The tricky demon layed dead on the ground, several bloody holes gushing putrid blood. The suicidally aggressive demon had been decapitated, and the skilled demon had been disemboweled.
Neave stared at the bulky demon as he bit off the bandages holding his obsidian daggers. After freeing his hands, he dodged another rock the cowardly demon threw.
Neave faced the bulky demon. It was walking toward him, slowly following him step by step. Neave could corner the cowardly demon by baiting him into an area where it would rain black ooze, but there was no way to kill the bulky one.
He had tried many times to bait the bulky demon onto the suspension bridge and then cut the ropes himself, but that wouldn’t work. It's not that he couldn’t get it to step onto the bridge, that part was relatively easy, but it only chose to do so if the tricky or cowardly demon stayed behind. Sure, Neave could then cut the ropes and kill the bulky demon. But the other two were stuck on the other side, and Neave couldn’t reach and kill them.
Neave tried getting the demon to cross over to the other side and then step back onto the bridge as Neave returned to the other demons. It outright refused even to approach the bridge when he did that. It was like an infuriating puzzle where no matter how you arranged the pieces, there was always one that didn’t fit.
This was why he had chosen such a convoluted strategy to defeat the fourth wave. The tricky demon would gladly kill off the bulky one if it meant trying to kill Neave. Now, however, well…
Neave walked over to a stone twice as big as his head.
Then he ignited his life force.
His muscles rippled and bulged, his grip tightening on the rock so hard that several hairline cracks started to show along the rough stone. He lifted the rock above his head and flung it at the bulky demon full force.
“Die, you fucking bastard!”
The screaming wasn’t really necessary, but Neave sure felt like it added power to his throws.
The stone flew through the air with a whistle and crushed the bulky demon's chest like it had been flung from a trebuchet. The demon flew back several meters, literally getting lifted off the ground by the force of the impact. It crashed to the ground, blood pouring out of its shattered torso.
Neave cackled like a lunatic as his arms and back felt like they would explode from the stress he had placed on them, but he picked up another stone and threw it at the cowardly demon.
“And where the fuck do you think you’re going!?”
The stone hit the demon's head. Its skull blew apart like a pumpkin, spilling blood and brain matter dozens of meters away. The fifth wave started. Neave, however, was looking a whole lot less lively by now.
His skin was grayish, wrinkled, and dry. His hair was white, his eyes sunken, and his limbs were like dry twigs. He looked so wretched one would think he was some sort of undead monster. The archer demon loosed an arrow at his head, and Neave dropped.
The arrow missed his head. It didn’t even need to hit him to finish him off.
After Neave finally figured out how to manifest his life force, he was thrilled. Finally, he thought, he could fix his spirit senses and cultivate. He had failed to predict that manipulating life force wasn’t quite the same thing as materializing it.
At first, he couldn’t do anything with the life force whatsoever. Sure, he could eject it out of his body, but all that allowed him to do was pull a rather impressive magic trick.
He could kill himself without moving a muscle.
It came packed with an impressive red mist effect.
It took him much trial and error, but eventually, he figured out how to ignite his life force. The problem with doing that was that it was like lighting an arid bush on fire. It was impossible to burn down just a little bit.
Although he admittedly had a ton of fun messing around with his newly gained power, it was useless in its current form. But he wasn’t just wasting his time or playing around either.
He was trying to control the speed at which the life force burned down. He had already slowed it down quite a bit. At first, it ignited and burned to a crisp in less than a second. That allowed for a mighty impressive punch or kick, but he died almost immediately when doing it. Luckily for him, this was something that could be solved rather quickly.
After appearing back at the start, he immediately burned his life force. It took about three breaths to burn down to a crisp. Then he died.
He did it again. There wasn’t much point in running to the cave for this one; it just took a few seconds.
So he just kept doing it. After countless attempts, the time it took the life force to burn down could be restrained to about the time it took the demon to reach him. However, instead of leaving the starting area to move to a cave, Neave realized there was something else he could do now. He ignited his life force. Then he extinguished it.
This time he moved to his little cultivation cave. What he wanted to do next was restrict the burning of the life force to a select few muscles. This was a tall order, but he could limit it to his upper or lower body with relative ease. After he achieved that, he managed to narrow it down to either the left or right side of his body. Then the left upper side. Then just an arm.
Progress was sluggish, but his perception of time was a little skewed, to say the least. It might have been weeks, it might have been months, or it might have even been years. He couldn’t guess if his life depended on it.
A certain amount of time later, he felt satisfied with his progress. He could now restrict the burning of his life force to the muscle that closed the lower eyelid. However, he felt this wasn’t quite what life force manipulation was meant to be able to do.
At this point, he had good reason to believe that he had made something of a mistake. This wasn’t life force manipulation, not how it was described in the books he had read.
What sucked with reading several books on a single subject was that they rarely ever fully agreed on something.
And how life force manipulation was meant to work was one of those scant few things that everybody agreed on.
The books described it as being more similar to qi manipulation. Neave was doing something that felt like the opposite of what the books said. There, doing something like infusing a muscle with life force was done directly. Those who could manipulate life force did it by forcing the energy to go where they wanted. What Neave was doing was more like restricting the life force rather than pushing it.
Rather than making it do what he wanted, he stopped it from doing everything else.
He put his palm up again and ejected some life force into it. There was no way to get it to move like this. But he was sure those manipulating life force could make shapes out of it even when it was outside their body. So he just kept trying to do it.
Although he tried doing it, he did it initially with some hesitation. After all, every single time he had just attempted something, he had failed. It always took a trick he didn’t even know that he didn’t know how to do. But he put those feelings aside and gave it a shot. Minutes later, he could manipulate life force however he pleased.
In shock, he stared at the little cloud of red mist as he made cubes of different sizes, a ball, a pyramid, and other simple shapes. Then he made a small house and a tree. Wild blew through the delicate leaves. Then he made a small man. He made that man dance. Soon enough, the top of his palm became a miniature battlefield where countless warriors fought to the death and slew each other in combat.
“Okay, what the fuck?”
Neave was a hundred percent confident that nobody was supposed to be able to control life force like this. All that any of the books he read mentioned was that even cultivators of the diamond path, literal living legends, could only shape it into simple shapes.
Even then, making a rough ball was considered the height of accomplishment in life force manipulation. Comparing that to what Neave could do was like comparing a toddler to a world-class painter.
Perhaps the books were wrong? Neave had to assume that must be the case. It wouldn’t be the first time he found something utterly inaccurate in the texts he’d read.
But could it be possible that all of the books were wrong?
Given that he had done more than he was hoping to be able to do in the first place, Neave was planning to move on to the next stage of his plans.
He wanted to fix his spiritual senses.
Regardless of his abilities with life force manipulation, he had no idea where to begin.
He had tried several things that might work, but one’s spirit wasn’t like a limb. The spirit could vaguely be separated into two main structures. The spirit core, or rather, one’s soul and the outer spirit. Usually, when someone said spirit, they referred to just the external spirit, whereas the term ‘soul’ was used for the spirit core.
Spirit senses were in the domain of the spirit. While one's soul was intangible, inviolable, and completely closed to outside interference, one’s spirit was more open to renovation.
This would make for a relatively simple fix for Neave.
If he could sense his spirit, that was.
The problem with compromised spiritual senses was that Neave needed them to sense his spirit in the first place. Since Neave couldn’t do that, he just had to throw things at the wall and hope something sticks. Neave had tried quite a bit, but it seemed impossible. How do you target something you can’t perceive?
Neave paused and thought of something. He may be unable to target something he couldn’t see, but what if he excluded everything he could? Then he tried infusing his life force while restricting it from influencing his body or escaping it.
Agony. Unfathomable torment, pain, and darkness.
There were few types of pain that even remotely bothered Neave anymore. For the first time in many years, Neave shook like a leaf in the wind. And he wept.
What the hell was that?
After the initial shock had passed he figured out what he had done. He shattered his spirit. And the feeling of having his spirit cracked like an egg echoed even through his soul. Yet he ignored the pain. He rejected the consequences. There was something he needed to do.
Neave took a deep breath. He isolated only his spirit. Then he flooded it with all of the life force he had.
Stolen from oneself, a fleeting moment.
The link to being, shattered to powder.
A soul laid bare, intangible, inviolable.
Eyes belong to those who are, so it cannot see.
The circuits of thought severed, it cannot comprehend.
It needs not the limitations of mortal means.
For etched into even the beyond are myriad manifestations.
Fruits of potential, ripe to be picked.
Seeds of power, asking to be buried.
So it rejects the restrictions of mortal games.
For It would be shackled by infinite chains.
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