Theldon Continent, The Under Cave, Delica City-State Northern Gate
Dale looked out at the endless expanse of rock before him, departing from the northern gate of the city. He sighed, shaking his head, recalling the events earlier in the day.
Before Jerah could leave the city, he needed to have a Steel level expert at his side as a guard. However, in order for Dale to count, he had to be sworn in as Jerah’s personal guard as well as be promoted to the Steel commander level.
Jerah had walked into the manor and turned straight into the main hall, ignoring the odd looks he received from the waiting visitors. As Jerah barged in, dragging Dale with him, Dale got his first look at the Var family Main Hall. The Main Hall was a huge room, easily 100 meters long, with several large pillars supporting the roof on either side. In the back of the room was a raised platform containing a large throne. Several tables and chairs were spread throughout. There were no guards in sight, oddly enough.
Jerah’s father was sitting on a small throne, conversing with one of the three Var family Black Gold commanders. Jerah dragged Dale forward, yelling to his father to gather his attention.
“Father! I’ve brought forth my candidate for a personal guard!” Jerah smiled at his father, then turned to the Black Gold commander standing next to him, “Esteemed uncle.” He bowed.
Jerah’s father was a bear of a man, with huge muscular arms and legs, and a massive chest. He had light brown hair and dark green eyes. He looked at Jerah surprised, and then turned his eyes to Dale.
Dale shivered for a moment as he felt his gaze. Jerah’s father spoke,
“Jerah, he is a child, barely your age. If you want to appoint a personal guard, use one of the Steel commanders, not this child.” His father looked disapprovingly at Jerah, completely ignoring Dale.
Jerah kept his smile and shrugged, saying, “Dale here is a Steel Core expert! And I would bet he’s stronger then any of our current Steel commanders as well! He’s the one that rescued our party from those lizard warriors!” Jerah gestured enthusiastically with his hands. The Black Gold expert turned and studied Dale with a considering look in his eye.
“Oh really?” His father looked at Dale disbelievingly. He turned to the Black Gold commander,
“Fine, fine, I will let you appoint this boy your guard, but on one condition. He must be able to take three blows from your uncle Reger.” His father gestured at the commander standing next to him.
Reger was also a bear of a man, looking almost identical to Jerah’s father. He had the same hair and build, but instead of green eyes, his were a misty light blue. He kept silent, simply watching Dale and Jerah.
Jerah frowned, annoyed, “Father, Uncle Reger’s is a Black Gold commander. None of the Steel commanders could take a blow from him. I doubt any of the Silver commanders would last more than one blow either. How can you expect him to last three?”
The Black Gold commander spoke then, saying,
“I will lower my strength to that of the Silver Core level. I think that would be fair to both parties.” Reger’s had a deep voice, sounding out throughout the hall.
“Excellent!” Jerah’s father cried, a tinge of excitement in his voice, “Three blows at a Silver commander level of force and he passes!” His father looked at Jerah with an expectant look.
Jerah looked at Dale for confirmation. Dale immediately nodded. Dale felt that, with his current strength at the Steel level, as well as his powerful time and aura abilities, he would be able to defeat anyone in the Steel Core realm, and should be able to fight someone in the Silver Core realm. He mentally prepared himself, getting ready to draw energy from his core.
Jerah nodded, saying, “Deal! We agree!” he smiled, waltzing off to the side. Dale walked to the middle of the main hall, looking around. The main hall had several pillars off to the sides, supporting the ceiling. There was perhaps a 45-foot gap from one wall pillar to the next, leaving plenty of room for a small spar. The tables and chairs were all to the sides of the room, leaving plenty of space down the main area.
As Dale looked around, the Black Gold commander Reger stepped down from the throne area he was standing on, hopping to the floor. He looked at Dale with a slight smile.
“Well, young one, not to be rude, but perhaps we should introduce each other first? I am Reger Var, 2nd General of the Var Family House. I specialize in Earth defensive Arts.” He looked at Dale expectantly.
Dale responded, saying,
“I am Dale Wensworth, a Steel Core Practicioner. I specialize in Time and Aura Arts.”
Reger’s looked at him in surprise, shocked by his Art choice. Any of the non-elemental Arts were very difficult to train in, especially for one so young. To train in two at once, and still be a child, it was practically unheard of in the human world. Reger’s looked at Dale again, deciding to exercise caution.
Suddenly, a piercing Black Gold Aura burst forth, covering Reger. The air crackled and shook as the pressure around Reger greatly increased. Abruptly, the dark gold aura dropped to a pure gold sheen, and the rapidly to a Silver Aura, the huge pressure dispersing. Dale watched curiously. He was unaware that one could lower the strength of ones Aura. He would have to experiment later to test it out on his own.
Reger stepped forward first, bowing at Dale. He was approximately 20 meters away. Dale immediately released his strength, a Steel Aura wafting around him. He didn’t notice, but Jerah’s father gave an approving nod, surprised to see someone so young and so strong.
Reger smiled for a moment, and then lightly tapped his feet on the floor, blasting off towards Dale at an extremely fast speed. Dale entered his Perfect Balance mode and slowed time to slightly above three quarters, everything moving at 76% speed. While the decrease was a mere 24%, it was extremely noticeable to Dale who had to react at split second intervals to dodge or attack.
Reger’s speed went from being extremely fast to just being very fast. While it was much faster than Dale could move, it wasn’t too quick for him to react to, however.
0 seconds later
Reger’s had launched himself at Dale as Dale slowed time.
0.24 seconds later
Reger’s had covered 10 meters already, approaching Dale at very fast speed
0.45 seconds later
Reger’s arrived next to Dale, the earth trembling as he slowed himself down by crashing his feet against the ground. He swung his arm at Dale, a Silver Aura covering his fist. Dale had noted Reger’s arrival, and responded by ducking his body downward. Thanks to his Perfect Balance, Dale was able to see the forces of energy gathering in Reger’s fist. He was able to note the exact angle that Reger’s would launch his punch at, and moved his head and chest slightly to the left, in a fast diagonal dodging motion.
0.47 seconds later
While Dale couldn’t move at the speed Reger’s could, he was able to predict and dodge the attack, responding not to the position and force of the attack, but from the future position and angle predicted. Reger’s punch narrowly missed Dale, the silver energy slicing through the air to crash into one of the nearby pillars. Thanks to the sturdy building and powerful materials used, the pillar was only lightly scratched.
Reger’s dodged backward for a moment, looking at Dale in consternation. He had intended his first punch to knock Dale off his feet lightly, not wanting to injure the child, and was surprised that it had missed. A normal Steel Core expert would definitely have been impacted.
1.27 seconds later
After seeing Dale dodge his first attack, Reger’s instantly decided to launch a slightly stronger second attack. He jumped forward again, using his feet to slam off the ground towards Dale at a fast pace. While his cultivation energy might have been restricted to the Silver Core level, his powerful techniques and skill level was equal to any other powerful Black Gold commander. This time, his Silver Aura fully covered his entire body, strengthening himself, as well as giving him a slight speed boost.
Dale noted the change, mentally calculating his opponent’s strength, trying to predict how he would dodge.
1.39 seconds later
Reger arrived next to Dale, moving at a faster speed then previously before. He swung his arm around, launching a simple but extremely fast punch at Dale’s chest.
1.41 seconds later
Dale had already predicted Reger’s punch, thanks to witnessing the underlying forces in Reger’s arm. He was already moving into a dodging motion when the blow landed on him. Thanks to his quick thinking, he had managed to avoid most of the blow, and was only knocked back about a foot or so by the powerful punch, barely injured.
3.16 seconds later
Reger was delighted upon seeing that Dale remained unharmed. A person so young would definitely grow into a powerful asset for his family, he thought, already considering Dale’s future value. He paused for a brief moment, before he decided to go all out, to show Dale what the might of a Black Gold commander could do, even with his strength restricted to the Silver Core level. Reger’s aura jumped up to the very peak of the Silver Core level, strength gathering in his body.
3.29 seconds later
Reger launched himself forward one last time, this time using his Earth Art to move quickly. His movement technique was completely different than the one he had used previously. Where he had originally just tapped the floor several times to move quickly, he now advanced in an impossible looking dancing motion. It was as if his feet had merged with the ground, and propelled him forward, in a smooth undulating fashion.
3.33 seconds later
Reger arrived next to Dale and lashed out, his entire arm covered in a powerful silver glow. His attack was almost identical to his previous ones, apparently unconcerned with its strength. However, his attack speed was incomparable to his previous attacks. Dale already knew before Reger reached him that he would not be able to dodge the incoming attack. The force and speed behind it were simply too much for him.
So, Dale did the only thing he could, and released time back to its normal speed, while immediately gathering his aura, and focusing all of his strength on his chest.
Now, it must be said that Dale indeed had no chance of dodging Reger’s attack. On his third blow, Reger had finally decided to become serious, and used a powerful Earth Movement Art to greatly enhance his speed. Not only was his movement speed enhanced, however, his attack speed greatly increased as well. His attack was at least twice as fast as it had been previously, much too quick for Dale to dodge.
However, when Dale released his Time Art and embraced his Aura Art, it took him less than 0.01 seconds to enhance his Aura and protect his chest. This is because, while his body might not be able to move, his mind, under the effects of his Perfect Balance mode, reacted at an extremely fast speed, and was able to perceive and direct the force of Dale’s Aura to cover his chest.
3.34 seconds later
Reger’s arm slammed into Dale, throwing him across the hall. The force of the blow rippled through the air, shaking. Dale’s back smacked into one of the pillars standing roughly 20 feet from where he had stood before falling to the ground. He winced, checking over body for any serious injury. To his surprise, he found that, although he could feel several large bruises starting to form, his body was in near peak shape. None of his bones were cracked or injured.
Thanks to Dales quick thinking, his powerful Aura was able to reduce the damage he took, absorbing a large amount of the power behind Reger’s blow. However, it wasn’t able to reduce all of it, and Dale was still knocked backwards, smashing into one of the Main hall’s pillars.
4.01 seconds later
The aura around Reger vanished, a smile appearing on his face.
“Very nice! You have excellent footwork and ability, as well as a quick mind. Your potential is limitless, if you continue on your path to strength.” He nodded at Dale, turning around and walking back towards Jerah’s father. He gave a slight nod to Jerah’s father.
Jerah’s father had been watching the entire fight, and nodded approvingly at Dale, agreeing with Reger’s assessment.
“Very well, son. I approve of him as your personal guard.” He waved his hand at Jerah, dismissing him, “Go to the Armory and get a Steel commander badge for him.”
Jerah quickly bowed, thanking his father, and ran over to Dale. He helped Dale to his feet, patting him on the back roughly.
“Great job!” He said as they walked out of the main hall, down one of the side hallways towards the Armory. Dale winced as he recovered, stretching out his body. Sevearl of the visitors waiting in the entrance hall gave them odd looks again.
“Your uncle is really strong. Even at the Silver Core level, his mastery of technique far exceeds mine.” Dale said, “I don’t think I would even last a second against him if he went all out.”
Jerah shrugged, his eyes twinkling, “Well, that’s not too much of a surprise. He’s nearly a hundred years old, and is a powerful Black Gold level expert. Very few people can threaten him. He’s in the top 5 most powerful members of our family.” Pride filled his tone as he described his uncle.
“100 years old?!” Dale said, confused, “Wait, if your father’s brother is nearly a hundred years old, how old is your father?”
“I think dad is nearing 90?” Jerah shrugged again, supremely unconcerned.
Dale looked at him confusedly.
Jerah noticed, responding, “Oh, you must be confused by how young I am. I’m the youngest of my father’s sons, only 11. My oldest brother is 67, and a Gold Core expert, too!”
“You know that when you cultivate, you naturally live longer right? My father may only be a Gold Core expert, but his lifespan will be several hundred years longer than a regular humans.”
Dale nodded. He knew these things were true, it was just his first time really encountering this situation. The duo continued walking, eventually arriving in a large room that was filled with various weapons and armors. Two soldiers stood guard at the entrance, blocking off potential thieves.
A clerk greeted them, asking them what they needed. Jerah explained, and they quickly made off with a Steel Commander’s badge pinned to Dale’s shirt. They also appropriated some dark leather armor, stained with the Var family emblem, a red sword and shield. Dale also gathered two different rapiers, eager to practice his current Time Art to perfection. Although he didn’t need a rapier to work the technique, it was his favorite sword, and he was most familiar using them in combat thanks to his practice with Instructor Lem.
Dale went back to his room, quickly changing into the dark leather armor, attaching his commander’s badge to a spot on his shoulder. He looked at himself in a small glass mirror, admiring his silhouette. He thought he looked quite dashing, like a hero out of the books he read when he was younger.
While he was checking himself out, someone banged loudly on his door, rattling the frame. Dale went over to answer, seeing Jerah lean forward to bang on it again.
Jerah looked at him, grinning.
“You all set Dale? I myself am only in the Coal Core phase, having barely formed it recently. I’m glad we found you, heh. Now we can explore freely, without a worry!” Jerah skipped around happily, tossing a pair of knifes into the air and catching them.
Unfortunately for Jerah, however, one of the blades hit the ceiling knocked off the roof at an odd angle, twisting downward to nearly impale him. Dale jumped forward, knocking the knife out of the air into the ground before it stabbed at Jerah.
Jerah looked up sheepishly, saying, “Thanks, haha! I may be a bit clumsy, my bad! Anyways, Dale, I figure we should first go check on my families Gem mine. We can look for any other veins starting from there. I know a bunch of experts have already been through there and checked it over, but I have an unusual affinity for the Earth, and am quite talented in locating mines. Though I’m young, I’ve helped my dad find several different valuable mines, and even found that one I told you about on my own.” Jerah grimaced, as he remembered how he had received no credit for it.
“Anyways! Off we go! To adventure!” Jerah dragged Dale out of the manor grounds, towards one of the northern city gates.
Theldon Continent, Somewhere underground
A tear in space suddenly appeared, growing out of a rock hundreds of meters below the surface. This rock was a seemingly ordinary rock, no different than many of the other rocks lying on the ground nearby, packed into the tight earth.
Space tore, however, destroying a huge section of earth, blasting apart wave after wave of force. Eventually, a huge cavern formed, creating a large void that quickly filled with air. The massive hole in space intersected with one of the many cave systems in the Under Cave.
As the tear in space began to recede, a figure blasted through, exiting the giant rip. This figure was a normal sized, humanoid figure, covered in extremely dense black skin. Muscles rippled on this figures body as it crashed down, slamming into the nearby earth wall. A ferociously powerful and domineering aura slammed out, covering everything in existence for several hundred meters. The air itself trembled, as this figured broke free.
It must be said, this earth wall had grown to an incredible density in the past few seconds, as the giant tear in space had forced the earth to compact itself down, over and over.
The rock in this wall alone was so dense, a full powered attack from a Black Gold Core expert would not have even scratched it. It was as if a giant mountain had crashed down, forcing itself to shrink into this very wall.
However, when the black figure smashed into the side, massive cracks appeared, spreading throughout the earth, rippling in small waves. The figure launched himself off of the shattered wall, towards the open cave system that had appeared when he exited the spatial tear.
The figured looked around calmly, not sensing anything dangerous as he landed on the ground, moving through the cave system. Quickly, the tyrannical aura and dark muscles covering his body disappeared, leaving an elderly but fit looking man standing alone in the darkness.
Caladan Brood smiled, tasting the air for the first time in hundreds of years. A dark glint appeared in his eyes.
“I am free.”