Volume I : The Flood
Chapter 10 – The First Time
The Ducians returned to their usual peaceful life after Maria left. Maybe the only change they felt was Amon becoming a qualified miner. But for Amon, the town he saw every day, the familiar streets, houses and the smoky air, became less and less appealing to him. He felt that it lacked something here. There was a vast empty part in his heart that he couldn’t describe. It was like something had been taken from him.
Amon always recalled the scene of the last day. He could not understand why she had done that. But he felt it was reasonable. In her room, their glowing eyes were burning each other. He’d put his hand on her chest and tried to kiss her hot lips, then a strange force had pushed him away.
It was not the first time he had come across that kind of power. It resembled the wave emitted when he opened the ore containing the Gods’ Tear with his hammer. Maria left the next day with Lord Drick. But in Amon’s eyes, it was like she wanted to get rid of some temptations from him — at least, Amon preferred to think of it that way, although he knew that it was impossible.
When he lay in bed alone in the quiet night, he gazed at the low ceiling, the blurry shadows and the dim light on the wall. Flashes here and then made him think about her. He even imagined what would happen if she had not pushed him away, and Lord Gabriel had not come in?
He was just fourteen and had no experiences to rely on for what would happen in that case. But when he thought about it, some part of his body hardened shamelessly and rose straight up, bringing him excitement and shame. Amon was stronger and more mature than his peers. He did not think he wanted something to happen with her, but he loved that feeling. He was frustrated and confused.
At last Amon came to a conclusion, what happened in that moment was not up to him at all. He sighed and went out to have a bath in the cold spring.
Somehow, for the very first time, he wished that the water in the cold spring could be colder, and penetrate his every pore so that he could calm down and find true peace. Fortunately, he didn’t lose his presence of mind and forget Crazy’Ole’s warning, and got out when a warm current started to circulate around his body. . He did a few body exercises for a while, and then sat down to quietly adjust his breath. He closed his eyes and listened to his blood flowing in the veins. He tried to experience and remember the feeling of opening all the pores till he felt that he could visualize his body in his mind and fully control it.
If his past experience held true, a warm and comfortable current would circulate and fill his body, filling him with calm. It would be a satisfaction that would make him moan, and a calm that would completely clear his mind. But tonight, it was different. There was a strange need that was quickly filling his body. The warm current quickly started to turn hotter, and rampage in his body. The cold spring before his eyes began to exude a palpitating scent — her smell.
Amon did not get the usual peace he wished for. After the sun rose, Amon decided to have a chat with Crazy’Ole. He was not the kind of person who loved to tell secrets to others. But holding such a secret to himself made him painful. He was just 14 and he absolutely trusted Crazy’Ole.
Amon did not tell him what happened that night. He just told him about his feelings when he went bathing in the cold spring. He looked at his toes after he finished the story, as if he had committed a crime.
Crazy’Ole was not surprised when he heard the story from Amon. He laughed and passed him a goblet of wine.
Amon shrank back, “I don’t drink wine.” Having a drunkard for a father, Amon had seen enough about the ugly behaviours one could have after drinking, and the disgust of wine had become his instinct.
Crazy’Ole smiled, “Not everybody gets drunk, my boy. You’ve grown up and should taste more new things in this world, such as wine.”
Crazy’Ole’s words were like a charm. Amon took a sip before he realized that he had taken the goblet. He tasted a strange pungent flavor. It was uncomfortably strong but seemed to be what he needed. He took a slug and let the pungent hot liquid enter his body through his throat.
Crazy’Ole filled the goblet with his jar and asked with an enigmatic smile, “You are frustrated. If you want an answer, then tell me all about it. Is it about the girl Maria? Don’t lie to me, boy. I told you that you’ve grown up.”
Amon was surprised and flushed. He asked, “What do you know? How?……” He tried to cover it up with another slug of wine.
Crazy’Ole filled his goblet again and shrugged, “That is my thing. And it is up to you to tell me or not. Don’t forget it’s you who came to me looking for an answer.”
It was the first time Amon drank wine and Crazy’Ole’s wine was strong. He got slightly tipsy and confided all his troubles. He looked at the goblet and asked, “Is what I did shameful?”
Crazy’Ole laughed loudly as his matted beard trembled. “What’s shameful in that? Seems you love her and that’s human nature! …… But looking at you now, you seem to be having a devil’s temptation. ”
“No! Maria is not a devil!” Amon turned up his head and expressed his disapproval.
Crazy’Ole stopped smiling and shook his head, “You misunderstand. Maria is not the devil. The devil is in your heart.”
“What? What devil?” Amon was shocked. As far as he knew, devils were the symbol of sin in the legends. They were detested and killed by the gods.
Crazy’Ole explained with patience, “You misunderstand again. The devil I’m talking about is not that kind of devil. It is the impulse in your heart. This devil hides in your mind and soul. If you get lost in this impulse, the devil will occupy your heart and you lose your soul. It is called indulgement. It is one of the tests mages face in learning and practicing magic.”
“But I’m not a mage.” Amon doubted, “Why do I have the devil’s temptation?”
Crazy’Ole shook his head so hard that his hair flew like a flag, “No no no. Every person can have the devil’s temptation. A mage has to pass this test if he wants to reach the peak of advanced magic. As for you, the test is still far away. What you are going to face is [desire’s awakening]. What happened between you and Maria has more or less something to do with it.”
Amon’s doubts increased. He thought of one thing and asked, “Several days ago, Lord Gabriel has asked me if I’ve learned body arts. And you mention magic today. Can you tell me what they are about? Why would Lord Gabriel asked me about it? Why do you say that I’m facing a test? I haven’t learned anything yet!”
Crazy’Ole humphed and filled himself a goblet of wine, “Of course you’ve learned something. It is in the technique of Duc. The people in Duc just don’t understand it. And I taught you in a different way. Listen carefully if you want to hear the answer — and don’t interrupt me. ”
Amon listened silently and Crazy’Ole explained magic and body arts to him in detail. Slaves weren’t allowed to learn body arts, and only the nobles were allowed to learn magic. Amon learned this for the first time. He did not know that what Crazy’Ole told him contained a lot of information that were strictly censored in many countries.
Magic and body arts were two different ways to get extraordinary powers. Body arts awakened the power inside the human body, stimulating the potential in one’s blood and flesh. Legends said that men were created by gods, hence, there was divinity in human nature. This divine power in the bloodline, once awakened, could make one’s muscles and bones stronger, enhancing one’s strength and courage. It also fortified one’s mind and increased intelligence. When the power was fully activated and became mighty enough, it could influence the environment outside the body.
Another legend was that the body arts were just a way people discovered to make themselves stronger. Later they applied them in wars and fights, creating lots of skills that came to be called martial arts. The ones who practiced both body arts and martial arts were called warriors. The progress of body arts was divided into nine levels. The first three levels were called the primary stage, the next three levels and the last three were called the advanced stage and the supreme stage respectively. As such, the practitioners in these stages were called the primary warriors, the advanced warriors and the great or supreme warriors.
It was extremely hard to become a supreme warrior, which meant you were among the top masters of body and martial arts in this continent.
Magic, different from the body arts, awakened one’s ability to feel specific forces in the external world. The mages learned to communicate, control, transform and utilize these forces, which ordinary people were not capable of. Only the gods had these abilities by nature, so magic was regarded as a gift from the gods. Similarly, the progress of magic practice was divided into nine levels as well. The mages from seventh level to ninth level were called the great or supreme mages. They were the supreme beings in the continent. They were like the gods in commoners’ eyes.
Both the learning of magic and body arts demanded that one awaken a certain power, but the power that required awakening was different for each path. It was much harder to awaken magic power than it was to awaken the power inside one’s body. Very few people could do it by their own. On the contrary, it was generally believed that anyone with a healthy and strong body, a determined mind and firm belief could finally awaken the power inside his body and started to learn body arts.
The power one awakened the first time determined the path they were going to explore. Thus there were far less mages than warriors in this continent. On the other hand, the number of people that were allowed to learn magic were much smaller as well.
In some rare cases, one could awaken two powers at the same time. Another rare phenomenon was the slow awakening of the alternate path when one acquired mastery of one path. Most people who learned magic and body arts at the same time were warriors. However, magic was much harder to learn than body arts, so very few mages learned body arts at the same time. The complexity and profoundness of the magic were already worth a lifetime of exploration.
Oracles, drawing both from their lore and actual practice, reminded the people that it was impossible to learn both at the same pace. The practitioner had to emphasize one and learn the other as an auxiliary skill. For example, warriors like Gabriel could not improve their level of magic to the extent of their body arts. They could just learn magic to a lower level and use it to assist in fights.
Both paths, each with nine levels, were divided into three stages. The difference between different levels in the same stage lay in the mastery and proficiency of the skills. But the difference between stages was fundamental. The difference lay in the understanding of the power. The first stage was also called awakening the power; the second, controlling the power; and the last, transforming the power.
The path of magic was harder than that of body arts, not only because fewer people could awaken the magic power, but because there were more tests waiting for mages.
To obtain the magic power, the gift of the gods, one need to pass a first test: “desire’s awakening”.
In order to attain the pinnacle of the first stage, one needed to pass a second test: “faith’s confirmation”.
In order to attain the pinnacle of the second stage, one needed to pass a third test: “the devil’s temptation”.
To became a supreme mage, there was a last test: “faith’s melding”, which required one to merge the real world to the world in one’s belief and transform divine power into his own power, attaining a status that was beyond the commoners’ imagination
Body arts, on the other hand, seemed to have no test. All practitioners needed was more practice with perseverance and assiduity, and sometimes a little luck. It did not mean that ascending to a new level was easy for the body art practitioners. It was just a bit less difficult than the mages.
All these were for the primary and advanced stages. When one attained the seventh level, it would become even much more difficult to take a step further, no matter the mages or the warriors. The key to higher levels was kept as secrets among the high priests in the major shrines. The people who attained the highest level, the ninth level, no matter mage or warrior, were extremely rare on this continent. They had the power to fight the real gods on the earth and were called the demigods.
Amon could not help but asked, “Demigods? How can men have the power to fight the gods?”
Crazy’Ole was giving his eloquent speech with one hand holding the goblet and the other hand drawing in the air. He was not happy that Amon had cut his speech short, “Why can’t they? Some who pretend to be gods may in fact be just demigods…… It’s said that they are descendents of gods and humans so they can have such power. — But I say that’s just a blatant lie! ”
“Lie? How do you know?” Amon could not understand.
Crazy’Ole drank up his wine and looked out into the distance, “Because I know one of them. He’s my student, a ninth-level supreme sorcerer.”