Maikal took the stone in his hands and was almost petrified. For a single instant, a great greed came into his eyes, but he quickly extinguished it. Listening to Nerun beforehand, he understood the dangers he had gone through to obtain this treasure, yet he did not hesitate for an instant to give it to him. Seeing Nerun's innocent and expectant eyes, Maikal could not help but make a self-mocking smile at the ugliness of his own heart. He knew that neither Nerun, Maya nor Elijah would say anything if he kept the stone. After all, on the one hand they did not understand the true value of it, and on the other hand, they would be willing to give it all for Maikal.
So ridding himself of all iniquitous thoughts, Maikal returned the stone to Nerun and said, "You have brought back a great treasure Nerun. You cannot imagine how much." Nerun was very happy when Maikal said these words. He continued: "The Fruit of the Mountain God is one of the rarest treasures in the whole continent. It is sometimes born after thousands of years in the heart of some mountain formations, and even then they are usually small in size. On the outside it looks like a plain stone, and people can use it while training to increase their Qi absorption by 50% if their main meridian is the Terra (Earth) meridian like your brother Silvester. However this would not cause a major commotion in any Territory. The secret of the fruit is that with proper preparation, from it can be extracted an even greater resource, Millennial Stone Milk. This is the true treasure that even the Legends and Sages would give anything to obtain."
"Millennia Stone Milk has several uses, but for a level 90 Warrior or Adept, it has the potential to help them level up an entire level below level 95. Also, if diluted, it has the potential to help Saints or Pillars level up to level 90. This makes it a war-causing treasure.We are lucky that no one knows yet that this is what has appeared on the frontier, plus with so many igneous stones shooting out, no one knows where the rest of the Fruit is. It is likely that Nerun has obtained one of the larger fragments."
"Father, could you use the Milk of the Millennium Stone to heal your wounds? If it can help you, feel free to use all of it. If your power returns, our goals will be easier to achieve," Elijah said hastily, when he understood the importance of the stone in Nerun's hands. Nerun only had a small inkling that Maikal was wounded previously, and at that very moment he did not hesitate to reach out his hands to Maikal and give him back the treasure. If he had known that this fruit could heal his father, perhaps he would have risked his life to search for more igneous stones.
Maikal put his hands in front of them to stop them before they said anything else: "It is possible that the Fruit can help me but it is not certain. The damage I have has affected my Core Meridians, and I don't know if this fruit can help me heal them. It is best that you are the ones to use it. I am sure Nerun will be more than willing to share it with everyone. In itself we do not know how much of the Milk of the Millennium Stone we will be able to extract from this piece of fruit. On the other hand, the power of it is too high and if you consume it pure, you might explode from the excess energy. Let's do something, I will extract the Stone Milk first, and depending on the result we will make the appropriate decisions. Maya, go to the town centre, and keep an eye out for any news about what is happening on the border. Minas will support you. It is a dangerous time and we must be prepared for any circumstances."
Everyone split up except Elijah and Nerun. They stayed in the training area and Nerun showed his brother his small accomplishments in the Free Flowing Fist. Nerun failed again to mobilise Qi and Mana, although this idea remained as a seed planted in his head. Meanwhile, he used the First Form of his martial art to defend himself and attack Elijah. The Free Flowing Fist uses the opponent's strength and is able to redirect it against him. While experimenting with the technique Nerun observed that the energy it returns could be done either with the same, or with more intensity if he added his own Qi to the attack, but this required a larger expenditure of energy.
Elijah was surprised. He noticed that the Qi and stamina expenditure of Nerun's martial art was quite low compared to his own, but its effectiveness was equal to even the best techniques and martial arts. This is a great advantage. If anything, one of the cons it had was the lack of explosiveness in attack, and that it certainly seemed to be a more defence-focused martial art. Also, as the Qi of this Martial Art did not try to impose itself on the World, some of its movements were rather passive. Yet if Nerun could master this Martial Art, it is possible that in the future, no warrior would be able to get close to him, as Nerun's defences would be insurmountable.
Elijah listed the pros and cons he observed in Nerun's technique, and Nerun quickly corrected some of the errors in his movements. At the same time, his use of poses became more natural and harmonious. Although he had only learned the first 24 moves, Nerun felt that he had become more powerful, and if a Qi Master underestimated Nerun, he would more than likely be defeated without even knowing what had happened.
The remainder of the day passed uneventfully and Maya returned with no news to report. The next morning, Maya got up early and went back to see the Mayor to keep an eye out for any new developments. Elijah and Nerun were called aside by Maikal after all the children had finished their morning exercises and had eaten breakfast. He took them to his room and after they closed the door, Maikal spread his Qi, surrounding the room so that there were no energy fluctuations or sounds. Nerun was surprised when he saw his father's technique. Maikal then pulled from the inside pocket of his old waistcoat a carefully crafted jade bottle, which appeared to be surrounded by a natural icy halo. This is a jade bottle treated with magical runes, quite expensive, usually used to safeguard rare and expensive materials that need to be kept at a specific temperature.
"Fortunately I had read about the method of extracting the Millennial Stone Milk. Still, it makes me a little angry to think that I wasted 30% of the product, but there was no alternative. I had to use all my power to get these drops. It's a pity I'm not an expert in the use of materials, nor did I have access to one, but there was some urgency, so we'll have to make do. I managed to obtain 7 drops of Millennial Stone Milk. These drops are worth fortunes, but if people find out they are in our hands, we could well disappear before we know what came for us. So I trust I don't have to tell you, that possessing these drops is a secret that belongs only to us," Maikal said sternly.
Elijah and Nerun both nodded, realising the importance of the matter. At the same time they were happy, these 7 drops indicated a great fortune, which could help them to become much stronger. One of the great weaknesses for the boys in the orphanage was the lack of resources. The great experts of the continent do not only require talent and effort, although this is the most important thing, but also sufficient treasures and resources to help them strengthen their bodies and minds, in order to help them pass bottlenecks, as well as to open auxiliary meridians and stabilise energy, among others.
"Father, can these drops help you heal completely?" asked Nerun with concern.
"Hehehehehe. If we had 20 drops, I might have been able to get all my power back, and I would have been thick-skinned enough to ask you guys to cede them to me, but I'm afraid that what we've got is not enough. I have analysed the energy of each drop. It is a markedly condensed energy, free of impurities. If a level 90 Expert had 11 drops, he could ascend to the next level of power. For each subsequent level, these drops would increase one by one until level 95. Also, these experts can only use this method once. Any more, and their power and energy bases could be affected and then the gain would not have been worth it.
I want you to remember. Resources are important and necessary, but nothing is more important than leveling up steadily and gradually and strengthening your foundation. Rapidly leveling up on the back of treasures and resources will exhaust your potential. As much as possible, only use resources that help you absorb the Natural Energy of Heaven and Earth faster, or only when you encounter a difficult Bottleneck. Any more, and you would be not only wasting your resources, but destroying your future."
"We understand father," said Elijah and Nerun at the same time, holding these words in their hearts. "So, how shall we use these drops, pops?" asked Elijah. After all, it was true that the drops were a great treasure, but more importantly, they would translate into strength for all, thus giving them greater security in the future.
"I propose something. First, the drops cannot be used pure, you have to dilute them so that you can use them, or you will die from the intensity of the energy. In a while, I will show you how and teach you the dilution ratios according to your power level. Both Elijah and Maya will receive one drop each. This will help you stabilise your power, and increase your levels quite quickly, especially you Elijah, who will soon be able to ascend to a Praetorian. You will gain a few months of training and may even reach level 33 or 34 depending on your luck, and how much of the Milk drop's energy you can retain. Maya will still be able to get stronger. One drop will go to the kids at the orphanage, and this will help lay the foundation for their future. I will keep one drop. While it can't heal me completely, it will help me stabilise my wounds a lot more. You Nerun, the drops were initially yours, but to give them all to you would rather expose you to great danger. Still I have reserved three drops for you, which will help make you stronger. You should not use them all at once, but use them little by little so that your body can adapt to the changes, and the should last you for a good while" said Maikal.
"Father, if these drops can help stabilise your wounds, keep three and give only one to me. I don't need any more," said Nerun sincerely. Maikal, however, stopped him. "One is more than enough for me. With one I will be able to stabilise my wounds and they will not get worse. Then I would need 7 and then 12 drops in succession to finish the treatment and that does not guarantee that I will regain my power. No, this is more than enough for now, don't worry. I didn't expect to find a treasure like this that would allow me to stabilise and recover some of my wounds, hehehehehe".
"Then it shall be done as you say, father. I will keep the three drops with me, but if you need them, just tell me and I will give them to you," said Nerun as he swore to himself that if possible he would keep at least two of the drops for his father.
As they continued their conversation, Maya came running back from the town centre. Maikal and Elijah became serious when they saw Maya's taciturn face. "There is good news and bad news. Bad news first, a company of soldiers is coming from Eonia to investigate the Rando Woods disaster and to stabilise the border and warn against possible attacks by Magical Beasts. Apparently one of the Dragon Generals is coming personally to take command. Several of the surrounding noble families, from Korra, Manos and Bellam, may also send personnel, because rumours have started to spread that the explosion of the Forest is due to a great Spiritual Treasure. At the same time, several powerful tribes from the periphery of Rhodnius will send troops to the border for the same purpose, and several skirmishes are expected.
The only positive thing is that most of the Warriors and Experts that will come will not be of very high level, at most, the most we could find would be Centurions or at most Qi Generals on both sides. Since the treasure is rumours for now, it has not attracted the attention of the most powerful experts in both Territories. The Dragon General will only come to secure the Frontier in case the Beastmen and Rhodnius warriors want to take the opportunity to invade."
When they heard the news from Maya, they decided on a plan of action. Maikal and Elijah would go to the border with 2 objectives in mind. First, to get first hand information in case anyone got news of the Fruit of the Mountain God and try to delay the attainment of this information for as long as possible, ideally the two weeks needed for the problem to resolve itself. Second, if there was a chance, to obtain some of the fruit fragments themselves as long as they did not put their lives at significant risk.
"Father, I want to go," Nerun said with a serious face. Maikal frowned and was about to say no, but Elijah said, "Father, it's still not a bad idea for Nerun to come. I will be with him to protect him at all times, and there may be several expeditions into the forest to investigate the craters. Nerun knows the features of the Forest better than we do, and he can be of great help, specially since he has seen the Fruit before. Besides, as a child, it is possible that no one will mistrust him and it will be even easier for him to get information. Moreover, I think it would be time for Silvester to come to the border as well. That fatty needs to start putting food on the table."
Maikal thought for a few moments. Finally he sighed, and stared at Nerun. "Are you sure you want to come? It will be very dangerous." Nerun said nothing, but his gaze reflected his steely resolve to accompany them. Maikal thought he saw the same look on Armand's face from the past. At that moment Maikal reached into one of his pockets and pulled out a rather thin necklace, made of a strange metal. From the necklace hung a small, irregular, dark-toned, inconspicuous stone, which seemed to be a random stone from the road. However, when Nerun saw the stone, he couldn't take his eyes off it.