Chapter 7:

Tribulation

Mad God


“Where are we?” Ren asked, yawning and rubbing her sleepy eyes as she stood next to her mother.


A few days after the Prince’s party, Anya and Xendar took their daughter on a trip outside of the Capital one night. It was still before sunrise when they stood at the edge of a big open-pit mine that was spiraling downwards for around 400 meters.


“We came for two things.” Xendar explained, “One, we will do your Coming of Age ceremony. Two, I'll attempt to advance.” he said with a serious face while Anya looked at him worriedly but said nothing.


“Why do it here?”


“This is an old Element Shard mine that has been depleted for around 300 years, so nobody will come here and disturb us.”


“Are we… going down? It will be a long walk!” Ren said, looking down from the edge into the giant, man-made hole.


“No. I’ll go down after we finish with your ceremony.”


“Anyway, what is this ceremony? You never told me about it. I always just hear of this thing!”


“Here, hold this,” Xendar said as he put a Shard into Ren’s hands.


“Wha-” but her words were stuck in her throat because as soon as she touched the Shard, it started to vibrate, and the energy it transmitted into her hands was pure, undiluted, and precisely the same as the one behind the Sky.


She immediately recognized it and sat down to meditate while holding onto the Shard. While she guided the energy through her body, the so-called “bubbling” feeling in her veins became stronger and stronger, transforming into the sense of electricity running through her. At first, it was numbing and a little painful, but soon it eased and became natural as if it was always a part of her.


I see… so somehow the pure energy from back then crystallized. It stimulates my constitution, awakening the dormant energy I inherited from my parents. No wonder I have the same affinity as Father. This must be hereditary. Then what about my mother's side?” she thought as she tried to feel the energy coursing in her, and soon a faint feeling of water trickling down her spine was felt. “Ahaha, it tickles. It’s faint, but it's there. Maybe I could cultivate it later. It won’t hurt to try.


“Did you feel it too?” Anya said, whispering to Xendar as they watched over their child


“Yes. It was faint, but it was there. She doesn’t disappoint!” Xendar grinned. “She has dual affinities! She inherited from both of us.”


“I wonder how strong she will be when she grows up.”


“Stronger than both of us added together. If not, I'll spank her!”


“You always say that, but you couldn’t lay a finger on her, ever~” Anya chuckled, hugging her husband’s waist.


“I could spank you; you think I wouldn't spank her?” he whispered into her ear.


“Meanie~”


Soon Ren finished meditating, and the Shard in her hand crumpled into fine dust while spewing out violet sparks as she stood up, a little dizzy.


“That was… awesome! I feel stronger already! Dad, do you have another?”


“Ahaha, easy there, my little champion! Why do you think I could hold it without any reaction? These only work once. Those who went through it can never do the same again; that's why this is an important part of every cultivator’s journey. Usually, when you start refining your body, you have your Coming of Age ceremony and make it into an event to show the world your talent… but you are an oddball Ren, doing things backward and ahead of time.”


“Fufufu, I'm just too good! Ouch! Moooom!” Ren moaned while holding her forehead, which received a hard flick.


“You little imp! Keep your ego in check!”


“Well, we are done with the easy part. Now comes the hard one.” Xendar stretched, and from nowhere, Hal showed up, holding black armor pieces, and helped Xendar put them on.


“Uncle Hal? When did you get here?”


“I have always been here.”


“Hal, I'll defend the perimeter for you.”


“Just leave it to me, My Lord.”


Anya stood before his husband and gave him a slow, long kiss, not saying anything, only smiling at him before she stepped back, holding Ren’s hand as they distanced themself. Xendar, after wearing his heavy armor, now looking more like a giant war machine than a man, jumped into the air, and his body was cackling with purple lightning bolts.


Suddenly the sky started to darken, and looking up, Ren’s eyes became serious as her pupils shrank to the size of a tip of a needle. They could see a faint scar…but Ren knew it was the Tear in the Sky. Even though it was mended now, it looked like a transparent, old scar that had healed poorly.


Xendar’s body suddenly resonated with the Tear as he was suspended above the mine. Hal’s energy vibrated out, and soon the earth moved and erected a giant wall, shielding them from the energy burst coming out of Xendar’s body that was now suspended in the air.


“Woah, Uncle Hal is a Harmony expert?”


“Please don’t call me an expert, Young Lady. I harmonized with my body after only five refinements. I couldn't advance further and risk challenging more than five strikes. That's why I’m still inferior to your Father.”


That was when the first lightning bolt struck down. It carried the air of pure energy with it, blasting Xendar downwards to the mine, while Hal’s earth wall diverted the impact that rumbled outwards. Before Anya could scream out, Xendar’s figure rose back up, and he roared and punched out, meeting the second lightning bolt but was once again sent downwards.


“Don’t worry, Mom,” Ren said, holding her mother’s hands. “It’s my Dad; he’s going to be fine! This is nothing!” she giggled to ease her mother’s anxiety, but deep inside, she was astonished. The power each bolt brought down from the Tear was filled with tremendous energy that would tear apart an average person’s body even before it reached them.


This tribulation reminds me of the old days when someone ascended to the demigod status… what the… how can this be so strong? This could turn out really bad!


“Don’t worry, My Lady, as the Young Lady said, the Lord will be alright. He finished refining his body for the 9th time in a long time! This was inevitable, and now that the Young Miss has stepped forward, he can’t delay it anymore.” Hal said, renewing the earth walls as Xendar’s figure flew back up, meeting the next thunderbolt, and the shockwave tore out chunks of Hal’s defense once again...


His armor was cracked, and some parts fell off and stayed at the bottom of the mine. But every time he was sent down to hell, he rose back up, roaring at the sky, not yielding. The wind was howling, and the scar in the Sky was like a wound that oozed out the lightning bolts, striking Xendar’s figure repeatedly. He was gritting his teeth every time he was hammered backward by the force of the bolts, but he knew if he stayed down and did not focus on guiding the energy that entered his body every time a lightning bolt struck, he was going to explode and die on the spot. No matter how much it hurt or how tired he felt, if he even stopped for a second, it meant death.


When the final, ninth lightning strike fell on him, he didn’t fall back but stayed floating above the mine, taking in deep breaths as the sky cleared and the Tear slowly vanished from the morning sky.


His armor was falling off of him, piece by piece, revealing his slightly burnt hair and injured skin on his naked torso. Xendar slowly descended, landing on the precipice of the mine, taking some shaky, small steps but soon he stabilized his footing and the burned patches of skin on his body started to heal up visibly. The aura radiating off of him was tremendous, and thundering noises followed every flexing of his muscles.


“Congratulations, My Lord.” Hal bowed, sweating all over and looking just as exhausted, keeping the wall up for so long.


“I’ve succeeded!” Xendar shouted, letting out a long sigh, releasing all the leftover anxiety, and that was when Anya landed on him, bursting into tears. “Ahaha, don’t cry, don’t cry; I told you everything is going to be okay!”


“Congratulations, Father!” Ren grinned, looking at them with sparkling eyes. “I can’t wait to do that too!”


“Oh, you! Yes, you can! Don’t even dream of rushing it!”


“I won’t, I won’t!” the little girl promised, and soon both of them were laughing happily while the sun’s first morning rays shone on them.


….

…..


“You need to work harder.” The voice of Aerthus IX came from one of the meditation rooms in the palace.


“Yes, father,” Leinor replied, who was kneeling before him, half-naked, sweating from exhaustion.


“Take a little break, wash up and eat breakfast! After that, continue meditating and try to control the energy.”


“I’ll work hard.”


“You should. Your fiancé is already ahead of you and not by a small amount.”


“I can’t compare to her Father,” Leinor whispered as Dermitos mentioned Ren. He looked mesmerized by simply remembering the scene where she was laughing and fighting.


“Don’t sell yourself short! You are my son. You have the potential to catch up. But until you successfully start cultivating, you can’t meet her.”


“But-”


“No buts! I won’t let my son be the submissive one. You need to have strength if you wish to stand on equal footing. So work hard!” he said laughingly before leaving.


“Father is right… I can't be a burden to her!” Leinor murmured and went back to meditating immediately, fired up to succeed even before what the Emperor hoped so.


….

…..


Two years flashed by, and the news that Xendar reached the Harmony Realm never spread far. Only key officials and officers knew about it. What did spread around instead was the rumor of his daughter’s skills, but most of the people just rolled their eyes as it was too wild to believe that a five-year-old could cultivate. They took it as spreading false rumors because of what happened with the fourth Prince and because others were not too keen on seeing the affection between the royal and the General’s family.


Around a year after the rumors started spreading, the palace announced that the fourth Prince, aged 9, stepped on the road of cultivation and had his Coming of Age ceremony. It was a celebratory week in the Empire as it was a public event witnessed by half of the Capital. When the young Prince saw Ren again, sitting with her parents on the guest podium, his heart started to flutter again, and he felt even more nervous that she was there, witnessing his ceremony. When their eyes met during the event, it seemed she was smiling at him, which made Leinor even more confident to work harder. After another year, he finally completed the first refinement of his legs, subconsciously following the pattern Ren showed. When he received his father’s praise, he couldn’t be happier, feeling proud of his achievement.


“Congratulations, Leinor!” came a voice from a jade crystal.


“Thank you, Eldest Brother! When will you come back? I miss you!”


“Ahaha, I would like to return, but sadly I can't. For the past few years, we have had more and more small skirmishes against the demon folk in the northern forests. If this keeps up, we will have to mobilize the full force of the military to prepare for another war. I hope it won’t happen, but until then, your brothers and I can’t come back. We have our duty here.”


“If I reach the second refinement, I may be sent out to help you. That would be great!”


“Woah, Woah, kid, slow it down. We heard you are a pretty fast learner, but no. Even if you do, you would still be too young! Stay home and practice. Your time will come. You don’t want to rush into the battlefield! War is not like in the stories told by bards. It’s brutal, messy, and deadly. There is no romance on the battlefield, only misery.”


“Y-yes brother…” he said with a sheepish voice.


“Ahaha, don’t feel down; I know you want to help. You are a good boy, Leinor. I’m happy to be your elder brother. Anyway! Tell me, are the rumors true about your little fiance?”


“Yes! She is so awesome! You should have seen her!”


“Oh? So tell me, how are things between you two?”


“Ah. Um…”


“You never even spoke to her yet, I assume.”


“Yes…” Leinor whispered.


“Thought so. You should go out sometimes to play, and you are close in age, it could be fun! Anyway, both of you are still kids, so why not visit the General’s family? You should enjoy your childhood while you can!”


“Oh, that's a good idea, brother!”


“Don’t tell me you never thought of it? Geez… Where are your thoughts?”


“On improving. Father always makes me train all day!”


“No wonder. Do what I told you and say hello to General Xendar in my name, okay?”


“Will do, brother!”


“Good. Be a good boy now, Leinor. We will speak again.”


“Stay safe, Brother!”


As soon as they finished, the voice projecting crystal slowly crumbled to dust, and Leinor sighed softly, still missing his siblings. Still, soon he shook his head and stood up with a resolution in his eyes and rushed out of his room to ask his father to arrange a carriage for tomorrow as he wished to visit General Xendar’s mansion.