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25 Time to prove yourself 8

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The sparks all around Helial vibrated violently, triggering a sudden vortex of terrifying flames. Helial was right at the center of that hell. The flames swallowed him.

Immediately, he was overcome by great, indescribable pain. He almost lost consciousness at the first contact with those flaming tongues, because of the great pain. It felt as if a million needles were piercing his skin at the same time. It was something that could not be described with words, to understand it one had to experience it on the flesh. Helial had suffered much in his life, but it was nothing compared to this.

He tried to steady his breathing and think of Lumia. It was the only way to keep an hold on his consciousness. Think of his sister.

The Flames began to penetrate his bones, to the marrow, to every cell in his body.

It was Origin of the Universe, the most powerful Celestial Flame in the known universe. Not even the King of Dragons could boast such a terrifying fire. But it is told that, hidden in the darkness, some ancestral beings possess even more frightful Flames. However, for now that was universally acknowledged as the most powerful Flame. One of the reasons why Kirin was so powerful, even without the ability of flowing Skills through his Meridians was Origin of the Universe.

In that moment Helial was experiencing an incredible transformation. Every time that one of his cells died, another one was induced to duplicate. It seemed that the destruction brought about by the flame was second only to its incredible power to stimulate life.

You lost 97 HP!

You recovered 65 HP!

You lost 30 HP!

You recovered 42 HP!

You lost 239 HP!

You recovered 234HP!

Kirin glanced at the Longsword next to Helial. He hadn't told Helial to put it away, since he had a very bad feeling concerning that weapon. This way he could get rid of that creepy sword. Curse of the Demon could be, in Kirin's opinion, one of the reasons why Helial's body contained so much Destructive Energy.

Helial had now dark veins bulging on his forehead. The pain was really unbearable and, unfortunately, not even twenty second had gone by since the beginning of the test. He could not think of anything else but Lumia to avoid falling into death's open arms.

If he had been able to pay attention to what was going on around him, he would have seen the King of Qilins gaping at him.

How come that Longsword still has not vanished into thin air?

Origin of the Universe had enveloped Curse of the Demon, but it seemed like it was not even able to make it hot. The Longsword lay still on the ground, unperturbed. Even though that was not the highest temperature that Origin of the Universe could reach, Kirin was shocked. That was the most powerful of Celestial Flames, how could it not-

"AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!"

His train of thought was cut short by a bloodcurdling scream.

Helial was drenched in sweat and looked in a state between consciousness and unconsciousness. His body was shaking violently.

You lost 54 HP!

You recovered 35 HP!

You lost 23 HP!

You recovered 33 HP!

Skill Failed

Communion with Mana is no longer activated

The pain was becoming unbearable. Helial was about to be overwhelmed by it. One minute had barely gone by. What should he do? He could never endure at this rate.

***

Some years earlier, on top of the mountain behind the village

You gained one Strength Point!

Helial was drenched in sweat from head to toe. Like every night, he was trying to train his body to become stronger. He could not slack it off.

I have to become stronger. We have to leave the village, we can't go on like this forever… But that damned guy has too many contacts inside the capital. He knows too many people. With every day that goes by, it gets riskier to be this weak and the difference between us is getting bigger and bigger… I have been a fool to believe that he could have been sincere somehow.

Helial was pondering over events occurred a long time before.

***

On the ground there were several unevenly-shaped bricks that Helial was using to build a house for himself and his sister. Actually, he knew perfectly well that that was not a practical place for a house, he was not an idiot. But that was his excuse to train the body. He had been meeting with Vidio for a while already, and he suspected his brother knew about that. At the right chance, he could have run away with Lumia, but even if he fled, he was still too weak… He had to get stronger.

AUUUUUUUUUU

Helial heard a wolf calling in the distance.

"HEEEEEEEEEEELP!"

Lumia?!

Helial began running at full speed; he had heard his sister screaming just after a horrible howling. It was not a good omen.

After running for about thirty seconds, he reached another small clearing. Lumia, her arms and legs covered in scratches, was perched on top of a small tree. Below there was a wolf. Actually it was just more than a puppy, but it was enough to tear to pieces a helpless girl.

Seeing that scene, Helial growled angrily at the wolf, that had just noticed him. Thanks to all the training, he already had quite good Physical Strength, more than enough to deal with that wolf cub.

The wolf bared its teeth and pounced. It was one of his first real fights. The eyes of the predators were fixed on Helial's flesh. The hunger it had suffered lately had made him vicious and reckless.

Generally, when someone gets to their first duel or fight with a wild beast, they cannot show more than half of their real strength, because they cannot keep calm. Only after numerous fights and trials a person can show their true potential. Or at least, this was true for a normal person.

"Watch out!" screamed Lumia.

Helial was only smiling, no other emotion showed on his face. He was not going to appear weak in front of Lumia. Helial walked slowly toward the crazy racing wolf. As he was advancing, he did not leave Lumia with his eyes not even for a second, trying to reassure her.

The beast aimed at his neck.

Always smiling, Helial moved slightly to the side, just enough to avoid the trajectory of the fangs and threw a terribly precise punch at the temple of the wolf cub.

Critical Hit!

Young Wolf lost 388 HP!

The wolf collapsed on the ground dead.

You killed Young Wolf!

Helial ignored the notification of the experience gained and walked to the tree where Lumia was perched. But the girl did not look reassured in the least. She covered her mouth with her hand and, with glassy eyes, pointed at something behind Helial's back. She looked completely terrified…

What's with her now?

Helial turned around. Twenty yards from him there was a wolf at least double in size the one he had just killed. Judging from the fierce and resentful look, it must have been one of the cub's parents.

He sighed and turned more serious.

"Lumia, are you hurt?"

"Watch out!"

"Lumia, are you hurt?" repeated Helial, slightly annoyed.

"Just a few scratches and a cut on the leg done by the little wolf."

Having heard those last words, Helial's eyes grew cold. He moved forward at normal speed, as if he were just strolling in a field, getting closer to the big wolf step after step. His eyes shined with a disquieting glimmer. His face was trying to conceal the anger, without much success.

He opened his mouth and slowly uttered these words: "I will kill you and your kind up to the ninth generation."

Instead of running and trying to save himself and Lumia, Helial had become furious, knowing that his little sister had been wounded. That wolf was likely stronger than him, with keener instincts and better Fighting Skills.

Nonetheless, uncertainty shone in the eyes of that grieving parent. animals have some sort of sixth sense, an ability that allowed the big predators to perpetuate the species over the centuries. It was the ability to recognize another predator higher in the food chain. In that moment, Helial had the Aura of a being well higher than it in the food chain.

***

In the present

Overwhelmed by rage for his own weakness, Helial dived forward and hit his head on the ground.

"AHHHHHHHHHHHH!"

You lost 50 HP!

You lost 56 HP!

You lost 42 HP!

Malus Received:

Minor bleeding

You lose 1 HP every 10 seconds until you stop bleeding

To keep clear headed Helial had hit his head on the ground several times, so strong to make himself bleed.

You recovered 43 HP!

You recovered 22 HP!

It was not the first time Kirin saw a scene like that and it usually directly preceded death.

Too bad. But this kid has underestimated the difficulty of the test. He tried to fly too close to the sun and he got burned, in every way! PWAHAHAHAHHA. (A/N: bad Qilin's humor, please forgive him.)

Among the flames, Helial began to experience hallucinations. He saw the smirking shadow of his brother, the blurred shapes of his parents, Vidio… and last, just before losing consciousness, he saw Lumia.

He saw her dirty hair, her tattered clothes, her small bloody hands after sewing. He saw her daily sufferings, the hardships she had to endure because of the condition they were cast in. He remembered the sweet way she always smelled, even if she could not afford to be clean like a princess. He felt the warmth of her kisses on his cheeks, the ones she gave him after he spoiled her in some way. Would he be able to feel all this again?

You recovered 62 HP!

You lost 11 HP!

You recovered 53 HP!

Kirin saw with surprise that two bloody tears had reappeared in Helial's eyes. Even though it had just happened in the second test, that did not mean that it was something common. Actually, Kirin had never seen that phenomenon appear in many people. Only people that had experience true suffering could manifest that unusual sign.

It seems like he's about to give in, but… what's happening?

Helial had stood up and was picking up Curse of the Demon. That did not look like a big effort, despite the pain inflicted by the flames that almost stopped him from thinking clearly. His body had undergone the first transformation and his Physical Strength was at its peak, matching the strength he possessed before being under the influence of the Curse.

The huge black Longsword, brightened by the flames, glowed with a sinister light.

I have to speed up the process. At this rate I won't survive. I have to make my cells change faster, thought Helial.

Kirin shook his head. He had understood the boy's intentions. He was trying to speed up the body transformation. Maybe he had not clearly understood what he was dealing with. That was Origin of the Universe. Countless Immortals had perished among its flames, just because of a moment's distraction. And he was planning on moving? Foolish.

Gripping tight the hilt of Curse of the Demon, Helial realized with surprise that the handle was cold. It did not show the least trace of warmth. How could that be? That Celestial Flame had a terrifying power. Only the ground was not affected by it, since Kirin did not want it to turn into a boiling magma.

The contact with the icy hilt of the Longsword gave him a tighter grip on his consciousness.

Without giving it much thought, Helial visualized his sister among the Goblins of the third test and once again felt fury build up inside him.

The flames had completely engulfed him and for five yards all around him, there was nothing but wild dancing tongues of fire.

He gripped the hilt tightly with both hands, so tight that it hurt.

You lost 5 HP!

You lost 8 HP!

You recovered 23 HP!

In that sea of suffering, one more wound was not going to make any difference. He began to slowly move the sword, as if he were striking a blow.

Fighters have a way of training that does not require an opponent. It is called Shadow Boxing and consists of visualizing a fight with an imaginary opponent and act as though he were right in front of you.

In that moment, Helial was standing in front of the person he hated most in this world.
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