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Chapter One: Frightening Revelations
“This ... this ... this is unbelievable!” Valan managed to articulate.
“Trust me grandfather, it is true”, Valerian emphasised to his stunned family. His biggest fear at the moment was that they wouldn't believe him. The looks on their faces weren't exactly what he had hoped for.
They were all in one of the manor rooms having locked themselves in and cast spells to prevent any mundane or supernatural spying. Avery stood behind Valerian backing up his account of events whiles his uncles and grandparents simply looked on with disbelief in their eyes.
Evading bandits, entering a strange trance as a result of a weird instinct, devouring the flesh and essence of a dragon, being reborn in a giant egg whilst experiencing snippets of the life of the original golden winged peng who is your ancestor in a dream state and then waking up in a strange and powerful daemonic form. Who'd believe that?
The only reason they were still listening to the story was because it was coming from Valerian and confirmed by Avery. Valerian wouldn't lie. Especially about something like this.
“Perhaps it is best if you show us the transformation first”, his grandmother stated.
“Yes!” Valerian accepted. That'll help. If they saw that they'd have no more doubts.
“It took a while before I was able to control it well enough. I was barely successful in hiding it from the elder who came to rescue us and his team. In that time we discovered a few things. Err... you might want to give me some more space”.
They quickly gave him some more room. Valerian nodded and initiated the change. First a soft, translucent golden qi encapsulated his outline. Then the transformation began. Spikes began to grow from his joints. The one from his shoulders looked like a three peaked ridge. Two were small, barely three or four centimetres long but the middle one jutted out like a steel dagger at ten centimetres.
Simple, single spikes came from his elbows and knees but ones from his heels were only six centimetres long whilst the others were comparable to the central shoulder spike. Valerian's hair became black, feathery, metallic bristles and his nails gained a metallic glint. Thus far it looked like the steel monolith transformation. Even the raised knuckles of Valerian's hands implied this but what happened next proved that it wasn't.
Lots of qi blasted of Valerian's back. Before their speechless eyes this qi shaped itself into a massive pair of translucent golden wings. They flapped once, creating a strong gust of wind that buffeted everything in the vicinity. Afterward, his golden outline faded away.
Looking at his family Valerian finally gave a small smile. “This is one of the things I discovered. It is a sort of halfway form. When I am like this I gain a boost to all my attributes. Strength, speed, energy, defence everything seems to go up.”
“So this this is not your final form?” his Grandfather asked.
“Not even close”, Valerian confirmed. “This is”, he added right before continuing.
The feeling in the air immediately changed. His golden outline came back only more intense. Without any more qi being visibly released his wings began to change. They started became more opaque and substantial. A pattern began to appear on them and Valerian began to rise into the air. The two appendages swiftly turned into gold and the feathers, previously indistinct, became fleshed out. They were also now much larger than they used to be.
Involuntarily, everyone took a few steps back. That because the most startling thing about the change wasn't Valerian's physical appearance. Apart from the wings becoming larger and more real nothing really changed. His presence did.
An immense pressure pressed down on everyone in the vicinity and a feeling of dread crept into their hearts. It was a feeling not unlike standing a close to a dangerous animal. Something told you to keep your eyes focused on it and be prepared. If not, when it eventually attacked you wouldn't stand a chance. It was the paralysis a mouse felt when it found itself gazing into the eyes of a cobra. It was both and it was more.
The cultivators in the room were able to better withstand it but the magistrate was soon puffing and panting. His wife quickly took his hand in hers and extended her own energy to help him combat the pressure.
“When Avery explained to me what you are feeling I was not surprised. The Kun had dragons trembling in its presence. I not that strong yet”, he said wistfully.
Pushing her husband towards his nephews, Valerian's grandmother came close to her grandson. Her amazement clear on her face she place a hand on his left wing. Running her fingers over the metallic thing she traced the cloudy pattern that decorated the sharp feathers.
“This is...” she tried to get out.
“I know”, Valerian finished a smug look slinking onto his face. “There's more.”
“What else?” Richard asked. His tongue managing to untie itself.
The young arcanist simply pointed to his feet. They hung half a metre off the stone tiled floor. His entire body was suspended in the air by his outstretched wings. “I can't touch the ground!” he proclaimed.
“WHAT?” came the general response.
To demonstrate, he sank downwards till his feet were maybe two centimetres from the floor. “This is as low as I can go full transformation. I tried everything. I'll always remain in the air somehow. I can touch it with my hands but rest of my body especially my feet and wings will still be airborne”, he explained.
Not giving anyone a chance to speak he continued. “Then there's the power surge”.
“There's a power surge?” his uncle Jonas asked.
“In the half form everything receives a boost but when I am like this I feel ...” his voice trailed off as he allowed his senses to savour the feeling of power coursing through his body.
“I feel incredible!” he added extending and retracting his arms so fast that they were blurs to the magistrate's sight.
“I know I'm above everything I see”, he told them. “All my powers, my traits, my spells are magnified to greater heights. I tried [Wind Blade] back in the cavern and scoured a deep gash in the cave walls. Walls consisting of essence imbued mineral ore. It's like the world is ripe for me. Ready for the taking and I can do it too. And the wind ...
“Oh the wind! It sings to me. Desiring to be beneath me. To hold up my wings. I hear it and know that if I were to call, it would answer. I just have to think it and it would bear me up. Then I will soar into the sky” he said, a trace of longing in his voice.
His family members exchanged worried glances as they listened to him speak. His voice, no, his tone. It didn't match the Valerian they knew.
“That's enough Valerian!” his grandfather called. “Transform back!” he ordered.
The boy's head whipped in his direction, glaring imperiously at him. A constricting feeling came over him. It was like the gaze was pinning him down. Any second now *it* would swoop down towards him and ... it went away. Valan begun to breathe heavily in relief much to the alarm of his family.
The golden outline came over Valerian again and his transformed features begun to slip away. When it faded he dropped to ground where he teetered on unsteady feet looking unwell. His face paled and his aura grew weak. Avery, already expecting this rushed to him and propped him up.
“What's wrong?” His grandmother inquired franticly. “Is he alright?”
“It's alright grandmother!” her grandson muttered weakly. “I just feel weak when I revert to this form. It will go after a while. I guess readjusting to this weak body and level of power requires some time.”
Again, his family exchanged tense looks. His grandparents in particular had some fear on their faces. There was definitely more to it than that.
“Avery, take Valerian to his room to recuperate. He is undoubtedly drained from his transformation”, his grandfather told the minder.
He missed the angry look that Valerian shot him. He knew they were going to discuss the issue when he left. He couldn't believe the old coot was actually sending him away at this juncture.
‘When would he stop treating me like a child?' he thought angrily. A strange resolve came upon him. This had to end. The last few days had made that clear.
With Valerian out of the room, Valan turned to face his family inviting them to a discussion as was his fashion. The whole thing had spun his head. He was visibly disturbed especially after the last few minutes. Unconsciously, he scrambled for some semblance of control.
“You saw what I did. What do you think?” he asked.
“Valerian ... he ...” Jonas started but his voice petered out. He couldn't articulate what was going on in his mind. The other three sympathised. They were having problems coming to grips with it too.
“Perhaps I should take the lead” his aunt offered helpfully. “I am the most knowledgeable in this area.”
“That's true", Valan admitted after some thought. Clara did come from an established line of daemon breeders and as a beast master herself she would know more about it than they did. “What can you tell us?”
“Let me start by saying that Valerian is definitely a descendant of the Golden Winged Peng”, she begun. The others made to protest but she raised her hand to quell them, an action she had picked up from her husband.
“I understand your objections but let me point out that being the descendant of the peng does not mean that his mother is a peng or that he is an immediate relative. It just means that he can trace his line to it and that his bloodline is pure and strong. There are other factors that lend credence to this as well”, she explained.
“Factors such as?” Valan asked.
"Before, we knew he had a legacy only it never exposed itself fully. I believe it wasn't just unawakened but also weak. The traits he displayed were seriously watered down when compared with what he shows now. His ability to absorb essence and strengthen his body wasn't as strong as it was now. I'm sure Richard and Jonas noticed it too."
The two nodded prompting Valan to ask, “Noticed what?”
Richard spoke up, “Valerian's absorption rate. At first none of us could actually tell when he was doing it. We could only trace it from its cumulative effects but now even in his base form you can tell if you bother to look."
Understanding what they meant Valan could only inquire, “How serious is it?”
“You know how we always say that Valerian's body is self-cultivating?” Clara questioned her husband. He nodded and she continued. “If I didn't know what I do I'd think he was doing it intentionally. As in that he was somehow cultivating whiles talking to us. His absorption rate is around the same level as that of most first tiers in the midst of cultivating.
“Beyond that, I really can't say. It's like his body is a sink. All essence that draws too close to him is sucked in. It isn't particularly significant but anyone who is sensitive to energy and energy flows will surely notice if they come close to him.”
“I ... see”, Valan said.
“It's not just that. Did you get a feel for his strength and speed?” his wife asked.
“That I did”, he pronounced. “When he moved his arms they were pretty much a blur to me”.
Richard spoke up again. “I'd say that in that form he is at least six times faster than he was before he left. His strength is much greater too. At least twice so but I need a better demonstration to be sure.”
Richard couldn't help it. He was excited. All these years he had been holding on. Constantly dragging his nephew into training sessions when everyone else was beginning to see it as a forsaken path. With Valerian's new method and physique, the things they could do ...
His aunt was still speaking however so he tried to listen.
“... the most telling signs were his wings and his aura. It was so strong and suffocating and yet had this majestic air. Only high class daemons have that sort of aura. Even Valerian mentioned that dragons trembled in the face of his ancestor's aura. To add to this, the memories he experienced are consistent with the hereditary memories of high class daemons, further buttressing this.
“On top of this the form he displayed had aspects from the steel monolith transformation. You know your blood legacy better than I do. For this legacy to assimilate it and not the other way around lets you know how far above yours it is. Moreover, the only things it took were cosmetic. As for the wings, they are solid gold. They aren't plated or coloured but made from actual gold with a cloudy pattern splayed over the feathers. And the gold ... I think it is imperial.”
The last bit caught everyone's attention.
“Are you certain? Can you ...?”
“Of course I'm certain. This isn't something that one can joke with. Gold is soft but when I held his feathers between my fingers and pinched nothing happened. I couldn't even mark it no matter how hard I tried. The only gold I know of that is that mystical and tough is imperial gold. Or do you know of any others”, Clara barked at him.
Contrite the magistrate tried to explain, “Sorry! I did not mean to doubt you it's just that ...”
Her face softened. “I understand dear. It's the same for me”.
“I am worried”, he supplemented. “We had hoped that his mother's legacy would reveal itself but this throws all our plans out. If the Golden Winged Peng, if that really was who he encountered, did not somehow ingrain that method into him we would be even worse of than we were before. How do we help him now? What techniques or training can we give someone who is descended from a primordial?
"And you saw how it affected him. The way his personality changed as well as his body, not to mention the side effects he displayed upon reverting. That kind of power and no idea how to use or develop it, its consequences and we can't help him. Also, if anyone were to find out about this legacy and that his maternal clan carry the blood of a divinity. Who knows what they would do?"
Then realisation dawned in his eyes. He spun, gazing at his family with eyes that burned with emotion.
“Could this be the reason for his mother's secrecy? Her background is so shrouded in mystery, she may as well have risen full formed from the earth. Perhaps this was what she was hiding, as well as the reasons for her disappearance. If Valiant did not know this when he went searching for her and ran into some sort of trouble on that level ...?”
Clara immediately reached out her hand and took his in it. Rubbing it she drew him out of his spiralling thoughts.
“Now is not the time for that. Focus! We need to make Valerian the priority right now. This is not something we can put away. This legacy is bigger than us. We must to decide what to do and how we'll handle this”, she told him.
Taking time to consider, the magistrate sighed.
"First, we have to impress upon him that he must not enter that form under any circumstances. It is far too eye catching and we don't know who might notice. Until we are sure about the effects and how to handle them he has to remain in his human form.
“Secondly ...” here he hesitated. He couldn't believe he was about to say this.
“Secondly, what Valan?” His wife prodded.
“We have to go see my father!”
Author's Notes: They're always important!
Suffice it to say that I am overjoyed about having patrons. Knowing that my story is good enough for people to sponsor it feels great. It boosts my confidence and makes me want to write more.
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- Crowned Wolf
Someone hunched over a keyboard, creating new worlds and magic systems. Web serial author and fantasy nerd. The mastermind behind https://lupineking.com/ the official site where my dastardly deeds come to life.
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