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466 The Old Mans Sanctuary, A Place that Mortals Never Reached Before

 Day ▋▋ - ▋▋:▋▋ ▋▋ - Stone Fortress, Eastern Mountain

After picking up the crystal that fell to the ground, Mark did not return immediately. He was a bit complacent when he obliterated the giant's body, causing that last attack to happen. Seeing that even a single eyeball was capable of releasing such an attack, he scoured the area a bit more, ensuring that no remnants of the giant's body remained.

Mark went on a few circles around the scorched area and its boundaries. While he did that, many of the races that escaped during the second half of the battle had returned. They returned not because they were only curious about the outcome of the fight. They came back to search for the remains of their comrades.

Diwata Danaya did her best to secure everyone's safety when the giant grew those humongous eyes on its body. However, being a single individual, she alone was not enough to save everyone.

Furthermore, none of them expected to see an intact body. The tentacles that grew out of the giant's body caused most of the death as it happened while most of the races were near the giant's body. Those that the tentacles caught and strangled had their bodies either crushed or squeezed into unsightly pieces.

There was no distinction on the races of those that perished. Even some of the Sarangays that had sturdy bodies had their bodies torn to shreds or squeezed into meat juice.

More might have died because of those tentacles if Diwata Danaya did not intervene and caused the giant's attention to focus on her.

And looking at the area left after the battle, the races that came back questioned whether they would still be able to see any remains. For sure, like the giant's body, their corpses already turned to dust and ashes.

Many people were already present in the area when Mark decided to return to the fortress.

After arriving, he witnessed a strange sight where Danaya was prostrating in front of the Old Man. The Old Man was trying to make her stand up, but it was just that she would not dare to.

"What is happening?"

Mark asked his group after he landed. That was when he noticed that even the members of his group had strange expressions as they looked at the Old Man.

Apparently, they were still digesting the absurd information that they had just heard.

"Gege, Danaya called the Old Man, Bathala."

Mei said while scratching her cheek.

It was no wonder now that they could not comprehend what they had heard. After all, who would believe if someone told you that the hermit that you spoke to was someone regarded as a God?

Mark had a strange frown as he looked at the Old Man. It was quite urgent before, and he had no time to observe the Old Man's appearance. Now, however, he could see the resemblance from the writings he read in the past.

The Old Man looked like someone in his eighties with platinum silver hair, mustache, and beard with the length that reached his chest. His stature was also far from his appearance, and if one observed firmly, he had solid muscles under his loose, ragged clothes.

That state of his clothing was somewhat off as it made him look like a beggar. Nevertheless, it was definitely his signature white robe that barely covered his muscular body. Below, he was wearing a long breechcloth around his waist and a pair of ragged shorts made of animal skin underneath.

On his neck, he was wearing a tribal necklace laced with black colored fangs. He was also wearing a pair of golden plates about two inches in diameter as earrings. He held an oddly shaped wooden staff. The Old Man was also barefooted and only wore a pair of anklets made of different colored stones on his feet.

Because of Danaya, those races around them also started to prostrate before the Old Man. Sure enough, this made him even more troubled. As for Karlene and the others, they began to ponder whether they needed to copy the races. After all, it was a God, or a supreme deity in the least, that they were talking about.

Seeing Mark staring at him with a very pressing expression, the Old Man coughed. He then looked at the Danaya.

"I will have to speak to your guests. To avoid repercussions, we will have to leave. Take care of this place well."

"Y-yes! I will obey your words, Mahabaging Bathala!"

Danaya replied in a fluster.

Hearing her reply, the Old Man turned to Mark and the members of his group.

"Follow me."

He said as he turned his back and walked towards the opposite direction of the wall.

Mark and his group were confused. The way down the wall was in the opposite direction of where the Old Man was walking towards. Nevertheless, the Old Man continued to walk, making them follow.

And after they took a couple of steps behind the Old Man, the scene around them changed.

They were no longer atop the wall of the fortress. The members of the races around them were also gone.

Instead, they were surrounded by shimmering glass-like walls, both left and right. It was a cave with crystal walls with only a single path.

Everyone in his group shivered at the sight of this. Not because they were surprised or afraid, but because of the thick energy abundant in the area. It was too thick that even Edzel, Pearl, and Karlene, who were still humans, could feel it.

Despite the surprise, Mark and his group did not stop walking. They savored the pleasant feeling of the energy seeping into their bodies while following behind the Old Man.

Soon, they saw rays of light coming from the end of the cave.

The Old Man stepped into the rays, and they followed. There, they realized that they exited the cave.

And what they saw was paradise.

Outside the cave was a basin about five hundred meters wide and was being surrounded by mountain high steep crystal walls. Looking up, it felt like someone or something dug an enormous hole into a crystal mountain and created a sanctuary below it.

Half-foot tall grass covered the land, and there was a ten-meter river flowing across the center of the basin. They could see the source of water, and it was a waterfall that fell straight from above the mountain cliff. This waterfall was definitely higher than the tallest waterfall on earth, Salto Ángel, in Venezuela.

Because of the flowing water, different kinds of flora could be seen around the basin. All of the plants they saw was something they had seen for the first time. Some were plants with crystal leaves and flowers, there was also a flower that was releasing light, and there was a tree growing golden fruits.

Those golden fruits made Mark stop a bit as the thought of something. Mei and Abbygale also paused as they had the same feeling after seeing the fruits.

They did not take long, though, as the Old Man continued to walk away. Along the way, they also saw animals and insects. Each creature was unusual, but fascinating to look at.

A male deer with sapphire horns, a small swallow with golden feathers, a white butterfly that glows in the dark, and even a literal Golden Beetle was seen flying.

Furthermore, what made the scene even more astounding, was how the grass, flowers, leaves, and vines danced with the gentle breeze. It was very odd considering how the whole place was enclosed by tall crystal cliffs.

After waving through the grass and crossing the river using a bridge made of vines, they reached their destination.

It was a small cabin in the middle of the basin. The whole structure was made with simplistic materials. Because of this, the simple house stuck like a sore thumb, and yet, it oddly felt like it blended well with the surroundings.

There was an unusually shaped tree beside the cabin that was filled with hanging vines. And from the branches of the tree, they could hear some melodious chirping.

When the Old Man neared the house, two small blue birds with long tails and feathers that shimmered like gems flew towards him.

"Tigamanukan?"

Mark blurted out in curiosity. That, however, made the two birds look at him strangely. Sure enough, the two birds could not only hear him but actually understood him. Though the two birds seemed to be looking at Mark oddly, he could tell that the two birds were happy to be recognized. The two birds even flew towards him and circled around his head, before returning back to the Old Man.

The two birds then landed on the Old Man's shoulder as he led them into the cabin.

"Please enter. Pardon the small space since I'm the only one living here."

The Old Man said as he opened the door.

Mark and the others did not mind. They were just a small group, and the three giants they had was not with them.

However, after entering, they could not help but mind it.

The space in the living room was still too small for their group, and it felt quite cramped. It was really a house made for a single person.

In the end, even the Old Man had to compromise.

He led everyone to the back of the house under the huge tree. The Old Man them spoke to the tree to everyone's confusion. Then, after the Old Man gave his commands, the roots of the tree grew longer and bigger, making a table, several chairs, and even some stands. The stands were made, so that Aephelia, Amihan, Malaya, and the Pixie, Reilynne, could sit down comfortably.

While the tree did its magic, the Old Man entered the cabin and went out with earthen kettle and cups of different sizes floating in front of him.

From the kettle, everyone could smell the aroma of tea that seemed to be made from flowers.

The Old Man then served everyone a cup of tea. It was sweet and hot, yet refreshing. Even the little girls that did not like this kind of drink could not help but like it.

For some reason, the Old Man was very accomodating to them that it felt strange. He was Bathala, after all.

As everyone settled down, the Old Man spoke.

"So, where does everyone want to start?"

He asked.

And it was Karlene, who was fidgety since the start, immediately asked.

"Are you really Bathala?"

Hearing the question, no one disagreed for the conversation to start from there.

Then, the Old Man smiled with a pint of melancholy.

"I was called by that name in the past. Right now, I'm just an Old Hermit. You all don't have to be stiff, or I will feel troubled."

As the Old Man confirmed it himself, without any sign of lies or deceit, Karlene and the others could not help but feel surprised. Even though they already heard Danaya earlier. It was that hard to take that they were actually speaking with a Godly entity right now.

Mark, on the other hand, accepted it. Not because the Old Man was not lying, even without the words, the strength he could feel from the Old Man was several times greater than his.

He was able to contend with a weakened Deity. And now, he could probably fight with a lower Deity to a draw. But if he was to fight this Old Man, he could not see any chance of winning.

"If you are Bathala, why can't you just make that giant disappear in a flash? Is it that you are also bound to something like the rules of the world? Like the Spirit and Elemental Races?"

Mark asked the most crucial thing.

That question made Bathala sigh. He took a sip from his cup and replied.

"It's not like that I am restricted by the rules of the world. I may not be a True God, but I have been a God of this country. From Higher Deities to Higher Gods, they have the ability to bend these rules. What restricts us, however, are the rules made by Them."

"Them?"

Alana asked.

That question made Bathala turn to Mark.

"Them... They don't have any real name or race. Their role is being the Administrator of Worlds, Universes, and Dimensions. We who knew their existence call them..."

Bathala looked up at the sky with a stern expression.

"Observers."