Chapter 31 - First Training Sessions
Aaron had to impress her in an inconspicuous way that could also hint at being a good idea for her to allow him to analyze her. The best start was by showing great theoretical knowledge on things other than magic and philosophy that could also be useful for golems.
He put his hands to his back, standing straight in a regal position. "I told you before that following your heart is the most important thing to unleash all your potential and grow strong, and that starts with deciding if you even want to become a warrior!"
Mark, who was in front of Aaron, looked at the boy with confusion. Everyone else, who were scattered around the two of them, also had at least a frown on their faces.
Aaron could guess what they were thinking and continued. "Just because a man has the talent for music, it doesn't mean he must become a musician. What if he wants to be a baker? Just because a person with the mage gene can learn spells while others can't, it doesn't mean he should focus on magic. What if he has a humble heart and wants to grow a crop to feed the poor? And likewise, just because you can train to become a powerful warrior, it doesn't mean you have to do that. If you try to do something that goes against your heart, you'll eventually hit a bottleneck that will prevent you from growing further. Even if you get strong and rich enough, you will be miserable, living an unhappy life, incapable of finding peace and fulfillment. Therefore, the first thing you must ask yourself is: do you want to grow stronger? Do you want to become a powerful warrior? Is that what your heart truly aches for?"
As simple as Aaron's words were, they came as a shock to everyone in there. Mark looked astonished at the Herald. "I... Don't need to become a warrior?"
That concept went against everything everyone had ever heard. Sara had been trained from an early age to become a powerful mage, Helina, to become a Prophetess, and Mark, to become a warrior serving the Valdian family.
Shadow One had been created to be a powerful servant!
In a world where power defined everything, where the Immortals reigned not because they were the best to lead humanity, but because no one could oppose their strength and decisions, it was absurd to even think about not pursuing the path of power if one could, especially those with the mage or warrior genes.
They had obviously heard about some Inepts choosing what to do with their lives, but for a mage to choose not to pursue the magic path or a warrior to choose not to pursue the martial path... That was unheard of.
Those words made Mark's heart tremble. Did he want power? Or did he want something else? What did his heart yearn for?
Silence befell the area, only broken by a carriage that passed by the road not far from where they were. After a long period without an answer, Aaron spoke.
"As we travel, you'll test your hand in anything you feel even vaguely curious about. If you want to know how it feels to be a waiter, you'll tell me, and we'll arrange it for you to work as a waiter for a day or two. It's the same for trying to be a farmer, a miner, a lumberjack, a smith... I'll also force you to try some professions that I believe might be a nice fit for you, like a butler."
Aaron winked. "That doesn't mean that you must give up on training as a warrior, as it could still help in other ways. How more effective can a farmer, a miner, a lumberjack, or a smith be if they have the power of a warrior to help them? Even if your life goals change, it doesn't mean you can't also strengthen your body on the side when you have the time. And at this moment, you have nothing but time."
Aaron's serene face turned into a serious one. "So, stop lazing around and get in horse stance! Put your guard up! Punch! Punch! Punch! Your back is not straight! Punch! You're too high up, lower your stance! Punch!"
The next hour was the harshest training Mark ever went through.
The road went through small forests and a couple towns.
Mark felt grateful for the horses, for his entire body was sore. Although riding was physically demanding, it was better to not have to walk.
To everyone's surprise, no one from the Temple of Time came after Helina. Even Aaron had expected some sort of confrontation.
Aaron took the silver door from his ring a few times. He used small strands of mana to try and feel the boundaries of the magic formation that prevented him from analyzing the door. If he could feel the boundaries, he could try to find a weakness. Alas, he failed every time.
The formation was that good. Sometimes, it allowed Aaron's mana to get closer. Other times, it would be stopped meters away from the door. The only way for him to feel the door would be by binding it to him.
Bound items could only be used by the one who bound them, and the user got total control over the item, which would allow the Aaron to stop the formation that prevented him from feeling the door with his mana. Binding items was usually as simple as placing a drop of blood or a bit of spiritual energy in the item.
However, a person could only bind items when the grade was equal or lower to his level, considering the Level-Grade Table. To bind a Peak Artifact, he would have to be an Ascender, something that was way out of his reach, for now.
He kept trying to find the formation's boundaries but focused the most on improving his Myriad Arts.
On the third night after leaving Lamia, when Mark was getting used to the simple movements of keeping an instance and punching ahead, Aaron started Sara's training.
Which, of course, would also showcase how being analyzed by him could be fruitful, to plant a seed of doubt on Shadow One's heart.
"Open your soul to me," he told her, "and cast the spell you believe you're best at. I'll check how it goes."
"Yes, young master," she said with a bit of shyness.
One's soul was an intimate thing that one simply didn't open to anyone. Sara wasn't really willing to obey, but the promise of greater power was too tempting to refuse.
Aaron cast a spell.
Myriad Arts — Spellcasting — Single Element: Soul — Seventh Soul Check!
As with all his spells, this one's name was simple and self-describing. Soul mana left him and entered Sara's soul, filling every part of it, allowing Aaron to feel exactly what was going on inside.
"Cast the spell," he ordered, and she obeyed.
Inside her soul, her mana pool was like a shining ball filled with mana, like a miniature white sun. When she cast the spell, tendrils of transparent white light appeared all around her mana pool, pulling mana from it.
The pulled mana formed a complex spell signature in her soul. Aaron recognized it as being the signature for the Sixth Warband Song Spell, a spell that affected the enemy mind to make him believe he was standing before a mighty army that was about to crush him.
She took a few seconds to form the spell, correcting wrong lines here and there multiple times, sometimes even replacing right symbols with wrong ones before bringing the right symbols back.
When she was sure she had got it right, she activated the spell. The signature shone bright, becoming a kind of shining white gas, that was then removed from her soul and sent on the air, targeting a nearby tree.
Outside her soul, the spell was invisible, so except for noticing the disruption in the ambient mana, no one was able to tell she had cast a spell.
Aaron stopped his own spell and looked at Sara.
"What a mess," he said. "You're a Champion, so you should be using your grade 7 mana control to the utmost, but the drawing of the signature is pitifully slow and inaccurate. How many times a day do you even practice drawing the signatures in your soul, if at all?"
She blushed, embarrassed. She knew she wasn't the best mage around, but Aaron's evaluation of her was even worse than she expected. He hadn't said much, but he had said enough. As to his question, she could only lower her head in shame.
"Less than I should," she replied.
"From now on, practice all spells you know until you can cast them in one second at most."
"Yes, young master," she replied weakly.
"How many elements do you know?" He asked.
"Five," she said with some pride, but also fear of his evaluation.
"Not bad," he nodded, "but you can do better. From now on, at all times you'll be either increasing your spell casting speed or trying to understand new elements. Forget about everything else, including becoming an Eminence. Even if you become an Eminence, your capabilities will be so weak it won't matter."
"I recommend focusing on one element at a time," Aaron continued. "Come to me if you have any doubts and I'll answer them to the best of my ability."
Seeing Sara wordlessly nodding again, Aaron suppressed a sigh. If even an undercover agent like her couldn't take criticism, this world's mages were worse off than he thought.
Without identifying one's weakness, it was much harder for one to improve. He was doing her a big favor in guiding her like that, even if he was a bit too blunt.
The best way for her to learn was to cope with it though, so he didn't offer her any comforting words.
Timelord Overlord Fleeting Moment arrived flying at the scene of a big battle. A great crater was on the ground, and soot was everywhere.
He was a man with a big black beard and long black hair held in a bun. He wore a black robe with silver details, and the symbol of the Timelords — the outline of an hourglass — was sewn in orange on his left breast.
On the ground below him stood a man clothed like him, but he was a mere Ascender. Fleeting Moment landed and the man bowed low, saying, "Master."
"Waters of Yore," Fleeting Moment replied. "Why did you call me?"
"The Immortal Crusade asked for help in reading the past in this place," Waters of Yore replied.
"I'm aware. Why am I here?" Fleeting Moment was an Overlord, and even kings would pay incredible sums for mere moments of his time. And yet, here he was, using his valuable time to help his disciple for free.
Waters of Yore gulped. His master's temper wasn't good, and if he decided Waters of Yore had wasted his time, the punishment would be harsh.
"At first I thought someone had used a time spell to veil the past in here, but that's not the case," Waters of Yore explained. "Time here... It was shattered." Fleeting Moment didn't reply, and Waters of Yore got anxious and kept talking. "The responsible is supposedly only a Champion, and I could easily see through any veil at Seventh level. But no matter how much I try to see back in time, I hit a place that my spells consider the very beginning of time in this place. I've never seen anything like this."
Fleeting Moment raised his hand, silencing Waters of Yore, and cast a spell.
Tenth Revolution of Existence!
Space and time trembled. His consciousness was ejected from the material plane, and he found himself in a dark place filled by uncountable streams of light that moved like rivers without beginning or end. They floated everywhere in the darkness, sometimes twisting themselves around each other in complex ways, although they never touched. The minimum distance from a river to another was of about thousands upon thousands of legs, while sometimes they are as distant as billions of legs.
The Rivers of Time came from the past and traveled to the future. The future was hidden by fog and hard to navigate, but all he had to do to read the pas was look back.
He focused on the river closest to him, where the history of the entire world lay. In the waters, he saw myriad images containing scenes of everywhere around the world right at this moment. He focused further, and the river turned into the union of uncountable streams connected to each other. His focus kept going until he found the stream that showed images belonging to the place his body was at.
However, a session of the stream had been damaged, shattered, which blocked his vision from going further back. The stream still floated, as if that missing bit wasn't important for the continuity of time itself, but the Timelord knew better. The mage world was fragile, and if a few thousand such shattering happened without being fixed, the world itself might crumble! The main mission of the Timelords was to watch over the Rivers of Time and prevent that.
Thankfully, with a mere twist of his will, the stream was fixed, and he saw everything that happened there.
Most importantly, he saw the one responsible for doing that to time.
Damaging the time-continuum of the world was the worst offense one could make towards the Timelords. The second worst offense was using the time element without the guidance of the Timelords or the Temple of Time!
That boy had committed both offenses.
He had to die!
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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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