~ Chapter 10: Awareness ~
Alutras sneaked out through the widow of his room and skillfully jumped up on the rooftop of his house. With his parents asleep, he had no need to worry about them waking up too soon unless some drunkard mistook their front door for their own again.
I have about one week to find a good Soul Beast. Any more and my survival in the wilderness will be more than suspicious... Plus, I could miss Ryuciel's departure if I waste too much time. Yosh! No pressure! Alutras thought and punched his chest.
There was another reason for this time limit. With his current awakening level in the Art of Soul and Divine Energy Control, he wouldn't need to eat as often as non-practitioners did, but this didn't mean he could go on like that without any trouble. If he ended up sweating a lot, it was important that he would find a water source soon. As for food, it depended on his physical effort and amount of injuries he sustained. With just nine breakthroughs, Alutras was far from living without food or water. Even as Shengo, he still had to eat and drink from time to time.
Back when he was still traveling the world in his previous life, he did meet plenty of practitioners who believed they had managed to cut themselves from worldly needs, but in his belief this was nothing but utter foolishness. As long as one still possessed a flesh and bone body, they would still be subjected to worldly needs sooner or later. There were a lot of skinny masters who didn't eat for years and thought their bodies didn't require it anymore, but then they died because of slow acting starvation or blamed their own weakness on crippling aging.
Knowing this, Alutras decided it was best if he hunted down some wild boars or rabbits to fill his stomach if it came down to spending too much energy. Although he had yet to look at a map, he was confident in his sense and tracking skills. Finding a source of water wasn't going to be a problem either and if worse came to worse, he could just drink the blood of his prey as another source of liquid.
If everything went according to plan, then one week was more than enough to find the Soul Beast he needed.
Now, since I don't want these old fools in Waving Night City to sense my Divine Energy, I should head out of the city and use my Awareness to find the Soul Beast at a reasonable distance from this place. Alutras thought and then ran towards the outer wall by jumping over rooftops.
The place he was heading to was the nearby forest where the lumberjacks collected their wood.
As far as Alutras knew, to the North of the city was a dense forest teeming with monsters, to the South were the farming fields, to the East was a river that was used for field irrigation and drinking water collection, and to the West was another forest, but not as dense as the northern one. This forest was also used as a training field for young practitioners.
Getting out of the city was easy for the 4 years-old thanks to his Shroud skill. Having nine breakthroughs wasn't just for show when it came to Alutras. Fighting monsters and healing fast to the point of not getting sick at all were all things he could do. The problem right now wasn't his survival outside the city's walls but finding a Soul Beast powerful enough to aide him and then convincing it to help him. The young boy had to be very careful in regard to what beast to choose as not any could help him win a battle against the powerful Ryuciel. He also didn't know what Soul Beast she had or if she had any at all at this point.
If he never met the beautiful redhead, Alutras would have picked as his first Soul Beast a random one from the countless ones that could be found in the nearby wilderness of the Waving Night City. There were plenty of dayuks (dah you ks) and even brutish ogre gorillas. The problem with them was their strength. They were far too weak for what Alutras needed them. That was why he didn't even bother himself with taking out the monsters he came across while dashing through the forest.
Once he was at around 20 kilometers or so from the city, he stopped near a big tree.
This should be far enough. he thought.
With his eyes closed, he released an energy pulse around him through which he could feel the presence of other living beings as well as intimidate them through it. The practitioner of this time and age called this ability 'presence' or 'threat wave'. Alutras saw a few guards making use of it to subdue petty criminals who were weaker than them.
Now then! he thought and then sat down cross-legged on the grass.
In order to search for a suitable Soul Beast, he had to spread his 'awareness' over a wide area. The difference between 'awareness' and 'presence' was the energy emanated by the practitioner. 'Presence' was filled with the Divine Energy of the user and many practitioners used it as a way of identification and at times suppression of those who were weaker than them. It was the main tool those who stole energy through their master-disciple bond used.
On the other hand, 'awareness' meant connecting one's self to the Divine Energy of the Universe around them. This didn't come without a price, however. If one wanted to use 'awareness', they had to forsake all evil intentions and allow themselves to exist as mere observers, and the Universe could send them back to their bodies anytime it wished to. Thus, using this ability to inflict harm upon someone else was nearly impossible.
While this in itself was a powerful tool, an imitation of it could be acquired through 'presence' by expanding and thinning it out until it became barely noticeable.
The first type of 'awareness' was incredibly hard to master, especially by the current practitioners who followed a Dao path that caused their Divine Energy to have countless impurities within it. Then the range was limited to every individual's personal abilities, which could mean anywhere from an area of mere meters to one of thousands of kilometers.
The second type of 'awareness', the one achieved through precise 'presence' control, was limited only to one's own 'presence' range, which usually barely went past 1 kilometer, but it was far more precise and detailed than the first one.
Alutras could use both of them, but for finding this special Soul Beast of his, he needed a range of thousands of kilometers if possible, not just a few hundred meters. It would have been Divine Luck if the one he was looking for was not that far from the city, but then again, if there was one, it would have been impossible for him not to have heard any rumors about it.
Before he started, however, he made sure that the more powerful monsters weren't going to come close to him and disturb him. To clear the surrounding area, he charged his own 'presence' with a brutal murderous intent which spread for over 1 kilometer around him. Both critters and fiends ran away with their tail between their legs the moment they felt it. What they felt was no different than a savage hungry monster looking around for some tasty prey. Unable to fight against it, they had o chance but to flee if they cared for their lives. The same would apply to any wondering hunters, only a powerful practitioner with at least 9 breakthroughs like Alutras would be able to raise an eyebrow at it.
Once the nearby area was safe, he released his 'presence' and focused on his 'awareness'. The search parameters included in it were the following ones: a Soul Beast of the Legendary type, wild, not a Sacred Beast, and of at least 12 breakthroughs in terms of strength, and lastly it shouldn't be evil or chaotic evil.
Soul Beasts had a couple of categories. Common, Rare, Elite, Unique, and Legendary. It described how powerful they were and how many failed to capture this type. Common type usually indicated that in average of 1 out 5 practitioners failed to capture one, while the last type showed that it was nearly impossible to capture for most practitioners. In terms of strength, it was capable of erasing off the face of the map a city like Waving Night in a matter of hours.
The 'wild' description meant that this Soul Beast wasn't a pet or a harvest monster belonging to practitioner schools. Such creatures would have a mark or a brand on their body to identify them as such.
It was also important that it wasn't a Sacred Beast because those types acted as guardians for a settlement or were the Avatars of a God. Both cases meant a heap of trouble if by chance the Sacred Beast were to vanish. Ryuciel in her past life was such a Soul Beast, and as a result of capturing her, Shengo was chased for a while by angry masters, not that it mattered to him. If asked, he would simply say such a thing never happened because their efforts were that insignificant in his eyes.
Another important factor was the Soul Beast's personality. Like humans, most Soul Beasts had a personality and individuality of their own. This meant that how there were evil beasts there could be good ones too. In order for Alutras to be able to capture a powerful Soul Beast, it was of absolute importance that he could have a chance to communicate with it. If it turned out it was a psychopathic mass-murderer with a taste for blood, the only thing that would happen would be for Alutras to say his prayers.
Another reason for this was the fact that in the practice of using such a Soul Beast, there were high chances for an unaware practitioner to be taken over by the beast. Many refused to bond with strong Soul Beasts because of this very fact, but behind this fear laid the WAY this bonding took place. His method was a bit different than that of the majority of practitioners and even made it impossible for this 'taking over' event to happen.
'Awareness' did not grant him the ability to interact with what he saw, he could only watch. So, after sending out his request to the Universe around him, he simply waited for a reply. All he could do was gaze upon the ripples of energy in 'awareness' as they searched for his Soul Beast.
Although he could somehow see and sense everything in his near premises like a powerful god who gazed down on the mortal world, what was beyond was only a vast dark sea filled with white ripples of energy. He couldn't see how the terrain looked like 10 kilometers away from him, but if he focused on one of those ripples he could see the location of the Soul Beast the energy wave bounced off of and depending on the case even the beast itself.
In a few words, 'awareness' was a very precise radar.
White ripples meant the search parameters weren't fully met. There were bright white ones mixed among them as well. Those were the closest the Soul Beast got to what Alutras was searching for, but he was no fool to stop his search at those.
So, he waited... and waited... until a golden wave appeared among all the white ones, washing over them and making itself as clear as possible.
Opening his eyes, Alutras smirked and said “I found you!”
Without wasting even a single second, he fueled his body with Divine Energy and then rushed towards the point of origin of the golden echo. The Soul Beast was unknown to him at this point, but it fulfilled all of his requirements. It was of Legendary type, wild, not a Sacred Beast, with at least 12 breakthroughs achieved, and of neutral or good alignment.
Unfortunately, its location was nowhere near Waving Night City. The golden echo told Alutras that the Soul Beast he was looking for was in a cave that could be found at more than 1000 kilometers away from his current location.
Any other master would have given up, but not the stubborn Shengo. He rushed like a bee in that direction, ignoring all the monsters on the way and going around or over every pesky obstacle like a tree or boulder.
He ran as fast as the wind, past the forest, across the mountains, and through the seemingly endless plains. He ran more than a normal human could, more than a child his age should have. If not for his nine breakthroughs and impeccable Divine Energy control, he would have succumbed to fatigue long before he could have reached his destination.
To avoid detection, Alutras went around any type of settlement on his way, be it a simple village or a prosperous large city. He also made sure to avoid practitioner schools as well, because if they saw him running around like this, the masters over there would have seen him as the perfect disciple and ran after him to convince him to join their prestigious school. Of course, Alutras had no time for such foolishness. Every second he wasted could mean a chance to lose Ryuciel, and this was a chance he was not willing to take. He was aware that upon meeting the Soul Beast, he would most likely lose a few days negotiating with it, so he couldn't afford to lose any more on his way there.
Then, after two days of running, he finally reached his destination. He stopped at the entrance of a large cave and caught his breath. His muscles were burning from the effort and his breathing was haggard. Thanks to his Divine Energy control, he wasn't at the point where he would faint, but he was certain he would need at least a day of rest before attempting to start running again.
Then it came...
It echoed throughout the entire cave and was loud enough to force Alutras to cover his ears.
The ground shook and a gush of hot air washed over him. The next thing he felt was the crushing presence of the Legendary Soul Beast hidden within the depths of that cave. Despite his past experience and current strength, Alutras felt as though he stood in front of a titan ready to rip him apart with his bare hands.
“Guess he knows I'm here...” the 4 years-old boy said as he tried hard to stop himself from smirking from excitement. Meeting such a foe after such a long time riled up his old soul. “I shouldn't keep him waiting then...” he said.
Ending his words with an audible gulp and clenching his fists, Alutras stepped inside the den of the Legendary monster.
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