Aleran remembered Zarasen's reaction when he told him the image he had chosen.
“Kid, this time you are not only going to destroy your spirit-veins you will also destroy your body. If you pick a natural image it is always better to have special cultivation techniques to teach you how to control it. Otherwise, you are playing with something dangerous you don't understand.”
“Natural images, to be controlled need previous knowledge. Those cultivation techniques were made after many of our ancestors died trying to find the right way to move the qi in order to use them. Many others died trying to improve the way we use the images together with our cultivation. I already told you not to waste your time on images, you can't use them outside your body anyway.“
“And do you know what is the worst of all this? Nobody has figured out how to control that as a natural image. It is used in special domains, like all unnatural images and laws. The power of lightning it's too chaotic kid, there's being countless generations and to this date, nobody knows how it works. There are some techniques, but they are still a far cry of what the established cultivation techniques of natural elements can do. They mostly use lightning partial images and concepts to add to other techniques.”
Aleran didn't know very well what Zarasen meant and the latter refused to explain more saying that it would be a waste of time for the current him. But he didn't need a cultivation technique, he knew what the real nature of the lightning was.
He had approached Zarasen with that word because the language of this place probably didn't have a word for what was on his mind. It was likely that no one in this world could fathom what electromagnetism was. No one that could picture what this force, one of the four fundamental forces of the universe could do.
With the little time Zarasen allowed him to use to train on his image, he had done several experiments. But he had never tried to do something like this and in this magnitude. In theory, it had to work.
He had two main ways of creating an electrical current, one was to transform one part of his qi in negatively charged particles and another part into positively charged particles inducing a current.
So he thought he could launch a ball of his qi to the enemy and transform it into positively charged particles, then creating a bunch of electrons or negatively charged particles with another ball of qi in his hands. After it reached the needed potential energy the current will naturally come. The problem was that he could not spread his inner qi outside of his body yet. So he discarded that possibility for now.
He had other ways to target people with an electrical current from a distance, but for all of them, the ability to externalize inner qi was needed.
The second option consisted of creating negatively charged particles and move them with his own will then, gain enough voltage to create electric arcs. As long as they were inside his spirit-veins since it was his image he could do it. Though he needed more qi, much more qi to do that. Fortunately, he had his remnant energy that was still full, so he choose this second option.
He had also tried other methods of generating the current, but they were not the best for his current condition. One of those was with magnetic fields, but it seems he still needed to polish his image of them, he could barely control them.
Since he was not yet in the qi circulation stage he could not move his qi towards the flesh in his arms to reinforce them even further, but he could move it through the spirit-veins of his arms. Though there was the risk of destroying his spirit-veins he had no other choice.
Aleran pictured two separate thick threads of qi inside the spirit veins that ran along his arms. These threads of qi were not straight they went in a spiral from the spirit-veins in his shoulders to his forearm and then the hands.
Right now the thread, that looked like a very compressed spring, closed on itself, making a sort of closed circuit. It ended looking like a spring with many loops that was highly compressed. The good news was that spirit-veins where bigger on the inside than the actual proportions of his body. Making it better for him to pump more energy in them.
‘This will serve as the conductor.' With that, he meant that the particles transformed from his qi preferred to travel through his own qi than outside of the spirit-veins and through his body. After some experiments, he discovered that the qi was a perfect conductor. It probably had something to do with the fact that the particles he created were transformed from that same qi.
All this consumed the remaining energy left in his spirit veins, now he was going to start using the remnant energy.
“GaaaaaaAAAAAAaaaaaAA” The sound seeker's strange and constant howl was a reminder of his enemies closing in. And with them a life of confinement and misery or even worse, death. But he ignored it, he needed to devote his mind to his image if he wanted to survive.
The image of electrons all moving towards the same direction, it was an image the people in this world lacked. It may seem simple, but the concept of an electron was an extremely complex one. He had yet to put together all his knowledge in it, the image was not totally complete, but it was enough.
He started to move all the electrons in the same direction. He could not manipulate magnetic fields efficiently and he didn't have a positive pole nor a negative one, so he had to move the electrons by himself.
He also started to convert more of his remnant qi into electrons creating a bigger current. The more electrons he created, the more qi he had to use to move the whole current.
‘ This is taking more qi than I thought. Only when I open the circuit, the current will flow naturally without me doing anything.’
‘I need more, more current! MORE POWER!!’ But he knew that was not everything if he wanted the electrons to create an electric arc. To do that, he needed to create a difference in potential between the inside of his spirit veins and the outside. If this difference was big enough, once he opened the circuit it, would allow the electrons to jump outside. That was what voltage did. If you could generate enough voltage your electrons could pass even through materials that had high resistance.
Zarasen was standing beside Aleran watching as the enemies approached. He had tried to talk with the kid but he seemed to be concentrating on something important. ‘ What is this brat plotting?... He had surprised me twice already. It is hard enough to surprise me once, but I will bet on him doing something big again. I will trust him on this one and try to stall this bugs.’ With that thought, his eyes turned sharp. He grabbed the sword in a reverse grip, stood in position and threw it like an Olympic player throwing a javelin.
“Swoosh.” At an impressive speed, the sword flew through the air and thrust itself into the open mouth of one of the sound seekers. The poor creature was sent flying backward and crashed into one of the three guards running behind it. The incessant sound was abruptly cut short.
The three men and the remaining beast stopped for a moment. Even the almost blind beast stood still, looking with some incredulity at his fallen brother and then at the seemingly fragile old man.
The man who crashed with the fallen beast stood up and exchanged glances with the other two men. They seemed to encourage each other with that because the next moment they patted the beast and resume their chase.
Just when Zarasen was thinking what to do next he heard a hoarse voice.
“Thanks, old man. Get a few dozen steps back, please. I will handle it.” Aleran was standing with his arms raised but flexed at his chest with eyes wide open.
In these few seconds, his eyes became red, with a few tears of blood dripping down. His lips were dried and he seemed to be in great pain.
Zarasen had a strange glow in his eyes when he looked at Aleran. But he stepped back as he was told without saying a word.
“Tsss” The sweat on his arms was evaporating rapidly. The heat in his arms was starting to increase. ‘ Shit, If I had more practice all this energy would not be wasted in heat and would have been transformed into more electricity.’
Aleran's time to think was over when the enemies got into range. The three men stopped a few meters before him. They had long since run out of arrows and were now wielding their swords. Thanks to Zarasen they now looked more weary, though their confidence was still there.
Aleran didn't give them time to attack or speak, he breathed out and extended his arms pointing at them. An ominous silence took place in the area. Inside his spirit veins, Aleran finally opened the circuit right at the tip of his fingers. The next second, he saw countless bright electric arcs that extended everywhere from his hands. They made erratic movements and although they were not targeting anyone in particular, the electric arcs didn't take long to reach the guards.
Some thin as a hair, others thick as an arm, countless arcs of lightning swept through the air in a deadly but beautiful dance. Like poisonous snakes, the bolts of lightning attacked quickly and retreat with the same speed only to be replaced by another arc of lightning in the next instant.
The whole spectacle lasted for a few seconds, even though to Aleran it felt more like a few hours.
The guards had no time to react. One instant they were in clear advantage and had the situation pretty much controlled, and the next moment they were no more.
Three stiff charred corpses were thrown back by the sheer power of the attack. They fell like wooden logs on the ground, lifeless. Only the sound seeker, that maybe by some animal instinct, sensed danger just before Alerans attack and managed to step back.
The creature was uninjured but clearly stunned.
Aleran stood in his place looking at the creature and before it got time to sober up he yelled at it. “AHHHHHHH” Making honor to the place he escaped from, his face was that of a deranged person or more like that of a cornered animal. This finally made the creature to react. Seeing its masters dead it turned tail and ran.
Watching the creature run, Aleran had a sigh of relief. He was obviously bluffing, his tank had already run out of gas. The moment the beast was out of sight Aleran collapsed, his legs could not support his weight anymore. Feeling like an untouchable superhuman and then suddenly feeling as weak as a normal one was a more uncomfortable sensation that he had thought it would be. It was like going from an athlete to a cripple in a second.
Then he smelled it, the odor of burnt meat. But he knew it was not any meat, it was the smell of three carbonized corpses.
“Puah” Finally, the food that had been threatening to reappear the whole night was out. And Finally, the reality of what he had done hit him. He wiped the vomit and still kneeling he raised his head to look at the corpses. “I… I killed them.” He couldn't take his eyes away from them. Their factions where no longer visible and their clothes were almost gone. All that remained were reduced to silhouettes of what they once were, bearly recognizable as humans. Just like when he and Zarasen first noticed them above that hill. Just silhouettes.
Zarasen slowly approached Aleran, he didn't know how to react. ‘That attack…’ he was shocked. The strength of the attack was not what shocked him, anyone who could externalize his qi and create a qi barrier could probably survive the attack. Though to be fair at Aleran's level and maybe at a level higher, that was a really strong attack. No, it was the attack in itself and what it implied, that left him without words.
He knew the kid had been working on an image but he didn't even think that it would be useful. When Aleran practiced his image Zarasen always went to sleep, refusing to help and even look. It was his way to tell him to use his time to cultivate and not in images. But the kid stubbornly continued on his own even though it pissed Zarasen off. But since the kid cultivation speed was so amazing he treated it as some sort of reward for Aleran.
It was an amazing thing what the kid had achieved with the few moments he had to practice. He himself had to make sure that Aleran time to practice images, which was equal to his time to sleep during the training hours of the night, was not longer than half Ru. Give a normal cultivator double the time Aleran had and they would barely achieve some minor visualization.
No matter what, he always came back to the same question.‘How did he do it?’ It was the question that repeated itself inside Zarasen's mind over and over. From the moment the kid summoned lightning, his mind was trying to find a reason, an explanation of what he just saw.
‘Let's forget for a second that he just used an image that nobody had ever used, not like that at least.’ Yes, there were techniques that used lightning but they usually never looked so natural, they were mixed with other concepts. This was pure lightning if this was mixed with other images the power would be unbelievable.
‘ What bothers me is that I can feel the almost complete resonance with nature from that attack.’ As he had explained to Aleran, the attacks from images were usually more powerful than the natural produced phenomenons. A fire from a cultivators image was more powerful than a real fire. But if this cultivator could increase his knowledge of natural fire, the power of his image will increase and this will cause a resonance. The higher the resonance the more powerful was the attack. The amplification to that lightning attack was at least five times what it should have been with Aleran's qi, even taking into account the remnant qi.
‘Can a boy his age have that much knowledge? It's impossible, but everything about him seems impossible, his spirit veins regrowing, his absurd ability to absorb source qi and now this’.
For an instant, he had the impulse to just knock the boy unconscious, kidnap him, strap him into an operation table and torture his secrets out. But that was the old part of him talking. Besides, there was something, some gut feeling or premonition that told him that meeting this boy is a huge event in his life, though he still didn't know how. ‘ Sadly I can't take him with me, not that I would if I could, that same feeling is telling me to let him develop on his own.’
He got next to Aleran and noticed that the kid was looking at the corpses. His face was painted with a mix of relief, fear, and guilt. But there was a little pride there of what he had just done, something that even the same Aleran didn't notice.
Zarasen patted Aleran's shoulder and awakened him from his thoughts. Aleran noticed the old man who had a solemn expression, looking at him with questioning and shocked eyes. “Are you okay kid?”
Aleran looked once again at the corpses then at his hands, the tip of his fingers was burned by his own attack. “I'm fine. I know it was them or us, it's just…”
Zarasen waited, urging Aleran to continue with his silence.
“It's just that it disturbs me the ease with which I choose my life above theirs. How easy and quickly I decided to kill them. Maybe there were other ways, maybe they would have given up. Maybe if we had kept running those beasts wouldn't have outrun us. But I was...I am so tired, for once, I wanted to be in control of my own destiny.” With his gaze fixed in his hands, his eyes started to get wet. “ I know it probably was the right decision. But I can't help but feeling like I'm losing myself. What am I becoming? ”
With a soft voice, the old man said “ Come, stand up. You won't find the answer looking at the dirt in your hands. Somethings you have to give them time, your answer will come through living, experiencing and probably through more killing. When to kill, when to not kill, that's not something you can decide overnight, not in this world that is filled with dangers and death.”
“Now let's go, I would normally ask you to meditate and gather energy, with your speed it would be easy. But in your state of mind, it seems impossible. Thanks to that chase we are already quite far, so we can walk. But we have to start moving now if we want to get to the forest by morning.” He offered his hand and helped Aleran to stand. After a little time to put himself together, Aleran started walking with the old man, but not before looking one final time at the remains of the guards.
After about an hour of walking in silence, Zarasen decided to ask one of his many questions “Hey kid, how in the hell did you externalize the attack? To tell you the truth It felt weird it was like you could forcefully pull your image out of your spirit-veins. But at the same time, it felt different, somehow weird but natural. You should not be able to externalize qi even when transformed into an image. No, much less transformed into an image.”
Aleran just looked up and thought what to say. He couldn't really explain the old man the principles of electricity, potential energy, and voltage out of nowhere. How he created enough voltage to make the electrons jump through the air once the circuit was opened.
Firstly Zarasen would probably not understand if it wasn't explained form the very basis of how all matter was composed of atoms and such. That, including some mathematical equations to make the explanation whole. Secondly, they didn't have the time to explain the necessary concepts, some of which were hard to understand for someone who lived in a world where these concepts didn't exist. It was something he could not start to elaborate in the middle of their escape. Thirdly, and supposing the other two were not a problem, he didn't know how to say about half of the words he needed to explain the concepts, they were too complex after all.
Lastly and more important, it would create more questions he didn' t want to answer. That last battle was enough to prove how big and important his knowledge was, and how it was his only real advantage in this cruel world. He appreciated what Zarasen had done for him, but this was just too important. If the old man came with a specific question he would answer if that helped him, but to explain what he just did he needed to expose too much.
It was the difference between lending money to a friend and give him all your money and your savings. It was only something you did for your family or life long friends. ‘Sorry old man, I considered you a friend but I'm not ready to reveal my secrets, maybe in the future.’
“It just felt natural, it flowed like the lightning. I don't really know, I just felt like I could do it.” He lied.
“Hmmm... how mysterious.” Said Zarasen in a mocking tone. He was back to his relaxed self and he didn't seem bothered at all by the lack of a real answer.
After that question, they just chatted about random things and ideas Zarasen came with. Aleran appreciated the change of topic and the distraction from the faces of his victims that were engraved in his mind.