Chapter 132:

Mermaid Village

Mad God


It was an early morning and the sky was still dark as gray clouds were converging above the Immortal Wonders Sect. Ariana just stopped her meditation and walked out front the Sect’s Cultivation Tower. Most of the disciples were only now starting to wake up or finish their own sessions as the new day slowly arrived.


“Chilly.” She whispered, looking around, rubbing her fingers together. As she finished, right on time, it slowly started to snow from above.


“Mornin’!” Toobu yawned, noticing her as he was still fighting with himself just to stay awake.


“Oh? Up so early? What gives?” Ariana teased him with a smile.


“Mission… we just got back with Wyland! He went straight to sleep, I still had to make my report. But I’m on my way to knock myself out for two days at least!” Toobu yawned again.


“Another one? This was… the 17th mission of yours in a row this year, no? A new record!”


“Yep.” He nodded, rubbing his neck. “In the past 8 years we were pushed really hard! It shows who trained our Master…” Toobu moaned quietly as Leinor was just as demanding as Ren could be.


“But it also shows your progress!” Ariana countered. “You are already at the 8th stage, no? Wyland also rose to the… 6th?”


“7th.” Toobu chuckled. “That is why neither I nor Wyland dare to complain. Outside of the sect, I would need at least 70 years to reach this stage! Yet only a decade had passed since I joined. Scary if you think about it. What about you?”


“I just finished consolidating my 6th stage. I think I am slowly getting ready to step onto the next level.”


“Yeah, sure!” Toobu said as he rolled his eyes. “I heard the previous time Aunt Ren pitted you against Elder Lulu, after she reached Harmony. I know no other 6th stage cultivators who could survive 3 minutes against someone in the Harmony realm.”


“She held back. A lot. Also, it was as you say, surviving! I thought I was going to die! Please… don’t bring it up anymore!” Ariana moaned, holding her head, remembering the painful memories from two years ago.


“Speaking of… what about Elder Yanda? Is he back?”


“No. Master said he may not even be back when the competition starts. He is looking for his maternal family.” Ariana answered as they started to walk towards their homes. “Senior Sister also left the sect. She is going after Senior Brother. As soon as she caught up in cultivation she was gone. I am the only one left under Master.” She smiled softly.


“I heard you almost got a junior brother!” Toobu grinned, looking down at her.


“Almost. But Master refused, saying she couldn’t be strict enough with her brother.” She giggled happily. “Valen was taken in by Elder Xendar.”


“Everybody knew this was going to happen. I heard some Outer Disciples gossiping about it.” He shook his head. “Some guys are bitter to be still stuck amongst them and still not advanced after a decade. I can’t say anything just this; it is their own fault! There are even Inner Disciples who are close to reaching Harmony in the next ten years or so! Like Slyvett or Kirch. Also, you are the best example for them! Yet they say you used a backdoor.”


“They are half-right. Someone wrote my name for the competition, without my permission, if I remember correctly.” She glanced at him from the corner of her eyes.


“You’re welcome.” Toobu laughed , patting her back. “Geez, already a woman with a sharp tongue. Just look at you!”


“Am I?” She blinked her eyes with surprise. She was looking down at herself and she realized, it really was true. 8 years passed since she came under Ren and she blossomed into a beautiful, young woman by now. “Time passes really quickly…” She murmured, as for her it was as if it were only yesterday, when she joined the Sect.


“It does. Still, we have two more years before it is competition time! We need to give our best because I heard our Masters talking about Sect Head’s plans. We are going to have another mass accepting of disciples after it is concluded. Regardless of the results.”


“Maybe it will give a boost to those who slack off.” Ariana wondered.


“Or maybe they will finally leave.” Toobu shrugged. “They are just eating up resources and complaining, only reaching the minimal requirements every time. Heh, last year I had the pleasantries of dismissing a dozen disciples who failed to show any progress through the years! Man, that entitled attitude they had! I couldn’t believe what I was hearing!”


“Won’t they leak Master’s cultivation method?” Ariana asked as she raised her eyebrows. She was usually ignorant to things like this as she was solely focusing on her own cultivation.


“Aunt Ren’s cultivation method for the body refinement realm is already a widely known thing. The Empire itself uses it, especially in the military. But good luck having the same results as here! In the sect you can get resources and guidance from the one who came up with it directly. Nothing beats that.”


“I see…” She wanted to say something but flinched a little. She hurriedly cupped her hands towards Toobu. “Sorry, Master called me.”


“No problem!” He patted her shoulder. “We are going to talk later!” He said his goodbyes as Ariana rushed off.


After leaving, she hurriedly arrived at the Artifact Hall where her Master was spending most of her time in the past years, if not teaching her. Walking up to the second floor, Ren was standing beside a giant table that had a 4 meter wide metal plate placed on it. Half of it was already etched, filled with runes, numbering in the thousands, while the other half was still polished and clean.


“Damn… this also won’t work…” Ren groaned, comparing different notes as how to continue the work on it and to not mess up the included formula. She was supposed to embed it onto the disk but to follow the instructions she had to understand it first. “Tsk, Ophy, Ophy, you really fucked me over this time… You know I am not good with math yet you throw me a curveball here…” She murmured in a low voice and Ariana could only pick out her dissatisfied grumbling.


“I am here, Master.” She bowed. “Who is Ophy?”


“An immortal who came up with this teleportation formation.” She sighed, putting the papers down, turning towards her disciple. “Honestly, I am stuck. I need to air my head out! I only finished with half of it and it took all of My, my Father’s, my Mother’s, the Sect Head’s and Leinor’s brainpower to do so. And it took YEAAAARS!” She patted her own face with a tired expression. “Anyway, this is not why I called you.” She leaned against the table. “Get ready, by night, we are going to leave the Sect.”


“Yes, Master. Where are we going?”


“To the Calm Blue.” Ren explained, walking away from the table, escorting her down from the second floor. “I got a message from Yanda, he found a tribe of mermaids but… there is a slight complication.”


“Oh? What?” She tilted her head, intrigued by what she was hearing.


“They are keeping your Senior Sister hostage and also demanding Yanda to commit ritual suicide to absolve his mother’s sins.”


“What?!” Arian yelped as she stumbled forward, almost falling off of the stairs, as it was not something she expected. “Are they okay?”


“Yeah…” Ren said, twitching her mouth. “For now neither Yanda nor Lulu want to start a massacre. They are trying to defuse the situation but they are stuck so they asked me for help. Lulu is being ‘held’ by their tribe leader while Yanda is kept by their priests.”


“We need to hurry, Master!” Ariana spoke up with clear worry in her voice.


“Relax. They are not in danger! The tribe itself is weak, compared to them. They could fight their way out. They just want to avoid needless bloodshed.”


“Oh.. that is… good!” She nodded, calming down a little. “But I thought Senior Brother would be… angry. Because of his mom.”


“He probably is. But he knows what he should and should not do. He got his answers about his mother and her past. About the events leading up to her demise and as hard as it is for him… he is not willing to pursue it any further.”


“What… happened?”


“It is not my place to tell you about it. You can ask him yourself. For now, get ready because we are going to leave when the sun sets.”


….

…..


The Calm Blue. The giant ocean in the south. It spreads out towards the horizon in an endless manner. Its deeper regions are a place from where no ships ever returned. No matter how many have set out to explore it. Maybe they lost themselves out in the endless waters or storms got them, or maybe demons who live down in the deep. A few kilometers away from the shore, where if a cultivator would hover in the air, he could still see the continent but only as a thin line, a demonic village could be found underwater. Below the ocean’s surface lies a long and populated coral reef, filled with colorful buildings, resembling a sunken city. Hundreds of fishes and other creatures found their homes here, not to mention the ruling tribe, the mermaids.


Between the multiple houses, carved into the corals themselves, there is a blocky, black rectangle. It was clearly repurposed from a sunken ship to serve as a prison. It was the home of Lulu for the past week. She was meditating calmly in the middle of her cell, sitting down with crossed legs, ignoring everything else around her. It painted a strange picture as the water around the room was pushed back, making it completely dry. Breathable air was constantly pumped inside as two mermaids were floating at the door, maintaining her little air bubble with their own strengths. There were no bars on her window or even a door blocking her escape. It needed none of it as the water acted as a barrier against her attempts to escape.


“If everything goes right, Master should be here by midnight.” Yanda’s voice arrived into her ears.


“Finally! I am getting really bored here, you know!” She replied, opening her eyes a little, watching the two mermaids who were standing guard with tridents in their hands. Their features, from the waist up, were clearly human-like. From the waist down, both of them had the body of a fish with fins at the end of it. One of them wore golden scales as clothes, snaking up and around his perfectly muscular body. His golden locks floated behind him in the water while his partner looked very similar, but with scales, glittering in a reddish, ruby-like hue. “You look better than these two macho-men that they assigned to guard me. I like the color blue more anyway.”


“Just wait for Master. Don’t do anything stupid.”


“Relax. I waited a month already! I can wait another day. How’s things at your end?” She asked.


“Nothing changed.” Yanda answered as he was floating inside a small room, with only one window. His whole body was covered in blue scales, breathing normally underwater. Looking outside of his window, he could see the prison Lulu was held inside. His prison was the village’s main temple. Outside of his small room were the massive, domed temple of the village, filled with ancient statues carved from stones, portraying different sea creatures, even mythical, monster-like ones. Some had the features of sharks or turtles while others resembled octopuses, drawing human ships into their abyss-like maws with their tentacles. “They are still adamant about it. Now that I have ‘returned’, I somehow must have disturbed the ‘Giant One’. He felt my arrival, at least that is what the Head Priest said. Whatever it may mean. They say I’ll need to sacrifice myself to it.”


“Religious nutjobs! I told you, we should’ve beaten up their priests and then left. You saw how they live! Complete brainwashing is their main motto! They are already preparing a young boy to the same fate that they tried to force on your mother!”


“I know… but we can’t fault them. They have been living like this for two thousand years.”


“We can’t? Oh, yes we can! I just did! Don’t you get it? They made your mother into a brainwashed sacrificial zealot! If not for her meeting with your father in their so-called ‘Pilgrimage to the Source’ that they force on their ‘Chosen’, she would have never realized what life is! Lucky for your father and for YOU that she was a caring and passionate woman! And lucky for her she could fall in love before her tragic fate.”


“I…” Yanda tried to say something but he fell silent in the end.


“They brainwashed her, Yanda. She believed that she must sacrifice herself. She would have done it if not for realizing she was pregnant with you! I thought you would be angry learning all this. Hell! I AM! Yet she was not even MY mother! You have been terrifyingly calm since the day you came here!”


“I can’t explain why.” Yanda sighed. “Something's not right with this place. I have a strange feeling, eating away at my soul.”


“What do you mean?” Lulu asked as her voice turned more serious in an instant.


“I… don’t know. It’s just a feeling. A feeling that they are right and what my mother did was… wrong? I can’t explain it to you.”


“...” Lulu stood up hearing him, alerting her guards. “Yanda, we are leaving. This place must have some effect on you! Is it maybe a spell? Or formation that affects those with demonic blood? Anyway, we are out! Now!”


“No! Please… we should wait for Master.” He answered hurriedly “Please!”


“...” Lulu was standing in place, grimacing with an annoyed face, stomping on the ground, before slowly sitting back down. “Okay. But I don’t like this, Yanda. Don’t fall asleep.” She said as her guards were floating there proudly, believing their presence had just thwarted an escape attempt from her.


“Okay…” came the soft, whispering answer as they waited for Ren’s arrival.