3:20 – Ghost Man
How much time had passed? He blinked and realized that he didn’t know anymore. Not only that, but he didn’t know where he was.
There was a sword in his right hand. A blade, forged from pure darkness and pulsing with crimson veins. From it, energy flowed into his body, something not quite mana and yet similar.
He blinked again and realized that he was standing in the midst of a village beneath the light of the moon. A sharp scent of blood filled the air, born from the corpses strewn all around him. Fresh corpses.
An old man with balding hair laid on his back, facing the sky with unseeing glassy eyes. A deep gouge cut through his shirt to reveal bone and viscera.
A young girl lay face down on the ground, her black twin-tails matted with dirt and blood while her arms clutched a broken doll. Beside her, a woman that could only have been the girl’s mother reached out only to have her hand fall short.
Those and other people, slain in tragic ways, filled the village with their corpses.
He blinked again and the memories came flooding back.
A path of slaughter to memorize the qi and spiritual energy of countless people. That was what he chose, an experiment to obtain a power uniquely his own by analyzing the fundamental makeup of the strange power in the land untainted by the Goddess’s divinity.
A young and impossibly beautiful girl that conveniently appeared before him, one he used as a guinea pig to understand the intricacies of spiritual meridians.
Him, adopting the persona of a teacher towards the young girl to have her try out various techniques and restarting whenever they killed her.
He blinked again and remembered where he was as well as what he was doing.
The nameless ghost of a man muttered to himself. “That’s right. I failed this time too.”
It was a peaceful village within the Western Plains of the Xia Dynasty, thousands of miles away from the Zhan Clan as well as that disciple of his. One far enough from the Bai Clan to where it would be a while before news spread of its inhabitants vanishing without a trace.
That village was his last ‘memory’, the checkpoint he set in place before attempting to reach that Goddess. The final place before he attempted to break through the so called Door of Immortality to step into her domain and confront her face to face.
“It’s still not enough.” The nameless ghost of a man muttered and held up his left hand. Within it, dark tendrils of energy flickered before splitting into five colors, representing the Eastern primordial elements. Those colors flickered again before turning into four, representing the Western primordial elements.
From chaos and darkness emerged order and light. All of creation, born from a seed of chaos. That was the accumulation of his experiments and trials, the fruit of reverse engineering all of his abilities with his new energy.
Yet, despite gathering the qi and spiritual energy of millions and reaching the peak of what the locals called Sainthood, he still wasn’t powerful enough to breach the Immortal Door and reach the higher realm where that damned Goddess was waiting.
There was something missing. A flaw in his understanding preventing him from taking that final step through the Immortal Door. Something that he couldn’t attain through pure power like he had planned.
The nameless ghost of a man clenched his left hand, sending the tendrils of energy scattering. “Well, there’s more than one way to reach her.”
The Immortal Door was the primary path to the higher realms. Through it, one would undergo heavenly tribulation and attain immortality, as well as the right to step upon the “Divine One’s” domain.
It also reeked of that Goddess’s divinity.
He had prepared to break through it and then confront the Goddess, but considering that he had failed yet again, he decided to change tactics.
“If I can’t go to her, I’ll just force her to come down here.”
The key to that was the four guardians. Profound Beasts of great power ruling over the cardinal directions to maintain the realm’s order.
It was just a conjecture at the moment, but one that had a high possibility of truth. When all four were killed and the Emperor’s connection to the heavens severed with his death, the one ruling over everything would be forced to descend… or at least another path would open.
He had hoped that his disciple would have become powerful enough to be used as a vanguard in that back-up plan, but he might as well make an exploratory effort to gain information.
The nameless ghost of a man nodded. “Plan B it is. But first…” He adjusted his grip on the sword in his right hand and then took a look around. “I’d better clean up this mess.”
With his words, thin black lines spread out from his sword like threads of dark silk. A countless number of them scattered throughout the village like a spiderweb before falling. Yet, instead of reaching the ground, each thread landed on a corpse.
“Hm… it won’t be much of an improvement, but waste not want not.”
After muttering those words, the nameless ghost of a man clenched his right hand. With the act, his sword dissolved into a mass of darkness, pulsing with crimson lines like a rotting heart. From that mass, the countless thin black threads throbbed, as if veins sending blood back to the heart.
A single instant. That was all it took. The black mass expanded once and contracted once. And then, it vanished, sinking into his right hand along with all the threads. When it had, the village was completely empty and devoid of any corpse or pool of blood.
“That should be good enough. But just in case…”
A pulse of invisible energy swept throughout the village. Wherever the pulse touched, any signs of struggles, conflict, or death vanished.
“…Information Concealment should take care of it.”
The barest amount of concealment. Someone extremely sensitive to the world or resentment might notice, but by the time anyone like that came along he’d be long gone.
With a final glance to ensure that he had obtained everything useful from the village, the nameless ghost of a man started walking out into the grassy plains.
His objective was clear, even if his identity and memories were not.
Serena. The Goddess responsible for pulling himself into this mess. The one who told him of his dubious death. The one who acted behind his back to brand her divinity on his soul to guide him to a certain role.
She would get her reckoning soon enough. Now that he realized the ‘truth’ of what power was, of what ‘mana’ was and how it was created…
But first things first.
The White Tiger of the West.
The Azure Dragon of the East.
The Vermilion Bird of the South.
The Black Turtle of the North.
Four beasts, four targets. Only after eliminating each of them would he be able to continue on with his primary objective. Of those, the closest was the White Tiger, watched over by the Bai Clan not too far from his current location.
With cold eyes settled on the horizon, the nameless ghost of a man started walking, leaving no traces behind.