defeated by a twelve-year-old less than a second after launching a sneak attack on him?
She, a secret agent of the Valdian Family, trained on espionage and assassination from an early age?
Actually... Had he cast three spells at the same time? And much faster than she could cast a second spell?
What grade of control was that?!
What kind of power was that?!
Ancestor Quasi-Overlord Firestar had said the boy was good but not that good!
Amid her shock, she suddenly felt calm. Such control and power... It confirmed it to her.
He was indeed a demon.
Her decision to disregard her orders and kill him had been the right one. She only regretted that she had failed, not that she had tried.
She could die in peace.
Aaron looked at the chained girl in pity. The way her face went from emotion to emotion, as if she couldn't hold a thought for too long, was a symptom of her twisted soul.
Simply put, she was crazy, and probably could only be calmed down when the Prime Energy of the world made her submissive towards the family Ancestors. That's why Firestar had said she would attack him regardless of any order he gave her.
He would heal her soon enough, but for now, he had to keep her soul like that as to avoid suspicion. Also to avoid suspicion, he had to give a reason as for why he wouldn't kill her. He didn't know who might be watching right now, or if the Asshats might look into the past exactly where he was standing to understand the reasoning behind his actions.
"Mark," he said.
"Yes, Master?" The man replied.
"First, get up." The man obeyed. "As my disciple, I'll be teaching you about the old days, when people lived with honor and believed in increasing their own power to achieve their dreams instead of depending on others." Of course, he was referring to his own experiences in his old universe. He had found no such ideology in this world yet. "These teachings will also contain wisdom about how you should deal with your enemies and the first lesson you'll receive in that regard is to never let an enemy alive if you can help it."
Sara paled a little at that but said nothing. Mark looked at her with an understanding expression.
"However," Aaron continued, "the first and foremost rule of the old ways is to always follow your heart. By following your heart, you have the potential of walking much further in the path for power. It doesn't matter if your heart is wicked or pure, evil or good, as long as you follow it, your potential will be greater. And every time you do something contrary to what your heart asks of you... You'll be only limiting yourself."
He made a paused. "Of course, potential isn't everything. Even with potential, you might still do something you shouldn't when following your heart and may end up dead. For instance, someone much more powerful than you might take offense at your actions and kill you. But even then, you'll be able to face failure head-on, because you did what you knew you should. Look at Sara, here. You probably can't see it, but I can read her like a book, and she doesn't regret trying to kill me. She wished she had succeeded, obviously, but she's ready for her death."
Sara's eyes widened at Aaron's revelation of being able to read her so easily. Then, it made sense to her. He was a demon after all, with plenty of life experience, not just a kid.
Aaron continued. "Follow your heart above all else. But, of course, know that if your heart happens to be evil, I'll slay you without thinking twice, for that is what my heart tells me to do." He smiled.
Mark paled. The way Aaron looked at him made him feel as if a beast was looking at a lamb it was about to prey upon.
"My heart also tells me I shouldn't kill her," Aaron continued. "She's just a frog in a well, incapable of understanding things beyond what she knows, including my existence. Her intentions were somewhat good, so I'll give her a second chance."
"Somewhat good?!" She yelled, suddenly angry. "I'm trying to save humankind! And the only second chance I need is for killing you!"
"What you call humankind is just a travesty of nature," Aaron said disdainfully. "But if the little I read about demons is true, killing them is good any day, so that part of your intentions is good." That was added just in case the Asshats were watching. That would give them food for thought.
He willed it and the earth chains surrounding her body crumbled into dust. "There's no need to bind you physically, but until the day you ask for forgiveness and I believe you, your magic shall remain sealed. You can leave and try to free yourself in another way or you can keep serving as my maid." Considering her situation, he could guess what she would choose but still had to pretend to not care about her after she had tried to kill him. "Think about it in the corner while your betters talk."
He turned to Mark. "You're a liar."
"M- Master?" Mark stuttered.
"You're a Five Stars Warrior," Aaron said, "not a Four Stars one as you made Firestar believe."
Mark's eyes widened even more, then he kneeled on the ground. "Master, please, punish me!"
Sara almost fainted from the surprise. She had barely recovered from being let free when she found out that one of the most powerful warriors in the family was actually even stronger than imagined but had been hiding his true power!
Aaron waved his hand. "I'll let this deception slide because it wasn't directly targeted at me, but don't you ever lie to me or there will be consequences."
"I said I would erase your Martial Foundation. Are you ready for it?"
"As I said before, the process will be quite painful and I can't guarantee your safety. You might become a cripple, incapable of treading the warrior path forever." He sighed. "As a mere Champion, I simply can't use a spell strong enough to make things easier for you."
That was what Aaron hated the most about levels in this world: a mage could only use spells at the same level as him or below. It didn't matter if he had enough control to use a higher leveled spell, it was simply impossible to use it.
Even trying to exert a bit of extra control on a lower level spell to get more out of it was impossible. Each spell level had a limit on how much mana and control they could require, and the moment he went above the threshold, the spell would be considered of a higher level. Then, if Aaron's level was lower than the spell level, the spell would simply stop being cast.
Unfortunately for Mark, removing his Martial Foundation painlessly and without any risks would require Aaron to be able to cast a level 9 spell, only available to Ascenders. Even the level 8 version of the spell wouldn't help much more than the level 7 version he could cast.
"It doesn't matter, Master!" Mark said.
Aaron nodded. "Good, spoken like a true warrior. I can erase your martial foundation right now. Are you ready?"
The warrior made a fist with both hands. "Yes!" He replied without hesitation.
Satisfied with the resolution he saw in Mark's eyes, Aaron used the spell.
Myriad Arts — Spellcasting — Single Element: Life — Seventh Martial Foundation Clearing!
The first functional difference between mages and warriors were the way they accessed mana. Mages could freely access their mana pools and grow them, but warriors had to 'increase the mana suction' from their bodies to get more mana from their mana pool.
The second difference was that while mages cast spells in their souls, warriors used their martial abilities inside their bodies.
Since the body was material, not ethereal like the soul, using martial abilities in the body changed it. As muscles grew stronger and bones more resilient, the martial abilities' signatures that were used over and over ended changing the body structure in a fundamental level, making it impossible for a warrior to use martial abilities that weren't compatible with their martial arts after they reached the Two Stars level.
The best skills to perfect one's strength, speed, and physical resistance were closely tied to martial arts, and so, these bodily-imbued signatures were called a martial foundation. That's also the reason warriors' skills were called martial abilities.
As much as the martial foundation prevented the warrior from using different martial arts to grow stronger, it was also the martial foundation that kept the warrior's body enhanced. It allowed their bodies to store mana almost like a secondary mana pool, and that mana fueled their martial abilities.
As for clearing one's martial foundation, the best example would be comparing the body to clay. Martial arts would wet the clay, change it, add a bit more to it, and dry it little by little, in a process that took years. The body was the clay, and the new format and volume would be the martial foundation.
Clearing the martial foundation was the same as twisting the clay back while removing all the extra volume that had been added to it throughout the years, but in a single moment. The extra bit of clay — muscles included — also had to be removed because it was part of the martial foundation, and unlike the body, it couldn't be reversed to a clean state because it was already created in an 'impure' form.
Thus, when Aaron's spell entered Mark's body and started changing it back, blood immediately poured from all the man's pores. He gritted his teeth, refusing to yell, but moans could be heard now and then.
Blood and bits of flesh started leaving the man's body through his mouth and other apertures. Mark was visibly becoming thinner by the second, a terrible smell coming out from him. Sara moved away with a disgusted face, holding back the bile in her throat.
Eventually, he finally fainted in pain, on a pool of his own blood and filth.
A few minutes later, the spell was finally done with Mark. Aaron used a new spell to check on his condition.
Myriad Arts — Spellcasting — Single Element: Life — Seventh Health Check!
The man was fine. He would be sore and weak for days, and only after a month would he be able to train again, but there was no hidden injury in his body.
The martial foundation cleaning had been a success!
Now, for another type of cleaning...
Myriad Arts — Spellcasting — Single Element: Air — Seventh Clean!
Myriad Arts — Spellcasting — Single Element: Air — Seventh Levitate Object!
The filth that covered Mark was blown away in an instant, then he floated into the carriage.
Although the average mage would use lower leveled versions of their spells whenever they could to save some mana, Aaron had such a great control, that it didn't matter to him. He could simply input less mana into the spell when its full potential wasn't required, using his control to modify the spell signature as needed.
After placing Mark inside the carriage, he looked at Sara. "So, are you leaving?"
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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