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28 Lame Dragon, stop the tes

"Freedom comes at a price; the weak cannot afford that price, only the strong can bend their own destiny."

Carving on the Sacred Stele of the Immortal Clan of Destruction

You lost 2794 HP!

You recovered 2804 HP!

Helial was about to reach the limit of his health bar. The only thing for him left to do was hoping that the process would soon be over.

Helial looked at his hand. The skin was torn, the muscles kept losing and regaining shape. He was not even sure to have whole bones anymore; it was as if every single piece of his body was crumbling to pieces. In spite of everything, he tightened the grip on the sword's hilt. He had raised Curse of the Demon over his head, his arm outstretched.

I can't lose my head just now.

Against all odds, a smile appeared on the boy's face. During the test he had lost sight of his path. Pain was clouding his judgment.

I am free. I have a chance.

The swirl of emotions that had overwhelmed him had made him forget all the priciples he had imposed on himself until that moment. Helial had never wanted to be a slave of his own emotions: he wanted just to live them. Although it might sound like a simple difference, it is not. In this life, there are people who succumb to their emotions and those who indulge them. Is it the same thing? What would happen to the former if one day he lost control over his emotions? Would he be a free person?

Free is not he who always follows his heart, but he who can dominate it.

***

Some years earlier, in the Headquarters of the Mana Congregation, Private Training Hall

"Boy, today I'll tell you a very interesting stor-"

"Oh please, no. Not again", complained Helial, who was fed up with Vidio's stories.

"Damn brat! The women in the Capital rejoiced everytime I told-"

"Then go back to the women in the capital, what the fuck do you want from me?" Helial rolled his eyes, exasperated.

"I'll have you hanged in the square! Outrageous!" threatened Vidio to scare him.

"Better hanged than listening to another one of your stories." If someone had asked Helial what his favorite hobby was, he would answered for sure that he found great satisfaction in provoking Vidio.

"In an Immortal Clan there was a young woman. Her name was Siche. She was the most beautiful woman in the Clan and, even though she descended from a low status branch, she still served in an Immortal Clan. She was the most beautiful woman ever seen in all the surrounding galaxies", Vidio began telling the story, ignoring Helial's protests.

"Have you heard? Siche has reached the Tenth Phase, but she has been stuck in a bottleneck for a while now and she can't get past it."

"Well, I doubt she will stay stuck forever. All men would be willing to provide her with any resource necessary for training. Have you ever seen a more beautiful woman? Entire planets could collapse before her elegance and beauty. Her eyes are like stars stolen from the skies, her skin is finer than any jade on this world. What man would not give up his life at her request? Not even the Clan Leader can rival her beaut-"

"Shhh! Are you crazy! Do you want to get us both killed? The Clan Leader's Divine Sens-"

The recruit that was rebuking him had no time to finish the sentence. That day the Clan Leader was thoroughly examining the performance of her Clan. Being at an incredible level even for an Immortal, keeping an eye on the Clan was a piece of cake for her. She was Revene, one of the most powerful women in the universe, known by everyone as "the Goddess". She looked as if carved out of the finest of marbles, but even that was not enough to rival with Siche's beauty.

Fwoosh!

The air rippled and in front of the two men appeared a very beautiful woman, with the most frightening look they had ever seen glinting in human eyes. It was the stare of a wild beast in the body of a Goddess.

"So, if I understood correctly, that little bitch is the most beautiful of all, uh?" snorted Revene. The pressure emanated by her body was enough to choke anyone in a hundred yards radius, and that was why the two boys, who had just reached the Third Phase, were fearing greatly for their lives.

The two terrified boys immediately bowed, hitting their forehead hard on the ground, and said in unison "Pardon!" Then one of the two took the lead: "Clan Leader is obviously the most beautiful woman in the known universe, and surely even of the unknown ones. My friend's foolishness has made him say something that… even a child could tell that he is completely delirious…"

Revene was already used to the excuses that everyone came up with to be spared, and those two boys were no exception. It was not the first time she heard someone praise Siche's beauty and elevated it above her own. She let out a sigh infused of cruelty, powerful enough to make the boys explode in two bloody puffs.

"This affair is starting to get on my nerves. That girl must be punished."

There are people who, despite their incredibly high status, cannot help clinging to silly and useless pretexts, and so was Revene. On the path to Immortality, feelings were of fundamental importance. If Revene had let Siche live in peace, her negative feelings were likely to make it difficult for her to continue on the Dao of Mana. A knot would have formed on the way, blocking her Dao of Mana. She absolutely had to remove it.

If she had killed her though, she would have put herself in great danger. There were several Elders who for some time had been waiting only for the right excuse to oust her, since they did not want a woman ruling the Clan. In spite of this, Revene had always silenced them with her outstanding Dao of Mana. Among the Immortal Clans, theirs was in a middle range. They could not boast to be at the same level with those monstrous Clans that ruled the entire universe, and still these same Clans would have never dared to offend them. Theirs was the Cyan Arrow Clan, who in the course of millennia had trained some of the best archers in the universe.

The only way to not ruin her life was to find a way to ruin that of Siche.

After pondering the issue for some weeks, she assigned a task to her son Sore. She told him to make Siche drink an Elixir, telling her it was going to remove her bottleneck. Actually, the Elixir was going to be a love potion that would have made her fall in love with the first man she saw.

Revene had decided that Siche was to drink the Elixir in front of a simple farmer, with whom she was bound to fall so madly in love that she could not think of anything else, thus completely neglecting to improve her level. Lost in the coils of love, Siche would have lost all will to continue on her Dao of Mana, forsaking every chance she had to become an Immortal.

Actually, it was not such a plausible excuse, since the bottleneck to become an Immortal and the following Nine Sufferings were closely connected to the Dao of Mana. It was a matter of Intuitions regarding Mana, rather than accumulating more of it. Acquiring new intuitions on the way became more and more important with the progressing of level and Phases.

Siche was unable to find her own path as Immortal and because of that she was stuck at the peak of the Tenth Phase.

Sore went to Siche, as his mother had ordered.

Sore had inherited his mother's talent and was a powerful Immortal. He was one of the most skilled archers in the Universe. Few among his generation were able to match his Fighting Skills, while in archery, if he had declared himself second in his generation, who would have dared to claim the first place?

But something went amiss.

Sore used to roam the universe, seeking to improve his archery Skills and to better understand his Dao of Mana. Even though he had had many women and was known to be skilled in finding the right partner for his friends, he had yet to find true love.

He had often contributed in creating well-suited couples, finding a match even for lone Immortals who he had met in his travels. Sore was able to match couples that would never have found each other otherwise.

But this time his task was of a different nature: he had to deliver the Elixir and leave. Or so he believed.

Revene had assigned that task to him because she believed it of paramount importance and there was no one else in the world she trusted more than her son. So Sore had disguised himself as a normal human being, to avoid being recognized by anyone.

But something went amiss.

Sore had never seen so beautiful a woman.

But Siche was not only beautiful, she had something more about her. His mother too was so beautiful to look like a Goddess, but while his mother was an icy, unattainable beauty, Siche could have made a field of wheat grow with just one smile, quenched a pestilence with one kind word or dispelled hatred with one look.

Her beauty did not belong to that dimension, it had something supernatural. Whole Clans could have been ruined because of that formidable beauty.

"Lady, this is from the Matriarch. It is a gift to help you overcome this bottleneck", whispered Sore, totally bashing in her beauty, with a simple farmer accompanying him.

"I see." Siche had a bad feeling about that, but she could not refuse a gift from the Matriarch, for risk of offending her. Sore had been instructed to ascertain that she drank all the Elixir right away, and then disappear before it kicked in. With Sore's abilities, it would not have been difficult to disappear one moment before Siche swallowed the Elixir.

The more Sore looked at Siche, the better he understood why his mother hated her so. Siche was everything the Matriarch was not. Siche was the soft divine breath that infused life in all things, Revene was the fearsome storm that destroys it all.

Siche was about to accept the gift, when Sore suddenly drained the Elixir, preventing her from drinking one single drop.

"I'm sorry, madam, I fe… I feared… I feared it was poisoned…" whispered Sore.

"?!"

That servant had just taken for himself her gift from the Matriarch. However, even before Siche could pour out her wrath on him, the young man disappeared, leaving behind only a puzzled farmer.

"Mpf, go now, old man. Go back to your family. I'll spare your life today, since it was not you who disobeyed the Clan Leader's orders."

The hideously-looking farmer hesitated, still wanting to bask in Sche's beauty, but she disappeared into thin air, leaving him to stare at nothing.

Although Sore had drunk the Elixir, he did not fall in love; love for Siche had trapped his heart at first sight, long before drinking the potion.

From that moment on, Sore began to furiously court the girl in secret. He always talked to her in the darkness, hidden in the shadows, unable to reveal his identity.

He was a dark and mysterious knight, trying to win over the girl's heart. Siche had been cautious and wary at first, but every day she trusted just a little more that shadow that spoke to her from the window.

Sore was already promised to one of the direct heiresses of one of the supreme Clans of the universe. He could not offend a woman so powerful, or he would have risked ruining his own Clan. Nonetheless, even though every day he swore that he would not meet Siche that night, every night he found himself breaking his own promise.

Sore began meeting Siche shrouded in a shadowy mantle of Mana, that prevented her from recognizing him. Over time, when they got to know each other better, Siche fell in love with him too. That mysterious man, whose face was unknown to her, had stolen her heart.

Finally, one night Siche gave herself to him.

Everyday she felt overwhelmed by emotions. Her love was consuming her, burning her relentlessly, and her only desire was to see her lover's face. She could not stop thinking about him, she had already forgotten about the bottleneck; she just wanted that shadow, see his face, talk to him, embrace him, kiss him, and nothing else.

She had lost control over her life; the love for the mysterious man had become her only reason to live.

"I want to see your face…" whispered Siche one day, embracing him in the shadow.

"I have no face, just like Love. If you see me, then you will not be able to see me anymore. And our love will stay a fruitless flame that burns forests in vain and not the purifying fire of our bountiful hearts. This is not a wish that I can fulfil."

Despite the warning of her lover, Siche could not restrain herself any longer.

Curiosity was literally consuming her. She could not even train anymore. She was completely overwhelmed by emotions.

Day after day, she suffered for her situation. She had a lump in her heart, and to loosen it she had to see her lover's face.

But one night, Siche approached her loved one holding a bow, fearing to see a horrible enemy emerge from the shadow. She was determined to look him straight in the eye.

"Boy, what Siche saw left her speechless. Before her was Sore, the son of the Matriarch, the second most important person in the Clan, and promised to one of the direct descendants of one among the most powerful Clans in the universe."

"So what?" asked Helial. "Why did Siche do it? Why did she have to see him no matter what?"

"Boy, do you really think it easy to play with love and don't get burned? I wish it was… for my sake, too…" a tear appeared in Vidio's eyes but, having realized to have shared too much, he coughed. Pulling himself together, he went on with the story.

Siche immediately understood what was going to happen. Sore would have never been able to see her again, for fear that the secret they shared would be revealed.

Their love story had just come to an end.

Sore had a remorseful look on his face. He tried to speak: "Siche, I… I can't."

Siche closed her eyes, with blood trickling on her cheeks, staining her unblemished face. When she opened them again, she was another person. "Sore, my emotions have dominated my heart and killed our love…"

"Siche, I love you…", whispered Sore.

"Can your feelings really be called Love? Could you possibly oppose others for me? No, I know, don't speak. I know who your mother is, I know who your fiancé is…"

"Siche, forget your feelings. Emotions can only bring disaster on the path of an Immortal… look what happened."

"I love you, but be quiet. Who are you to tell me who to love? I have loved you like I have never loved before. What would I be if I renounced to my feelings? What? I can't afford them, so what? Look at you, you don't even look sorry. Where is your pain? Sore, what are we without emotions, who are we? What is our identity if there is nothing to associate it with? What is a man?"

Siche looked about her, "Matriarch, reveal yourself."

"You guessed I was watching you?" sneered Reven, appearing in front of them.

Siche lifted her eyes, fixing them on the Goddess feared by everyone.

"Today I will leave the Clan, you'll never see me again. Do you want to kill me? Be my guest. I have no desire to stay among you. I will take with me my bow and my love; my feelings will give me the strength to keep going. The strength that your son has never found, the kindness that you've never had…"

"My dear, I have never wished…"

"People talk. We know how many recruits ended up badly just because they misspoke… I do not care, you are the Matriarch, I am just a woman in the Tenth Phase. But one day you will regret this choice, your son will regret his weakness and cowardice in front of love. What good is it to be alive, if our emotions are frozen at the bottom of our heart?"

The once timid girl was now towering on mother and son like a titan. Both felt an enormous pressure coming from her, as though in front of them was not a woman but an ancient monster. Suddenly, spinning Mana vortexes appeared around Siche, making the air vibrate all around them.

"I am weak, very weak. My emotions have made my weaker, or maybe they have given me a chance of becoming stronger…" Siche seemed to have just achieved an Epiphany on her path.

Revene sensed a change in the surrounding Mana. "!!!"

Siche had just solved her bottleneck and was soon to face the Nine Sufferings.

Sore took a step forward as if wanting to speak, saddened. But Siche walked to him, smiling placidly, and put a hand on his mouth. "I'm sorry, Sore. You were not strong enough to change your destiny. If you want to live on like this, rather than dying, I will not blame you. We all fear death, but what I fear is not being able to hold my love tight. But… Goodbye Sore, goodbye." Siche leaned forward and whispered in his ear, "I love you, Sore. Wait for me, I will be back."

The air quivered and Siche disappeared, ready to leave the planet.

"Sore, stop he-"

"No. Let her go. Please, mother, do it for me."

Revene regarded him coldly, disappointed with her son's reaction. However, she did nothing to follow Siche. Sore had been hurt enough already.

The icy Goddess turned around and vanished, headed for her palace.

"It is told that Siche became later one of the greatest Immortal. Despite that, she never forgot Sore… What a romantic story."

"Did they get together in the end?" asked Helial, who had taken an interest in the story. He had to admit that Vidio was without a doubt a skilled storyteller.

"No, boy. Sore died, victim of a feud of his wife's Clan. In the meantime, Siche had surpassed even Revene on the Dao of Mana; she had dominated her emotions, deriving strength from them. According to the legend, he was guided by one of the most terrifying beings ever existed. That is how she became one of the supreme powers in the universe. When she found out about Sore's death, she cried again bloody tears. After suffering for days, Siche decided to declare war on the Clan that had caused Sore's death. She did not care about the innocents."

"Bow down, touch your forehead to the ground and plead forgiveness for Sore's death. Then, maybe, you will be granted a swift death."

Siche fixed her icy gaze on the Clan court, that had clearly been startled by Siche's sudden appearance.

The girl had not triggered any Formation and had arrived completely undetected. This mere detail could only begin to suggest the extent of her powers.

The Patriarch snorted and took a step forward. "Siche, girl. I've heard about you, who gives you the right to come here just like th-"

He could not finish the sentence. Siche had already nocked an arrow.

Time seemed to stand still.

Mana archers were terrifying people: a single arrow could contain the archer's full strength, even their own life.

Siche had mastered many weapons, but she was born as an Immortal of the Bow and thus she would remain, even at the peak of her life. Despite that, a Mana Archer could only shoot a limited number of arrows containing their full strength, at least according to the rumors.

BOOM

As soon as she released the string, time and space all around them exploded.

The Patriarch frowned and his expression turned very serious. He reacted swiftly, activating the Clan Formation through his Divine Sense and evoking immediately the Mana of all the Clan members in the form of a shield. His Clan was one of the most ancient in history. It would not have fallen easily.

In a fraction of a second, while he was evoking the shield, he wondered at how much power Siche had accumulated in just a couple of millennia on her Dao of Mana. She could be even stronger than himself; not even the strongest among the Dragons, the Qilins, the Devils, the Saints and all the other creatures in the universe could boast such outstanding development.

It was odd though, that none of the other Clans had yet come to aid them. Even though the Patriarch had relations with the greatest lords of the universe, probably no one feared that girl or thought of her as a threat. To them, she was not more than a lover who went berserk.

Karma Dart!

That blow seemed to be carrying the threads of destiny, all wrapped around the shaft of the arrow, headed towards the huge barrier formed by the Patriarch.

BOOOOOOOOOOM

Crack

The barrier cracked slightly, and then resealed itself immediately.

The Patriarch was sneering. Siche was truly powerful, but not powerful enough to single-handedly destroy his Clan.

A second later, that sneer vanished from his face.

Siche had nocked a second arrow; her face saddened, but not astonished.

"How many arrows can she shoot?" whispered the Patriarch. "Could she shoot more than ten? She doesn't look at all tired. But I'm not worried – this barrier could last for days at this pace, before the Mana runs out."

"And it was true, the Barrier lasted for several days. But Siche kept shooting arrow after arrow. Many super-powers in the universe came to try and dissuade her, but with little success. Some among the strongest fighters left, some even seriously injured. Only the most powerful beings still had not intervened, they stood by watching at the events."

"Master, you said that a Mana archer can shoot only a few arrows with maximum strength. How did Siche do it?"

"Kid, it's a legend. According to the legend, Siche had reached such a high level on the Dao of Mana that she was second only to the greatest monsters in the universe. But you know, these are just children's tales, cheesy and full of plot twists. Hahahaha."

Siche looked at the ruins of the Clan. The barrier had given in and the people were all dead, either because of over-consumption of Mana or her arrows.

She headed towards the treasury, deactivating the defensive Formation on the way.

Siche was covered in blood, mostly hers. Everyone was dead. The metallic smell of meat and guts filled the air.

She began going through all the items, seizing them.

She had decided to found a Sect and those things before her were going to be the foundations. She would have taught love and pain, Life and Destruction.

Finally, she came across what she had been looking for.

Before her, on a pedestal, stood a finely chiseled bow that emanated an untamable, tyrannical Aura. It seemed to dominate all the space around with its mere presence.

It was Sore's bow.

Siche's steps slowed down and she drew closer.

She picked it up and caressed it, as if her lover had been there. With tears running down her beautiful cheeks, she whispered, "From now on, Love will have the shape of this Bow. Its name will be Love, the first and last Bow that I will use in my entire life."

That was Sore's last existing memory. No one in the Clan had ever been able to tame that weapon.

"In the end, Siche retrieved Sore's bow and from that she forged the Soul weapon she later used to dominate on the entire universe, becoming a power second only to beings like the Dragon King."

"Master, why this story?"

"Boy, did you understand what made Siche stronger?" Vidio smiled, a hint of sadness in his eyes. "Maybe we both understood, but I didn't prove able to follow this path. Will you?"

***

In the present

Now, Helial's eyes were not red anymore, they had gone back to their natural dark blue.

He was swept by a swirl of emotions. There was hatred and love, suffering and life, there was resentment towards his brother and the unconditional love for Lumia.

The Immortals of the Clans that existed since the dawn of time lived and trained in seclusion, trying to understand the different kinds of Energies. They lived completely alienated from the outside world.

Helial, at the moment, was a climax of emotions.

Smiling sweetly, he stepped forward and in an instant he was in front of Lumia. Then, he turned around and slashed a terrifying blow with Curse of the Demon. He had kept the sword raised above his head the whole time and it towered like the greatest of Devils, ready to devour the existence of all.

I will kill you and your family up to the ninth generation. Only Lumia and I will survive, I promise you this.

His brother's image ripped and vanished into thin air.

It is really not that difficult to destroy an Illusion. The real one will need a greater effort.

Helial turned around and looked at Lumia, a smile still on his lips.

Lumia's cheeks were streaked with tears but, seeing her brother so calm, she quieted down and dissolved, a peaceful expression on her face.

The flame around Helial began subsiding too. The transformation process seemed to have come to an end. Helial had lived through an odd climax that had resolved itself in an easier way that he could have imagined.

Many people believe that great people are those who manage to accomplish difficult tasks in the flashiest way possible, but the truth is that the true geniuses are those that, faced with a complex enigma, find the simplest answer.

Helial had dominated the emotions inside his heart in his own way. From now on, he was going to be one with his emotions and capable to bend them to his will.

It's not possible… Kirin understood what had just happened. Did this boy just dominate the heart? It's impossible. How can he have reached this level before getting to the First Phase? Not even in the great Immortal Clan I've ever seen anything like this. Could this boy be the young descendant of some great Clan? The chosen one of a Sect? Maybe the first born of the leader of a Universal Guild? Where does this boy come from?

Kirin had no idea how Helial could show such a firm control over his emotions. He had first used them to explode, then he had taken advantage of that control to channel his strength. In one hand love, in the other one hate. Helial was like a big vessel , but Kirin wondered how could he have resisted without shattering. When an Immortal was overwhelmed by emotions that was the end, because judgement got clouded.

On the Dao of Mana, many people sacrificed their emotions, sometimes even eliminating their loved ones, to be sure nothing would hinder their heart. Helial had turned this hindrance into his strength. He had created the biggest obstacle for himself and then had used it to gather the strength necessary to overcome it.

PWAHAHAHAHHA. This boy is unbelievable! PWAHAHAHAHHA.

Kirin was laughing out loud.

Some many idiots tried to get rid of emotions, including myself. And now, look at this! PWAHAHAHAHHA.

Kirin was not close-minded, otherwise he would never have become who he was.

Is there anything that frightens this boy? Is there anything he can't do? He seems to be able to achieve anything, even the impossible, and still, he is unlike other geniuses. I have seen geniuses with more outstanding absolute abilities. But this kid is something more – the bigger the obstacle, the greater his skills. What a monster he can become in the future!

Kirin began reflecting on one thing. He had almost resolved to take the child as his pupil and was about to communicate it to his main body. Helial was a good Seed to cultivate, and this way he could have averted the birth of a Devil.

In the meantime, Helial had fainted. He had the Skill now, but he did not have a chance to glance at the notification window of the newly acquired Skill. What a shame!

Now kid, you'll become my disciple, how lucky. Your Karma's looking good! PWAHAHAHAHHA.

He has just exponentially improved his Mana Control. No one can calculate with precision the law that governs Mana Control, but the heart is clearly a fundamental variable. So this boy must have gone through a very narrow bottleneck. Now, if he called himself second in Mana Control on this planet, who could claim the title of first? Probably, only in the top Clans in the universe one could find better. I doubt that on this planet there is someone with more potential than him…

Kirin sighed. While deep in thought, he tried to contact his main body through Divine Sense and Soul connection.

Skill Failed, Unable to Connect.

Hm?

Skill Failed, Unable to Connect.

Kirin tried again.

Skill Failed, Unable to Connect.

What's happening? Why isn't it work-

Suddenly, everything around him turned grey, heavy, dull and lifeless.

Giant vortex of pitch black Mana started appearing, as though part of a terrifying hurricane. What was going on? Kirin's eyes were open wide. The eye of the storm was centered on Curse of the Demon! Was that sword responsible for all that? How could that be possible?

This Aura…

Kirin felt a shiver run down his spine. He had sensed that Aura before. He had felt it on some ancient artifacts, even older than himself…

Lame Dragon, snorted a spiteful voice.

It can't be… You are…

Do not dare say my name, you are not worthy.

A Mana wave ran over Kirin and shattered his Soul fragment.

Mpf. Do not joke, Lame Dragon, not with me. Only a few are worthy of saying that name beside-

The shadow fell quiet. Its tone was resentful.

That shadow shrouded in darkness drew near Helial. It seemed to take an interest in the boy.

It sat down cross-legged before Helial's stretched out body, watching him closely. Suddenly, the shadow let out a diabolic laughter that could have made a Dragon shiver.

Boy, how curious I am to see what will happen to you! I almost pity you. You think you have become stronger, now, thanks to a stupid Skill? Hahaha! Classic Life scum. They think Skills are everything. Brat, the greatest reward of these tests was not the Skill, it's being you, right now!

***

Outpost of Alabard

"Master, how come my eyes are still forced to bear your sight?" snarled Pausan.

The general of the outpost was a hard man. Raised by a people that had been subjugated by the Nation of Fiercelake, in him had grown a great desire of liberation for his motherland, even though he did not possess great talents.

In the world of Mana, the common people see the Tenth Phases as the highest level possible, at the peak of which one can become an Immortal. Pausan was peaking the Fourth Phase; his talent was not too lousy, so much that he had become the Commander of an outpost. But the truth was that the fort he commanded was just for show. No one expected the Goblins to attack seriously, all the more because that were the fringes of the Nation, a barren land, poor in Mana, that had never seen great geniuses.

Recruits from those lands were rare. Despite all this, Pausan, being the honorable man he was, had taken to heart the training and security of that place. He was not the kind of person to do a sloppy job only because he had not gotten a more prestigious post. After all, in recent years the Nation of Fiercelake had not been involved in great conflicts. It had supported some alliances and conquered small regions, like that of Parsta, thanks to the new Immortals fostered by the Congregation.

There were several types of associations in the world. On one side there were the Clans, based on blood ties, where one could enter only by marriage. Then there were the Guilds, with a looser structure, therefore more accessible and equally fearsome in some respect. Guilds were large paramilitary organizations, formed by independent individuals. Then there were the different armies of the Nations. In the East continent, the Nation of Fiercelake was one of the weakest ones, but not entirely at the bottom of the ranking.

There were also several renowned academies, but they did not have the same influence of the other giants and were often subordinate to some Clan or Guild. They functioned as training ground for future generations, to see who were going to be the leaders of the future.

Coff Coff

Vidio cleared his throat: "You see, much-esteemed Commander…"

"Cut the flattery", snorted Pausan annoyed, clearly wishing to not have to see that dirty deserter one second longer.

"So, let's say that I have a very talented boy as a pupil and…"

"What?"

"Well, you see, I think he's still alive."

"Was he in the war zone?"

"He was", Vidio nodded.

"He surely fell under some Goblin sword, you can leave now."

"Actually, without him knowing, I had a Mystical Jade Tablet crafted with his blood. It indicates the person's strength. Even though it's not imbued of Divine Sense, it can still detect the vitality of a person in the short range. It might look like a primitive method, compared to Tablets imbued of Divine Sense, but I had no other option. After all, Divine Sense is developed only in the Third Phase and my pupil still has to reach the first one, but you see…"

Vidio fished the tablet out of one of his wide sleeves. Pausan took it and observed it. It shined brightly, as if Helial's vitality had never been stronger.

Pausan frowned and sighed. "I'm afraid I don't want you here."

"I see that. I'll keep to myself, I just want to wait and see what will happen. If he's alive, he might come here after the conflict with Goblins. I heard from the soldiers that the Commander of the Goblins is only in the Third Phase. It should be a piece of cake for you…"

"I know. But there is something fishy. If you plan to interfere in any way…" Pausan made a threatening move.

"I have no such intention. I'll keep to myself. You just worry about winning the battle", Vidio giggled, pleased with his own sophisticated sense of humor.

It was hard to tell if Pausan would have rather skinned Vidio alive to dip him in boiling tar, or first dip him in tar and then skin him.
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