Many times the sentry thought of stealing from Jaspen, but always hesitated. What if he was found out? Not only would the Alberdan Army would hold him accountable for possessing a treasure, the noble that gave Jaspen that technique could make quick work of him and his family. Such a noble was able to bypass the orders from higher up in the army command; it wouldn't be difficult to get rid of a single soldier.
So this sentry didn't steal from the old blacksmith, instead placing all his hopes on discovering any strangeness from Mona. All he could report, however, was that Mona seemed to sit in a lotus position, meditating. Not a single sign of Aura came from the young fellow's body.
This perplexed the guard, and added more anger to Ardor's gaze each time he reported. Sigh. How could a diseased mortal live so long? He MUST have a treasure! The guard told himself, or so he thought.
Yesterday at midnight, the guard waited for all of the prisoners in the dungeon to fall into slumber, then scanned every captive with his Aura. When he reached Jaspen's cell, he took special care, spreading his Aura to every bit of space in that room, and flowed it silently through their bodies. Nothing came up.
He thought about holding Mona hostage longer to further examine him, and perhaps find this rare item, but he later changed his mind. Bullying a mortal like Mona would bring him shame, especially if nothing came out in the end. Mona was an Aura Mortal level 0. Wouldn't he be seen as insane for assaulting Mona with his Aura Warrior rank strength without a just cause? No one would ever believe an Aura Mortal level 0 carried such a fabulous treasure, a treasure he couldn't use.
Besides, the Warden had plans for the diseased captive. Would he dare to step in the way of the Warden's schemes? He shivered at the thought of being tortured by the Warden, then his family being wiped out to the third degree. Such was the maximum punishment for insubordination.
Without any other choice, he was forced to endure another beating at Ardor's hands, just after he opened the door. This attack was more vicious; it seemed Ardor had not forgotten the bones he had broken the previous time, and reduced them to fragments once again.
His ribs broken once again and his four limbs, the sentry tried to cry. If he argued, he would only get a heavier beating from the head of the guards. It would be easier to stay silent and nurse his own wounds. Each rib bone that reconnected sent sharp pangs inside his body. Tears fell from his eyes as he trained in the Aura technique to heal his bruises and broken bones.
Ardor and the group entered the dungeon, lighting the torches inside along the way. Various other prisoners trembled at the sight of Ardor. He rarely came to the dungeons himself, unless he wanted to unleash his anger on one of the captives.
After two lefts and a right, Ardor stood in front of the cell that held Mona and Jaspen. His gaze focused on Mona, his rage building. As he opened the gate, the other 6 guards entered the cell, brandishing the Auric sigil to activate the Creation.
Mona opened his eyes at the feeling of the Creation on his arms and legs activating. He had just recently assaulted the blockage in his stomach with a strand of Aura, reducing the wall of the Mortal Curse to 3 inches in thickness. Sigh. I was so close.
Ardor came up to Mona, his gaze vicious. He didn't speak, but his eyes had no hint of kindness. Ardor gestured the guards to undo the chains and had Mona lifted by his arms. The Creations in Mona's wrists and ankles were on standby, watching for any sign of resistance.
Jaspen watched as Mona was taken from the dungeon cell. Before Mona left, he gestured a farewell as best as he could.
"Perhaps I will see Noble Aurum once more..." Jaspen enjoyed their week together. Although they didn't talk much, he felt the despair of isolation in the dungeons gradually disappear by staying with Mona.
The Alberdan soldiers emphasized the sense of loneliness in the dungeons. As the most unruly or the most important prisoners were placed here, the easiest way to make those human beings lose their will was to separate them into different cells. A group could avoid despair far longer than a single individual.
Coincidentally, the dungeons had one prisoner in each cell already, so Mona was placed with him. The simple conversations they had, along with the promise Mona made with him concerning his daughter, had gave him hope of being free once more. It would take Jaspen that much longer to fall to the Alberdan's desires.
Mona was carried by two guards on either side by his arms. His sight faced the dungeons as the guards took Mona up the stairs. When his gaze matched the sentry's eyes, he was confronted with a venomous glare. Have I done something without knowing?
Soon after, Mona was taken out of the building that led to the dungeons and into the courtyard. The sun was high in the air, and his eyes suffered to remain open. After living in the dungeon for a week, it was no surprise his eyes would have to readjust to the brightness all around him.
Two sets of gazes fell upon Mona, one malevolent, the other hoyous.
Taizen stared at the lone figure being held by his arms across the courtyard. A sinister arc crossed his face as his eyes glistened with a murderous intent. He's the reason I had to suffer on that bed. His smile grew more dangerous. I won't make a mistake this time.
As these thoughts floated through his mind, Taizen felt a limitless sense of power coming from his spine. It felt like he could destroy the cell bars and end Mona's life in merely a moment. Right where his injured vertebrae once was, a small set of circular runes flashed beneath his clothes. None of his cellmates noticed the dim light that rose and faded from beneath his skin.
Reithar looked to Mona, happiness pouring from his presence. His mood turned for the better at Mona's appearance. The Varlier brothers took notice as well, rising up from their shared bed as the guards came to Mona's cell.
Reithar, Mithal, an Aeron looked at Ardor with caution. They saw the head guard's eyes flicker with displeasure as he opened their cell door.
"Throw him in!" Ardor's voice was cold, without a trace of emotion.
Mona quickly felt as his back fell to the cell floor, sliding a few feet. The pain that came from his back was insignificant to when he first attempted to clear his Mortal Curse blockage. It faded in a moment.
The guards left with Ardor, their steps following a steady rhythm. Reithar stared at the backs of these men with deep hatred. This feeling gradually subsided as he saw Mona rise from the floor.
"Don't worry. I'm alright." Mona told Reithar, showing he didn't develop any bruises. Only then did Reithar's anger lessen a great deal.
"You survived." Aeron patted Mona on the back, grinning. How did he make it?
"Let me guess. Aura supplements." Mithal looked at Mona, examining the noble's body with his Aura. Not a single tissue or bone was dehydrated.
Mona thought for a while, then agreed with a nod. I can't tell them about the Bubble. At least, not yet. If such a life-preserving tool was discovered before they truly became allies, it could spell his death. He decided to hide it for now from the Varlier brothers. As for Reithar, he would tell him after they found a chance to talk alone. He trusted Reithar quite a bit.
Mithal sat there, thinking as Mona spoke with the other two about his days in the Thorn Dungeon. Could Aura be enough? Mithal understood Aura could fight off thirst and hunger, but the quality of Aura would have to be high to keep Mona alive to such an extent.
All the captives were largely at an Aura Mortal rank. The Varlier family itself had largely been captured alive, and their average levels were an Aura Mortal level 7. Being from near the capital, it could be said the strongest Aura practitioners on average would be Aura Mortals level 8. The chances of a higher ranking noble using their Aura to help a mortal survive in this prison were slim. Hmm.
In the end, he had to accept it as the truth. Not only was it difficult to prove there might be individuals in Darkthorn Prison with higher Aura ranks, it was harder to prove Mona didn't have other friends locked inside this prison as well. It wouldn't be surprising; he did make that promise.
Mona looked towards the three fellows, then carefully took out a piece of parchment from beneath his clothing. Written upon it were the nine verses of the Primal Fold technique in a dim dark blue ink. Mithal's eyes flickered with curiosity and a tinge of shock. Where did he get this Aura technique?
"I survived inside of the dungeons with the aid of a blacksmith named Jaspen. Simply put, he was given this technique by a traveling noble, who took his friends with him. This is the technique he gave Jaspen, and I later received, to train to an Aura Mortal level 10." Mona didn't worry about showing the Primal Fold technique to the Varlier brothers.
If they choose to train in it, it could earn Mona loyal allies throughout life, not on the basis of a promise. Also, he wanted the four of them to leave as quick as possible. If they could do that, maybe Mona and the others could earn their freedom more easily, and coordinate towards his grand goal of dealing with those that decided for Leafwind Kingdom to disappear.
Mithal's eyes were focused on the blue ink of the parchment, his breathing heavy.
"It's a-a-a Lord Ranked Aura technique." Mithal looked at the piece of paper, a hint of desire floating in his heart. It was the first time his self-control shook in a long time. Can this really be mine?
Reithar trembled at the thought of training such a technique. His gaze shifted from the paper to Mona and back. Who was his friend in the dungeons?
Aeron looked at the piece of paper, feeling an urge to take it from his brother's hands. A Lord-ranked technique. Even if it was incomplete, such a rarity was difficult to find in Leafwind without venturing into the Highlands.
His gaze faced Mona, confused. A Lord ranked technique? Isn't he insane? Such an item, yet this young noble treated it like it was pocket change. Aeron understood those that had such techniques and Arts would keep news about their ownership under control.
"I want each of you to study this technique as we prepare to leave. Memorize each verse. Afterwards I will dispose of it to prevent future trouble." Mona knew that carrying such an item would attract unwanted attention from the guards.
They didn't act against Jaspen because he had the back of a respected noble from the Alberdos Empire. Mona, on the other hand, had no one. Stealing the technique in the name of punishing a thief would be easy. And Mona would have to suffer for it.
Mithal and the others nodded. In Aura manipulators, the strength of the technique could greatly impact cultivation. This Lord ranked technique could easily cover their loss in levels. Also, each of them already trained in Arts that depended on the strength of the user's body.
An Aura manipulator could train in any number of Aura Techniques and Arts, but many would depend on their talent and circumstances to focus on a single technique and a few Arts at best. Each new technique and art may give more benefits, but it also meant a longer time was required to advance. One's life was limited, and few would switch or add new Aura techniques midway to their peak cultivation.
Luckily, Reithar and the Varlier brothers were young, remained in the Mortal rank, and had received a Lord-ranked technique. Such circumstances made up for what would have been consequences of changing their main technique. As one's rank in Aura rose, it became exponentially harder to switch over.
The three of them looked towards Mona, feeling gratitude and confusion. If he had such a technique, maybe it could heal his Mortal Curse. Did his giving of the technique mean that the Mortal Curse was able to fight against a Lord-ranked technique also? They inwardly sighed at Mona's predicament.
Mona replied back with a false smile. Telling them he could train in the technique would likely lead to questions of how he could do it. Although anyone could in theory train an Aura technique, refining Aura required open meridians. The Mortal Curse was a major disease that closed off meridians in the body. How could he train in Aura, then, if his meridians were blocked? Did he have an item that refined for him? He didn't want to face those questions.
The other three worked their hardest to memorize the technique as Mona took watch. If a guard came and noticed the parchment, the situation would become problematic.
The sun began to slowly descend, and guards began releasing prisoners for the distribution of meals. Mithal and Reithar had already learned the technique, with Aeron struggling to memorize past the 6th verse.
A guard began to approach their cell, opening each cell in their block before theirs. His steps grew more close, ringing in Aeron's ears. Mithal's face became grim with Reithar's. Aeron was taking to long.
Mona gestured for Aeron to get rid of the sheet, worry filling his eyes as his gaze shifted back to the guard two cells away. At this point, Aeron had learned by heart the 7th verse.
Just before the guard came to their cell, Aeron stuffed his mouth with the parchment, swallowing the coarse paper whole. Shock filled Reithar's eyes as he watched Aeron chew away and swallow the little bits. He...he ATE a Lord-ranked technique like it was bread and butter!
Mona couldn't help but smile at Aeron, while his brother Mithal sighed. As family, he knew about Aeron's odd sense of taste. He didn't think that Aeron would actually eat the technique. After all, Aeron could simply flush it down the latrines instead.
"Hehe..." Aeron looked at the others, a shameless smile across his face. At the last moment he ate the paper. I can't tell them it tasted great. I can't.
Mona patted Aeron on the head, chuckling with him. The guard in front of the gate open the door, slightly suspicious of their actions. He activated his sigil in preparation of escorting them to the courtyard.
On the ground, Taizen stared at Mona's group, his smile ever present. I can finally get revenge against them all. He couldn't wait to return Reithar the shame and pain he felt from losing to a lower leveled Aura cultivator. He couldn't wait to make Mona pay.
If it wasn't for that mortal, Heigler and the others would still fear me. His body had a few new bruises against his side and arm. Clearly, he and his cellmates were assaulted, leaving them no food to eat, no stew to drink. The rest of the inmates had banded and attacked him moments ago. His previous reputation among the captives reduced to nothing.
Starving, Taizen couldn't wait for the people who ruined his reputation in the courtyard to come down, and "donate" their food. Their payments were long overdue. The interest would be their lives.
A tinge of red Aura danced in his eyes. Above his spine, the runic circle became visible as a red marking. It became dark against his skin, a tattoo that gave off a murderous aura. Guards which sensed that feeling began to set up a perimeter. It was getting dangerous.
They...must...die. Taizen's muscles tensed, his breathing rate rapidly increasing. His thoughts grew more unstable as he recalled over and over the pain he felt once felt in his spine. The humiliation of his name. The constant starvation his friends had to face from no longer having him as a shield. Taizen felt he failed them. He couldn't let them suffer anymore.
By defeating Reithar he could assert his strength again. By killing Mona he could regain his self-esteem. His dominance over the other prison gangs. And guarantee his men don't go hungry another meal in the compound.
I won't let them live. Not today. Anger flickered in his eyes saturated by the red chaotic Aura. His thoughts focused on one thing. Revenge.