Chapter Two: Dao Lord Brandr
Slowly but surely, Brandr woke up. The act of waking was itself was a surprise to him. He’d been certain he was dead or dying. His mind clearing up, he reaffirmed to himself. ‘I should be dead.’
There was no way he could have survived that last battle. His body was destroyed and his nascent divinity broken. That alone spelt doom for his soul. His cultivation should have collapsed, his soul dispersed and his dao merged with the world. Examining himself, he found to his shock that whilst most of his cultivation and divine essence was gone, his nascent divinity was somehow intact. It had undergone a bizarre change but it was still intact.
It was now made of a ruby red crystal that was filled with inclusions in the form of golden streaks. Brandr checked every aspect. Some self-assessment told him that his cultivation base had regressed immensely and his soul was in very bad condition. Fighting back the urge to mourn his loss, he told himself, ‘Regressing in cultivation is better than death.’ Luckily, his new looks though strange remained exactly like his physical self. His form was perfect and though the crystal had all those inclusions, it had a beautiful hue and a remarkable toughness. There was, however, something wrong with his vision. Floating in front of him was a strange blue panel of text.
|Warning: An unknown variation has occurred.
Your parameters have been recalculated as a result. Would you like to review them?
It didn’t matter which way he turned, the text remained squarely in his sight. Brandr had never had soul injuries do that before. He blinked away the weird hallucination and to his evergrowing surprise, it vanished. This allowed him to see his environs properly for the first time. Brandr had already guessed it but seeing it for himself confirmed that he was no longer in the void.He was in some strange cavern if it could be called that.
The entire thing consisted of a long corridor a metre high and a metre wide that stretched forwards. In his current form, though, it looked quite large. It didn’t take much to figure out that the corridor was unnatural. From what he could see, it was carved out from the earth around him progressing outwards from his location. Speaking of sight, it didn’t take much for him to realise that he wasn’t actually seeing. His new eyes were useless as anything other than decorations. It was his spiritual sense that was doing all the exploring.
Alarmed, he swept the chamber with it only to find out that he did not need to. Every single thing in the chamber was already within his perception. Every divot, marble surface and vug stood out clear as day in his mind. Confused, he tried extending his senses beyond the chamber and was met with astonishing results.
Everything his spiritual sense touched became part of his new field and from what he could tell, part of his chamber. Beyond that, he could see nothing. Further extension had anything his sense seeped through form part of his new domain with the stuff that was outside this domain remaining undetectable. Right then, some strange instinct reared its head telling him that he was doing it all wrong. There was no need to expand. He had to finish the corridor first. Caught unaware and with his spirit still in shambles, Brandr nearly complied.
Quickly, he forced his new crystalline nascent divinity into a meditative posture. Following that, he sought out the foreign instincts. This circumspection allowed him to see what really happened to him and how, exactly, he had survived.
Brandr saw himself from two different perspectives. He was some sort of crystal, peacefully tunnelling itself a corridor to the surface and absorbing rocks and gems as he did so. Without warning, a rift opened up in his chamber and a flying golden figure shoots out of it. At first, he is terrified and then realising that the figure holds the one thing he has been lacking, he tries to devour it. He fails somewhat. He succeeds in absorbing its broken body but some part of it attacks his consciousness. Crying out for the last time, he realises that the strange golden figure is eating him too.
He was dying, his nascent divinity broken and his soul on the verge of dispersal. His divine qi was emanating into the void. Barely conscious and unwilling to die, he tore open a hole in the void despite the danger of doing so in the space between worlds and in the middle of a space shattering battle. By some stroke of luck, he pushed through a rift and ended up in an unfamiliar underground chamber. There, some sort of crystal entity tried to devour him. Launching a soul attack, he crushed its will and possessed its body.
With growing horror, Brandr realised that he was not a nascent divinity after all. He was the strange crystal entity that had tried to devour him. The only thing that remained of his real nascent soul was the golden inclusions that filled his new crystal body. Even worse, judging by the infantile memories he’s obtained, he had killed and stolen the body of a baby… whatever he was now.
It took a while for this to sink in. While he would never consider himself a saint, Brandr would never have thought that he would stoop to killing babies to preserve his own life. The very thought filled him with revulsion and yet that was exactly what he had done. Some part of him wanted to rationalise it. ‘He hadn’t known’, it said. ‘It was trying to eat. He was just defending itself.’ That changed nothing. The fact remained.
For days, he stayed there seated cross-legged in the stone chamber deep in his meditative trance. This was difficult for him. His weakened soul and disorderly spiritual energy were bad enough but the hunger was worse. Nascent souls did not hunger. Even his new instincts were telling him that though starvation was very bad it would not kill him. That still did not take away the urge to eat, to continue tunnelling. Only then would he be fully formed. Brandr forced himself to ignore everything
After an inordinately long time for something so simple, Brandr sighed, coming out of his contemplative trance. One could not change the past. You could only live with, learn your lessons and move on. He knew that. He had not lived through millennia in vain nor had he done so as a vegetarian. Lambs were young but they were also tasty. Whatever it was he had killed, it had been to preserve his own life. Thus went the cycle of life and as cruel as it was, that was how things worked.
The main reason he had remained in meditation was that this was an issue he had never encountered, not even when he was hale. Given his current injuries, he had to resolve it and prevent it from becoming a heart demon later on. Brandr was worried that with the condition his soul was in now, developing a heart demon would practically put nails in his coffin.
The creature had not been sentient nor was it, according to its own instincts, fully formed. What had happened had happened. He had taken over its life and having done so, he would continue to live. He wasn’t going to lie and say that he would live in its honour. Had it devoured him, it would have continued with its life. Having been the one to triumph, he would do same.
Having resolved that matter and filled with renewed spirit, Brandr withdrew from his meditative state. Once he had done so, he reassessed himself, listing everything he knew about his new form. Whatever he now was, he could absorb matter and convert it into energy. It relied on highly keen spiritual sense to perceive its environment. Also, he was filled with an instinctive drive to tunnel his way to what he could tell was the surface. Anything his essence and spiritual energy seeped through became part of a strange field, one he could control and from what he could tell, create.
Mentally, he went through a list of possible creatures he could be. The way in which he was born underground and had to reach the surface to be fully formed spoke of a multiform being. Something with different forms for each stage in life. Before he’d come along, the creature had been a relatively normal looking crystal. For all he knew, it would moult into an adult form upon breaching the surface.
However, the fact that it was crystalline and could absorb and control rocks and gems spoke of the possibility of being some sort of earth spirit. Perhaps the crystal was a going to be the core of his new body. Speaking of body, Brandr tried to recreate his own to no avail. Nothing he did worked. Giving up for the moment, he stood, creating glowing robes from the surrounding world essence to cover his naked form. The act caused him to pause. A blue panel carrying text, much like the one that came earlier had appeared before him.
|Skill Unlocked: Item Creation|
He stared at it for a moment, unsure what to do with it. Remembering what he did earlier, he blinked it away. Dispersing his new clothes, he created them again. This time the panel did not appear. Sighing with relief, he did so one final time. Again, nothing appeared. Good. He was not going mad. His mind was probably just a little out of sorts on account of his peculiar new circumstances. Once he got out into the world and found a way to create a new body, he would be right as rain.
The thought caused something he had been overlooking since he regained consciousness to finally become apparent. Where exactly was he anyway? The world essence here was very weird. Best he could tell, it had a very different note, one he had never encountered. That alone was enough to cause concern. Brandr had lived for thousands of years. He was a deity with an empire that stretched across whole worlds. There was very little in the universe he was unfamiliar with and even fewer worlds he had not visited. Suddenly very concerned, he continued tunnelling from where his predecessor left off, intent on reaching the surface and gaining answers.