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488 The Forum

    According to rules, the attendance of the forum was opened to all the researchers within the Laboratory, but only those registered were allowed to ask questions. Most of those who had decided to attend the forum did so out of boredom, or in hope to deepen their knowledge of different paths in the same way a scholar would delve into different perspectives in hope to correct, or deepen their own opinion.

    Supposedly, Daniel's presence was caused by the novelty of the event, but in reality, he could not possibly care less about his knowledge regarding the spirit, or the spiritual world. All he cared about was to find the researcher of the Soul Clan.

    When he reached the middle of the city Daniel found himself in front of a simple structure composed of large white columns that surrounded a semi-circle of stone-cut stands, where all of the attendants would sit. The stands were built around a small round platform with a simple podium in the middle, behind which was a large stone wall that would be used as a board on which, if needed, the participants would carve their  questions as clearly as possible for everyone to understand.

    At the entrance of the Agora was a line of guards that had been stationed there not to regulate the entry of the attendants, but to make sure that no one would cause any trouble to the researchers who had decided to participate. That was one of the conditions requested by the many clans who had started the Laboratory. As long as nobody would interfere with the conceptual idea of the Laboratory, the guards would do nothing, and act as if they were just part of the scenery.

    "Young man!" shouted an old man in red robes to Daniel, who had just walked past the line of guards, and was currently looking for a place to sit. The red-robed old man was sitting in the second line from the front and to the left side, right within the area reserved for the most knowledgeable researchers within the Laboratory, and as he saw Daniel, he waved his hands with the intention of making him join him.

    Daniel had met this old man before. He was the very first researcher that had answered to the request he had left in the column, right after entering the Laboratory, but instead of caring to discuss Daniel's reported perplexity on the achievable purity of one's spirit in the physical world, he had spent the whole encounter trying to pry into his path of cultivation. From the question that he had asked, Daniel was sure that this old man had already guessed that his independent spirit, while never seen before, was likely to be a consequence of his cultivation.

    Of this old man, Daniel knew that he was one of the founding researchers of the Laboratory, and that he had created the path of cultivation used by the young woman that he had met at the entrance of the spiritual world. A path that created cultivators in possession of an equally powerful, and yet separated spirit, mind, and body.

    While this method was unique and the results were interesting to him, Daniel felt nothing but disgust for this man, as from what he had heard of his research, the discovery of this method, as well as the creation of one of those cultivators, required the sacrifice of billions of bodies and spirits just to find those with the right affinity to the consciousness. Daniel was sure that if he could have read the karma of this old man, the number would have been negative, as well as astronomical.

    Unfortunately, Daniel needed to conform to the cruelty of this city, and therefore, could not afford to show his disgust no matter how much he despised every single entity that surrounded him. "Professor Liang." Said Daniel while feigning a smile and walking towards the old man, next to which he sat right after.

    In the extremely vast amount of time in which the Laboratory had existed, no other new researcher had ever dared to sit close to the stage, but for Daniel, no one complained. That was not only because of the support he seemed to have from the old cultivator, but also because he was believed to possess a knowledge on cultivation whose usefulness rivaled their own.. After all, the value of a researcher was not dictated by how extensive their knowledge of petty things was, but from the power that their research could generate.

    By being the first cultivator with an evenly matched body, mind and spirit, Daniel was seen highly by the other researchers. This had granted him a status that had permitted him to meet with ancient and important members of the community.

    "What have you come here to do? I don't remember any of today's topics being of interest to you." Said the old man while stretching his legs forwards, and folding his arms in front of his chest.

    Daniel smiled in response, and after a few moments, he said, "My interest is in the event. If I have to be here for a long time, I might as well get used to the traditions of the Laboratory.. And make friends."

    The old man nodded in approval. He more than anybody else had a great impression of Daniel, who, despite his spirit, body and mind revealed an age in the late twenties, he not only was a powerful entity at the early godhood stage, but also acted in a clever way, completely opposite to the behaviour of the many generations of young men and women at his age present in his extremely vast family tree.

    The two kept discussing different topics while the Agora filled out, after which, around twenty minutes later, two people walked out of the line of pillars that surrounded the stage and in the direction of the podium. This couple was composed of a young man in his late teens, and a rough looking old man. Once on the podium, the young man stood to the side, while the old man said, "Emotional Seekers. My problem is simple. As many of you know I have been researching a method to create spiritual zombies. Specifically, to damage the mind permanently, extrapolate the spirit, and plant the two powers into an empty and more powerful body."

    "Unfortunately, I find myself unable to damage the mind without causing the spirit to dissipate into the spiritual world. I seek the knowledge of those with an expertise in the connection between mental power and spiritual essence." The words of the rough old man were of no real interest for most cultivators, who looked away, or started to talk to one another in wait for the next request. However, amongst the many researchers, there were a few interested ones.

    "Have you tried holy fire? It should slow the damage and heal the mind just enough to keep it working."

    "Holy fire? That will turn them into vegetables. The essence of darkness is what he needs."

    "You are both wrong. It can only be done through surgery. You have to get in their heads, and start chopping pieces of their brains out."

    One after the other the observers gave their solutions, which other than giving Daniel the creeps, did absolutely nothing to help the cultivator. However, just as the timer was coming to an end, and the rough-looking old cultivator needed to leave, the red-robed researcher that was sitting next to Daniel said, "Why don't you show us how you do it? We might find the error if we see it."

    The answer of this revered researcher seemed to be received with elation from the rough looking old man, who nodded in approval, and hastily grabbed the shoulder of the kid that was standing next to him and pulled him next to him. Once in the middle of the stage, the rough looking old man took a small gem out of his pocket, and placed it on the forehead of the young man.

    The expression of the young man slowly started to unfocus. To a normal human this process would make absolutely no sense, but for those with a powerful mind and spirit, it was clear what was happening. Once the gem had touched the forehead of the kid, it had synchronized to his body, absorbing his essences into its atoms, and effectively becoming a part of the young man's body.

    Once a part of him, the gem started to pull the consciousness out of the young man's original body, and slowly grind it into nothingness.

    The face of the young man became more and more unfocused, until finally, around a minute later, his consciousness suddenly disappeared. Following his consciousness was the spirit, which left the body, that dropped lifeless on the ground, and merged into the spiritual world that surrounded them.

    Daniel observed this whole experiment with his eyes closed. In his mind were images of how he would have ripped the windpipe out of the throat of each and every one of these cultivators, but unfortunately, he could not. In fact, since they were cultivators, he could not even afford to show fluctuations in his spirit, which he was able to hide behind the complexity of his unique type of essence.

    "I think that that youngster over there was half right. The mind cannot be a cultivated one, the body needs to be modified, and the control over what is left must come from some form of mental power. It is either that, or you create a product that can stop itself from damaging too much of the subject's mind." Said the red-robed old man that sat next to Daniel with a matter-of-fact tone.

    Just as he finished speaking, a loud and clear gong resounded through the whole venue. This gong caused the rough looking old man to quiet any form of curiosity towards the old master's opinion, and quietly leave while writing notes into his notebook.

    As the cultivator of the Emotional Seekers left, the old man turned to look at Daniel, and with a half smile, he said, "Minor clans only get five minutes."

    What followed were a series of eight more cultivators which requested for help in their, to say the least, atrocious and brutal experiments. Each of them worse than the other, causing Daniel's opinion of the spiritual world, as well as the aspect of Spirit, to fall below ground level. Of one thing he was sure. If there was ever a choice for mercy when dealing with one of these cultivators, he would not even consider it.

    The last two of these nine consecutive researchers were members of high level clans, and as such, they were granted thirty minutes each. As the last of these researchers left the stage, last on the queue of that day's forum, walked in a stunningly beautiful young woman. She was wearing a grey robe with a cut to the side that uncovered her right leg all the way up to her waist, and an upper part that couldn't contain her ample chest.

    This young woman, who appeared to be in her mid twenties, walked into the stage with an aloof expression. She then looked at the first two lines of researchers, as if prohibiting the others from answering a question she had yet to ask, and said, "Soul Clan. I am researching interspecies resonance of the Soul to the bodies of legendary beasts."

    At the mention of the Soul Clan Daniel straightened his back, and looked at the young woman with interest. She was the person that he had been waiting for, and right now, he was memorizing her face, her silhouette, and the sound of her voice.

    The young woman noticed Daniel's attentions, and for a moment she thought of asking him whether he had a method to solve her problem, but before she could, an old woman sitting in the front line interjected by saying, "Why don't you tell us what happens when you use the same technique used for human possession?"

    Daniel had just been saved from ending up in an uncomfortable situation, so he tried to relax and go back to planning while sighing in relief.
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