Chapter 36 - Death's Shadow Mountains
"Origin Energy?" Mark asked.
"A kind of energy of a higher tier than mana," Aaron replied. "No one in this world has access to it. You only need to know it exists." He paused to wait for new questions. When none came, he continued. "It might sound as if natural energy is more powerful than mana, but natural energy is inflexible, especially its relationship with mater. Mana, however, is different. It can't divide an atom, but it can soften and change matter in many other ways, including changing an atom of a type into another, which allows a mage to turn air into water, for instance, or to change the properties of a rock to make it easier to melt.
"On the other hand, natural energy is exactly as its name suggests, natural. Spiritual Energy, or mana, is what allows the supernatural to happen. Mana reacts to a mage's will to shape reality however he wants, even allowing him to sever reality completely if he's powerful enough!"
"And what about warriors?" The butler asked.
"Don't you have access to mana too?" Aaron replied. "Warriors are mages, only with a limited area of influence, your bodies. Such an area of influence also needs to be used differently than how a mage casts spells, but that's all. For instance, if a warrior can freely affect his body using mana, and he learns a teleportation martial ability, doesn't it mean he can freely teleport behind his enemies and kill them? Why are warriors considered much weaker than mages, then? The answer is simple: a lack of knowledge and weaker skills!"
If his previous demonstration made everyone impressed, his words now opened a whole new world for all of them. Indeed, if warriors were nothing more than mages that could only affect their own bodies, they could do wonders in battle!
The silence that came was broken by Lo. It was the first time he spoke since they left the fort gates. "But to teleport, doesn't one need to affect the targeted area using mana? And doesn't one need to be an Overlord to do that?"
"Yes and no," Aaron replied. "It depends on the skill being used, and on the understanding of the Laws of Space that one has. It's easier to teleport affecting the destination with mana, yes. And the minimum mana requirement would indeed only be reachable by having an Ultimate mana pool, which is only accessible by Overlords. But an Overlord warrior could still teleport without affecting the targeted area if he understood the Laws of Space well enough."
"There's no Overlord warrior in the world," Lo said.
"For now," Aaron replied. "And I was only giving an example. There are plenty of other ways for warriors to contend against mages. Which, of course, depends on knowledge." He smiled. "But as everyone knows, knowledge is expensive. The free class is over, whatever more I have to say on these topics are for the ears of my disciples alone."
"If money is the issue..." Lo started.
Aaron interrupted him. "I'm not selling my knowledge yet. Sleep well, everyone. We have six days ahead of us until we reach the White Sea, and even we mages might need the rest. Helina," he spoke to the still-kneeling woman. "You're on watch today."
She raised her head. "Yes, Herald!"
Aaron stopped himself from shaking his head. He would have to be very cautious about this Herald of Time thing. As long as they apologized for trying to kill him, he wouldn't pass up a title that might increase his standing with the Temple of Time. But first, he had to know what a Herald of Time was supposed to do. What if they wanted to sacrifice him to appease the Laws of Time or something? He had seen crazier things in his life.
Intent on providing his infant brain with some rest that night, so he would have better control of himself for the days to come, he lay on the ground, placed some alarm wards around him, and was soon sleeping soundly.
In a place filled with nothingness, a sound invaded.
It was a knock so muffled, seemingly coming from somewhere so distant that only a miracle could bring it so far.
But it was enough for the woman floating into nothingness. As much as she wanted to keep her mental training session going, she had never been interrupted before. Her children wouldn't do it now unless the First Council convened and concluded that it was absolutely necessary.
She opened her eyes and let a slip of mana out of her body. With that, she came back from the empty space it had been in, slipping into a dusty wooden room. It was the inside of a cozy cabin, with furniture that might be seen in a grandma's house: a sofa, an armchair, a fireplace with a few 3D projectors above it, a rug made of the fur of a Saint beast.
She smiled when she saw the rug. That had been an old enemy of hers, but she had triumphed over it in the end.
For a moment, she thought about what appearance she should show. A Saint like her could easily change her appearance at will, her mortal shackles long removed from her body. But even so, whatever appearance she showed would be remembered by her children, and teachings would be deduced from it. Last time, she showed a grandmotherly appearance to match her cabin, and she became very amused at her children's reactions. It was good for them, too, as they realized time wasn't something to be conquered but to be respected.
With a simple spell, she cleaned the room. With another, more complex one, she checked the River of Time for what had happened in the world while she was gone, focusing on the First Temple.
The lesson from her last appearance had already been forgotten. Only women with smooth skin, boasting their ruling over time with their appearance, could be seen nowadays.
She sighed in disappointment; it was no wonder no new Saint had appeared from the Prophetesses for such a long time. They didn't understand anything. However, it was also a victory that they had a few Overlords among their rankings, and that their temples had multiplied while keeping her fundamental teachings to heart.
If she was being honest with herself, she had to admit she didn't like to show an old appearance either. She liked the looks of admiration she got when she showed smooth skin, perfect hair, white teeth, and everything else a revered Saint should have. But for her children, she would once again endure the looks of confusion, and even some of the repulse, that would come to her.
Her body turned into an old, wrinkled lady, with a homely smile. She didn't go as far as walking incurvated, for no mage would. Her clothing was a plain white tunic. She opened her cabin door.
Five Prophetesses had one of their knees to the dirty ground of the forest outside. Their heads were lowered, and their right fists were closed, touching their left breast, where the symbol of the Prophetesses could be seen drawn over their black tunics.
"Rise, children," she said with a comely voice, and they obeyed. When they looked at her, she saw from shock to pity, repulsiveness to curiosity in their faces. "Yes?" She asked with a smile, despite feeling a bit sad on the inside.
"First One," one of them. "A Herald Candidate has been found."
The First Prophetess smile died. "Explain."
"A... A traitor... She..."
The Overlord was having trouble speaking, and the First Prophetess realized she been so surprised, she had unwittingly let out some of her aura escape her control. How could a mere Overlord resist the aura of a Saint? It was understandable that the woman could barely breathe.
"Thanks," the Overlord said after the Saint suppressed her aura. "An Oldest Youngest betrayed us in the Temple of Western Valdia. She ran from us, resisting imprisonment, even going as far as hurting the warriors we sent to bring her back. We had no choice but to sentence her to death and send an executioner team after her. However, the team was stopped by the Immortal Crusade. We lost three Eminences in the battle."
"Nothing you said makes sense to me," the First Prophetess said. "Where is Valdia?"
"The Ralphian Republic ended about a thousand years ago," a second Overlord explained. "And about eight hundred years ago, the Valdian family took firm control over a small region of the old republic. That's also when a Prophetess Envisioned that we should place a temple on its western region."
The Saint nodded. "Why was the Oldest Youngest branded a traitor?"
"Her Life Candle turned black and burned entirely," the first Overlord said. "When we tried to reverse time to see what had happened in there, we found out the Time Stream in the Hall of Candles had been completely destroyed."
"What did you find once you fixed the Stream?"
"We couldn't fix it," the Overlord said, ashamed.
The Saint frowned. "Did any of the five of you try?"
"I did," a third Overlord said. "I'm the most accomplished of us in dealing with Time Disruption. But I failed."
"Did you ask the Timelords for help?"
The first Overlord frowned. "Sorry, First One, but we saw no reason to."
The Saint sighed, disappointed. "Did she ever admit to being a traitor, or gave out reasons for leaving her Temple? Or did her actions ever suggested she might betray us?" When some of the Overlords shook their heads, she continued. "Why didn't you consider she might've been Chosen? That would explain why she would not come back to a Temple unless ordered so by a member of the First Council. Did any of you try to talk to her?" Not even waiting for their denial, she kept going. "When did my laws became optional?" She couldn't hide her anger anymore. "I explicitly said no one should ever be judged in their absense, so that their memories could be read! How many of my children have you sentenced to death like this?"
"But, First One, she resisted arrest!" The first Overlord said.
"So she should be killed for it?" The Saint stopped restraining her aura, and the Overlords felt as if the world was trying to crushing them. They fell to their knees without resisting it. "What if one of you gets blackmailed, and is forced to keep away from the others, while an enemy blackens and burns your Life Candles? Should you be killed for it, too? Oh, I know what you're thinking. No one would dare do this to you, but she was a Youngest! She should be cared for and protected! Every one of my children is valuable! And you try to kill her without investigating it thoroughly?! How dare you?!" She was yelling at this point. "Answer me! How many died like this?"
"T- Three," the First Overlord said.
The Saint retracted her aura, and her voice came out frozen cold. "You will all deliver yourselves to the Time Prison for three days." They paled. Each second in the Time Prison felt like an eternity. They would probably all come back crazy from it. "Because you're also my children, I'll be merciful. I'll send a golem to give you a whipping each day."
Those three whippings would be the only indication they would have about the passage of time. They would wait anxiously for it every day, feeling tortured the more they waited, and then feeling a release in the terrible pain the golems would deliver to them.
Mercy? The First Prophetess had no idea what that word really meant, nor did she care to learn. No one killed her children and walked free.
At least they didn't beg for forgiveness, else the three days would've turned into three weeks.
"I'll personally go fix that Time Stream and solve the issue about the Youngest later," she said. "For now, tell me, why did the Immortal Crusade kill three of our Eminences?"
"We didn't know at the time we sent the team," the first Overlord said with a dispirited voice, "but the traitor-"
"She's no traitor until I say so," the Saint interrupted.
"Sorry, First One," the Overlord replied and bowed her head apologetically. None of them had risen after they were forced to kneel by the aura. "The Youngest had allied herself to a boy who's being investigated by the Immortal Crusade on the suspicions of being possessed. When our team arrived, she was beside him, and the Crusade considered our actions an interference to their laws. They got into a fight, and three Eminences died before they could activate their escaping treasures."
"Who exactly killed them?" She asked with murder in her eyes.
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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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