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27 Time to prove yourself 10

Many years earlier

Helial was five years old and Lumia was little more than a newborn baby. They were almost five years apart.

Helial brushed aside the untidy streaks of hair from little Lumias' forehead and kissed her. Helial gave some money to the young women of the village where he had gone to live so they would nurse the baby.

Helial stroked the back of his hand. He sat on the ground and started thinking.

What can I do? I can't stay here forever… but…

He clenched his fists. He was helpless.

Will I be forced to stay here all my life?

He sighed, feeling very lost. After all, a boy of five had appeared in that small village out of nowhere and was leaving alone with a little sister only a few months old. Many worried that some bad people might attack them, and some of the villagers had offered Helial to go and live with them. Helial had a pair of bright eyes that betrayed an intelligence well beyond his age. He had refused those offers; he knew that he wouldn't do to get other people's help, he could only rely on himself.

I can't start with Mana, my Meridians aren't developed yet… Otherwise… That bastard would not have lasted.

Helial clenched his fists and stood up. There was nothing he could do.

He turned around to look at his sister. Life… Why should a flower like that be let to wither?

He had accepted to scrub the tavern's floors and do some odd jobs to earn enough money to buy food for his sister. He still had money in his pockets, but it would not have lasted forever. He didn't even have his Interspace Ring anymore. He had to give everything away, the only things left were those that he could carry.

It often happens to think ourselves the most miserable people in the world and to blame fate for its cruelty. Helial was not that kind of person and he blamed only himself. He was too young to fight against his brother, who had reached the First Phase at ten years old.

He would have to wait to become strong enough to turn the tables on him. In the meanwhile he could only wait, but not passively. He had to find a way to become stronger than his brother. He would wait until his Meridians developed and could learn a Breathing Technique.

Just like many rivers, or rains that fall from above, the abundance of water does not alter the taste of the sea, nor does it weakens it, so the hardship encountered by Helial were not going to alter his great spirit. Maybe someone else would have tried to diminish these hardships, but not him who, despite the young age, had completely embraced his fate. He had become responsible of his own choices. Helial did not fear the future, but wanted to conquer it.

After all, as hardships can knock us down, they can also make us great.

***

In the present

The pain was about to overwhelm Helial's senses. His perception was subdued, unable to discern clearly the world around him. There was only an indefinite and large amount of pain.

Am I alive still?

Helial's conscience was struggling, desperately trying to cling on to something, looking for an emotion to ignore all that pain. However, he could not stay lucid, slowly consumed by Origin of the Universe.

Suddenly, he heard a voice in his head.

Freedom comes at a price; the weak cannot afford that price, only the strong can bend their own destiny. Can you? Observe carefully what you have in front of you. Are you able to take a decision and carry it out?

Helial looked up, without questioning the source of that voice. After all, it was not the first hallucination since he had started acquiring the Skill.

For some odd reason, his sight was not blurred anymore. He could clearly see what was happening before him.

His brother was approaching Lumia with a wicked grin on his concealed face.

Lumia looked completely terrified.

Helial did not need anything else.

BOOOOOOOOOOOM

You lost 1709 HP!

You recovered 1801 HP!

You lost 1907 HP!

You recovered 1909 HP!

Helial was now recovering slightly more health than he was losing. His condition was stabilized.

Suddenly, the flame started to expand and flaming tongues could be seen inside it, like lightnings. As soon as Helial had witnessed that scene, he had abandoned his state of denial of the pain. He had allowed pain to permeate his whole being, he had let the Celestial Flame destroy him and make him new in every part of his body.

He put a hand on the ground.

Crack!

You lost 2601 HP!

You recovered 2603 HP!

Bones could be heard shattering and tendons snapping, like stings on a bow. He was covered in black blood from head to toe, unrecognizable.

Helial had slightly less than 3000 HP, he could not afford to lose more or he would have died. He could not afford to lose control again.

Origin of the Universe has flared up again? I do not understand. It is true that such a flame has its own conscience, but these events make no sense… Bah, I give up, do what you want kid, I will not interfere again, it is useless. Regular logic does not apply to this little monster.

He! (A/N: the "e" is silent, so it is to be read H(e).)

Helial struggled to his feet. What he was doing went beyond human comprehension. The power of the Celestial Flame had increased to the point that allowed the body to be regenerated faster than it was destroyed. The pain he felt was similar to the one said to be endured in the legendary hell.

You lost 2701 HP!

You recovered 2704 HP!

Helial's eyes were bloodshot. He did not look like himself anymore. He was down on his knees, shaky and off-balance. His looks were disfigured. It looked as if they were flaying him and then dipping him in salt.

At that point, the pain had greatly surpassed what a normal Immortal could have felt. Not even Kirin could understand how it was possible that Helial were able to bear it. Determination can push people to a certain limit, but beyond this there are physical and natural barriers that do not allow further developments.

Kirin had some suppositions. Control over one's own emotions goes hand in hand with Mana Control. The heart of a person can control in the same way emotions and the surrounding Mana. But if the Soul could restrain the Divine Sense, it could not do the same with Mana. Ironically, could have existed someone at level 10 with a greater Mana Control than someone at level 500. But these were mere speculations. The people at level 500 would have encountered thousands of experiences that would have been useful to temper and develop a much more refined control.

Meditating was a great practice, because it let people free their heart and at the same time control Mana more easily. Helial, however, had never freed his heart. Kirin could clearly perceive that mix of Hatred and Love that flowed inside Helial.

Boy, on the path to Immortality one has to practice the alienation of all emotions, not to dive in head first… you're only destroying yourself.

Kirin did not understand how Helial could survive, but he was curious to see what was about to happen.

Actually, the pain Helial felt had not reached the same intensity that other people were forced to endure. There was a substantial difference between him and other people. Helial had always accepted the pain and responsibility brought on by his actions. He was not afraid of making the wrong choice, and did not fear the consequences; he had always accepted them, with greater or lesser difficulty.

From the beginning to the end of his hallucinations, Helial had never let go of Curse of the Demon. The Longsword was still there at his side.

Crack

You lost 2714 HP!

You recovered 2720 HP!

Helial raised it vertically, as if he were about to thrust a blow.

Crack! Crack! Crack!

You lost 2734 HP!

You recovered 2740 HP!

You lost 2754 HP!

You recovered 2770 HP!

You lost 2790 HP!

You recovered 2799 HP!

980, 990, 999…

While raising the weapon, his tendons, bones and muscles were exploding and reforming one second after, shaking his limbs in the process. Helial was a mess. He was barely recognizable hidden under all that blood.

***

Some years earlier

"Idiot. Hey, idiot! I'm talking to you!"

Helial was exhausted, he had just come back from his errands. He had been sleeping only a couple of hours a night for the past two days, but he could not afford to rest. He had to train.

"Idiot!"

"What do you want, Lumia?" he asked.

"Why are we still here?"

"Uh?"

"Why are we still here?"

"I don't know what you me-"

"You understood well enough! Why are you still here? Everything you do is awesome. Even when you walk it looks like you do it better than others. I saw you training, let alone that time you killed that giant wolf. Why are we still here? I heard the old hag saying that who is very capable can try to learn Mana Control. Then why are you still in this dumb shitty village?"

Helial had a bitter smile on his face. Without replying, he walked near Lumia with that weird look. She was taken aback by that reaction. What is he doing, is he going to slap me?

Lumia instinctively took a step back, but Helial caught her by the arm and fell on his knees, hugging her.

"Heli?"

Helial was crying. It was the first time that Lumia saw a scene like that. For the first time, Helial could not give an answer to his sister, he could only say one thing:

"I am weak, forgive me."

Helial continued sobbing for a while, hugging his sister tight.

Lumia was almost regretting her words. Helial had always been her greatest pillar, he had never swayed once since she had known him. But now he was there before her, helpless.

"Heli, what… I'm sorry", said Lumia saddened, her eyes glistening.

"Don't cry. Please. It's not your fault. It's all my fault. There are some things I can't tell you about our brother, sorry. I have to become stronger, for me, for you, for us. It's no use crying", Helial sniffed and let go of Lumia to look her in the eyes. "Don't cry. I'll change everything. I just need some time. For now, I ask you to bear with my incompetence."

Helial had now a crooked smile on his face, red eyes and a broken voice, but to Lumia that smile was the most beautiful thing she had ever seen, his eyes gave her hope and his voice warmed her heart.
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