Chapter 20 – Spirit Realm
Haru listened quietly, his face giving away his thoughts as he expressed surprise, interest, happiness and reservations throughout Eriths explanations. It was almost an hour before Erith finally finished speaking, he’d given him a full lecture. Passing on a barrage of information for Haru to soak in and by the end of it, even he was unsure of what his pupil was thinking. Tears stained the corners of his eyes, and for a moment Erith was left to wonder if perhaps the pressure, or the requirements of some of the things he’d told him were perhaps too much for him to handle.
“You have time Haru. You’re just a child, you have plenty of time…”
Seeing no change to his expression, “In fact… It took me a far longer period of time to touch the borders of the Calm Heart Calm Strike technique. In this regard at least, I can promise you. You do not lack talent.”
A tear slid down Haru’s cheek but he wiped his face and turned away hoping Erith hadn’t noticed in time. He took a few seconds as a beaming smile crossed his lips. He couldn’t find the words to say it, but the truth was that he was just happy. Happy to feel like he truly had a teacher for the first time, someone teaching him not what they had too, but rather because they chose too. Chose because they saw something in him; potential.
“It’s fine. I’m fine.” Haru muttered.
“I want you to know… You reaching this barrier means you’re likely at the boundary of the Spirit Realm… You’ll probably reach it during meditation in the next few days.”
Haru’s eyes gleamed for only a second before he nodded. He himself already knew he’d been close. He’d been close for a while now, and hearing this confirmation only gave him a slight bit of good news. He was still soaking in everything else.
“Good luck” Erith nodded with that rare smile still tugging at his lips and helped Haru out of the dojo. He’d had enough time to recover and if it got too late he was certain he’d find himself being berated by a worried mother in no time…
As he watched Haru’s departing back, Erith couldn’t help but show an even bigger smile ‘Finally, that kid is acting semi normal. It’s a pity that it took him so long to reach the Spirit Realm. It’s too much of a shame his aptitude in gathering mana isn’t at the same level as his swordsmanship…’
On his way home Haru thought about the amount of money he’d saved in the last few years. It was virtually nothing. He had saved some money by helping the kids who chose to give him money by “teaching” them at the dojo. These kids were already beggars or poor, and with little aptitude. They paid him little, but he had appreciated and saved every penny.
Even though he was lost in thought, he was happily near skipping as he bounced up and down and sporadically sprinted on his whole way home. He was experienced a rare bit of unfiltered joy. ‘Progress. Finally…. Progress!’
Three years. It had been three whole years. He had painstakingly practiced what was basically just one thing, one boring thing nonstop, everyday for three whole years. All of those swings of his sword, they had all been for the sake of getting stronger, but a small part of him acknowledged that it was also because he wanted Erith’s recognition. He wanted the same respect that other kids who were naturally gifted or talented received, something he’d never had.
After getting home, he was too excited to eat and quickly said his hellos and good nights to his parents and sister. He was too focused on the next step, even his teacher had already told him he was close. ‘Tonight I am going to break into the next realm! Tonight is the night!’ he thought to himself as he cleaned himself up, bathed and got into bed.
He tried entering meditation, but something about his bedroom just wasn’t doing enough for him. His mind felt as if it was blocked, unable to reach that easy and comfortable state he could normally reach with ease. He spent hours, hearing everything around him. Hearing Lily falling asleep and his parents doing the same soon afterwards. Unable to handle the frustration after a few hours, he got out of bed and began pacing in his room.
After a little bit of unuseful pacing Haru decided to go outside. To move around, but the second he opened his window and got outside his entire body stilled. His entire body felt refreshed, warm and cold at the same time and his mind a little blank as he stared up at the moons. Something about the moons tonight made him feel as if they were beckoning him, calling him.
He climbed up to the roof of the small house and sat himself down blanketed by the moonlight. It took him but a moment to close his eyes and enter meditation. In that moment his entire body glimmered, shined a bright white for just a moment.
Inside of their room, Lily’s entire body was glowing a deep bright yellow. A small shining sun. A ring of light encompassing her entire body, emulating a pure yellow light that radiated heat and warmth.
Above, the night air was especially cool.
Inside of his mind, the blood ocean was stirring. It’s normal stillness disturbed by ripples emanating from multiple places. Inside of the middle of that ocean, Haru’s body floated barely aware of the changes occurring inside of himself. The color of the blood turning a shade darker as his mind felt less clear and more weighed down than it ever had during his meditation.
For the first time his entire vision began to turn a bizzare red color, the scent of blood filling his mind for the first time. Up until down it was a sea of blood only distinguishable by sight, but for the first time he could smell the copper, the thick texture and the rolling waves on his entire person.
This smell, this texture, this color, it felt almost as if every tangible and intangible aspect of the blood was flowing into Haru. It felt like he was being devoured by these senses. The blood was everywhere in his perception.
One moment his body shined a bright white color as he sat in meditation. In the next moment it shined a faint red color. The color alternating back and forth through his body.
He felt before he heard it… A roaring.
An ear-shattering roar! Something unnatural… Supreme… Ancient… Powerful…
A roar so loud it instilled a dread that seemed to seep from the bottom of his soul. A sound so terrifying that it indicated, it was heralding the return, the presence of something so powerful that the heavens themselves would not allow it!
Haru’s eyes opened wide his body leaking blood from every orifice.
He wasn’t scared, he wasn’t agitated, the fear he felt forgotten. He could only stare as the world around him no longer seemed the same. He could see things in the air, in the distance, up close that he could never see before. He could smell things that seemed to coming from blocks away. He could hear everything happening in the house downstairs, his neighbors, the streets…
Haru’s mind was bombarded by information all at once, but instead of pain he felt invigorated.
Erith had already explained this to him. That the moment he entered the Spirit Realm stage all of his senses would be enhanced, he would feel like a brand new person. Haru’s expectations hadn’t been low but they hadn’t been too high, but this… What he was experiencing now was something he could never have anticipated.
Making only the slightest movement to get to his feet he felt unseen force flow into his body as he moved quicker than he’d ever been able too before with an ease that hadn’t matched the speed.
A small sliver or surprise crossed his face as he realized what he’d just done… ‘The spirit realm stage should allow me to use spirit power superficially to influence the elements, or the world around me… But didn’t I just inadvertently use it on myself?’
Erith had explained to him that those in the spirit realm surpassed a normal human. They could use spirit power, an unseen force. To influence the world around him, the elements themselves as well. Instead he’d just used this power he was feeling to influence himself. ‘It almost felt like I used my own power and not something… else?’ he thought to himself.
‘That would be a blood ability though wouldn’t it?’ confusion brought Haru to his senses as he didn’t need to check, but he immediately did so anyways. He needed to make sense, to understand and the only way to do so would be to meditate. Without sitting, without moving Haru simply closed his eyes.
Entering his mind with a large smile on his face he entered his own spiritual realm at will. The same space he was before, whenever he meditated. Instead of being enveloped by the blood ocean, he floated high above it all. He could see it now. He could see and only now was he finally shocked. Shocked that even with his new vision, he could not see an end to the blood.
The blood went on as far as he could see. It gave him the impression the blood went on for eternity.
Downstairs Eve couldn’t hold herself back as she moved towards Haru and Lily but a strong hand held her back.
“We can’t. We knew this was going to happen. It’s happening.” Dillan said in a deep but low voice.
Eve didn’t even turn her head as her eyes watered “But… Look at him! He’s hurt! We need to do something!”
Dillan only shook his head. “He’s fine. We’d know if he wasn’t.” as he tightened his grip on her shoulder. Eve’s hand overlapping on her husband’s hand.
“Can’t we do anything? Anything?”
“No.” Dillan took a deep breath. His concerns for Haru at a minimum, he could tell despite all the blood that he was fine. His eyes were instead glued to Lily as his heart skipped a beat and an overwhelming sense of dread swept over him for just a moment.