“Young Master Valgrind, before the ritual begins. You must first cleanse your body in the pool and then allow my disciples to mark you with the ceremonial paint made from ash and milk.”
Valgrind nodded his head in understanding and then disrobed.
As he stepped into the pool, he felt his strength leave his body. The pool’s freezing water felt like cold steel pins were being poked into his flesh by the thousands.
After a few minutes, he dragged his body out of the pool. The Monk’s disciples attended to him by rubbing his body down with a dry cloth and then marking his body with ceremonial paint.
Several minutes later, Valgrind has vivid colors and patterns all over his body. The Monk disciples escort him to a room where the air is thick with perfume and incense.
Finally, Valgrind enters a small altar deep within the temple.
In the center of the hall, Rothan Kun and three other elderly monks sat in a circular pattern on the floor. They were chanting in unison with their eyes closed in a language Valgrind couldn’t recognize. Their voices had synchronized to the point where he could not distinguish Rothan’s voice from the other Monks.
The disciples led Valgrind to the circle and requested him to be seated in a lotus position at the center.
The Monk disciples struck drums and rung bells mounted on the walls of the inner sanctum. The beats complimented the chant and turned it into a song whose vibrations stimulated Valgrind’s heart and mind.
The strange chant causes Valgrind’s body and mind to relax. He is surprised to find himself singing the mantra as well.
Soon, Valgrind loses consciousness and begins to see visions in that state. Scenes of what looks like an older version of himself commanding three monstrous creatures in a battle against a horde of enemies played out around him.
The current Valgrind was like a ghost, unseen by anyone. The monsters and warriors on the battlefield moved through his body without noticing his presence.
Everyone around him was screaming their lungs out and issuing orders. But everything they said was garbled. It felt like his ears were underwater.
His eyes wandered around the battlefield until he found his future self again. The older Valgrind seemed to be in his early twenties. He is wearing a silver robe with a glowing symbol of House Candon on its back.
His hair and the color of his eyes had become Grey. His skin looks sunburnt. It has taken on a dark complexion which made his grey hair stand out.
The monster subordinates looked like creatures from the underworld. A veil of flames covers their bodies, making it difficult to distinguish their features other than their shape. They engaged the melee combatants while the older Valgrind dodged long-range attacks which targeted him. The way he moved looked unnatural for a human body to execute.
Valgrind couldn’t make out the shapes of the creatures that served his future self. However, the speed with which they moved and battled through the horde of enemies left him stunned.
Valgrind’s attention went towards the enemy horde, which is comprised of humans? No, every race on Roduna is among them, and they all seemed determined to kill Valgrind and his subordinates.
He could not understand what his future self had done to deserve so much hate from all the races. So he refocused his attention back to his older self.
When a devastating arrow volley or a powerful magic spell managed to land a direct hit, a barrier would shield him. Each time this happened, the enemies around him were left stunned.
Panic and fear appeared on the horde as one of the fiery monsters would instantly appear next to the individual or group who launched the attack. Whenever and wherever it appeared, it would self-destruct. It not only killed the attacker but anyone within a five-meter radius. Several seconds later, it would reassemble itself on the battlefield and continue the attack pattern.
After dozens of similar suicide attacks, many long-range warriors among the enemy horde hesitated to shoot at Valgrind and instead focused on his summons.
The warriors from the ten races coordinated their attacks and communicated as if they had been fighting side by side for years.
The current Valgrind knew that each race held only one or two alliances with the other races in his time.
At the beginning of the vision, the enemy horde numbered nearly a thousand. They were all elite warriors who used abilities and attacks beyond the capabilities of low-level adventurers.
An army composed of all races has never appeared in the past. So even though they were right in front of the current Valgrind, it still felt too impossible to be happening.
At this point, the enemy horde had lost half its number. However, the adult version of Valgrind and his subordinates suffered no casualties. The man was laughing as his summons tore apart the enemy combatants.
The current Valgrind continued to watch the carnage for over a dozen minutes. Each minute was painful to watch as hundreds of warriors from the different races fell to the monster summons.
They threw everything they had to attack the older Valgrind, only to see him dance around the battlefield without being harmed.
In the end, there was only one enemy left in front of the older Valgrind. The rest of the horde lay on the field slashed, burned, and ripped into pieces. Pools of blood filled with torn limbs and decapitated heads filled the hellish landscape.
Valgrind’s attention comes back to the last remanent of the enemy horde. It was a Lizardman with the head of a Crocodile. He was kneeling in front of Valgrind for mercy. But the older Valgrind ordered his summons to rip the Lizardman apart.
He looked towards the beheaded head of the Lizardman that had rolled over to his location. Its eyes blinked as if it was still alive and could finally see the current Valgrind.
The fact that it could sense his presence spooked him. But what came next caused his soul to shiver. When it tried to speak, a disembodied voice came out of its mouth.
“You are the wielder of the Cards of Chaos. You can manipulate the natural order of the world, both life and death. But be warned, this ability will upset the balance of power and make the world your enemy.”
His vision slowly faded after hearing that voice. He tried to use his other senses, but his mind too succumbed to the darkness.
Valgrind woke up to find himself in an unfamiliar room. The old Monk ‘Rothan Kun’ was meditating nearby when Valgrind came back to his senses.
“Young Master, this is my living quarters inside the temple. I carried you here to let you recover in peace.”
“How long was I asleep?”
“About two hours.”
“Is that normal?”
“Usually, it takes half an hour to wake up. So no, it was not normal.”
“I saw a vision… of myself in the future.”
“Almost all blessings reveal a version of the individual that has mastered their ability.”
“Is it the future? Can it be a false future?”
“The Valgrind you saw in that vision can be changed, but your ability will not.”
“In that case, I think I will avoid using this ability at all costs.”
“I am sorry, but this ability is evil. It made me an undying king of monsters.”
“I… no, the older version of me was being attacked by hundreds of warriors. Nothing they did could hurt him or stop him. He didn’t even suffer any damage from arrows or fire attacks.”
“It could be a powerful barrier ability. Something that can negate physical and magical attacks is indeed extraordinary. But what was the part about monsters?”
“He controlled three terrifying monsters. One of them could explode and revive itself. He used them to massacre the army around him.”
“Sounds like a summoner skill or necromancy. I don’t see why you think of it as evil. It sounds like you were lucky to receive this ability.”
“Lucky? I slaughtered people while laughing. Is that not evil?”
“As I said, the vision is meant to display the full might of your ability. How you behaved and who you used it on in the vision does not matter.”
“But the name of the ability…”
“Enough! Now don’t reveal any further details about your vision to me or anyone else.”
“What you have described is a powerful unique ability bestowed by the All-father. But sharing that information can make you a target.”
“Target for what?”
“Assasinatons of course.”
“Who will do that?”
“Anyone or any group who fears what you might become someday. Right now, you just received it. There is no way for you to be able to use the strength you saw in the vision. So it would be better to get rid of you or recruit you. Since you belong to one of the three great houses, it is impossible to recruit you unless you turn traitor to your own family.”
“Which means they would try to get rid of me. But House Candon has an elite army, and the people of Prandaval love us.”
“Young Master, the other houses will see you as a threat. They have armies and assassins they could use to deal with you if the threat is too great for them.”
“Why would they? That would risk a civil war among the great houses.”
“There is a delicate balance of power between the great houses. Each has its strength and weaknesses. If they feel one house is becoming far stronger than the others, they will see it as a threat. Even the other races who live in Prandaval will spread the word of a powerful new ability that appears among the humans. Which will make you a target for the other races.”
Suddenly Valgrind remembered the weird voice in his vision.
“But be warned, this ability will upset the balance of power and make the world your enemy.”
The warning was coming true. Then maybe the other things in the vision might also come true.
“So isn’t it better to never use it? No one needs to know. I can lie that I received something useless.”
“Did you not agree to make good use of that ability before the ritual began? All you need is time and a place to develop it without gaining any attention. As to the part about lying! House Candon’s reputation will be tarnished if you do that. So you must say that you received a unique summoner ability.”
“A summoner ability is rare enough to be considered unique but not powerful enough to gain unwanted attention. Therefore, there is no need to go into specifics of what your summons can do in the future.”
“I see, well then I think I should return home and tell the family I am a summoner now.”
“Remember, there are two sides to every coin. Suppose the vision showed you using your ability for evil. Then try to use that ability for the good of the house or society. Maybe that will change the future you saw in that vision.”
“I will see if that is possible. But where can I train without being discovered?”
“This temple is not just a place to pray. There is an isolation training ground underneath the structure that can be used by the descendants of the three great houses whenever they wish.”
“Is there not a high chance of being discovered by the other houses if I go there?”
“The Prandaval Monk Order guarantees total privacy and confidentiality. We will make sure no one spies on you. The other houses will know you come to train, but they won’t know the details or your progress until you are confident about your skills to protect yourself. This is another way the Monk order has helped to maintain the delicate balance.”
“I will be in your care… Oh, and thank you for all the advice you have given me today.”
Rothan Kun smiled and patted Valgrind’s back.
“The All-Father watches over all of us.”
Valgrind arrives back home to find the Candon castle transformed into a party venue. He finds his twin brother Zolgrind chatting with their father, who notices Valgrind’s return.
“Ah! Val, what took you so long to return?
His father asked as he came forward to embrace his son.
“It took me longer than usual to wake up after the blessing.”
“Seems like oversleeping is officially your ability now.”
Zolgrind made a snide comment.
“Hush, Zol! Tell us what blessing did you receive from the All-Father, Val.”
Their father asked excitedly.
“Rothan Kun says it might be a unique summoner ability.”
Zol and their father were surprised by this news.
“Is that good or bad?”
“It depends entirely on your summons and how useful they are in combat. I once heard of a summoner who could only summon aquatic beasts. The man was helpless on land, though he was a terror on the sea. He eventually became a pirate to make his ability compliment his profession.”
“Do you know what your summons are, Val?”
“They are land-based and good for combat as far as my vision showcased.”
“That is good news! Your grandmother will be so happy to hear this. Now both of you go to the castle gate and welcome in the guests as they arrive. You two are the stars tonight, and everyone will want to take a good look at our Candon Twins.”
Both Valgrind and Zolgrind made identical fake smiles. When their father left, they both looked at each other and showed genuine smiles.
“I am happy that you got a combat ability that suits you, Val.”
“Huh? Why do you think it suits me?”
“You are smart, well smarter than me, but physically weak. So having summons that will protect and fight for you is great.”
“Thanks, Zol! But can you give me a hint about your ability now?”
“You remember our great grandfather’s ability?”
“The Fire Beast Emperor? Each weapon he wielded would create fire beasts that he could combine with and fight.”
“I think I got the same one or maybe a bit better than his.”
“What? A legacy ability?”
“It is a lot better than his ability. I saw myself become a giant fire beast and defeat a giant poison Toad beast alone in the battle.”
“So it is an evolved version of a legacy skill? How old were you in the vision?”
“I think I looked the same. Why do you ask?”
“No way…I must have been in my twenties in my vision.”
“Wow, that is so lame. If it takes you that long to master your skill, then I must be an ability genius.”
“Geniuses should know when to keep quiet about this stuff.”
“Why? I plan to tell everyone about it during dinner.”
“No, do not do that, Zol!”
“Are you worried I will hog all the spotlight again? Then, I can announce your summoning ability as well if that makes you happy!”
“No! I do not want to make the guests fear us.”
“Are you referring to the other great houses? It is time they know that House Candon has new weapons in its arsenal. I want them to start sweating when I announce it.”
“Zol, please listen! I think what you are going to do is a bad idea.”
“Val, do me a favor and just be happy for me.”
Zolgrind turns around and walks toward the gate.
“I will handle the meet and greet alone. I won’t share any details of your vision, but you have no right to say what I can do with mine.”
Valgrind did not know what to do or say. His brother was about to do something stupid, but he did not know how to change Zol’s mind or if it is possible.
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