28 – Inner Focus (2) – Stages
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Expelled from his inner, subconscious space Aziel grunted, feeling uncomfortable in his own body with the remnant lingering pain tormenting him. As if thousands of needles pierced the pores of his skin; this sharp sensation, this anguish kept on with its mindless torture.

"Argh… W-what is g-going… on…" Feeling distraught, he felt he was going crazy.

Being bathed literally in an active volcano for hundreds of years, seared in molten lava, obviously, Aziel wasn't stranger to such sensations, yet, for some reason, he felt this particular torment to be the most unbearable of all. Not the physical aspect of it, no, that was merely uncomfortable for a veteran like Aziel… but the mental pressure, all the invisible daggers that kept on pressing in on his mind… That!

That was not something Aziel was prepared for at all.

Maybe because of his attempt to forcefully push through the white-golden Orb of Essence to break through its current blockage and step up to a higher state of existence… perhaps this was the backlash, the recoil from the overuse of [Aether].

Pondering about it, Aziel did find it somewhat similar to the state of being [Mana Draught]… A similar sort of pricking, uncomfortable feeling when you completely drained all the [Mana] from your body. Yet, that also came with drowsiness, exhaustion that forced anyone to descend into an extended slumber…

"Huah… No, this… huaaah… is different…" Aziel yawned, weariness suddenly overcoming him, he soon felt the weight of his eyelids.

Unable to resist, he soon laid down on the cold, rocky terrain, and succumbed to his drowsiness…

Time. Time never stops. It keeps on marching ever-forward, merciless. It may be bent, slowed, or even the opposite hastened, but never be completely pushed to a halt.

No, instead it is our perception that bends, that forces us to experience this same steady flow in a different manner. Like how it feels so arduously slow if you feel bored if you are scared or experiencing a negative, uncomfortable situation.

Or on the contrary, how it just whooshes by, like the summer breeze if you are immersed, happy or excited.

Whilst your experience may differ from those close to you, in reality, that's just an illusion, your faulty perception.

Oblivious to the passage of time, all throughout his attempt to forcefully fuse the essence and the new energy, Aziel was oblivious to the outside world.

Whilst he recuperated, and his body slowly, gradually stabilized, the wheels of time kept on going. Days, turning to weeks, then to months, eventually to years.

They soon began to pile up, decades, centuries went by, without Aziel even realizing. To him, his attempt at trying to re-create the same technique for cultivating [Mana] and trying to fit it for this new [Aether], this was all just a fleeting instant.

Yet, to the rest of the world, it was much, much more.

As he slumbered, Aziel's body continued shifting, morphing. The changes he had already made to the orb of essence expressed themselves in a new unique way. The previous inner turmoil, the constant battle for dominance was settled.

Whilst he may have not managed to completely finalize and reinvent Nova's technique for cultivating the inner force and fit it to this world's standards, Aziel did manage at least reach a minor success and elevate his body to a new realm.

Since Aziel used his previous world's, Nova's knowledge as the basis, and that the Physical Realms are mostly the same, just with different, new, and previously unknown essences used as its base, the same methodology could also be applied here.

If that is the case, Aziel was now considered to be at the peak of the second realm, the very end to cross over from the Earth Realm all the way and step into the Sky Realm. Only then, could he consider himself somewhat back on the long road to recovering his previous state.

Whilst still impossibly far, that missing step would finally elevate his existence back on track. Still, for now, he was unable to take it, he was still missing something.

Something crucial. Yet… unknown.

In Nova, whilst there were many different methods to cultivate your own inner core, and enhance it with [Mana], strengthening both your body and soul the realms had a unified definition.

Without going into too in-depth, the various realms for cultivating one's body was as follows:

1 - Mortal Realm

2 - Earth Realm

3 - Sky Realm

4 - Noble Realm

5 - Duke Realm

5 - King Realm

6 - Emperor Realm

7 - Demi-God Realm

Each realm is known to have multiple stages, with its own corresponding requirements to fulfill and cross. Reaching the realm of Demi-Gods, you would already be an unreachable existence, the tales of myths and legends to come.

Capable of shattering mountains with a single strike, owning a body that no simple blade or metal could pierce… It was the highest state of being in Nova, with only the 1 entity ever reaching it: Cahal the Demon God, the lord of all demi-kins, and consequently, Aziel's blood brother.

Aziel himself was 'merely' a peak Emperor in his previous life, just like the rest of his brothers and sisters, the Thirteen Demon Lords.

Whilst the state of Demi-God was definitely not the end of the road in the endless journey for more and more power, the next stages were never known, never experienced in the long, billions of years of history of Nova.

Cahal, his brother might have some more insight on the matter, being the only being at the top back then, but he never explained it.

During his research whilst hunting in this world, Aziel pondered if the same logic, the requirement for crossing the first hurdle and successfully crossing the first realm for one's Soul State would also be somewhat applicable.

Since there's a massive difference between the two worlds, he couldn't be certain. On Nova, all life was born with a special, extra organ deep inside them. It was a crystallized shard of essence, most of the time could be found in the core of the beast or creature's brain. A tiny shard, that held immense value.

On Nova, the goal of the Mortal Realm for anyone wishing to surpass his limits is to attain his or her Core Essence. A fragment of the powers of creation and merge it with his soul.

If successful his soul would transform into a capacitor-soul capable of sensing and storing the mana freely available in the air and then subsequently fuse it inside their bodies, enriching and empowering themselves over time.

Whilst in the early stages of their journey for power they would directly enhance their bodies, their bones, their organs, their skin... Whilst on the later stages, they could directly convert it to a form of energy, that they could then use and pool from whenever they cast a spell or conjured the arcane.

...

Eventually, Aziel's body had stabilized, her mind refreshed. With his drained reserves restored, Aziel finally began to wake up.

Feeling refreshed, his eyelids fluttered as they slowly parted apart from the countless centuries of stagnation, revealing the first grand change…

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