The Gemstone Chronicles – Book 3 – Chapter 2

Bristia Continent, Moradonya

Myra walked out into a city of shadows. Moradonya was one of five shade enclaves on the continent of Bristia. Shade Enclaves were the home for all shades across the Human world. This particular Enclave was located in a secluded valley, hidden in a massive mountain range. Moradonya was a large squarish city, with tall 45 ft (15M) walls surrounding it. The buildings themselves were all a dark grey or black, at first giving the city a dour look. Several long streets connected all the gates of Moradonya to each other, spreading into a great pentagonal shape.

However, as Myra walked through the city, she watched as it seemed to come alive. Shades walked about, on various errands, moving to and fro. A very few shade children ran about, playing games, and laughing loudly. Workers stopped to talk to other workers, smiling and laughing. It was very different than the mental image she had prepared herself for. Her icy demeanor lightened a bit.

Commander Oryx walked up beside her, and continued to explain her situation.

“You were unconscious for nearly a month, your body slowly regenerating. It’s a good thing you awakened when you did.” Oryx said, smiling slightly. They continued walking, heading towards the center of the city. They had emerged from a small building on the east side of the shade enclave, formerly known as the Business Sector.

Myra walked silently, absorbing the sights around her. She tried to adapt to her new surroundings, slowly getting used to the concept of her life as a shade.

Eventually, they arrived at a large estate. A huge property, it was surrounded by an imposing black wall, and had two strong looking shades standing guard at the gate. Oryx and Myra walked up, and were quickly waved through, the guards recognizing the commander.

Past the gate lay a huge manor. It was painted a somber black, matching the rest of the city, and stretched for several hundred meters. Myra thought it looked quite intimidating, like an evil kings castle from her childhood stories.

The first thing Myra noticed when she walked inside the manor was the bright colors. While the rest of Moradonya was dressed in somber shades, the house she entered into literally exploded with color. Bright cheerful yellows painted the walls, with gorgeous red and blue murals spreading off to her right and left. She stared around in amazement, unsure of what it all meant.

“Ah, welcome friend Oryx! Welcome young lady!” cried a cheerful looking shade, wearing a completely ridiculous feathered hat. It was absolutely massive, with a giant feather in it, and made him look ridiculous. Myra snorted unconsciously when she saw him, trying not to giggle.

The cheerful looking shade noticed, and grasped at his heart dramatically.

“Ah, you wound me so young lady! My heart, oh the pain!” he cried, dramatically.

Myra giggled, not able to help herself. The shade smiled,

“To what do I owe this unforeseen pleasure, my lady?” he said with a graceful bow. The shade had a warm smile on his face, with piercing grey eyes. He made Myra feel like she was speaking to one of the great nobles back in Morn.

Commander Oryx stepped up,

“This is our future princess, Count Iriz.” Oryx said, nodding at Myra. Myra shifted nervously as the Count eyed her, sizing her up.

“Her soul..?” The Count began.

Oryx nodded.

“Perfect! Absolutely!” The Count clapped his hands together cheerfully, his great hat bobbling and nearly slipping off. His odd behavior surprisingly put Myra at ease. The count turned to face Myra, and began introducing himself.

“Hello again! I am Count Iriz, a Shade Noble, and determined savior extraordinaire of our lovely Enclave. I’m sure Oryx here has explained everything to you, but I would like you to see a few things, to show you what we want to change.” The Count’s expression turned grave, the smile slipping off his face. He turned around, walking out of the entrance hall they stood in, to a door at the end of the hall. He motioned for Myra to follow, which she did. Commander Oryx stayed out front, his piercing eyes scanning the surroundings.

The Count led her through the door, down a wide corridor. Several doors lay on each side of the corridor, with a large set of doors at the end. They walked down the hall towards the final door. Myra could hear faint noises rustling behind it. The Count opened the door, revealing a scene of pain and misery.

Behind the last door was a medical hall, filled with hundreds of shades. Layered across the huge hall was bed after bed, where attending nurses walking around. Groans and moans of pain could be heard throughout the hall. Myra stared in shock, stunned.

“Every year, hundreds of shades are grievously injured due to the infighting between the five factions.” The Count said, a grim aura coming off him in waves, “I fear if this continues, our Enclave will fall apart, and be taken over. There hasn’t been a central ruler in over 200 years. The infighting previously was manageable, and very few shades died. Only recently has the situation escalated, and become so extreme.” Count Iriz continued, motioning with his hands,

“I will no longer allow this to continue. That’s where you come in my dear. You will become the hope of our Enclave, a queen to unite the warrior factions, and bring the 4th enclave back to its glory.” His eyes shined, eagerness causing his hands to shake.

Myra had trouble understanding, and said, “I-I’m just a kid. What can I do?” She felt overwhelmed at the abrupt need thrust on to her.

“Haha, nothing now! You are twelve years old correct?” He said, the twinkle returning to his eye as they turned around, leaving the medical hall behind. They walked back towards the front entrance.

“All you need to do is continue your cultivation. You must reach the Gold Core level by the time you reach the age of 18, to be considered a candidate for the royal Frozen Kingdom, Living Hell Art. Therefore, six years from now, in the twelve year Shade Gathering, when all five Enclaves gather, we will have you debut, and prove yourself worthy to succeed the Art. Whether or not you can use the Art will depend on your own willpower and strength.” Count Iriz said, looking at Myra intently.

“What we ask of you is not a great burden either, child. The Frozen Kingdom, Living Hell Art is the most powerful Art in our entire Shade Enclave. It is one of the 108 Godly Arts, if you can master it, your power will rise exponentially.”

Myra nodded, taking it all in. She used her newfound maturity to think everything over. Right now, she understood, she was a Shade. She was no longer a human, and had to stop thinking like a human. As a Shade, she would need protection, a family, in order to shelter her till she became strong enough to be on her own. Count Iriz and Commander Oryx had saved her life, and wanted to help raise her to be powerful. They may have ulterior motives, but after she saw the suffering of those hundreds of shades in the medical hall, her sympathy grew for them slightly and she could understand their cause. It was no longer just their situation, she reminded herself. It was hers as well.

She spoke, saying, “I understand. I’ll do what I can to help.” She gave a slight bow, as if a disciple bowing to her instructor.

“Excellent! Excellent!” Clapped the Count merrily, as they walked back into the main hall. Oryx stood waiting patiently for them, glancing at the Count significantly. The Count gave a slight nod, and a wide smile broke out on Oryx’s face.

“Who will be my teacher?” Myra asked, curious. She knew that breaking through from the Silver Core Level to the Gold Core Level was enormously difficult, and even geniuses would take several years to build up enough of their silver Aura to break through. This is because of the sheer power difference between Gold and Silver Aura warriors. A Gold Aura warrior has undergone a transformation of the soul. When one gains their Gold Core, ones soul is reborn and baptized, greatly strengthening the user. While ones physical strength may not increase a great deal, ones understanding of the various Arts and mental capability rise a great deal. It is very difficult to breakthrough to this level. One has to concentrate and build up a Silver Core till its energy is full to the brim before even attempting to consolidate a Gold Core.

History tells, the youngest Gold Core Expert was a youth that had just turned fifteen, after cultivating from childhood, taught by his Gem Core parents. He had gained his Silver Core at the age of eleven, and took four years to gain his Gold Core, the shortest time ever recorded in history in the entire Human Realm.

Count Iriz and Commander Oryx had six years to help Myra gain her Gold Core. To be able to breakthrough to the Gold Core level in six years would require an extremely powerful genius level talent. However, at this point, Count Iriz had no choice in the matter. In the coming Shade Gathering, if the Moradonya Enclave does not have a powerful representative to compete for the throne, one of the other enclave’s experts would take over. This hadn’t been an issue in the previous centuries because, though the five Moradonya factions were certainly not at peace with each other, they were not at an all out war like they were now, constantly weakening each other.

Now, however, the instability, combined with the rapidly weakening armed forces within Moradonya, had left the Enclave open to their politics. The other four Enclaves had proposed a deadline for Moradonya to provide a successor to the throne, citing their “Concern for the welfare of the Shades inhabiting the Enclave.” They used this as an excuse to propose a tournament. The next Shade Gathering would host this tournament, where the elite of elite young shades from each enclave would participate. The winning shade would be given full authority to learn the Frozen Kingdom, Living Hell Art and would become Moradonya’s next ruler.

Due to the unique nature of the Frozen Kingdom, Living Hell Art, one could only fully train in it if they started at a young age. Therefore, an age limit had been implemented on the tournament, with only those younger then twenty would be allowed to participate.

Of course, the five factions in Moradonya had not taken this threat lying down, each responding by training and putting forth their own candidates. While they couldn’t shut down the tournament, due to the enormous influence of the combined 4 other Enclaves, they could compete using their own power. Shades were proud creatures, born with inherit intelligence and strength. Therefore, a tournament to decide who would lead them was naturally a commonly accepted solution.

The Shade Commander Oryx smiled, his eyes glimmering darkly,

“I will.”

Theldon Continent, The Under Cave

Slayer stalked through cave after cave, passing through passage after passage. He moved through the shadows, flying quickly from dark corner to dark corner. It had been a month since he killed the Rock Tiger. In that time, he had rigorously pursued every Attribute Beast he saw, gathering and absorbing monster cores. His Titanic instincts made him aware that he needed to gather strength, and advance through to the Steel, Silver, and then Gold Core Levels, before he could awaken his true power.

Slayer exited from the small cave pathway he was in, depositing himself in an abnormally large cavern. It must have been several thousand meters long and wide, as well as hundreds of meters high. It was as if he had entered a different world, here in this cavern.

Slayer glanced around, seeing several types of fauna growing all around. A large pool of water swirled, in the center of the cavern. Several clumps of glowing mushrooms, shining dimly and giving off an eerie feeling, like a ghost fleeing home, lay next to the pool.

Slayer strained his senses, looking for any sign of an enemy. He felt nothing, and after a second careful inspection, moved forward. Ever since the day he had awakened, Slayer had maintained the Perfect Balance mode constantly. The strain it placed on his body had gradually lessened, and he could now maintain it for hours upon hours without end.

Slayer sprinted to the pool, pausing by its edge. He gazed into the dark water, looking for signs of life. Thanks to being in Perfect Balance mode, he could sense the forces of the current, and could tell if something was approaching him through the water. He scanned the bank near him, noting that nothing was approaching, and knelt down, drinking his fill.

Slayer felt several groups of fish, deeper in the small lake, making their way around. He crawled forward, moving slowly on the side of the lake, till he lay in front of one of the schools of fish. Time slowed, as he compressed the energy around him, and he launched himself towards the fish.

“SWWIIIIISHHHHHHFF!”

Striking out his palm at a lightning quick speed, Slayer speared one of the fish’s, tossing it out of the pool. The water he had pierced through created a huge splash, spreading large ripples throughout the pool like a miniature tsunami.

The fish looked like a large albino catfish, and oddly had no eyes. It flopped around weakly, before dying. Slayer ripped into it, devouring the fish as soon as he got the chance, relishing the taste of the creature. After he finished his meal, he stood up, preparing to leave and continue his exploration and mad dash for power.

As Slayer stood, he heard a very faint swishing in the air, and felt the slightest movement of wind behind him, practically nothing.

He threw himself to the side, desperately smashing the ground with his Earth Movement Art. Slayer then slowed time and spun around, cutting through the air with his breathtakingly fast speed.

He saw a large odd shaped claw slice into the ground where he had been standing, leaving a huge gouge in the cave ground.

Slayer looked up, his eyes giving off a terrible aura, as he focused on the creature threatening him.

A colossal three-tailed scorpion stood before him, with long bladed claws instead of stingers on the end of its tails. It was massive, at least 10 feet (3.3M) tall and 30 feet (10M) long, covered in a dark black shell. It gave off a baleful, Silver aura, striking against the ground with its several legs, slicing through the air towards Slayer.

Slayer let out a ferocious growl, his eyes darkening, as he leapt forward towards the deadly Silver Core scorpion, swinging his arms in an oddly specific kata…

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