57 The Castle Part 3

    "It's talent in cultivating the spirit.." muttered Daniel in realization.

    He then sat in a lotus position, and before starting to cultivate, he activated 'Time is Precious' once again.


    The moment the last bit of beast core disappeared, Daniel session of cultivation had ended.

    His spiritual cultivation had now reached the mid Moderate Spiritual Synchronization sub-stage, or mid rank 5.

    When Daniel opened his eyes, he found himself in the middle of a room filled with books. His first reaction was to take a look around, so he got back up on his feet, but after he turned around, he noticed a very old looking man sitting at a table, reading a thick book peacefully.

    At Daniel's attempt to approach him, the old man suddenly shut the book, and said "What an amazing talent you have.. It's only been a few thousand years.. Has the world changed this much?" Said the old man.

    This old man's body was completely covered by a large tattered old robe, and a hood hid his face entirely. The only thing that indicated his age, was the hoarse voice, and the wrinkly hands which slowly rested on the book's cover.

    "Who are you?" Asked Daniel while sitting on the chair on the other side of the table.

    The old man pressed his back against the wooden chair, and said "I shouldn't have come back to this place.. such an obvious mistake..." His voice sounded depressed and he couldn't help but sigh every now and then. He seemed to be talking to himself.

    After a moment, he raised his head and looked at Daniel's face. "You look promising.. What happened to you? How are you this powerful at.. Wait.." Shock grew on his covered face, and he jumped up from his chair.

    He then looked carefully at Daniel, and said "You are a martial cultivator!!" his voice became more surprised the more he talked. "How is it possible for you to be here if you are a martial cultivator?"

    "I am not a martial cultivator.. I've passed three tests for spiritual cultivators to get here." Responded Daniel with as much calm as possible.

    "You can deny it however much you want, and yet, I can smell your weird ki clearly.." said the old man. Before the old man could calm down, his eyebrows arched in sudden realization, and asked "Are you an anomaly?.. Or has the nature of ki changed in humans recently?! Were you born like this?" one question after the other were thrown at Daniel.

    Daniel was slightly irritated, as the old man hadn't answered to any of his questions yet.

    "Hold on a second, can you tell me who you are?" Asked Daniel with a louder voice than intended.

    The old man momentarily stopped talking. He then sat back on his chair, and after what looked like fixing his clothes, he said "My apologies. I am called the Clear Mage."

    "Weren't you supposed to have.. Ascended to a higher plane reserved for those above the ninth rank?" Asked Daniel curiously.

    From the strange behaviour of the old man, right as he finished asking his question, Daniel understood that the old man had no idea of what he was talking about.

    "I've never ascended past the ninth rank.. I started a competition with an old enemy, the Dark Warrior." He said in an explanatory tone.

    Daniel was utterly confused. He didn't belong to this area, so he wasn't that attached to its history. What he was curious about, was how it was possible for such a large number of people's memory to deviate so much from what truly happened.

    "What was the competition about?" Daniel asked to the old man.

    The old man's voice became melancholic as he recounted the story of how the feud between him and the Dark Warrior had begun.

    According to what the old man said, the Clear Mage and the Dark Warrior had been friends at first. But as time passed, the Dark Warrior started to change. His physical superiority started to twist his vision of the world.. To make him think that power meant everything in the world. As long as one was powerful enough, then, he had the right to decide the fate of others.

    At first, the Dark Warrior had started to show no mercy to those who offended him, then he started to kill for mistakes, and misunderstandings. It had reached a point where, unable to find another solution, the Clear Mage had decided to terminate their friendship, and swore to himself to stop him from becoming a bigger danger to humanity.

    After fifty years of constant battles, the Clear Mage had decided to conduct their final battle the day they met in this island.

    Once arrived, the two battled to a point of near death.

    The Dark Warrior, at this point of his life, had become a vicious human being, killing for the smallest reason, as if human's life was worth less than the breath spent to pronounce a sentence. But if there was something that the Dark Warrior liked, was a powerful cultivator. That was the reason why, regardless of how many times he had been challenged, he had never managed to bring himself to hate the Clear Mage.

    Instead of ending their fight with both of their deaths, the two cultivators had decided to trap themselves into a formation, and after thousands of years, they would bet their lives on the nature of the human's heart.

    The next time a monstrous talent would participate in this tournament, he or she would be able to decide which moral path was the right one. The compassionate one, or the ruthless one.

    Thousands of years had passed, and someone with a monstrous talent had finally arrived.

    "I assume you have something to ask me.." Said Daniel

    The old man's hands closed in tight fists, as he said "Reach the treasury room, on the door, you will find a heart with a sword stabbed in it.. Remove the sword, and prove what compassion is to my old enemy.. Or twist the sword.. Put an end to his life, and prove me that he was right.."

    "Wasn't I supposed to reach your chambers, and take something from it with me in the treasury in order to open it?" Asked Daniel with a confused face.

    The old man asked in a dismissive tone "What chambers? There is nothing important in the second floor, leave it be.. Now go, you have something important to accomplish.. And if you make the right choice, i'll take you in as my disciple." As he finished talking, without waiting for an answer from Daniel, the old man disappeared.

    Daniel found himself back in the hall. The doors to the sides had disappeared, and only the door in the middle of the two sets of stairs remained. He stood there, observing the dark corridor at the feet of the flight of stairs.

    After a good minute, he decided to take a look at the first floor, so he went up the flight of stairs.

    The moment he reached the first floor, two bluish silhouette appeared on the hall downstairs. One was a middle-aged man with a broadsword hanging to his waist and a long spear strapped to his back. He also wore what looked like a heavy plate armor. The other, was a younger man dressed in a light robe.

    The middle aged man seemed to be shouting furiously at the younger man's back, but was ignored. The silhouette of the younger man rushed up the flight of stairs and walked on the right corridor.

    Back on the first floor, the figure of the middle-aged man sighed in disappointment, and disappeared.

    Daniel decided to follow the younger man.

    He walked through the right corridor, and entered the door he had seen the younger man disappear into.

    Inside this room, there was a single bed in the middle of the room, and nothing else.

    The wall on the left of the door was covered in scribbles and doodles which Daniel couldn't understand. They didn't seem to be the work of a mad man, so Daniel started to observe them closely.

    The symbols were divided into groups, and some were repeated. They clearly described something, but this very alphabet was unlike any Daniel had glimpsed at.

    Daniel checked the books inside the old alchemist's ring, but no other language he had found was similar to the one these writings had been written in.

    He was about to give up, but then, he recognized a slightly variated version of one of the symbols from one of the books. The symbol in the book had sharp angles, and it joined the following one with an ondulated line, but it still looked similar.

    According to this book, this language was ancient and alien to their continent. The symbol was the ancient sign for 'Mana'.

    Thanks to the help of 'Time is Precious', it took Daniel twenty minutes to memorize and learn this language. He then read the writing in the wall once more.

    It seemed to read the original with only a crappy translation as reference. The language on the book looked like a much younger and evolved version of the writing on the wall, and to Daniel, it felt like he was translating an ancestor's scripture with the use of a language, whose origin itself originated from this language.

    Thankfully, Daniel had something that no historian had. The ability to correct his mistakes.

    He tried to make sense of these symbols, and by process of trial and error, he was able to translate a few symbols per hour.. After ten hours, he had translated about five percent of the words present in the wall.

    He could understand words and bits, but the more he read, the more appalled he became.

    The concepts of sacrifice and consumption appeared over and over in the test. And it seemed to be a practice of magic which made use of another cultivator's ki and bodies to strengthen themselves.

    When Daniel had managed to read through a fourth of the test, four more hours later, he turned around and saw a middle aged man holding his head on the corner of the room. The man was only a silhouette, but from the clothes, Daniel recognized him as the younger man from the previous vision.

    The middle aged man stretched his arm, and picked up something from the ground. Daniel saw nothing in the man's hand, but his fingers were hooked around something invisible.

    The man brought this round and large thing above his head, then, he opened his mouth and stood still for a few minutes. It looked as if he was making something drip into his mouth. When he finished, he threw that what he was holding in the direction of the bed, then, the silhouette disappeared from the room.

    Daniel walked towards the bed, which was made with large embroidered sheets whose sides reached all the way to the ground.

    He went down on his knees, then lifted one side of the sheet and looked under the bed.

    Underneath the bed, he saw a small skull, which from its size, Daniel was sure belonged to a child.

    Slightly nauseous, Daniel got back up on his feet and returned in front of the wall.

    It took him another few hours to finish translating the text.

    The test, was a method of cultivation. It was different from spiritual or martial cultivation, as it could be practiced on the side.

    This method of cultivation described in detail, how it was possible cultivate by absorbing people's ki through direct consumption of their body. Ki was part of the body, and in it, it was omnipresent.

    The most horrifying detail of this method, was that not only did it grant the cultivator to absorb one's ki, but also one's life essence.

    Life and death essences belonged to living beings. A human would be born with a certain amount of life essence, which the naturally formed death essence would slowly consume, to the point where life essence would be exhausted, leading to a cultivator's natural death.

    The amount of life essence that one could absorb from consumption of another person, was very little. At best, hours of life from consuming an entire body.

    Unfortunately, there were methods to increase the amount of life essence that could be absorbed.. And that was consuming humans with richer life essence.. Like newborns and children.

    The idea that millions of participants had stumbled upon this wall in the past thousands of years shocked Daniel beyond belief.

    He immediately tried to burn the wall, but unfortunately, he was unable to interact with it in any way. It was as if what he was trying to burn didn't belong to his own time and space.

    Daniel left the room, and as he was about to explore further, he saw another silhouette.

    This silhouette was that of a very old man. He was standing in front of the door he had just came from. In his hand was his unsheathed sword, but it seemed like he was unable to bring himself to enter and do what he intended to do.

    After a good minute, he dropped his sword and fell on his knees. His hand reached for his mouth, which he covered to mask the sound of his sobbing.
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