Chapter Forty-six: Bloodlines: Shackled and Bound to Decline
“Let’s take your new divine bodies, for example”, Lady Bloodworth said calmly. “All are simple elemental bloodlines barely at the lord tier; your preterm aspects acting as a foundation in the elemental laws.”
“This, of course, means that your children will inherit these traits. However, they will only be useful up to the lord tier. As mentioned before, they are worthless. Useful, but only up to a point”, she derided.
Pacing before them, she further revealed, “For starters, you have all but set your children’s future affinities in stone.”
“Yes! Barring extenuating circumstances or interference from another parental bloodline, your children will inherit whatever affinities lie at the core of your preterm aspect. It is even more true for the ladies. They will start off with strong affinities and slowly develop abilities related to those aspects. Their bloodlines will even help them should they choose to condense an identical one for themselves.
“That’s as far as they go, unfortunately. Again, worthless! Once they reach the lord-tier, bloodline shackles would set in, and any boost will run out. Should they condense a contrary aspect, for whatever reason, not only would it be incredibly difficult due to their bloodline, it will cut off their gains. If they condense a copy of your aspect, they will slightly reinforce their abilities, but again, that’s where it ends”, the old lady said with pursed lips.
“Now, let’s jump ahead in time and talk about your grandkids”, she said perking up. “Two generations after the bloodline came to be. The decline would have set in. As weak as their inheritance in, they would inherit an even weaker version compared to their parents. Same for their children and grandchildren. With each successive generation, your bloodline would degrade until it disappears altogether.”
“That is the great truth about bloodlines, and the reason decline is considered a slow death. It does not matter if they are daemonic, divine, elemental or cultivated; all are destined to fade over time. Time, you’ll learn, is the one invincible force in Verre and nothing, no matter how intangible is immune. Sooner or later, everything dies, and everything is forgotten. It is why we cultivate, pursuing longevity with relentless perseverance. When we can no longer stave it off, we leave legacies and inheritances. We all wish to leave some lasting trace of ourselves in the unceasing current that is the flow of time. It is even why I gathered you lot”, she said with a resigned smile.
In the rush of events, it had actually slipped Valerian’s mind that the entire reason he was a ‘legacy’ disciple was that the old lady was dying. Lady Bloodworth’s honest admission quickly reminded him of that. It grounded him. Valerian had never considered death before. Not in this sense. Looking around at the others, he noticed that it had a similar effect on them. Even Sweetrot was subdued.
Clearly recognising the suddenly sober atmosphere, Lady Bloodworth drew them back to the topic at hand. “These are the two problems that all bloodlines share; the shackles and the decline. The first is a limit to their use and power, while the second is a limit to their longevity. As bloodline holders and progenitors, you must understand and work to overcome them.
“Thankfully, there is a solution to bloodline degradation or decline; Reinforcement. This works better for some bloodlines than others, and while it is not a permanent solution, it does serve to postpone the inevitable. For instance, I described a scenario where your children or grandchildren followed your footsteps; condensing identical preterm aspects. In their lifetimes, this would merely enhance their abilities. On the other hand, for their descendants, this act would reset and reinforce the bloodline. It is the same for bloodlines gained from cultivation or the practice of special methods. So long as the bloodline is reinforced every few generations, they would never decline in potency.
“The only complication is in the case of daemonic bloodlines”, she said with a smile in Valerian’s direction.
She did not have to say anything more. If reinforcing an elemental bloodline involved the repetition of the act that created it, then the only way to reinforce a daemonic bloodline could not be more straightforward. Predictably, Sweetrot sniggered. He too stared directly at Valerian as he did so.
The unanswered question of how his line started resurfaced in Valerian’s mind. He knew the facts. Menhirionn’s son mated with a human. The question that begged asking was how? Steel monoliths were gigantic in nature and humans were so… Furthermore, his line was thousands of years old, just how many times had this coupling repeated itself? Pushing his mind out of this dark path, he focused instead on his teacher’s words.
“Given the requirements, the standard method of reinforcement is not always practical or even desirable for that matter”, she stated. “Thus, many clans with such legacies take the more reasonable practice of turning their bloodline into a form of cultivation. Emulating their counterparts, they make a method of it, finding ways to strengthen their bloodline traits through cultivation.”
“A clan like Valerian’s would try to distil the essence of their bloodline into a cultivation method. Monolithic strength, metal resonance and refinement; all of it would be made a focus of cultivation. In this way, they can strengthen these traits instead of letting them degrade with time. That notwithstanding, this method is vastly inferior to the first. That one does not just reinforce the bloodline. Done correctly, it resets it, bringing it back to full strength. This method only serves to slow the decline. The blood will still grow thin, but with the method, the traits will be amplified. This allows even those with weak inheritances to squeeze out some measure of bloodline power”, she pointed out.
“It goes without question that the better the method, the easier the traits will be retained and amplified. Additionally, I feel I must mention that it is often through methods like these that cultivation dependent bloodline come about”, she added as an afterthought.
“A metal attributed cultivator practising Valerian’s clan method could plausibly instil a facsimile of monolithic traits in himself and with successive practice, his line. The same is true even for the holders of the original bloodline. There are a remarkable number of clans whose only link to their ancestral power is dependent on their cultivation method and not their blood.
“None of this, however, can help solve the bottleneck of bloodline shackles. Bloodline degradation is insidious and troublesome to deal with, but it is bloodline shackles that call into question whether bloodlines are even worth it.
“My clan, the Gavriels, possess a spiritual legacy”, Lady Bloodworth told them. “This ensures that we do not suffer from the sort of decline that most other daemonic bloodlines endure. Our blood does not thin over time, but our connection to our inheritance does weaken if we do not regularly prove our worth. Even so, we are bound by the shackles. We cannot go beyond the Sage tier. The moment our back foot clears the entrance, the doors both ahead and behind shut in front of us, stranding us.
“This is another insidious truth to bloodlines. They restrict you from walking the other paths. I mentioned that your children will find it difficult to condense an aspect contrary to the one that boosted their growth. When you reach the end of your bloodline, you will find that there is nothing left for you. If you were one who relied on it to reach a certain tier, you will be well and truly stranded once you reach its limit.
“The blazing spirit of the Gavriels grants a connection to fire laws that is to be envied; however, it cuts you off from the other laws. Should you be fortunate enough to develop that connection to its possible limit, you will have the power of the progenitor, a titan. You will be a being of law. Sadly, that is it! There is nothing else.
Belatedly realising what she had said, she backtracked, “Do not get me wrong, it is a thing to be envied. Reaching the Sage tier is something beyond all but the most talented and fortunate cultivators. You should all aspire to reach that tier one day. Nevertheless, a Sage with a single enshrined law? Spare me! I have killed better!”
The gathered apprentices stared up at her, eyes wide. Even in her attempt to clarify what she meant, Lady Bloodworth’s voice had dripped with clear disdain when she uttered those final statements. It was hard to believe she was talking about Sages when she spoke like that. All his life, Valerian’s uncles had been unsurmountable existences, and they were merely Kings. The clan patriarch was an Emperor, and he was already akin to a different kind of existence. Technically, the man should be on par with his teacher, but evidently, that was not the case.
While she was not oblivious to their reactions, Lady Bloodworth did not dwell on the matter further. They were not ready for such a discussion. Moving on, she stressed her points.
“For daemonic bloodlines, these shackles are dead ends. While it is not impossible to advance a daemonic bloodline past its limits, humans are not daemons. Even actual daemons struggle vainly against their bloodline shackles. What few advancements exist always result in a drastic transformation. That is how carp become dragons and trees learn to walk. Truth be told, when you break through the shackles, you essentially create a new bloodline, one shackled to your current tier. Again, this is all but impossible for humans.
“My clan, try as they might, will probably never succeed. It would mean becoming something greater than a titan. That is a tall task even for an actual titan. It is even harder when your bloodline restricts your progress in other areas.
“Cultivation bloodlines have similar problems. By design, dedication to a single path puts others out of reach. However, they fare better since their limit is ‘softer’, requiring a cultivation breakthrough and not a bloodline transformation. Divine bodies make up the middle ground here. They are more prone to decline since they are the most difficult to reinforce; however, they do not have the ‘strong’ shackles of daemonic bloodlines. Then again, daemonic bloodlines make up for this limitation by being more powerful on average.
“Coming back to your situation. The odds are that Valerian will never break his bloodline shackles of his steel monolith bloodline and it will decline, dying out before any of his descendants even come close. He cannot reinforce it with any method besides his clan techniques unless he is willing to break the species barrier”, she said.
Turning to their resident swordswoman, she gave another scenario. “Hue’s sword spirit, being a product of her ancestor’s nature and cultivation, only requires constant progress in the sword laws to reinforce. Should she ever surpass her ancestor’s cultivation; developing her sword spirit past its Profound origins to the Numinous tier, she will break through her shackles and advance her bloodline. However, she will first need to become a World Incarnate to even stand a chance of success.
“Your various divine bodies, being low-tier trash, can easily be surpassed” she declared. “You just need your descendants to not be shit, and all will be well.”
“That, I suppose, is another crucial fact about bloodlines”, she quickly added. “The greater the bloodline, the stronger its shackles. Once you have progressed that far down a particular path, it becomes incredibly difficult to change. Bloodlines might empower you, but their shackles will limit your path. The only way around this is to diverge from the path. To do so, you cannot make your bloodline the core of your strength. Keep it an auxiliary and use its power as fuel to pursue other paths or merge it with something new. Succeed, and you will sidestep the shackles altogether and have a new bloodline to boot. Fail, and you will become like me.
“Rather than develop my bloodline to its limit and become yet another blazing spirit, I chose a divergent path”, she confessed. “It was a path I created, and it granted me inconceivable levels of power. Regrettably, it was flawed. In my attempt to sidestep my bloodline shackles, I ran headfirst into a blockade of my own making and stranded myself where I am today. I am unable to break through to the sage tier, and my longevity has all but ran out.”
Despite speaking of her failure, the old lady had no shame or regret on her face or in her voice. Perhaps, it was because she had nothing to be ashamed of. Her path would have terminated either way. At least, this way, she got to choose for herself. Additionally, she attained a level of power that few sages would ever touch. Even as an Emperor, she was still the single most powerful cultivator in Bathar and of the most feared in the eastern kingdoms. This was reason enough to keep her back straight.
“Let these examples be lessons for you; Valerian and Wynna especially”, she told her disciples. “Pursue your bloodlines to the end, and you will run into dead ends. Diverge wrongly, and you could end up worse off. Abandon them, and you will lose all their boons. Ultimately, the choice is yours.”
“Nonetheless, I must point out that the reason I had you attain divine bodies is to have you use them to fuel your cultivation. They are, but a means to an end. Therefore, your goal is not the development of bloodline powers but the furthering of your cultivation using these new abilities as cultivation aids”, she admitted.