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423 Living on Borrowed Time

    Just like Daniel's karmic system, every other system possessed a way to save its wielder's life. However, their workings varied greatly. For example, Daniel's Second Chance turned back time and allowed him a do over, while the Charmer's system allowed its wielder to use the life of one of her charmed victims, as a 'voluntary' sacrifice in order to prevent the woman they loved, from dying.

    Naturally, the mental system had its own method, which consisted in turning the entire dimension in which the universal government existed, into a collective dream from which everyone would wake up from, at the same time. The theory behind it was no different from when a person, after finding themselves stuck within a nightmare where their life was currently being threatened, would immediately wake up from it the very moment they would die.

    This experience was quite disconcerting for most people, and would usually allow the Mindhive, who was used to it, to make use of that moment of confusion to escape death. Unfortunately for him, the person who wanted to kill him was not only his oldest enemy, but someone who had used that same power, before he managed to take possession of it.

    After Kige destroyed the Mindhive's physical body, the core of the artifact became quiet.

    Daniel had just arrived, and was looking at the core of the artifact, where his friend was standing alone, with confusion. "What happened here? Did you do it?" He inquired to a dazed Aeron, with a hurried tone.

    Instead of answering this question, Aeron looked at the empty chair, and with a saddened tone, he muttered, "Thank you for your teachings." He then turned to look at Daniel after a few moments, and with a wisp of his mind power, he showed him the memories of the last few minutes.

    Daniel was shocked. He had no idea that another one of the hosts picked by Iewah had managed to survive being devoured by their consciousness that came along with their systems, and deep down, he wished he had a chance to meet Kige. A person noble enough to kill a dangerous individual by giving up his life, instead of clinging to vengeance, and survival.

    The main reason why Daniel and Aeron had come to hunt down the physical body of the Mindhive, was to help Heimart, who was still connected to the otherworldly effects of the mind system.

    Now that the Mindhive was dead, Daniel was able to take a deep breath in relief.

    "Is it over?" asked Aeron after giving his respects to Kige, whom he had known for only a few minutes, but who had still managed to expand his knowledge of mental cultivation to a point where he had no choice but to consider him a teacher.

    "Yes." Responded Daniel while closing his eyes. He then added, "Heimart should.." Suddenly, his eyes flashed open, and he looked at his surroundings with anxiousness.

    Words were not required for Aeron to understand what was happening. Daniel's expression alone gave a more than exhaustive explanation, so without asking, he immediately began to feel his surroundings.

    The problem with the systems of Iewah's chosen ones, was the fact that they had drastic limitations when the target was another system. That was the reason why Daniel had not received a more detailed option, nor a detailed explanation regarding how to kill Akkah. All his system was able to suggest to him, was to reach the Dream Domain, and destroy his physical body.

    Originally, after the destruction of the Mindhive's body, Daniel had hoped that that would be enough, but unfortunately, the mind system was drastically different from the one Kige had known.

    Just like Daniel's 'Second Chance' could be upgraded and evolved, Akkah's ability could as well, and with time, it had turned into a completely different power. The Mindhive's new and evolved ability was called 'Wake up Safe', and along with turning reality into a nightmare from which he was able to escape, it also granted him the kind of relief which came along with the realization that what had happened, was just a dream.

    As soon as they started looking for it, it did not take long for both Daniel and Aeron to feel a wisp of consciousness quietly shoot past them, and out of the core. It's motion was direct, and almost felt automatic, instead of pondered, showing that the wisp of consciousness was not a weakened person, but a candle light shielded from a storm, by an indestructible layer of glass.

    With all the speed he was capable of, Aeron covered this sphere which protected the wisp of consciousness with his mental power, and tried to crush it into smithereens, but no matter how much he tried, the protection was otherworldly, and could not be damaged by him.

    "Follow him! His system must have a limitation. Even my own failsafe ability only helps me for so long." Barked Daniel before following the sphere out of the core.

    For the following minutes, the sphere led Daniel and Aeron through each threshold, until finally, it barged through the entrance of the artifact as if in an attempt to break out.

    Once through, the two found themselves in the city where the Door to the Dream State was being held. In front of them, were a few confused mental warriors, and the wisp of consciousness which now had no protection whatsoever around itself.

    "MANNERS!" Shouted the guard to the two, who had caused a ruckus while barging out00.

    The two ignored this man, and instead reached wisp of consciousness which had now turned back into a weakened and smaller version of the ghastly figure of Akkah. Their intention was to erase him from existence permanently, but just as Aeron's power was about to shroud a panicked Mindhive, numerous heavily armored figures appeared in front of him.

    At the same time, around ten cultivators appeared right next to Daniel, each pointing their weapons at either Daniel's, or Aeron's vital points. These people, were the army battalion, and the explorers sent to support the Mindhive in killing the being that had taken over the Brutal.

    "Who are you? What is the meaning of this?" Asked the general of the battalion with a domineering, yet careful tone. The entity which they had been tasked to protect was the Mindhive, and if anyone was capable to reduce the Mindhive into that state, it meant that they were dangerous.

    "PROTECT ME! YOU WILL NEVER KILL THE BRUTAL WITHOUT ME!" Screamed the Mindhive with a panicked, and shrill voice.

    The moment these people had arrived, Daniel was sure that he wouldn't be a match for them. Each of them possessed a power which he was far from matching, and from the speed shown by the explorers, it was clear that if he tried anything, his body would become an indistinguishable mush of flesh in a matter of instants.

    While he could have ignored this, and made a desperate attempt to finish Akkah off if he was alone, the presence of Aeron prevented him from doing so. To lose a friend to save another was not in his style, but so was giving up. The only way to solve this, was through the use of words.

    "I have nothing against the universal government. Let me have him, and it will end here." Said Daniel with a calm tone. On his face, was no trace of fear or nervousness.

    "Outcast.. Why are you here?" Asked the head explorer with suspicion. The fact that they had met one of the two people which the senate had ordered them to keep an eye on, while on the way to kill the other, was extremely suspicious to him, and the idea that the two were working together had started to form in his mind.

    "A personal matter." Responded Daniel with no clue about what had caused the explorer's suspicion. He then added, "I knew that the universal government would interfere in fights amongst chosen of Iewah, but I did not know you would be this fast.. There won't be any damage. He is in no state to resist."

    Slightly annoyed that the head explorer had taken over him, the general prepared himself to face Daniel, but before he could, the head explorer said, "We did not know that you had a score to settle with the Mindhive. We have employed him, and therefore, we have to preserve his life. You have a debt towards the government. This would be a good way to repay it."

    Naturally, despite his immensely more powerful cultivation, due to the small amount of information he possessed about Daniel's system, the explorer was not willing to test his luck against such an unpredictable opponent. He also did not care for the Mindhive's life, and would have allowed Daniel to rid the universe of such a being, if only he was not of use to the government at the moment.

    The debt which the explorer was referring to, was the destruction of the Garden of Death. While forced in a way, they had still rid Daniel of a faction which wished nothing but his death, so while this favor had been granted under the threat of blowing things out of proportion, it was still a favor.

    Unfortunately, Daniel had a good reason to want Akkah dead. A reason that, for him, was valid enough to turn that favor into something that he did not necessarily have to return.

    Luck was not on Daniel's side. He and Aeron were facing immortal cultivators while in the territory of a mental faction. If Daniel's body was destroyed, there was a chance that the cultivators of the Proponents of Deep Sleep would realize that, what his body would reform around, was his mind. If that happened, the large group of cultivators would not only target his body and spirit, but his mind as well.

    If that happened, he would die, and Aeron would be captured.

    Left with no other choice, Daniel could only bluff.

    "What you ask is worth more than you've done. I never asked you to wipe out that faction. I merely wanted to donate my research to the world of cultivation. To let him go, is to ask me to give up on the lives of my family members." He said with a convincing tone, and slightly exaggerated words.

    These words confused the members of the universal government. From what they knew, this was the first time that one of Iewah's children had cared for one of his collaborators. To them, it sounded just as odd as the changes in the Brutal's behaviour.

    If not for the fact that the Mindhive was the only one who could pry into the minds of both Daniel and the Brutal, the explorer would have gladly agreed to let Daniel kill him. However, the priority was the assassination of the Brutal, and according to their research, for as much as they disliked him as a cultivator, the Mindhive was the person that the government needed.

    "If you want a fight, then a fight you'll have." Said the head explorer before putting his right hand over the karambit that was sheathed on a leather strap that went around his chest, and once he unsheathed it, his demeanor turned from a composed and quiet one, to that of a deadly machine which was able to make even Daniel, shiver in fright.

    Regardless of Daniel's state of mind, he was able to keep his composure. Unfortunately, there was no way for him to finish the job without going through a huge risk.

    Unwilling to risk his friend's life, he looked at the Mindhive, and after showing a faint smile, he said, "I will give you a month to bring your contract to an end. After that, if you meddle once again, I will accept your challenge." Akkah was now only a wisp of consciousness, and the mental power he emanated, was that of a cultivator at the base of his power. His entire mental cultivation had turned into trash.

    While he had just escaped death, Akkah had also found fortune. Along with losing all of his cultivation, he had also discovered, just like Kige had, the presence of depth, which if present, would have allowed him to recover completely in a matter of hours with the help of the Dream Domain.

    Unfortunately for him, his now calmer and mildly happy state of mind was destroyed as Daniel stopped his retreat, and after turning to look at him, he said with a smile, "I will take this as compensation."

    While he said these words, Daniel formed a second quest within his mind, which he then shared with Aeron. This quest had only one purpose.. And that purpose, was to gain control over the Door to the Dream State.
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