Chapter 44:

Arrival

Mad God


The sun was high, bathing the sand dunes, painting the whole horizon with a bright, brownish color. The hot wind swept through, sweeping up the fine sand, making breathing hard, giving the feeling of inhaling air from a blacksmith's forge. The heat was unbearable; a mortal would dry out in mere hours.

A figure was flying through the air, wearing casual attire and a traveling robe. His blonde, wavy hair fluttered behind him as he enjoyed the traveling without difficulty or even a drop of sweat on his forehead.

"A few days, and I should be back, finally!" He sighed with a nostalgic voice as if it had been so long since he left his homeland. "I'm curious about how the children are doing." He smiled with a happy expression, with expectation in his eyes as he sped up, leaving behind sonic booms, blasting the sand dunes below him into bits while he flew across the Sky.

He was Aerthus, traveling through the Western Desert, slowly approaching the borders of the Empire he built almost two thousand years ago. His aura was nonexistent as nobody would perceive him, even if he stood behind them, utterly invisible to the senses, blending into his surroundings as if he was part of the world itself. Those in the know would immediately realize Aerthus was already at the last, third level of the Harmony realm.

While the first level consisted of Inner Harmony, gaining complete control of one's body, energy, and senses, sharpening it to the maximum, the second level held the name of Outer Harmony, which meant getting tuned with nature. One's elemental affinity would slowly attune with nature, and gaining control of its powers was the main focus of the second stage which stumped up to 80% of the cultivators who reached Harmony. They spent countless years, decades, and centuries exploring their own and nature's powers and how to synchronize with them. A lot of them never figured it out. The third level was what they called Perfect Harmony.

The cultivator not just attained complete control over his or her powers and harmonized them with the surrounding, elevating them to another level. Still, he also formed an entire cycle within itself and nature's energies. His body acts like part of the world, and the saying of moving mountains and summoning rain with a flip of a hand becomes real. From that point onward, the energies he or she has access to are limited only by the amount surrounding them, which means they virtually never run out of it. Those who reached this level also gained a unique sense they lacked before.

Thinking about his life, Aerthus slowly looked up at the Sky, where he saw the Tear that others could only focus on when somebody close by advanced. For over a hundred years now, every time he looked up, be it day or night, clear or stormy weather… it was always there, never obscured by anything, never to fade, always up above glowing in otherworldly colors, beautiful yet frightening. His unique sense made it visible at all times.

"The Mad God…" He murmured under his breath as his mentor's tale repeated in his mind, telling the story of the God who brought the change, the story of the catalyst of a new era, and the myth of the four Gods and their tyrannical crusade against anyone emerging from the mortal plane, onto theirs.

He was watching the Tear, mulling over his parting words given to him when Aerthus decided to come home.

"You are at the last step. Nobody can say how long it will take to finish it, Aerthus. You need to not cultivate anymore; it's about enlightenment! Nobody and no cultivation method can help you with that. You see the Tear Master left behind, patched by the four Tyrants in desperation! You reached Perfect Harmony; your body is in sync with the powers from it, changed to the body of a Demigod. What you need to advance now is not the body but your mind. Your soul needs to gain enlightenment… to what that is, only you will know. You will feel it, as my Master once said to me… it just clicks when you least expect it." the young looking man smiled in his memories, yet his words just confused him. "When that happens, you need to grab that chance and breakthrough because it won't come back! But be alert!" Aerthus felt like his mentor's words rang out again, with seriousness and a cold voice, next to his ears. "When you reach the level of Demigod, they will feel it! The four Tyrants will feel that another reached the threshold of being a true Immortal… the doorstep into Godhood! They will send their followers to you, trying to recruit you. Don't believe their honeyed words. Their followers walk an endless path, never to reach their promised goal…! So be ready. When you refuse their invitation, they will try many times, whispering promises, showing you powers you never knew, but they are false dreams only. Nobody can give you that; only you can attain it through your work." He felt a tap on his chest, just like when he pointed at Aerthus's heart back then. "It's your road; only you can walk it. If you follow another's path, you can only go as far as they let you follow them. It's hard, for many, straight impossible, Aerthus, but this is the only way. Never give up. Do not forget that."

"Yes…" Aerthus answered inside his head, while a smile crept up to his face, looking down from the Sky towards the Empire he built so many years ago. "It's only fun if you do it yourself."


….
…..

"Shaman?" Leinor asked, looking questioningly at him as he barged into their house while they were eating lunch, looking like he had been chased by dogs.

"She's here!"

"Who?" Leinor asked.

"She! Anyway, I'm not here!" He whispered, pulling in every curtain.

As they looked at each other, the first to realize it was Isha.

"Oh, the orangutans are here!" Isha said, holding back her laughter as she stood up while the others followed her.

The village welcomed the arriving newcomers as they all walked in slowly, greeting everyone. The orangutans looked around, admiring the houses, but their movements were particularly… slow. Their leader Pongo, seeing them coming out of one of the houses, walked towards them while getting her pipe out, as the rest of the apes were eyeing the small pond near the village.

"Yoooo… this place is niceeeee."

"Thanks." Leinor smiled, a bit uncomfortable "So… you came to join us? All the leaders are out-"

"I know; it's cooooool. They will be back sooooon."

"You saw It?" Isha asked, curious, raising her red eyebrows.

"Yeaaah. This place is saaaafe. Will be good here… big city, many people."

"Well, It's still not that big to be called a city." Poli sighed, looking around.

"Will be." Pongo grinned, looking at them, "You woooon't live here." She said as she pointed her pipe's end at them, "But sheeee will."

"She?" Leinor flinched.

"You'll seeeee." She stretched, dropping the topic, looking at the house behind them. "Eduuuuu! Wanna catch uuuuuup?"

"Edu?" The rest of the group asked, almost in a union, looking back, but no answer came from the house.

"Eh… he will." Pongo shrugged before turning around. "We like the water; it's coooool… we need houses there."

"We'll see what we can do." Leinor nodded, watching her leave, thinking about her words with a confused look.

"Don't mind it!" Zern sighed. "I still can't trust most of what they say as they constantly look high out of their minds. Let's wait until the others come back!"

"I agree," Shaman said. "Let them do what they want; if you keep them sober, they are worse."

"What do you mean… Edu?" Poli grinned but received a slap on the back of the head from him.

"Don't you call me that again! Anyway, they are brilliant. If they are off their pipes, their brains work at 110%. It drives them and everybody around them into madness. They overthink everything and want to do EVERYTHING to perfection." he sighed, looking at the orangutans walking around the village, checking out their new home.

"Why is it bad?"

"Here," he said as he drew one line onto the ground. "Is it straight?"

"I guess… yeah." Isha and the others nodded.

"For a sober Pongo, this would be trash of a straight line! They are obsessive. She would calculate the friction between the stick and the ground, the weight of the dirt it pulls out, etc., until she could draw a geometrically perfect, flat, straight line with one stroke. She wouldn't relax until she did it, even if it took a year. Do you get it now?"

"That sounds… unhealthy." Poli gulped.

"It is. When I first met them, most of the tribes were completely out of their mind. I helped them and found the perfect combination of drugs to tone down their minds to a functional level. I lived with them for around 60 years."

"What about this… seeing the future thing then? Did they have that?" Isha tilted her head.

"No… honestly, I don't know. It's some kind of… side effect? I never understood it either; it just… happens. Especially when they do a group smoking session. There are times when they come together and do it in perfect synchronization. It's a weird scene; you will see if you stay here long enough. But it always comes out with a prediction, and they were always right. 100%."

"Creepy." Zern chuckled.

"Yeah, that's why I left. Anyway, back to work! I still need to dissect a lot of bodies. There are a ton of great materials to be harvested!"

"I lost my appetite…." Isha murmured as Shaman laughed, leaving them alone while Leinor watched the orangutans gathering near the pond.

"She will live here…?" Leinor murmured under his breath, "Why… would she?"


….
…..

"Miss! Miss!" came the voice of Rem from the trees as Emi was sitting at the bottom of a giant oak tree while her scar was plastered with a paste of herbs, helping her recover, yet she was still feeling weak.

Looking at her face and skin, she clearly had a fever; her eyes were watery, and it was hard for her to focus. Hearing Rem's voice, her breathing sped up a little, especially after hearing her following words.

"My friends have come. I knew they would find me!" The happily smiling fairy arrived, but Emi's body stiffened up immediately.

She was expecting more fairies to arrive, yet Ren, Feynor, Kang, and Niji stepped out from the forest's shadows. She tried to get up but had no energy to move her limbs, so she just watched them arrive with a cold expression.

"Good." Ren nodded, seeing the weak foxgirl, showing a smirk on her face, looking into Emi's eyes. "It's what you deserve. Thank your ancestors bitch, because if you were in better condition, you would have to pay with your arm for my disciple's missing one."

"B-bitch? Big… Big Sis, don't call her that! She is injured badly! We need to help her!" Rem said, with a confused expression, flying back to Ren.

"That boy with the sword crippled himself," Emi answered, her voice as weak as a whisper.

"Yeah? Who was the one who attacked them and forced him to do it?!" Ren flared up while lightning flashed around the trees and up in the Sky. Her silvery hair was curling upwards from the electricity jumping all over her.

"Big Sis!" Rem gulped loudly, now really frightened.

"She attacked you." Feynor explained to Rem, "She almost killed the others, then kidnapped you."

"W-what?" She blinked her moist eyes surprisedly, looking back at Emi, but she said nothing, just looking at Ren, who was weighing on Emi with her aura. "Are… are they okay?"

"Poli lost an arm, but they are fine," Niji answered, making Rem's little face slightly fainter.

“Is… is it true… Miss?" She turned back with Tear filled eyes.

"She also-" but before Niji could tell her about the baboon attack, Ren raised her arm, stopping Niji from continuing.

"It is." Emi nodded, still taking on Ren's aura, but her wound started to tear back up, and blood dripped from her nose.

"W-why… They are my friends!" Rem sniffled.

"I thought you were kidnapped."

"Yeah, you assumed a lot of things. I guess you are used to listening to only one side." Ren snorted, drawing back her aura in the end, letting the violent crackings of lightning disappear.

"You humans-"

"Enough. Yes, humans, this and that. But we are not the same. There are different humans, and there are different demon folks. Or should we just group all of you under the same banner and come with swords and shields all the time, without compromise?"

"..."

"Enough. I am getting mad just looking at you! Kang, pick her up, and let's go!" Ren turned to the side.

"Sure." The gorilla nodded and came forward, easily grabbing the weak foxgirl.

"If you think you will make me talk… you are gravely mistaken. Just kill me."

"Kill you?" Ren looked at her with a deadpan expression, holding Rem, stroking her head as she sobbed silently, murmuring "sorry" all the time. "I considered it when I first saw my friends after you left. But I won't tarnish my Lil' Sis efforts of keeping you alive… and honestly..." As she walked past her, she said, "I don't give two shits about what you have to say." Ren spat in a freezing voice, leaving Rem and the others behind her.