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A note from Robert Blaise

 

 

Four cultivators on the diamond path stood in front of the Emperor. Their posture was relaxed and they all acted like royalty. The first among them, Beanna, was a beautiful woman with hair darker than the night yet eyes brighter than the stars. Her extremely fine, red cultivator robes adorned her slender frame. It was obvious she had quite a bit of muscle, but it wasn’t jarring. She looked cheerful and genuinely happy to see Jeevian.

Right behind her stood a skinny man, also with black hair, but not quite as dark as Beanna’s. Even after he dyed it. His hair covered half his face and he was wearing a black trench coat. He looked relaxed, but it was obvious from miles away he wasn’t happy to be here. It was hard to tell whether he would be happy to be anywhere at all.

Next to him stood a man with long green hair. He had a moderately bulky build, wore white cultivator clothes, and had a sword sheathed at his hip. While he was exceptionally beautiful, his demeanor and facial expression, coupled with his rather young looks, didn’t do him any favors.

He looked like a romanticized version of the arrogant young master. Except he had every right to be as arrogant as he wanted.

Further in the back stood another man. Rather than robes or a coat, he wore armor. Full plate armor that looked like polished silver. Not a single inch of his skin was revealed in any way. He spoke next and his voice sounded like he wasn’t even wearing armor. He wasn't one to beat around the bush, so he immediately got to the heart of the matter.

“Greetings, Emperor. May I inquire as to why we have received an emergency warning?”

The emperor responded in a tone that was not very amused.

“May I first know why you all took so long to arrive?”

Beanna responded to that.

“Oh, come on. We were in the middle of an expedition to the lost continent. Besides, we’ve already heard the news of some demon child or something, was that why you invited us here? It was, wasn’t it?”

“The reason why you all have been invited was that a true monster had left the depths of the underground. I told you fools ages ago that if I send you an emergency invitation, it is a heavens forsaken emergency!”

Everyone froze at that immediately. Beanna spoke next.

“Okay, so, we evacuate the continent?” The tone was half-joking, but nobody laughed.

That could have very well been one of the only options they had, after all.

“I wish. Sadly we will have to find another way to deal with this.”

The man in the black trench coat spoke up at this.

“Are you sure we cannot contact Langen for help?”

The green-haired swordsman spoke next.

“Hmph. As if those cultists cared about us.”

The man in the black trench coat responded.

“Your behavior isn't helping our case.”

The emperor raised his hand.

“Kingean, Zhaore, please.”

The man wearing the black trench coat, or rather Zhaore, scoffed and relented.

The armored man continued.

“What monster is it?”

“It is a myth golem, Carfen.”

Everybody winced at that. Carfen asked again.

“Well… Couldn’t we just evacuate the settlements in its way?”

The emperor thought of that proposition.

“Hmm, yes, I believe that would be a decent solution at first. I was going to put that into action anyway to buy some time. Myth golems are not known for their speed, after all. Rather, the thing that concerns me is the question of why it left the depths. Few things could appeal to a true monster outside the extremely rich deep underground environment. And I am afraid that whatever had caused it to leave, may yet bring another disaster crawling out of the depths…”

Then Kingean added.

“Why don’t we just kill it?”

Beanna beamed at that.

“Really!? Have you acquired some unbelievable spirit power Kingean? You believe you can defeat it on your own!?”

“Tsk, spare me your sarcasm, you bitch.”

“Wooooow. Meanie!”

The emperor waved again to get them to stop talking.

“Heavens, can you all please stop acting like children!? I have fought the golem personally and I believe there is a solid chance we could kill it without taking any casualties, but I do not see us being able to do it without causing a calamity. If it was only an issue of destruction, that would be an acceptable sacrifice, but...”

Carfen nodded and added.

“It could bait more of them out.”

“Exactly. For now, we have to scout the situation. Unfortunately, I couldn't put anyone in charge of observing it since it would discover anyone below the diamond path. So we will have to track it down first. Once we do, Zhaore, you will be in charge of observing the myth golem. You will swap places with me whenever I am capable of using my invisibility. For now, we have to judge what direction it's going in and try to find out what it's after. We are moving immediately.”

***

Neave was in a cave. He had collapsed the path that led deeper into the cave and had blocked off the entrance by lining it with large logs. What light broke through his barricade was all the light he had. He had flattened an area in the center of the cave and right in the middle of that area stood a massive ball of spirit. A truly gigantic monster core. Its radius was one and a half times his height and it was perfectly round.

Neave had made this absurd monstrosity and was planning on using it to make an extremely qi conductive sword. He used the monster core of a massive centipede he had killed. He was hoping the sword would acquire some sort of poison ability, but he wouldn’t mind if it just became harder, like the chitin of the centipede.

The problem, however, was in the fact that he had sort of failed to realize that melting such a gigantic core in liquid iron would be, well, difficult to say the least. He would need a gigantic basin. Not to mention the sheer amount of iron that he would have to melt the core in. If he used such an approach he'd have to carry around a titanic sword.

It wasn't possible to just take a bit of the metal either. Naturally, when a weapon was crafted some of the material used was lost in the process. But if the amount of material lost went over a certain threshold, the integrity of the quasi-spirit would be ruined. This often meant that only a very tiny amount of material could be lost. You couldn't split a spirit into two smaller spirits the same way you couldn’t split a man into two smaller men.

He could trim a finger or two, however.

He had read in the book about spirit that some artisans when crafting a ring with very large cores used a peculiar technique exactly so that they wouldn’t end up with too much material. They would encase the entire core in a thin layer of metal and then once the core was fully encased, they would melt the metal by putting it into a furnace.

Since all that was needed, technically speaking, was to ‘fully submerge the core in liquid’, it didn’t matter if it was just a super thin layer surrounding it. So Neave was attempting to replicate that now. The problem was that he didn't have any proper tools, so all he was relying on was an immensely difficult spirit manipulation technique and his fire breath.

He was painstakingly utilizing the life force tendril spirit manipulation technique to line the core with an extremely thin layer of steel. He had melted all the swords he had, so this weapon will very likely be girthier than he hoped, but that was a compromise he was happy to take.

If only he could finish this thing.

After nearly a full day of work, without any rest, he had finally managed to line the entire core with steel. Then he proceeded to blow his fire breath at the core until the entire surface of steel melted. And once he had heated it enough, the core suddenly started shrinking. All that was left was a small puddle of molten metal. Then Neave used the life force tendril to manipulate the metal into a sword.

It was an unbelievably shitty weapon from a technical perspective. It was fat and unbalanced and it wasn’t even properly forged, merely shaped in the form of a sword. Although usually not forging a weapon would mean it would be quite brittle, given that he had used the spirit manipulation technique it wouldn't be quite as bad as a cast iron sword.

It was likely too fat to break anyway. It was more of a bludgeon than a sword. It didn’t have a proper hilt, it was just solid metal. Neave had made the grip rough so he could hold the weapon properly. And when he did…

Neave whistled. For all its numerous flaws, this was a terrifying chunk of metal. Neave had never held a sword that felt so...

Alive.

He took a few swings. The weapon didn’t end up with a power either related to poison or hardness. But rather, every time he swung the weapon, a faint, phantasmal image of the centipede charging into a bite followed it.

Sword spirits didn’t work like spirit powers, so he couldn’t tell exactly what that did, but he was assuming the centipede was a special attack that would accompany the swings of his weapon.

He could live with that.

Neave walked over to the barrier of wood and took a swing. The sword couldn’t cut through the wood since it was too fat. However, the sheer weight of the weapon combined with the phantasmal centipede special attack ended up shattering the logs like oversized twigs. The weapon was ridiculously conductive to qi. If Neave could forge a proper sword with this method, he could create a genuinely terrifying superweapon.

He still couldn't use any qi techniques. He just didn't know where to even begin with figuring them out. Whenever a cultivator held a sword, qi passively flowed through the weapon with every swing even without any directed qi techniques. No matter which weapon Neave used until now, all of them felt like the qi was flowing sluggishly through them. Qi flowed through this sword more naturally than it did through his own damn body.

Neave couldn’t wait to try this ridiculous thing in combat.

He ran out and found an abominid. It was kind of small, so Neave didn’t fight it.

He didn’t want the first kill with the sword to be boring, after all. Then he found…

A troll.

That was extremely unexpected. Trolls were rather rare. Neave hadn’t seen any properly humanoid creatures in this forest so far. Only the living statue, which just barely qualified.

The troll was over three meters tall and it was carrying a makeshift club. Neave ran up to it before it could react to him and took a swing with the sword. It wasn’t a true strike. It was a simple swing at the troll's stomach.

The impact tore the troll’s entire stomach out as if a massive lion had swung at it with its claws.

Neave gaped.

“Holy shit!”

He didn’t expect the weapon to be nearly as strong as that! It was only basic steel, a mundane material!

Is the size of the quasi-spirit? Perhaps the sheer girth of the quasi-spirit within was capable of bearing a much greater load in regards to the ability of the sword?

Neave fished out the monster core from the troll. He gasped.

The spirit power it contained was troll muscle.

It was a unique variant of strength-boosting spirit powers. There are powers that just outright increased one’s strength, but then there were also powers that changed the structure of one’s muscles. These powers often did not have nearly the same immediate benefit as the former powers but tended to pay off more in the long run.

And troll muscle was an extremely valuable power. It was ranked among the most valuable powers within the book about spirit powers. Other muscle types were capable of much faster growth regarding size and strength, but troll muscle was exceptional in one regard that made it uniquely valuable.

The speed of muscular recovery. It may not allow for the fastest growth in strength, technically speaking, but it most certainly allowed one to train to their heart's content. If a cultivator had a style that heavily relied on physical strength and spent a lot of their time training their muscles anyway, this was among the most cost-effective powers they could get.

Neave didn’t even think about it. He just pulled out the wine glass and diluted the monster core.

Neave initiated the spirit trial.

He found himself within his spirit realm. The spirit realm that reflected the very nature of his being.

The spirit realm that reflected his time stuck within the loop.

The slime juggernaut immediately jumped at him. Neave kept cutting at it as he took measured steps back away from it. He felt the searing heat threatening to burn his back and teleported to the other side of the slime juggernaut. The fire washed harmlessly over the bulky slime-man

The trial spirits either fundamentally can not, or intentionally do not hurt one another. In the book Neave had read, this was yet another one of the things everyone seemed to have a theory on, but nobody had any concrete evidence to support their claims.

Neave took a few more swings, abusing true strikes to slam at the slime juggernaut. His body within the spirit trial started flaking and falling apart, but a rush of his life force immediately reconstructed his manifested spirit. He laughed as he tore the slime juggernaut's body apart with strike after strike, consequences be damned. The slime juggernaut got cut apart and evaporated into ethereal smoke.

Neave saw the shadow and used a movement technique to get out of the way of the tremendous hand-leg-limb thingy that the mega-abominid swung at him. The entire spirit realm shook with the force of the strike. The other abominids were surrounding him too. Even though it looked like there was no way to slip between the mass of abominid bodies, the troll and steel-lined stone golem managed to slip through the cracks as if the abominids weren’t even there.

A puff of fire blew out of nowhere as the giant lizard crept its way through the mass of giant bodies. Neave appeared behind the lizard and severed its head. Neave disappeared again and appeared outside of the writhing mass of bodies. His next target was the mega-abominid. He already knew where its greatest weak spots were, so he didn’t hesitate.

The giant gem golem was shooting tiny crystal shards at him, but Neave just dodged those that he could and ignored the others. True strike after true strike severed massive veins and bled the abominid dry as it turned to smoke and vanished. Neave flew through the smoke, his vision obscured, but false smoke couldn't obscure his spirit senses within his spirit realm.

He dodged as the poison abominid swung stinger, fang, and venomous claw at him. He flipped and dodged through the air as the steel-lined stone golem pelted him with shards of sharp rock. The gem golem was also pelting him with sharp shards of crystal. He couldn’t dodge all of the attacks, but he reveled in the pain as he slammed true strike after true strike at the creatures.

The venomous abominid was cut to pieces and it dissolved. The troll was cut up and bled dry, its regeneration overpowered by brute force. The minor abominids were crushed, the stone golem was shattered and the gem golem was cracked right down the middle.

Neave broke out of the spirit trial, laughing and cackling. His life force was exceptionally low and he looked like a walking corpse. But he screamed in joy.

“Again! Again!”

That was just like the old days!

He chased down a small abominid, grabbed it, and started eating it alive. As he regained his life force and healed his spirit, he scoured his spirit powers, desperately looking for something else to evolve.

Something else to start another spirit trial.

He decided on rubber bones.

Neave started yet another spirit trial, the slime juggernaut evolving into a smaller, but much faster and stronger version of itself. A slime champion.

Neave swung and dodged, entering a trance that made him feel right at home. The slime champion landed a powerful hit on Neave. He didn't have the rubber bones ability here, so that mistake resulted in a horrible injury, Neave flooded his spirit with life force and rebuilt his body in seconds.

His spirit manifestation was in one piece, but his body had visible cracks running all over it. He ignored them and force more life force into his spirit to remove them too. He continued fighting, prioritizing the slime champion. Several solid cuts left it limbless and he rushed at the other monsters to finish the trial.

He reached even closer to death this time. But he wanted more. His spirit screamed in agony as the spiritual damage piled up. He yelled and cursed at his weak spirit, pleading for it to heal faster so he could keep entering more trials. Then he felt it. The power he had gained from this last trial.

Neave looked at his right arm. Then his right arm elongated. He cackled.

It fucking worked.

And the first thing that came to his mind was his jaw. He stretched his mouth open, jaw opening wider than should be humanly possible. But why stop there? He widened the opening, stretched his entire throat open, widening it so far that he could eat an entire small abominid in one piece.

Then he laughed again. He laughed with his mouth stretched wide open, the sound of his laughter was a deep, distant echo as he slipped further and further into ecstasy.

This was power. This was true might. Cultivators weren’t true warriors. No, warriors simply weren't powerful enough.

But he was.

Neave cackled and hollered as he grabbed his head.

What was he waiting around for?

Wasn’t it time to finish this?

That's how it always went, right?

First, come agony and pain.

Then he adds a link to the chains...

He grabbed the gigantic iron sword.

And then he started running. Searching.

Looking for the demons of the eighth wave.

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About the author

Robert Blaise

Bio: Man do I love recursion. Man do I love recursion. Man do I love recursion. Man do I love...

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