Chapter Forty-three: Power and Authority
The peng was a being unlike any other. A bird whose gigantic proportions were only dwarfed by its immense power. It was monarch of the heavens with power over the sky; wind, rain and lightning. It had invincible golden feathers and talons of peerless sharpness. It was unmatched in strength, speed and ferocity. Valerian dived into his inherited memories for the speed only to be overcome by the ferocity.
Being a peng was incredible. Some of the best experiences in Valerian’s life came from submerging himself in these memories, in allowing himself to become a peng. The feeling of the wind rushing past, the exhilaration of flying at speeds so great the rest of the world looked like it was standing still. In truth, that was what he came for, the speed. He needed to understand it, to corroborate it to seize it for himself. Unfortunately, there was a lot more to pengs than speed.
It was not long before he lost himself, carried away by the surge of memories. Soon, Valerian all but forgot the reason he delved so deep. His conscious mind subsumed by the peng, there was only one thought remaining in his head. It was the desire that constantly lingered in his subconscious: the pursuit of power. Valerian sought an aspect of speed. Why? To gain more power. He was preparing for his ascension, again for power. He had overcome trial after trial, trained day and night. All for power. If ever there was a measure taken of the concept that resonated with Valerian the most; it would be power. It was no contest. His life was defined by it. Ever since that day in his grandfather’s study were the veil was ripped from his eyes.
Thankfully, the peng was a very powerful daemon. But where did that power come from?
Caught in the midst of condensing his aspects, Valerian wondered same. His mind, body and essence had been prepared for one task, one long ritual to increase his power. His subconscious knew this and wanted to continue. So it directed his inherited memories to answer the burning question. Where does the power of the peng come from? They answered.
Even before it became monarch of the heavens, the KunPeng was already sovereign of the waters. Throughout its existence, its power had always come from the one thing others overlooked: its authority. They looked on its size, its speed and strength and believed them to be its core powers, ignoring what lay in front of them. The peng was a ruler. It never used the elements; it commanded them. A phoenix was fire and rebirth. That was where it drew its power. It was flame, it used flame.
Such was not the case for the peng. It was monarch of the heavens. Unlike some serf trying to use the local mill, the golden bird did not employ the wind to suit its ends. It compelled it into action. Water, metal, wind, lightning; all of them were bound in the same exact way, by the peng’s authority. The basis of this authority was emblazoned all over it. Golden feathers of the highest rarity enscribed with law engravings of clouds and ocean waves.
Even in his state, for Valerian, this revelation was like having the curtains pulled back in the morning to let the sun in. It was an epiphany like none other and one his body immediately seized. In the real world, his body shuddered. All the essence in the room, in fact, all the essence in the general vicinity was instantly sucked into his body. It came, eagerly trying to serve a new ruler. Then, his body began to change. This was not a change into his battle form, it was a transformation into his true form.
Alarmed, his phantasm tried to stop it and failed. However, the spectre knew what was at stake. It did not relent. It tried to reason with Valerian, to remind him of where they were and what he was doing. When it realised that Valerian was a long way gone, it tried to suppress the transformation. Pitting its will against his, the spectre wrestled for control. Valerian’s armour buckled; forced apart by something on the inside trying to break free. This rupture was a good representation of how events were progressing because try as it might, the phantasm could not hold Valerian back, and it knew it. Ultimately, it gave up.
Manifesting in a roar of essence, light and smoke, it reached out to the mercurial orb and forced it onto Valerian before his wings could fully be revealed. It no longer intended to stop the transformation. It just wanted to mask it. Like it or not, Valerian’s true wings were too valuable to be displayed. The phantasm was going to make sure that their unique signature never left the shell of the mercurial orb. Giant palm ablaze with daemonic true essence, the monolithic phantasm cradled the orb and the sitting figure within it, ignoring the phenomena occurring around it. Sadly, not everyone could do so.
Valerian’s full transformation let loose a shockwave of essence that destroyed everything in his room and slammed into its walls like a battering ram. The sound was heard throughout the manor and sent heads looking in his direction. Then came the surge of world essence that practically poured into his chambers. This world essence had a certain flavour to it. Just like the essence around Valerian had radiated strength during his attempt to condense a strength aspect, this essence radiated a concept of its own. It was a concept not unfamiliar to many of the people in the house.
It possessed a will that intended to dominate the world, like a conqueror’s declaration of power, might and ambition. It demanded fealty and offered an indistinct promise of reward. Essentially, it was Valerian’s monarch intent magnified by a thousandfold. It was not metal or wind, arcane or tellurian. It was a desire to rule, to conquer and to dominate. Only, it was not directed at anything, or so it seemed. That opinion changed when the wind came. Not wind essence, but actual wind. It forced its way towards Valerian in the form of a maelstrom. That was because usually, Valerian’s intent beckoned to people offering them a chance to serve or fall at his feet. Today, he was making the same offer to the elements for which he had an affinity for. ‘Pledge fealty willing or be conquered!’ it said.
The wind was only the first to bow. This was understandable, it was the element that served Valerian the longest. It had done so ever since that day where Valerian realised the truth of his legacy for the first time. That was the day when he fought Kailan DriftCloud and summoned it for the first time.
Metal came next, inadvertently hampered by the phantasm’s efforts to conceal Valerian’s wings. Gold was also called the sovereign metal. The gold of those wings could make all other metals in his vicinity bow in service. The metals around him could sense its presence, but it was obscured, preventing them from basking in its glory. However, all the metal implements came anyway, flying from all over the manor. The king might have hidden its face, but it was still their king. The only thing that stopped them from barging into his chamber was Lady Bloodworth.
His authority proven, Valerian wasted no time in condensing his new aspect. As a matter of fact, he condensed two. One descended into his navel aperture and was absorbed into his tellurian core. The other flew to his heart aperture and was absorbed into his arcane core. Each was a golden sigil that shone with the light of authority, a literal heavenly seal of command, an aspect of authority. Both cores reacted in the same way. The sigils they absorbed manifested on their surfaces like a shining brand, marking them for all eternity.
Not stopping for a second, Valerian withdrew his forces into their respective cores. Every ounce of essence was wrung out of his body and stored. Then, using this stored essence, he began refining his cores.
Lady Bloodworth hovered in the air above the apprentice wing. Her presence preventing the growing maelstrom and flying instruments of death from tearing themselves a path to Valerian. She had her eyes trained on his room, the bright orbs apparently peering through the protections and the walls to keep tabs on this most worrisome of apprentices.
“Milady, the rest of the manor has been cut off, the ward scheme has been changed to reflect this. Any more surprises would be checked before they have a chance to happen. We are just waiting for things to subside here before sending in the servants to clean up the mess”, her butler reported beside her.
“And the other apprentices, were they disturbed?” she asked.
The butler shook his head. “No, milady. By your command, I had the wards strengthened many folds the moment the disturbance was sensed. I doubt they even realise something has occurred.”
“Excellent!” she said, taking her eyes off Valerian’s room.
The boy had begun his ascension, meaning there was no longer a need to remain on standby. The effects of his new aspects were already fading. It barely took a twitch to completely dispell them. Before, she restricted herself to keeping them at arm’s length, so she did not interfere with his cultivation. Together, she and the butler floated above the manor and observed everything below with their spiritual senses.
“How long is he going to be?”
Lady Bloodworth gave this question some thought, even rescanning the metal-encased youth to make sure. “Four days to a week depending on how much essence he has and the grade of his core.”
“Pardon me, milady, but isn’t using the will to compel the laws of the world into servitude how to progress to the Emperor tier? It is how Imperial Edicts work, is it not?” the stern-faced man asked, unable to hold back his curiousity.
“It is if you wait that long to comprehend the precept of authority”, Lady Bloodworth explained.
“So you are saying the boy, that child only now beginning his ascension to the lord tier has already reached past the core elements, in fact, past the elements altogether and touched on one of the precepts?” he asked incredulously.
“Yes!” Lady Bloodworth said, her face a mask.
The butler had nothing to say to that. Being a good servant, he did, however, have one question. “What does that mean for your plans?”
Lady Bloodworth took a look around, her gaze catching on the numerous sets of equipment, coins, metallic fittings and even decorative suits of armour surrounding Valerian’s room.
“If this is a reflection of his new aspect then there is yet hope. If not, I will probably have to surrender him to Eomund or hand him to Peirsym”, she stated.
“I want to say that’s a shame, milady, but I cannot”, the butler admitted looking into the pile himself. “Initially, I believed the Sweetrot boy was going to be a bundle of trouble, but this Steelborn has shown the potential to far surpass anything that masochist is capable of.”
“Come now”, Lady Bloodworth laughed. “You know how much I love trouble.”
The butler said nothing, his silence affirming her words.
Author’s Note: And just like that I have my revenge on the discord squad. Know that I was laughing maniacally in true supervillain style at your theories the whole time. Some of you came so close, guessing that his wings or his monarch intent or even something to make his control of the elements and forces better was in the works.
Shout outs to Taurus, WRDNg, Clearmadness, lags, Jailbreak, hikiller123, Worst Name Ever, Haley, Adurna, DeathDragon58, Ezio222 and all the others. You guys are great!