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115 The Horror of Seara Island Part 2

    "T-two hundred.. Every year.." Said the woman with a trembling voice.

    "So many.." muttered Daniel in response. He then asked "They never come back?"

    "None has ever come back.."

    "Do you know what they do with them? Or where they are?" Asked Roley, oddly calm about the entire situation.

    The woman looked back at Daniel, then, she said with a dispirited voice "In the depths of this castle.. There is a passage that leads underground.. Deep underground.."

    "Take us there.."

    -----

    A few minutes later, Daniel and the rest of his party were standing at the edge of a massive sinkhole. This sinkhole was completely devoid of light, and Daniel could feel the concept of density in its darkness.. Along with an oppressive and gloomy feeling he had never felt before.

    "Do you feel it?" Asked Roley to Daniel with suspicion.

    Daniel nodded slightly in response.

    "What is it?" asked Alesia from behind Daniel's back. As a martial cultivator, she and Jerigh could feel the presence of the essence in their surrounding, but could not distinguish it.

    Daniel snapped his fingers, and the very next moment, five different balls of light appeared around him.

    The first one was soft and constant, and gave a feeling of distance. The second light was pure white, and shone as a beacon of light into the darkness. The third flame was the brightest, and its light was familiar and comfortable. The fourth ball of light contained various shades of yellow, orange and red, and it flickered, as if it could be extinguished at any moment. The fifth and last ball was white, but its brightness was somewhat dull and did not bothered the eye.

    These lights were created by Daniel's comprehension of light essence.. Specifically, starlight, moonlight, sunlight, firelight, and electric light.

    Daniel threw these five balls of light into the large sinkhole, but the moment they touched the surface, they were swallowed by the dense darkness. Only the ball of starlight and moonlight were able to resist for a few moments before disappearing as well.

    "Their comprehension of dark essence is much deeper than mine. They are also of a higher cultivation." Said Daniel while looking back at Alesia. He then added "Go back in the ring, call your father and every free cultivator at the mid or higher ninth rank of cultivation."

    "I want to come as well." Said Alesia with an unwilling tone. She of course understood that she would have to stay in the ring if they wanted to go into the passage.

    "Not this time.. We cannot protect you in the darkness."

    As Daniel finished talking, Alesia felt a gentle pressure that was trying to take her into the pocket dimension. Willing or not, she would be sent back inside if necessary. Fortunately, she didn't resist, and was teleported back in without a problem.

    Roley turned to look back at the deep darkness, and said "It's not just darkness.."

    "I know." Responded Daniel with a low voice while turning to look back at the oppressive obscurity.

    Suddenly, a small herb appeared on Daniel's palm.

    This herb, was known to be one of the main components necessary to produce healing pills. It was extremely longevous, and could live for thousands of years. Many weren't aware of it, but this plant was actually the source of most of the life essence that, mixed with time essence, would produce healing essence.

    Tens of thousands of years ago, when people's main goal for producing healing pills was actually to obtain an immortal pill, these plants were extremely valuable. Theoretically speaking, they were considered the main ingredient for the creation of immortal pills, and had been brought to near extinction due to the large amount of failed attempts all around the world.

    Of course, Daniel had long learned that this plant contained life essence, and from it, he had managed to comprehend the concept of life of herbs.

    The life essence concept of herbs differed greatly from the life concept contained in wood essence, as herbs contained herbal essence which was a unique type of essence. The possession of a unique essence made them closer to living beings like humans or beasts, than constructs made out of natural elemental essence like trees and other plants.

    Without thinking twice about it, Daniel rolled the herb's stem with a leather cord, and submerged it fully into the dark sinkhole.

    While Daniel stood next to the sinkhole and proceeded with his experiment, the various ninth rank martial and spatial cultivators from within Daniel's pocket dimension appeared one after the other.

    Roley quickly filled them in about the situation, and they quickly agreed to help.

    When their numbers reached the fifties, Daniel pulled on the cord, and made the herb emerge from its bath of darkness.

    Daniel observed the state of the herb, and what he saw, forced a grim expression to appear on his face.

    "Death essence.." He muttered to himself. He then turned to look at the inhabitants of the castle and said "Does the darkness dissipate when you lower the kids into the sinkhole?"

    "Yes.. it happens once every year.." Responded the middle aged woman.

    "Damn it.. A cult of Worshippers of Death."

    A few faces within the group of cultivators twisted in disgust after hearing Daniel's words, while a few others turned towards him and asked "Who are the Worshippers of Death?"

    "There is a book about them in the library.." Responded Roley before Daniel could talk. He then added "They are the opposition of the cults of life, which promote and worship life under every form. Childbirth, healing, and preservation of life through peace. Worshippers of Death, on the other hand, worship death, war, and conflict."

    "Why would they take tributes instead of killing everybody then?" Asked someone from the crowd of powerful cultivators.

    "That's due to the type of Worshippers of Death they are.. They seem to be the type that honors death through the consummation of life.. That's why darkness and death essence." Said Daniel with a serious tone. He then added "Shield yourself with ki or spiritual essence.. Protect your life essence.. Or you'll die of old age before we can even make it to the other side of this passage."

    After Daniel finished speaking, various light blue, green and white shines appeared around the various cultivators. Then, one after the other, they jumped in.

    On their way down the sinkhole, each and every cultivator could feel the their ki and spiritual essence being the only dividing line between life, and death.

    While the rest were worrying about not losing focus for even a moment, Daniel had already activated 'Time is Precious', and was trying to comprehend the concept of death utilized in this part of the formation.

    The feeling he got from this barrier, was impending death. Not the kind of death one would not see coming, but the kind of death that only someone terminally ill, and could only wait patiently to arrive, could experience. Alone, in the dark.. While the slow passage of time took your short life closer and closer to an end.

    This concept brought by feelings of desperation, unwillingness, and regret..

    This, was the concept of 'premature death'.

    The vast majority of the people who had understood this type of concept, where those who were those who had died a premature death. Only they could get in contact with it while still living.

    One would think that, being this concept easily encountered, it would be easy to teach. But it is important to understand that a treasure of death essence could be considered death itself.

    One would not be able to create a death sphere without having an equal comprehension of life essence, or they would die under the deadly essence produced by their own creation.

    Ironically speaking, due to this limitation in creating death spheres, the groups that possessed the second biggest amount of life spheres, or that focused on also comprehending life essence, were groups that worshipped death. While the groups that worshipped life had no need for comprehending death, as life treasures or spheres would not harm them in the slightest.

    Premature death was a difficult concept for Daniel to understand. He had died twice, been on the verge of death many times, and had even assisted to the moment of his death. But the kind of desperation that a slow and inevitable death brought, was alien to him.

    Despite that, he felt extremely close to attaining a comprehension of it.

    Unfortunately.. Luck was not on his side this one time.

    The moment he felt like he could grasp the concept of premature death, a sudden light shone against his face as he found himself falling from high up in the sky.

    He immediately slowed his fall by using wind essence, and formed a large platform made out of solidified space on which he landed gently.

    Around him, he could see nobody else. He was alone.

    Daniel quickly looked inside one of his spatial ring, and after a few moments, he breathed out in relief. All the ki flags which belonged to the other cultivators were still working, so, it meant that they were still alive.

    The place where Daniel was didn't look like an underground cave. Instead, it looked more like a large pocket dimension with low levels of earth, wind, and water essences.

    Also, in the air, a feeble yet lingering death essence could be felt.

    The concept of this lingering death essence was different from the concept of premature death. One could survive it without using a shield of ki or spiritual essence, but if they tried, the death essence would slowly infect the body and corrode the life essence contained in their bodies.. Like a drop of ink dropped into a cup of clear water.

    This concept was the concept of 'poisoning', and it was a concept which caused fear, panic, and similarly to premature death, desperation.. All while leaving within one's mind the most tragic of feelings.. A feeling which prevented one from finding peace before death.. Hope.

    The concept of poisoning was the most well known amongst the concepts of death. A simple way of comprehending it, was through the consumption of a deadly poison, and the assumption of the antidote right before dying. All worshippers of death had comprehended the concept of 'poison', as it was a rite of initiation for them.

    The lack of wood and light, and the low level of earth essence, had made this place gloomy and devoid of colors. The ground was dusty, the composition of the air was incorrect and difficult to breathe, and the sky covered the grey floor like a blanket of darkness.

    Thanks to his experiences with essence spheres, Daniel was able of feeling from which direction the various essences were emanated.

    The dark sky, the dry air, and the lack of color of the earth could be attributed to the fact that he was underground, but the death essence could only be emanated from an essence sphere. After all, there was no place for death where there was no life.

    After pinpointing the direction from which death essence was emanated, he started to move towards it.

    A full hour of flight later, he spotted a small village in the distance.

    Around this village, various different low level essence spheres had been locked in the space, and emanated feeble essences of wind, earth, water, and various death spheres.

    Inside this village, he saw dozens of people covered in black cloaks, that were currently bowing towards an altar.

    Above this altar, was the body of what once must have been a five years old child. Now, his body had been dismembered, his stomach had been cut wide opened, and his organs had been removed, and placed orderly next to the body.

    Scattered all around the dusty floor, were all the tiny bones of the previously sacrificed kids.

    Daniel landed back on the ground, and retracted his spiritual essence and ki into his body. Then, he masked them with essence of darkness, resulting invisible to other people's senses.

    Luckily, he had discovered these people while they were busy with one of their disgusting practices, and not when they were vigilant.
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