~ Chapter 11: The secrets within the cave ~
The presence the Soul Beast gave off at the entrance to the cave was incredible, it could turn an average practitioner around, running for his life. It was no wonder that no big monsters or powerful beasts lurked around this place, and Alutras was starting to think the creature wasn't even trying to be intimidating. At this point, he was 100% sure the Soul Beast was at least 12 breakthroughs strong, but it wouldn't have come as a surprise to him if it went past 15 breakthroughs.
His past life self had noting to fear against such foes, but his current self lacked many of his abilities and strengths from back then. A weapon was also included among many other things. Being in the body of a young child didn't help either. Next to an average adult, he barely reached their waist, always having to look up in order to make eye contact with them.
Thus, even if through some twist of fate Alutras could win against someone who was at the same breakthrough as him or even a rank higher, a combat confrontation with a Legendary Soul Beast of not just one but several ranks higher than him was pure insanity. It was no less than suicide.
While he couldn't win them over through combat, he could use those strange things called 'words' many practitioners never used and attempt to negotiate with the beast as he would with a normal person. In fact, it was his one and only chance of succeeding in this endeavor.
The first thing Alutras noticed when he stepped within the cave was its sheer size. It was big enough to let even a bear three times the size of a regular one to pass through unhindered. This meant that the Soul Beast who made this place its lair was also of a considerable size.
The next thing he noticed was the giant claw marks on the walls and floor around him. One slash with those claws was all the beast would need in order to turn an adult man into sliced meat, while Alutras' current body was so small it could only take the role of 'Desert' or 'Appetizer'.
Keeping this two things in mind, the young boy proceeded deeper within the cave and made sure to cancel out his own presence as a sign of having peaceful intentions. One could never know what sort of action would trigger an aggressive response from a Soul Beast.
The cave appeared to be a natural one rather than a man-made or beast-made one, the lack of scratch marks or tools that had been used was a clear sign of this. Besides, there were numerous stalactites and stalagmites that needed centuries to form. The surface of the floor wasn't flat either, it was bumpy and covered with boulders and in some place deep cracks, but this sort of terrain was nothing for the young boy who ran more than 1000 kilometers on foot to reach this place. Although, to be fair, he hadn't yet recovered enough to consider crossing such a distance again.
What caught his attention though were the sword slash marks he spotted here and there, proof that numerous battles took place here. In the room at the entrance to the cave, however, there were no signs of human remains, not even so much as a single bone.
At the end of this room was a corridor that led deeper into the cave, but for a child the size of Alutras, it all appeared like one big shapeless room. He continued his search, and at some point, he noticed the path splitting in two. He could either continue forward or go to the left. There was no rush for now, and no apparent reason to choose the latter in the favor of the former.
It doesn't matter, does it? he thought and turned left.
After a short while, he arrived at another room, but this one was closed off at the other end. What made it different from the one at the entrance was the sheer amount of skeletal remains belonging to long dead practitioners who tried to take down the Soul Beast hidden inside.
Did a master lead all of his disciples inside? he wonder.
Back in his day and age, it wasn't such a rare sight to see the so-called masters of the Art of Divine Energy Control send out their disciple to weaken a foe much more powerful than them. Shengo had always been disgusted by such acts of cowardice and usually didn't hesitate to kill those fools in the end.
As he stepped within this room turned grave, Alutras noticed their broken weapons and shredded clothes. Nothing could be salvaged from their remains, not even a complete skeleton, but it was possible that looters with no intent to confront the Soul Beast made their way inside and stole what they could before running away.
This too was one of the many ways young practitioners could get hold of some decent items. After all, what were the dead supposed to do with items that could only be used by the living?
In the world of practitioners of the Soul and Divine Energy Control, the strong ruled over the weak, and they did not shy away from claiming anything those below them had of value or sparked their interest.
Alutras wasn't one who practiced such questionable morals, but if he encountered a dead body, he didn't mind taking what it had on it, especially if it could still be usable. Here, however, there was nothing else left to take.
After giving a silent prayer to the dead men and women found in this room, he returned to the point where the path split in two and proceeded through the other one.
The young boy soon reached another room, where the first thing to catch his attention were the countless bats that slept hanging upside down from the ceiling. Each and every one of them had a wingspan of at least 3 meters and a body big enough to see humans as potential prey. Such creatures fell in the category of monsters, but their presence here indicated the fact that they were either not part of the Soul Beast's diet or they were seen the same way humans did bugs. As long as they didn't bother the master of this cave, they could continue living on the ceiling.
These monsters could also act as a wall of defense against weak monsters and practitioners... Alutras thought of another possibility.
Still, there was another matter that had to be made clear: whether these monster bats were carnivores or herbivores. If they were the latter, then it was also possible the Soul Beast chose to ignore them or even use them as snacks between meals. After all, carnivores had the tendency of praying on herbivores not fellow carnivores. Only when there was a lack of food did they prey on other meat-eating beasts.
There was also another reason why Alutras pondered about their choice of meals. The herbivore bats tended to be territorial creatures, but as long he didn't wonder for too long in this room, they wouldn't be bothered to waste their energy to chase him out. They could also get used to him and not treat him as an enemy. If they were carnivores, however, he was prey and nothing else. Unfortunately, Shengo never bothered to learn the physical differences between the two or if they were omnivores as well.
As a practitioner, Alutras could use his powerful presence to intimidate the beasts and keep them from charging at him, but this could easily lead to a misunderstanding with the Soul Beast if it thought he was directing this presence at it. Any and all violent actions were off the table, but this didn't mean he was out of options.
Alright! Looks like I'll have to carefully sneak past them using Shroud. Alutras thought and then activated his skill.
Walking around carefully so he didn't make any noise, the young child made his way to the other side of the room. Just as he was about to leave, he noticed something shiny partially buried in the ground not far from where he stood.
Inside the cave, the light was scarce and the only source so far had been the small fluorescent mushrooms scattered all over the place. With his abilities, as long as there was a small source of light, Alutras could see perfectly well in the dark. This was the only reason he was able to spot the otherwise invisible glitter coming from the mysterious object.
Carefully, so as to not disturb the bats above him, the boy went to the object and dug it out.
It's a sword! he exclaimed in his mind.
Using his Divine Energy, he tried to see what type of enchant it had on it. Having stood there buried in the dirt for who knew how many years and didn't rust a bit was proof enough that it was no ordinary piece of steel.
By feeling the way the energy flowed within the item, he could determine how powerful the enchants were, while reading the reactions between his Divine Energy and that within it, he could determine what they did. After a quick check, he came to the conclusion that the sword had three enchants embedded within it: [Endurance]; [Sharpening]; and [Fire Aura].
The first one made sure the weapon was going to be deteriorated by things like rust or powerful impacts capable of easily chipping the blade. The second one greatly increased its cutting edge, to the point where it could even slash through a sheet of steel with ease. The last one was able to cover the blade of the sword in a fire and use it to burn the user's enemies. Those who had better control over fire could even use it to amplify their own abilities.
It doesn't have a mark or a crest on it, so it's neither the property of a practitioner family or of a school. So, finders keepers and looser weepers. he thought.
“SKREEE!” the sound of a bat that flapped its wings above him reminded Alutras that he wasn't exactly in a safe location.
Steadily and carefully he retreated out of the room and moved away from the entrance.
“Whew! That was close...” he said as he wiped his forehead.
Still, showing up at a negotiation with a weapon in hand isn't what I would call 'peaceful intentions'. I should make it clear when I meet the Soul Beast that I have no intention of fighting with it. he thought as made a few swings with the sword.
It was far too big for his small body, but once he grew up it would be just perfect.
With the sword in his hand, he moved to the next room, where there was no need to hide with his Shroud. He released his skill here and then began to look around the room, in the hope of spotting something useful or at least a clue about the Soul Beast he was about to be facing.
There were a lot more glowing mushrooms here, making it easy to see even for normal humans, but what caught his attention was the lone body of a dead practitioner. The cause of death was... well, a lack of a head on his shoulders.
Poor bastard was decapitated by the Soul Beast in one fell swoop! he thought as he approached the remains.
From the looks of things, the man didn't have time to take out his weapon or maybe the one Alutras was carrying was it. Either way, he wouldn't need one anymore. This body, however, was in a state which indicated at first glance that it might have died just a few weeks ago, but appearances could be deceiving in case of practitioners. There was still some remnants of Divine Energy inside this corpse.
Unlike normal human bodies, because of the impurities accumulated over time from ingesting pills to help with their training, a practitioner's body would end up degrading very slowly over time, so much that many of them turned into mummies without going through the actual mummification process.
Eight years? No... I think he died ten years ago... Alutras thought after he gave a quick check of the remains, but it was then when something caught his eye. Is that a... [Purse Ring]?! he nearly shouted in surprise.
Alutras carefully picked up the small jade ring that was on the pointing finger of the body's left hand. With a quick Divine Energy scan, he found out that it was a rather cheap one, but if he were to sell it, his family would be able to live like small nobles for a while. This, of course, if he understood its price market. For the old soul Shengo, the [Purse Ring] rather than a treasure was a useful tool that could come in handy in numerous ways.
It's not as big as the one I had in my past life... It's storage space is just of 18 cubic meters... rather small. I thought it would be of at least 250. Well, I can't expect to be that lucky! Let's see... This one has a few normal swords, an enchanted one, some clothes, money that's probably useless in Waving Night City, and a bunch of spoiled food and pills. I better toss those outside after I speak with the Soul Beast. he thought after he looked at the contents.
If he were to use the money in one of the nearby settlements, maybe he could have exchanged it for something useful, but he didn't consider he had the time for it. Since it didn't hold up that much space inside the ring, he didn't see a reason to get rid of it either. The food and pills, however, had to go.
There was nothing else worth taking from the body, so Alutras proceeded deeper within the cave. There was only one path to take for now, but he was prepared to encounter the Soul Beast at every corner he took.
The next room he entered was filled with the remains of dead deer. There were a bunch of insects too feasting on the leftover pieces of meat on the bones. If he were to look around, he would probably find some spiders praying on them as well as small rodents like rats.
Seeing this, Alutras knew that what he was looking at was the Soul Beast's meals. He approached the skull of a deer and poked it with the tip of his sword. A snake slithered away and then he lifted it up.
These are big teeth marks... The Soul Beast is definitely a carnivore, but it doesn't appear to like human meat... he thought as he looked back at the pile of remains.
The bones of the humans didn't have teeth marks on them, but there were claw marks.
Tossing the skull into the pile, he made his way to the next room.
The corridor leading to it was long but better lit than the previous ones, which meant there was another source of light there, a stronger one than glowing mushrooms. He could also feel he was getting close to the Soul Beast, its imposing presence didn't weaken at all ever since he entered the cave.
With a cautious step and his fists clenched, Alutras entered the room.
Right now it was nighttime outside, and the beautiful moon let its light shine through the big hole where the ceiling was supposed to be. Its rays fell from above, washing over the beautiful giant white tiger that laid at the center of the room, waiting for the intruder to show himself to him.
Surprised by this marvelous sight as well as happy to be able to meet such a powerful Soul Beast, Alutras had the appearance for a moment of any other innocent little kid.
“WOW! A Legendary White Tiger!” he exclaimed, to which the beast replied with a deafening roar.
Note from the author: Thank you for reading this chapter, I hope you enjoyed it! Oh, and be sure to check out my other stories too!
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