Neave looked around in utter shock. He thought he was dreaming. As he got up to his feet and looked around, he believed that he must be imagining it.
“Are you all real?”
“What the hell are you talking about, brat!? Do you think this is a joking matter!?” The elder fumed, “We’re in a serious crisis, and you’re pulling pranks like this!?”
Neave’s face lit up like a candle.
“It’s elder Kaphor! You must be real! You’re such a fucking pain in the ass that there’s no way my imagination could fake that!”
Absolute and utter silence. Elder Kaphor shook.
“What the hell did you just say!?”
“Oh, gods! It's a floor! Something that had been flattened! There are walls! There are people! There’s a building!” Neave pulled the bottle of food pills from his robes, “There is food!” He ate a pill, “And it sucks just as much as I remember!”
“Brat, if you continue this behavior, I swear…”
Neave ignored the rambling elder and began dancing. Everybody stared at him in silence. First in pure disbelief at the gall of this child, but their confusion quickly morphed into shock.
Neave's dancing wasn’t a joke.
It wasn’t rare that cultivators had their fun in large cities, and most of the more experienced people here had seen their fair share of professional dancers. You could put Neave next to any of them, and he would fit right in. Hell, he’d put most professional dancers to shame!
Elder Kaphor was about to yell again but paused as Neave hopped from person to person.
“Ah, I remember you. You were such a prick!” He slapped the senior disciple.
The disciple wanted to react, but everyone’s gaze and the utter nonsense of the situation left him too bewildered to respond.
“Hello, senior sister! You were nice to me!” Neave jumped and kissed the older woman on her forehead.
She squeaked in surprise and tried pushing him away, but he masterfully dodged her attempts to get him off. He eventually jumped off by himself and continued his dancing.
Neave danced a bouncy, unorthodox dance in his unique style, developed through heavens knew how many years of practice. Some of the junior disciples chuckled at the goofy moves, but the death stares they received from the elders shut them up instantly.
Everyone present wanted to do or say something, but what? Marven stared in silence.
“That’s it! Your disrespectful behavior stops here!” Elder Kaphor ran out to catch Neave but suddenly stopped.
It felt as if the sky was falling on every member of the Zearthorn sect. Neave hadn't paused his dancing, even though the spiritual pressure had some elders on their knees.
The sect master stepped forward, stopping before the elders. His face was the picture of pure fury.
“You disobedient beasts.”
At first, everyone thought Marven’s fury was targeted at Neave. But… Beasts? Marven wasn’t facing Neave. He was facing the elders.
“I gave Neave my keys this morning simply to prove a point. There was nothing he could have done with them himself.”
The elders were shocked. They immediately realized what the sect master was hinting at. He continued.
“Don’t be stupid. If this is a ploy by one of you, step forward immediately, and I may just spare your life. What did you do to him? Did you drug him? Why?” Marven sharpened his glare at the elders, and his words turned sharper than a knife.
“And who are you planning to kill?”
“Sect master!” Elder Kaphor yelled out. “This must be some sort of misunderstanding! That child, he…”
“He what? Found the top secret location of the tome entirely on his own?”
Neave immediately burst out laughing behind Marven's back.
“The fucking top secret location! Hahahaha! Father, you must be joking! You hid it behind a few books. What did you think?” Neave then continued sarcastically, “‘Hurr, children dumb they no read boring tax stuff! Hurr, durr, me child, I want read action novel!’ Well, guess fucking what, you tax dodgers, I found the chamber entirely on my own!”
Some of the elders looked infuriated at Neave’s remarks. However, others felt a shiver crawl down their spines.
Could it be…?
“I have told you, father. I have told you so many times to put the book behind a qi lock.”
“No. This should have been impossible. The book had been sealed.”
“It was naive to think our seals could keep that object contained, Sect Master.”
Neave laughed so hard he wheezed. He hollered, brought to tears by the absurdity of where the conversation was heading.
“You’d rather fucking believe the book grew legs and just walked out than that I’ve found your shitty little hiding spot!? What a fucking joke you idiots are!”
Marven called over one of the elders. A woman, neither one of his wives nor kids, walked over to the sect master. Marven nodded at her and pointed at Neave.
“Elder Rashia. His mind is compromised. Escort him to the infirmary at once and see what you can do. You three.” Marven pointed to several elders and then whispered to them. “Follow her and make sure she remains safe. Keep a close eye on Neave. Report any unusual behavior or strange phenomena.”
“Yes, elder, escort me to the infirmary at once! As you can see, my moves are quite sick.” Neave started dancing again.
Elder Rashia walked up to Neave and tried catching him to take him to the infirmary, but he kept slipping away. Eventually, she caught Neave and threw him over her shoulder like a bag of potatoes. Neave could have dodged that too, but he let himself be caught.
Being held and carried by someone felt so great he wanted to cry. The warmth of another human’s touch felt ethereal on his skin. He face-hugged the elder and laughed hysterically. Then he grabbed her hair and started tying it into painful knots. Rashia walked away from the courtyard, struggling to resist Neave’s harassment.
Rashia and the three elders walked out of the courtyard. As they carried the laughing Neave away, the sect master looked over the entire sect.
“I want all junior disciples within their quarters in less than fifteen minutes. The senior disciples and elders gather around me.”
As the juniors of the sect poured their way into the sect halls, Marven turned to the elders and senior disciples.
“A cursed object has compromised our sect’s premises. We have a solid reason to believe it is capable of independent movement. Do not touch the book if you spot it; run immediately and report any sightings. Flip every stone and scour everything. Go!”
Neave was still laughing merrily as elder Rashia sat him in a chair in her infirmary. The three elders kept him restrained.
“I do not know whether you can properly understand me, but I am doing this for your protection.”
The elders forced Neave into special, sealed restraints. Neave didn’t resist but rather whistled and… Moaned, claiming she should tighten the bonds.
Elder Rashia found an object resembling a platinum crown.
“Oh my, elder Rashia, is that for me? I am sorry to say, but I do not think we could work out. The age difference is just too big. You’re what, a hundred years old? How could you fall for a trillion-year-old man?”
The elder ignored Neave’s psychotic babbling and put the platinum crown on his head. Then she frowned and clicked her tongue. She took the crown off Neave’s head and placed it back into the drawer, muttering something about ‘crappy equipment’ as she dug around.
Neave observed every inch of every surface around him in fascination. Everything was so real. The entire room was so… Created! The touch of other people covered every inch of every surface in his field of vision. He teared up and stared warmly at a filthy glass on the table.
A glass that had been touched. A glass that had been made. A glass that contained water.
Water. Neave never thought he would cry at the sight of something so basic. It was pure. Transparent. It didn’t shine or sizzle or stink. It just was.
As Rashia dug through the drawers, Neave got up off the chair and hopped, still fully restrained. The three elders looked apprehensive, but they didn’t stop him. They merely observed his strange behavior. Neave bit the glass with his teeth and lifted it over his head. Some water flowed down his throat while the rest ran down his body. The glass dropped to the ground and shattered. Rashia jumped at the sound.
She gave up on her search and walked over to Neave cautiously. Neave stared at the ceiling, drooling, water running down his mouth. She leaned in front of Neave and swung a hand in front of his face.
“Hey, can you hear me?”
“I’m sorry, I do not remember ever saying I was deaf.”
The elder nodded at Neave’s reaction and leaned back a bit.
“Do you remember your name?”
“No, I must have forgotten it. Can you remind me again?”
“Where are you currently located?”
“Wow, okay, rude, you won’t even answer my question, but you expect me to answer yours?”
“Can you tell me where you are?”
Neave stared at her, mouth open at the impolite treatment. He shrugged and responded.
“An insane asylum.”
The elder lifted an eyebrow at that answer.
“And why do you believe that?”
“Because those crazy idiots are chasing a book!”
The elder sighed.
Rashia picked up Neave, who could barely evade her now that he was fully restrained. She brought Neave over to a special room. The three elders followed them and waited outside.
The walls of the room were all padded with thick green cloth. The only apertures were the thick, reinforced metal door and the small glass window allowing a faint sunset ray in.
She placed him on the ground and pulled thick, inscribed steel chains over him to keep him fully restrained. Neave looked at the chains and laughed. He laughed so hard he wheezed.
“Oh, Rashia, my dear… My chains are a whole lot prettier than these.”
Rashia felt a deeply unsettling undertone in Neave’s voice. She hurried to restrain him further and walked outside hurriedly. Neave was strangely quiet. She noted his unusual behavior for a later report to his father.
“Elder Rashia, should one of us remain here and observe the child?”
Rashia hesitated. But she shook her head.
“The sect master didn’t explicitly order us to remain here, which means he expects us to be looking for the book. It will be fine. He is fully restrained in a sealed room and isn’t going anywhere. Let’s go.”
Then Neave was left in the room as the elders walked away, joining the hunt for the cursed tome.
Neave glanced at the small window in the back of the room.
“Hmmmm… I guess I could take a nap.”
Elder Kaphor hurried his walk to catch up with the sect master.
“We have not located the book, sect master.”
“Then look harder.”
“We have looked through every single location within the sect premises. The book isn’t here… Father.”
“Refer to me as sect master, elder Kaphor.” Marven snapped at Elder Kaphor with a sharp tone. “And keep looking. Expand the search to outside the sect premises. Do you understand the implications of losing the tome? We will search through every possible location for months if need be, but that book can not be allowed to make its way into the wrong hands.” Then he paused and hardened his gaze at the elder, “Unless it's already there.”
Neave had fallen asleep not even seconds after he had decided to do so. He happily snored away, restrained, chained up, and locked in a specially reinforced room. As the sun set, something plopped onto Neave’s head and woke him up.
“Ow, what the…” Neave froze.
Right on top of his face was the cursed tome.
“Huh–buu–hee–grnnhhaaaaah, get it off!” He swung his head around in panic and eventually managed to fling the book away from him. His heart thundered in his chest as he stared at the book, frozen in terror.
What the hell! Don’t tell me that thing is back to put me in the loop!?
The book was inert. It no longer glowed with a sinister red light. There was no more supernatural allure to it. It just looked like a really edgy book.
The sight of the book was still enough to bathe Neave in sweat. He felt uncomfortable lying there with this cursed thing on the floor beside him. He closed his eyes and focused. The strands of qi looked muddled and obscured, probably because of the interference of the qi restraints.
That wasn’t enough to hold him back for long. He grabbed three strands of qi.
The potential of perseverance.
The potential of experimentation.
And the potential of fun.
These were the three he understood best. He also ignored the blaring bright potential of madness he sensed in his spirit.
Golden mist seeped through the restraints. The chains repelled the ethereal mist. Neave took a deep breath. What now? He was still restrained.
Oh, bother, if only there were something he could do, even laying down on the ground and fully restrained.
He couldn’t use a movement technique because his qi was restrained. He couldn’t combine qi and life force either. There was one thing that he didn’t have to actively use his qi for, however. He shifted his arm a bit under his restraints.
He pulled his middle finger back with his thumb. Golden runes lit up around his hand as he executed a true strike flick with his finger. The restraints tore slightly, and a few cloth patches flew into the air.
Once the cloth had been compromised, the qi restraints started loosening up. The chains were still going full force, however. Until Neave flicked them as well. The chains cracked one by one, freeing Neave, who could now scoot as far away from the tome as possible.
He slowly approached it, carefully flicking it with his foot, checking to see whether it would do anything when touched.
Neave breathed out a sigh of relief. He reached for the book with a great deal of hesitation. His finger slowly approached the cover of the tome. He touched it. Neave immediately pulled his arm back, and his heart sped up.
The tome didn’t do anything. It was strangely cold to the touch, however. He approached the book again, this time carefully opening it. He couldn’t sense anything strange, which hopefully meant that was it for any funny business.
Strange letters lined the pages of the book. They weren’t written in the common tongue. Neave couldn’t tell what the individual letters meant, but for some reason, reading the text wasn’t a problem.
“What the fuck is this shit!? A report!?”
It was more than just a simple report. It was a report written by a devil. Neave knew of gods and devils only from legend, but he had no problem believing this book was a devil's personal property. It was a concise report detailing the destruction of a planet by strange creatures that seemed to have just floated in from the void.
It wasn’t even that long. The overwhelming majority of the book was empty. The book contained the report on the planet's state, which coincided with what he’d seen in the loop and a curse.
Of course this thing is fucking cursed!
A curse was set to trigger if touched by anyone ‘under the gods’ protection.’ The details were plain to see. It was a curse that crawled out from a bottomless pit of nightmares.
Curses could only exist if they had a built-in method for breaking them. This didn’t mean that way had to be easy. The more difficult the curse was to break, the more difficult it was to create.
It was undoubtedly a legendary devil that wrote this curse. It was written in a way that made breaking it only a theoretical possibility. The demons of waves one to six were designed to be a certain amount stronger than the individual trapped. The seventh wave demon was there to account for any growth.
Neave was lucky this was a curse designed with higher rank cultivators in mind.
A curse designed to completely shatter one’s mind.
It was made to free the prisoner when they reached the ultimate unresponsive state.
Defeating the final demon was only really technically possible. Given that the idiots of the sect believed the book just to be an instant death curse, it was clear that the more likely scenario was the ultimate unresponsive state.
Neave shuddered as he realized how close he had come to dying from this book. Ironically, he was right from the very beginning. It was by sheer luck, if you could even call it that, that he side-stepped having his soul wiped clean.
And all of this for what?
To hide the fact that some planet had been bled and pussed on?
This was a report. Maybe this was an important secret to the gods or devils, but why would Neave care?
He had thought this book was some grand mystery, some ultimate treasure. When he opened the book, he wanted to believe it was worth the pain and agony.
But it was just petty fucking bullshit.
Neave growled like a beast and spilled his rage into the book. He cursed the devil who lost this stupid object and vowed to find and kill it. He would find and slay every devil if it meant making sure whoever wrote this book wasn’t allowed to live.
He used the shower of sparks to set the book on fire, as any actual fire combination could potentially injure him. The paper burned to a crisp, but the book cover remained untouched. He tried bending or tearing it, but it seemed virtually impervious to damage. Neave gave up and threw it aside.
He shot the book one last glance.
The book never mentioned anything about the cursed statues.
Did I just imagine that, then…?
It wouldn’t be the most insane thing he had lived through entirely in his head. However, this particular instant worried him a bit. Perhaps he was a bit more off his rocker than he had thought.
He contemplated what he wanted to do next. He was going to stay here and wait for his father. But now that he had broken into the foundation realm, that no longer felt like a brilliant idea.
Neave ran at the wall and attempted to use a movement technique to go through it.
He ended up faceplanting right into the wall.
“Ow, what the f…?”
Why didn’t it work?
Neave observed the wall.
…Oh, that makes sense. Well, that sucks.
This room was almost wholly qi isolated. Neave felt around in his spirit senes and only noticed a tiny patch on the ceiling where qi could flow through. He used a movement technique and appeared on the roof.
“Now then. Where should I go first?”
Hunter sat in the middle of his room, cultivating. After sitting there for several hours, he gasped and broke out into a sweat. Hunter was a stocky thirteen-year-old boy with a stern face and long black hair. His robes stuck to his body, sweaty and grimy from all the training.
Hunter looked too young to appear imposing, but all the building blocks of an intimidating man were present.
Three consecutive hours of cultivation. That’s how long it took to reinforce his qi today by a single strand. It was a pretty average time for Hunter. It was a rather good time for most disciples on the bronze path.
He wasn’t the most outstanding cultivator in his sect, but he was the second best among the younger generation. Hunter was only second to Harel as far as his peers went, but she didn’t count as the sect master had granted her a powerful treasure.
Hunter secretly felt it should have been granted to him but conceded begrudgingly that such a decision would be politically problematic. Giving it unto a disciple that wasn’t the sect master's direct descendant was wise. Besides, he knew a powerful wife made for a powerful man. And there’s no way she’d be betrothed to anyone but him. He giggled in anticipation. His excellent mood soured when he remembered what had happened just earlier.
It took him thirty minutes of venting his rage at Neave’s theatrics before he could focus enough to cultivate.
How could the elders and father be so blind? This was nothing but a damn prank by Neave. Didn’t he admit to just finding the book himself!? Neave was like a devious little demon. They chased a book like a bunch of fools rather than asking Neave where he’d hidden it. He felt a bit of schadenfreude at Neave finally getting a severe punishment. There was no way he would get away with something like this.
Hunter had tried, time and time again, to correct Neave’s behavior, but that little shit never learned. It serves him right, then.
Hunter had no idea why his father invested so much time into Neave. He had heard some… Interesting things about Neave’s potential marriage arrangement, but he assumed that most of that must be rumors. It was still impossibly frustrating to see father trying to train Neave. There was no merit to doing that.
It must be because he’s that whore’s son.
He frowned harder and vowed to hurry up and take over as sect master as fast as possible. His father was clearly past his prime.
Hunter scoured through his spirit with his senses to see whether it could advance any more today. After assessing that it would be possible with five or so hours of cultivation, he opted for physical training instead.
His room was a bit small, but he’d removed the bed and replaced it with a futon so he would have more space. He walked to one corner of the room where he kept some weights and started training.
They’re like damn fireflies.
Neave stood on the roof of the sect hallways and observed the inside of the sect. He could sense exactly where most of the cultivators in a hundred-meter range around him were. After all, they shone like miniature stars in his spiritual senses. Only now did he realize just how ridiculously anomalous his spirit senses were.
He didn’t know why his spirit senses were this potent. Did he have that much practice? It could be. Either way, it didn’t matter. He thought he should probably hide that he was in the foundation realm. Hell, he should just hide, period. Neave felt his spirit and tried restraining it.
It wasn’t that his control was bad. It was probably because he was at the very beginnings of the foundation realm. The qi he had was just the basis of his yet unrealized potential, and hiding that might not even be worth it. Still, he felt that perhaps it would be wise to hide in case the old bastards could sniff him out.
He resorted to coating an impossibly tiny bit of life force over his qi core. He jumped back a bit as he thought he had accidentally destroyed his cultivation for a second, but quickly realized it was so hidden that not even he could see it.
“Wow.” He was genuinely impressed with himself.
Neave strolled around on the roof. Soon enough, he spotted a relatively bright spot among the junior cultivators in one of the rooms. He walked on the rooftop above the room and focused his spiritual senses. The life energy in the cultivator's body indicated they were around Neave’s age. Possibly a little older.
Neave smiled ear to ear as he realized who was inside this room.
Time to pay Hunter a short visit.
He used a movement technique to appear behind Hunter without making a single sound. Hunter was currently lifting an impressively heavy barbell in a front raise.
“Hey man, what are you doing?”
“Sweet father of-” Hunter threw the barbell over his head in shock and barely moved out of the way before it smashed his skull. “What the hell are you doing in my room!? How did you get in!?”
Hunter frowned and spat at Neave.
“Don’t you ‘hey Hunter’ me, you rat. I’m asking you how you’ve made it into my room!” Hunter was already scouring the floorboards, searching for a tunnel, but he didn't find anything like that.
“Oh, I just did this.” Neave stepped forward, then backward, and appeared behind Hunter again.
“Ffff- Don’t fucking do that, ok!?” Hunter pointed at Neave as he backed away cautiously. Then he realized something. “You… You bastard! That tome they spoke about must have held a secret movement technique!”
Neave put on a genuinely shocked expression.
“Wow, you’re so smart, Hunter. How did you realize that?”
“Don’t play with me, Neave! I will crush you.”
“And how will you do that?” Neave then flashed again to another corner of the room.
Hunter ignored him and marched for the door.
“Hey, where are you going?”
“As much as I’d love to cave your vacant skull in, I will report you to the elders instead.”
“Just you wait. There’s no way you’re getting out of this one.”
“What are you talking about? There’s clearly a way for me to get out of this one.”
“Oh, how do you think you’ll do that? Cry to daddy?” Hunted looked at Neave mockingly and scoffed, “You’ve committed a serious offense this time, you little shit. You’ve stolen an important treasure from the sect!”
“I mean, yeah, but they believed it was a death tome.”
Hunter scoffed at that.
“Yeah, that was a lie to get whoever had stolen the book to return it.”
Neave laughed at that one.
“Why wouldn’t they have kept the book at the sect masters library then?”
Hunter paused. No matter how he thought about it, he couldn’t see why. It made no sense to hide it away like this.
Why wasn’t it in one of the sect master's dimension rings if it was that important?
“Then how did you learn that movement technique from the book!? If it were a book that killed anyone that touched it, you’d have been dead as well."
“I don’t know. I must be the chosen one!”
Hunter hesitated for a second and spouted.
“Well, Hunter, what happened to all the bravado you had a moment ago?” Neave grinned at Hunter maniacally. “Weren’t you going off to report me to the sect master? Oh, wait, you know as well as I do that there’s no reason to bother. Sure, they will perhaps punish me initially, but when they realize this movement technique's power, they will kiss the ground I walk on and beg me to teach the others!”
Hunter clenched his fists and walked over to Neave threateningly.
“So what? You’ll never be half the warrior that I am. All you are is a worm and a pest. You’ve spent your youth running away from hard work, and now you believe you’ve become someone just because you read another book?”
Neave ignored him and continued.
“And then I will get more of fathers attention and resources. Then finally, when I bring glory to the sect, they will have no choice but to betroth Harel to me.”
“Shut up!” Hunter took a qi-empowered swing at Neave. It was frighteningly fast, but not to Neave.
He would put Hunter at just a bit below the speed of the agile demon in the fourth wave. Neave used a short-range technique to appear just out of the swing’s reach.
“You! How can you use a movement technique when you’re not even in the foundation realm!?”
“Who said I’m not in the foundation realm?” Neave smiled ear to ear as he watched Hunter sink into despair.
“So what, you think just running around like a coward is enough to be a warrior?”
“Oh, hunter, just shut the fuck up, will you? I’ve not come here with hostile intentions, you know. I merely wanted to say hi to my brother. Besides, we’ve never properly played as kids, have we? So let’s play a little game! It’s a simple game, really. We just tickle each other until one of us gives up, how’s that sound?”
Hunter was looking at Neave like he had a screw loose. Then he laughed.
“Now you fucking believe just because you have a movement technique that it will be enough to fight me?”
“I said tickle. You’re twisting my words, Hunter.”
“And I am about to twist your neck off too!” Hunter reached for Neave, but Neave just ducked and poked Hunter in the side with one finger.
“Does that count as a point? Well, I guess there’s no point to that if we’re playing to surrender.”
Hunter kept angrily swinging at Neave. Neave didn’t use movement techniques anymore. He simply ducked and weaved and tickled Hunter.
Neave could tell that hunter was a great martial artist, but he doubted that he would stand a chance even if Neave were still a mortal. His moves felt too… Practiced. They were rigid and felt like they were, more often than not, aimed at empty air rather than an actual opponent.
So Neave had zero trouble running circles around Hunter as he poked his sides or armpits. Hunter was screaming hysterically at Neave, and his voice was cracking. Neave kept this up for so long that he was getting bored, and Hunter was slowly starting to run out of energy.
Hunter fell to the ground, too tired to keep moving.
“Oh, does that count as a win?”
“It counts as a… as a… It counts…” Hunter had trouble breathing as he attempted to throw a jab at Neave. He began crying.
Neave looked down at Hunter and felt a little bad. He wasn’t just crying, he was hollering and weeping like a toddler.
Then Neave felt a strange sense of joy bubble up in his heart. He had finally bullied one of his siblings until they started crying! This was the most normal sibling interaction he had ever had in his life. He got down to his knees and kissed Hunter on the forehead.
“It’s okay, Hunter. I forgive you.” Neave used a movement technique to get back onto the roof.
“Now then. What about the elders that poisoned me?” Neave contemplated.
Let them go? Tickle them until they apologize?
Neave paused. That didn’t seem right. He didn’t want to haphazardly kill people, even if he thought they deserved it.
The more he thought about it, though, the more appealing the idea seemed to be. He was back in the world of creators. But those old bastards weren’t creators, were they?
They were like the demons. They were destroyers.
Well, that was no good, was it? If those who destroyed were allowed to live then those who created would never truly prosper. But it irked him. Killing people was bad. Cultivators were bad. He didn’t want to become yet another murderous cultivator!
Then he got a brilliant idea.
Why couldn’t he just murder enough murderers?
It was true that every life was worth the same, but not everyone was worth the same amount of lives! These elders that had poisoned him were deeply morally corrupt. Would they even have any reservations about committing slaughter if it benefitted them? Those who saved others were worth a positive amount of lives, and those who killed others were worth a negative amount.
So if he killed enough killers, he would be worth many, many lives!
Neave would become the antithesis of a (demon) destroyer! He would become the ultimate creator! Neave happily nodded to himself. It was time to take care of the (demons) bad cultivators.
He happily skipped along on the roof.
It was time to go find a weapon.
There were demons that needed to be killed.
Support "The Jester of Apocalypse [BOOK 2 FINISHED]"
Bio: Man do I love recursion. Man do I love recursion. Man do I love recursion. Man do I love...