AOH – Chapter 146

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CHAPTER 146: THE FIVE ELEMENTS

ARIADNE GARDEN

There was a gate of rough wood  as big as a cow and ivy cascaded over the fence, growing tendrils in every direction.

The stone path was punctuated with colorful flowers after every stone. The lawn is greener filled by a variety of grass and there is the apple tree in one of the many center in the gardens.

The apple tree is strong and sturdy, attended to by gardeners every day, a towering tree that serves as a shade to those who wanted to rest for a while, or just to enjoy the breezy winds in the park.

The fountain flowed between the two ponds. There is also a house, with a celling supported by wooden slats.

A bamboo platform, created for moon-viewing, extends beyond the veranda. The house is most likely built to accommodate a large amount of people at informal gatherings.

Considering the party, feast, banquets that the Vermont’s always held, it is not that absurd to think that the large house has its uses other than as a resting place for the Vermont’s.

The house is called Ariadne Garden House which features a large hipped-and-gabled roof, as well as a veranda enclosed by wooden shutters.

It follows the Arakian tribe designs and is composed of an eight-mat room, a six-mat room, and a three-mat area that are arranged into an L-shape.

There is a coffered ceiling, and an alcove containing a large window. Within the garden, there were originally five teahouses.

The small structures were built to incorporate qualities, such as harmony, silence, and reverence.

The teahouses used natural elements such as wooden supports with bark, continuing the atmosphere of the garden.

And there is also a tower in the huge park the Moon Tower, which has a view overlooking the pond in the park.

Although it is only fifteen by twenty-four feet in area, it is known for its spatial effect due to its exposed ceiling and roof structure.

The roof is supported by four slanting beams that rise from the corners of the building with a ridge pole that is further supported by a curving king pole resting on a tie beam.

To say about the magnificence of the park that Arial dedicate for her daughter, the apt description, it is too grandiose, but Arial do not mind, for Arial intended to make such grandiose tribute to his daughter and Helia and the other know about this.

Arial is approaching the woman who is looking at the distance watching a child running around smiling.

‘Ehem’ Arial coughed

‘You have come dear.’ Helia said as she turned her gaze to look at her husband.

‘Yes, did you wait long?’

‘It is fine, dear. I know you are occupied with the council matters. I could hardly blame you.’ Arial nodded and began taking a seat on the nearby chair.

‘Where is Ariadne, Helia?’ Arial asked and Helia pointed her finger to one of the gardens and Arial could see a young girl running around giggling and chuckling, looking everything with awe and wonder.

‘Liselle is taking care of our daughter.’

‘I never thought you would leave her under the care of the servants.’ Arial took a cup on the table only to realize it was empty and he put it back down.

‘I’m not that protective, you know? Liselle can be trusted. Or do you not trust my judgment?’

‘Helia, you are to easily prick. I mean nothing by my words.’ Helia then poured the tea to the cup and Arial smile while taking a sip.

Then his eye gazes to the distant thinking of something.

‘Hmm’ Arial sighed. Helia stare at her husband.

‘Is there something bothering you dear?’

‘A lot actually. There are too many to count. Since I have decided to do this, I must prepare accordingly.’

Then Arial put down his cup and he takes a deep breath, his face is clearly struggling with some inner dilemma.

‘Sometimes I have this thought Helia.’

‘What thought, Dear? Tell me. Who knows if I could soothe your worries?’

‘The question of what if? That if Edward never came to Arrandy, if he never arrive at my castle, if I never accept his request for sheltering him, if I never follow him on his way back to his coronation, then maybe…..just maybe…..this war would never happen. A hundred and a thousand if. What if? This question lingers on my mind. The possibility and chances of everything that is happening right now, connected by a string of coincidence and events.’

And then Arial stare at the beautiful face of his wife and he turn his gaze back his gaze to the shifting clouds in the sky.

‘Harald fear my claim and as such treated all Arrandians as a force to denigrate his rule, which he in his paranoia consequently block my trade activities from land trade to Vangua to sea trade from Freya, and I on the other hand, fear the might he now possesses to do harm to our family. With his capacity as King of Vangua who rule Vangua and Freya who is now under one crown his might is great indeed.’

Helia just hold her husband hand and gripped it tight, her eyes showing understanding, and said

‘Forgive me, dear.’

‘There is nothing to be forgiven.’

‘If I have not pushed you for the crown…if I have no-‘

Arial grip Helia hand tighter conveying assurance.

‘Helia, you mistake my worries as admonishment towards you. You have done nothing wrong. I know…you did it for me. I am not that blind towards your noble efforts. I know what you were thinking when you pushed me for the crown. I might not have embraced your idea so openly but even I do not deny that having Harald as the King of Vangua would spell many trouble for our family and Aetherland especially. If it were any other men…if only’

Arial said, once again sighing thinking of what if?

‘But still….dear. If only I have not encourage you to pursue that path then mayb-‘

‘It is not wise to talk about the road not taken. It will only invite regrets and disappointment. I have learned that to live…to live fully you must plan the future but always live in the present. The past could not be change but the present will dictate the future. So, it is important for me now, to focus on the things that I can change, Helia. There is no need for you to feel guilty. I understand your feeling.’

Arial then caress Helia hair, and Helia smile a bit, her face of worries turns to smile, a pleasant expression.

‘Do not worry about me too much. Haven’t you heard? I am Arial Vermont. Is there anyone on this world that can defeat me?’

Arial made a bold declaration to ease Helia worries. Helia chuckle a bit, giving of some faint laugh seeing her husband boasting.

‘Central Celestial,huh?’ Helia said still chuckling.

‘You have heard?’

‘I did. Truly you must have reached a level of power I could never have imagined to stand tall with the 4 Immortals and not only that, to defeat them in battle.’ She said a little pouting.

‘Are you by any chance….jealous?’ Arial said, realizing that hint of jealously in his wife question

‘Yes….of course, I am. We might be husband and wife, but don’t you remember we used to be the 4 Greats. We were always trying to outdo the others. But even when we are a child you have always been a step…no, a hundred steps ahead of us in martial arts. You might deny this, but among the 4 Greats, you are actually our teacher instead of our rivals. Kyle always complained about that while Lisa always admire and look at you with reverence and awe.’

‘Is that so?’ Arial said clearly pleased.

‘Yes, it is so.’ Helia said regretting she said that

‘Then why haven’t you train like usual? Surely if you train your internal energy your strength would not lose to either Kyle or Lisa’ Arial asked.

‘Why should I?’ Helia smile.

‘Isn’t my husband the Central Celestial? The strongest of them all? Who would dare invite his wrath?’ and this time Helia laugh and even Arial chuckle a bit.

‘You are cheeky Helia.’

‘I learned it from you.’

Arial then take another cup of tea.

‘Have you heard any news from Lisa and West?’

‘Lisa is expecting’ Helia tell her husband of the happy news.

‘When?’ Arial said clearly happy hearing this happy news, his face light up and his expression is jovial.

‘Maybe next year if the word of the healer to be believed’

‘I should send my congratulation and gifts. Surely she would like that. Oh, and some medicinal herbs to help with the birth. Lisa, since she was a child always has a weak disposition. And she is usually affected by the winter cold. Some warm properties herb can surely help her not to have any miscarriage’

‘I have been thinking about the same thing dear but to be honest I am disappointed with you, Arial’

Arial chuckle remembering old days. Not hearing what his wife just said. He did not hear the tone of jealousy in her wife words or the rising anger that Helia is feeling now.

‘It is good that Lisa marry West. West may not look like it but at least he has persuaded Lisa from entering the war. I would find it my greatest regret to see Lisa hurt in my war. She is after all my precious friend and to let her join the army again is not a chore I would like to do again. There were many near misses the last time’

‘Hmph’ Helia snorted.

‘Only her you are worried about? How about me?’

‘Of course I worry about you too.’ Arial said began realizing the atmosphere. His wife is sulking.

‘Are you? Why did you not say it more often then? You always keep me guessing. And why not show me the same care you show Lisa? Warm properties herb and winter cold. Humph’ Helia said mumbling in dissatisfaction.

Arial is scratching his head trying to figure out a way to neutralize this problem.

‘You know how I am.’ Arial said trying to form an excuse.

‘That couldn’t always be an excuse.’

‘I know, Helia. Do forgive your husband.’ Arial said jokingly.

‘Shesh’ Helia said looking at the pitiful face of her husband and slowly her face softened and she chuckle a bit at herself and her husband.

Even she feels that her behavior is a little childish. But she feels pricked by her husband concern feeling for Lisa.

Even though Helia knows that her husband only view Lisa as a good friend she could not help but feel jealous of her husband affection for Lisa.

Sensing that the mood is getting better Arial quickly change the topic.

‘You know tomorrow I will ride to Arouen’

‘Why, dear?’ Helia said, not knowing about this plan of her husband.

‘I will ask Adrian for aid on the war effort’

‘Will he consent it?’

‘I don’t know. However I thought it is prudent, to attempt to at least, conciliate Adrian favor’

‘Hmm, will you go by yourself or will the Dragonguard accompany you? I will feel less worry if you brought men with you’ Helia just sighed.

‘This is a delicate mission and I do not want to show that I distrust him so I will entrust this task to no one but myself. Rather than to entrust it onto a deputy I think it is fitting if I go by myself.’

Helia just nodded. She knows her husband word is law. If he decided to go by himself, then he would surely go by himself.

Still Helia feel worry about her husband.

‘Helia, if he ask me who will guard my realm when I’m away I will nominate you as my regent’

‘WHAT!’ Helia cried out startled with this sudden announcement.

‘Why are you so surprised, Helia? You are the perfect candidate. I was always absent and your talents truly lie in governing maybe more than me. It is only natural that I will choose you.’

‘Wouldn’t anyone object? Maybe your council lords or you vassals? Wouldn’t they raise any objection?’

‘Who would dare? And everyone knows of your intelligence. They would surely not mind taking orders from you.’ Arial said.

‘Fine. If you truly believe that I will accept the regency and govern Arrandy during your absence.’ Arial nodded in satisfaction.

Then Arial and Helia heard the running footsteps coming to them and they both turn their backs and see a child running towards them.

‘Father, mother.’ The voice cried out happily

A young child with a flowing white hair and a dazzling blue eye is running towards them with joy. Her smile is pleasant and happy.

Arial get up from his chair and embrace the kid and thrown her into the air and retrieve her safely back while the kid giggle with excitement.

‘Ariadne. How is the park? See anything of interest?’

‘There is butterflies, father. It can fly’

‘HAHAHAHA’ Arial laugh.

‘Did you see a butterfly?’

‘Yes, father. It was very beautiful. Liselle told me that it came from a worm, father.’

‘And what do you think?’

‘I think Liselle lie, father.’

‘Oh, why do you think that?’

‘How can that beautiful flying thing come from a worm? Liselle lie. Liselle lie.’ Ariadne keep yelling that while her fingers is pointing at Liselle.

‘Forgive me my lord’ Liselle said bowing her head.

‘I should have explained better.’ The maid said while bowing her head to the Duke and Duchess.

‘It is fine Liselle.’ Helia reply.

‘Ariadne is precocious like that.’

‘Liselle lie mother.’

‘Hish, Ariadne. She did not lie.’

Arial just laugh. To him, it is just cute of his daughter to misunderstand such things.

‘It is fine, Liselle. Other people can teach her later.’ Arial said. It’s not like it is Liselle fault that his daughter misunderstands things.

‘Dear, you spoil her too much.’ Helia said looking at her husband who dotes on their daughter too much

‘It is fine, isn’t it to spoil her sometime.’

‘Yeah, father is the greatest’ Ariadne said smiling an innocent smile while running to Arial to be hugged. Arial kiss his daughter cheeks and foreheads.

‘It tickles father. Hehehe’ Ariadne chuckles.

They spend the evening chattering about family matters, old stories, and about their friends.

It has been a long time since Arial had a time for his family and so he feel really fulfilled that day, to spend time with his wife and daughter before continuing his unending work.

**********************************************************************

MIDNIGHT

ARIAL ROOM

The wind blows along the cracks of the wall and windows. A man can be seen waking up from his sleep.

He has been thinking that tonight is the night. It has been a long time since he did it and tonight seems to a perfect opportunity for him to do it.

When will he have the time after this?

Arial get up from the bed careful not to wake Helia. She is tired from the walk on the park so Arial did not want to disturb her sleep.

Arial carefully remove the blanket and get out from the room. Wearing thin clothes and just a thin pants Arial walked towards the tower.

There are still some guards and they all bowed slightly when they see him.

Arial has been neglecting his training since the preparation for the war began. He has been busy that he only manages to train his Internal cultivation but not the other technique.

So tonight he is going to train for a bit.

He enter his Private Library and he push  a book at the highest shelves and then a creaking sound can be heard as the brick behind it open a passage to Arial secret room.

It is thanks to the prodigious talent of building from Asteros masons that Arial could build this secret room to train far away from prying eyes.

The surface of the secret room is laced with Black slime, a slime-like liquid only found in Vorthy, one that can hide energy signatures.

Arial find it necessary to avoid being caught practicing. It is not that he fears getting caught more than he fears what will happen if people are attacked unconsciously by his Imposing Presence.

The Secret Room has long been constructed but the Black Slime is a new addition to the room.

Arial enter the secret room and with his hand he push this jutted brick and then the brick door close itself.

If it is view from outside there is nothing that will indicate that there is a secret room in the private Library.

In the huge open space of the room Arial sit cross legged as his body begins emitting power. Arial began reciting the Teachings.

‘Rocks are hard and unyielding,

The rivers flow around them and flow forgetting the hardness of rocks, Wood burns giving fire, Fire turns to ash which becomes earth, From earth emerges metal, And water came from condense air, Wood occupies earth, Earths soaks up the water, Water douses fire, Fire melts metal,Metal cuts wood.’

Arial recite this teaching remembering the Five elements of nature, one that he realizes after reading the books in the Temple of Linzi.

There is wisdom in its teaching.

It does not help Arial in cultivating internal energy but it does help Arial to focus and sometimes giving Arial an epiphany to create a new technique.

It is for this reason that Arial keep reciting what he can remember from the Teachings.

‘Nothing under heaven is more yielding than water, but when it attacks things hard and resistant, there is not one of them that can prevail.’

Then Arial make a mental note of what he has read.

‘For Metal, advance

For wood, retreat

For water, shift to the left

For fire, shift to the right

For earth, become the center.

Paint the rainbows and separate the clouds, row a boat at a still lake while gazing at the moon,’

Reciting and this while focusing and thinking on how to increase the thickness of the aura surrounding the body Arial work hard on these questions and his concentration is without a doubt at its peak.

He is trying to unravel the intricacies of Imposing presence, to be a wood that rouses the fire, to learn to harden like metal, to burn like fire, to be unyielding like the earth, to flow like water.

Arial intend to unify the 5 elements in his Imposing Presence, to make it the first undefeatable technique in the world.

When he is at a hard spot and has lost hope he must be like a firewood rising the fire in his heart, when he attack his strike must burn his enemies to cinders and ash, when he defends, his body must be strong as the hardest metal that none could break it, when he stops and take a position he must be unyielding like a mountain that no one could topple, when he fights people with technique superior than him, he must be unpredictable and his attack must flow flawlessly like a flowing water.

It is this he envisioned for the next stage of Imposing Presence.

Arial has been imagining this stage the moment he reads about the 5 Elements in the secluded corner of the temple of Linzi.

Arial was very interested in the idea of the 5 elements that he always pesters the Abbot for guidance.

It is because of that Arial felt gratitude and as such even willing to go to the Martial Art tournament in place of the Linzi temple.

He has owed too much to the Southern Healer and Arial doesn’t like the feeling of owing anybody anything and as such their debt is cleared the moment Arial win the martial art tournament.

Arial then continue his training until dawn.

It was the cuckoo of chicken and the chirping of birds outside that awoken Arial from his Imaginary Scape for he could not enter the Scape for too long remembering his meeting with King Adrian.

He opens his eyes, get up from his cross legged position and exited the secret room with elated hearts as he prepare to meet the King.

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