~ Chapter 12: The Legendary White Tiger (Part 1) ~
For a non-practitioner of the Art of Soul and Divine Energy Control to reach this cave hidden so deep within this dangerous forest was nearly impossible. Only through dumb luck and a blessing from the gods could a normal human stand a chance to do so, but once they reached it, the pressure of the beast that made it its den was going to stop their advancements.
Inside this dangerous and remote cave was a Soul Beast with enough strength to bring a city like Waving Night to its knees in less than a day.
Its glistening fur had a pattern of pure black stripes on an impeccable white background. His eyes were of a piercing clear-blue, which reflected a human-like intelligence grown and developed by the passing of time. Around this large beast, which was at least four meters tall standing on all fours and over twelve meters long from the tip of its tail to the tip of its snout, was a patch of grass that grew by feeding off the Soul Beast's Divine Energy.
In terms of pure strength, Alutras was outmatched and outclassed from many points of view. In fact, he didn't doubt that in this beast's eyes, he was only a snack, yet the boy was confident he wasn't a man-eater.
Soul Beasts who fed on human flesh were by no means few or rare. They were among the most dangerous ones out there, but what guaranteed Alutras that this White Tiger wasn't one of them was the state of the human remains he had found so far. Rather than having their meat stripped clean from their bones, they were left to rot and have Mother Nature claim them back little by little. On the other hand, the bones of the deer in the previous room had been clawed and gnawed until there was nothing left to pick off them.
The Legendary White Tiger definitely didn't shy away from the chance of eating meat, but he had his preferences, and humans were off the menu.
Now that Alutras understood this much, he had to be careful on how he proceeded with his talk. Man-eater or not, this beast wasn't called Legendary for nothing, and the human bones back there proved that others had tried to capture him and failed miserably.
Thinking back, Alutras did remove a ring and sword that he found on his way here. While he didn't know how the big feline would react, it would have been in his best interest to clear up any possible misunderstandings from the start. Being confused with a common thief and then dying like one would have hurt old Shengo's Ego like a poisonous spear.
As such, he raised his hand and politely greeted the imposing beast.
“Hello! How's it going?” said the boy with a big grin on his face.
Unfortunately, polite speech wasn't one of the things the young child had mastered in this lifetime, while in his past one, Shengo wasn't one known to exchange pleasantries with nobles. This, however, didn't mean he was unaware of how to behave with a noble or someone from the high class in general.
The reply he received from the Legendary White Tiger was a good one, if one could call it that. Instead of jumping on him to gobble him up in one go, or kill him by squashing him with his paw, the Soul Beast puffed a breath of hot air towards him.
Like being struck by a foul smelling hurricane, Alutras was pushed back a little and forced to hold his breath.
Blowing off someone who reached the Ninth Breakthrough isn't that easy, just please don't step on me! the boy prayed in his mind.
Once the wind had stopped, Alutras straightened his clothes and looked right back into the eyes of the Soul Beast.
Now let's see if I remember how to do this trick. he thought.
The trick in question was actually a skill he had come to master in his previous life as Shengo. It was part of his unique method of capturing a Soul Beast, which was safe and usually led to an astounding success. If mastered properly, it could easily lead him to being able to control as many Soul Beasts as he desired. It was also the main reason behind Shengo's unrestrained growth in the past.
Taking a deep breath, Alutras let the Divine Energy pour around his throat. He thought of the words he wished to speak, yet he didn't open his mouth. The energy was then sent to his soul and allowed to pass freely towards his target, the Legendary Soul Beast.
(Can you understand me now?) he asked.
The White Tiger was surprised to hear the young human's words echoing in his mind and was stumped as to how this was possible. Up until now, no practitioner, big or small, ever tried to communicate with him in any way or manner.
(Yes... but why?) the White Tiger asked.
(I will answer your question in a bit, but first allow me to introduce myself. My name is Alutras Zerun, and I am four years old!) he bowed and then showed him four fingers.
(You are but a mere cub. What are you doing here, little one?) he asked and stomped his right paw on the ground, lifting dust in the air all around him.
(Actually, I came from a city located at about 1000 kilometers away from here. And the reason for that is because I wanted to meet you, Great One!) he showed him a smile (But first allow me to remove from my person the items I collected within your den, as I do not wish to be confused with a mere thief.)
As he said this, he lined up on the ground the Enchanted Sword and the [Purse Ring]. He then made a respectful bow and pulled back from them.
The White Tiger cast a glance at them and then puffed a breath of hot air.
(Useless trinkets once owned by the foolish practitioners who tried to capture me. I thought all of them had been plundered by thieves and rats? I'm surprised to see that they missed a few.)
Listening to him, Alutras realized that he was talking about the items on the corpses gathered in the room near the entrance.
(They did actually... or they were destroyed by the passing of time.) he replied.
(Is that so?) the tiger said and then got up on all fours.
Like an overgrown cat, he began to stretch his body as if preparing to go on a hunt.
Seeing this, Alutras got a bad feeling. A chill ran down his spine, and he knew he had to say something quickly or the tiger would get the wrong idea.
(I showed you these items to prove that by no means I came here to plunder your den or to fight with you.)
(What? You're not here to fight?) the tiger asked tilting his head to the left (Then why are you here?)
(To ask you to be my friend and also my very first Soul Beast. I am in need of your power.) Alutras replied in an honest tone of voice.
(So you ARE here to fight me!) the tiger declared swaying his tail in the air.
(No! No! No! I would die before I could even have the chance to try! I'm not here to fight against you, honestly!) he quickly retorted.
(What? But I don't get it... You wish to make me your Soul Beast, but you don't wish to fight me? Do you think I would just willingly submit myself to be imprisoned and chained up like a slave inside you? Ha! I'm not a fool human cub! I know what you humans do to those like me!) he rebuked and got up on all fours.
With his front right paw, he struck the ground hard and let out a threatening growl.
(Of course not, Great One! Trying to subdue you or chain you up is definitely not something I wish for even if you did agree to it.) Alkelios said, trying to calm him down.
(I don't believe you. But here's a question for you, human cub. What reason do I have NOT to kill you right here where you stand?) the White Tiger released another menacing growl and showed his sharp white teeth.
(You are neither an Evil Soul Beast or a Chaotic one. I made sure to check before I came here. I may be in a young body, but this doesn't mean I am foolish and naive as one.) Alutras replied in a confident tone of voice while looking at the powerful creature before him right in the eyes.
A whole five minutes passed by without either of them breaking the silence. The White Tiger's aura was menacing and released a pressure through his presence which would have forced half of Waving Night's practitioners to fall on their knees trembling in fear, yet the 4 years old child before him had the courage and strength to stand tall, fully confident in his choice.
The one to break this stand off was the one who started it.
The White Tiger let out a loud laughter and then said (You have guts, cub! I'll give you that, but still, I have no intention of being your Soul Beast!) he scoffed and then returned to his sitting position.
(Well, I wasn't expecting to convince you right away, although that would have been a most welcomed outcome! Ohohoho!) Alutras laughed like an old man, which was rather unfitting for his current form.
The White Tiger puffed and then lowered his head on his paws, closing his eyes. He wasn't worried about the child attacking him by surprise. His power was vastly superior to his. If Alutras were to try anything like that, the mighty Soul Beast would have killed him in the blink of an eye.
Yet what the old creature couldn't understand was why did this child try so hard to get him?
Other practitioners wouldn't even bother to think that the White Tiger was an entity capable of intelligent thought. The simple fact that Alutras tried to talk with him first, to convince him with words, already meant a lot for the Soul Beast. This was why he believed he was trying too hard. After all, what self-respecting practitioner as powerful as the young boy would try to talk with a beast instead of conquering it through brute strength?
It might be because of the strength and courage I showed him, but I don't think he's seeing me as a mere child anymore. Yet, I don't think he'll ask me how I grew up to be so different from all those other practitioners he had met until now unless... unless I tell him myself... Alutras thought. “Fumu! That's what I'm going to do then!” he declared to himself, but the Soul Beast simply ignored him.
During his past life, Shengo had to deal with a lot of practitioners from the kind senile types to the vengeful bigots who cared nothing about who they hurt or killed. Just as he had to deal with so many of those fools, he also had to deal with many types of Soul Beasts. They each had their own personality and story as well as a reason to join him or not. Although many of their tales were similar, not all of them had a happy end.
Losing a friend, one's family, a lover, or being betrayed, all of these were traumas and wounds his Soul Beast carried with them, and Shengo did his best with helping them heal and recover. All of them received his attention, well... almost all of them, the dragoness was the only exception, but if he didn't do it, he would have never made that wish to the gods above.
Yet, in all of these stories, the law of trust was applied without fail.
In order for one to trust you, you had to first offer a sign of unconditional trust.
Thus, Alutras began to tell the White Tiger all sorts of stories about Waving Night City and even about Ryuciel. He was never asked to do something like this, but in his opinion, this was the best card he could play right now.
When he spoke about his family, he had a cheerful tone in his voice. When he spoke about the lovely redhead, he often fell silent. The White Tiger said nothing, he merely listened while pretending to sleep.
At the end of the day, Alutras asked him one more time to become his friend and help him out. He was rejected, but he didn't give up.
That night, the young child was finally able to take a moment of rest. He slept like a rock, peacefully and undisturbed on the patch of grass right next to the big feline.
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