Bahari was passing by one of the many training grounds his organization had. This place consisted of a simple, circular arena that was only a place cleared of trees. With the power of these people, they couldn't be bothered in making a real stage. It would simply break all the time and would cost too much. The floor filled with scars and craters was a good example. The place was deserted, with only two people about to fight right now in the circular arena.
It was the middle of the night, so they were either friends helping each other in getting better or enemies settling some private dispute. He had been away for too long, therefore it was normal that he didn't know the faces of these two. With a little time to spare, he decided to watch the show for a moment.
The fighters were just about to begin, so when Bahari came closer they just looked at him and resumed their fight of stares. They were far from the living quarters but not too far to be afraid of beats or intruders.
Both contenders were very young, clearly two new geniuses of the organization. Bahari also noticed that both were at the qi circulation mid phase, an impressive feat given their age. He was way older and only at the advance phase, but he had much experience these two unmistakably lacked.
One of them held a sword, he had short brown hair and a savage look that seemed to say “stay away or get killed.” He held his sword with one hand and above his head while his legs were half flexed. He was wearing the plain black robes the organization gave to its members.
The other one held a black spear in one of his hands, the tip was pointing to the floor and the shaft ran behind him. He looked unprotected with that stance, but his face and bearings were enough to tell he was not. He looked cold and detached, almost the complete opposite of the other fiery guy. He had dark hair and eyes with a faint goatee on his chin.
Bahari wanted to laugh at them, these young cultivators were all very easy to read. He could almost guess the images each of them held just by looking at their faces. With old cultivators, it was impossible to tell. But young ones tend to choose their first images heavily influenced by their personalities. Not that he thought it was a mistake, he was one of those that believed that if you picked an image that suits your personality it will be easier to understand it. He just found it nostalgic, when one gets older it becomes easier to hide your personality.
While he was thinking that, the swordsman moved with surprising quickness. He slashed his sword at almost 10 feet from the spearman. The spearman dodged what it seemed to be a blade made of wind with minimum effort.
“Whooshh. Baam!”The wind blade left a 6-foot long scar on the floor. But, what surprised Bahari was that soon after the scar was made flames ignited from it. Bringing more light to the night. It was clearly some kind of retarded effect. Bahari knew of a few ways to do that, none were simple to do for someone at that level.
After dodging, the spearman spun in a circle and slashed with his spear forcing the swordsman to retreat. Judging by the style, the swordsman had clearly learned the wind martial stance, coupled with some other movement skill.
But the spearman was not over, as he immediately controlled his weapon to thrust at his opponent. This time, the swordsman parried the spear deflecting it to his right. But following that, the butt of the spear came from the left, thanks to a quick change in grip from the spearman.
The swordsman ducked while moving sideways and cutting again at the spearman legs. Now, the spearman had to jump and, with another change in his grip, he thrust with his spear from above towards his crouching opponent. Rolling on the floor, the swordsman barely dodged the attack
“Boom!” Another crater was birthed on the ground, this one was 5 feet deep and three feet long. Bahari could see ice forming on the crater. Obviously, the spearman used an ice image.
The swordsman jumped towards the spearman that was still on the air. And again, he slashed another wind blade, this one was already catching fire midway.
With quick judgment, the spearman flexed his arms and pull himself closer to the spear, that was still embedded on the floor with a 45-degree angle. Stepping on it, the spear bent under his weight and using that, he bounced off the spear, pulling it out in the process.
After a short glaring contest, they both resume the fight again. But now they fought with renewed vigor. The spearman was in a defensive position, making accurate counterattacks with steady but graceful movements. While the swordsman seemed to attack with constantly increasing ferocity, always finding new ways and angles to approach.
Soon, both of them started to use their images more and more, the spearman threw some spikes of ice and between them, he thrust his spear. The ground around the spearman was starting to freeze making it very slippery for his opponent. Meanwhile, the swordsman started to create a tornado around him that was soon catching on fire, trying to counteract the freezing in the ground and the spikes.
But still, the spearman created a path of ice that ended in a curve above the fire tornado and started to slide through it. He ended up over the eye of the tornado and dropped down with his spear thrusting towards the swordsman from above. This forced the sword-wielding boy to stop concentrating in the tornado and to sidestep. In turn, this made the tornado to dissipate and the cold to start building.
After that, the spearman started going into the offensive, creating paths of ice and sliding through them. Thus, gaining some of the mobility that he lacked before and making it harder for the swordsman to cope with him. He was practically skating while he spun with his spear and attacked at his opponent. But the swordsman, although he was not suited for defending he was handling the pressure and keeping up, although by a small margin.
‘This will take too long, and the spear kid will obviously win, anyway. Although is the sword boy who is younger and has more talent.’ Bahari shook his head and started walking towards the mountain cave. No matter the result, they won't kill each other, the killer would be severely punished if that happened. That was why they were not using their images at the beginning, they were measuring each other to see if they could survive when they unleashed their images. ‘ They are just measuring their dicks to see who has it bigger. No matter what, they are good seeds for our forces. In a way, they are our future.’
He kept walking and passed through the rest of the training grounds reaching the living quarters. More than living quarters, it was like a small village constructed in the woods. Many houses sat on the treetops while others were between the trees on the ground. The only constant was that they were camouflaged, blending perfectly with the rest of the environment.
But, this was not his destination. He was meeting with the patriarch who was currently on a cave in the mountain. Bahari had to ask earlier that afternoon where the cave was. The patriarch and his forces move every few years and he had been out of more than four. He had to report the results of his mission and findings. He believed the results would please the patriarch.
As he passed by, he often heard the laugh from some of the members or even the nigh activities of couples trying to keep it as quiet as possible. Their organization may be labeled as a den of monsters and cruel assassins, but they were just like every other human. They had loved ones, aspirations and dreams. Many of those who joined had seen one or all of those three destroyed by others, leaving them full of hatred. But that didn't mean that they couldn't rebuild something, or have some semblance of normalcy inside the organization.
He kept walking until he reached the base of a mountain where the cave was. Its entrance was almost fifty feet tall, and besides the deep darkness, he couldn't make anything of it. From the outside, he could see some stalactites and stalagmites. This made it look like the mouth o some terrible beast.
The inside was damp, but it had a nice smell of incense that was coming from further inside. The patriarch wasn't ostentatious, but he always kept his surroundings smelling nice and clean. As he got deeper into the cave he had to put a hand on the wall as a guide to not trip and to not get lost. The darkness was such that every step he gave felt like he was about to fall to an endless abyss.
The lack of light made more obvious the immense pressure that was becoming stronger as he got inside the cave. This was what kept powerful monsters at bay, the fear towards their patriarch. Once the pressure became unbearable, Bahari knelt on the ground, he could literally not stand anymore. He knew the patriarch wasn't doing this on propose, it was needed so that the beasts in the wilderness could feel his power and back off.
Bahari could feel a slight breeze coming from above. This was also something his patriarch always did. Every time he found a cave, he would stab randomly at the walls. Without any effort he could make a hole that connected the inside of the cave with the outside, creating an air duct. It seemed that these wholes were not aligned to any of the moons since he could see nothing inside the cave.
“ Patriarch, I have returned from my mission.” He raised his head at the deep darkness to report. This darkness too wasn't something he did on purpose. It was just that, for the patriarch, it was as clear as day inside the cave, he didn't need any light. Or at least it was enough for him with the tiny lights of the stars to see Bahari's face. But even without that, Bahari knew that every movement he made inside this sphere of pressure his patriarch emitted, would not be unnoticed.
“It has been years...You aren't hurt, that's good.” A calm but strong voice echoed from the darkness. It was impossible to tell where exactly it came from. It could be right from Bahari's side or from the other side of the cave. “ And you seem to have found something interesting.”
“ Yes.” Bahari nodded and took three pills from an inside pocket on his robe. “ I founded in while doing my secondary mission. Inside the place where they were keeping our secondary target, they were doing some questionable research. Although I believe the information I got there was too shallow, this pill made the effort worth it.”
“Mm. Tell me what you find out.” The strong voice appeared to be interested.
“ It is called ‘rainbow pill’ and when the subject consumes it, he or she becomes extremely susceptible to external suggestions. They were using it as an alternative of torture, to keep the mind of prisoners intact as compared to other, more extreme, methods. Besides making the prisoners more honest, it can also be used to make them obey orders. In reality, as I said before, it only makes them more vulnerable to suggestions, they won't follow direct orders. I retrieved two intact ones and one was vomited by one of the prisoners as I… got carried away when interrogating him. I thought that he was giving information too easily and that it was all a lie.” He raised the three pills with his hand, like making an offering.
“Woosh!” The pills flew from Bahari's hand and into the darkness.
Taking the silence as a signal to keep going he continued. “ I must say that they let this pills away too easily. Either they don't think much of them or they were using them as a bait to distract.”
“Maybe both.” Said the all-encompassing voice. “ But that is only because they don't know what I can do with these pills. You did really well this time, Bahari. I'm very pleased with this result.”
Bahari nodded. He knew the abilities the patriarch had, and if they were used correctly these pills were like giving wings to a tiger. This was truly like the saying the garbage of a man is the treasure of another.
“ Then, what about your side mission? The results of your main mission I already know them.” The patriarch asked.
“ Athias Hul is dead. I managed to track him down after he escaped. But due to the chaos, I couldn't get any more information than we had. I especially tracked him down and saw his body floating in the river. After our fight back then, when he refused to sell us the information as it was usual, he ended up with crippled spirit veins and with mental damages. He must have drowned while hallucinating or something, taking his secret with him to the afterlife.” He paused for a moment and then he said. “I also found that the Silver Moon kingdom had Rasid Erket, a personal servant of the Sidrin Empress, as a prisoner. But I couldn't find him once everyone escaped. I think this information would be useful. If the Sidrin finds out about this...
“Haha” A very soft laugh, almost imperceptible, echoed inside the cave. “ The mystery of a generation, the real identity of the Sidrin emperor won't be disclosed by a mere servant. No matter how close he was to the Empress. I doubt even the Empress knows that man's real identity. This information could be useful, but there is a possibility that the same Sidrin Empress used Rasid as a distraction, just like you think the Silver Moon used the pills to distract spies. As for Athias Hul, as long as you have confirmed he hadn't been able to give any information and that he is dead now, it's okay. It seems they hadn't realized that he was previously dealing with us.”
“Understood, patriarch.” Bahari nodded, and was about to rise when the patriarch's voice sounded again.
“ I'm very pleased with the way you handle this mission. And these pills… these pills are a great bonus, they will help me a lot. Starting tomorrow you will be one fo my in name disciples, this means that once every ten days you will train under my direct supervision. I know you don't have the best talent, and you are already reaching your forties and you are still in the qi circulation. But as long as you have functional spirit veins there's hope. Maybe you won't be able to reach the pinnacle, but you will be able to live longer if you breakthrough to the next realm. And as you live longer, there are more opportunities and lucky encounters. I can't count the number of young geniuses I have seen crumble before the older, less talented, cultivators. And there are many of those less talented who reached my level despite all the odds being against them.”
Bahari felt a warmth in his chest, he saw the patriarch as a fatherly figure from the moment he picked him up. To the rest of the world, just like how they saw their organization, this man could be the worst monster in history. If they knew all the things he has done, all the things he is doing and intends to do, that opinion would only get worse. But to Bahari, he was the only family he had, even if the patriarch didn't see it that way.
His village was massacred by the forces under the patriarch. But Bahari didn't resent the patriarch for that. When he was a child, his father had been caught stealing from the chief and had been executed. Soon after his father's death, his mother followed, leaving him at the age of 12 alone in the world. As the son of a thief in a small village, he was hated by everyone despite not having anything to do with his father's sins. He only survived because he learned how to hunt small lizards in the shrubs.
And then, at the age of 14, when he was starting to think about robbing these mean villagers who treated him like garbage, the patriarch and his forces appeared. Apparently, one of the villagers had seen something he shouldn't have, some sort of ruin, told him the patriarch much later. And just to be safe, he ordered them to kill all the villagers. Nobody was spared, even babies were killed like cattle. The young Bahari survived hiding in a pile of corpses, and thanks to his unkempt looks he passed easily as one of the members of the pile.
His village that was at the foot of a mountain was also close to a cave. One of the places the patriarch liked to stay in. In one of his walks, the patriarch noticed him even though he was far and in the middle of the pile of corpses. During those five days, he had drunk the blood of the corpse on top of him, he still remembered soulless eyes of the woman on top as he drank her blood.
The patriarch, impressed by his stubbornness and his will to live said to him ‘You probably don't have anything to live for anymore, yet you still cling to life. For five days you have survived doing unspeakable things, I like that.’ He ordered his men to take him and in a short time, Bahari was training in a place not too different from the one those two youngsters were using before.
“Thank you, patriarch. I will not disappoint you.” With tears threatening to come out, Bahari bowed. Then, he stood up and left the place while struggling with the force coming from the patriarch.
The man watched as Bahari departed from the cave. He was still a child, even if he thought he was a grown man, in the eyes of this man he was a kid.
He then cast his gaze upon the three pills. Two were perfectly spherical and the other was smaller and had rough edges. That last one was partially digested, if he couldn't figure out the ingredients from the other two, he would have to use this one.
For a while, he kept looking at the three colorful pills, spinning, chasing each other a few inches above his palm. ‘The Seer thinks he can manipulate me, but while he was busy looking for that invisible destiny that appeared all of a sudden, I made enough preparations. He gave up looking too soon, though. I will need more time, but with these pills, I will be able to speed up other plans. It is truly a gift from heaven.’
The man kept the three pills inside a bottle and sat still on his chair made of stone with. With his eyes closed, he started to process some of the information Bahari had brought. ‘The Divine Alchemist, I'm not sure if I should be sad or happy that I didn't get the information.’ Having that information was important, perhaps the most important. Though he would never say it out loud before his subordinates.
But having that kind of information was like sitting on top of a land mine. The moment some of those old monsters knew he had that information, they would attack him like a swarm of starved locusts. He was confident in his strength, but taking even two of those monsters together would be an impossible task. After all, they were all roughly at the same level of strength. And with the recent news he received about the Protector of the Free Central States, he didn't want to risk it, not yet. If the news were true, then that man was now a monster among monsters.
The information about the Divine alchemist was something every single one of them wanted. Not for his abilities in alchemy, they had long caught up with those ancient methods, even surpassed them. With the exception of some incredible recipes that the Alchemist took with him to the grave, the rest were all useless. But, what everyone wanted was something else… something that was in his possession before he died.