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Another year of Hadjar’s life passed. At the banquet organized to celebrate his birthday, he was introduced to his future… wife. She was only four days old. The Prince, to put it mildly, had been shocked, even though he’d already known that these kinds of marriages were quite a normal thing amongst the nobility.
The girl was the daughter of the head of a large Trade Cartel. Well, ‘large’ by the standards of the kingdom. But South Wind had said that the merchant fleet numbering seven hundred ships was a beggarly business.
Fortunately, in addition to his wife, the prince was also presented with a good amount of all sorts of other ‘things’. Well, Hadjar called them ‘things’. Scholars would call them very pathetic artifacts. However, all these swords, bows, sabers, books, etc. were at the level of Mortal artifacts. The next level were Spiritual artifacts, which would’ve cost almost as much as the entire Royal Palace.
No wonder that only Haver and Primus had those. Each of them owned a special Spiritual blade. Hadjar didn’t know yet how artifacts differed in the force they could exert (the neuronet had again complained about having too small an amount of data to work with—a useless piece of iron), but he was definitely going to find out.
Actually, that was one of the questions that he was going to ask South Wind in the near future. Fortunately, he’d learned the local language six months ago and could now speak it fluently. And he’d learned to read quite well.
The scholar complained that, despite his genius, learning to speak and read had taken Hadjar too much time. Well, of course it had. In comparison to the earthly ones, these local squiggles had little resemblance to a normal language. Who knew how long it would’ve taken him without the help of the neuronet.
Now, swinging his legs, Hadjar was sitting in the corridor with his father, uncle and a dozen warriors. Each of them was able to lift a stone that weighed 700 pounds, throw a spear four hundred yards and split a thick oak with their sword.
The main thing was to get a good sword.
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They were at the fourth stage of the Bodily Rivers.
Previously, Hadjar had thought they were insanely strong. But memories of his time on Earth faded more and more over time, with the help of South Wind’s lectures. Now, Hadjar knew that a Heavenly Soldier wasn’t the pinnacle of cultivation. Stronger adepts existed.
Those who were almost immortal. Those who could move seas and mountains with a wave of their hand. And it frightened and fascinated him at the same time, the fact that Hadjar didn’t know whether this was an exaggeration or not.
And a week ago, he’d been taken outside. Well, ‘outside’ was just the balcony. From atop it, he’d been able to see the almost boundless city and valley, stretching out beyond the titanic walls.
The wind blew, tousling his wavy black hair.
The wind called to him.
“Which do you want more? A brother or a sister?” His father asked again.
Hadjar pondered the choice again. Each of the options had its advantages.
Haver laughed and ruffled his son’s hair, as was his habit.
“South Wind says that you can already pass the exam to be an official, but you cannot answer my question for some reason.”
“It’s too complicated, Dad,” Hadjar said. “If I have a brother, I can play with him. And if I have a sister, I can protect her. Plus, a sister will clearly be more beautiful than a brother.”
“Well, who can say,” the King smiled. “Going by what Nanny’s told me, the ladies of the court cuddle you every day. The doctors say that, in future, you will break a lot of girls’ hearts.”
Hadjar barely kept a smug smile off his face. By local standards, he was a very handsome young man. However, what else could you expect from such good genetics and such amazing parents?
“I hate girls. And why have you given me a wife? It would’ve been better if she’d been a boat.”
The King laughed and ruffled his hair again.
“When you grow up, I’ll definitely teach you some secrets.”
“South Wind’s already teaching me!”
“Oh, believe me, the old man won’t teach you about this. I’m afraid that this area is one of those where he only has theoretical knowledge.”
The warriors laughed quietly, and the King winked at his son. Hadjar made a confused face, which elicited a new bout of laughter. Fortunately, he was a great actor. He had to play the role of a two-year-old child. Ingenious, but still a child.
After all, it’s the squeaky wheel that gets the grease.
Finally, the doors opened and Nanny came out.
“It’s a daughter,” she smiled.
Haver picked up his son and rushed off to his chambers. This time, they burst in there without Primus. His uncle had gone to the southern borders on a military campaign. Nomadic tribes had plundered the villages and towns there.
Hadjar hugged his mother quickly and sat down beside a small, pink, crying lump. His… sister had already been wrapped up in golden blankets. She looked quite ordinary, but something in the Prince’s chest tightened.
Sitting on the bed, next to his mother and father, looking at his newborn sister, he suddenly realized what he’d been deprived of back on Earth. It hadn’t been the ability to walk and talk. No. Something much more vital had been taken from him.
Since childhood, he’d been deprived of this very feeling.
The warmth of a family.
“And we’d been expecting a son,” the tired Elizabeth smiled.
Two years had passed and she hadn’t changed at all. Not a single wrinkle had appeared on her beautiful face. Not a single gray in her thick, black hair.
“What should we name our daughter?” The King rocked the little bundle tenderly.
“Elaine,” Hadjar said. “Let’s name her Elaine.”
The parents looked at each other and nodded.
And so, Hadjar now had his forever crying, but already beloved, little sister Elaine. And she changed something deep within him. Without noticing it, he suddenly realized that his performance, his ‘I can protect her’ act, had stopped being a performance.
Just a month after Elaine was born, Hadjar was able to obtain permission to visit the training grounds. It would’ve been difficult to get in there, the most sacred part of the palace complex, even if he’d been the son of not Haver IV, but the son of James Bond himself.
The grounds were guarded even better than the chambers of some of the high officials. The master taught the future elite of the country there, and he couldn’t allow his knowledge to be stolen by someone.
He’d had to work hard to earn the trust of South Wind and to make him work on his cultivation. The cultivation of his martial arts, of course. The scholar, in principle, didn’t like this field of study very much. Hadjar learned from his Nanny that once upon a time, the old man could’ve been admitted to ‘The Black Gates’, but his meridians had been damaged during the exam . The meridians were the channels in the body through which Force flowed.
So, while he was healthy outwardly, he remained a cripple for life, internally.
As for meridians, Hadjar managed to find out some details about the stages of their cultivation.
The first stage was called ‘Bodily Nodes’. There were nine steps in this stage. Special passages, invisible to the eye, were opened in the body of the practitioner at this stage. They used some kind of acupuncture. The warrior could then absorb energy through them; the local air was full of it.
After accumulating the energy in their centers, they directed it through the veins, opening the meridians, which were normally sealed from birth. This stage was called ‘The Level of Bodily Rivers’.
When all the points were opened, and all the meridians were saturated, the practitioner came across the first so-called ‘threshold’. It was a state where the nearest level was so very close, but it was incredibly difficult to reach it.
Many people couldn’t handle it at all.
They simply couldn’t condense the energy and reach the Formation Stage. The first level was when The Grain, woven from force, would form inside the soul of a person (and not only there, but we’ll talk about that later.)
Then it was necessary to split The Grain into several parts. This was the Fragment Level.
And in the end, it was necessary to gather the fragments back together and create The Core. This was the third level of the Formation Stage.
The Transformation Stage followed next. This was when a person’s soul adapted, but not their strength or body. The mortal shell, the Awakened spirit, and the New soul.
Hadjar knew nothing about them, because South Wind had no information on the subject. According to him, only the King himself could teach his son how to progress past these stages.
And as for the transition from a mortal to an adept, there wasn’t a single person in the entire Kingdom that knew how to make the transition between the Transformation and Heaven Soldier stages.
Those who knew how to do so lived only in sects or in larger states.
“Аnyway,” Hadjar spoke to himself aloud, “ I’ve already taken the first step.”
He stood on the edge of the grounds where the soldiers trained. He’d made a cunning plan a long time ago. He only had to implement it. And that’s how his development would begin.