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81 The one I like the most, I guess

Jeanne tilted her head slightly to one side, deep in thought.

A Qilin's flame. No ordinary flame for sure. Hell is the most destructive flame existing, but Origin of the Universe is by far the most catch-all. This kid has both a strong flame and my master as a guidance… My master getting mixed up with the Forces of Life; I never thought this day would ever come. But sadly, I was wrong… as usual. The Devil was glaring at her to hint that she was wasting his time, but the Black Phoenix paid no mind to him. It was only after several seconds that she broke her train of thought with a long, deep resigned sigh.

"I'm merely the shard of a Soul, just like that Qilin you met. Maybe one day we'll have the chance to meet face to face."

Helial asked with curiosity: "How does the shard thing work?"

At the kid's question, a glimmer of enthusiasm flickered in Jeanne's eyes. She could play the teacher for once, instead of being the one scolded by older disciples.

Jeanne inhaled and started t-

"Soul shards are but one part of the Blood Essence of a creature that paved the way of a new Dao of Mana," the Devil said as Jeanne was forced to shut up and nod quietly, "that is to say, of an Ancestral Creature. We call Ancestral all those creatures that form a new Dao of Mana and make it evolve up to the highest levels of Immortality. Then, they can hand their legacy to the most talented youths, who will therefore inherit their Blood Essence. A Blood Essence, however, forms a key part of an individual. It isn't bottomless and takes a lot to regenerate. It's no problem for an Ancestral Creature at its peak to give out a few legacies, no problem at all. But if it were to give away too many, it would end up weakened for a certain amount of time."

Helial nodded slowly. He was used to his master's detailed explanations. Then he turned towards Jeanne and asked her: "So does this mean you're going to leave me part of your legacy?"

Jeanne shook her head and smiled helplessly. "I already gave my whole legacy to someone else. My shard of Soul is still here because I still have some Mana Energy left, but it will dissolve in a matter of years. These are just the vestiges of what I used to be, and my strength isn't the same anymore. Now my level could scarcely compare that of an Immortality newcomer."

His eyes narrowed, Helial tried to analyze how strong the Devil must be to boss around like that with such a being, and define himself as her master. How terrifying could his original body possibly be? This question had been running through his head for a long time now.

"You own the Flame of a Qilin," the Black Phoenix went on. "It surely can't match the quality of Origin of the Universe, but you still have the legacy of the most powerful Qilin alive. Your body is no ordinary body. Even a Qilin would unlikely match your resilience and Physical Strength. Kirin seems to have been quite generous. Damned old bastard…"

Jeanne's colorful words made Helial raise an eyebrow. Judging by her frown, there must have been some bad blood between the two of them.

"However, let's cut to something a little more practical, my little one. Show me your flame," Jeanne said.

Helial stretched his hand out and a milk-white flame rippled out on his palm. He began to swell it until it reached the size of a globe big four times as much as his head. Inside the flame were gleaming scattered black sparks. When she saw them, Jeanne was struck dumb. Destruction had tampered with Flame of the Qilin, somehow… Wait, no! It hadn't tampered with it! The black sparks were actually carrying a terrifying latent power that left Jeanne utterly shocked. The Black Phoenix grew serious and scrutinized Helial all over.

The kid was far stronger than it seemed. He managed to let that Destruction power flow through Flame of the Qilin - a White Flame that embodied the Forces of Life - without no force being altered by the other. What a breathtaking Dao of Mana…

Jeanne and the master exchanged a quick look. He sneered in satisfaction. There was a reason why the master chose to bring him to the Shrine of the Black Phoenix; there was an inclination towards Destruction hidden inside that boy that needed to be awakened. And who could possibly awaken it better than Jeanne, who mastered Hell?

"What flame would you prefer to maturate?" Jeanne asked enigmatically.

The question left Helial startled. "Maturate? You mean like, develop?"

Jeanne nodded, eager to hear his answer.

"Uhm, the one I like the most I guess…?" Helial hadn't felt so uncertain in ages.

Jeanne's expectation for the ambitious answer of that promising boy was miserably failed. She knitted her eyebrows in disappointment. The Devil brought thumb and forefinger to the bridge of his nose, trying to prevent Helial's idiocy giving him a headache.

"I must say I expected a slightly… different answer," whispered Jeanne, trying to wipe away the hint of embarrassment that had appeared on Helial's face. Then she stretched a hand out. She began to gather around her the black flames burning in the towering brazier in the middle of the hall. The flames in the brazier were completely black. They started to shoot out and revolve around the woman's voluptuous body. "It will take a while to learn it all, but let's start with this. By renouncing to what you care most about in the whole world, you will reach the highest peaks. Just like by renouncing to the greatest of my privileges, I let my flame increase tyrannically as no other flame ever did. Everything comes at a price. I've already refused the path of those who cling desperately to life just to keep their head down and their eyes downcast. Unlike my past race, that bunch of cowards, I chose to…"

***

One week later

Helial had been inside the Shrine the Black Phoenix for seven days now. No one had the least clue when he would come out. The King had had some attendants placed in the hall so as to be informed about any news or change. Caesar was overly curious to see what benefits the week inside the shrine would bring.

What happened to Pseudonym has created a terrifying warrior. His damn armor that appeared out of nowhere forced us to acknowledge him as the greatest hero in Orma of his generation. But I don't know whose potential is more terrifying, if Pseudonym's or Helial's. Circe is weaker than the both of them anyway. It clearly shows from their results in this test. In the past centuries, Pseudonym and Helial were the only ones who pulled that off. Even I wasn't able to do that, in my day.

Standing on his terrace, Caesar gazed up at the sky: "A shroud of mystery envelopes their future as well as their past. Who are these terrifying beings?"

The King of Orma was pensive. His train of thought though was interrupted by the sudden coming of a servant. "Your Majesty! He came out!"

Caesar immediately disappeared in midair, leaving the servant baffled. The next second, the King materialized inside the training hall, just in time to spot Helial climb down the Shrine of the Black Phoenix, descending with slow and steady steps the Mana staircase he had formed during the test. The boy looked exhausted. His clothes were worn-out. It could only mean that a tough training had made him tear up also the clothes inside Call of the Mermaid, his Interspace Ring. His clothing, however, wasn't the only thing that had been tore up; his skin was covered in burns and his face was sooty.

What did Caesar's pupil go through? Why that appearance? And why did he spend a whole week inside the shrine, when it had only taken Pseudonym three days to come out? Was it possible that Helial actually gained the legacy?!

At the thought of this possibility, Caesar went into raptures. If Helial had got that legacy too, then he would advance to a completely different level. He would reach a completely different dimension than his current one. Helial's strength was already jaw-dropping. How much could he have improved once laid hands on the legacy?

If Helial actually inherited everything, even Aure would be left powerless! The Sect of the Worthy would have never dared lay a finger on the heir of the legacy of the Black Phoenix, a huge resource for Orma's survival! After all, how many Goblin warriors tried to put their hands on that legacy through the years? Everyone knew the answer!

Helial had almost reached the last step when his strength failed him, his legs collapsed and he fell unconscious on the ground. Caesar took notice. With a wave of his hand, he unleashed an energy that sustained the boy and made him glide towards the King's arms, ready to hold him up. With a solemn expression on his face, Caesar examined the boy's body. Something had indeed changed. Even though the eye could catch no change, Helial was exuding a natural Aura of Destruction that suggested he had taken several steps forward on his Dao of Mana. Caesar raised an eyebrow. Many people were unaware of their Dao of Mana up to the Fifth Phase, let alone before the First one. Everything about that boy couldn't but leave everyone speechless. His capabilities were exceptional, and he himself made an exception among exceptions.
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