86 A Past Omen Realized
"Are you kidding? Obviously we go through the front entrance! Though, since it was Jam that made it open, he'll get whatever we find there." Since he had pretty much carried them through the whole "challenge," Jam would obviously get whatever it was hiding behind the gates. Perhaps if Xie Ming or the other core disciples were strangers they'd fight Jam for the treasures that probably existed just across the gates, but all of them had deep ties to Jam; in one way or another, he had established good enough relationships to earn a not-so-easily broken loyalty.
Everyone stacked up behind Jam and waited for him to go first. They all flew through the gates of the mechanical eye and found themselves in another tunnel. They walked down the tunnel, obscured in total darkness — using various lights from the Dao to see — for what seemed like an hours. They didn't rush and teleport, even flying was ruled out as they didn't have much space around them; the tunnel walls were relatively stuffy.
Eventually, a light began to shine through the tunnel walls, and the group found themselves above a desert. They were still in the tunnel, only the walls were almost completely transparent. Evangeline exclaimed "This is one of the areas where I faced challenges. It's one of the earlier zones, full of Saint Lord and Saint God constructs." As she finished her sentence, a sand golem could be seen kicking up a dust plume as it rushed through the desert; apparently hunting an equally strong Saint Lord demonic beast.
The tunnel was part of a Core Nexus — an integral part to be specific — the people within it could only operate with them space there. They couldn't teleport out to the desert or scout the outside world with their divine sense. Being allowed to just watch was plenty boring, so they kept moving up.
Since they could see up ahead, they began flying through the tunnel. It was a straight tunnel with no need for extra thoughts on movements, so before an hour passed, the group passed through a couple more "challenge zones." Apart from the dessert, there was a myriad of environments, just begging to be explored.
Jam saw forests with waterfalls, plains as vast as continents, worlds of ice and fire, areas of collapsed space, and even a miniature scale galaxy… These varied locales housed Saint and Sage level creatures Jam had never even heard of. He could swear that there were even some Immortals running around in this place as one of them seemed to stare directly at Jam thought the tunnel walls.
It made one wonder who it was that made this Core Nexus, and why it was hanging around in the Mortal Plane. But, given Jam's current level of strength, he gave up all thoughts and solving this mystery anytime soon. He just kept moving his group though the tunnel, until they crossed into another area of depressing darkness.
Once surrounded by total darkness, the tunnel floor actually light up a path against the expectation that this was just another zone, and led Jam to the center of the Nexus. It lit up a path to a grand altar, where a miniature hologram of the mechanized eye that housed all that Jam had seen up into till now, lay hovering and rotating ever so slowly.
Everyone stayed away from the center, and waited for Jam to complete whatever he could at the very center by himself. This was his opportunity, so they wanted to give him some space for a sense of security.
Jam walked up to the hologram and stared at it thoughtfully. He had no idea what it was supposed to do, but Tzatziki did. Tzatziki had also been a bit surprised by how easily the Core Nexus let Jam intrude onto its center stage. He had prepared long ago to get by with some tricks, but it seemed like the Nexus' treasure spirit had taken a liking to Jam.
As a Core Nexus, this place was by definition created artificially by a god from the Divine Plane. Gods and Immortals furthered the Dao of secondary occupations past Tier 10, and at the later stages of Immortal Artifact Refining, the creation of a Treasure Spirit were a natural and greatly appreciated byproduct to the process.
Treasure spirits had sentience and by virtue, emotions. They had things they liked and hated. People they would fancy and "chose." Jam just happened to be one such lucky lad. He had been allowed to pass straight to the center of the Core Nexus, so naturally Tzatziki expected the Treasure Spirit to appear and accept Jam as its master; or something along these lines.
While extremely rare and uncommon, such an event wasn't unheard of. Usually this would happen sometime after a God died or was preparing to die. They would leave these places behind for worthy candidates; worthy in their eyes. It was odd for someone to just pass through directly and gain ownership of the Core Nexus without having to pass a challenge, but Tzatziki guessed the Treasure Spirit took one look at Jam's quality as a cultivator and let him thought, no questions asked.
But… no Treasure Spirit appeared. Jam just stood there in the center of Nexus, before the floating hologram for ten minutes before Tzatziki acted out, thinking something was wrong. For the first time in a while, Tzatziki used his soul to interact with the world outside of Jam's body. He used a technique to split 10% of his soul and used that small bit of his essence to leave Jam's body and enter the hologram.
Tzatziki fiddled around with the hologram, using it like a center console, before making a grim discovery: There was no Treasure Spirit… There had been in the past, but it had died due to the massive damage that this Core Nexus had sustained eons ago. The Core Nexus was operating on complete autopilot… meaning only the strict commands of its previous master remained the rules.
Somehow, the previous master of this Core Nexus was connected to Jam, as there was no way he would be allowed all the way to the center, if not for a direct command…
As Tzatziki made that discovery, the center console reacted to his soul messing around and fried a portion of that ten percent sent inside into oblivion. Tzatziki quickly recalled what remained of his split soul. His face darkened when he noticed that 7% of his total soul had been annihilated.
As the Nexus rejected Tzatziki, it was practically calling out to Jam. Begging for him to do as Tzatziki did and send his soul into the hologram. Tzatziki off in his own little world, thinking of what he would need to restore his soul, ignored Jam as he sent a sliver of his divine sense into the hologram.
Against all expectations, the Nexus joyously rang out with chimes of the Dao and divine lights as Jam's divine sense started an automatic binding process with the Nexus. Seeing this positive sign, Jam increased the amount of divine sense impacting the Nexus to speed up the binding process.
As a divine instrument, Jam's pitiful divine sense as a Spirit Realm cultivator would take centuries to bind the Nexus; that was if it didn't fight him off, in the first place. But, since the Nexus actively sought being bonded to Jam, the process became millions of times faster; it wouldn't even take an hour for the process to conclude.
Tzatziki watched with bittersweet emotions. Though a piece of his soul was lost to the Nexus, with it being bound to Jam, the path to Godhood would probably become shorter. He didn't tell Jam to stop as this was his original guess as to how this would play out.
The binding processes quickly reached its final moments, but before the lights and chimes of the Dao died out, calamity descended. As the Nexus reached 99% synchronization with Jam's soul, it found the infinitesimally small lights Jam had previously awakened. Two of the lights came forth, departing form the seven others, and began expanding in size.
One light shined with an infinite splendor of cyan, carrying with it the a fleeting and ancient air. The other light was grey and unassuming, almost invisible if one didn't look at it carefully. These two lights weaved around each other like a pair of eternal lovers and grew as they shot out of the essence of Jam's soul.
By the time Tzatziki noticed them, Jam could do nothing to stop… Tzatziki looked at the two lights interacting with the Core Nexus and nearly crapped his nonexistent pants. "God Souls? How is that even possible?!" Jam was suppose to unlock his God Souls when he became a God, through the use of the final technique within the Innate Technique Set. But he had just shown two God Souls to the world. Two!
Though they were in the early stages of development, the fact remained that he had awakened them. If Tzatziki knew he had seven more, lying around in the core of his soul, he might just want to kill himself…
Tzatziki calmed himself as now was not the time to be shocked. Jam's God Souls were being used way too soon! They were being exhausted by the Core Nexus, in an effort to complete the binding process. Jam could do nothing at this point, as he was starting to get drowsy. His God Souls were dimming down to near disintegration before the binding of the Core Nexus was complete.
The two God Souls left back to the center of Jam's soul, but the damage had already been done… Jam collapsed into a deep hibernation with the Core Nexus' center console/hologram branding itself as a tattoo on his left hand.
With Jam effectively entering a half dead state, the people waiting outside of the altar rushed to help him. They panicked and started doing everything in their power to revive Jam, but he had taken damage to his God Souls; even gods need some time to recover from this, to say nothing of a Rebirth Stage cultivator like Jam.
Though he was unconscious, Jam's mind was still working and his organs were still functioning. He was having an odd dream at the moment, or maybe it was a vision… even he didn't know as he couldn't recognize a thing.