As Mona woke up, Jaspen watched Mona go through his routine arm lifts. He sighed, realizing that Mona would leave after this day. Although he hadn't spoken with Mona much, he still cared for this noble. Not including his Mortal Curse, Jaspen always felt that the youngest generation's prosperity would be most important. His age had reminded him that when he died, the way he led his life would impact especially those youths he met.
Jaspen smiled at Mona soon after. "Good morning, Noble Aurum. Are you well?" He kept his voice loud enough for Mona to hear, but low enough to not alert the guard stationed at the entrance.
"Good morning, Jaspen." Mona sat down in his area of the cell. His constant usage of Aura had, for the most part, kept away hunger and death by starvation. Whenever he absorbed that refined Aura, he felt he had the power to break trees into bits. Whatever the Bubble was, it was truly a lifesaver.
Mona returned kindness to Jaspen. Without this old man's generosity and care, perhaps he would already be dead.
Perhaps his friends above ground would be able to live, but never to escape the life as a war captive turned slave for the Alberdan people.
And perhaps that guard with the gash, Ardor, would be doing devilish things with his body. Didn't that man show anger at his living presence?
I need to find out what is happening above ground. Mona decided to ask Reithar and the others the next day. He had to find out what was so beneficial from a mortal noble dying.
"Noble Aurum, I wish to ask of you for a favor." Jaspen hesitated at first, but soon broke the silence.
Mona shifted his gaze back to Jasper, noticing the grief on his face. "Yes, Jasper. What is it?" For the Primal Fold technique and Jaspen's warm welcome, he felt it reasonable to hear him out.
"Do you remember...my daughter Anne?" Jaspen seemed on the point of releasing tears, his voice shuddering with each words.
"Yes?" Mona looked at Jaspen's figure, a tinge of sympathy beating in his heart. His shone with care as he moved closer to Jaspen.
"I...I wasn't able to...to bury...my daughter. I know where she should be. After the Alberdan soldiers had taken the women, they separated the elderly from those capable of bearing children into two separate wagons. The one with young women is going to a major city of Alberdos near the Ocean of Deifor." His voice was distinct in the cell, as he struggled to not cry.
"I wanted to ask you Noble Aurum. I'm old and can't travel much. At best I can become a blacksmith without rights as an Alberdan citizen. I won't be able to look for her. So, if you ever become free...can you ...take care of Anne for me?" Jaspen gazed back on Mona, his face full of sadness.
Mona sighed at Jaspen, sympathizing with him. He hesitated, then began to speak.
"Jaspen, that day I lost my father. My grandfather. My friends. My family. If I find her, consider it done." Mona's voice was resolute. He would do all for this old man if he had the chance. He understood firsthand the pain Jaspen was feeling.
"Thank you." Jaspen's eyes flickered with joy as he heard Mona agree to his request. He lost his wife and gained a daughter on the same day. She was his only family. And the last thing he wanted was her being unsafe. If she was dead, he at least wanted to be able to bury her. If not, he would want to see her happy. What parent wouldn't?
Mona sat back down into the lotus position, his legs crossed as he concentrated. In his hand was the Primal Fold technique, and he was working hard on the first verse.
All things are of primal beginnings; the beginning is the core of all. He read the verse continuously, hoping for insight into something that would carry him further. Sadly, that sense of enlightenment never came.
Mona was still an Aura Mortal level 0, a mere mortal at the bottom of all humankind. Unlike others in this level, however, he was able to train Aura. The problem was that he wasn't able to store it at all.
His Mortal Curse severely hindered his advancement. The blockages it made in his body were difficult to clear. His progress on the very first blockage was only about the thickness of 3 inches. He had about 5 more inches to go before he could store any Aura at all, let alone manipulate it.
His Mortal Curse created nine blockages in different areas of his body. One in each of his hands and feet, one in each of his knees and elbows, one in his stomach and another in his chest. Thus, to reach level 1 in Aura Mortal rank, he had to first clear the blockage in his stomach, neutralize any lingering effects of the disease there, then make full use of Aura to reach the first level.
Normal practitioners, if confronted with the Mortal Curse, would give up trying to train Aura from the painful backlash. Few knew that all diseases had a cure, and the Mortal Curse was no exception. Mona knew that with extremely pure Aura, one could quietly remove his handicap.
But based on his own physical examination, he realized that the blockages were thicker as one progressed. This meant he would have to spend longer time removing this illness every time he ascended. Even with increasing levels of control over Aura, this would still take some time.
Normal Aura practitioners could take several years at naturally training with the Aura in the earth. Although Mona had the Bubble treasure, his Mortal Curse meant it would take still some time to close the gap between him and his peers.
Better to take a step then to stand and watch. Mona worked quietly to concentrate Aura from the natural world, then had it refined inside of the Bubble. What returned was combined into visible strands and attacked the blockage in his gut. Even if it took several more years for him to advance, he understood dedication could allow him to outrank all those beloved geniuses.
A single thread of Aura the thickness of a person's finger rose in his body, charging at the blockage. It disappeared as it struck against the barrier, leaving a small depression that dark wall in his Aura meridians.
With continuing dedication, Mona was now able to control Aura strands as thick as his fingers, compared to strands as thin as spider webbing before. They did more damage to the walls then the thin strands, although they took more concentration to form.
Mona estimated that given his progress he should become a level 1 Aura Mortal in three days. In a normal situation, this would be considered terrible talent and laughed at.
Although training in Aura gave one more longevity, Aura training was more than following a technique. At times, it required insight and comprehension able to interpret a verse properly. Other times, it needed special items to work well. And still, at times one had to be lucky and fortunate enough.
Even a longer life was a limited one. No one, at least in the Madrag Continent, has been able to live forever. Such characters were either in the ancient past and died by other means, or refused to show themselves. Stories of such figures were available, but the techniques and Arts they practiced were legendary items, rare among rare.
As Mona continued to train in the Primal Fold technique, he wasn't able to get any benefits from reading the later lines. Everything had to be done in order for this technique, it seemed.
Jaspen watched Mona's dedication, praising the young noble. He had watched many nobles become arrogant and haughty from their upbringing, indulging in the luxuries of life. Those people were unable to understand just how bleak their lives really were. Ignorance was injustice, injustice covered in bliss.
Jaspen returned to his cell wall, remembering that Mona would leave the following day. He hoped Mona could at least find his daughter, maybe even take care of her. If that could be guaranteed, he didn't mind dying. Perhaps that thought gave him the will to not die in this prison.
Taizen awoke to his comrades, looking at their shocked faces. He didn't know why these "brothers" of his were so anxious. Their jaws had slackened since he got up from the bed and sat down. He wasn't bothered at first, until one of them had touched his back over and over where he had been injured.
"Are you sure it doesn't hurt?" One of them asked, his hands unable to stay away from tracing the region the scar once was.
"I'm telling you guys, it's gone. My injury is gone. Healed. Complete. I don't know how, but don't ask me. It's completely fixed." He explained, only for the three men gazes to become more odd.
The three had watched Taizen's body slump to the floor, his vertebrae through his skin, broken in pieces. When they brought him in to the cell, they saw how clean the vertebrae was broken. Not a single bone fragment was created, but the whole piece was shifted outward by an inch.
Using their own Aura, they were able to aid the body in returning the vertebrae back to its position, and reconnected any nerves. The bone, however, was broken into 13 different jagged pieces, all from the same point.
With even all their Aura, they could at best place the bone as it once was and watch a hideous scar form above it. The whole process was seen through Taizen face. He cringed at the whole process of Aura infusion, and didn't wake up.
Then the guards had ordered a check of the cell, and they knew that their cell was free of any forbidden items. Each of them trusted one another didn't hide anything, so thought it safe to allow the guards to check.
This only hurt their trust, as Ardor came out with a small box. Although it didn't seem much, they knew that the following week their servings of food would be far less as punishment. Taizen included.
So when Taizen got out of bed without a hint of having a crippling injury, they questioned reality as a whole. All of them had just returned from lunch in the courtyard, finding Taizen exercising on the cell floor. Each of them looked all over Taizen, trying to convince themselves Taizen was cured.
Only after seeing Taizen use his Control Art on all three of them did they finally stop their actions, and instead rejoiced. Who wouldn't be happy seeing an injured friend be healed.
"So how does it feel? Normal?" Another of the party asked, care flickering through his eyes.
"Other than this slight sense of warmth, I feel fine. Seriously. I'm ok. Besides..." Taizen's face revealed a malevolent smile.
"Who would return that fellow training the Archery Art the favor of injuring me?" Taizen's smile grew more evil, his hands clenched into fists.
The other three smiled similarly as well. If it wasn't for that attack, Taizen wouldn't have to endure those excruciating hours in bed, wincing every moment from the damage to his spine.
They all watched as the sun set and the moon rose.
Taizen looked into the distance at the cell Reithar and the others sat, talking away the night. His smile was frightening as he thought of tomorrow.
Just wait. Tomorrow you won't have to risk your life to fight me. Tomorrow, I'll help you die.
He felt a soothing pressure from his back, only increasing his desire. His desire to see the sun rise once more on this prison in the desert.
And see the child that harmed his life never dream of another day.