7 The Ring“s Spirit 2
Anselm ignored the old man's final comment as he looked over at the ring on the bedside table.
As his gaze fell on the ring, he noticed that it was no longer the same plain ebony colour as before. A silver ouroboros pattern appeared surrounding the ring like it emerged from within. The snake was so lifelike that it seemed as if it was slithering around the ring.
"The ring transformed after the old man appeared. Has this got something to do with passing the trial and gaining the ring's approval?"
The old man stroked his white beard and followed Anselm's gaze to the ring.
"That is the Dreamweaver Ring - an ancient aura artifact that appeared millions of years ago. On its outside, the ouroboros represents the perpetuity of the cycle of life and death. Preceding you, the ring had another owner, and a different person owned it before them. For it to end up in your hands can be considered both a blessing and a curse…"
Anselm focused on the ring, a hint of longing in his eyes.
'Just what did they leave me?'
Peering up at the old man, he said,
"So it's called the Dreamweaver Ring. How and why did you appear from it then? Could you be the ring's spirit?"
The old man let out a sigh and replied,
"When you cleared the trial, I could sense the restrictions on my soul weakening. The moment I felt this, I tried to exit the ring and my body appeared outside in the physical world at this location. For now, I can enter and exit the ring whenever I want to, but the time I can stay outside of the ring is limited, since it places too much of a burden on my injured soul."
"So that means you've been in the ring this entire time then? If that's so, then doesn't that mean you've been watching me ever since I had the ring?" Anselm looked questioningly and full of hope at the old man.
'I was wearing this ring when Dylin and the others found me, so maybe if the old man has seen everything he can recall the time I was left at the village…"
The old man shook his head and said, "It's not like that. I don't remember exactly how long I've been in the ring, but it seems like a powerful being sealed me in there. My soul has been slumbering for a long time and only awakened when you entered the ring following your near-death experience. My memory is very hazy as well, so I don't remember anything from before I entered my slumber."
'So that's how it is.' Anselm started to feel slight pity for this old man; his soul had been sealed in the ring for an unknown amount of time, and when he woke up for the first time in a while, he had no recollection of anything that happened prior to his awakening.
"Gramps, do you remember your name at least?"
The old man snorted, "Gramps? I'm not that old yet, kid."
Anselm immediately replied, "But look at your white hair, gramps. You're the oldest person I've seen!"
"Hmph. I'm still in my prime youth. Since I'm slightly older than you, I'll let you call me uncle instead."
Winking, Anselm said, "Okay, Uncle."
"As for my name," The old man began murmuring before he spoke up, "Beirand! That's it. Beirand is my name. Since I've told you my name, what's yours?"
With a bright smile, Anselm puffed out his chest. "Anselm. Anselm Dreamsworn! Nice meeting you, Uncle Beirand."
Beirand's eyes glistened. "Anselm Dreamsworn, a fine name indeed."
"Uncle, with your soul existing in the ring, is there any way for it to be released completely? Not only allowing you to leave temporarily, but to separate soul and ring?" Anselm felt closer to Uncle Beirand, and so was worried that he'd be trapped and have to suffer in the ring forever.
Stroking his beard, Beirand thought for a moment before replying, "Anselm, I told you before that my soul was sealed in the ring. The being that sealed me here was incredibly powerful - he had strength incomprehensible to the people of this world. For me to leave here, there are two options.
Firstly, the one that cast the seal has to be killed. With his strength, however, that is almost impossible. Secondly, if I fully heal my soul and recover my strength, then I have confidence in being able to break the seal set on me.
It's comfortable in the ring anyway and I can leave whenever I want to - just as long as I don't stay outside too long."
Anselm remembered those methods deep in his heart. In the future, he would help his Uncle Beirand to escape the confines of the ring. After listening to what he said, concern flashed through Anselm's eyes,
"But what if somebody notices you when you're outside of the ring?"
Beirand simply chuckled in response.
"In my current feeble state, only those with aura mastery at the Spirit Lord stage and above can faintly detect my existence. As my strength recovers, even those at the Life Master stage won't be able to discover me. The ring itself has aura masking properties as well, so there isn't even the slightest presence of aura emanating from it."
Anselm looked on in wonder, "You sound so strong, Uncle! With your strength, surely you can train and teach me. You've got nothing better to do, right? I'm only at the early stage of Vitalisation."
An enigmatic smile appeared on Beirand's face, "Only early stage of Vitalisation? Check again."
Confused, Anselm began to inspect his body. Circulating Heaven's Anil technique, he was shocked to discover that several new aura meridians had been forged in his body. From the manual that Captain Alder gave him, his current strength was equivalent to the middle stage of Vitalisation - a level that the village's weaker hunters were at.
"I was only at the early stage before I ventured into the Shadow Woods, so when did I break through?"
With a smug look on his face, Beirand answered his question.
"A man with a scar covering one of his eyes entered the room a few days ago and fed you an Eternal Vitality pill. When I exited the ring earlier, I also sent some of my remaining aura into your body to finish the recovery and wake up. With such a large volume of aura from me and the strong medicinal properties of the pill in your body, your body unconsciously circulated your Vitalisation technique and used the excess aura to create new aura meridians."
'A man with a scar on his eye? That must be Captain Alder. I'm sure he'd be shocked to see that I've already advanced to the middle stage of Vitalisation.'
Anselm underestimated the speed at which he broke through two cultivation levels. It usually takes new aura immortals several weeks or even months to advance even a single level, yet he's already advanced twice. It would be safe to say that Captain Alder would be completely stunned.
Anselm looked up at Beirand and respectfully clasped his fists.
"Thank you for the help, Uncle Beirand!"
Beirand waved his hand. "No need for such formalities, Anselm. We're good friends now." He turned his head towards the door. "I can hear footsteps coming this way. It looks like you have a visitor. I'll head back into the ring to rest a little then. It was fun meeting you, young Anselm."
Beirand's body disappeared as he was transported back into the ring.
Gently touching the ring, a smile appeared on Anselm's face and a tear gently ran down his cheek. "Uncle Beirand…"
A voice appeared in his head. "Hey, I haven't gone forever. My body has just entered the ring. I'm still here!"