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485 Highest Stakes

    ".. lie to me, and I will erase you." Said Daniel to the utterly terrified member of the Soul Clan, whose spectral head nodded faintly in response. "Good." he then muttered before letting go of him, and turning to look at the other groups. "If any of you has any business with me, say it now, I don't have much time to deal with you." He said with a domineering tone.The twenty-odd leaders of just as many factions shook their heads in embarrassment before quietly heading back into the city, happy that they weren't the ones to have been picked by this newly arrived monster.Once alone, Daniel created a bubble of spacetime around himself and the spectral figure, and after letting go of it, he said, "About a year ago, my dimension was opened to the multiverse. An emissary of your clan was sent to our major spiritual faction to nurture them into opening our pathway to the spiritual world. However, less than a day ago he was sent back here without a body. I want to know his name, and where I can find him."The soul cultivator, of which nothing but an ethereal ghastly form had remained, looked at Daniel with a pensive expression. After a few seconds, he shook his head, and said with an apologetic tone, "I am sorry, but the multiverse is limitless. The number of dimensions opened in a year alone is in the tens of thousands, and in a good portion of them our faction sends an envoy.. I don't have the information you are looking for.." As he got to this point, the spectre noticed Daniel's decreasing level of patience, and before he could do anything, he added, ".. But I can find out!""How are you going to do that?" Asked Daniel with a calmer tone than before.The spectre knew perfectly well that what he was about to say was extremely suspicious, and that this monster would have absolutely no reason to believe him, but now, he had no other choice. "Every emissary is required to leave a report at the end of each of their missions. I can get my hands on it.. But you have to let me go." He said with an odd calmness. Deep down, he was preparing himself for Daniel's burst of anger, and the eventuality of being erased from existence.However, contrary to what he had thought would happen, Daniel pressed his lips together, and nodded in agreement. "Very well.." he said before releasing his emotional aura, and directing it towards the less resistant mind of the spectre. As this dark aura started to affect the soul of the cultivator, Daniel's consciousness inserted itself into his mind and pried into his memories, in search for the man's name. "Bertus.." he muttered before floating closer to the spectre. He then placed his hands over his ethereal shoulders, and with a calm expression which was a polar opposite to the threatening emotions that he was emanating, he added, "Cheat me, and I won't come for you, no.. Instead, I will spend the next tens of thousands of years picking the members of the soul clan one by one, and when I'll be done with them, what will remain of them will be nothing but empty corpses with your name carved on their backs.. I will become a disaster for your clan, and live to make sure that everyone knows that you are what caused me to befall on your people.. Have I been clear?"If the soul cultivator had a body, he would have felt a shiver go down his spine. As an entity of mind and spirit he could tell that Daniel meant every word he had spoken, and for a moment, he could not help but wonder what this fool of an envoy could have possibly done to anger such a monster. However, these questions soon disappeared as he agreed to Daniel's terms by nodding vigorously.Satisfied by his response, Daniel undid the sphere of spacetime that was isolating them, and observed as the spectre hurriedly dashed towards the city, where he would do all he can to respect the promise he had made to him.Once alone, Daniel found a mountain cave just a few kilometers away from the city, and closed himself in it. He then activated 'Time is Precious', and began to cultivate for the first time ever since he had reached the early goodhood stage. The omnipresent pure spiritual essence around him reacted to the attraction created by his power by turning into a vortex that reached all the way, and past the trading post, gobbling up every bit of spiritual essence in the region. Every clan's detachment could feel the sudden movements of spiritual essence in their surroundings, but when they went to investigate what was causing this strange behaviour, and realized that it was Daniel, they decided not to pursue the matter, and instead, patiently waited for him to stop, and possibly leave this region forever.While his body cultivated, Daniel had decided to retire in his mind, where Alesia could keep him company. Once in, he found himself sitting on the familiar chair in the balcony of his room. Staring at the constructed expanse of stars that lay in front of him, just like he remembered her, was Alesia."You are much more decisive than how I remember you." She said as Daniel joined her in what they were used to doing in the past."I am the same person.." he muttered while taking the cup filled with a constructed liquid that was there just as an added detail to their shared moments. He then put the glass down, and added, "It's the stakes that have never been higher.."Alesia let out a faint smile which disappeared as fast as it appeared. The two spent the following few minutes in silence. A silence that was interrupted when Daniel asked, "What was death like?""Like the moments before falling asleep. No worries, no burdens, no thoughts.. It was just.. Peaceful." Responded Alesia in an attempt to describe the complicated feeling of being dead with words. However, even she knew that what she had felt could not be easily explained, so she stopped trying soon after starting.Daniel could see the fondness with which Alesia talked about death, and for a moment, he doubted whether he had taken her away from a better place. "It sounds lonely.." he said without knowing why."It should be, but it is.. Comforting.""Why did you choose to leave?" Asked Daniel with confusion.Once again Alesia smiled, but this time, she didn't stop. "'I need her to be happy in life'.. That is what you said.. I guess those words mean a lot more than a peaceful rest, if they come from the one you love." she said before once again turning to look at the familiar starry sky, which was identical to the one that covered her home town like a unique blanket.Daniel could not help but smile at Alesia's words, and then, after a few moments of embarrassment, he turned towards her, and in an attempt to break this odd silence, he asked, "Tell me what happened to you.. Was there a moment where you had fun in the past years?" Alesia did not lack stories, and as soon as Daniel asked, she mimicked his action, and once facing him, she began to recount all of the odd things that she had seen, which Daniel alternaternated with some stories of his own. This went on for three long days, when finally, Daniel felt someone approach the area where he was hiding."He is back.. Get your mean face on." Said Alesia in a teasing manner to Daniel as he stood up, and left the world he had constructed inside his mind."What do you have for me?" Asked Daniel after waking up from the deep state of concentration with which he was drawing the spiritual essence in the surroundings, and using it to temper his true essence, that was now one step away from the peak of the early stage, and close to the mid stage.As Daniel opened his eyes, he immediately noticed that the soul cultivator who he had left as a spectre without a body, was now living in another body which was not his own. It became clear to Daniel that the soul cultivator had used evil means to obtain this body, but to him, that did not matter. What he cared about was Alesia's spirit, and he was willing to make a pact with the devil if that was what it would take for him to succeed.The man, who had been waiting politely outside of Daniel's cave, entered as soon as he heard of his voice. Then, as he reached him all the way to the deepest parts of the cave, without waiting for him to ask again, he said, "The name of the envoy you are looking for is Yaqi. He came back in his spectral form reporting his failure in nurturing a champion for the aspect of the Spirit.. But he.."Daniel noticed the confusion in the words of the soul cultivator. "He what? Go on." He said with a hint of impatience."His failure was meant to be punished, but before the clan could formulate an appropriate punishment, he gave up his position as an envoy.. A prestigious role, which is far more valuable that anything that would have been taken away by the clan elders." Added the soul cultivator with a matter-of-fact tone."Did you find out where I can find him?"The soul cultivator nodded in a hurry, "Yes. He requested to retire to the Laboratory, a city a few weeks of travel in that direction." Said the soul cultivator while pointing his hand south-east from Daniel's position."The Laboratory?" Asked Daniel with confusion.The soul cultivator did not allow Daniel to elaborate, and preceded him by saying, "Also called the Spirit Grinder, a city where the most powerful kinds of spiritual cultivators test their theories on the nature of a spirit, on the people they capture."As he finished reporting every bit of information which he had gathered, the soul cultivator looked at Daniel with impatience, before asking, "I did what you've asked.. Can I go n-" Just as he reached the end of his question, the soul cultivator blinked, and when his eyes opened, Daniel had already disappeared.Already tens of thousands of kilometers away, Daniel dashed through the sky while absorbing the spiritual essence that he could gather while moving at his current speed. In his mind, was the thought of the envoy conducting tests on Alesia's spirit, a thought that made his blood boil from anger.-----Meanwhile, billions of kilometers away, at the edge of a city that in no way differed from any other amongst the uncountable number of cities present within the spiritual world, was a modern looking building with walls of grey stone, black colored windows, and a metal door.Around this small building were numerous formations which were set not only to keep intruders away, but also to block any form of light or sound to move in or out of it, leaving only the simple design of the building as the one and only hint regarding what was happening inside.On the other side of this stone wall, was a large and relatively empty room. The walls of this room were decorated with many instruments and trinkets, and the only piece of furniture contained in it, was a large metallic bed on which was laying the body of a white-haired young woman.Tests over other people's bodies were not rare in the spiritual plain, but what was happening in this room would leave most people with eyes opened wide in disbelief. The reason for that, was the fact that the body of the white-haired young woman, while physically tangible, was that of a spirit, which instead of turning into a component of the spiritual plain in wait to reincarnate into a random forming fetus, had maintained its human appearance.Standing next to this table was the figure of a middle aged man, who was using a long metallic needle to pierce certain parts of the woman's body, while muttering, "What are you.. What makes you so special.." This middle aged man was the envoy which Daniel had encountered, and the spiritual body on which he was carrying his experiments was, of course, Alesia's spirit.
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