Chapter 60:

First Mission

Mad God


Back at the Sect, everyone was converging at the arena, where in the future, disciples could resolve their conflicts if the need arose or where the tournaments were going to be held. It could accommodate around 20 thousand people at once, and the arena itself could be customized by the likings of the Elders.

The seats were empty now, yet the three "guest stars" on the field gulped with nervousness, standing on the now slag field. Aerthus and the rest of the elders sat at the VIP podium while Ren stood behind her guests with a folded arm, smiling, watching their nervous backs.

"Don't worry, take it as a game," Ren said.

"What guarantees do we have that we can survive your… game?" their leader snorted, who went by the name Garth.

"I told you multiple times I can't help you if you don't believe me. Now relax. Okay, you go last, first you two… um…."

"Jess. He is my sworn brother Kafu."

"Mm. Sorry, I'm bad with names. You will have the first round; just use your full powers while fighting them, don't worry about holding back." Ren waved her hands.

"What if we injure them?" Garth asked.

"Then you can go free immediately." Ren laughed with confidence. "Sorry, I don't want to rub it under your nose, but you look down on them if you think this way. You may have advanced, but you're nothing but fakes." She shook her head, riling them up.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the arena, Isha was excitedly looking over, waiting for their opponents to make the first move.

"Try not to kill them." Zern patted her shoulder.

"I can hold back; it's going to be refreshing to fight against someone who is not you!"

"Sure." He rolled his eyes, but before Isha could laugh, their opponents stepped out.

Thanks to Ren's words, they were already determined to try to finish this as fast as possible and maybe really be released if they adhered to what Ren said. Their cooperation through the years was evident from their first move. Jess showcased his affinity with fire by immediately conjuring a fireball the size of a pumpkin and throwing it out. Kafu, precisely at the same time, released his own powers, which was a strong gale, hitting the fireball as it flew towards Isha and Zern, making it bloat in size and become unstable and violent as it whistled towards them.

"Leave it to me." Zern stepped forward, stomping on the ground, and with his third step, a few meters before him, an earth wall formed from nowhere, rising high, obstructing the incoming fireball's path.

When the fireball slammed into it, it immediately exploded, sending flames in all directions, but Zern's wall held out firmly, directing the blast sideways.

"They can do a pretty good combo attack, but I can do better!" Isha laughed as her arms lit up in flames, surprising their opponent. How someone at the body refinement realm was able to conjure spells?! "Oh? This new uniform kicks ass; it resists my fire and doesn't burn up! Hah, I don't need to always buy new ones~" She giggled in a surprised voice before focusing back on the fight.

As she punched out, the flames from her hands flew out, forming blazing fists in the air, with the size of their previous fireball heading towards Jess.

"They are weird!" Kafu gulped.

"Again, with the obvious! Up!" Jess shouted as they flew toward the sky, dodging the attack and taking advantage of their advanced realms.

"Oh? Do you think you are safe up there? Zern!" Isha laughed.

"Sure!"

Their teamwork was quick and flawless as Isha just started speaking while running forward; meanwhile, Zern was touching the ground and lifting it up, forming floating steps before Isha's feet, making her run literally, up the sky, straight towards them with exceptional speed. Flames danced around her voluptuous body; her red hair flowed behind her like a cape made of pure flames, releasing embers in the air.

"Fuck!" Jess groaned, quickly forming a shield that blocked the incoming kick from Isha, yet it made him gulp back a painful moan as that one attack almost shattered his defenses. "Go get the other! Cut her footing!"

"On it!" Kafu flew down while Isha focused on assaulting her enemy with close combat skills, empowered by her powers, spewing flaming outbursts sideways every time she landed a hit. In contrast, platforms flew under her feet from the ground, supporting her every move in the air.

"You are done for, boy!" Kafu arrived, slashing in the air with his arm, releasing a wind blade, but Zern's body turned metallic, letting out a ringing sound in the arena when the attack landed on him.

"You sure?" Zern smiled, looking up at him, suffering zero injuries. "Sorry buddy, I'm the best in my group when defending. I barely felt that."

While the battle was going on, Garth looked on nervously, realizing Ren was right; they underestimated them. As they split up, they were at a disadvantage, especially as Zern ignored Kafu's continuous attacks that bounced off of him like nothing.

"Disappointing." Ren sighed, shaking her head. "I hope you are stronger than those two… but I highly doubt it. I'll need to transfer my playthings over sooner than later; they can be the perfect training partners for them."

"W-what… are you talking about… wh-who are you all?"

"Mmm? We are the Immortal Wonders Sect. I am the head disciple, and those two are core disciples of the Sect. If you are not an experienced fighter and/or not someone who advanced when being above the sixth level of body refinement… then you have no chance of beating them, it seems." She murmured, scratching her chin with a thoughtful expression

"But… they are just… just body refinement cultivators!"

"Not "just." Your worldview is small and confined to a small imagination. You just peek through the cracks. This is what it means to be a body refinement cultivator."

"No… no… they must be in the harmony realm; they are using spells! Yes, that's the only logical explanation!"

"Heh… soon the world will change, and the likes of you who now call themselves experts will be ashamed to even cultivate. You'll see." Ren chuckled as Jess landed on the ground, slamming into it as his shield broke into flaming pieces. Standing up, he received a precise kick from Isha to the neck, almost breaking it, crashing back again, losing consciousness at impact.

Kafu was already feeling out of breath while Zern just looked at him, cracking his neck.

"Are you done? I still have some sore spots." but before Kafu could answer, he rushed at him, giving him a punch in the guts, making him gasp for air before his eyes rolled back, falling face forward.

"Great work." Leinor came up with a smile, checking on the two defeated opponents, touching their necks, transmitting some energies of his own, ensuring they won't suffer major injuries.

"Hardly. I'm honestly disappointed." Isha sulked, landing back on the ground.

"Wait until the Sect starts grooming disciples; just one or two geniuses pop up, and we will be left in the dust." Zern shook his head. "Both you and I have average talent; our only advantage is being under Ren's immediate guidance for years."

"Bootlicker." she rolled her eyes. "You still have a bias towards your master."

"Ahaha… Master for a day, Master for life." Zern joked while Leinor picked up the two, bringing them over to Ren.

"Are you ready?" his wife smiled at him while Garth was already in panic mode.

His worldview, someone being at the Harmony Realm and as accomplished in his life as him, he couldn't accept what he was seeing now. They were harmony realm experts, revered by others! This shouldn't be happening…

He was recruited by the Elroth family, one of the nine kingdoms, only under the Naulins in power. Their wealth, power, and influence rivaled every other family, and this region was entirely under their absolute rule, the Qun Kingdom being one of their puppet states. The Elroths had a family head who was at the 9th level when he advanced, a true powerhouse, having descendants who also advanced at the 7th or 8th level with dozens of weaker but still… harmony realm experts, including Garth. They were paid handsomely every month, living like nobles on their land, doing every task the family gave out to them, and when they announced themselves, everyone was awed by their presence.

But now, two body refinement cultivators defeated someone above their tier? How was this possible? This must be some trick… or the work of demons. That could be the only explanation for his fractured mind.

"You… You are not humans! You are demons! Coming to trick and consume us!" He screamed out as his hand was suddenly covered in a thick layer of ice, forming a blade, striking at Leinor from point-blank range.

His hand quickly made contact, and he could feel it as it sank deep into his chest while his icicle-like blade, replacing his hand, came out at his back, splattering red, hot blood behind him. It made the ice release pinkish water vapor, melting under the heat of Leinor's blood. Garth could feel his ice affinity melt inside him, slowly disappearing into nothing. His fingers were lodged into his ribcage, looking dumbfoundedly at Leinor's calm face.

"Pretty cold," Leinor said calmly, looking down at his wound and grabbing Garth's hand.

"That was a stupid move." Ren shook her head. "Now, I can't guarantee your survival." She sighed as Kafu and Jess regained consciousness, seeing and hearing what was happening before them.

"How.. can you still… be so calm! I punctured your lungs! You.. you should be ugh!" He groaned as he started to feel his energy drained, switching from a tingling sensation to an incredible speed, horrifying him and making him weak in mere seconds.

"Yeah, you did. So what?" Leinor tilted his head as the ice finally disappeared and slowly pulled his enemy's now thin, bone-like hand out of his chest, letting it heal before their eyes. "You should've aimed to cut off my head or something. This is hardly an injury I can't heal."

“You… you… are…” He stammered, but his body started to dry up like a mummy.

Jess and Kafu watched with dreadful eyes as Garth's hair turned white, falling out in patches. His skin was cracked and aged, and he soon looked like someone who went from 30 to 70 in a few blinks. He couldn't muster the strength to speak, but he realized what was happening and which famous bloodline was his enemy.

Leinor, in the end, let go of his hand, making the now ancient-looking Garth collapse with faded-looking eyes and fallen-out teeth, parched lips, gasping for air with much, much difficulty… but still alive.

"How was it?" Ren asked curiously, ignoring them completely.

"Not enough. It was still waaaay too fast. I couldn't control it yet, I wanted to only sap a little to make him weak, but I almost drained all of his life force."

"Don't worry, I'll lend you Yurik. He is stronger than these three combined. You can train on him!"

"You sure? What about-" He faltered, thinking about Anya.

"I'll speak with my mother." She patted his buttocks. "You are the first to ruin the uniform; nice job!"

"Tsk… thanks? I guess." Leinor laughed while on the VIP stands Carthus was watching on with conflicting emotion in his eyes, old nightmares flashing in the back of his mind.

"If he can moderate it, he can inherit my nickname from back when I was just starting out." Aerthus laughed.

"What was it?" Dermitos asked with interest.

"Cockroach. Every time I was stomped down, I came back."

"Ugh…" the others looked at him, not knowing whether to dare to laugh.

"Hehe, they were right; I survived many nasty events. With how he can siphon lifeforce, he could do so, too, with even more brutal injuries! Destroyed heart? Lungs? Even the brain? It would be an inconvenience only, especially if he advances. We may not have the best offense or defense, but we can survive longer than anyone." he laughed proudly, patting Carthus' shoulder. "You need to speak with him. You and Boursat have the most experience with this technique."

"Both of us swore an oath to never use it." Carthus sighed softly.

"Yes, but both of you fought with it and against it. I don't ask you to train in it again; I respect your oaths. But the kid needs guidance."

"I understand, Sect Head." Carthus nodded, taking it as an order from his forefather.

"Good." Aerthus smiled before announcing the end of the exhibition matches.


….
…..

"My Lord, the ruler of the Qun Kingdom, requests help." came in a butler, bringing a letter to the current family head of the Elroth's, Kaipan.

He was in his hillside villa where he usually enjoyed his favorite hobby, tending to grapes and making the best wine he could. From the outside, he looked like a run-of-the-mill, middle-aged man with short black hair, a short beard, and steel-colored eyes, usually wearing farming clothes or just a blue robe, like now.

"Mmm? What is it about?" He asked as he was having dinner, and if his butler dared to disturb him in the night, it must be something important.

"A few days ago, something happened… something I'm still in the process of verifying. It's too incredible to believe it at face value, My Lord." He sighed, explaining the letter about buildings appearing from nowhere with many flashes of lights and strange clothed people coming and going from there… to top it off, a flying boat. "The people we have at that border region went to scout out the strange phenomenon immediately but failed to report back." He placed the letter at the table that recounted everything

"This is too strange to be made up. Call up my son and the top three family retainers. We'll go and see what's going on! Meanwhile, block this information from the other Kingdoms and from the Naulins. If we can profit from this, I would hate to see others put their hands on it."

"I already did so, My Lord. But the other families will notice something happened as their spies failed to report back."

"That still gives us time!" He downed the wine from his cup, smacking his lips. "I heard the failure of the Naulin's envoys into the Empire. This also could be something the Empire does as retaliation! If this is the case, we can notify them, let those silvery-haired bastards deal with their own shit." he smiled, looking through the glass, falling silent for a moment, with a small smile.


….
…..

A few days earlier, they were assembling at the main hall again after the fight was over.

"I have the first mission for you," Aerthus spoke up, looking around them. "Feynor already started the nationwide selection in the Empire; he will round up 1000 talented individuals to be sent here and take my test to see who has the aptitude to join up."

"What kind of test will it be?"

"You'll see, I'll conduct it myself at first as it can only be done by someone at my level. The selection will take months on Feynor's end, so until then, I want you to scout for individual talents and spread the name of the Sect." Aerthus smiled happily. "First, I heard about the demonic village we helped establish and that there are some talented demons there, especially the one named Shaman. I want him to join the alchemy department."

"Ahaha, Master, I think he will be pretty excited about that!" Ren laughed.

"I hope so."

"Don't worry, I'll talk to him!" She slapped her flat chest.

"No. You'll have a different mission. For the demons, I'll send Poli, Reignar, and Zern with Elder Poli as the group's lead."

"Understood." Poli grinned but soon got a bucket of cold water from Aerthus, which spilled all over him.

"This will be a test. If you fail to lead, you will be demoted to Core Disciple."

"Understood." Poli gulped, now answering with a completely different tone.

"Ren, you will head to the Rorik Kingdom with Isha, meet with the royal family, explain what is going on and assure them of our support. Also, Lacuss is on his way, waiting for him, and after meeting up, you three, with you in the lead, tour the Kingdom's side."

"You are sending Ren into the Kingdom?" Xendar raised his eyebrows, quickly correcting himself. "Sect Head… this is… I don't know if this is a good idea."

"I agree," Anya answered, then even Carthus repeated it.

"You are over-worrying about this! She is an expert in strength and needs the experience to grow. The Kingdom is as big as the Empire but fractured inside. The different territories are ruled by different families, and the constant backstabbing and dancing around each other make it chaotic! Her looks, giving the air of someone from the Naulin family, is the best cover. Also… Do you think they are leaving the core region that often? They are busy playing the chess game of their masquerade." Aerthus smiled, shaking his head. "Your main objective is to tour the Elroth's territory, spread the Sect's name in between the people, and if you spot some talented youngsters, bring them back. You have two months."

"That's not much… but okay." Ren nodded excitedly.

"Good! Finally, Leinor, you stay back; you must train and prepare to advance. That's all. You can go and get ready; the Elders stay."

After the younger generation left, Aerthus once again looked over them with a smile. "Rumors are popping up in the Empire that Feynor is selling it out to the demons and whatnot! Probably the work of Rudrick or, at least, his idea. After we accept disciples who will be demon folk, these rumors may get more footing than they should. I want you to get ready for everything because they could use this and fan the flames, making some experts band together and trying to use them as fodder to see how deep our foundation is and test out what we are made of."

"It shouldn't pose a big threat with Sect Head at the helm." Dermitos thought out loudly.

"That would achieve nothing. What if I was gone? Or went to retreat to try to break through? So better to prepare yourselves! I want the outside world to remember, if they see our black and purple uniform, recognize it as the most prominent Sect in their known world that can take on anything!" He laughed before standing up while the others also showed a fired-up expression at his words. "Carthus and Boursat, you help Leinor get ready for his breakthrough. Meanwhile, I'll work on Ren's method to streamline it more and place it in the Sect's library. When the disciples come, everything must be ready to be used as the basis of our cultivation. Our Sect's members are going to stand their ground against someone from a higher level and be able to beat down multiple foes at the same level! I accept nothing less!"