Hundreds to thousands of acolytes walked into the gigantic pillar. The main hall was massive and there were also hundreds of people moving up and about.
They moved toward the large gate at the end of the hall. Emery and Julian chatted but then everybody stopped all as they all felt something, a force that made their steps heavier.
"Emery, can you feel that?" Julian asked Emery in confusion.
"Yes, It feels like my whole body is being pushed down. What do you think is happening?" Emery said
"I'm just clueless as you, you know," said Julian, also having difficulties walking but faring much better than Emery.
Arriving at the large closed stone gate, Darius slightly bowed before turning around and saying, "The people who have elemental affinity with earth will get a benefit from this place. I'm sure all of you have experienced the invisible force pushing down on you by now. The longer you are staying in this place, the better is your talent in channeling the energy of the earth. I urge each one of you to come here everyday, so that you'll become a great magus in the future. Forget the other elements you have."
He placed his hands behind his back and continued, "Behind this gate lies a rock that is the origin of the stone element spirit. Everyone can enter this gate to gather and channel earth energy so that you'll improve your knowledge of the earth. However, for a first year acolyte, each of you can only train inside this room for half a day."
Darius then formed various gestures with his hands and a stone sprang beside him as tall as him. "If you can move this stone then you will be deemed as passed and receive acceptance as an acolyte for the institute of stone."
Several confident youths went over the stone Darius made and pushed it but it didn't budge. Darius laughed, "Did you think it would be that easy? Now enter the room and train your elemental energy. The closer you are to the origin stone, the faster you'll learn."
After Darius said that, the ground beneath their feet rumbled as the closed stone gate opened itself.
Emery and Julian entered along with the crowd and even though there were like a thousand of them, there was more than ample space for everyone to take a seat by themselves.
At the far side of the room, stuck to the wall, was a small piece of a pitch black rock floating on top of three platforms.
Emery walked slowly with Julian beside him. He was starting to feel out of breath because each step he took felt like scaling a mountain.
After the eleventh step, Emery felt like there's a huge wall preventing him from getting closer so he sat, cross-legged, while Julian moved closer to the rock. Emery closed his eyes and concentrated on catching his breath first. He then focused his mind on the black stone and a voice entered his mind.
Emery kept his eyes closed and thought about the black stone more. In the darkness of his mind, it felt like he was the only one and the black rock appeared in front of him.
The black rock emitted a faint yellow light and formed the following words 'Calm thy mind, be one with earth. Steadfast thy heart, unmoved, unshaken.'
"Be one with earth. What does it mean…" muttered Emery to himself when the black rock in his mind suddenly enlarged itself making him feel like being swallowed.
He wanted to open his eyes but then he remembered the next words 'Steadfast thy heart, unmoved, unshaken'. Emery forced himself to calm down and not panic. That was the clue. He remained seated—steady as the large black rock grew larger and larger as big as a mountain until it finally swallowed him. Emery felt the energy of the earth around him and was starting to lose his sense of self.
"Time's up!" Darius exclaimed.
Emery then opened his eyes, sweat dripping from his forehead. Without realizing it, they all had spent half a day sitting in front of the rock.
Emery waited for Julian to arrive and asked, "What happened?"
"Truly extraordinary!" Julian said with a beam on his face while also dripping with sweat.
All acolytes exited the room. Some looked excited and some looked exhausted.
After returning in front of the stone gate, Darius called their attention and made dozens of stones like the one he had made and asked them to move the stones.
A confident acolyte stepped forward first and placed his palm in front of the stone. The stone shook.
Darius smiled and said, "Excellent! Those who can move this stone will be considered an acolyte of the institute of stone. Those who are still unable to move it will need to train more. Could I have everyone check their palms first."
Emery focused his thoughts on the circle with a line in the middle.
[Battle power: 5]
[Spirit power: 21]
[Received Basic earth spirit cultivation technique.]
New information appeared in his mind, it is the manual on the earth spirit cultivation technique. But there was one thing that caught his eye the most. Emery had spent half a day focusing on the stone and his spirit power increased by one point! His heart jumped with joy even if it was just one point. He gave it a thought and came to a realization, this was like mastering a skill. The more he practiced a skill, then the comprehension would increase, wouldn't that mean the spirit power also would improve a lot faster?
Just as he was thinking more and more, Julian exclaimed, "This is amazing! I just looked at my spirit power go up by three! In half a day, I'm three points shy from thirty."
The word three point took away Emery's joy of receiving one point. Ahh alas, a short ten second of happiness but still Emery was joyful that Julian also had a fruitful time.