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24 Time to prove yourself 7

Few times in the course of his long life had Kirin feared someone, and even then, they were all truly terrifying creatures, capable of destroying the whole universe. Not even the King of Dragons could instill in him such fear, at least since he had become the ancestor of all the Qilins himself.

How many creatures could boast of having startled a beast almost as old as a universe?

Helial did not know that what had just happened was an anomaly. That boy should have died stabbed in the heart, unable to react. Why had he embraced death? Couldn't he at least dodge his sister?

Could he wish for death?

Kirin's head was now killing him. After seeing Helial pass the test that way, he really wanted to vomit blood on the ground.

What happened? What was that shudder? Could it have been because of the boy?

Kirin kept wondering at those events, without finding an answer despite of how hard he thought about it. How many people in this universe could take control of one of his Illusions, even if generated only by a fragment of his Soul? No Immortal on this planet could accomplish that, let alone a boy not even in the First Phase.

Not even an Immortal could do something like that, but more than that how many Immortals would have the courage of renouncing to their lives? And why someone would throw away their life to save a loved one in an Illusion? Many would have attacked the Illusion, being aware of its deceitfulness. But if one day you could not tell apart reality from illusion anymore, would you kill your loved ones? This kid has a terrifying amount of Destructive Energy in his body, but despite this he spared the life of his sister and accepted his own death at the hand of the girl. Clearly, these old bones still cannot understand some things, even after all this time. The boy is not evil, but he has too much Destructive Energy. Maybe his passing all the Test and obtaining the Partial Skill is a good thin-, wait a second! I almost forgot! He didn't get the Partial Skill, but the Complete one!

In the midst of things, Kirin had almost forgot about what was at stake.

Body of the Qilin is a Skill that originates from the biggest Flame of the Forces of Life. This Skill merely at the first level will increase exponentially the amount of Life Energy in the body of the boy. At his level is normal to have a mix of the two kinds of Energy. Usually, after progressing, the man cubs gradually took one or the other path. This kid, however, already possesses such powerful Destructive Energy. What will happen with Body of the Qilin? Body of the Qilin gives an unlimited amount of Life Energy; this cub cannot hope that the Destructive Energy prevail on the Life Energy, but… seeing how much Destructive Energy he has in the body, I seriously doubt he can eliminate it. He will likely go mad due to the clash of the two Energies, so different from one another that have always been the essence of the world. But since the being came into existence, they have been immiscible, though still tightly connected.

Not even Kirin could imagine the outcome of two forces so powerful and different in the same vessel.

Helial watched Lumia dissolve in front of his eyes, still smiling, she winked at him and then vanished, and the surrounding landscape with her. Helial blinked and found himself back in the dimension created by Kirin.

The boy was still shaken by the emotion he had to face just a second before. But a moment later took a gasp of air and said: "Give me the Skill, I need to rush back."

Why the hurry, now?

"Lumia is outside alone, I have to stay close to her."

Boy, time in this dimension is extremely dilated, only a couple of seconds elapsed since you left that filthy cave. Even if days or weeks went by, for your sister it would be just a couple of minutes. Do not worry, in case something happened I will protect her as long as you are here. Now…

Kirin sighed and, without saying anything else, let out a roar.

ROAAAAAAAAAAAAAARA

Suddenly, Helial was surrounded by sparks. He could feel the extreme heat let out by those tiny yellow-reddish speckles.

"What's happening?"

Do you think it is that easy? Now we will see if you are able to earn the Skill. To get Body of the Qilin you must let your body be completely remolded from head to toe. Your Mana will change, and so will your blood vessels, your muscles, your bones and Meridians. Not even I have ever experienced a complete change of the Meridians, since they were already atrophied. You could not only gain enormous power, your body will also become nearly indestructible among people at your level. You will become a living treasure. If anyone knew about the properties of your skin, you would be used to make armors. I anyone knew about the properties of your bones, you would be used to make weapons. But all this comes at a price. You will have to survive my Flame.

Until today, no one in the universe has ever gotten the complete body of a Qilin, since my Legacies are scattered over all the Planets and they disappear after being collected. So, you will have the greatest of privileges. But there is a reason why no one has ever managed to get the Complete Skill. When someone picks up the third Legacy, the pain that must be borne is so great that they often get lost and consumed by the flame. Even if the pain is proportionate to one's Phase, since a higher level brings about a more radical change, you might think you have an advantage, but remember that you will have to endure the equivalent of three Legacies.

Until today, no one has collected the third Legacy, for it is very difficult to get. Let alone three together… are you ready? You will need to stay lucid in the pain; if you lose consciousness, the flame will stop working on your body, destroying it. The faster the process, the grater your chances of survival. So, man cub, pray that the process be a short one.

***

Some years earlier, in the village

"Hey, Idiot! Look, I sewed the tunic!"

Helial looked at Lumia, who was handing him his badly patched clothes, and smiled. "You are really getting better. Was it hard?"

Lumia beat proudly on her chest. "Umpf! Those women are always saying that I am hopeless at sewing, but they are just jealous. Look what a beautiful seam, and it wasn't even that hard!"

Helial looked at crooked seam that bulged visibly in contrast with the flat fabric. He smiled again. His sister had put a lot of effort into that mending, why should he criticize her? How many people in that world were as nice to him as his sister?

"Lumia, you have to stop using those words, though. You're a girl, and girls have to-"

"Shut up, idiot", that angel with platinum hair and eyes green like jade puffed her cheeks, almost angrily, "why can't I say those words? In the village everyone talks like that, how should I talk?

Helial was speechless. Of course Lumia had always lived in the village and the cultural standards there were not very high, quite the contrary. Most of the people lived off subsistence agriculture, a couple of animals to get by in tough times and they traded some low-quality Alchemic Herbs. None of the villagers had ever embarked on the Dao of Mana. They were all mere mortals.

Growing up in that place, Lumia had learned to cuss with every single sentence. Hearing her talk like that, Helial did not know whether to laugh or cry. That lovely girl talked like a sailor on leave. But after all what should have he done? Punish her? He could never.

Helial was quite a detached person, able to not get his temper up easily, but when Lumia was concerned…

The girl, after being reprimanded or her language, was pouting with her hands on her hips, like she had seen the angry wives do with their husbands, and she had turned the other way. Lumia acted like an adult, but her lovely sweet face betrayed her young age.

Helial smiled and rolled his eyes. He already knew how that was going to end. He squatted to lower himself to Lumia's height, hugged her and planted a big kiss on her cheek. "C'mon, I was kidding", he sighed, "you can talk how you want."

Lumia wrapped her arms around his neck and hugged him tight. Then, remembering something, she hurriedly let him go. "That whore growing carrots in the patch behind her house stares at you too much."

"Lumia, what are yo-"

"You've seen it too!"

"But…" Helial did not even know what to say; the girl was not ten years old yet. Why did she go on talking like the crudest of farmers and why was she concerned about these things at her young age?

"Lumia, that girl is my age, she looks at me only because we are about the same ag-"

"She looks at you 'cause she's a slut!"

"Lumia! A little freedom is alright, but watch your mouth!" Helial had raised his voice.

Hearing the raised tone of her brother, Lumia changed expression. Her emerald green eyes welled up with tears and she sobbed. "You're a monster!"

Seeing that she was about to cry, Helial felt a pang to the heart. "C'mon, come here, come here."

He took her in his arms and stroked her dirty hair. Lumia put her head in the hollow of his shoulder, while a big smile spread on her face.

He always falls for it.

Lumia enjoyed that warm hug.

Her brother had always tried to make her eat healthy and teach her what he knew, but had to spend a lot of time outside. Though, Lumia had never understood one thing. She was already aware of her brother's abilities, so she did not understand why he was still stuck in a village like that, peopled by simple farmers and housewives. Helial excelled in everything he did, or almost everything. Why hadn't he found something better to live off? It almost looked as if he wanted to keep a low profile.

Helial experienced that unique feeling that always enveloped him whenever hugging his sister: the unconditional love he felt for her was so great it warmed his heart like no other emotion. That was really loving someone. You know how the saying goes, right? Blood is thicker than water. Helial was smiling stupidly while his sister hugged him. He had never really cared about other people's opinion, and even Vidio's had only a small influence on his conscience, but Lumia's opinion had a great sway over him. Lumia was his anchor, his small ray of sunshine.

There, if there was anything Helial could always count on to keep going, that was Lumia.

***

In the present

Boy, are you ready?

Helial stripped naked, piling his clothes very far away to prevent them from getting destroyed.

"Do not let my clothes get destroyed, please."

Kirin nodded without saying anything. It seemed that Helial really cared about those rags. The Qilin noticed that on the front of his filthy tunic there was a big seam that bulged somewhat ridiculously, probably done by a blind man.

Helial took several deep breaths, his chest heaving. He sat on the ground.

Skill Activated:

Communion with Mana

He closed his eyes and focused on his own body. Besides his Meridians, there was only one image in his head: a small head full of platinum hair and a loving smile.

Helial was more determined than ever. He had took that stance because it allowed him to focus better. It would have been to no use to activate Dragon's Breath as well. This time it was not a matter of training Mana, but of training the body.

"Let's begin."
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