Snowflake ran through the clearing as the sun rose over the tree leaves. The rays struck them gently, evoking emerald shapes that moved on the white fur of the enormous white cat.
Even he now understood that training was essential. The power games that Snowflake had witnessed in Orma had made him understand how gaining strength meant gaining respect and command, and subjugating one's peers even at the expense of the city.
Had he not become stronger, even the Supreme Cat would have been swallowed up by the jaws of Goblin politics and death.
However, this was not the only reason that had convinced him to train. Lately his memories were becoming more and more pressing. Gaining power was the cat's way of fighting against his past.
Although he loved to spend all day lounging and eating lasagna, even Snowflake seemed to have some scruples - something that Helial would have argued about. However, this time their opponents were much stronger than anyone they had faced before.
Now they would face the Custodians of the Firmament Team, whose members were at the Initial grade of the Third Phase; among them the strongest was their leader, Medusa, who was almost at the Intermediate grade of the Third Phase.
At his current level, Snowflake could not even hope to defeat them. Because of this he had decided to go beyond his limits and get as fast as possible to the Second Phase.
The cat's goal was to find something that would make him overcome them. Thanks to Iblis' training , Snowflake had learned a new terrifying Skill, difficult to learn, even more difficult to improve.
After learning the basics, all that was left to do for Snowflake was to use their knowledge to probe the depth of the Skill and make it their own.
If he would not be able to decipher or understand its principles, Snowflake could not have progressed further or never really master it.
All the power he had shown so far was nothing but the most superficial knowledge of the technique; this was why it had not yet been molded and had not yet been included in the Cat's Skill list. What Snowflake was using was nothing but a shadow of Iblis's ability.
That monstrosity exceeded every concept of talent and hard work.
To train, Snowflake had chosen to venture into a Dungeon that contained the most terrifying creatures that could be found in the area surrounding Orma.
The creatures that inhabited the Dungeon were at least the Initial stage of the Third Phase, and they also possessed a remote descent from legendary Ancestral Creatures: in the veins of Infernal Leopards flowed what remained of Dragon and Phoenix blood.
Their bloodline, despite not being the purest of all the Infernal races, was certainly one of the most powerful among the low-level monsters, so powerful as to be considered the undisputed lords of the creatures below the Third Phase.
Obviously, the fact that Snowflake was a Heavenly Star Tiger meant that his bloodline was far stronger than that of a simple Infernal Leopard.
Stopping in front of the cave, Snowflake began to ponder.
"All this effort..." he sighed, "my parents always called me lazy. Indeed, the Devil is right: power is everything, it makes us free and allows us to choose ... Etiquette, love, good manners, ethics ... But what are we talking about? If I get out of this Dungeon alive, I will be stronger than ever before and I will be able to kill as many living beings I can get my paws on. But will it be so because my ethics will be better? Probably not. A cat separated from a group of fucked up tigers ... "
Setting foot inside the Dungeon, Snowflake suddenly felt the temperature rise. A burst of sulphurous air entered his nostrils, making him cough.
He immediately used his Mana to adapt to the environment and prevent the solitary sparks from burning his white coat.
The blackened lava stone walls were scratched in different points, a sign of the battles between the Infernal Leopards and the Dungeon visitors.
Infernal Leopards controlled the element of Fire thanks to their descent from the Phoenix and han an incredibly powerful body thanks to their descent from the Dragons. Although they had no gargantuan proportions and strength like the Dragons', or an exceptionally refined control over the fire like the Phoenix, they were still powerful enough to be able to define themselves lords of that area.
Once past the Sixth Phase, they would have developed fiery wings similar to those of a Phoenix in appearance, but not in power.
But the most terrifying mutant trait of their genetics was certainly speed. In fact, they seemed able to manipulate space itself and to shape it in every step.
Thanks to the innate conformation of their own Meridians, it was as if, just by breathing, they were able to cultivate a tremendously powerful Movement Skill.
Yes, Snowflake had put aside his laziness to face these terrible creatures, to strengthen himself and be able to face Medusa's group in the best possible way.
Although, in fact, the choice had been up to Helial. Helial had chosen the right training for each of them and no one had doubted his decision. They all trusted their incredible Leader, who had taken the reins of the group since his Soul showed its true colors. Now Helial knew what was needed to make his companions stronger and seemed so much sure in every action he made and every decision he took.
Accepting the match proposed by Medusa and the Sect of the Worthy meant putting everyone's life in danger. Therefore Helial had thought that the training that would give the best results would be the one done under pressure: in this way the improvements would have been clearly visible.
This growth would have permitted them be renown in the Colosseum, not only as "the group of Cesar's Human disciple", but as the strongest one in the arena.
Obviously, they should have walked this path one step at a time. Frankenstein had started his training in a Dungeon with monsters from the Second Phase up, but it would certainly have been a while before he fought against monsters at the Third Phase. On the contrary, Fiocco di Neve had decided to directly challenge creatures at least a hundred levels higher than him.
The goal they set themselves was to reach at least the Second Phase over the course of a week and gain as much training experience as possible.
Medusa's group had already fought countless battles; they, instead, were only at the beginning.
Snowflake was distracted by a sudden heat blast that hit his muzzle. The more he went on, the hotter he felt. The cat began to circulate more and more the Mana through its own Meridian, to protect itself from excessive heat. That place forgotten by God was a real red-hot hell on earth.
An Infernal Leopard was a few steps away from the cat, which started to get ready.
Snowflake would have bet his head that not even Helial would have had the courage to attack a Infernal Leopard face on and without any preparation. But Snowflake sometimes deliberately forgot to belong to the race of the Heavenly Star Tigers, beings that were at the top of the food chain.
"The day this Supreme Cat has to be afraid of two fucking mice, it will be the same day that this Supreme Cat will better start showing lasagna two by two up his ass until they will be an odd number," commented Snowflake, caustic.
However, in his eyes one could read an unusual seriousness, never seen before on his wiskers.
He too knew he couldn't joke too much; this time his life was hanging by a thread.
He could face one of those creatures face-to-face with some hope of winning, but if more than one arrived, even if they were only two or three, he could not help but run away with his tail between his legs.
Snowflake sneered, leaving behind his thoughts on his few possibilities of triumph. He had decided to use a very fine and elaborate tactic to fight against that beast and he couldn't wait to put it into practice with all his feline agility, composure and silence.
"EHY ASSHOLE!" He shouted at the top of his lungs at the Infernal Leopard, "EAT YOUR OWN DICK."
The Infernal Leopard looked stunned at Snowflake. Since when did a creature like that, full of fat, have the guts to insult one of the noblest beings in the universe?
After that terrifying roar, the Infernal Leopard's body began to be enveloped in incandescent flames.
The cat disappeared as if it had dematerialized and reappeared in front of Snowflake.
The cat, with an expression of contempt and mockery on his face, remained motionless, waiting for the enormous claws of the Infernal Leopard to reach him.
With a lithe gesture of its paw, the Infernal Leopard hurled his blow at his opponent's heart. The monster didn't realize, but Snowflake's body started shaking imperceptibly.
The Mana raged wildly in Snowflake's Meridians. If Snowflake had been a normal Heavenly Star Tiger, he would have just to use his superior speed, the incredible Skills of a Clan existing from the dawn of time, and leave the Infernal Leopard eating dust, without giving it the possibility even to see him.
But Snowflake was different.
Snowflake wanted the leopard to see him.
On the other hand, that was the secret of the Skills developed by Iblis. It was the most terrifying movement technique in the whole universe, a technique that had never been equalled over the millennia.
To understand its principles, Snowflake would have to follow its dogmas, not centred on simple displacement, but on the tyrannical attitude to put into practice before one's enemy. It was a completely different way from the one the Heavenly Star Tigers Clan used.
As talented as Snowflake could be and possess blood from the lineage of the Heavenly Star Tigers, however, he had not come to understand the true principles of that Skill. In fact, despite having managed to show the Skill great potential, that was only the tip of the iceberg.
In short, the Skill that the cat possessed could be considered a fake, a fake with such terrifying characteristics that to think of the original would have given chills to any Immortal of that planet.
While the paw was about to strike Snowflake's chest, a sly grin appeared on the cat's face.