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  1. #181
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    Book 7 – Ercas Mir

    Chapter 15 – Aftermath



    “Argh! I… kill them I’LL… Argh! Kill them!”

    Inside a crater of over two kilometers in diameter, the formerly cloaked woman struggled in pain and ashen countenance on three limbs, as the left side of her torso was messed.

    Caught off guard by the last mist attack, her clothes were mostly obliterated, leaving her half naked, bleeding nonstop and, now at the aftermath, striving to better her posture.

    “Darvaj- Argh! Darvajka, help me, DARVAJKA!” Her communication device apparently broke in the fight. Mist energy amplifying her voice and rage suppressing the pain, she yelled and let loose a wave of flames that rose to the night sky.

    “Where? Argh! Where, dammit, is it?!” Her vision was blurry. With her one working hand she searched her left hand and on the ground, to no avail. “Where is my ring?!” Although she could not find it, she was nonetheless relieved that she never loosened the grip on her scythe after being blown away.

    “Cattelin!” A voice descended from above the crater, belonged to a cloaked humanoid figure.

    “Darvajka, argh! Help me, I lost my ring!” Cattelin, the formerly cloaked woman, groaned.

    “Tsk!” Darvajka, her counterpart, clucked his tongue. He removes the hood of his cloak off of his head, revealing a bald, bluish head with gills at his neck, slanted eyes and razor sharp teeth. “Wait”.

    In a blink of an eye, Darvajka reached Cattelin’s side. With one arm supporting her, in the other he already hold and brought to her mouth a small pill.

    “Let the pill’s medicinal properties do their job. I’ll bandage your injuries”. He said, forcing himself to stay calm.

    After couple of minutes of rest, where the pill miraculously mended eighty percent of Cattelin’s internal injuries, she finally gathered enough energy to regain her sensibility and clean motor control on her body.

    “I’ll give you my second pill to completely heal the damage in the left side of your body in twenty hours. By then, nothing from the first pill would remain in your system”. Darvajka said. Covering her with a cloak he retrieved from his spatial ring and helping her up.

    “I know”. Cattelin murmured, no longer being a whimsy woman.

    Gauging her condition, physically and mentally, and surveying the surrounding, Darvajka said in a cold tone. “What happened? I told you not to take risks until I return. How did you end up like this? And where is your ring?!”

    Recalling all that happened, the shame of being struck so viciously by a weakling and now being berated by Darvajka, Cattelin’s temper heated up again. “I… I… I was careless”. She had to confess due to the importance of their task, and so she recited the chain of events.

    Listening quietly until she finished speaking, Darvajka frowned, though it was hard to notice with him being hairless. “We must locate your ring. If you dropped it at the scene of the battle then the situation still might be salvageable. But if they picked it up…”

    “I can go! Let’s head there this instant! And, Darvajka, I gave you time to break through the Martial Mortal realm in the midst of the task, you owe me! No matter what, that sly Musclehead and cowardly cat, you must find them for me”. She said, grinding her teeth in resentment. “I’ll butcher the both of them!”



    First thing he experienced was at the instant of opening his eyes and staring at the earthly ceiling above his head, that is, a mind splitting headache.

    His second odd experience was in his mouth, on his taste buds, a rusty flavor that was all too familiar, blood.

    Moving was intolerable, but he could not stay laying, either. So he forced himself up, thereupon becoming aware of all the bandages wrapped around his body and the imbalance of missing his right arm up to the shoulder.

    “You are awake!” A slight echo of a concerned voice traveled to Zax’s ears. A tall woman, apparently about his height, with an oval face, long red hair and green cat eyes rushed to his side.

    “Shouva”, Zax recognized by the voice and the feline features on the human face, despite it being his first time seeing it.

    Placing a hand on his back for him to lean on, in case he will lose the strength to stay up, was the most that Shouva felt herself capable of doing without letting shame resurface. Zax, to save her and her father, took upon him to safeguard their retreat against an opponent that now left him severely injured and even disabled.

    Zax sensed the gloomy atmosphere, but his mind has yet become clear. Unlike Shouva, his injuries and lack of a right arm were nothing more than a temporary inconvenience. He had been through worse and healed. Physically, his sole problem at the moment was the absence of unripe Blood Red Grapes to nourish his vitality for fast recovery. He could tell that under the bandages his open wounds were patched and smeared with medicinal something, however that “something” did not seem to be of use to his needs.

    By relying on his own healing abilities, for anything other than his right arm he will need a night or two of rest. To fully restore his arm... less than two weeks, maybe, would suffice. But if he will proceed with the trials’ assignment and further exhaust himself… a month, if he is lucky.

    “Where are Fengar and Vouvik?” Zax asked.

    He was not in the mood for reassuring Shouva that he is alright and that she should not blame herself. That much she will understand on her own, now that he exposed his true strength and there was one less secret to tell.

    “Oh, that’s right! I’ll go tell them that you are up”. Shouva hastily said. She slowly released her hold of Zax’s back and went back up the torch lighted cavern that they were stationed in.

    Moment later…

    “Zax…” Fengar arrived with a complicated look on his face.

    “Fortunately. I was afraid that our medicament would not affect your physique”. Vouvik followed after in his human form that shared resemblance to his daughter’s, although masculine. He was still taller than Zax by about a head and had two protrusions on his forehead.

    “It wouldn’t”. Zax said straightforwardly. “Not much, at least, but thanks anyway”. There was no point in keeping pretense if the two could help him find a consumable source of vitality, like the unripe Blood Red Grapes, or something close enough.

    Both grimaced, seemingly in anger and grief.

    “Don’t, Zax, you mustn’t thank us”. Fengar said, discarding the “Greenhorn” label he used to call him with. He felt sufficient shame already. “If it weren’t for the risk you took, we will all probably have died. The opponent you fought… she wasn’t a mere cultivator. As we assumed in Sifon tribe, the five powers are involved with the sudden murders and she was an agent of the Golden Desert Fort”.

    “The Golden Desert Fort?!” Zax was aghast. Involvement with the five powers was the last thing he wanted, but he could not turn his back to Vouvik’s and Shouva’s peril and now he cannot even lay low.

    Vouvik glanced at Fengar and the former pulled out a bronze ring from his utility belt and threw it to Zax.

    “When Fengar picked you up, he found it on the ground. It is the cloaked woman’s spatial ring. While you were unconscious we skimmed through it and discovered the origin of the woman as well as the reason behind the murders”. Vouvik explained. “We did not, however, take anything out of the spatial ring”. He added so there would not be a misunderstanding.

    Fengar also pitched in. “Zax, you don’t have a spatial ring. Spatial rings are very rare even to Peak Core Masters. As the one who fought off the cloaked woman, you should have her spatial ring and its content”.

    Zax realized the two’s meaning and knew that it was not their way of thanking or apologizing to him. Being the one responsible for making Cattelin lose her spatial ring made it his own fortune.

    He unceremoniously put the ring on his finger – later he will keep it hidden in his utility belt. It was restricted by a soul seal, Vouvik’s, a he was the last to use it. Zax shattered the seal with his soul energy and proceeded to channel it with accordance to the Restriction formation inside the ring.

    After a short breath, a new seal was erected. From what Fengar taught him in their travel to the Sifon tribe, if someone will break it he would be able to sense it along with losing the spiritual connection to the ring, which alerts of its whereabouts.

    Examining the space in the ring was gave a similar sensation to inputting his consciousness in Laivien’s violet stone. Inside was a void that could not sustain the living, be they human, beasts, vegetation or anything else. The space was a ten meters height and width cube. Inside were a number of objects. Data chips, journals, two pills of some sort, a Peak second realm Pure Core and about one hundred thousand Splinters.

    ‘So I ended up paying with my arm for more than my life…’ Zax heaved a deep sigh.

    Initially he was overwhelmed by the astonishing amount of Splinters. After selling his near Peak second realm Pure Core he only earned a trifling seven thousand Splinters. Now, not only he had an actual Peak second realm Pure Core, he also obtained over fourteen times his savings!

    Following the Splinters’ count, Zax observed the rest of the stuff. The several data chips were at the size of a human’s nail and he had no idea to what device they belong or for what purpose. He also ignored the pills, since he was oblivious to their medicinal effect. Last were the journals. Zax summoned them out with his soul energy, before examining their content.

    Seeing the small pile of seven journals, all three appeared to have guessed that Zax finished covering the content of the spatial ring.

    “There was also the Golden Desert Fort’s insignia, but I had to destroy it so it would not be used to detect our movement”. Fengar said.

    “The journals belonged to the murdered brokers. They hold all kind on notes. Anything regarding the High Rankers’ trials and the assignment is mentioned briefly in the last pages of each journal. The important intelligence is encrypted in the data chips. Of all eight, Shouva managed to partly decipher the information recorded in only two”. Vouvik expound.

    “What we discussed, father…” Shouva interrupted, motioning for him with her eyes to be considerate.

    “I know”. Vouvik said and next to him Fengar lowered his gaze to the ground and went to sit by the cavern’s wall. “Zax, the three of us have decided… This time’s assignment is too dangerous for us to take on. We thought about it and reached the conclusion that we should forfeit and participate in the next trials”. As he saw Zax about to comment, he continued to say. “Yes, some of the reasoning is your condition. But, the fact is that the matter that attracted the attention of, at least, one of the five powers, and most likely was planned all along by the Mercenary Association, is a too serious issue for us to get involved with as well”.

    Rubbing the pain off of his head, Zax disapprovingly stared at Vouvik and then averted his gaze to the fidgeted Fengar who stayed far from the conversation.

    “Let me stop you there, Vouvik”. Zax dismissed any notion of a junior’s decorum from his tone. Not in an attempt to be mean or discontent with the three. He was still thankful that they accepted him to their party and for the good way they treated him, but at the moment he just wanted to cut short the misinterpretation they had of him.

    “From the fight with that woman, you all should be able to tell that I’m a bodily cultivator. Moreover, my cultivation technique isn’t simple. With it even growing a new arm isn’t impossible. But for it to be an easy process for me I require sources of vitality”. In his narration, Zax indirectly inquired the three’s knowledge for something that could help him, all the while shocking them with the statement he made for his cultivation technique.

    Full ten second passed before they could satiate their astonishment. Although bodily cultivation techniques were rare in Ercas Mir, they were also inferior to above average mist cultivation techniques, which created a lack of interest from the general cultivators’ public. Conversely, bodily cultivation techniques that managed to surpass the norm by having certain uniqueness, such as growing back severed limbs, were extremely sought after.

    Repressing the desire to inquire about his cultivation technique and moving on… The three were not stupid, not to mention that helping Zax was a given whether he asked or not.

    “In clans and cities there are many consumables that generate vitality. Pills, herbs, fruits and meat… qualities vary, but prices are negotiable. If we will return-”

    “Good”. Zax said immediately, not letting Vouvik finish. “That matter aside, the journals and data chips, can you teach me how to use them and finally tell me what you discovered from them that made you flustered?”

    Resigning from the assignment was a choice Zax was willing to comply with. It might implicate Xinia’s status for picking him as the Sensensar family’s envoy and he will feel bad for it, but with a good enough reason behind this choice he had to be reasonable.

    Thus, as Zax looked for his clothes and noticed that was currently left of his upper garments was tattered fabric, thrown right next to him, he was also deeply curious on how much reasonable the information salvaged from the data chips was.

  2. #182
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    Book 7 – Ercas Mir

    Chapter 16 – Opportunity Within The Folktale



    Vouvik was hesitant to answer. He figured Zax would not be satisfied with forfeiting the assignment just like that.

    He sighed.

    Yes, the lad had hid from them a depth that he cannot fathom. However, as a mercenary and also a junior, it was still accurate to categorize him as “Greenhorn”, even if not outloud.

    “To decipher this type of chips you need an A class processor. I used the violet stone in the communicator to bypass the encryption, as much of it as I could”. Shouva replied.

    The communicator… Zax learned about the device on his journey with the party. Only Fengar and Vouvik had ones. Apparently, they are not uncommon, but good ones with proper range to work outside of cities or clans are extremely rare and expensive.

    The mentioned violet stone… yes, it was just the same as Laivien’s, a fragment of some other violet stone that was split apart and put as the nucleus of the communicator, as well as the said processor.

    According to Fengar, the larger the original piece of the violet stone, the wider the communicator’s range would be.

    Lastly, the communicator’s design, with a tiny stone being its most essential part, is more like that of a jewelry. To activate it, soul energy need to be channeled into it and as the formations printed on the violet stone do their thing, the operator must select one of the several functionalities. Naturally, the higher the class of the communicator, with D being the lowest and S being the highest, the more functions it has.

    “If only that wretched woman dropped her communicator along with her spatial ring…” Fengar mumbled to himself at the side and the rest just ignored him.

    “Shouva is studying with soul arts. Prior to you joining us, her proficiency was the best in our party”. Vouvik was already inwardly at loss with the new recruit’s capabilities.

    It was not that he knew about Zax’s extraordinary soul, but at this point he chose to give him the benefit of the doubt.

    “By ‘soul arts’ you mean soul techniques and formations?” Zax inquired, a bit covetously.

    Much like in Kingdom Earth, if a cultivator wanted to get his or her hands on Martial techniques and formation without spending Splinters, the only way to do so was hiring oneself to influential organizations or families.

    Cultivators who appreciated their freedom, such as mercenaries, were affable toward the former.

    With that in mind, Zax quickly calmed his excitement even before getting answered. For someone like Shouva, even with the financial support of her father, she could, at best, acquire Intermediate grade soul techniques and formations for her studies.

    “Yes”. Vouvik said.

    “Then… can I take a peek at your selection?” Zax turned his head to Shouva. “Of course, I’ll pay!” He added adamantly.

    Beginner grade or Advanced grade, since his affinity to all matters of the soul was high and, moreover, since he was invited to observe Grandmaster Kartion’s development of the Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement’s next stage, Zax sought any material with regard to the soul to broaden his horizon.

    “Obsoletely not! You saved father and me, Zax. I don’t have much, but if you are interested in soul arts, you can freely revise my scrolls”. Shouva could not bear taking any more from Zax than he already had to pay…

    “Nonsense, Shouva, I obtained sufficient amount of Splinters from that Golden Desert Fort’s woman-”

    “I won’t accept your money! Father”, Shouva stubbornly insisted and extend her hand to Vouvik.

    While Fengar paid no heed to the conversation, Vouvik had preferred that his daughter will not frivolously throw around her precious scroll. Then again, it was Zax she wanted to share her studies with…

    Vouvik retrieved from his spatial ring three sealed boxes and gently lowered them on the ground with his mist energy in front of his daughter.

    “This one has techniques, this has formation and the biggest is my meager oeuvre and articles of renowned soul cultivators that expound on their achievements in the field”. Shouva explained and whether Zax meant to borrow her scrolls now or in some later date, she presented her entire collection for him to do whatever he wanted.

    Zax stared at Shouva and scolded himself for being insensitive toward her when he woke up, even though he is recuperating and his head still hurt. “I also like to study soul techniques and formations, how about we exchange our knowledge when all of this would be over?”

    “Ah… Yes!” The change in temperament, as well as the unexpected offer, cheered Shouva.

    Simultaneously, Vouvik and Fengar once more felt intrigued, this time about what level of soul proficiency Zax have and kept from them.

    “Good. Now then, what info did you find in the chips?”

    Shouva was about to open her mouth and answer, when she suddenly halted, recalling what they learned from the chips and how it was not her place to discuss this highly classified and dangerous discovery before her father, the leader of the party, will personally divulge in his own words.

    Vouvik opened. “The Golden Desert Fort managed to intercept a transmission of someone in the higher ups of the Mercenary Association. From the partial bits of information we have, it’s concerning an old folktale of Demirva Ridge. I do not know how confident the Mercenary Association about the legitimacy of that old folktale or why those people are so certain that such thing will occur, but if the Golden Desert Fort is also steadfast on not missing the opportunity…”

    A pondering countenance formed on Vouvik’s face. For a moment, the initial shock of finding out the Mercenary Association’s real intention in this time’s High Rankers trials’ assignment resurfaced and made his heart palpitate.

    He composed himself and continued. “The folktale tells about a celestial event that succeed the creation of the wraiths by God Demirva. According to it, every unkown number of centuries, for an undetermined passage of time, God Demirva’s divinity is weakening and as a result the terror of the wraith in the ridge subsides as they enter a deep slumber. Those who lived by the ridge for all these hundreds of years, say that during this time the ridge is in its safest, whether underground, above ground or in the sky, anyone can cross the continent at ease. However, in the folktale there is a verse ‘Deep in their kip, lost souls are most vulnerable. The dark sleep is the dawn of Immortals’”.

    “Immortals…” Zax’s gawked as he uncontrollably repeated.

    Regardless of in what contents the word was used, on the Martial path, no matter which cultivator heard it; his or her heart will shake, for this was the highest state of Martial ascension!

    “D-Do you know what the verse means?” Zax asked.

    “That we are their… the Martial Association’s, the Golden Desert Fort’s scapegoats!” Fengar snorted from his corner, angry and discontent.

    The short mercenary stood up abruptly and passed Vouvik in silent defiance.

    “Everybody from the Western Continent know the folktale. In plain words, it is believed that by scavenging the dark attribute’s essence of the wraiths, consuming and refining it, a Martial Mortal will be able to instantly reach the high realm of Immortality!”

    “Does a method like this really exist?” Zax saw the spark of Fengar’s own inner aspiration for the things of which he talked about, the personal fate in its truth. He asked because he, too, felt compelled by hopes of furthering his own Martial path to where no one in his homeland ever arrived.

    “Even if it is true, the risk-”

    “There is but one way to find out”. Fengar did not let Vouvik finish the sentence. “You claim to be alright. Can you still hang on with the assignment?“

    “Fengar, you can’t just tell him the bright half of the folktale and convince-” Shouva protested, but like her father, was cut short.

    “I’m only asking if Zax can continue with the assignment”. Fengar rebuked.

    Detecting the an air of disagreement, it was clear to Zax that while he was unconscious, the three had split opinions about proceeding with the trials’ assignment with Fengar being the one who wished to go on with it.

    Fengar returned his full of exaptation gaze back to Zax.

    “I can-”

    “Good! Are you afraid from the Martial Association’s scheme of making us their scapegoats while they wantonly harvest the dark attribute’s essence?” Fenagr impatiently asked.

    Knowing where the conversation going, Zax made up his mind. Straining to get up from the makeshift bed he was resting on, he moved slowly till reaching a straight posture.

    “I don’t want to fall into conflict with any of the five powers or Mercenary Association”, until he will possess the strength to carry himself in an unconstrained manner in Ercas Mir, per his original plan, it was for the best to maintain a low profile so long as it have not been a life or death matter. “Honestly, I can’t say that I’m not affected by the allure of authenticating the folktale, but even if neither of us will obtain a dark attribute’s essence, we can still see through finishing the assignment and becoming Rankers”.

    “There lay the danger, Zax”, Vouvik proclaimed. “Why we were given a long time to complete the assignment? Let’s put aside the question of the folktale’s validity, by its latter verses, extracting the dark attribute’s essence requires utmost punctuality, on top of being extremely cautious and possessing a strong soul. The consequences of doing everything right is gaining a clear path toward ascension, as well as alerting the slumbering wraiths in the vicinity. The folktale biggest warning is exactly that, ‘For only Immortals can withstand the Wraith’, a verse that forewarns even Martial Mortals, who generally are the only ones capable of traversing safely Demirva Ridge. By looking at it that way… The Mercenary Association intending for us to occupy the attention of the incensed wraiths while their experts escape with the moot prize”.

    Fengar opened his mouth, wanting to retort, but failed to find the words to contradict Vouvik’s point. He could only look at Zax, hoping that he will not lose the spunk he exhibited against the Golden Desert Fort’s woman.

    Zax weighted the pros and cons while listening to Vouvik. He had to be careful, more so than any other regular participant in the trials. Even if he will manage to conceal his identity, he was smart enough to know that any mercenary participant, who will complete the assignment, will appear on the radar of some of the five powers, maybe all.

    ‘That might be a double edged sword…’ He thought.

    There was the chance that they will consider him as a talented cultivator worth winning over, a seemingly good proposition he once would have obliged to. But if today he would have been asked to join the five powers… he did not think that he could comply with the limitations that forced his Senior Ariel to use him as an ill informed “secret agent” in a foreign land.

    ‘My cultivation is restricted by the marks. If I ever wish to traverse Ercas Mir as a second realm cultivator I need both the means to increase my strength fast and join a group with prestige that will not limit me’.

    Currently, the only type of group that came to mind was a Geared ranked mercenary band, which demands from him to accomplish the assignment and earn the qualification so Xinia could make the introduction for him.

    “Right now I’m reluctant to give up”. Zax declared. “If any of you desire to forfeit, then here our ways will part”.

    “You see, Vouvik…” Fengar said in an importuning, small voice that meant to be heard, but was void of blame.

    Clenching his fist and knitting his brows, Vouvik main concern was not the exposed new level risk of the assignment. This was his daughter’s first attempt at the High Rankers' trials. Although her expertise as a mercenary was on the same scale as Zax’s, in contrast to the lad, she did not have the power to support herself without her father.

    “Here we will part ways”. Vouvik said in a solemn voice.

    “Vouvik!”

    “Father!”

    “Fengar, this may be a rare chance or a poor ruse. Either way, I know the enticement you feel. We did will all these years; we can still do better even if circumstances make us temporarily part ways”.

    “I’m sorry, Vouvik”, Zax said. He could not be oblivious to the fact that it was his answer that pushed Fegnar into abandoning his old companion.

    “No, Zax”. Fengar raised his hand to stop Zax. “You have no reason to apologize, for yours or my behalf. Vouvik, with the progression of this assignment, we won’t meet until during or after the next High Rankers trials”.

    “So I presume, as well”.

    “Shouva, ”

    Shouva shook her head and hastily rearranged to content of the sealed boxes. “Take this one with you”. She handed him one of the sealed boxes. “I mostly use the scrolls and articles inside as reference, anyways. In the future, after you will get a communicator, you can simply contact me through father or Fengar”.

    “…Thank you”. Zax accepted the box that was shoved to his chest.

    Staring at it and then at Shouva, he figured that without the treacherous encounter with the Golden Desert Fort’s woman, it would have taken a lot more time and effort for the both of them to be this friendly and open with each other; with the whole party, actually.

    Saying their goodbyes, Vouvik and Shouva left the cavern. A short while in the Titan Kapok Trees forest the two shared a glance and channeled their mist energy to their arms, destroying the participation’s paper thin red certificate and officially forfeiting the assignment.

  3. #183
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    Book 7 – Ercas Mir

    Chapter 17 – Entering Demirva Ridge



    “Dammit! Dammit! Dammit! Dammit!” A burst of intense flames erupted toward every direction, incinerating the vegetation into ashes in a radius of fifty meters.

    Cattelin was in full blown rage as she failed to sense and find her spatial ring.

    “The bastard must have stolen it! That was my SPATIAL RING! Everything I collected for the past twenty years! Darvajka, I want to kill them!”

    She shouted and punched rays of scorching mist energy, looking more like a child having a tantrum while holding and shooting a gun, then an unruffled Advanced phase third level Core Master.

    Darvajka was not far behind, standing, waiting for Cattelin to calm down.

    Suddenly, his patient countenance changed and his forehead creased. “Cattelin, settle down immediately!” He berated. Using his Sublime Soul Sense, he compelled her to obey him.

    “Darvajka, you dare to coerce me? **** YOU, FISHBREATH! If I refused to postpone the task just so you will not miss your breakthrough, I want to see how you would have had the nerves to force me to submit!”

    Having her staring at him venomously, Darvajka bitterly grimaced. Even before he broke through he was stronger than Cattelin, but as things are at the moment, he owes her a big time. Furthermore, with his debt to her cleared or not, she was his partner in this joint operation, and with this task being their overall sixth together, it was not just more difficult for him to handle her, but well aware that he should not even try.

    “Hear me out, Cattelin”, Darvajka said and removed the oppression of his Sublime Soul Sense. “I was informed a moment ago, following up with the lists doesn’t matter anymore! Someone leaked the news about the slumber of the Demirva Ridge’s wraiths!”

    “What!” Cattelin cried in alarm. “Was it those weakling Musclehead and cowardly kitties?!” The shock dealt her a slap of clarity.

    If the news about the event were out because of Zax and the rest, then she will be blamed for negligence and definitely severely punished!

    “I… Wait!” Darvajka did not answer right away as more information was transmitted to his communicator. “I don’t think so”. He finally said, permitting Cattelin a breath of relief.

    “Then by who?”

    “The news started to spread from the west, far from our location. The culprit suspected to be a participant or participants who done so out of spite and to create chaos for the Mercenary Association”.

    Finishing receiving the new orders, Darvajka stopped paying attention to his communicator. “Come, we are heading to Demirva Ridge, the mission commence!”

    WHOOSH!

    He did not wait for her response and made the first move toward their destination.

    Cattelin tarried for a bit before composing herself and closing in from behind. “What’s the plan? Are they going to send Martial Mortals?”

    “Currently, undecided. You know that it would be a breach in the five powers’ mutual agreement. They should be debating it right now; they also have to take in consideration that bringing in Martial Mortals will put their main forces in immense risk! My breakthrough in the Violet Scaled Troops’ dominance was treated as a loophole in the agreement, which dispels half the problem and why the Grand Admiral approves my ongoing stay in the joint operation”.



    Up on the summit of a crude looking, kilometers tall mountain.

    “Hahahahaha! Someone went and did it, hahahaha!” A strong, vigorous voice echoed in jubilation and brimming presence. “The cunning Martial Association issued a fairly simple assignment in the second level trials just to distance us, loose Martial Mortals. Who would have thought that sitting this time’s trials out will end up being more beneficial! They spent so many resources into getting our attention and making things easy to pass the trials, hahahahaha! Now everything will collapse on their deceitful heads, hahahaha!”



    Inside a star shaped bus size aircraft.

    “Sister Beatriz, which of the five powers you think already knew about the upcoming event?” A young lass wearing a sliver robe with a metal plate embedded with the words “Luminous Church” on her small chest, asked the middle aged woman, Sister Beatriz, who sat next to her.

    The two were sitting on plump seats inside the extravagant interior of the star shaped aircraft.

    Sister Beatriz’s garments were quite the same as the young lass, the differences were in the golden color of her robe and the head covering that revealed only the features of her poised face.

    “Mm…” Sister Beatriz mused. “I presume that the Mercenary Association had to share the predication with either the Blessed Army or the Violet Scaled Troops, and our missionaries on ground reported odd movement of the Blessed Army’s side… Sister Iaura, without a proper investigation, that is all I can say”.

    The young lass, Sister Iaura, leaned with her back sinking into the backrest of her seat. “It doesn’t matter, we have Sister Beatriz accompanying us. I’m not afraid of anyone when Sister Beatriz is by my side”.

    “Hahaha”, a juvenile, male laughter from a sit at the front of the star shaped aircraft rang in amusement. “My darling, Sister Iaura, you are not afraid of anyone when Sister Beatriz is by your side, but are you even familiar with the prospect of ‘Fear’ when I’m around?”

    “Definitely not! Definitely not, Your Young Eminence!” Sister Iaura hastily straightened her stature from the laidback posture on the seat and waved her arm.

    “Your Young Eminence, please do not tease Sister Iaura, she is still just a postulant. Her comprehension of Your Young Eminence is still lacking“. Sister Beatriz said in a calm and soothing manner.

    “Hahaha, Sister Beatriz, what I said is not wrong, but completely and utterly right! The Almighty graced our Luminous Church with this magnificent blessing. Wretched are those who affront me, be they Peak expert of the second realm or Martial Mortals, like you, hahaha”.



    Quiescent on a bed of burning coals.

    “So it’s that folktale that created all the commotion…” A robust voice growled out of the muscular throat of a blue scaled, one meter and eighty centimeters long, Pink Eyes Agama. It then proceeded to respond to the transmission it just received. ‘If you reach a deal with the other four powers and intend on dispatching me alone, then so be it. But, I want a portion of the dark attribute’s essence’.



    Through a heavy, nighttime rain within the Titan Kapok Trees.

    “Should we slow down?” Fengar glanced back at Zax, who maintained a low pace for the past hour or so.

    “No. My body is in the process of healing. It won’t take long for me to get as fit as I can be with a severed arm”.

    The two leaped from one giant branch to the next, covered by raincoats.

    Zax had to borrow his own from Fengar. Underneath he wore his tunic and underneath that he kept only the bandages on his right shoulder. His condition was worse than he let on or even realized before deciding to proceed with the assignment. To be injured by both continuous use of Soar With The Storm and Cattelin’s scythe took a great toll from his body.

    Fengar was, naturally, not convince by Zax’s words of assuredness. He could gauge his physical state by comparing it to the condition it was when he picked him up after the fight with Cattelin. He did get better in an inconvincible rate, but he merely recovered fifty, maybe sixty percent from what he exhibited in the fight.

    Slowing down to match his speed, Fengar said. “By morning we will get to the ridge, better we’ll each take a Linder Seed now, to keep our awareness up not just from the wraith, but other participants who lurks at the outskirts of the ridge or even members of the five powers and Mercenary Association”.

    “Are you worry that they will want to ambush us? What would be the point?”

    “If I were in their shoes… I would seal the cultivation of those I can catch and dispose of them as decoy after extracting the dark attribute’s essence or at any other dangerous occasion”. Fengar explained insouciantly.

    “That’s cruel, but smart. If someone will attack us… and won’t be a hassle to carry around, we might as well show the same courtesy”. Zax was not a bad person, he will not bother with those who done him no wrong, but those who will underestimate him will surely regret it.

    His response made Fengar grin. “I was afraid that you’ll disapprove. Greenhorn Shouva definitely would not have agreed to it”.

    “Wait”. Zax stopped Fengar from extracting that Linder Seed dark attribute’s essence. “To be on the safe side, let’s each take one of these”.

    Zax retrieved from the spatial ring, which he kept in one of the compartments of his utility belt to avoid prying eyes, the thin box of Linder Seeds he received from Xinia. The Blue Stone he still kept in a different compartment – for some odd reason, trying to place it inside the spatial ring felt like pulling at nothing.

    “These are…!” The moment the Linder Seed fell onto Fengar’s palm, his expression turned aghast. “The potency of this Linder Seed, Zax… where did you obtained it?!”

    “You do remember that I’m the Sensensar’s envoy in this High Rankers' trials, right?”

    From Zax’s reminder, Fengar understood and sighed. “Even though, from what I can tell, this Linder Seed is sixty percent, could be higher, more potent than the common ones I bought”.

    “Eighty percent is what I was told“.

    “Eighty!” Fengar nearly lost his footing on a slippery branch and had to recompose himself again before falling. “That way beyond what we could hope for, Zax. We are not talking about efficiency, but a whole other category”. He felt compelled to explain due to Zax’s chilled mien. “Each of my common Linder Seeds takes around thirty seconds to construct a protective barrier around the soul. And that protective barrier is said to withstand no more than one or two wraith’s soul attacks. But this…” He clenched his fist around the Linder Seed in his hand, as if to prevent it from disappearing by divine intervention. “If it was only eighty percent more efficient, than there would not have been anything for us to talk about. However, eighty percent potency… Although its dark attribute’s essence pale in comparison to the one in the Demirva Ridge’s folktale, with it, I estimate that it would take less than ten seconds for the barrier to form, and it should be able to endure seven, eight wraith’s soul attacks!” Closing his speech with that, Fengar could not resist anymore and voraciously consumed the Linder Seed’s dark attribute’s essence.

    Zax followed suit and after eight seconds could feel and see the sealed, tube like barrier around his soul. ‘This thing is truly amazing! If I’ll try to break it I gather that not even thirty soul attacks will be enough!’

    A point that Fengar missed was that although the barrier of the Linder Seeds, no matter which type, is not everlasting, at the chance that nothing will go wrong, it will take a month for the ones currently constructed around their souls to deteriorate.

    Time passed.

    “We are couple kilometers from the ridge. From now on don’t use your Soul Sense, apart from alerting the experts in the vicinity, the wraith might notice it and awake prematurely from their slumber”.

    The sky was masked by layers of dark clouds. Occasionally, a lightning would strike and thunder would rumble.

    The beginning of what appeared as an endless, desolate mountain range was at sight.

    The two halted their advancement and found concealment in the foliage of a Titan Kapok Tree.

    “The downpour will supply a cover for all of those who wish to enter Demirva Ridge, though I’m certain that some astute experts will still try to ambush whoever enters”. Fengar asserted in a serious tone.

    The ruthlessness of the assignment was no longer just a notion, but a short distance from them. Fengar’s vehement personality was mindful of it and submerged, replaced by a cool headed approach.

    “Being a bodily cultivator, my senses are several folds more heighten than other who can match me in strength”. Zax stated confidently. Nonetheless, he was not overconfidence. There were beasts that in their animalistic forms could rival his sharp senses even without being bodily cultivators. “We won’t be easily caught off guard”.

    “Regardless, we will remain vigilant. Our first goal should be to cross the ridge and complete the assignment. Harvesting dark attribute’s essence from wraiths will depend on whether we are lucky and… resolute, should the opportunity arise”.

    “Fighting in the ridge will jeopardize everyone’s intentions”. Zax said. “The only chance to cope with us is now. Similarly, the best time to enter the ridge is also during this hindering weather”.

    Fengar shook his head. “The ridge is vast and there are hundreds of roads from here to its other side. Although it’s inadvisable, with the enticement of the dark attribute’s essence, fights are bound to happen”.

    “This is still our ideal time to move. With every passing moment, the chances of someone interrupting the wraiths’ slumber are increasing, along with our chances to encounter exasperated wraiths…”

    Zax’s view may have sounded rash, yet he was correct in some aspects of their situation and Fengar did not refute him.

    Squinting, Fengar examined the vista of the ridge’s direction.

    He turned to Zax. “Can you run fast? Faster than your speed on our way here, and without making noise?”

    It was a sensible question, which is why Zax did not get angry by it and simply nodded.

    “Then let’s go. It’s my first time in Demirva Ridge, so we can select a random road once we are in the mountain range”.

    The two moved like gales of wind, blending with the stormy weather. As Fengar silently relied on Zax’s assuredness in his senses and the latter indeed vaguely locating hidden presences, with some also noticing him.

    They swiftly traversed the last hundreds of meters, past the last tree and the base stone of the first among numerous bleak mountains that made out Demirva Ridge.

  4. #184
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    Book 7 – Ercas Mir

    Chapter 18 – First Harvest



    By dawn the storm had gradually passed.

    Zax and Fengar, after entering Demirva Ridge, kept running in the open till first rays of light.

    Any person, whether a cultivator or a regular human being, could feel the foreboding atmosphere of the ridge. Most disturbing was the absence of any type of life, not even the tiniest insect or even plants could be seen.

    “Luckily we haven’t met slumbering wraiths or other cultivators. If possible, I rather let someone be the first to validate the folktale. At that point, stealing the dark attribute’s essence would be much safer than harvesting it ourselves”.

    Fengar sat in front of Zax, at the other side of the tunnel they rested in, figuring that under clear sky and sunlight many others will begin to move, mostly the impatient.

    According to Fengar, the tunnel led inside the mountain they were staying at. As it so happened, the pitiable former inhabitants of Demirva Ridge were living all over the place. Back then, settlements could be found on any part inside and outside a mountain. Today, after the catastrophe of the ridge, other than the wraiths, only the excavated living areas left to indicate that once beasts and humans used to live here. Not even ashes remained.

    After getting the short explanation, Zax closed his eyes to concentrate on recuperating his last bit of missing strength that he currently can muster.

    The plan was to stay in the tunnel until after sunset or someone troublesome finding them, so when Zax decided that he cannot do more for his body except from letting it to continue recover on its own, particularly his right arm, he reminisced the insights to the Advanced phase of the bodily maneuvers he acquired in the fight against Cattelin.

    ‘It’s indistinct, but I can tell it is right there’. Zax calmly examined his experiences in the harsh fight, specifically his control of the fifth step of Kinetic Force and the effect on his body in alignment with the repetitive usage of it. ‘There are seven steps to the Kinetic Force. The sixth and seventh, Grandmaster said that only at the Advanced phase of the bodily maneuvers I will be able to utilize them. That unlike the initial steps, the last two don’t demand a strong body to withstand them, but a profound understanding, especially the seventh step… at the moment, even Grandmaster can only strive to perceive a mere notion of its concept’.

    Zax contemplated over and over. Sometimes thinking that focusing on the steps of Kinetic Force maybe does not have anything to do with the bodily maneuvers’ Advanced phase, and sometimes believing that they are actually the catalyst to the next breakthrough.

    Each new realization brought about a minuscule, yet better understanding or helped deduce flaws on this path he treading.

    ‘It… won’t be long!’



    Yarnus was a renowned mercenary and a cultivator at the Beginner phase of the third Core Master level. In his party of five that chose to participate in the assignment of the High Rankers' trials, he was the second weakest but had the sharpest mind. As such, it was agreed upon that he will be the acting leader of the party.

    “We have been lurking around these parts of the ridge for nearly two days, Yarnus, when are we going to reap those dark attribute’s essences?” A plump, middle aged woman with a bowl haircut asked anxiously.

    “Relax, Tulip, even Martial Mortals won’t move hastily in the ridge. Besides, no one has reason to look for us”. Yarnus tapped his companion’s shoulder.

    “I don’t care about other experts, but this group of wraith irritates the hell out of me”. Another person said, a tall, lean man with a metallic stick in his hand. “Why can’t we get their dark attribute’s essences and leave the ridge?” He asked as his eyes, as well as the eyes of everyone else in the party, but Yarnus, stared covetously and fervently at the anomalous dark spheres in the heads of each of the mildly transparent, demonic looking skeleton black wraiths.

    There were overall three wraiths out in the open. Not exactly congregating, but in a triangular formation, no more far apart from one another than eight meters. Their appearances were mostly the same. All looked like floating monstrous dark gray, almost black, human’s size skeletons. Each of the three was shrouded by a mantle that seemingly were parts of their bodies.

    The wraiths exuded a corrosive, sickening atmosphere that spread far and wide and was the reason why nothing could grow in the ridge.

    The thing which captured the desire of Yarnus’s party of five, and basically all other cultivators who made their way to the ridge, were spherical dark bulbs that shone through the wraiths’ resting skulls. Those bulbs were believed to be, by Yarnus and the rest, the legendary dark attribute’s essence God Demirva personally used to create the wraiths. They thought so since this was not their first time in the ridge. Moreover, even if they have not seen before the damnable wraiths, there was no apt mercenary in the Western Continent who was not familiar with their external characteristics.

    “Forget it, everyone, it’s still too early. We will wait couple more hours and then go get the goodies”. Yarnus convincingly said to his companions.

    The other four shifted their gazes from the wraiths, back to their small encampment. There was still the issue of only three wraiths to their five, yet they all decided to put it aside for now, after all…

    In addition to being sharp, Yarnus was also very crafty and a little bit lucky. Before they left the Tensen Crow clan for the assignment, his contact in the clan and inside woman in the Mercenary Association, divulged to him the matter of the folktale and the Mercenary Association’s intentions.

    Learning about it all, Yarnus was not indignant. On the contrary, he was very much delighted. He immediately informed his long time companions of this valuable opportunity that suddenly manifested within the assignment. It took some convincing, but eventually he got everyone on board.

    The plan was to be the first to enter Demirva Ridge, fast enough before the Mercenary Association, and possibly the five powers, would arrive. Then, after being the forerunner by a large margin, a paid off acquaintance who does not partake in the High Rankers' trials would spread the news about the impending event and the conspiracy of the Mercenary Association.

    The idea of this plan was to increase the tension for all those that are participating in the assignment or belong to an outside group, driving them to be more vigilant so Yarnus and his party will have the time to find a safe opportunity to harvest the dark attribute’s essence. Also, in case the worst will occur and the wraiths will start to wake up, hopefully, they would be attracted by the cluster of cultivators behind the leading party.

    Several hours later.

    “Okay, I won’t prolong the wait anymore, everyone”. Yarnus exited from his tent and summoned it back to his spatial ring as is.

    “At long last”. A bulky, bearded fellow commented, dragging his huge physique from another tent.

    “Being the first to respond, Haanar, are you perhaps interested in also being the first to try and get a dark attribute’s essence?” An old man, sitting on a rock and carefully observing the slumbering three wraiths, taunted.

    Haaner rubbed the back of his neck, foolishly smiling, not daring to take the honor.

    “Shocking…” Tulip snorted at Hannar.

    The five gathered and Yarnus stepped forward.

    “Everyone, take a Linder Seed, even if you used one a short while ago”.

    No one complained and although it was a bit wasteful, the four obeyed Yarnus.

    “Old Vilindel, you are the most proficient among all five us in matters of the soul. If everyone agrees, for being the first the harvest a dark attribute’s essence, if you’ll succeed, no one will fight with you over it”. Yarnus turned to the old man cultivator in the party, Vilindel, and offered him the same chance he just taunted Haanar with, only in a sincere and serious tone.

    His words were not taken as a joke by the other four and Vilindel closed his eyes as he considered.

    “This is not just any dark attribute’s essence, everybody knows”. Vilindel opened. “Are you all really willing to forgo one out of the three, even if it would be the sole one harvested?”

    There was a high probability for the unexpected to happen, however, due to his old age and limited potential, Vilindel was content with taking the risk so long as the others comply with his inquiry.

    “If someone isn’t willing, you can be the first to harvest”. Yarnus backed Vilindel. They could not afford being greedy or give false words in this highly sensitive situation and he suspected that some of his companions required a reminder.

    “If old Vilindel succeeds, let me be the first to congratulate you”. The tall, lean man said.

    “Since I already rejected the chance after old Vilindel offered, allow me to be the second, after Li, to congratulate”. Haanar simply did not have the face to oppose.

    “Then I’ll be the third”. Tulip said.

    “It’s settled. Old Vilindel, we will split to three groups. Li and me, Tulip and Haanar will each guard from the other two wraiths, give you enough time to escape if your wraith will awaken. But it will only be for a short instant, so be prepared!”

    Vilindel nodded. The rest also showed readiness.

    The three slumbering wraiths statically hovered ten or so centimeters above the ground and revealed no reaction when the five encompassed them.

    After the groups of two reached handful meters behind two of the wraiths, Vilindel began to move.

    He predetermined the method with which he will pick the blob of dark attribute’s essence and pulled it out of the wraith.

    Soul energy flowing through his entire body was another layer of protection, other than the shielding of the Linder Seed. Since the wraiths were constructed out of dark attribute and remnants of souls, regardless how they will strike or where they will hit, it would be a soul attack. Thus, it was best to place soul energy in every part of the body, if only for a moment of preservation.

    Lifting the palms of his hands to the wraith’s temple, Vilindel meticulously controlled the wisps of soul energy drifting in his sea of consciousness, outside the Linder Seed’s barrier. Creating two types of soul formation, he had to make sure they will not be sensed by the keen sensitivity of the wraith.

    One formation remained in his sea of consciousness as the second and last layer of protection he could use before the durability of the tube like barrier will be tested.

    The second formation was divided to six lesser parts and a nucleus. While the nucleus also maintained its position in Vilindel’s sea of consciousness, the lesser parts streamed to the index, middle and index fingers of both hands.

    Six fingers steadily piercing the transparent skull, the moment they were in, Vilindel could not helped himself and inhaled deeply as his face brimming with worship.

    He has not made contact with the dark attribute’s essence, yet the bulb’s compressed aura was perceivable and it was nothing like any dark attribute’s essence he ever felt before.

    Of all the attributes, dark attribute’s essence was the most common in Ercas Mir and Vilindel owed his current achievements to a dark attribute’s fruit he discovered decades ago.

    ‘This is anything of the sort!’ He thought in admiration. ‘It is so much beyond… EVERYTHING that classifying it as an “attribute” would be nothing short than blasphemy!’

    His heart was pounding.

    ‘If I can just take it for myself… breaking through the last hurdle and becoming Martial Mortal will finally be a reality! And if it’s exactly like the folktale tells, then maybe… the legendary realm of Immortality will also be in my grasp! Huhuhuhu, at that point, age and talent will not be a factor anymore; I will have all the time in the world to compensate for either and for both!’

    The bulb’s aura was intoxicating and Vilindel eagerly succumbed to its prestige.

    As the palms of his hands approached, nearer and nearer, the other four had cold sweat dripping down their backs.

    Vilindel inserted his six fingers to the bulb, with accordance to the soul formation’s utilization method and his instead of excitement, his expression turned ashen.

    Black light shone through the hollowed eye sockets of the slumbering wraith. Jaw cracking open, the wraith released a shrilling scream.

    The other wraiths also awakened with black light in their empty eyes and the Vilindel’s four companions were about to initiate four deterring soul attacks, followed by their escaping techniques.

    BOOM!

    Before anyone was fast enough to react, the bulb inside the screaming wraith’s skull exploded along with the rest of its body.

    The explosion did nothing to the environment, did not even slightly shake Vilindel’s posture. The old man remained motionless, with his hands and six finger still stretched, only now toward an empty space.

    BANG!

    Tulip fell, face forward to the ground.

    BANG!

    Haanar met the same fate.

    BANG!

    Li was the third.

    BANG!

    Vilindel’s body was the last to lose it balance.

    Yarnus suspended as soul attacks, his complexion awful. ‘Luckily! Luckily! Luckily! Luckily!’ He chanted nonstop in his mind.

    The Linder Seed’s barrier collapsed right after the wraith exploded, as the blast was a dreadful soul attack!

    ‘I- If- If I did not have and use the high quality Linder Seed, I definitely would have been a goner right now!’

    He had only one in his position, a Linder Seed with seventy percent potency more than the norm.

    The rest of his party, though, only had the useless, common Linder Seeds. The blast brought down their souls and spirits along with the tube like barrier.

    ‘Eh?! Where did-’

    SWISH!

    BANG!

    One of the remaining wraiths vanished from his ling of sight, appearing behind his back and slashed at his sea of consciousness, destroying his soul and spirit.



    When he was alive, Yarnus was a very sharp, very much crafty person and a little bit, just a little bit lucky.

  5. #185
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    Book 7 – Ercas Mir

    Chapter 19 – White Dwarf



    “We can actually cross the entire ridge like this!” Zax exclaimed.

    “It used to be the easiest way to travel from one village or tribe to another, preferable than leaving the comfort interior of the mountains and crisscrossing their rough terrain”.

    For the past six days, the duo traversed the ridge through the excavated tunnels in the mountains. The experience reminded Zax of New Earth and despite the risk of encountering wraiths and the lack of Sun Stones to illuminate the surrounding, it still aroused a soothing feeling in his heart.

    Fengar walked at the front, holding a torch. He could use his aura, even just a bit of mist energy, to light the dark tunnel, but both he and Zax refuted the idea. Apart from wraiths, they also head to stay on guard from other experts. Furthermore, experts on their level had superior eyesight anyway.

    “Stop”. Fengar halted abruptly and whispered.

    They reached the end of a tunnel, the entrance to a cave that was a former residential area inside the current mountain they passed through.

    The entire space could accommodate a quarter of a medium size village or tribe, yet at the moment, it was completely vacant.

    Squatting and pointing with his fingers, Fengar said in a low voice. “Wraiths”.

    For a fraction of a second Zax turned stiff. Raising his vigilance to its peak, he stepped forward, stretched his neck and watched the direction Fengar pointed at.

    “These creatures… are wraiths?” The light from the torch reached far enough to make them and Zax was strangely surprised as he skimmed the seven transparent beings that exuded a foreboding air. ‘They rather look like they came out of a bad horror story’. Suffice to say that he was not overwhelmed by the ghastly appearance of the wraiths. Nonetheless, he still did not dare to belittle them.

    “Indeed”. Fengar confirmed and proceeded to say in an agitated tone. “And according to my knowledge, having dark spheres in their heads isn’t part of their characteristics”.

    “You mean…” Zax averted his gaze back to the short man, staring at him as if he understands.

    “Hmm”. Fengar rigidly nodded as his hands were shaking from the emergence of zealous ideas, which he tried to no avail to repress. “I suspect that these things are the dark attribute’s essence”.

    Gazing at the shining black bulb that each wraith had in its head, Zax wondered what makes these dark attribute’s essences so special in comparison to other types of dark attribute’s essence.

    ‘Do so many experts believe these dark attribute’s essences are able to unlock the pathway to Immortality because God Demirva created them?’

    It could only be that.

    “Should we try to harvest one of them?” He had to consider Fengar’s opinion at the chance that messing with the wraiths, even during their slumber, will end up implicating him.

    Fengar stood up and cleaned the dust that stuck to the back of his shirt from leaning on the tunnel’s wall. “We are outnumbered. Furthermore, a wraith’s soul attack can threaten first level Martial Mortal. Who knows what the might of damned seven can topple”. His better judgment seemed to prevail and he reluctantly negated the idea.

    ‘First level Martial Mortal…’ Zax believed that in his best the gap between his physical strength and the mist energy of first level Martial Mortal is not that wide. As for the comparison in souls’ power, due to the uniqueness of his soul and how it came through with extraordinary growth in strength and ability with every breakthrough, there might be an even smaller gap. Then again, ‘Seven are really too much to even make a test out of this attempt’. He unwillingly admitted to himself.

    “Then, are we proceeding to the tunnel on the other side of this former residential area or retract our steps?” Zax asked, in his voice a hint of disappointment. The allure of the dark bulbs was hard to discount.

    The number of tunnels to different location inside the ridge was in the hundreds, but according to Fengar, only ten or so led all the way across it.

    “No. I prefer to avoid meeting others. Even if we would have the upper strength, if someone will force us to a fight, we run the risk of waking up wraiths. That aside, quite a lot of experts cautiously tarried behind instead of entering the ridge. By rushing soon after you got fit enough to move, I assess that we are ahead of most people and prefer to stay like that”.

    “Well, this can also be considered as an opportunity for us to determine how close we can get to wraiths. Just make sure to not convey any malicious intent”.

    “Obviously”. Fengar snorted at Zax’s remark. “Or to be more accurate, keep that advice to yourself. Don’t think I cannot see your eagerness to start, even with one arm”.

    Not waiting for Zax to confirm or deny, Fengar raised the torch and prepared to enter the cave. Just as he was about to step in, a hand grabbed him by the shoulder and yanked him back.

    “What the heck, Zax-” Before he could finish the sentence, Zax released Fengar’s shoulder and covered his loud mouth.

    Zax did not give a verbal response; his mind was completely occupied by the sudden fearfulness that invaded his sea of consciousness.

    It was a trivial fluctuation, barely distinct, a sort of a vibe and a reaction to what could be classified as a remote beacon.

    ‘What is that?!’ At first it was unrecognizable, but then it dawn on him. ‘A residue of a terrifying soul attack!’

    It lost all of its aggressive properties, which is why Fengar did not feel it. As for Zax, he could hardly believe it himself.

    Unless he use his Soul Sense, it is impossible for him to detect things beyond the range of his other five senses. At this occurrence, not only did he restrict his soul from emitting the tiniest undulation, he also had the Linder Seed’s barrier around it. With that in mind, how then was he still capable of feeling a soul attack that seemed to take place kilometers from his position?

    ‘Fengar had no reaction to it, was his soul too weak to sense it or too engrossed with the wraiths?’ The former was more probable, though a bit insulting. ‘How fierce that soul attack was and what monster caused it?!’ Zax kept thinking as his eyes landed on the seven distant figures. He suspected but lost the confidence to validate.

    “Move aside!” Fengar released himself from Zax’s grip. “Have you gone insane?!”

    “Quiet, look”. Zax hurriedly said.

    Though he was discontent with youngster’s sudden crudeness, Fengar noticed the change in his temperament and followed his gaze.

    As the seven wraiths entered his line of sight, Fengar’s angry expression paled and his body shivered.

    He prayed in heart that his eyes were deceiving him as he stared at the wraiths, wanting to be certain that the slight movement he saw was in his imagination. Nevertheless, as the wraiths kept showing signs of awakening, Fengar regrettably realized that his eyes were fine.

    “For **** sake, what woke them up?” Fengar nearly went mad, the last thing right now he thought of doing was restrain his mouth. “To hell with it, we are leaving, Zax, now”. He ordered, wanting to shout, yet managed to swallow his voice.

    Similarly, Zax also felt the urge to leave. Seven conscious, furious wraiths were six more than he bargained for.

    “Rrararararara!”

    As the two turned halfway back, seven shrilling screams reverberated from the cave. Both Zax and Fengar instantly averted their attention to the wraiths, worried that they were spotted, however, what they actually saw left them bewildered.

    After awakening, the seven wraiths were a little muddleheaded. It took several seconds before they fully became cognizant. Their empty eye sockets glowed with eerie blackness and the shiny black bulbs in their heads started to slowly change color and intensify in brightness, as if they were white dwarfs.

    SWISH!

    BANG!

    A wraith moved in great speed, its bony hand pierced the head of the wraith next to it, which did not resist, and destroyed the spherical dark attribute’s essence along with the inert wraith, disintegrating it.

    SWISH!

    SWISH!

    SWISH!

    SWISH!

    The remaining four wraiths began to move, as well, trying to strike at each other’s dark attribute’s essence. They acted almost as if destroying the dark attribute’s essence in the white dwarf state was an urgent matter, even if it will cost them their existence.

    BANG!

    Another bulb was destroyed, another wraith disintegrated.

    “Did we inhale some poisonous gas or something?” Fengar muttered. “Tell me that you see the wraiths assaulting one another!”

    Zax was just as stunned as Fengar. The only reasons he remained silence what because a multitude of thoughts flashed in his mind, trying to comprehend what was happening.

    The wraiths woke up by the same soul attack he sensed a moment ago, that much if figured out. But why would they attack each other, specifically aim for the dark attribute’s essences?!

    “Could it be…?” Zax said in a low voice that barely made its way to Fengar’s ears.

    “What?” Fengar impatiently asked, unsure if Zax grasped something.

    “They are not mindlessly attacking, their goal is to destroy the dark attribute’s essences, prevent anyone from obtaining them!”

    Zax’s assumption was spot on. Although the wraiths were shells of sorrow, anger and pain, they still possessed a fighting instinct. When encountering someone who is trespassing the ridge, they will fight, mostly attack, and defend themselves, if need be.

    Observing the skirmish from a corner at the end of the tunnel, neither Fengar nor Zax saw a single wraith defending itself.

    Soon, the number of wraiths dwindled to a sole survival. When there was no one left to kill, it raised a spear shaped hand above its head and impaled.

    TING!

    The hand penetrated the skull, but when it clashed against the white dwarf, only a crisp sound echoed. The wraith failed to destroy its dark attribute’s essence.

    “You were right, they really went mad!” Fengar rubbed the back of his neck, not necessarily certain if there is meaning in worrying anymore. “He isn’t giving up!”

    TING!

    TING!

    TING!

    TING!



    “Rararararara!”

    The wraith incessantly bashed its spear hand against the bulb, getting crazier every time the tips of its bony fingers failed to break it.

    “Let’s attack him”. Zax said in a hoarse voice that caught Fengar by surprise. In a bizarre change of attitude his eyes locked on the wailing wraith like a predator watching his prey.

    ‘That’s it!’ Zax had a spark of insight. ‘How absurd! If this group of wraiths was smaller and we struck while in their slumber, it would have been a grave mistake!’

    At last it made sense to him.

    Why would it be important for the wraiths to destroy the dark attribute’s essence?

    Why did they care only after they awakened?

    Because the white dwarf state of the dark attribute’s essence was, should be, the legendary one mentioned in the Demirva Ridge’s folktale and as such, for reason only God Demirva can probably answer, the wraiths were bidden to eliminate it.

    Because it only appears, transforms, refines after the wraith’s slumber is being disturbed and they are in the process of waking up!

    Lastly, why the last remaining wraith could not destroy its dark attribute’s essence?

    Zax could only speculate that being created from the exact same source of dark attribute and soul remnants annulled the effectiveness of the wraith’s attack at its supposed Core.

    In other words, it could not perform suicide like a regular cultivator – a partly correct assumption. Wraiths could end their existence in an act of suicide. During the Event, when their Core was exposed, although more dangerous they were also more vulnerable. But in the white dwarf state, wraiths had deeper integration with their Cores and so could not harm them without assistance.

    “This is the real opportunity to harvest the dark attribute’s essence!” Zax summarized.

    WHOOSH!

    He dashed into the cave deceivingly.

    Engaging in constant efforts to destroy the bulb in its head, the wraith was slow to react to the intruder.

    Zax knew that soul attacks, be they techniques or formation, would only work against the specter like creature. He channeled a series of Soul Binding formations through his left palm, to the hood that was part of and covered the wraith’s skull.

    The twenty formations rendered the wraith immobilized, though it took less than a blink of an eye for them to shatter in succession.

    BANG!

    BANG!

    BANG!



    There was not a moment to waste. Zax’s left palm sunk through the ethereal hood, reaching to the white dwarf of a dark attribute’s essence.

    BOOM!

    Before his fingers closed on the dark attribute’s essence, the wraith utilized a devastating eruption of soul energy. The eight Soul Binding formations still intact were blasted and the formidable soul energy proceeded to attack Zax.

    It was similar to a turbulent tide; nothing could hinder its progression. It gushed into Zax’s sea of consciousness.

    BOOM!

    The tide slammed against the Linder Seed’s barrier. The barrier shook and fissures formed on it.

    BANG!

    The second collision contained less force and right after it, the wraith’s soul attack dissipated while the fissures on the barrier grew more worrisome.

    Zax felt a small headache from the two impacts. He heaved a deep sigh. Overall, he did not suffer any loses.

    WHOOSH!

    SWISH!

    Zax retreated right as a bony hand slashed at him.

    “Rarararara!”

    The wraith screeched, it seemed fervent, desiring slaughter, wanting to murder yet unable to move, as if an invisible force held it in its place.

    ‘Again!’ Zax commanded himself. His hand clenched to a fist, his pupils contracted and every hair on his body became erect.

    WHOOSH!

    WHOOSH!

    As he made his move, Fengar who lingered behind at the first assault, arrived to provide support. The expression of the short but bulky man was complicated. On one hand, from Zax’s behavior he knew that his young companion definitely made a discovery that was worth challenging the wraith for. On the second hand, after watching the initial bout, it was evident to him that much less than the creature’s soul, he can just narrowly keep up with its speed.

    “I’ll be the bait. Get it before it gets me!” Fengar gnashed his teeth.

    “Mm!” Zax nodded with the same predatory look.

    Seeing the two besieging, the wraith advanced a meter toward the closest Fengar and again appeared to be halt by something.

    “Rararararara!”

    SWISH!

    It screeched and flew away, escaping quickly to the tunnel at the other side of the cave.

    Neither of the two expected the wraith to escape. Its action caused their killing intent to waver.

    WHOOSH!

    Zax recovered and chased, enthusiastically motivated by his revelation.

    WHOOSH!

    Fengar ran after, stimulated by the peculiar and its godsends, mildly apprehensive by the adversary ahead.

  6. #186
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    Book 7 – Ercas Mir

    Chapter 20 – Proprietor?



    “Tsk!” The towering figure of an olive skinned, blond haired woman, shielded by a piece of glowing armor and skinny white pants with silver strings, stood midair and clucked her tongue irritably. To her back she wore a short, white mantle that reflected light.

    “A bunch of reckless idiots!” She cursed as her gaze mused on a distant location. “The Mercenary Association’s and army’s careful planing has gone down the drain all because of the greed and ignorance of loose cultivators”. White aura emitted from her body. “Is there a point for you to keep lurking?” She composed her tone, but not the aggression in her aura.

    BOOM!

    WHOOSH!

    A mountain wall collapsed and a blue silhouette flashed from within the crushing boulders, moving to an exposed mountain side.

    “So troops dispatched you”. The towering woman restricted her aura once she got a clear view at her stalker.

    “Helev Hetra”, the blue figure, Pink Eyes Agama muttered in response and then shifted his attention to the same direction the towering woman, Helev Hetra, was looking. “Someone impatient triggered the self detonation of a slumbering wraith. The aftermath will soon stir the entire ridge has wraiths already began to awake. I assume your Blessed Army’s and Mercenary Association’s conspiracy is now terminated”. He returned his gaze to Helev Hetra and sneered in contempt.

    “Boolian”, Helev Hetra said tolerantly to the Pink Eyes Agama as she approached him. “The Blessed Army and Violet Scaled Troops are the sovereigns of the Western Continent. Considering current development, it is no longer a contest between us and the other three powers over who collects more dark attribute’s essences, but who won’t return empty handed”.

    “Are you suggesting collaboration?” Boolian spat strips of fire in indignation.

    “Yes, together with the Mercenary Association”. Helev Hetra said, settling an arm length from Boolian. “It is not a secret that the Golden Desert Forte and Blue Sea have the best relations. If they will disregard the repercussions and decide to cooperate with the Luminous Church for the period time of the Event, than without a doubt, our native forces would end up being the losing side”.

    Boolian’s pink reptilian eyes depicted Helev Hetra. “Groups of wraiths across the ridge already started to massacre each other. It will be far more dangerous and complicated for even third level Martial Mortals to snatch a dark attribute’s essence”.

    Helev Hetra nodded. “It is now depends on luck and decisiveness. Worst case scenario, the five powers and other prominent, notorious parties will have a confrontation”.

    Boolian snorted. “Other parties aren’t worth mentioning. Except from the Mercenary Association and one or two other parties, none would have the strength nor be gutsy enough to fight with us over a dark attribute’s essence!”

    Helev Hetra smiled awkwardly, half for interpreting from the conversation’s flow that Boolian consented to collaborate and half for seeing that he has the same misjudging mindset that allowed loose cultivators to ruin the esteem Blessed Army’s and Mercenary Association’s plans.



    Outside a star shaped bus size aircraft, roughly five hundred meter above Demirva Ridge, three pious figures floated with mix expressions.

    “Are you certain, Sister Beatriz?” His Young Eminence asked while glowering.

    “Yes, Your Young Eminence. The wraiths’ slumber was interrupted in the most disruptive manner. If we were a few hundred meters closer to the ridge, you would have also felt the fluctuations”.

    “Sister Beatriz, is it really that bad? Can’t you just forcefully capture couple of wraith for His Young Eminence?” Sister Iaura tried to mediate in hope of soothing His Young Eminence’s anger.

    Shaking her, Sister Beatriz was about to explain when His Young Eminence replied first.

    “My darling, Sister Iaura”, he said, maintaining his sublime composure before the young lass. “God Demirva is not benevolent like The Almighty. There is a special method to awake the slumbering wraith and extract their dark attribute’s essences. That, however, is now useless since the self detonation of one wraith is enough to promote a chain effect that would eventually cause all the wraiths to awake, render the chances of successfully extracting the dark attribute’s essence nearly null”.

    “In that case, why would someone make a wraith self detonate?” Sister Iaura naively continued to ask.

    Upon hearing the question, His Young Eminence’s vision turned to an ominous glare that skimmed the ridge below him.

    Knowing His Young Eminence’s current mood and how much efforts he put in order to stay calm to not frighten Sister Iaura, Sister Beatriz grabbed and pulled to her embrace the young lass.

    “No one in their right mind will deliberately and improperly extract a dark attribute’s essence. The issue is, not many know about the special method or the consequence of inadequate extraction. There is also the possibility that someone did manage to obtain a dark attribute’s essence and simply wanted to sabotage the chances of those who did not”. Sister Beatriz narrated in a soft and quiet voice.

    “Oh…” Sister Iaura uttered in an understanding tone, which quickly followed by a confident demeanor. “I’m still not worrying! With Sister Beatriz and Your Young Eminence we will definitely obtain a dark attribute’s essence! Nobody down there can compete with our Luminous Church!”

    “Um”, upon hearing this resolute declaration, His Young Eminence could not help to smirk and then laugh out loud. “Hahahaha! Precisely! Oh, Sister Iaura, how right you are and how pleasurable are your words to my ears, hahaha!” A complacent countenance adorned his face. “Have fate in The Almighty’s guidance, for in times of troubles and sorrows, that is when we are truly tested, evaluated and bestowed accordingly!”

    “Your Young Eminence is wise”. Sister Beatriz acclaimed.

    “Yes, His Young Eminence is very wise!” Sister Iaura admired.

    “Come, Sister Beatriz, Sister Iaura!” His Young Eminence suddenly announced. “Let us meet The Almighty’s heathen pawns, and see which of them there to rob me!”

    “Yes, Your Young Eminence!” Sister Iaura hurried to comply.

    Sister Beatriz merely nodded and followed. She did not need to support them in their endeavor. Although the two were Core Masters, they could fly perfectly well on their own.



    “Colonel Rijok!” Two voices respectfully called toward the descending military, desert colors uniformed, feeble looking man.

    On his right shoulder the man had a “Golden Desert Fort” cinderblock badge, while on the left a badge of three iron cinderblocks inline.

    “At ease”. Colonel Rijok said.

    Cattelin, and even Blue Sea’s Martial Mortal, Darvajka, relaxed their pose.

    “Colonel Rijok, sir, a Rear Admiral from-” Darvajka asked hesitantly.

    “Will not arrive”. Colonel Rijok bluntly rejected. “Since you broke through, the higher ups decided not to upset the five powers’ equilibrium, which is why I alone was sent”.

    Being a Blue Sea’s person, Darvajka was a little bit dejected with having to obey Colonel Rijok, even if the relationship of their two powers is the best among the five powers. That unhappiness, though, he hastily shoved to the back of his mind.

    The Golden Desert Fort sent Colonel Rijok, the strongest second level Martial Mortal recognized in all of Ercas Mir. A lineup of any two common second level Martial Mortals and a freshly broken through first level Martial Mortal would not hold a candle against Colonel Rijok.

    “Cattelin”, Colonel Rijok said in a harsh tone, which alarmed the already aggrieved woman. “Your performance in the given joint operation was noted and registered as failure”.

    “Yes, Colonel Rijok!” Cattelin forced out a disciplinary response.

    Despite not being at fault for the information about the Event being leaked and for whatever the hell transpired that interrupted the wraiths’ slumber, she was to blame for losing her spatial ring, which content can give her identity away.

    “When we’ll return to base your sentence will be carried out. Till then, you and Darvajka are to follow my orders”.

    “Yes, Colonel Rijok!” Both replied simultaneously.

    Colonel Rijok nodded in satisfaction. “I surveyed the ridge in the past twenty four hours before meeting you. With the wraiths awakening, there is no point in proceeding in the task as originally intended”.

    “Colonel Rijok-”

    “’Colonel’ is just fine”. Colonel Rijok interrupted.

    Darvajka opened again, “Colonel, the wraiths awakening… those who know the meaning of the occurrence will band together to get rid of the competition before trying to obtain what little dark attribute’s essences available. There is a high probability for the Blessed Army, Violet Scaled Troops and Western Continent’s Mercenary Association to work together. Should we contact Luminous Church’s members as see if they are willing to cooperate with us?”

    “No”. Colonel Rijok denied without a moment of consideration. “The General ordered to avoid at all cause interaction with the Luminous Church’s group”.

    “Avoid the Luminous Church?” Astonishment filled both Cattelin and Darvajka. They were about to ask why, when Colonel Rijok continued.

    “Don’t think about it. What’s important is that all powers involved agreed to send experte under the third Martial Mortal’s level. It does not matter how many the Blessed Army, Violet Scaled Troops and Mercenary Association have assembled”. A murderous, purple glint shone in Colonel Rijok’s pupils. “My Golden Desert Forte and Blue Sea friend will not shy from a fight!”



    WHOOSH!

    SWISH!

    WHOOSH!

    SWISH!

    The white dwarf was so close yet impossible to reach for.

    The escaping wraith’s hand passed through Zax’s chest, striking with a fatal soul attack before resuming its retreat.

    BOOM!

    After withstanding the sixth soul attack, the tube like barrier shattered. The soul attack lost eighty percent of its momentum and strength, but was still quite dangerous.

    Zax commanded his body to move back, in case the wraith will follow up with a second attack. His soul energy began to tackle the offensive foreign force as he consumed another of the high quality Linder Seeds he received from Xinia.

    ‘Dimmit!’ Zax cursed indignantly.

    In each of the few times his hand pierced the creature’s head, he could feel the awe inspiring fluctuating of the dark attribute’s essence and became more infuriated by it. Although he did not know to what kind of heights it will advance his cultivation, he somehow foreknew that it would be much more significant than anything he achieved until today. His biggest regret was the inability to consume more than one Linder Seed, since a second barrier’s layer would disrupt the connection of the soul with body. If he otherwise could, than snatching the dark attribute’s essence would have been much simpler.

    “It ran away”. Fengar said solemnly after catching up.

    He was truly astonished with Zax physique. He did not get to witness his battle with Cattelin, just his weakened state afterwards. Now, despite missing an arm, after several easy days, the lad was virtually in top shape and revealed a lot more vigor than a Core Master in his level possessed.

    Saying nothing, Zax renewed the pursuit the instant a new barrier was erected around his soul.

    “Hey! At least say something!” Fengar berated while he, too, continued to chase.

    He was not aware.

    Yes, drawn by the allure and promising future of the dark attribute’s essence, Fengar craved for it just as many of the cultivators who strode into the ridge.

    But it was still only a prospect in his mind, where Zax had underwent repeatedly the pleasure of basking in its exquisite fluctuations.

    Soon, they departed from the sanctuary of the excavated mountains and arrived underneath the blue sky.

    “Careful, there is another one awake!” A roaring voice warned.

    The wraith Zax and Fengar chased encounter a group of five cultivators, who were in the midst of withdrawing from a brawl with two awakened wraiths.

    Zax saw his wraith fly straight toward the other two, screaming in its shrilling voice.

    The two wraiths ignored the five experts who tried to rob their white dwarfs once they stopped posing a threat and started clashing with a variety of soul attacks, compelling one another to risk getting injured and losing the ability to protect the dark attribute’s essence, as was infused in their being, or annihilate the opponent along with its dark attribute’s essence.

    “It’s happening again, Luze, they are fighting and the new one is joining the fray!” A rather ecstatic young looking man said in relief.

    “Stay on your guard, Oleg!” A woman with long, combed blond hair and seemingly delicate structure, Luze, ordered. Her attention a while ago shifted from the two wraiths to the direction the new one arrived.

    Oleg abided by the party’s leader’s order and turned his head.

    The remaining three women in the party were a step ahead than Oleg and looked at the same direction as Luze. One was bulky, another old and last shaved her head, but overall was a beauty.

    Zax stood on three to four meters tall mound, observing the four women and man. Fengar be his side.

    “You are free to live”. He raised his sole arm and pointed. “That’s mine”.

  7. #187
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    Book 7 – Ercas Mir

    Chapter 21 – Cinder Mercenary Band



    Zax’s attention on the party of five, below the mound, waned after his warning statement. He silently remained in his place, scrutinizing the three wraiths, particularly the one the chased.

    He was infatuated with the dark attribute’s essence after so much exposure to its fluctuations, and partly aware of it. He knew that his judgment is affected, probably for the worse, yet pushed this thought to the back of his mind. If he recalled his eventful past, then he would have realized that it is not the first time he was driven, almost uncontrollably, as if possessed.

    It happened to him as a child, when the first Black Core drew him to it. It was easy to understand how he lost himself, back then; it was basically entrenched to his soul with him being the result of an experiment by the clone of the previous Black Cores’ owner.

    Now, though, the question left unanswered was whether he was yet again drawn by some other ordinance ingrained into him for anything that might enhance his candidacy as an inheritor of “Legacy Of The One’s Path”, or just overly influenced by the awesome power of an object, the dark attribute’s essence, that is far beyond his comprehension.

    ‘Fight, get weaker, kill. Three, even two is too much. This time, before the last one standing raises its vigilance toward us and before his suicidal tendency dissipated, that’s when I’ll strike!’ Zax calculated the right moment to launch a certain kill attack.

    “Who the hell are you to command us?!” Oleg shouted. “A cripple and a midget aren’t qualified to look down on the Cinder mercenaries!”

    “Enough, Oleg!” Luze berated. Of the five person party, she was the sole one to maintain reserved countenance after listening to Zax.

    Oleg was the youngest in the party, but related by blood to one of the four commanders in Cinder mercenary band which they all were part of, which was usually the source of his confidence around strangers.

    The other four women in the party were veterans in Cinder mercenary band, but the shaven, bulky and old woman, although being quiet, had discontent expressions.

    ‘The short one is not a threat, Beginner third level Core Master… By cultivation level, Carina and Rosalina can both at least match him. But the one armed guy… He looks young, even younger than Oleg. Moreover, unlike the short one, I didn’t sense mist fluctuations from him when they showed up, and yet he seems to be in the lead!’ Luze quickly gauged the situation.

    “Luze, the wraiths…” The bulky woman, Rosalina, hinted. As she mentioned the damned creatures, the rest, following Luze, also shifted their gazes to where Zax and Fengar were already looking.

    “A wraith actually died and the glowing dark attribute’s essence in its head vanished with it!” The shaven Carina exclaimed.

    “The other two sustain heavy injuries and continue to fight, this might be a chance!” Oleg said outloud in delight.

    His carelessness resounded in Zax’s ears, arousing his kill intent.

    “You haven't left, yet?” Zax’s voice was sharp; one could feel bloodthirstiness in it.

    The five party members ceased staring at the two wraiths. The threat in Zax’s mannerism was almost tangible. His focus on the five revealed his willingness to fight to the death without an ounce of concern regarding the opponents’ strength.

    Although the ridge was couple of levels above the typical jobs the five took as mercenaries, with regards to life and death battles, not even the little bit juvenile, Oleg, was lacking his fair share.

    Zax’s killing intent did not startle the five, at most just mildly alerted them and forecasted what may imminently occur.

    “Luze, if this is chance to obtain a dark attribute’s essence…” The old woman, the first to compose her temperament to a battle ready state, spoke in a low voice.

    “Keep an eye for other experts”. Zax told the observant Fengar, as he began to descend the mound in unhurried strides.

    “Luze, my great uncle… anyone of the commanders and most of all, the leader will amply reward us if we return with a wraith’s dark attribute’s essence!” Oleg urged to retract the decision to retreat and instead pursue the same goal as the two strangers, even if it means to start a fight.

    Two auras erupted before Luze gave her response. The old woman and Oleg both had a frosty blue aura, meaning they integrated icy attribute’s essence to their soul and mist energy.

    “The wraith will soon finish their battle, Luze. Taking into consideration that these people appeared as if they chased a wraith, I suspect that the wraith will choose to escape than face us in a weakened state. It is an opportunity we cannot pass! Carina, Rosalina, you as well must not hesitate!”

    The old woman’s aura blew cold winds, freezing the ground beneath her feet.

    ‘A Peak second level Core Master, two Beginner third level Core Masters and two Advanced third level Core Masters’. Zax measured, not oblivious to the fact that the old woman and the one named Luze will be most difficult to handle, even dangerous if he will not watch out for himself.

    “Aunt Belkis is right!” Rosalina said as her purple aura flourished with an essence of electric attribute.

    Carina followed suit with a radiance of fiery red aura, not bothering convincing the party’s leader like the other three. Enough was said.

    Luze gritted her teeth exasperatedly. The four were too impulsive. Yes, the pay will be beyond their wildest dreams and to win it they must act fast, that is, not worry about attracting attention with the display of their aura. Nevertheless, the opponent still walked toward nonchalantly, not uttering a word of help to his short friend.

    A dark azure light burst from Luze’s delicate physique, the shade of an attribute less third level Core Master’s aura.

    The dark azure aura momentarily took Zax by surprise. In New Earth experts with attribute were fairly rare, but in Ercas Mir, nearly every expert, Core Master and above, possessed an attribute. The lack of attribute placed Luze second in strength in the party, after the old woman, Belkis, but Zax knew first hand, a Peak Core Master can use any attribute’s essence as the catalyst to break through the third realm and become Martial Mortal! He suspected that this is Luze’s aim.

    ‘It still might not be that simple, seeing that most Core Master I met chose to use an attribute early in their Martial Path. Ginlin’s aptitude was most likely mutated, too, to attempt that feat… or possibly everyone with a bit of cultivating talent in New Earth can try this method and this is why the five powers are interested in us’. Zax assumed and stop thinking about it, he reached the base of the mound!

    WHOOSH!

    WHOOSH!

    WHOOSH!

    Zax, Luze and Belkis practically moved at the same time.

    Luze caressed her spatial ring and in a smooth motion swung her arm, her hand clenched at the hilt of a Celtic looking sword as the sharp edge split the air as the entire blade shone with azure hue.

    Belkis did not use a weapon. Her palms stretched forward, on each were drawn weirdly shaped symbols. Minute ice crystals formed around her wrists, looking exactly like the symbols on her palms, which began to glow in the same blue as her aura.

    Zax’s left arm muscles bulged, Kinetic Force swirled around it and its focal point at his fist.

    WHOOSH!

    His figure suddenly disappeared, appearing next to Belkis. This was not an attempt to attack, but a test. After the fight with Cattelin he learnt deeply the value of restraint.

    Luze had a dazed look on her face. She initiated the first assault, her sword’s trajectory should have been impossible to evade, yet when the edge was about to slice that overbearing young man, it only managed to cut air!

    Zax’s pause allowed Belkis the time to realize his position by her side. She, too, was stunned. ‘What freak speed was that?’ To someone at her level, Martial Mortals were the only experts her eyes should struggle to keep up with.

    She waved her hands, the symbols around them connected, creating two formations. ‘Is he hiding his mist purposely?’ As she wondered, the temperature in a radius of fifty meters around her slumped instantly and layers of frost covered the ground.

    Enough time passed for Zax to assess the capabilities of his main opponents. ‘Slow and mediocre, not worthy of that woman’. He compared them to Cattelin and they both fell short.

    The icy domain assaulted him, but was not profound enough to do further than coating his skin, allover except his left arm, with a thin layer of ice.

    CRACK!

    Ice shattered.

    BOOM!

    The fist connected with Belkis’s ribcage.

    “Aunt Belkis!” Three voices shouted anxiously. Everything happened too fast for Oleg, Carina and Rosalina to react.

    The old Belkis flew and slammed a mountainside tens of meters away. She felt half her body exploding, the rest forcefully trying to remain intact by her icy mist energy. ‘No! I can’t die! The icy attribute’s essence was meant to help me pass the High Rankers' trials! I can still endure, I…’ Her consciousness faded. The vast experience she accumulated over the years allowed her instinctively to hardily preserve her vitals, though for how long was unknown.

    An azure shine approached Zax from behind, the edge of a long blade.

    TING!

    Luze’s sword struck Zax’s palm and astonishingly was grabbed without a hint of even causing a scratch.

    Zax smiled in satisfaction. This was not an attempt to show off. Since meditating on the insights he gained from the fight with Cattelin he wanted to enrich his control over kinetic energy and Kinetic Force in hopes that it will take him closer to breaking through the Advance phase of the bodily maneuvers.

    His idea, despite him already implementing in the past, was to more use Kinetic Force as if mist energy.

    When he noticed Luze’s sword, the mist energy and the blade enchanted with it were indeed taken as a mighty combination, thus, he could not bluntly counter it.

    First, he used Kinetic Force to offset the momentum of the sword. Second, he let it flow, collide and disperse along Luze’s mist energy. Third, as the blade was left with no aggressive properties he grabbed it.

    ‘This was a mistake!’ Luze deduced and let go of the hilt in retreat. ‘He is actually a bodily cultivator, furthermore, with speed and strength comparable to Martial Mortals!’

    Her sword was precious to her, but not as much as her life, which is why she did not risk pulling it from Zax’s grip.

    WHOOSH!

    Zax did not care that the other side lose their fighting spirit. She and the rest were still present here; hence a viable hindrance to obtaining the dark attribute’s essence.

    Appearing and arching his right leg above Luze’s head, he went for the kill.

    “Stop-”

    Her life flashing before her eyes, Luze plead and dispel her mist energy to display her surrender.

    Zax’s heel stopped millimeters from Luze’s forehead. The battle of the two wraiths reached its climax. Soon, one will be no more and the other will expose a very short, very small opening. He was had sufficient clarity to avoid senseless slaughter and be aware of his priorities.

    “Leave”. He told Luze. Should she or any of her companions dare to negotiate, say something out of place, he will kill them then and there.

    Luze saw the shadow of death passing over her and from fear nearly fell. ‘I- I- I was dead!’ For a moment it seemed to be truly so. Flustered, she tried to muster her strength to no avail.

    Carina arrived to support her. Rosalina and Oleg went to help Belkis. Regardless how much hatred and dismay they had for Zax, no one said a word.

    As Zax continued to wait for this opportunity, Luze and her party departed in disgrace.

    “The lapse in judgment was caused by greed nearly cost us our lives”. As she leaned on Carina, Luze said quietly to herself, but the rest could still hear. “If that man did not show us mercy… Now, I’m not even sure if we can pass the trials…” She turned to look at Belkis, even more so unsure if they will be able to return as many as they left.

    “It’s not over”. Oleg said insufferably. They advanced far enough to not be heard by Zax even if they did not whisper. “When we’ll leave the ridge I’ll notify my great uncle, tell him that some arrogant fellow stood in our way of obtaining a wraith’s dark attribute’s essence”.

    “Don’t-”

    “I can’t! This guy must pay for what he did to aunt Belkis and you!”

    Oleg was stubborn and Luze knew it, so she did not add.

    ‘The four commanders are all first level Martial Mortals. If that man will obtain the dark attribute’s essence and manage to improve his cultivation with it… I must inform leader, to decide if it’s worth to make an enemy out of hm!’

  8. #188
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    Book 7 – Ercas Mir

    Chapter 22 – Dark Attribute’s Essence



    “Zax…” Fengar said solemnly.

    “I know”. Zax said without shifting his attention from the wraiths.

    The upsurge of mist energies by Luze’s party, inevitably attract experts who laid low and surveyed the situation from a far. When the conflict ended, a few experts departed from their hideouts, aware, like Luze and her companions, that things are way over their heads. Nonetheless, there were still around forty pairs of prying eyes left, ready to make a move for the dark attribute’s essence.

    Zax was on the tips of his toes. Since the surrounding experts did not attack or try to monopolize the dark attribute’s essence in advance with a show of strength, he could not afford to be bothered by them.

    ‘It must be any moment now! Both wraiths torn each other to pieces, I imagine that the surviving one should barely have the soul energy to match a newly promoted Martial Mortal, much less being besieged by tens of greedy opportunists’. Fengar thought up on the mound.

    He wondered whether Zax was too consumed by the desire to obtain the dark attribute’s essence to disregard all variables or was he prepared to handle what will happen the moment only one wraith will remain.

    The tension was almost tangible. The two wraiths exchanged what seemed as final blows. Experts who conspired to betray, work together, issue a surprise attack or maintain their position until the chance to safely get the dark attribute’s essence will arise, were observing the two damned creature with rapt attention.

    BOOM!

    BOOM!

    BOOM!

    BOOM!

    Four colorful and destructive rays of mist energy shot at the two wraiths, unable to harm their soul and dark attribute based bodies, producing a towering lasting explosion upon impact with the ground that masked the vicinity with blinding light.

    WHOOSH!

    WHOOSH!

    WHOOSH!



    Seven figures, clad in khaki garments, simultaneously stepped out from behind a mountain pass. Aligned with one another, the same green aura engulfed them as they breached the explosion’s area of eruption.

    They moved fast and unexpectedly while it was still undetermined which wraith will survive.

    “Bastards! They are trying to steal the dark attribute’s essence!” Someone from a nearby mountaintop shouted.

    “Zax!” Fengar yelled at him, right when he was about to enter the strife.

    “What?!” Zax was livid. Even he, who was the closest to the two wraiths, could not react in time and was pushed back by the explosion.

    From the glimpse he caught of the seven figures, it was more likely that they used a joint formation than had an individually strength beyond the second realm, as fluctuated from their green aura.

    “The wraiths aren’t dead yet and many experts, not necessarily weaker than me came out from their hideouts, don’t be rush!” Fengar summed up, not really expecting Zax to postpone his charge, but hoping for him to be vigilance with it. After all, he also was aching to move!



    “Rrararararara!”

    “Rrararararara!”

    Shrilling screams resounded from the still tower of turbulent energy. The blast could not hurt them, but the extreme and abrupt change in the environment affected the wraiths mobility. Incorporeal as their ghostly physique was, they were very sluggish and had to struggle awfully when moving through solid objects, which is why they had an innate tendency to avoid from doing so.

    Seven figures, emanating hostile intent, swooped in between them, carried by a green gale.

    “Remember, we have twenty second, at most. Shizu, Bathar, obstruct the wraith at our back!” A man with long, black hair informed and directed two of the seven.

    “Yes!” The two replied and hurried to erect a dome of green energy around one of the wraiths.

    The man proceeded to lead the other four toward the weaker wraith Zax chased.

    The green energy that originated from the seven’s formation had mist energy and soul energy intertwined, suppressing both wraiths.

    “Tie it up!” The black haired man commanded.

    He and the four with him swayed their arms rhythmically. A green rope of energy, like living snake, wriggled in the air and coiled around the wraith.

    “Rrararararara!”

    The wraith screamed. Unable to escape, missing a kin to destroy itself, it could only resort to retaliating. With not much power left, it stretched its bony arms, grabbed the green rope and tried to expand its envelopment.

    The five were sweating profusely. “Come on! Others had crossed the explosion’s range. Shizu, Bathar, get back here and help us, we are leaving!”

    Shizu and Bathar increased the output of green energy on the dome, buying a little bit of time to hold back the other wraith. They converged with the five and followed their movements.

    The green rope began to press on the screaming wraiths.

    “It’s captured, we are going!”

    The captured wraith madly struggled to get free. The seven ignored it and bolted flying, pulling it at their tail.



    WHOOSH!

    Zax dodged a dagger shaped mist attack that was aimed at his throat. The sneak attack failed and the culprit ran away.

    Zax gritted his teeth and continued onwards into the receding explosion. There were, in fact, four dagger shaped mist attacks, but only one was after his life. The other three were aimed at other experts that joined the strife and only one croaked.

    BANG!

    Where the wraiths were swallowed by the explosion, a blast was heard. Not caring anymore, Zax used his Soul Sense, discovering a lone wraith with residues of green energy dissipating around it.

    ‘They are escaping!’ He was shocked to detect the seven early birds already hundreds of meters far and getting farther. ‘They got him!’ He did not care what formation or technique they used to fly, but that they captured his wraith, which he could tell apart by its injuries.

    Similarly to Zax, about two thirds of the experts around decided to utilize their Soul Senses. A minority elected to chase the seven, one figure was actually flying after them, a Martial Mortal!

    “Zax”, Fengar caught up to him, holding his axe. “Have you seen him? It was a Martial Mortal from the Stone Clawed Bear clan! The major clans and families stopped standing idly on the sidelines. Pick a direction, but keep in mind that if we fail to obtain a dark attribute’s essence, I won’t halt anymore until we, or I alone, will leave the ridge!”

    Zax heard Fengar, yet said nothing in response. He already took in consideration other Martial Mortals emerging when the flying giant bear appeared, so he was not completely oblivious to the situation, mostly furious for having his target, the dark attribute’s essence that a while ago was nearly in his hands, being taken away.

    “None of us wished for this assignment to be more than we bargained, Fengar, a tough trial to become Ranker mercenaries, one you encouraged to accept”. He finally opened. “Things changed. And don’t tell me you don’t desire the dark attribute’s essence, as well. I’m not looking to die in the ridge, but I won’t give up before doing everything I can to get the dark attribute’s essence… or killing enough of those who prevented me”.

    WHOOSH!

    Zax went after the wraith the seven left behind. It was stronger and encircled by more than twenty experts and who knows how many still lurked, however it was within reach!

    “Rrararararara!”

    The wraith swung its hands in ripping fashion. A handful of experts were already struck to death by its torrential soul attacks. It looked for routes for escape; however it was guarded too tightly.

    There were five prominent experts that the rest either listened to or did not mess with. Zax was among them. His young countenance and severed limbed may had made him look non threatening, but his demeanor, coupled with how easily he brought to submission Luze’s party, caused the spectators to rethink the value of aggravating him.

    The explosion completely faded, turning the battlefield to a deep crater.

    SWISH!

    A bony left hand thrust like a spear head. Zax bent his back and could feel the wind of the missed strike blowing his hair. He withdrawn, eyeing if the wraith still after him and raised his vigilance at the chance he will be sneakily attacked, again, by the surrounding experts.

    “It won’t do. In its condition, its soul energy is deterrence to even first level Martial Mortals. It will sooner run away than let us obtain the dark attribute’s essence”. A thirty years old looking woman with shoulder length bleached hair noted next to Zax.

    She approached after he fell back. Having a concentrated expression, she examined each and every movement of the wraith. Zax recognized her as one of the five prominent experts and happened to hear someone saying her name is “Gong Vreil”.

    As eager as Zax was, at the moment, to kill any expert who come by his side, he restrained himself. He ignored the “Us” in Gong Vreil’s second sentence and strove to assuage the unremitting influence the dark attribute’s essence had on him.

    “What’s your plan?” He asked. Snatching the dark attribute’s essence after killing the wraith was, perhaps, a better way to get it, less exhausting.

    “My name is Gong Vreil, what’s yours?” Gong Vreil asked in return.

    “Zax”.

    “Well, Zax, we all know what would be the follow up of defeating the wraith. To even reach that point, we must put those thoughts aside. I already discussed my idea with Lurvar, the Cyan Macaw, and she agreed to convey it to Kirik, the Six Legged Stallion. What I mean to say, before getting into details, the plan I concocted is already in motion”.

    ‘What you say is “participate or get lost” before even sharing the details…’ Zax thought, not putting much care to it. Besides, he could just take his word back after hearing the plan. “I have a friend here. I’ll help, but you have to include him in your plan”. Although they were not seeing exactly eye to eye, he could not abandoned Fengar.

    Gong Vreil snickered. “No one came here alone, but that doesn’t mean that all of our companions are useful. Your friend is the guy with the axe, right? I saw you talking to him and felt his level of cultivation. I can let him play a role, but it would be risky”.

    “Enough! Tell me your plan”. Zax insisted, not in the mood to prolong the discussion.

    “Very well, assuming your friend will partake in the plan; the gist of it is utilizing a Boundary formation to limit the wraith’s movement and weakening it, followed up by a joint attack to kill it. You, me, Lurvar, hopefully Kirik and two more will coordinate to bring the wraith down and take the dark attribute’s essence. Twelve other cultivators, your friend among them, will be responsible for the Boundary formation”.

    “Oh… So when it would be just the six of us against the wraith, the other five wouldn’t mind who gets the dark attribute’s essence?”

    “If I’ll say they won’t, would you believe me?” Gong Vreil stuck to being honest.

    Zax did not answer. In truth, he was already prepared to kill and take the dark attribute’s essence from any of the five, even while presenting the question.

    Seeing that he is saying nothing, Gong Vreil proceeded to say. “Ask your friend if he is willing to participate and give me a sign if he is. I’ll send someone to guide him. The plan will commence in four minutes”. She finished and departed.



    “Don’t underestimate Gong Vreil. I heard that she was already recruited to a Geared ranked mercenary band. Becoming a Ranker mercenary is only a formality for her”. Fengar cautioned.

    “I won’t. Will you join her plan?”

    “Yes”. Fengar frowned. “Only to keep an eye on your troublesome ***”. He growled.



    An azure mantle descended on the wraith in a radius of sixty meters. Twenty three experts were on the battlefield, yet only eighteen were part of Gong Vreil’s plan.

    “Don’t interfere!” The main six warned the remaining five and entered the range of the Boundary formation.

    “Careful, his strength is still above the Core Master realm”. A bald man in monk’s clothing, Hereb Lish, said.

    “Work together and we will win!” Gong Vreil affirmed.

    To refrain from damaging the formation, the six engaged in close quarters combat, maneuvering with the boost of mist energy, attacking in every possible way with soul energy.

    Some noted Zax’s solitary use of his physique and soul energy. Some, Zax noted, were not weaker than him, particularly Gong Vreil and Kirik.

    The wraith was on the brink of collapsing, more than half of its body was obliterated by constant soul attacks.

    The six were gearing up for the aftermath, the internal war for the dark attribute’s essence.

    ‘He’s down!’ The same thought reverberated in all six minds.

    WHOOSH!

    Zax unleashed all the buildup of Kinetic Force from the fight as a thin defensive layer around him and dashed forward.

    Gong Vreil and Kirik were the only ones able to keep up with him.

    Kirik had to transform to his human form to get a grip on the dark attribute’s essence, which slowed him down.

    Two hands pierced the wraith’s head, a male’s and a female’s.

    ‘I got it!’ Zax yelled inwardly and hastily retracted his arm. His sea of consciousness felt like stars of ecstasy exploded in it. He could not get over the intemperance when something suddenly blasted him.

    “Zaaax!” Fengar yelled. He separated from the formation, which caused it to breakdown, and threw his axe at Gong Vreil.

    The taste of blood in his mouth brought Zax back from the stupor. He found himself buried thirty meters in the ground. ‘The dark attribute’s essence!’ It was painful, but though injured, his left arm was intact and still holding the white, mesmerizing dwarf.

    ‘You IDIOT!’ He barely had the time to think when he sensed five incoming attacks.

    “The five… No! Every cultivator present is after my dark attribute’s essence!” He turned, sheltering his back with Kinetic Force and dug into the ground.

    Locating him with Soul Sense through the earth and stone will slow his pursuers down.



    As the hunt for the reaped dark attribute’s essence commenced and everyone, hidden or on site, frantically came after Zax; a small portion of experts, who managed to maintain the clearness of their minds, retained their positions.

    They saw the tens of experts and even three Martial Mortals get involved in the chase, that the precious dark attribute’s essence and the one who obtained it had hidden underground, but none of these matters bothered them. They felt like something far more amiss than losing the dark attribute’s essence or being hunted by Martial Mortals is about to befall everyone in the ridge.

    Their gazes shifted casually to where the wraith was last seen.

    “Still there!” Their pupils contracted.

    Only the head, transparent, lying on the ground in calmness, not uttering a sound, not disintegrating as expected.

    WOUNG!

    Back pillar descended from the heaves on the wraith’s head, spreading blackness across the sky.

    Demirva Ridge, Selivereb, Western Continent, Ercas Mir… all life stood still.

    “God Demirva… It is God Demirva…!” A voice whispered in fright.

  9. #189
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    Book 7 – Ercas Mir

    Chapter 23 – Time Is Running Out


    “Co… Cold… I’m feeling cold, Sister Beatriz”. Sister Iaura uttered, trembling. “This aura… it’s imperious as The Almighty’s”.

    “Hush, child”. Sister Beatriz embraced the fearful young lass. “You do not know the things of which your mouth spoke of. The Almighty, God Demirva, tiny us should not attempt to gauge and compare the unfathomable”. The strong and usually unruffled woman said in her all too familiar composed manner, but that was the mere sound of her voice.

    The face she turned upwards, for the girl in her bosom to not see, its two peerless eyes flickered anxiously.

    “Sister Beatriz, Sister Iaura”, after seconds of silence and unresponsiveness, His Young Eminence opened his mouth and said in a hoarse voice. “Pacify your spirits; it is but a manifestation of God Demirva’s power and incapable of harming us when under the watchful eye of The Almighty”.

    It would be a lie to say that he was not apprehensive by the black horizon and its incomprehensible aura. Nevertheless he was The Young Eminence of the Luminous Church. Even if he was younger and weaker than Sister Beatriz, his invocations for The Almighty, be they answered or not, permitted him the most feeble, trifling insight into the impression of Gods.

    “A dark attribute’s essence was extracted, at least one, and God Demirva’s attention was provoked. The wraiths whose slumber was interrupted and essence is still intact will soon integrate to a whole existence, same are those still in their slumber. At the time, they will cease assaulting one another and, rejuvenated, blessed, recommence their hostile nature toward all who invade the ridge”.

    His Young Eminence’s speech was strenuous, yet said in its entirety. It alleviated Sister Iaura’s depression and fortified Sister Beatriz’s resolution.

    “The battle was too far to make it there before it was over. Now there is even Martial Mortal’s fluctuations coming from its direction. A bit earlier I sensed bizarre aura moving rather close to us from the same direction, while seemingly being chased by a small number of auras”. Sister Beatriz narrated.

    “His Holiness teaches that The Almighty sometimes tests us with difficulty, but sometime the difficulty is only a veil of misconception that we put ourselves in front of our eyes, typically when the boon is already granted”. Sister Iaura muttered.

    His Young Eminence was taken aback by the little remark and finally nodded. “With devotion to The Almighty we shall press forward”.



    The members of the five powers and other prominent parties intensely stirred. None knew to interpret it as manifestation of God Demirva’s power like His Young Eminence, but most were informed ahead of times by the higher ups of their respectable groups, of the consequence of such an event.

    As such, some decided to accelerate the harvest on their already targeted wraiths, others made the choice to follow the cause for the convergence of so many experts and violent fluctuation that stemmed from the same place, while a few acknowledge their failure and turned to leave the ridge or proceed with the trials, anything but fight with the wraiths.



    There was no escape for anyone from God Demirva.

    Even below the ground Zax could sense the terrifying change going outside, as if it happened in front of his eyes. He was certain that none cultivators, possibly everyone under the second realm, would be mentally and physically restricted, as if time stood still, for the period of the black sky, and then, after regaining their consciousness, not even be aware of what transpired.

    Zax clenched his teeth. ‘Settle down! Fortunately they all stopped chasing’, he cleared the blood stains from his lips and continued to drill deeper diagonally using Kinetic Energy. Currently, he could vaguely discern the location of those chasing him by the vibration in the earth, better than with his Soul Sense. ‘Now, though, it should be about time for them to remember me’. Despite the cessation being short, Zax still felt a bit of a relief. Within solid earth he trusted that even the Sublime Soul Sense of Martial Mortals would not detect him easily. ‘My condition is quite terrible, too many attack struck simultaneously, some penetrated the earth and the outer defensive layer of Kinetic Energy’.

    When he made his escape and all the experts desiring the Dark Attribute’s essence followed, a number of long range attacks, probably by the couple of Martial Mortals or the other four experts around his level, managed to hit him. Luckily, Zax was prepared ahead of time, after Gong Vreil nearly rendered him incapacitated, thus succeeded in avoiding damage to his vital organ.

    ‘Whatever occurred outside, whether it’s the upshot of harvesting the dark attribute’s essence, unlike them, I can’t afford to linger and find out. That’s…!’ Zax stared in shock at his spatial ring, where he placed the dark attribute’s essence.

    Its influence waned shortly after it was extracted. About two and half kilometers to his escape, Zax noticed that the white dwarf changed back into a spherical, dark and shining bulb, as if it was sealed yet again and required new refining to unleash its magnificent secrets to higher cultivation’s paths.

    ‘I can feel it resonating through the spatial ring… is that even possible?’

    His knowledge on the making of spatial rings and their limits was only the basics, although it was fair to say that when it comes to God made dark attribute’s essence inside a spatial ring, not many have had the pleasure to share the experience.

    ‘Crap! If the source to what’s happening above ground is also after the dark attribute’s essence, I definitely won’t be able to secure it!’

    Against the power that changed the color of the sky, it would be hard to find an expert whose temperament did not vastly degrade to that of a well disciplined child.

    He retrieved the dark bulb. It stayed still at his palm, but it exuded something intangible that could not be perceived by any of his five senses. Only his soul was able to match it to the manifestation of God Demirva’s power, without him being fully confident of it or sure if it always exuded that intangible something. Unless the event outside stimulated it, he most likely never would have known.

    ‘I need to endure!’ He concluded, not wanting to give up the dark attribute’s essence, only as a last resort. Changing direction, Zax got an idea. An electric discharge ensued and the imprint of the trails’ map appeared at the palm of his hand. ‘The dark attribute’s essence is of no good to me, unless it returns to the white dwarf state. To maintain my hold on it and find someone capable of refining it, a leap in my status would be most beneficial’.

    He could not think on any other way. Sooner or later he will be caught if all he does is keep running. Even returning to New Earth was too risky; probably more than in Ercas Mir since everything he had to lose was there.

    ‘Drilling the entire way through the ridge would be cumbersome. I can afford to consume the Kinetic Force, but constantly maintaining it for such purpose requires immense concentration. It will drain my soul energy and can impede the regeneration of my right arm’.

    Not everything could be planned out and the solution for some issues, at certain cases, could only be employed on a moment notice.

    ‘I can only rely on my luck. If no one will catch up to me in two days, I’ll seek a place to take a break’. He compromised with himself. ‘I also need to figure how to compensate Fengar…’



    “Sion, something happening to the wraith and dark attribute’s essence!” The black skin Bathar gasped.

    “Something happening to the whole world!” A green eyed, brown skin man shouted. Having small brown feathers growing in between the hairs on his head had indicated his identity as a beast in human form.

    Sion, the long, black haired man turned his head backward and signs of fatigue were apparent on his face.

    Compelled by the chasing Martial Mortal from the Stone Clawed Bear clan, he and his party of seven had to extend the duration of their formation, and as the one at the base position, connecting everyone, he suffered the main brunt of the ramification.

    “We have to extract the dark attribute’s essence now!” Sion determined.

    He did not know that the integration of the wraith and its core was due to a dark attribute’s essence already being harvested, or that the black sky was also related. His party was one of three sent by the Mercenary Association and they only knew the process of harvesting the dark attribute’s essence, which is why he now followed his intuition.

    “How? We need all seven of us to withstand direct contact with the wraith and if we’ll stop that Martial Mortal will catch up to us!” The short Shizu stated.

    “Oh, you should not concern yourself with this problem”. A voice reverberated.

    WHOOSH!

    WHOOSH!

    Two figures appeared in front of the seven, obstructing their flight.

    WHOOSH!

    BANG!

    Something blew up from behind. Before the seven had the chance to inspect the two figures, they felt a conjoint severe pain, their formation collapsed and they plunged from the sky.

    A third figure appeared next to the two, presenting an open palm. Not far from behind, the ghastly figure of the wraith hovered a few seconds in the air, with a hole in its head, before swaying and plummeting.

    “The integration already began, but I managed to salvage seventy percent of the dark attribute’s essence, Your Young Eminence”. Sister Beatriz offered the dark bulb, which was slightly smaller than Zax’s.

    His Young Eminence puckered his brows, but fast changed his countenance and sighed. “May you be blessed, Sister Beatriz, we cannot disparage what The Almighty bestows us, but rejoice, for it is more than we had before”.

    “Your Young Eminence is wise”. Sister Iaura clapped and leaned over to see the spectacular gift The Almighty bestowed.

    “That dark attribute’s essence belongs to me!” A deep voice roared and a hefty giant white bear with stone claws aroused tempests in his arrival.

    His eyes were red and his aura dark. He glanced momentarily at the three. Two Peak second realm and one Martial Mortal whose fluctuations were insipid, at most an Intermediate first level.

    He cared for their presences as much as he cared for those he chased and those who followed. Despite being a Beginner first level Martial Mortal, the other was human while he was Zhihui type beast. Besides, there was nothing more important than the dark attribute’s essence.

    Following the Stone Clawed Bear clan’s member, more experts arrived on scene; among them blended four Martial Mortals that waited for the opportunity to snatch the dark attribute’s essence inconspicuously.



    Sion’s party of seven fell on the summit of a low mountain. They were wounded, though less from crushing on the stony earth and more from the backlash of the formation abruptly being destroyed. They were miserable and cursed in their hearts the three. Their ploy failed and they were powerless to do anything about it.

    “What should we do, Sion?” Someone asked.

    “Leave and inform the association”, Sion said bitterly.



    “Luminous Church? So what! This continent is not in your jurisdiction; hand over the dark attribute’s essence!” The white Stone Clawed Bear demanded and his aura intensified around his claws.

    Martial Mortals really had the perquisite to act arrogantly, even toward the five powers. Of course, the prerequisite was that they were not stronger or in their territory.

    “Sister Beatriz, can I…?” Sister Iaura pleaded with big, lively eyes.

    “No”, His Young Eminence disapproved. “You are still not a match for a Martial Mortal”.

    “Yes, Your Young Eminence…” Sister Iaura said disappointedly.

    “Your Young Eminence intends to…?” Sister Beatriz seemed to understand His Young Eminence frame of mind.

    “I said it before… Wretched are those who affront me!”

    Sister Beatriz wanted to tell His Young Eminence to let her handle the Stone Clawed Bear. Nevertheless, aware of how much he repressed himself during their pilgrimage, she refrained from urging him against his will.

    She waved her arm, creating a green mantle with a perimeter of hundreds of meters, closing all escape routes.

    Having sensed the fluctuations from Sister Beatriz minute movement, the redness in the Stone Clawed Bear’s eyes subsided and his haughty demeanor shuddered.

    “Third level Martial Mortal!”

  10. #190
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    Book 7 – Ercas Mir

    Chapter 24 – Collaboration For The Perfect Dark Attribute’s Essence



    “Wait, senior, please excuse my, Vobar’s, impertinence!” The white Stone Clawed Bear, Vobar, wanted to retreat, but he was already caught by Sister Beatriz’s green mantle.

    Not just on Vobar befell a dire sense of nervousness. Many of the experts who were after the wraith that Sion’s party captured, were trapped by the green mantle. Furthermore, discovering that it was raised by a third level Martial Mortal has gone beyond their expectation. Those who could stay hidden did so readily. Those who could not, backed as far away as possible, praying for this calamity to pass.

    Sister Beatriz ignored Vobar.

    “The Almighty is fair”. His Young Eminence said as he slowly advanced forward, spreading his arm to the sides in a welcoming manner, while having a solemn expression. “Defeat me and you may live”. His last words finally caught Vobar’s attention.

    “You?” Vobar was about to sneer in contempt. Just because he had operated a flying technique, the Peak second realm cub thought himself on the same caliber as a Martial Mortal. Then again, it might be his opportunity to live, and he would not even need to risk using the double edge sword, his clan position in the Violet Scaled Troops, to make the others reconsider. “Are you sincere, senior? If I’ll make this child to submit you’ll let me go?” He cared more about Sister Beatriz’s affirmation than His Young Eminence’s promise.

    “Silly bear, why would you avert your gaze from His Young Eminence? The battle already started”. Sister Iaura, who floated next to Sister Beatriz, said earnestly. Although a bit disappointed for not being able to test herself against Vobar, she did not despise him for his behavior nor wanted to see him waste the benevolence The Almighty conferred through His Young Eminence.

    “Pitiful heathen”. Sister Beatriz shook her head, at the same time she lowered the green mantle.

    Vobar paid no heed to Sister Iaura’s remark, as he was more baffled with why he was suddenly let go. Thinking that Sister Beatriz’s action was a gesture of good will, validating the deal, he turned to face His Young Eminence.

    “When did he?!” Vobar’s red eyes widened, without him noticing, His Young Eminence arrived to his side.

    His Young Eminence seemed to move casually, still in the same posture, a shining white aura engulfed him and in both hands he held a plain looking wooden staff. “Wretched are the careless”. He said and thrust.

    BANG!

    The chopped end of the staff raptured the shielding dark aura and hit Vobar’s chest.

    CRACK!

    Bones shattering sound reverberated. Vobar, in all of his weight and great size, was thrown back hundreds of meters before managing to stop his descent.

    ‘How… Is this really a light attribute?!’ Blood trickling from his mouth and his chest slightly caved in, the mindset of Vobar was in a state of disarray.

    Even those spectating were shaken by the attack power of His Young Eminence, a Peak second realm cultivator.

    Vobar stared from afar at His Young Eminence, the redness in his eyes intensifying. Yes, in terms of mist energy he was superior to His Young Eminence, but somehow, perhaps by the grace of The Almighty, the cub he underestimated had achieved the unimaginable and obtained insights into the light attribute in his soul and dantian!

    Up in the sky, His Young Eminence’s aura shone bright as the sun. Looking down on his opponent, he directed the end of his staff at Vobar as if it was the barrel of a shotgun.

    WHOOSH!

    His speed was comparable to a Beginner first level Martial Mortal, another product of his profound knowledge and excellent usage of his attribute.

    “Roar!” Dark aura burst, Vobar’s fur turned gray and his stone claws enlarged.

    WHOOSH!

    BOOM!

    The two’s collision sent devastating shockwaves.

    BANG!

    BANG!

    Within seconds thousands of blows were exchange and with each strike, staff against claws, the landscape was reshaped.

    PUCHI!

    His Young Eminence’s staff pierced through Vobar tough paw, so swiftly and sharply that there was barely a sound.

    “Roar!”

    SWISH!

    Black claws, the size of a grown human being, slashed.

    PUCHI!

    His Young Eminence withdrew his staff and thrust through Vobar’s shoulder, obliterating bone, nerves and muscles, neutralizing the incoming attack midway.

    “I!” Vobar’s bellowed, gaining control and retracting his left arm. “Vobar of the Stone Clawed Bear clan, won’t be a measly Core Master’s, a human’s prey!” His aura erupted, the full extent of his strength, of which he did not expect to display in a fight with a mere Core Master.

    Black images of bear’s claws materialized around Vobar and fused with him. “Receive my Stone Claw!” His right, injured paw swung with the heaviness of a mountain. No use of its claws was made, as the whole arm became the ultimate claw.

    SLASH!

    The clouds split and dispersed. The earth parted and crumbled.

    Vobar was elated; his paw felt contact with the opponent. “Mm?” Something was not right; the immense power he channeled failed to reach its climax following the impact.

    “Misguided heathen”. A voice whispered. His Young Eminence blocked the Stone Claw attack with the end of his staff!

    Having his life on the line, Vobar could not afford to be shaken by the capabilities of his opponent anymore. His animalistic nature stepped forward and like a wild beast he forced out every ounce of energy, be it mist or physical.

    CHICHICHI!

    The two forces’ deadlock birthed high pitched grating sounds.

    “Rarararara!”

    Shrilling scream resounded as wraiths were attracted from afar to the chaotic battlefield.

    “Your Young Eminence”, Sister Beatriz was the first to notice the arrival of the damnable creatures. “We can’t stay here anymore, please hurry and finish the fight”.

    Knowing all too well where they are, His Young Eminence did not need Sister Beatriz to reason her request. “Witness the Pillar of my Belief, let the wretched receive retribution by the shining light of The Almighty”. It was not clear if he made a prayer or lectured Vobar, it also did not matter.

    “Roar!” The white fur, red eyes Stone Clawed Bear spewed blood and bared his teeth. A sense of impending danger drove him to demote his sanity into savagery.

    His Young Eminence’s staff glowed white and expended. What looked before as nothing more than a stick, has transformed to a heavenly column.

    CRACK!

    CRACK!

    CRACK!



    An indomitable force invaded, breaking Vobar’s bones in succession, starting with his right paw.

    The enormous physique of the Stone Clawed Bear convulsed and his dark aura vanished. White vapor emitted from his pores as his insides turned to seared mush and he began to fall from the sky.

    His Young Eminence was panting. For him, a Peak Core Master, to defeat a Martial Mortal was an unheard of feat, one that depleted every bit of his energy, one that through its spectators will certainly resonant in all corners of Ercas Mir!

    “Splendid! You were so gallant and splendid, Your Young Eminence!” Sister Iaura shouted in excitement, approaching alongside Sister Beatriz.

    “Here, Your Young Eminence”, Sister Beatriz presented him with a small pellet.

    Shaking his head, His Young Eminence rejected the pellet. “The Almighty has accepted me as his vessel, what great sin it would be should I hurry to relinquish this grace”.

    “That’s right, His Young Eminence is wise!” Sister Iaura nodded vigorously.

    Retrieving her hand, Sister Beatriz saw to her mistake and lowered her head. “His Young Eminence is wise”.

    “Suffice. We should leave”. His Young Eminence waved his hand, beads of sweat sliding down his face, he truly was spent.

    “Back home?” Sister Iaura asked. They obtained a dark attribute’s essence and no more were available to extract as the wraiths all over the ridge awakened and merged with their peculiar Cores. Nevertheless, she was still dispirited, for they only have one dark attribute’s essence and an imperfect on at that.

    “No. There is still the commotion Sister Beatriz sensed earlier”.

    “You mean…!” Sister Iaura clapped joyfully.

    “With devotion to The Almighty, we shall press forward”.



    “Is this him?”

    “Yes, sir, his name is Fengar”.

    With his mist energy sealed in his dantian and beaten to the ground, Fengar gritted his teeth and glared at the experts who confined him, as well as at those commanding them, the Pink Eyes Agama and towering woman.

    Of the five powers’ groups, Helev Hetra and Boolian were the first to make it to the scene where Zax escaped with the dark attribute’s essence. Upon their arrival they met with two scout parties of their respectable organizations. By then, Fengar was already caught by the quick witted experts who noted his connection to Zax, and after hearing a short summary of what transpired, he was brought over in front of the two second level Core Masters.

    “Get up”. Helev Hetra ordered Fengar. “The rest of you, spread and find the one who got the dark attribute’s essence, as well as any cultivator who harvested a dark attribute’s essence. Follow them and report their identities to the army and troops the moment they exit the ridge”. She instructed the two scout parties.

    “Yes!” The leader of the Blessed Army’s scout party replied, while the leader of the Violet Scaled Troops’ scout party complied only after Boolian gestured for him to go.

    “This should be made clear from the start”, Helev Hetra resumed her attention on Fengar. “Refusal to cooperate with the Blessed Army’s and Violet Scaled Troops’ personal in the Western Continent is akin to treason in one’s homeland. Are you aware what the punishment for treason is?”

    Fengar opened his mouth, wanting to curse, but did not dare. His body shook in frustration, his inability to retaliate made him vexed. He swallowed his ego and nodded.

    The punishment for treason or any sort of offence toward any of the five powers was well defined for someone with Fengar’s status or lower. More often, the family and friends of the perpetrator would be sought, caught and executed. Should the perpetrator be a cultivator, her or his cultivation would be crippled, reducing them to an invalid and then be made as an example. Should the perpetrator be a normal human or beast, they would be executed on the spot.

    “Good, seeing that you are being sensible, I will refrain from exposing you to further violence. That said, I advise you to beware, the tiniest grievance will be treated in a manner the likes of you won’t be able to brave”.

    “I understand”. Fengar succumbed to Helev Hetra’s pressure. His soul was as frail to her manipulation as Zax’s was to Supreme Ruler Ariel’s.

    “Helev Hetra, Boolian”, an imposing deep voice called.

    The two raised their head, their faces suddenly changed countenance.

    “Rijok”, Boolian hissed.

    “The Golden Desert Fort decided to send you…” Helev Hetra frowned.

    Colonel Rijok descended from the sky together with Cattelin and Darvajka. His gaze scrutinized the two, writing Fengar’s presence.

    “The wraiths’ slumber is over and all the dark attribute’s essences are gone, until the next event, that is, yet the two of you are still here, messing about with some random Core Master”. Colonel Rijok said in contempt. From his standpoint, it should be beneath any Martial Mortal to bother themselves with cultivators below the third realm, particularly for members of the five powers.

    “Eh?! You are that midget!” Cattelin exclaimed before Helev Hetra and Boolian could respond.

    Hearing the familiar, wicked voice, Fengar recognize it instantly. If things were bad for him before, now they, in his words, should he dared saying them out loud, “****ING ATROCIOUS”.

    “You dead midget!” Scalding flames erupted and Cattelin crazily pounced at Fengar.

    “Stand back!” Boolian whipped his tail, avoiding Cattelin but cutting her path, forcing her to fell back, while his profound killing intent diminished her bold demeanor.

    “Behave yourself, Cattelin!” Darvajka grabbed her hand and forcefully pulled her back, behind Colonel Rijok.

    “Da- Dar- Darvajka, it’s him! He and the other one where the two who robbed me of my spatial ring!” Cattelin resentfully said. “Colonel Rijok, I know I’m at fault, but he and his friends, they made me bring contempt on our Golden Desert Fort!”

    Figuring the cause of the outburst, Helev Hetra realized that the arriving three may possess a pretext to claim her and Boolian’s captive, which she could not allow to happen before they get the dark attribute’s essence from his escapee friend.

    “Rijok, this man was captured by us and is now under the jurisdiction of the Blessed Army and Violet Scaled Troops. Control your people!”

    “Under your jurisdiction?” Colonel Rijok said peacefully, seemingly unruffled by his subordinate’s action or Helev Hetra’s allegation. “For what crimes?”

    “Do I have to answer you?” Helev Hetra scowled.

    “Golden Desert Fort, Blue Sea, you said the wraiths’ slumber ended, it would be best for you to depart, now!” Boolian’s temperament was innately ferocious, more so when it was related to others’ indiscretion toward the Violet Scaled Troops. This time, enough for him to disregard the power differences between him and Helev Hetra against Colonel Rijok.

    “A threat? Are you willing to go that far for some Core Master?” Colonel Rijok said. “Fine”. His next word caught the two unprepared. “The five powers’ rules must be respected. I won’t prevent you from taking this cultivator. But, according to my subordinate, he does have an accomplice. Your Blessed Army and Violet Scaled Troops permitted limited access to the Western Continent for my Golden Desert Fort and Blue Sea and in our stay, a transgression against my subordinate was committed. This gives us the right to act independently on the Western Continent and apprehend the criminal at all cost!”

    “Good, Rijok, very good!” Helev Hetra muttered. “You are well versed with the rules, more than I care to admit”. It was about time for the pretense to end. “You want him”, she pointed at Fengar. “And his friend? You can have them, but the two are not why you are here…”

    “At last, being frank…” Colonel Rijok sneered. “Exactly, here was harvested the first wraith, the only perfect dark attribute’s essence. Your conduct let me know that this Core Master, probably his companion, obtained the perfect dark attribute’s essence. If so, let’s do this, in my possession are two dark attribute’s essences and I’m certain you two are not empty handed. The five of us will collaborate to trade the perfect dark attribute’s essence from this Core Master’s companion and whoever get a hold of it will compensate the other party with one deficient dark attribute’s essence and a million Splinters”.

    Helev Hetra and Boolian were not quick to agree. Weighting their options for a few second, they decided.

    “It’s a collaboration”.

  11. #191
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    Book 7 – Ercas Mir

    Chapter 25 – A Trade



    “Hand over the dark attribute’s essence and you will be let go!” A voice from Zax’s rear shouted.

    Ignoring the quickly approaching Martial Mortal, Zax immersed himself in converging kinetic energy to Kinetic Force and drilling faster.

    There were currently around fifty persistent experts on his tail. Five of which were Gong Vreil, Kirik and the other three who collaborated with him for the dark attribute’s essence. Another four, and at the lead, were four Martial Mortals.

    Pushing his endurance to the limit, spent to the point that his body no longer had the excess vitality to heal itself, while his right arm ceased regenerating at the beginning of the elbow, Zax still refused to give up.

    Except from the Linder Seeds, anything and everything consumable, every bit of food or medicine he purchased in Glorious Ground or hunted have been depleted.

    Suffice to say that Zax initial plan of losing his pursuers and finding a place to rest was annulled.

    “You won’t be able to escape for long, brat!”

    “To hold this dark attribute’s essence you better pray for a miracle!”

    “Even if you’ll escape, it would only be a temporary alleviation. In the end we’ll catch you and the more you prolong the chase the less likely you’ll get to live afterwards!”

    These lines and more hassled Zax unceasingly.

    CRACK!

    BOOM!

    The ground up ahead raptured, and then broke as long sharp claws burrowed from the front, targeting Zax.

    It was an Advanced third level Core Master, mole type beast and its speed underground was not inferior to Zax’s.

    WHOOSH!

    Zax bent back, hardly avoiding the two sets of giant claws. Instead of having his head cut open, he only sustained a shallow scratch from his upper chest to his forehead.

    BANG!

    Kicking up, he hit the abdomen of the mole type beast. He was not able to place much force in the strike, just enough to jolt the mole’s internals.

    “Bastard!”

    Both the mole type beast and Zax cursed, before he renewed his escape.

    ‘These encounters becoming more and more dangerous! If I were in my best shape then I would only have to worry from the Martial Mortals catching up!’ Zax shook his head. ‘”If” and “If” and “If” and “If”… there are better things that I should consider than wasting time lamenting’.

    Shifting his thoughts to the two pills in the spatial ring, he wondered about their medicinal properties. They could be poisonous or remedial. Although the former could bring disastrous effects should Zax consume them, the latter, regardless what they are supposed to treat, due to his cultivated physique, could be safely and wantonly absorbed whichever way he wants. In the latter’s case, should the pills have enough vitality, Zax could directly accelerate the recuperation of any wound!

    ‘Should I…?’ Zax was indecisive. Stupidly relying on the short secession caused by the black sky event; he failed to predict the capacity of how much his situation can deteriorate. Another misstep was all he needed to cross the line between life and death.

    CRASH!

    The wall of earth he drilled through crumbled and Zax abruptly halted his advancement as he almost fell into a large pit.

    Instinctively looking down, his face blanched and his body stiffly grabbed the encompassing earth.

    The space he arrived to was not any regular pit. It had a diameter of roughly eight hundred meters and appeared five to six kilometer deep. Up above the black sky were still apparent and down below… tens of thousands wraiths aimlessly hovered, fully awake!

    The pit was one of the wraiths’ slumbering chambers in the ridge, where myriad of them assembled, and Zax just drilled one third to the bottom!

    Momentarily stunned, Zax forgot everything and concentrated on doing nothing that will alert the wraiths to his presence. It took him till his palms felt the tremors his pursuers caused in the ground to recall his rotten situation.

    Panting and shaking he tried to think… ‘Too much, all of this is too much!’ He could not help himself from suffering the initial panic.

    To drill forward he had to cross the pit, whether by climbing alongside its round walls or jumping to the other side and hoping that none of the wraths will notice him. Going any other direction would slow him down.

    First and foremost, he hurriedly consumed a Linder Seed. ‘Relax!’ He berated himself. ‘They are approaching… if they’ll arrive before I pass the pit there will definitely be mayhem for the dark attribute’s essence, I would be caught in it and the wraiths will surely join in the fray-’ He was about to finish the thought when his eyes suddenly shone and his mind came up with an idea. ‘Mayhem!’

    Zax stopped ruminating and focused on sensing how close his pursuers are.

    Clenching his fist and gathering his resolve, he took a deep breath and jumped, not down or up, but to the other side of the pit. The distance was too far to make up without utilizing Kinetic Force to kick the air and stay afloat. Luckily, Zax control on the Kinetic Force was high enough to prevent the eruption of miniature explosion with every kick from making a sound.

    CRASH!

    CRASH!

    CRASH!

    CRASH!



    Earth and stone collapsed as cavities started to form in the pit’s wall. One figure after another showed up with ferocious countenance that turned aghast the instant they scrutinized the pit.

    Be they Core Masters or Martial Mortals, one has to admit that their reflexes and perception is really outstanding. Regardless of how engrossed with the chase they were, all pursuers froze in place when they arrive to the pit, as if their lives depended on it.

    ‘Don’t move! Don’t talk!’

    Sublime Soul Senses spread to the sea of consciousness of all the experts, very subtly, to not arouse the kin senses of the wraiths.

    A hairy and short Core Master who received the warning had a change of mind when he glimpsed at the wraiths. His party belonged to the Mercenary Association and each member was promised a great sum of Splinters if not for obtaining a dark attribute’s essence, then for acting as surveillance. Nonetheless, due to the cluster of wraiths the risk significantly just outweighed the gains.

    He was about to turn back when the figure of the leaping Zax entered his field of view and his mouth unintentionally uttered in agitation. “This lunatic…!”

    Naturally, the short and hairy Core Master was probably among the last to notice Zax, though no one dared to chase, or more accurately “distract”, him in fear that any clamor will attract the wraiths’ attention.

    Zax gently fell on the other side of the pit, grabbing the earthy wall and hastily burrowing a nook to stand in and finally letting out a long bated breath.

    Turning around he saw his pressures. Some moved after him the moment he landed on the other side of the pit. They glared at him, but were not so gutsy as before to shout threats and conditions for the dark attribute’s essence.

    The Martial Mortals were at the forefront, contending among themselves who will snatch the dark attribute’s essence first. Oddly enough, none of them wondered why Zax did not drill his way of escape again.

    Zax smiled, dug a rock and lifted it above the pit.

    Seeing his action, all of those who flew above the pit, in one way or another, became petrified and immediately stopped midair. They stared at him and knew his intentions.

    Zax burrowed his fingers into the rock and turned it upside down, in spite of the beseeching looks of the experts above the pit.

    A Martial Mortal at the midpoint of the pit raised his hands, signaling Zax to stop. There were others who mimicked him and a few that considered to fly back.

    Zax’s smile grew. Since he grabbed the dark attribute’s essence and escaped he had been in so much pressure… for his position to suddenly improve sure felt good.

    He retracted his arm, only by a little, but when he saw that couple of those who flew at the back slowly moving to the pit’s wall, he raised it up again and gestured with his head to those at the front.

    The Martial Mortals gazed at the sly Core Masters who dared risk their lives by provoking Zax, and gave them a look that easily was interpreted as a death threat.

    Shifting their eyes back to Zax, the Martial Mortals smiled apologetically and used their aura to write on the air, asking for his demands to let them go.

    Zax sneered. He put the rock on the ground and stepped on it. Due to his inability to use mist energy he signed with his one hand letters, like a regular person, for them to convince him not to stir the wraiths.

    “We will stop chasing you” Someone wrote.

    Zax rolled the rock with his leg to the edge of the nook in response.

    The Martial Mortal who made the suggestion paled and hurried to write something else.

    “We will stop chasing and pay you!”

    Zax rolled the rock from the edge and nodded in whimsical approval.

    “A trade” a different Core Master wrote, a Silver Skin Gorilla like Zax’s Martial brother, Simel.

    Aware that the conditional notion in a trade might upset Zax, the Silver Skin Gorilla retrieved from his spatial ring a batch of Splinters and pills and wrote with his green mist energy: “For the dark attribute’s essence, seven hundred thousand Splinters and recovery pills”.

    Zax read and seemed unmoved, yet his heart tightened. ‘Are these pills…?’ He tried to find similarities to the pills he had in shape, color and even smell. Regrettably their look and scent were nothing alike. ‘Still… this is quite an attractive trade. Even if I’ll hand over the dark attribute’s essence, others might chase me for the Splinters or revenge. In that case, I’d rather be fully healed. Seven hundred thousand Splinters is also an extravagant amount, enough to split and compensate Fengar‘.

    He signed in compliance for the Silver Skin Gorilla to first throw him the pills, pointing at his injuries and unwillingness to discuss anything further before treating himself.

    The Silver Skin Gorilla frowned. Giving the pill was not the issue, trusting Zax was, and the price for making the wrong choice can cost his life and the lives of the experts at his sides and back, though these fellows did not really concern him.

    “Let us firstly return” he wrote.

    Zax creased his brows and signed. “You want through all the effort of chasing me down, why turn back now” his previously whimsy mien completely changed, became exasperated. “You asked for the exchange, now you have three seconds to decide” he presented three fingers and lowered them.

    Three…

    Two…

    “OKAY!” The Silver Skin Gorilla tossed the pills in his hand and looked at the disgruntled Martial Mortals near him. If it will come to it, the seven hundred thousand Splinters will be something they will have to jointly pay.

    Zax caught the pills, nine in total, and gulped them down all at once. It took him mere second to feel their strong rejuvenating effect. His blood heated and his body reddened. A huge smiled spread across his face.

    ‘Yes! Although the medicinal properties cannot compare to my body’s restorative capabilities, the vitality these pills have is outstanding! I feel like in less than ten minutes my body can recover from all of its wounds and in less than a hour my right arm will grow back!’ Zax wanted to burst in laughter, yet controlled himself. ‘As expected, Martial Mortals’ fortune sure is awesome!’

    The pending experts watched Zax with antagonism that quickly evolved to astonishment.

    ‘That lunatic consumed nine pills together!’

    ‘How the hell is he cultivating his body?!’

    ‘If he won’t explode, even the Martial Mortals would be envious of this abnormal physique!’

    ‘He is healing, actually steadily healing!’

    ‘Where did he obtain such a marvelous bodily refinement technique?!’

    There were very few among the experts present who doubled in bodily cultivation. Not only was it a difficult path, but it also lacked, even in Ercas Mir, a worthwhile bodily refinement technique.

    Seeing how Zax’s body reacts to the pills and recalling his strength against the besieged wraith, how could anyone not be jealous and wonder about his extraordinary bodily refinement technique?

    “The dark attribute’s essence…” The Silver Skin Gorilla reminded.

    Immersed in dividing and channeling all the vitality throughout his body, Zax ignored him, wanting to uplift the fatigue and ache.

    Time moved slowly to the experts above the pit. Some attempted again to retreat, but a nudge of Zax’s leg and a slight roll of the rock indicated that they are not yet permitted to leave.

    Nine minutes passed.

    Zax breathed in, expanding his chest and comfortably released a current of air from his nostrils. He clenched his fist and crackling sounds issued from his knuckles.

    ‘Good…’ He felt calm and light, so serene he was unbothered by his unfinished predicament. ‘That’s right’. Only when his vision landed on the troubled experts did he proceed to his part of the bargain. “Mayhem!”

    BOOM!

    Kinetic Force erupted and his left fist punched the wall of the pit, breaking a big section of it to huge boulders that descended on the cluster of wraiths.

    The expert above the pit stared horrorstruck and in disbelief. They had doubts about Zax’s threat. There were so many wraiths even he, wounded or healed, will be in definite danger. They assumed that he wanted to recuperate so later he could leave with the Splinters and fully restored speed and strength.

    “Hahahahaha!” Zax’s voice reverberated as he fled, drilling. ‘Sorry, Fengar, but I can’t give up something I want and have the strength to fight for!’

  12. #192
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    Book 7 – Ercas Mir

    Chapter 26 – Entrapped



    “Rararararararara!”

    Multitude of hideous, shrilling screams vented from the pit. The wraiths noticed the invaders to their ridge and chamber.

    SWISH!

    SWISH!

    SWISH!

    SWISH!



    They flew up as the harbinger of death, with their bony fingers stretched toward the frightened experts.

    “You shameless thief!” The Silver Skin Gorilla bellowed, no longer holding back, his aura burst as his shot after Zax.

    “Dammit! Dammit! Dammit! Dammit!”

    “Everyone, spread!”

    “Run!”

    “No, there are too many!”

    “Wicked human!”



    All kinds of yells resonated as Zax’s pursuers began to flee. Some continued to charge after him, other flew up and out of the pit, and several retracted their steps. Of course, around half of the experts present died instantly after being targeted by the nearest and quickest wraiths.

    “No, curse you!”

    BOOM!

    A human Peak Core Master agitated his mist energy and self destructed, wanting to take others with him.

    BOOM!

    BOOM!

    BOOM!

    He was not the only on to let loose. Those who could not escape, self destructed, while those who still had a chance to live, like the Silver Skin Gorilla, cleared their route of escape with beams of mist energy that flattened the ridge for kilometers.



    ‘Don’t these idiots get that it’s more difficult for wraiths to chase through solid ground?!’ Zax cursed the experts who blasted the ridge.

    The earth around him crumbled faster than he could drill.

    “Scoundrel human, pray that I won’t be the one to catch you!” The Silver Skin Gorilla roared in so much rage, Zax could actually hear him through all the explosions. Alongside him were two more Martial Mortals and five Peak Core Masters with a flying technique.

    “Rarararara!”

    Out of the tens of thousands wraiths in the pit, some, hundreds, due to the Silver Skin Gorilla’s clamor, were bound to chase in Zax’s direction. They were on the tail of his pursuers, closer to them than him, thought it still did not make him feel good.

    ‘They are too fast’, he meant the wraiths. ‘That Silver Skin purposely bombarding the surrounding with mist attacks! Does he want them to catch up?!’

    No matter how deep he dug, the Silver Skin Gorilla and the other experts shot beams of mist energy to blow up any opportunity he might have to conceal himself from the range of their Soul Senses and Sublime Soul Senses. Zax knew that if it kept going, he will sooner reach New Earth’s crust than manage to lose them. Moreover, he was aware that the eight were not really crazy, but probably had the confidence, if not the means, to lose the wraiths, for now, at least.

    “****ing pests!” Zax turned around, facing the eight, who were less than two kilometers from him, he controlled his anger and fiendishly smiled. Despite his body consuming vitality in the midst of growing his right arm, his overall condition was at his best, which aroused his fighting spirit. Besides, mayhem was what he asked for.

    WHOOSH!

    He kicked the air again and again, Kinetic Force propelling him faster and faster. Zax launched himself head on toward the eight.

    “Dare to meet me with frontal attack!” The Silver Skin Gorilla was at the forefront; his green mist energy released strong gusts of howling wind that cleanly sliced through earth and stone.

    “Murreta, careful!” One of the Core Masters behind, the bald man, Hereb Lish, yelled. “Your Eperong clan and my father’s Mount Rom mercenary band don’t have enmity between them!” As a Peak Core Master, he could not withstand the Silver Skin Gorilla’s, Murreta, sharp currents of blustery mist energy. Only by the use of his status did he have the capital to partake in the chase with a measure of hope of obtaining the dark attribute’s essence.

    “Mount Rom mercenary band”, Murreta granted. “Should have not sent a child!” His green aura erupted, shrouding him with detrimental turbulences. After being played with by a human brat, he did not care about giving face to the absent captain of any mercenary band.

    “Murreta…” Hereb Lish muttered through clenched teeth and distanced himself from the crazed ape, attracting a portion of the wraiths after him.

    The other four Core Master, three of which were Kirik, Lurvar and Gong Vreil, also stayed away from Murreta’s unbridled force. They all behaved as if prepared to depart should the situation escalate beyond their area of control.

    BANG!

    After evading six current of green wind, the seventh struck Zax, pierced his shielding Kinetic Force, cutting his left shoulder. Blood gushed from the wound, but in mere seconds it stopped and started healing.

    WHOOSH!

    Ignoring the risk of encountering more currents of green wind, Zax dove forward.

    WHOOSH!

    WHOOSH!

    WHOOSH!



    The gap between him and Murreta shortened to less than twenty meters in a blink. Not far behind, the other two Martial Mortals were also about to make a move, as they could not allow the dark attribute’s essence to get into the hands of Murreta. Dealing with a Martial Mortal was many times more problematic than dealing with a bodily cultivator with the strength of Peak Core Master.

    “DIE!” Murreta unleashed a supersonic punch that sucked nearly all the air in a radius of two kilometers and compressed a greenish, semitransparent wind pillar.

    The hair on Zax’s back stood on end. As far as breathing goes, the suction of air was negligible to him, for a certain period of time, that is. It was the force and speed of the wind pillar that scared him. He sensed that even if he would let it strike him or try to retaliate with his strongest Soar With The Storm, the final result would be the same. Fortunately he never intended to actually fight with Murreta.

    “Eh?” As he tried to maneuver himself out of the trajectory of the wind pillar, he found out that there was barely any air to kick with Kinetic Force. Consequently, eighty percent of the kick dispersed and the remaining twenty hardly thrust his large physique away.

    “Grr!” He bit in pain as the wind pillar ripped the left side of his waist and continued on, unobstructed.

    “Haaaaaa!” Two panicked screams resounded from the mouths of the Six Legged Stallion, Kirik, and another Peak Core Master, human cultivator.

    Apparently, the flying techniques they utilized also relied on the density of air. The moment it became scarce, they could not maintain their speed and were caught up by the wraiths at their back.

    “No! Not my spirit! Help! Help!” The human cultivator shouted in despair, already out of his mind just by the prospect of having his soul and then spirit being ripped apart.

    After the initial scream, Kirik stopped struggling and his body simply fell from the sky, both soulless and spiritless.

    BOOM!

    Following burrowing ninety meters into the ground, the wind pillar exploded, discharging an outburst of an extraordinary air pressure.

    Zax diverted the vitality from his right arm to his waist. The gap between him and Murreta reduced to five meters, pushing almost to zero the success chance of his plan.

    “Mm?” Upon feeling the rapidly expanding range of the fearful air pressure, Zax was ecstatic. “Hahahaha”. He laughed manically, partly from the daunting risk level of his plan that is still executable, partly from anticipation to the reaction of the six.

    Murreta’s stretched fist was a meter away. Zax bent forward, repositioning himself. On his own he could not avoid Murreta anyway.

    BOOM!

    The air pressure arrived faster than the incoming fist. Feeling it slamming his feet, fracturing the bones in his legs, Zax decisively kicked the air with an intensity of Kinetic Force that was only slightly short to Soar With The Storm’s.

    Unconcerned of the air pressure, Murreta punched with all his might as green, windy mist energy wrapped his fist. “What?!” An astonished looked replaced his vicious mug as before he made contact with the target, Zax vanished from his sight.

    Due to the scarce amount of air at his front, there was neither sound nor much drag and due to the strong push he received at his back, there was barely a visible silhouette for even Martial Mortal such as Murreta to perceive with his eyes.

    The great speed caused everything to his sides to become indistinct. Zax zoomed past the other two Martial Mortals and three Core Masters, straight toward the cluster of wraiths that was after them.

    He could not stop now even if he wanted to. Retrieving the thin box of Linder Seeds he got from Xinia, he opened its lid with his finger and without delay poured all its content to his mouth.

    ‘Hopefully it will be the right amount’. He told himself and locked his jaw. He had to be in physical contact with the Linder Seeds to extract their dark attribute’s essence and for his plan to not fail, he could not afford the spare time of picking them one by one.

    “Rarararara!”

    The eerie wraiths ahead were like a black wave that will soon devour him.

    Extracting several Linder Seeds at a time, a tube liker barrier was swiftly constructed around Zax’s soul. Getting thicker with each extra layer, the originally see through barrier turned into solid black and severed the connection of Zax’s soul with the rest of his body.

    “Is he trying to commit suicide?!” Gong Vreil gawked as her Soul Sense detected Zax’s trajectory.

    “Gutless human, want to take the dark attribute’s essence with you to the grave!” Murreta shouted.

    “Murreta, you oaf, if it wasn’t for the impact of your Wind Blast, he would not have managed to gain so much speed”. One of the Martial Mortals, an old woman in a long flowery robe, said in frustration.

    Murreta snorted in response.

    “Rararararara!”

    Zax was swallowed by the wave of wraiths, passing through their bodies, numerous soul attacks slashed his sea of consciousness, fracturing and breaking layer after layer of the Linder Seed’s barrier.

    Whenever his soul resumed connection with his body and saw that he is still within the black wave, he extracted the dark attribute’s essence of another batch of Linder Seeds from his mouth.

    In practice, the plan was only couple seconds long and had one aim, to pass the wave of wraiths. To Zax’s soul, though, the rigorous execution made it feel like hours gone by.

    Finally he shuttled to the other side of the wave, somewhat still dull he crushed on the ground. The barrier around his soul was three layers thick and his soul could barely make out his condition. Realizing that he is out of the cluster of wraith, he broke two layers of the barrier and got up with excruciating headache. In his mouth still remained two Linder Seed of high potency.

    He got up and breathed a sigh of relief when he saw that the wraiths, after all the effort they invested in striking him, proceeded as coherent whole at the same direction of Murreta and the rest.

    “Rarararara!”

    Before he could relax, Zax heard the shrilling voices of further wraiths. The pit had tens of thousands wraith, and the group of experts that initially perused him, naturally could not attract all of them.

    Approximately, four thousand wraiths spread all over the vicinity, some in groups, others alone.

    ‘Should go back to digging’.

    BOOM!

    Just as the thought crossed his mind, a green wind pillar flew above his head, burrowed into the ground five kilometers from him and exploded.

    “No place to run, human! NO PLACE TO RUN!” Murreta’s voice reverberated from within the wave of wraith.

    Zax turned his head in shock and saw the six flying in spherical formation, encompassed by black hue that the wave of wraiths could not penetrate.

    “Hurry, Lady Zhuah, Murreta, Kitobara, finish the formation, I can’t suppot…” Hereb Lish urged the three Martial Mortals. He, Gong Vreil and Lurvar, the Cyan Macaw, shared the same spent mien.

    “Just follow my lead, everyone!” Kitobara, who was a Chaoyue type beast like Murreta, a Three Tails Fennec, had the highest attainment in formations among the six.

    “Hahaha, good, Kitobara, I cannot wait to catch the brat!” Murreta laughed.

    Although they were a kilometer far from him, Zax was able to hear their every word.

    ‘RUN!’

    Something in the manner at which they conducted themselves alerted him more than the distanced wraiths.

    He channeled Kinetic Force and drilled down.

    “Same trick will not work twice!” Lurvar shouted.

    The sphere around the six emanated a blinding black flash.

    BANG!

    Four meters deep, Zax collided with a smooth and impenetrable surface.

    BANG!

    BANG!

    BANG!

    He punched and kicked but it did not budge.

    BOOM!

    Something heavy hit the ground, it split open and Zax was forced to come out.

    “You, scoundrel, made us waste our means of escape to erect this Mo’s Pyramid formation and survive the wave of wraiths”. Hereb Lish said angrily. He and the other five descended with their eyes fixed on Zax.

    The Mo’s Pyramid formation’s base had a width and length of a kilometer and a half and its highest was seven hundred and fifty meter. Inside it were only Zax and the six.

    The blood in Zax’s veins boiled. ‘I can’t break it’. His muscles tensed and his left hand trembled. ‘I…’ His pupils narrowed and entire body issued strong killing intent. ‘Must fight!’ He was determined, even in this hopeless situation.

    “This time”, Murreta, too, stopped smiling. “There won’t be negotiations”.

  13. #193
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    Book 7 – Ercas Mir

    Chapter 27 – All Parties Converge



    “Are they out of their minds?!” Helev Hetra exclaimed.

    She and Boolian flew side by side in top speed, while not far behind Colonel Rijok wrapped and carried Darvajka and Cattelin in a mantle of red mist energy, since on their own they could not keep up. As for Fengar, he was being carried by Helev Hetra.

    “So many auras flared and dimmed at the same time, it cannot be a mere struggle between experts. They must have trespassed into a slumbering chamber”. Boolian guessed.

    “Should we keep going in that direction, Colonel Rijok?” Darvajka hesitatingly asked. Frankly, ever since he broke through the arduous bottleneck to the third realm of Martial Mortals, he regretted taking on this “continuously escalating for the worse” task. Of course, despite not having a direct superior from his Blue Sea, he will not dare to defect.

    “If the numbers of auras was a single digit, then we would not have headed to their direction. A far more important matter, some of the auras possesses the energy signature of Martial Mortals”.

    “Tsk! Little fellow, those two huge blasts from before, don’t tell me you believe Core Masters can generate them?!” Boolian clicked his tongue. “Besides, someone erected a Mo’s Pyramid formation in the midst of where all the wraiths emerged. Considering the resources required to erecting this formation, you might as well use them to leave the scene unscratched”.

    “That’s right”. Helev Hetra concurred. “The Mo’s Pyramid formation was used as a trap, and it was triggered”.

    “Everyone, refrain from using your souls from this point on. This mess might be related to the perfect dark attribute’s essence, but the cluster of wraiths over there should number in the tens thousands. We’ll have a fleeting moment to assess the situation in the Mo’s Pyramid formation and decide if to intrude or keep looking. Darvajka, Cattelin, stay close to me when we get there, unless you want to die”. Colonel Rijok summed up and raised his speed, as well as his guard, along with Boolian and Helev Hetra.



    “Sister Beatriz, do you think we will find there a better dark attribute’s essence?” Sister Iaura inquired with much expectation.

    “Perhaps, if The Almighty so will grant us”.

    Sister Beatriz sat next to Sister Iaura in the star shaped aircraft, while His Young Eminence was situated in his front seat. After the two in her care sensed the flaring auras and compelled her to head to their location, even though she detected numerous wraiths appearing in the same far away region, Sister Beatriz insisted on using the aircraft to fly there, rather than exposing themselves prematurely.

    “Mm! I can’t wait! Your Young Eminence, won’t it be great if we’ll find a second dark attribute’s essence? Then you will have one for yourself and the other Sister Beatriz can take”.

    From His Young Eminence’s front seat an amused laugh was heard.

    “Silly girl”, Sister Beatriz caressed Sister Iaura’s head and smiled. “A dark attribute’s essence is too precious for someone like me”.

    Sister Iaura frowned. “No way, Sister Beatriz, you can’t say that! You take care of me and His Young Eminence, The Almighty will definitely look favorably at you, right, Your Young Eminence?”

    “Er…” His Young Eminence suddenly coughed uncomfortably.

    “Your Young Eminence, are you okay?” Sister Iaura leaned forward and lifted her head up as she worriedly asked. His Young Eminence’s backrest concealed him.

    “Return to your seat, Sister Iaura, we will shortly arrive. His Young Eminence needs to prepare and so do you. This will be your last opportunity to test yourself before we go back”.

    “Mm”. Though reluctant, Sister Iaura obediently listened.

    “Good girl”.



    WHOOSH!

    Exuding an oppressing aura, Murreta dashed toward Zax.

    WHOOSH!

    Zax was clear about his possibility of withstanding Murreta’s assault, not to mention defeating him. He gritted his teeth and ran across the Mo’s Pyramid formation.

    BOOM!

    BOOM!

    BOOM!

    One long range windy mist attack after the other was thrown with each of Murreta’s punches.

    “Arg!” Zax groaned involuntarily. He could ignore the pain, but the blast of each attack, even if it missed him, was strong enough to shock his recovering body.

    WHOOSH!

    WHOOSH!

    Lady Zhuah and Kitobara joined the chase. Both had a composed countenance, but their every move was calculated to the slightest of motions and its effect on the battlefield. Now that Zax was entrapped, obtaining the dark attribute’s essence became a secondary concern to preventing one of the other Martial Mortals from snatching it.

    Hereb Lish, Gong Vreil and Lurvar were contemplating on the sidelines. They were cautious, but not afraid of Zax. The reason they withheld their involvement in the one sided brawl was the fear of being caught in the three Martial Mortals’ struggle.

    “Hereb Lish, alone there is no way any of us three can obtain the dark attribute’s essence”. Gong Vreil stated.

    “Oh, am I detecting another one of your crafty plans, Gong Vreil?” Hereb Lish sneered. “Don’t forget the results of your last plan”.

    “The goal was the defeat the wraith. Whoever won the dark attribute’s essence was pointed out from the beginning as an issue of skill”.

    “What do you have in mind?” Lurvar interrupted.

    “Do I have all of your ears?”

    “Yes!” Hereb Lish knew better than insisting to start up a meaningless argument.

    “Splendid”. Gong Vreil smiled as if her idea of their cooperation presented a long awaited opportunity. “Hereb Lish, regardless which of us will get the dark attribute’s essence, in the end, only our captains will decide how to use it. I just joined The Flying Rooster mercenary band and I doubt your father spoils you to the degree of letting you have this level of treasure”.

    “Your point?” Hereb Lish said impatiently, unintentionally acknowledging the truth in Gong Vreil’s words.

    “Simple, if neither of us can have the dark attribute’s essence; let’s give our captains the headache of compromising over it”.

    “And who do you suggest will offer them the dark attribute’s essence?”

    “That, I guess, will be me?” Lurvar said.

    “You?”

    “Right”. Gong Vreil confirmed. “Lurvar is an independent cultivator who has no ties or enmities with our mercenary bands. Us, three, will jointly move in a formation to obtain the dark attribute’s essence and escape. If everything will work well, upon departing from the ridge, we’ll contact and inform our captains of everything, and whoever they’ll decided to walk with the dark attribute’s essence will also have to receive, unconditionally, Lurvar as a new member. A win, win, win situation”.

    “You are optimistic”. While saying, Hereb Lish actually considered it. “What about you, Lurvar, are you fine with hiring yourself for the price of joining a Geared ranked mercenary band?”

    “I have my reasons of applying for the High Rankers' trials, one of which is indeed joining a Geared ranked mercenary band after succeeding. Mount Rom and The Flying Rooster are both double Geared ranked mercenary bands, a free pass to either of them will be worth my compliance”.

    “Hereb Lish, your decision?” Gong Vreil asked.

    “Alright”.

    “It’s settled. Follow the flow of my mist; we’ll erect Six Winged Rooster formation”.

    “You were taught one of the four signature formations of The Flying Rooster!” Hereb Lish gaped.

    “Not to perfection, yet, but yes. Now be discreet, I don’t want them to realize what we are conspiring before the completion of the formation”.



    BOOM!

    A blue icy beam missed Zax and hit the ground, forming on it solid, spiky layers of ice.

    ‘I must break this formation! I must break this formation!’ The words endlessly repeated in Zax’s head.

    The three Martial Mortals were after his life, but had yet to make a deceive move, as they concentrated more on subtly obstructing one another.

    Zax’s most severe waist’s wound was almost fully healed, but the rest of his body was adorned by many cuts and bruises while nothing was left of his upper garments and his lower ones were torn. He tried to retaliate a few times, but a Martial Mortal was an entire league beyond what he could handle. His frame of mind was on the verge of succumbing to savagery, only to go out after giving his utmost. He did not bother with the thought of trading the dark attribute’s essence for his life. Even if the other two agreed, Murreta made a point that he wants to kill him.

    BANG!

    BANG!

    WHOOSH!

    He kicked the Mo’s Pyramid in an attempt to at least crack it, yet was compelled to pounce in retreat right after failing.

    ‘Lady Zhuah, Kitobara, if the brat will find the formation’s weak point and somehow manage to break and escape through it, I will hold you responsible’. Murreta said via his Sublime Soul Sense.

    ‘Hahaha, indeed you’re the strongest among us, but can you really do anything to me or Lady Zhuah if we want to run?’ Kitobara retorted.

    ‘Keep your empty threats, Murreta, give up the dark attribute’s essence and you can have the boy’.

    ‘Humph, Lady Zhuah, if the dark attribute’s essence will fell to my hand, you think that I can’t get the brat with it?!’

    ‘Then we continue to see which will triumph!’

    BANG!

    CRACK!

    BOOM!

    Murreta, Lady Zhuah, Kitobara, Hereb Lish, Gong Vreil and Lurvar suddenly stopped what they were doing and with incredulous expressions raised their gazes up.

    “I-Impossible!” Kitobara murmured.

    An outside force struck the Mo’s Pyramid formation, with one blow cracking it and with the second creating an opening in its triangular top.

    Soon after, six figures descended leisurely, alarming with the overbearing pressure of their auras the seven already inside.

    ‘What now?’ Zax panted and looked up. The instant his eyes caught a glimpse at the newcomers, his heart palpitated. ‘Fengar and… that woman!’ He hastily lowered his head.

    “Second level Martial Mortals, three at that!” Lady Zhuah exclaimed. She, Murreta and Kitobara were merely at the Advance and Peak phases of the first level.

    Entering last, Helev Hetra drew a series of shapes with her mist energy. Pointing up with her index finger, the shape flew above the opening in the Mo’s Pyramid formation and formed a transparent cover that repelled the wraiths who followed them.

    “It will hold for couple of minutes”. She informed Boolian and Colonel Rijok.

    “Preposterous! Three Martial Mortal failing to grasp one bodily cultivator and are forced to erect the Mo’s Pyramid formation”. Colonel Rijok snorted condescendingly. “The experts of clans and cities’ great families should be ashamed of themselves”. His last remark thundered in the ears of the three first level Martial Mortals.

    “Five powers experts…?!” Kitobara said outloud everyone’s suspicion, only to be ignored by the lofty newcomers.

    “Hey, you”, Helev Hetra lifted Fengar’s head by the hair. “The wounded man down there, is he your companion?”

    Staring down, Fengar immediately recognized Zax. “Y-Yes…” Under Helev Hetra’s imperious suppression, his voice was hoarse and pain was shown on his face.

    “Cattelin, is this child Him?” With arms crossed Colonel Rijok sought a more reliable second opinion.

    “Yes! Yes, Colonel Rijok!” Cattelin trembled in anger and her face turned red when her gaze landed on Zax. “It’s him, Colonel Rijok! His missing arm, I cut it during our battle! He should have my spatial ring! For stealing it, for shaming me, Colonel Rijok, I beg of you, I must kill him!” She hated Fengar but abhorred Zax. Because of his interference in her and Darvajka’s task, a penalty still awaited for her in the Golden Desert Fort’s headquarters.

    A glance from Colonel Rijok and the nearly mad Cattelin hushed. He was about to speak, when suddenly…

    “Esteemed seniors”, Lady Zhuah opened. From the above conversation she and the rest figured that the newcomers were also after Zax. “Old me name is ‘Zhuah Maria’, mother of River Cloud’s mayor, Zhuah Lob. I and my colleagues invested our precious treasure to erect this Mo’s Pyramid formation, please be considerate”. Threatening members of the five powers was futile, more so when they had the upper hand in terms of power in the scene.

    “Zhuah Lob’s mother?” Helev Hetra was surprised.

    “Is he enlisted in your Blessed Army?” Colonel Rijok asked.

    “Only as a honorary official. His cultivation should be higher than mine, at the Advanced second Martial Mortal level. My Lieutenant General has high expectations of him”.

    “Is that so…” Colonel Rijok was a tad annoyed. The Golden Desert Fort does not pursue information about honorary officials do to it often being contrary, because none of the five powers enlist them through official channels or even bother to document them.

    “Esteemed seniors…” Lady Zhuah said.

    “The injured brat has offended The Golden Desert Fort and Blue Sea”, Colonel Rijok’s imposing manner surged down with every word. “For his capture, the parties associated with you will be awarded with accordance to your cultivation levels. State your names and to whom do you belong”.

    Lady Zhuah composed herself, aware that they will not get a better deal. “Zhuah Maria, old matriarch of River Cloud city’s Zhuah family”.

    “Kitobara, leader of Grassoar tribe, a subsidiary tribe to the Somu clan”. Kitobara was disgruntled, but knew when to stay firm in one’s place and when to take a step back.

    “You”, Boolian flew forward, speaking to Murreta. He appreciated him more than Kitobara for maintaining the demeanor of a Chaoyue type beast, despite himself being a Zhihui type beast.

    Clenching his fist, Murreta punched the ground.

    BOOM!

    If the Mo’s Pyramid formation did not nullify his force, a small crater would have been formed under the Silver Skin Gorilla.

    “Murreta, Eperong clan!” He roared.

    Nodding, Colonel Rijok shifted his gaze to Gong Vreil and the other two. “Core Masters will get lower compensation. Blame the higher ups of the organization behind your backs for sending fledglings”.

    “Gong Vreil, The Flying Rooster mercenary band”. If the Martial Mortals could not do a thing about the newcomers, fair to say that no matter how clever of a plan Gong Vreil had, it was bound to fail. Luckily she was smart enough to know it.

    “Hereb Lish, Mount Rom mercenary band”.

    “Why aren’t you saying anything?” Boolian asked when he noticed Lurvar staying silent. Generally he did not care, but in a situation like this he could not accept letting the humans have extra reimbursements.

    “Esteemed senior…” Lurvar imitated Lady Zhuah. It was his first time meeting third realm experts of the five powers and without a background, he was careful with his words.

    “Lurvar, The Flying Rooster mercenary band”. Gong Vreil said, surprising both the Cyan Macaw and bald monk. “It won’t be as easy, but our captain might still give you a chance”. She said quietly and light of gratitude and understanding shone in Lurvar’s eyes.

    Hereb Lish bit his lips. ‘Crafty woman!’ How could he not understand Gong Vreil’s ploy?

    Since the beginning there was not a hundred percent assurance of them obtaining the dark attribute’s essence, even by working together. Now, although the five power’s compensation would probably be a fraction of the dark attribute’s essence’s worth, with Gong Vreil and Lurvar together The Flying Rooster mercenary band will receive double the amount of his Mount Rom mercenary band. Maybe it will even be enough to really convince The Flying Rooster’s captain to allow Lurvar some sort of a tryout.

  14. #194
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    Book 7 – Ercas Mir

    Chapter 28 – Resolution, Heart And Mind



    Settling for now the topic of compensation, Colonel Rijok unfolded his arms and looked to Cattelin. “Apprehend the criminal”.

    At last, being given the permission to act as she so much desired, thrilled and gratified, Cattelin strengthened the grip on the shaft of her scythe with one hand and with the other saluted. “Thank you, Colonel Rijok!” An ebullient fiery aura emerged around her like volcanic eruption.

    WHOOSH!

    Receiving a slight push from Colonel Rijok’s mantle, Cattelin dashed toward Zax while holding her scythe combatively. “Hahaha”, a vicious laughter rolled out of her throat. “We finally get to meet again, Musclehead, for our initial encounter, I’m going to make you excruciatingly miserable before dealing with the midget!”

    An ugly expression was plastered on Zax’s face. He could not come up with any method to escape from this perilous predicament. Moreover, at the speed Cattelin approached him, he had barely time think.

    SWISH!

    The scythe’s crescent blade slashed downwards and Zax evaded by half a step.

    “Hahaha!” Cattelin laughed and swung horizontally.

    Having experienced one failure against him, she, of course, was not going to repeat the mistake of underestimating Zax due to his injuries. Conversely, she was certain that a little bit of extra caution than before is all she needs to suppress and torture him slowly.

    BANG!

    BANG!

    BANG!

    CRACK!

    BANG!

    BOOM!

    A series of bombardments at the Mo’s Pyramid formation’s external layers reverberated within, until another, small, section of its base was breached and two figures strode in, while similarly to Helev Hetra, sealing the opening after them.

    “Humph!” One of the figures snorted, and the entranced Cattelin with ripping Zax piece by piece, felt every cell in her body shiver before halting in place.

    “Presumptuous!” Colonel Rijok rebuked and emitted a countering pressure to liberate Cattelin.

    “Hahahaha!” A strong, vigorous voice echoed in jubilation and brimming presence from the second figure. “Great joke, hahahaha! Can there really be someone more presumptuous than the five powers? Hahahaha!”

    The two new figures were clad in loose garments, a seemingly middle aged black skinned, black short haired man, and a middle aged olive skinned, brown long haired woman.

    “Rockwell… and when I heard the blows on the Mo’s Pyramid formation, I was anticipating that old fogy from the Mercenary Association. Never I would have imagined that your Sinister Chain is so brave, to dispatch two of its members to the gathering spot of four of the five powers!” Helev Hetra said in disdain and a tad of disappointment. Ultimately, facing Colonel Rijok would have been simpler with the aid of the Mercenary Association’s experts.

    The black skinned man, Rockwell, smiled. “What, Helev Hetra, you think that my Sinister Chain’s members will fear other experts of the same cultivation level, just because they outnumber us?”

    “Sinister Chain, you dare show yourself before me!” Colonel Rijok aura bellowed, the pressure of his aura intensified, brushing off easily that of the Peak first level Martial Mortal olive skinned woman.

    “Let me, Riv”. Rockwell told the olive skinned woman, Riv. She understandably complied, withdrawing her green aura, following which, a stout brown, earth hues aura gushed from Rockwell, confront Colonel Rijok’s and actually reached a stalemate with him.

    “Nothing less from the undisputed strongest second level Martial Mortal”. Rockwell smilingly said with a minute frown. He was perfectly aware that it looked like they were equally matched only due to the unique traits of his attribute.

    “Earthly attribute…” Colonel Rijok mused. “So you are Rockwell of the Vanished Meadow, it appears that the rumors are true and you do possess the rarely seen earthly attribute”. He withdrew his aura.

    “Vanished Meadow…” Rockwell hissed, for the first time his pleasant countenance lost all affability. “When you wonder why my Sinister Chain is so opposing to the five powers, remember those two words you just spoke!”

    “Enough talk!” Boolian impatiently roared. “The perfect dark attribute’s essence, if the scythe woman cannot force the boy to hand it over, I’ll do it myself!”

    WHOOSH!

    Before Zax was able to react, Boolian appeared next to him and swung his tail.

    BANG!

    “Still intact!” Boolian could not believe. His aim was Zax’s left arm, to severe it for the spatial ring, where he guessed the dark attribute’s essence was kept.

    The force of the blow sent Zax flying uncontrollably. He felt the bones in his arm shattering to thousand fragments, piercing his tendons, muscles and skin. Some of his ribs also broke, yet to a lesser extent and luckily did not harm his internals.

    If Boolian put just a bit of effort and did not take Zax’s bodily refinement technique as a mediocre one, safe to say this strike, even though blunt, would have definitely done the job.

    “Riv, after me!” Rockwell yelled hurriedly.

    “Boolian, adhere to our agreement!” Helev Hetra shouted angrily and tossed Fengar.

    She, the Pink Eyes Agama and Colonel Rijok agree to engage only after the perfect dark attribute’s essence would be revealed. Cattelin was supposed to relinquish it right after taking it out of the spatial ring, and let them, Martial Mortals, contend for it.

    “Darvajka, protect Cattelin”. Colonel Rijok commanded and also moved.

    Zax crushed down after slamming into the Mo’s Pyramid formation’s barrier. His vision out of focus, he crawled on his feet and chin as his left arm dangled without an ounce of strength in it. Bearing Boolian’s tail whip drained him from the last bit of vitality he got from Murreta’s pills.

    When the five experts of the third realm accelerated toward him, his mind was only able to register a fleeting instant of colorful illuminations.

    ‘Am… I… about to… die?’ Even when said inwardly, he felt too tired to sentence his words.

    ‘Wake up, boy!’ A domineering voice rang in Zax’s sea of consciousness.

    Zax’s eyes snapped open as he abruptly felt every fiber in his being resonating in response to the imposing manner of the voice.

    His pupils, as if not his own, were moving in search of something, attracted to the back a shape that suddenly appeared before him.

    “Rockwell, you dare face us, three second level Martial Mortals, with a first level woman?!” Helev Hetra chided.

    The fastest to reach Zax were actually Rockwell and Riv, but what surprised Helev Hetra, Boolian and Colonel Rijok, was that instead of trying to take the spatial ring from Zax, the two actually turned around to face them with their back to the actual target.

    “Helev Hetra, do you remember why the members of Sinister Chain place much importance to always and only travel in pairs?” Rockwell snickered as he saw realization within the eyes of the three opposing Martial Mortals.

    Brown and green shades mixed together as Rockwell’s and Riv’s mist energies rose and merged. Rather than the dull muddy green expected to appear, the combination of the hues brought forth a vibrant, invisible, mighty aura that encompassed both experts.

    “Companion’s Links formation!” Colonel Rijok grouched as if encountering the only thing that could allow Rockwell, an Advanced second level Core Master, to match and even surpass him.

    “Hahahaha! Exactly!” Rockwell leaned his head back and laugh and Riv, who stood centimeters to his left, did the same, even having the same expression and spoke at the same time!

    ‘Boy, answer me without delay, the perfect dark attribute’s essence is really on your person?!’ Rockwell’s voice resounded in Zax’s mind.

    ‘Dark attribute’s essence…’ Zax’s consciousness, little by little, stabilized.

    ‘Yes! If you’re willing to offer it to my Sinister Chain I’ll help you escape and even recuperate!’

    ‘Escape?!’ The notion sounded like something so out of reach that he almost wholeheartedly accepted as infeasible.

    ‘Dammit, brat, give me a straight answer, already! Four out of the five powers are out to get you. If you want, I can also arrange a test for you to join my Sinister Chain. Also, don’t think that I need your permission to take your spatial ring or even disintegrate your body until I’ll find the dark attribute’s essence. Seeing your potential and the fact that we have common enemies, take it as my magnanimous offer to your pitiful state’.

    ‘O… kay’. Zax hesitated for a moment, before shutting his eyes, aggrieved that in the end he could not keep the dark attribute’s essence.

    ‘Hahahaha! Good choice!’ Rockwell said happily and shifted his attention back to Helev Hetra, Boolian and Colonel Rijok, with which he and Riv were at a deadlock.

    Moving in union, Rockwell and Riv clenched their right fist and punched forward. Invisible force shuttled through the air, causing it to vibrate, and split to three beams that targeted the three enemy’s experts.

    Helev Hetra extended her arms, floating in front of her palms were seven pebbles, World Gathering Bone, that erected around her a net shaped cocoon defensive formation.

    BANG!

    Being hit by the beam, her formation absorbed roughly eighty percent of the impact while the rest pushed her hundred meters or so back, with slight pain in her arms.

    Boolian spewed an unending current of flames at the incoming beam.

    BANG!

    The beam penetrated two thirds into the current of flames before exploding and the recoil pushed Boolian forty meters before his claws grabbed hold of the ground.

    Colonel Rijok’s weapon was a war hammer. Swinging it with both arms, the flat and shiny surface of the war hammer clashed with the beam.

    CHI!

    CHI!

    CHI!

    Grating sounds ensued.

    “Haaa!” Colonel Rijok roared, his purple aura expanded, electric mist energy swirled around him and infused with the war hammer.

    BANG!

    The two forces climaxed and burst simultaneously.

    Colonel Rijok fell back nine meters before reaching to a halt. “Companion’s Links formation…” He said through gritted teeth, though in his heart he could not help but be at awe of it.

    Rockwell and Riv sluggishly retracted their right arms, mutually turned to Zax and raised their left hands in a seizing motion.

    Zax, mostly numb from his injuries, but could still make up the sensation of the invisible power that manifested and embraced him.

    ”Sorry, everyone, we’ll now take our leave”. Sweeping their three opponents with taunting expressions, Rockwell and Riv said together.

    “Stop them!” Colonel Rijok shouted at Helev Hetra and Boolian after the duo overtook him with Zax.

    “How?!” Helev Hetra yelled. The Companion’s Links formation may have forced the two to act as one in every sense of the word, but in return its invisible energy fortified their defense and multiplied their strength and speed several folds!

    “Stepping on the pride of four out of the five powers, isn’t this a day worth commemorating, hahahaha!” Rockwell and Riv were elated.

    PUCHI!

    A green, marble size ball of energy shot out of nowhere, piercing the invisible energy of the Companion’s Link formation and passing through the gap between Rockwell and Riv. It happened so fast, the two were caught with their guard down. Falling on one knee, they grabbed their stomach and vomited two mouthful of blood, each.

    CRACK!

    CRACK!

    CRACK!

    Fissures started to appear on the Mo’s Pyramid formation from the direction the green ball of energy was shot.

    BOOM!

    Yet again, anther hole was made as a small section of the formation collapsed.

    ”Amazing, Sister Beatriz, you are amazing!” A cheerful, lovely voice called excitedly. “All these experts had to work together each time to make an opening in this pyramid formation and you only used one punch!”

    “Companion’s Links formation… is that really one of the top six formations you mentioned, Sister Beatriz?” Another voice, aloof and standoffish, asked in an unconvinced tone.

    “Your Young Eminence, the peculiarity of the Companion’s Links formation is really extraordinary. Although it is not the best one, for someone of This place to invent it is remarkable beyond compare!”

    “Mm… I suppose”.

    Three silhouettes crossed the opening in the Mo’s Pyramid formation, flying leisurely. Behind them a star shaped aircraft sealed the breach in the formation.

    Seeing this new, and hopefully last, batch of arrivals, the faces of Rockwell and Riv, Colonel Rijok, Boolian and Helev Hetra sank. They were all able to sense in the brief instant Sister Beatriz attacked her cultivation level.

    ‘Advanced third level Martial Mortal!’

    The mere concept caused them to involuntary stagger half a step back.

    “Luminous Church’s Sister Beatriz!” Colonel Rijok creased his brows.

    Floating at the forefront, His Young Eminence gave a side glance to Sister Beatriz. “It seems the other four did not take seriously the Event. Tell me, is there anyone worth noting?”

    “Certainly, Your Young Eminence. First, the person over there”, Sister Beatriz flown to his side with Sister Iaura and gestured at Colonel Rijok. “Golden Desert Fort’s Colonel Rijok, reputed as the strongest second level Martial Mortal in Ercas Mir”. Next, she turned a disdainful look to Rockwell. “Affiliated with Sinister Chain, Ercas Mir’s most notorious criminal organization, a heathen known by the moniker ‘Rockwell’”.

    “Rockwell, what kind of nickname is that?” Sister Iaura asked curiously, while staring at Rockwell and Riv getting up, mending their formation and preparing for battle.

    “Rockwell was once a sinful place that our Luminous Church cleansed from all the vile and the wicked”. For the first time, Sister Beatriz speech grew harsh while speaking to Sister Iaura. “Regrettably, a few heathens escaped, blind to the grace of joining with The Almighty. This ‘Rockwell’ is one of them”.

    Nodding, His Young Eminence’s eyes scrutinized Colonel Rijok and Rockwell before shifting to the barely standing on his knees, haggard looking Zax.

    “Sister Beatriz, may I trouble you to deal with the heathen first”.

    “Not at all”. Sister Beatriz coldly complied and like a soft breeze building up to a terrifying tornedo, green aura and mist energy emerged from her body.

    ‘Boy, my apologies’. Three words of forgiveness were the most Rockwell could spare.

    “Riv, I’m sorry for dragging you into this”.

    “Rockwell…” Riv uttered faintly, yet because of their connection through the formation, even if he could not hear her, his lips and voice mutually said, not neglecting the hint of tenderness.

    “Don’t discouraged, Riv, preventing us from running away, I want to see her having the ability!” Rockwell snarled.

    Holding hands, the invisible aura around them lashed aggressively.

    WHOOSH!

    They flew toward the breach they made and sealed, where the Mo’s Pyramid formation was unstable, as a result.

    Standing far on the sidelines, along with Darvajka and Cattelin, Murreta and the rest were quaking in trepidation. So many super powers!

    Thing escalated in the most horrible way virtually absurdly!

    Initially came Colonel Rijok’s group of second level Martial Mortals, then a pair from none other than the worst criminal organization whose unique formation appeared to be unbeatable, lastly, a lofty youngster, accompanied by a naïve lass and an Advanced third level Martial Mortal protector!

    “Perfect dark attribute’s essence, at the hands of the likes of you would truly go to waste”. His Young Eminence descended and walked one step at a time toward Zax. “As payment for safekeeping it, I shell deliver you quickly to The Almighty, misguided heathen”.

    As death approached, Zax put all of his weight on his bended knees.

    ‘They left, and now someone new wants to kill me, want to take the dark attribute’s essence’. His heart was reluctant, but his mind gradually succumbed. ‘No!’ A surge of hatred augmented from his heart and flooded the sea of consciousness. ‘I won’t allow you to kill and rob me, your way… I won’t make it easy!’

    A string of soul energy reached the spatial ring on his messed up left hand. With but a thought, the dark attribute’s essence in its unrefined state of a black bulb appeared at the palm of his hand and rolled to the ground.

    Seeing the dark attribute’s essence suddenly there for the taking, His Young Eminence, Colonel Rijok, Helev Hetra, Boolian and even the small Core Masters not too far way, all but one girl, were staring with covetous eyes.

    BUMP!

    Before anyone could express any sort of following reaction, a wavering upper body fell face forward, concealing the invaluable fist size treasure.

    Glump!

    Zax swallowed it.

  15. #195
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    Book 7 – Ercas Mir

    Chapter 29 – Alive



    He felt it traveling, squeezed to his stomach like a giant marble.

    Inanimate, unremarkable.

    There was nothing special for it to give or take.

    Zax's consciousness was declining, soon he will really die. The dark attribute's essence seemed to not care whether it is in the spatial ring, at the palm of his hand or even inside his body.

    His approach was wrong, he slowly figured, but was way too weak to muster another solution to somehow use or ruin what others coveted from him along his life.

    A wisp of soul energy, perhaps involuntary perhaps deliberately, escaped from his spherical soul, coursed from his head down.



    “No!” His Young Eminence lost all forms of his typical sacrosanct and poise demeanor.

    “He… He… Consumed the perfect dark attribute’s essence!” Helev Hetra cried in distress.

    “Fools! How could you let him?!” Boolian roared and pounced toward Zax’s direction with ill intent, intending to cut him open and retrieve the dark attribute’s essence.

    Realizing Boolian’s intention, His Young Eminence shot a furious look at him. “Halt, you imbecile!” He commanded angrily.

    “Humph! Regardless of your status in Luminous Church, in this Western Continent, no outsider has the capital to order me“.

    Seeing that Sister Beatriz was preoccupied with Rockwell and Riv, Boolian knew that this, most likely, would be his best chance to make a move for the perfect dark attribute’s essence and afterwards expend every available means in his possession to hurriedly evacuate the scene to the troops’ headquarters.

    “Are you damned deaf?! Halt your steps, foolish Agama!” Colonel Rijok barked, purple lightening flickered around him and in a split second he overtook Boolian.

    “Rijok… Are you really willing to submit to Luminous Church because they sent an Extreme Expert? Once news of this will arrive to my Violet Scaled Troops and Blessed Army, will you share the consequences of lending a hand to this violation?!“

    “Are you so obsessed with obtaining the dark attribute’s essence that you have gone senile?!” Colonel Rijok rebuked and lowered his voice till finally deciding to convey his words via Sublime Soul Sense. ‘An Extreme Expert following and obeying a Core Master, referring to him as “Young Eminence”, should I say more?’

    ‘Young Eminence…’ As a reclusive member in the troops, Boolian paid heed only to information relevant to his duties. Hierarchy and honorific of the other powers did not interest him, especially those as complicated as Blue Sea’s and Luminous Church’s.

    ‘An “Ascended Elite”, can this you understand?’ Colonel Rijok rephrased. In his heart he too, now, understood why he was ordered by the General to avoid contact with Luminous Church’s group.

    ‘Future Immortal!’ Boolian’s aura faltered and dispersed, his pink eyes dilating.

    Be it in the Blessed Army, the Violet Scaled Troops, Golden Desert Fort, Luminous Church or Blue Sea, “Ascended Elite” was the widely given title to any of those with the clear potential to become Immortals. Their numbers were few, countable on one hand at each of the five powers. Their status, for the likes of Boolian, impossible to measure!

    ‘Sister Beatriz is one thing, and this youngster she accompanying is another on a whole new scale. It won’t be much if others irritate him, but, Boolian, Helev Hetra, consider the frictions that you might cause among the powers should an incident relating to an Ascended Elite would transpire from your actions‘.

    ‘Boolian’, Helev Hetra joined the conversation. ‘For now, endure’.

    Nodding his reptilian head, Boolian slowly floated back with Colonel Rijok and Helev Hetra at his pace.

    Were the situation not critical and Sister Beatriz was by his side, His Young Eminence would have certainly settle accounts with Boolian for his gall. Nevertheless, the most important thing right now was the perfect dark attribute’s essence.

    Staring at Zax with his mind reeling, His Young Eminence weighed his options with bated breath. ‘He won't survive, this heathen is soon to suffer a slow, excruciating death, that is certain. However, the dark attribute's essence… It's lost! It's lost! This… This malicious BASTARD ruined a Godsend perfect dark attribute's essence!’

    Grinding his teeth, protruding veins on his youthful face, His Young Eminence knew that any interference would risk total destruction of the dark attribute's essence. If by the end it will maintain ninety percent potency, then it would still be acceptable.

    Rapt in nerve wracking waiting, he had not noticed Sister Iaura coming by his side, wishing to solace.



    A God composed it from soul fragments and dark attribute, intended for it to be the Core of a wraith’s being, an intangible creature, absent from mist or Qi.

    A black thread appeared before it, dark, hardly a substance. It probed briefly its peripheral zone and then touched it.

    Surrounded by a vast gray sea, beneath gray sky and situated at the epicenter of black and flourishing patch of land, a tremor passed through Zax’s soul.



    “Graaaahhhhh!” A shrilling, miserable yell suddenly resounded out from his pressed to the ground face.

    “Aaaaaaaahhhhh!” It grew louder, painful, everlasting.

    Zax’s body, weakened to the point of previously not even having the strength to speak, shook and began to spasm. His legged stretched and stiffened, his teeth biting and cracking. Extending his three limbs, even messed up left arm, and then flipping abruptly, he rolled whilst continuing to shout and spraying blood from his worsening wounds and virtually every pore on his body.



    “How terrible!” Holding her hands over her lips, Sister Iaura could not help but pity the agonizing Zax. Taking a step forward, she wanted to put him out of his misery.

    “Do not move!” His Young Eminence blocked her with his arm, pushing her back, gently. “The sordid heathen chose to go against The Almighty’s decree”. He said resentfully, rejoicing in the pain and suffering over Zax’s complexion, as The Almighty’s decree was for the perfect dark attribute’s essence to be bestowed to him.



    “Poor boy…” From a far, in the midst of escaping and evading Sister Beatriz’s staunch assault, Riv and Rockwell noticed the commotion and uttered.



    Boolian’s expression was ugly to behold. “This… is because of ingesting the unrefined dark attribute’s essence…” The thought of what would have happened to him should he had ripped it out of Zax after it issued this internecine reaction, made him thankful that Colonel Rijok stopped him.

    “No”, Colonel Rijok disputed. “He brought upon this wretched death the moment his soul interacted with the unrefined dark attribute’s essence. Otherwise, he could keep it wherever he wanted”.

    ‘Well, good’. Helev Hetra sent. ‘Better the perfect dark attribute’s essence destroyed than letting it get to the hands of another’s Ascended Elite, at least in this particular case I assume we all agree‘.

    Slightly nodding, Colonel Rijok added. ‘Though not perfect, Luminous Church will still earn a dark attribute’s essence when the boy will die, but indeed the situation turned out in our favor’.



    “Say,” Lurvar said nervously to Gong Vreil. “Your captain… If I was to give him the dark attribute’s essence and the same thing would have happened to him…. in how much trouble would I have been?” He was oblivious to the fact that the appalling scene before him resulted from a deliberate improper handling of the dark attribute’s essence, only concerned that he could have been blamed for attempting to assassinate the captain of a Geared ranked mercenary band.

    “I don’t know…” Gong Vreil blurted. She too did not expect that the wraiths’ dark attribute’s essence can be so malevolent.

    ‘Good, good, good!’ Hereb Lish repeated in jubilation. ‘If something like this were to happen to father…’

    “You see, Cattelin, eventually he got what he deserves”. Darvajka tried to sooth her exasperated temper.

    “He should suffer more; keep suffering, die, Musclehead bastard!” The chance to be the source of his pain was robbed from her, but seeing his deteriorating state, elated her.



    “Aaaaaaaahhhhh!” It could not stop, the inscrutable pain. As if to challenge his endurance it intensified beyond anything he ever experienced and soon his body could not take it anymore.

    Internally, the black bulb latched to the wisp of soul and emanated a corrosive aura.

    Externally, gradually his muscular physique shrunk and his skin turned gray, rotting, detaching from his person one reeking piece after another.

    In his sea of consciousness, Zax’s Inner Panorama was encompassed by pandemonium. His spirit failed to find relief even within the encirclement of the soul.

    BOOM!

    Something ruptured. A tear formed in his dantian, allowing the corrosive aura entry.

    Contrary to popular belief, the vastness of the dantian was proportional to fitness level, rather than mist cultivation. As such, it took a bit of time for the corrosive aura to spread inside Zax’s dantian.

    Reaching further, eventually the Black Core was targeted, too, by the corrosive aura.

    WUNG!

    As it touched the smooth surface of the round Black Core, a repulsive sound echoed throughout the collapsing dantian. As if sentient and responding in retaliation, black mist tentacles came out of the Black Core and unhindered by the corrosive aura, they merged to one, extending toward the dark attribute’s essence!

    BANG!

    Two opposing forces collided, the black tentacles and the corrosive aura, which was most potent around the dark attribute’s essence.

    Zax’s eyes rolled to the back of his head, his voice mute, he lay scrawny, motionlessly in a puddle of blood and decay. When the forces hit, the impact passed through his back, breaking the earth.

    BANG!

    BANG!

    BANG!



    At the aftermath of every collision, more of Zax’s feeble body shattered, but parallel to his decline so did the dark attribute’s essence unceasingly cleansed from its unrefined state, proving its inferiority to the incomplete Black Core.

    His body was a wreck, yet his soul had yet to be harmed. Nonetheless, it felt the pain vividly even after the body lost all senses, which drove him madder.

    Unknowingly, as less of the black bulb remained and the white dwarf steadily regained its shape, new wisps of soul energy were attracted to Zax’s stomach and when they touched the refined parts of the dark attribute’s essence, they actually started to consume it.

    BOOM!

    A strong pulse reverberated beneath Zax’s soul. The seventh gate, last gate of the Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement, swelled rapidly. The profound making of the white dwarf were the combination of souls’ fragments and dark attribute and while most of it was absorbed by the wisps of soul energy, a portion of the dark attribute was taken by the seventh gate in replacement for the world energy!



    “…Aaaaaaaahhh!” The dying Zax somehow flipped, whatever left of his gaunt frame bent forward as his dry throat gave birth to a hoarse, increasingly louder voice.

    “How is that possible?!” His Young Eminence, who was prepared to harvest the dark attribute’s essence after it would kill Zax, changed countenance and could not fathom from where the more than half dead heathen got the sudden burst of strength to prolong the inevitable.

    While everyone watched, assuming that Zax is putting up last useless effort, His Young Eminence faint sensed a fluctuation that caused his heart to miss a beat.

    “It can’t be!” Driven by a foreboding feeling, His Young Eminence moved without thinking. Summoning his wooden staff and white aura he thrust, determined to kill before his prediction will came true.

    “Young Eminence, retreat!” Sister Beatriz was second to feel, only barely, the fluctuation; however, what aroused her to cry in trepidation was the scene that her eyes were faster to perceive than His Young Eminence’s.

    “Aaaaaaaahhhhh!” Zax arched his back, roaring to the heavens, as countless, meters long, black spikes pierced through his entire body.

    The dark attribute nourished the seventh gate till it reached the last bottleneck and then forcefully initiated the breakthrough to the second realm of bodily cultivation. Furthermore, unlike any bodily breakthrough before, this time all the pain he was absolved from during the course of cultivating a technique which main principal was Pain, emerged all at once and then some.

    “Your Young Eminence!” Sister Iaura cried and moved the catch him. The black spikes were too fast and when his attack was close to strike; they appeared and stabbed his waist, right shoulder and thigh.

    “No!” Sister Beatriz shouted. Ignoring Rockwell and Riv, she dashed to His Young Eminence’s side.

    “Aaaaaaaahhhhh!” Zax continued to scream, aware of nothing but pain.

    Steadily his body rose from the ground, breaking down only to reveal new healthy skin under the layers of rot. Four thin limbs, skinny chest, boney cheeks, though complete, his physique looked malnourished but quickly gained weight. Bones expending, muscles gaining mass and long light brown hair growing, Zax had gone a thorough transformation.

    “Aaaaaaaaahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!”

    The first breath filled him with euphoria, turning roars of pain to wild laughter.

    As the sound of his rejuvenated voice reached the ears of everyone present, a chill rand down their spine. The voice possessed a sort of pressure, almost as overbearing as Sister Beatriz’s aura!

    BOOM!

    The seventh gate exploded, with it the black spike disintegrated and Zax softly landed on the ground, standing erect, holding his hands up and clenching them before his eyes and brimming, fierce expression.

    “Hahahaha, so that’s it! Hahahaha!” He cared nothing about the surrounding humans and beasts; cared nothing of the wraiths trying to enter the Mo’s Pyramid formation.

    The exhilaration of the immense strength coursing through his body was secondary only to his level of happiness from the insights the dark attribute’s essence contained him.

    “So much! Kinetic energy, Kinetic Force… it’s all wrong! Master and Grandmaster had it wrong all along despite how close the concept of the steps of Kinetic Force and bodily maneuvers are…”

    Lifting his head, breathing and smiling he was more and more assured.

    “Grandmaster’s sixth step is almost there, the seventh step maybe? Nah... I probably haven’t got there myself, yet”. Zax loosened his arms, but even limply, overlooking the great power of his enhanced physique, he could still feel under his control the even more awesome dark attribute of the world, as if all of it in a radius of hundreds of meters was his personal domain!

    One wraith’s dark attribute’s essence truly was a priceless treasure. It did not improve Zax’s cultivation, but the insights into the dark attribute it gave were easily understood and required no practice or contemplation to comprehend.

    They first unrevealed the dark attribute of the world, then instinctively enabled and nourished the last gate of the Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement with its richness, not only improving yet again Grandmaster Kartion’s creation, but also shortening years of cultivation to mere seconds.

    Lastly, by sensing similarities to the steps of Kinetic Force and bodily maneuvers and making a comparison, Zax was able to abandon the flaws in what were only a concept and a path he has to stride on his own. Advancing and rediscovering a higher form of energy than kinetic energy, one that always was there but formerly too complex, complements both body and soul, dark attribute’s energy!

    Finishing assessing all the changes in him, Zax’s attention fell on the surrounding cultivators.

    Killing intent radiating from him, the urge to slaughter erupted.

    Lowering his towering head, he met eyes with Cattelin.

    “I-”

    BOOM!

    Her body exploded to minced meat, yet he still stood afar, motionless.

  16. #196
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    Book 7 – Ercas Mir

    Chapter 30 – Unbound



    SPLASH!

    Bones fragments, hot red blood and chunks of minced meat splattered all over Darvajka. His pupil contracted, his breath haggard, his gaze fixed on the spot next to him, where for a fraction of a second he sensed sinister pressure manifesting around Cattelin before crushing her from all sides.

    “Eh? No!” Darvajka shouted as his eyes met the distanced, nonchalant Zax’s and the same pressure manifested again, confining and closing in on him.

    BOOM!

    He released his aura and mist explosively, barely managing to resist the heavy, dark attribute energy originated, weight.

    Catching his breath, Darvajka swiftly averted his gaze to Colonel Rijok, to plead for his help, but his voice got stuck in his throat. A two meters tall figure emerged behind his back.

    SMASH!

    Zax slapped, solely relying on physical strength. Completely disregarding a first level Martial Mortal’s protective mist guard, he casually smacked Darvajka’s bluish head, like hitting a fly and obliterating it.

    “Martial Mortals sure are strong…” Zax self remarked earnestly.

    Failing to kill Darvajka by his dark attribute domain, he learnt that below the third realm, he probably does not need to make the slightest move to kill an opponent. Against Martial Mortals, though, unless he would combine it with his physique or soul energy, dark attribute energy would only be useful as deterrence.

    “How can this be possible…!” Helev Hetra exclaimed in bewilderment.

    Following Zax’s outburst, she, Boolian and Colonel Rijok regained their senses only after Darvajka’s headless body fell, twitching, on the ground.

    “So fast! Striking a Martial Mortal down in one attack!” Boolian commented, the look on his reptilian mien, as well as on the other two second level Martial Mortals, conveyed panic and rising fear. Especially since he and Helev Hetra could only keep up with Zax’s silhouette.

    Colonel Rijok, more so than the other two, stood there, utterly stumped. Although those were his subordinates who perished, one of which belonged to the same power as him and was a promising recruit from no less than one of the three most powerful families in the reclusive New Earth, although he would have some explaining to do for their deaths and loss of the perfect dark attribute’s essence and although Zax’s resurgence and display of strength were staggering, none of these mattered to him.

    “He… He… in one fell swoop he actually obtained enlightenment to the domain of the dark attribute, scratching the surfaces of the natural elemental forces!” His solemn words stirred turmoil in Boolian’s and Helev Hetra’s hearts.

    What sort of concept was an understanding of the natural elemental forces? All they knew was that below Immortals, only scarce amount of fifth level Martial Mortals and the most exceptional Ascended Elites were close to possess these advanced insights through the seven attributes and even they were divided by levels of Low, Medium and High.

    His Young Eminence, for example, has a near Medium understanding of the light attribute and its worldly energy. Zax, on the other hand, seemed to have an even higher level of understanding regarding the dark attribute and its energy, all thanks to the magnificent perfect dark attribute’s essence and probably the fact that he integrated with a dark attribute which originated from the extraordinary Black Core.

    Zax vanished and reappeared beside the unconscious Fengar. With a pensive look he examined his condition. “Fortunately he is more exhausted than wounded”. Zax mused.

    Utilizing his dark attribute domain, he lifted Fengar off the ground and moved with him, in a flash, in front of Gong Vreil. “Take care of him and your debt will be settled”. He said, his eyes emanating killing intent as a warning.

    Lurvar, Hereb Lish and the three first level Martial Mortals stood silently, slightly shifting their postures away. Witnessing the death scenes of Cattelin and Darvajka they were all horror stricken. Even the proud and headstrong Murreta paled when Zax’s speed was no different than teleportation for his eyes.

    Now that Zax also mentioned the word “debt” and posed a chance to write off Gong Vreil’s, all five dreadfully realized that, at the moment, the cloud of death is hovering above their heads.

    “I- I- I’ll take care of him! Definitely take good care of him! Here, I have some effective medicinal pills; I can help him consume them!” Hereb Lish hurriedly offered in a loud, petrified voice and the other four, Murreta, Lady Zhuah, Kitobara and Lurvar sullenly cursed his quick wittedness and cowardliness.

    Zax laid Fengar, ignoring Hereb Lish, stood up and turned to meet the lingering looks of Boolian, Helev Hetra and Colonel Rijok.

    Confronting these overbearing three who formerly sought to abuse, kill and steal from him, brought forth a belligerent smile, blooming on Zax face.

    Being glared at so imposingly had undermined Helev Hetra’s firmness to handle Zax alone. Moreover, killing a first level Martial Mortal in one blow… Yes, she can replicate the feat, but to do it so casually, when the enemy alert and focused… the answer was obvious.

    ‘What should we do, Rijok? Can we beat him?!’ She sent apprehensively, struggling to comprehend how Zax survived the corrosiveness of the unrefined dark attribute’s essence and grudgingly digesting the sudden predicament.

    ‘Don’t be unruffled; we are still high ranking members of the five powers’. Colonel Rijok chided Boolian and Helev Hetra and opened. “Congratulation! Withstanding the virulent effect of the unrefined dark attribute’s essence, you certainly earned it. The five powers are also very appreciative when relating to the birth of a new expert, much to the point of overlooking old enmities. In this respect, having taken the lives of my subordinates, all hatreds between us should be resolved”.

    Hearing his little speech, Boolian and Helev Hetra were astonished to discover that even the prominent Colonel Rijok was trying to avoid a fight. It is important to note, that aside of his profound insights to the dark attribute, their opponent still was just a newly promoted second realm bodily cultivator.

    Bearing his teeth in a predatory smile, stretching and clenching his fingers and simply enjoying the feeling of overflowing bodily and dark attribute strength, Zax was deaf to the notion of forgetting and forgiving.

    “A while ago you were bent on eradicating me, going as far as letting your subordinate torture me, afterwards taking the trouble of besieging yourselves. In this respect, I’m fine with resuming the carnage!”

    “Disperse!” Colonel Rijok shouted.

    Dark shadow loomed over Boolian, without making a sound Zax moved shockingly fast, targeting the Pink Eyes Agama first.

    Releasing a burst of flames and swinging his tail, Boolian beastly nature surfaced in an attempt to block Zax.

    Laughing amusingly at the slow motion of the tail, Zax reached and grabbed it. ‘This breakthrough sure changed me. I feel like a butterfly that just came out of its cocoon!’ He thought excitedly.

    The Black Core outdid itself in this time’s interference and modification of the Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement’s last gate. If Zax broke through with the same old boost, his strength should have rivaled the second realm’s level stage of a Peak grade bodily cultivation technique, surpassing his Master and Grandmaster. However, he felt much stronger than that and the aforementioned breakthrough was a lot more brutal than usual.

    ‘I somewhat became taller, not by much, exactly two hundred centimeters tall’. Zax thought and pulled Boolian’s tail.

    Spewing raged breaths of searing red liquid, Boolian dislocated his tail, spun and roared at Zax.

    The fiery liquid was dangerously hot, even for Zax. He forgo the tail, raised the palm of his right hand, which brimmed with dark attribute energy, and leaned forward.

    The fiery liquid splashed sideways, unable to go past the black palm. Zax pushed his arm, grasping Boolian’s neck.

    ‘A second level Martial Mortal’s physique is still below the second realm’s second level’.

    The Marital Mortal realm was divided to five levels. Only third level Martial Mortal could use their mist energy to enhance their physique to the Beginner phase of the second realm’s second level, though in the most average way.

    ‘In comparison I… apparently did not bulge up as Master and Grandmaster after they attained the second realm of bodily cultivation, but became around thirty percent thinner and, correspondingly, thirty percent denser, polished’.

    He let go from Boolian’s neck and stopped using dark attribute energy. Boolian reignited his aura and a torrent of fiery liquid gushed from his mouth.

    SPLASH!

    The hot liquid was blocked by Zax’s exposed palm, yet some of it managed to hit his arm and torso, by bit missing his face. The sensation on his skin was probably akin to dipping one’s hand in lava, Zax assumed. He was curious of seeing how much his boy can endure and fast enough he got the answer.

    The fiery liquid was most likely Boolian’s most terrifying attack. It burnt deep into Zax’s skin, scorching, melting it and everything within. Only when it reached was it suppressed and gradually cooling down.

    A non cultivator would have been turned to ash before even being able to react. Zax, on the other hand, could feel his skin and flesh smarting for a long while before his nerves decimated and he lost sensitivity. Then again, the stronger a cultivator’s soul was the more he or she could endure pain and if comparing to the pain caused by the dark attribute’s essence and his breakthrough, then the one he currently experienced could only be classified as ludicrous.

    Either way, testing how much he can tolerate was not Zax’s objective, but his regenerative abilities.

    With a simple intention all the flesh and seared parts of his body began to recover as if nothing imperiling transpired.

    ‘As I thought… By recharging my vitality with dark attribute energy my body can regenerate and heal at a fast, visible rate, even from the gravest wounds’.

    Apart from exceptional strength, such was another of the Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement’s advantages, abnormal recovery abilities that truly shone, ever so brilliantly due to the involvement of the Black Core, after progressing to the second realm.

    “Helev Hetra, Rijok, SAVE ME!” Boolian bellowed.

    “Before, you coveted my left arm”, Zax’s countenance turned cold. Holding Boolian with his right hand, his left hand was covered by blackness. “Here, you can have it!”

    BOOM!

    His fist landed on Boolian’s reptilian hand, popping his pink eyes out and crushing his skull.

    A Peak Core Master, a first level Martial Mortal and now The Pink Eyes Agama, a second level Martial Mortal, in a rather pitiful fashion, joined the death toll.

    “We are the esteemed experts of the five powers! The consequences of your action will crush you down, YOU MAD PSYCOPATH!” Helev Hetra’s eyes turned red.

    Knowing how faint her chances of surviving against the monster that Zax became, aware that she cannot rely on Colonel Rijok or the three from Luminous Church, she extended her hands and threw twenty eight pebble size World Gathering Bones.

    “No, just mad!”

    A thunderous voice sounded in her ear and acute pain transmitted from her stretched left arm.

    Up in the air, Zax appeared next to the towering woman, Helev Hetra, with one hand crushing the bones in her arm and with the other smacking the side of her head.

    BANG!

    Her head exploded and body loosened, dangling in the air until Zax released her arm.

    They could have been his compatriots, share the same features as his loved ones or serve under his seniors and he might show reasonable leniency for most offences, but threated his life or the lives of those close to him and kill he shall!

  17. #197
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    Book 7 – Ercas Mir

    Chapter 31 – Dark Titan Storm



    Witnessing the fall of two second level Martial Mortals, agents of the five powers no less, those watching on the sidelines such as Murreta, Lady Zhuah, Kitobara and the rest, looked sickly ashen.

    Zax's brutality, in addition to the identities of his victims, was plenty to imagine the kind of person that he is. One that, in short, should not be offended, otherwise his impudence and temerity would eventually return to settle all grievances.

    CRACKLE!

    Purple strings of lightning snapped and a glowing figure appeared behind Zax.

    BANG!

    Colonel Rijok's war hammer and Zax's elbow countered. The former was pushed several meters up while the latter was thrown down, crushing.

    Zax felt the bones in his arm breaking and electric energy permeates, numbing his internals, dispersing the strength in his muscles.

    "Humph!" He snorted and utilized dark attribute energy to remove Colonel Rijok's electric energy.

    Gazing down. "We may have been on the same level, but there was still a gulf between Boolian, Helev Hetra and I". Colonel Rijok declared arrogantly. "If a battle you so desire, then I'm curious, as well, to experience the power of someone who is worthy being an elite even among Ascended Elites".

    His purple aura thundered. Splitting and swirling, purple mist energy transformed into seven electric serpents, five of which bit Colonel Rijok's limbs and head, giving him an amethyst like skin and flowing purple hair. The remaining electric serpents were imbued in the formation embedded to the war hammer.

    "Haaa!" Colonel Rijok's voice boomed. The technique he used was painful to the degree of turning his disposition as hectic and violent as lightning.

    VRRR!

    The fluctuations Colonel Rijok exuded shook the Mo's Pyramid formation, affecting its stability.

    Zax sensed them and his smug became a little serious. His arm already healed and he was not satisfied from the brief confrontations with Boolian and Helev Hetra. He desired a challenge to test himself further, to the utmost of his new abilities.

    Absorbing the worldly dark attribute energy and fusing it in his physique, a black luster shone on Zax's body. He knew that just by relying on his physical strength he could not beat Colonel Rijok, even if the latter could not significantly injure him, either.

    Wielding his war hammer downward while leaving a trails of purple lightning.

    Jumping, clenching his fist and punching.

    BOOM!

    Both experts struck with their full might. Post the impact a shockwave spread, shuttering the earth below, forcing Murreta and the rest to jointly block. Even Rockwel and Riv, who chose to linger a while longer after Zax's meticulous resurrection, had to execute the grand invisible energy of their Companion’s Links formation to defend. Similarly, Sister Beatriz raised a mantle to block the shockwave as she franticly treated His Young Eminence.

    The destructive collision wreaked havoc amidst the Mo's Pyramid formation.

    CRACK!

    CRACK!

    BANG!

    The magnificent structure, layer of protection from the wraiths, collapsed. The glass breaking echo caused the hearts of Murreta and the rest to pulsate in trepidation.

    "Rararararara!"

    The screeching voices of the damnable beings could be heard flocking to the growing cracks and openings in the Mo's Pyramid formation.

    "Get lost!" Sister Beatriz shouted furiously.

    Something was wrong with His Young Eminence's wounds. They did not heal despite the treatment. She could not be bothered by the vile creatures and thus, retrieved from her spatial ring a ten centimeters gray model of a rectangle building.

    Gray radiance was released from the model, expended in dimensions to a range at least ten times greater than the previous Mo's Pyramid formation's, both in width and much more in height.

    As Murreta and the rest heaved a deep sigh of relief, the indifferent Zax and Colonel Rijok were stuck in a deadlock midair, as neither managed to repel the other.

    BANG!

    The built up forces erupted. Zax's arm swung upwards, but the rest of his body remained immovable midair, standing as if underneath his feet was some invisible platform. Contrary to him, Colonel Rijok was pushed back tens of meters before reaching to a halt. The lightning aura coming out of him and his war hammer diminished greatly.

    Smirking, Zax's killing intent reemerged. He gouged himself as much as he could, yet Colonel Rijok's prestige was insufficient to satiate his limits.

    Without kicking the air, his body launched, shuttling the sky like a black streak of devouring light.

    Shocked and terrified, Colonel Rijok inwardly acknowledged his inferiority, yet dared not say so aloud. He strengthened his grip on the war hammer's shaft. The opponent was out for his life, as he had been for him not too long ago. The time for reconciliation was over!

    BANG!

    BANG!

    BANG!

    ….

    The two exchanged hundreds of blows in the span of time it takes a non cultivator to blink and even faster.

    The longer the fight went on, the uglier became Colonel Rijok's expression. There was only so much that his defensive mist energy could withstand before the adverse consequences of the fight started to overwhelm it.

    His bones cracked and broke underneath his skin earlier than his uniforms began to tear.

    His lips were blood stained from repetitive coughs.

    The imperious manner he carried himself, even when His Young Eminence showed up along with Sister Beatriz, faded, replaced by an unsightly image, a shadow of the man once recognized as strongest below Extreme Experts.

    BOOM!

    Colonel Rijok's weary stature hurled down, crushing deep into the ground until slamming and halting at the gray, impenetrable base manifestation of Sister Beatriz's building model.

    Soul in dismay, lying in a pool of blood, limbs stretched sideway and hair ruffled, Colonel Rijok's eyes glimpsed up, vaguely being able to focus on the domineering figure above.

    Zax looked down, detached. Despite the intense battle, he was still overflowing with strength he was not able to suit to his heart content.

    An idea popped to mind, another form of test. He raised his hand, dark, black light emitting from his palm. Slowly, just because he wanted to observe the process without missing a thing, urged by an intention, the emanated black like began to condense, first to a small dot, then gradually to a fist size ball, finally a two fists size black ball.

    Flipping his hand, the black ball descended as gravity was the only force pulling it down.

    "Graah!" Colonel Rijok moaned in pain when the ball hit and sunk to his chest. A small black whirlpool germinated on his torso and enlarged as it started swallowing him.

    For a short span of time, Colonel Rijok sternly resisted the black whirlpool, even waning its progress, but when his last reservoir of mist energy was depleted and eventually the black whirlpool regained momentum, sucking and swallowing centimeter by centimeter up until there was nothing left but an empty human shaped depression.

    Witnessing the entire event, Murreta and all those who still sought Zax's sentiment were appalled. To perish like Colonel Rijok was more terrible than the ways Cattelin, Darvajka, Helev Hetra and Boolian were killed. There was nothing left. Not even residues of mist energy signature or aura. The black whirlpool took everything and dissipated.

    Zax frowned. 'So this is the nature of the dark attribute. It swallows like a black hole when using it unadulterated, but utilizing it in such manner is only good to eliminate evidence or quickly restoring vitality and absorbing dark attribute energy for cultivation. As an attack, it will not be threatening to a Peak Core Master in good condition. Perhaps I need to deepen my insights or further experiment…?'

    Raising his hand, three small beams shot from different locations to his palm, three spatial rings. He collected Colonel Rijok's in advance before the black whirlpool swallowed it and he already possessed Cattelin's.

    'Later, dividing their content should be more than enough to compensate Fengar'. He deduced and took out a new set of clothes sine post his breakthrough he was more or less naked…

    "Now then", turning his head, his gaze landed on Sister Beatriz, Sister Iaura and His Young Eminence.

    Flying over in their direction, the premise was where is there dark attribute, virtually everywhere, Zax could make it as his own domain and manipulate it as if it were solid substance, like when crushing Cattelin, like a platform to stand on midair and move freely on a whim.

    "Why are you coming here?!" Sister Iaura shouted heatedly.

    The lass's countenance was flushed, her eyes moist. She cared for His Young Eminence. They spent short time together, most of it in this trip, yet he who was an honored senior in their Luminous Church, treated her well, like an elder brother from the moment they met. Never scolding her faults, always patient with her ignorance. He was an exemplary figure in her mind, placed only behind her parents and His Holiness. Seeing his deteriorating condition made her hate the one responsible for it.

    "Go! Hurry to depart, you evil heathen! The Almighty will definitely, definitely not forgive you!" She cursed, unafraid. Sheltered girl as her never knew fear, always had someone amiable to protect her.

    Blue aura around her, she summoned from her spatial ring two intricate silver blue pistols. Blue mist energy charging the three magazine's chambers of each pistol.

    BANG!

    BANG!

    Two crystalized blue mist bullets shot with precise aim.

    Waving his hand, Zax deflected the bullets easily, but the corner of his mouth twitched. 'Odd guns. Her cultivation is clearly at the Peak of the Core Master realm, yet when she shot, for a split second, it was augmented past that blueish first level Martial Mortal'. He mused, referring to Darvajka.

    BANG!

    BANG!

    Another volley shot at him and Zax greeted them with killing intent. By this point he was not above killing anyone, much less companions of his antagonists, regardless of their gender and age.

    Sensing sinister pressure rousing the air around Sister Iaura, Sister Beatriz's pupil contracted and the veins in her covered forehead and neck protruded through her garments.

    "You dare!" Her reaction to Zax's attempt on Sister Iaura's life was more severe than anything she expressed for His Young Eminence.

    Raising her green aura, she expelled the pressure of Zax's dark attribute domain and sent a blast of wind at him.

    Forced to a halt, Zax clawed and ripped the wind blast, splitting it to two separate gusts that wafted sideways.

    "Sister Iaura, stay with His Young Eminence. If possible, do what you can to save him. After I will purge this insolent heathen we will return and His Young Eminence will surely repay you".

    "He doesn't need to; he doesn't need to!" Shaking her head, Sister Iaura hurried to replace Sister Beatriz by His Young Eminence. "Here, His Holiness gave me this potion for emergencies".

    "His Holiness…?" Sister Beatriz hesitated. His Holiness's care was a debt His Young Eminence will find extremely hard to repay. By accepting the potion, she, too, might be implicated. Nevertheless, to save His Young Eminence, a reputed Ascended Elite of their Luminous Church, she had no choice.

    "Use it on His Young Eminence's wounds". She said and soared to meet the incoming Zax, displaying seethed killing intent.

    "Young Sister Iaura is too callow to say who The Almighty forgive or not forgive". She said coldly. "Soon, your soul will depart and you will know or won't know for yourself The Almighty's graciousness".

    Drawing her arms to her waist, a green glow shone from them and a pair of green gauntlets appeared on her hands.

    She was aware of his fight with Colonel Rijok and although she was a level above the latter, she also assessed that Zax did not use all of his strength and is actually not under the Beginner third level Martial Mortal.

    Sensing Sister Beatriz's fully released aura targeting him, Zax shivered excitedly. At last, an opponent he was not feeling confident against, yet, simultaneously, not completely helpless to face. The perfect candidate!

    Sister Beatriz's aura and mist energy combined into a green tempest that concealed her.

    BANG!

    BANG!

    BANG!



    Her fists struck unpredictably like lightning and the entire space around them and beyond evenly carried worlds breaking power.

    Bombarded by weight that burgeoned upon each impact and when it spread it turned to sharp fragments that cut and stabbed. From the very first punch, Zax was forced to raise his arms in defense.

    ‘Amazing! Superb!’ Even with dark attribute energy fused to his cells; his body could not endure the relentless torrent of blows, yet despite the multiplying fractures and punctures, Zax was ecstatic. His enhanced recovery, fueled by dark attribute energy, made him practically undying, at least against someone at Sister Beatriz’s caliber.

    ‘She is far stronger than that Rijok! One punch of hers would have been enough to decimate him; a few can probably level the entire planet!’

    “Hahahahaha!” Zax maniacally laughed. He was stuck to the gray wall manifestation of the building model and immobile, but no serious harm was done to him. Quite the opposite, it gave him an excellent experimental environment to trial and error with learning how to best utilize the dark attribute energy.

    As he was being hit time and time again, dark attribute energy fluctuated fervently, like black rays of light that pierced through Sister Beatriz’s indomitable emerald, windy assault.

    ‘An Ascended Elite, he really has reached the magnitude of top rated Ascended Elite!’ Sister Beatriz gloomily bit her lips. ‘To think that just minutes ago his existence was akin to an ant… The enlightenment he received from consuming the perfect dark attribute’s essence has made him surmounts His Young Eminence’s profound insights, what is more, extending the gulf between them by a large margin. If such person would be left to live, should he hold a grudge toward the five powers… his future prospects would jeopardize the branches, allow him to directly reach the Holy Palace!’

    She was resolved on weeding this threat in front of her, erupting with wilder series of punches.

    “Hahahaha! Great! Good! I don’t have an ounce of strength to retaliate, but you, fanatic hag, are incapable of doing me damage, hahahaha!” Zax provoked.

    Coming up with the right away to implement the dark attribute energy was desperately hard. The more he contemplated while being under Sister Beatriz’s barrage, the more evident it became… The dark attribute energy is too simple. Upon perceiving it to the degree that Zax had, mediating further about it has in turn made all subsequent assumptions misleading.

    This could only mean two things.

    First, despite breaking through recently, Zax was already a step away from the succeeding bottleneck.

    Second, because breaking through recently, Zax had rudimentary familiarity with the dark attribute and its worldly energy and his new insights. As such, he could not discern in certainty their boundaries and edges of understanding.

    Since in this instance time was the key component for improvement, dally with Sister Beatriz no longer was as amusing. Also, now that he had the strength he was not compliance with letting others’ dominate him in the same manner that nearly cost him his life.

    “Your typhoon or my storm, let’s see whose can cover the sky!” Zax’s voice reverberated.

    A sudden rise of dark attribute energy fluctuations spiked within Zax’s fists.

    Sister Beatriz was prepared, maintaining vigilance from the start to the reveal of Zax’s most powerful attack.

    A nearly imperceptible hint of windy attribute worldly energy was infused with the green, swirling gale that rallied from Sister Beatriz’s gauntlets, exhibiting her superficial understanding of the windy attribute.

    Converging dark attribute energy, pinpointing it to two a small spots in each arm till they burst and then overflowing another spot and another spot and another spot… five at each arm, four at his torso, four at the back, three on his head and six at each leg, in total thirty three. Zax replaced the self harming, cumbersome kinetic energy with the superior, more affluent dark attribute energy to create the next stage of his strongest technique.

    Skin is blackening, body enlarging from two meters, two ten, two twenty five, two sixty, three meters. The transformation was a tad unstable and soon to be short lived, yet exceeded Zax’s imagination.

    “Dark Titan Storm!” Gratified, he introduced its name to the world.

  18. #198
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    Book 7 – Ercas Mir

    Chapter 32 – For The Road Ahead



    It seemed as if the sky turned black, but in fact it was his dark domain becoming visible, encompassing a radius of three kilometers.

    Zax uttered a groan while smiling. In his Dark Titan Storm, he felt both stranger to his body like he was in some coarse and heavy battle suit, and exceptionally strong.

    Moving his arms and legs and even nudging his head was taxing, but utilizing the dark attribute domain to float and soar was as easy as just imagining the feat.

    As she built up the green, swirling gale within her gauntlets, Sister Beatriz's torrential barrage grew more intense, to quash his monstrous transformation, yet all that those attacks could do was slightly impede Zax's advancement and a bit shake his grand physique.

    'It's going to be short, less than twenty seconds'. Zax thought to himself, deciding not to waste time.

    Lifting his massive black arms with great effort, all the dark attribute energy making his domain fluctuated in response, giving the impression of a terrifying monster opening its eyelids after a long slumber.

    "This vibrations…" Sister Beatriz's mug fell. "Suppressing my windy attribute!" The windy attribute mixed with her mist energy and situated in her green soul was oppressed, unable to fortify the two aspects. "Oh, no!" She hastily shifted her gaze to Sister Iaura and His Young Eminence, shouting to the former while concentrating on the latter. "Sister Iaura, hurry! Use whatever in your and His Young Eminence's possession to erect a shelter!" She instructed and threw from her spatial ring another piece of a building model, only smaller than the first one and white in color.

    The white radiance of the new building model shot toward the two, upon arrival creating a small, semi transparent manifestation of the source's shape around them, which tried to subdue the overbearing dark attribute under Zax's control.

    Sister Beatriz's concern was that with His Young Eminence's light attribute being suppressed and the dark attribute around him becoming wickeder, his wounds will worsen, placing his life in risk despite applying the potion His Holiness granted Sister Iaura.

    "Ha!" Zax hurled his arms down.

    "Die!" Sister Beatriz released the green gale.

    BOOM!

    A grandiose explosion ensued.

    "Run!" Rockwell and Riv bellowed simultaneously and run to the edges of the surround dark attribute domain, escaping it and proceeding to the boundaries of the gray building manifestation.

    Though slower, Murreta and the rest also attempted to escape the shockwave and destructive fluctuations, all the while not forgetting to unite their mist energy in a protective formation around Gong Vreil and Fengar, hopefully to later appease Zax.

    Sister Iaura frantically used all components suitable for erecting a protective formation, any item and treasure in her spatial ring before apologetically rifling in His Young Eminence's. Her attainments in formations, in addition to the several unique items she received form her parents and what she found at His Young Eminence, allowed her to replicate the undulation of the white building manifestation, choosing to strengthen rather than creating a second, insufficient layer of protection.

    As everyone else sought to avoid or defend from the shockwave, the only two in its epicenter actually strived forward.

    Sister Beatriz performed a set of fist technique, coordinating with the green gale which did not dissipate.

    The green gale whipped Zax rapidly, too fast for his slow movement.

    BANG!

    BANG!

    BANG!



    Each strike bore a deep, resonating sound.

    Incapable of keeping up with the green gale, Zax endured the excruciating pain of his fracturing bones, but that was not the end of his sorrows. Due to the straining amount of dark attribute energy and mental effort it took to transform into and maintain the Dark Titan Storm form, the pace of his recovery ability has slowed down significantly. Adding injuries to his unstable form, the time he could support it shortened by close to half.

    'If my fist land directly on her body, I'm certain of severely wounding her, perhaps even taking her life. Shame, even with all this strength, an opponent like her, Advanced third level Martial Mortal is still too troublesome to deal with'.

    Other than having to maintain focus on the Dark Titan Storm form, his mind was clear and composed. Considering that his advantage sprout from superior insights and not cultivation, he could accept the fact that even though he could not beat third level Martial Mortal, they in return could not kill him, at most suppress him.

    Sighing satisfactorily, the urge to prolong the battle gradually disappeared.

    "You can't beat me, how about we end this small strife here?" He offered.

    "Vile heathen, it is apparent that this form of yours is too strenuous. Seeking clemency for your fiendish behavior is too late!" Sister Beatriz snorted.

    "Is that so…" Zax scoffed. Throwing a casual punch, a dark ray shuttled through the air and clashed with the white building manifestation protecting Sister Iaura and His Young Eminence.

    BANG!

    The fortified white building manifestation trembled, its radiance dimmed and flickered.

    "Shameful heathen!" Sister Beatriz might have been quick and her green gale quicker, but neither as fast as the dark ray. When she saw that Sister Iaura and His Young Eminence were still safe within their waned protection, she shifted her eyes to Zax and cursed with a bitter taste in her mouth.

    If it caught up with her, the dark ray would have been something that she herself could withstand, but to guard other from it was another entirely.

    Flapping his arm, three more dark rays shot toward the cornered pair. Being more alert this time, Sister Beatriz's green gale whipped one ray, reflecting it away, but the other two rays were too fast and proceeded to their destination.

    BANG!

    BANG!

    The two rays landed roughly hundred meters from the white building manifestation.

    "This time I did not bother aiming and my arm wasn't moving that fast, yet you were only able to halt one dark ray and even that was by reflecting it. Should we try again? If not, then you better get lost, otherwise, if you'll wait for me to assume my original form I'll be sure to beforehand blast your two companion to the eight heaven!" Zax taunted with a cold countenance.

    Aggrieved and powerless to change the circumstance, Sister Beatriz wordlessly retracted the green gale, rescinding it. "Tell me your name!" She demanded.

    "No need. If I'll ever have to find you, I'll just pay a visit to the places of your Luminous Church".

    Frowning, Sister Beatriz ignored the subtle warning and flew back to Sister Iaura and His Young Eminence.

    "How is His Young Eminence?" She asked. Gesturing with her hand, she created a mantle around the two as the white building model absorbed its radiating manifestation. On its small frame several deep fissures suddenly formed, unrepairable damage by Sister Beatriz's despondent expression.

    "He… is improving". Sister Iaura said softly.

    Nodding, relaxed, Sister Beatriz gestured again and the gray radiance that blocked the obstinate wraiths was sucked back to the gray building model.

    "Rarararararara!"

    Thousands of the detestable creatures brandished their bony long fingers and hastened in for Zax and the rest.

    "Rarararararara!"

    The instant they crossed into the active dark attribute domain, their raging screeches turned miserable and as if they recalled the fear and pain they suffered in their previous lives before being merged and molded by God Demirva into what they pitifully currently are.

    Zax, of course, took note of the odd reaction the wraiths add, which consequently brought a smile to his face.

    'So now I'm also free to roam places that inhabit dark attribute beings?' He wondered and whether there are more places worth visiting in Ercas Mir that he should go to test this theory.

    Entering the star shaped aircraft, Sister Beatriz, Sister Iaura and the unconscious His Young Eminence finally left.

    Zax, too, returned to his regular form. Immersing in the worldly dark attribute energy, the wounds Sister Beatriz inflicted his Dark Titan Storm healed.

    Locating Murreta's group and Fengar, Zax vanished and appeared in front of the lot.

    "Great Expert! Good, good! You managed to even banish an Extreme Expert! I, Hereb Lish, truly find your prowess admirable!" Hereb Lish said in a complete straight face, his despicable conduct raised waves of scorn in the hearts of the others.

    "Your friend, Fengar, he is doing better. After couple of days of rest, he should wake up". Gong Vreil hurried to explain.

    Zax picked and engulfed Fengar in dark attribute energy. "When I leave, those wraiths will return. Choose yourselves if you want to stay here and greet them or leave". He said to Gong Vreil, ignoring the rest.

    He was in a good mood. Taking in part in this High Rankers’ trials benefited him more than he could imagine. This ordeal with Murreta and the rest did not interest him anymore.

    "Excuse me…" Just as he was about to depart, an old woman voice resounded from behind.

    Zax turned, facing Lady Zhuah, questioning her with his eyes.

    "Sir, please forgive my impudence", Lady Zhuah firstly asked. "But, you defeated members of the five powers and… obtained their spatial rings". Before she even completed her sentence the other seemed to realize.

    "Dark attribute's essence". Lurvar murmured.

    Zax creased his brows, also understanding Lady Zhuah's meaning. "I haven't properly checked, yet, but even if there are, they are not for sale or trade". He resumed his leave, only before disappeared he added. "And if words will spread about today event, it will be for the best that you, all, omit the dark attribute's essence part".



    Demirva Ridge was long and vast. Crossing it, finishing the trials would still take some time, however Zax was not in a hurry and he also wanted to give Fengar time to wake up. Thus, after finding suitable, former residential cave in the belly of a random mountain, Zax decided to make camp and examine some stuff in himself he was not feeling comfortable with.

    'These are the marks left by the Curator’s Mark…' As a result of his enlightenment, using both soul energy and dark attribute energy, Zax could better sense and gauge the situation of his body.

    The five marks appeared glowing.

    'Are they letting the five powers know that I broke through the second realm of bodily cultivation?' It was most likely the case. 'Humph! My business in Ercas Mir is still not over. When I'll want to return to New Earth, let's see them stop me. Considering the Curators' level of cultivation, they won't be able to perceive me entering the passageway, anyway. Till then, think of me as dead'. He made up his mind and utilizing both energies along with the devouring nature of the dark attribute, he eradicated rather than expel the supposedly untouchable marks of the grand five powers.

    Moving on to the spatial rings on his person. Destroying their insignias and scrutinizing them… 'There are actually three dark attribute's essences!' he cried inwardly. 'their size vary, all smaller than the one I used, but they did say a lot "perfect dark attribute's essence"… One of these I will give Fengar'. It did not matter that he got them all by himself. A companion is a companion. "Besides, I need to figure how to refine the other two before consulting Master and Grand Master on how to divide them. Fengar might have an idea on how or who can teach me the refinement method". That was his plan.

    "Well, you waited patiently". Zax said, smirking and glancing toward the cave's entrance.

    "Hahahaha, you looked as if you were preoccupied with some important introspection. Didn't want to bother you". A tall, black skinned and joyful middle aged Rockwell crossed the threshold of the caver, accompanied by the olive skinned, brown long haired Riv.

    "Initially you gave us a scare, but luckily you pulled through". Riv smiled amiably.

    "Oh, hey, if it isn't the try guys…" Zax said sarcastically.

    "We did try". Rockwell said, grimacing yet still smiling. "Can you blame us that an Advanced Extreme Expert showed up?" He said sincerely.

    If he was honest with himself, Zax had to admit that in their shoes he would have probably acted the same.

    "Fine, I won't bicker with you. Why, then, are you here?" The dark attribute's essence was one reason that came to his mind.

    "We want re extend the offer of joining Sinister Chain". Riv said in courtesy. "Naturally, you won't have to be tested, only get the approval of the leader". She wanted to express full transparency. As for the dark attribute's essence he obtained, both she and Rockwell knew that even in the Companion's Link formation they are not Zax's match, and also it was not like they were empty handed before intruding on the Mo's Pyramid formation.

    'Joining Sinister Chain…' Zax mused.

    The only reason he still considered joining a Geared mercenary band was for the information network of a well established, prominent faction that will help him investigate the ins and outs of the five powers, their roots and intention as rulers of Ercas Mir and also a clear path for the Black Core above the surface of the earth.

    'At this point, it doesn't matter if I'll join a Geared mercenary band or a criminal organization. Moreover, an invitation to the most notorious criminal organization does not much differ than being recruited to the best Geared mercenary band, I supposed…'

    Seeing that he was seriously thinking his reply, Rockwell tossed him a crimson, hexagonal token with two letters printed on it in Netherling, ”S.C”.

    “Don’t make the decision now. I propose that you will wait until after settling all your affairs regarding the trials and your friend, here. Afterwards inject soul energy to the token – you will only get one chance, so be prepared – a surge of information will flow to your head, a date, time and location for a meet up with a representative of our Sinister Chain. Should you decide to join us; the representative will clarify the rest of the details. Should you have any other, inimical ideas, then you will lose your chance of ever becoming one of us”. After a short pause, Rockwell added. “Don’t forget that we are already bounded by our common enemies”.

    His tone was poised,non threatening nor showing any weaknesses. In complete agreement with his partner, he expounded about everything Zax needed to know until he will made up his mind.

    Tacitly nodding, Zax placed the token in his spatial ring.

    “We will take our leave now, we will save proper introduction for if and when you’ll join us”. Rockwell said and turned to depart the cave.

    “Goodbye”. Riv followed from behind.

    “Well”, seeing their backs disappear, Zax thought outloud while glancing at Fengar. “It seems that I have some important decisions to make…”

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    Book 8 – Element

    Chapter 1 – The Top



    Sitting beside a stone table, on top of a small balcony with two pots of green brown plants at its corners as lively decoration, two women tranquilly viewed the vast desert landscape while sipping drinks from plain clay cups.

    The larger middle aged woman, sitting on the left of the stone table, had a military haircut and wore military uniforms with folded sleeves. Her dark complexion was brimming with vitality and her black eyes seemed deep as an abyss. Now and then, she stroked her brown short hair, just because she liked the prickly sensation in the palm of her hand.

    The shorter young looking maiden, sitting on the right of the stone table, was adorned by an entirely different, more refreshing set of attire. An azure veil concealed the top half of her face, exposing only the edge of her little nose, along with the snowy hue of her impeccable smooth skin. Flowing white hair with blue luster draped over her shoulder, revealing from behind an alluring white nape. Her bare feet leaned tightly on one another and to the side, as if they were not used to ever being apart. From her ankles up to the thin, shining strap around her neck, a light dress in all the colors of the sea flaunted her exquisite figure.

    “General Beking!” A stern, disciplinary voice sounded from outside the room connected to the balcony.

    The middle aged woman, General Beking of the Golden Desert Fort and its highest authority, rested her clay cup on the stone table. Her serene countenance turned strict. “You may enter, Lieutenant General Hasil”. She spoke in a rather deep voice.

    Soon after, the sound of hurried steps crossed the entrance to the room and proceeded straight to the small balcony. A lean army man, not taller than a twelve year old child, appeared and saluted toward General Beking before being giving the signal to stand at ease. As for his attitude for the young maiden, Lieutenant General Hasil’s head was stiff as it can be to avoid the slightest, unintentional glance at her, as if such act without permission it would cost him his eyes.

    “Your return is a bit early than anticipated, Hasil, should I assume something unexpected occurred?” General Beking asked, giving the impression that she already guessed the answer.

    “Your intuition is sharp as always, General”, Lieutenant General Hasil said respectfully and a tad bitterly. “Actually, if you had not sent me to the Grand Abode, our two factions would have probably learned of this news last”.

    “Is that so… Then I gather Rijok failed, am I correct? Answer me in details”. Maybe it was due to General Beking’s guess and maybe not, but after hearing her, the young maiden shifted slightly in her seat as though she suddenly felt uncomfortable.

    “Exact Information about what took place is still being compiled, General. What I can tell you is what I found out in the Grand Abode before Archbishop Silternjan asked for my leave”. Lieutenant General Hasil explained before narrating his experience in one breath. “As you know, a while ago a Cardinal, accompanied by two youngsters, a postulant and His Young Eminence Hein Zein Har, descended for the Event in Demirva Ridge. While the Cardinal remained with the Archbishop in the Grand Abode, the Sister who accommodated and took care of the two youngsters at the beginning of their stay, Sister Beatriz, led the two to the ridge. What followed next in the Grand Abode, at nineteen twenty eight, precisely a hour and seventeen minutes ago, the Archbishop’s Sky Splitter aircraft returned with the group of three. His Young Eminence was being supported by Sister Beatriz. From the way he looked, it seemed that he sustained some serious injuries in the ridge, despite the presence of Sister Beatriz. When the Cardinal saw that he was furious, if it was not for the urging of the little postulant and his concern for His Young Eminence’s health, who knows what sort of penance would have been forced upon the Sister”.

    “A mere postulant was able to sway a Cardinal’s temperament?” A soft, sweet voice said with a hint of astonishment, as the young maiden spoke for the first time.

    “I also find it inconvincible”. General Beking said. “Hasil, are you certain the postulant was a new convert of the Holy Palace and nothing more? Were there any indications of some other status that postulant should had have?”

    “I made attempts to investigate, but the hospitality Archbishop Silternjan extended me did not allow me to explore the matter deeply. I reckon that before he attended the Cardinal, Archbishop Silternjan’s demeanor toward the girl was particularly courteous, more so than he had been toward His Young Eminence or the Cardinal himself”.

    “Mm…” The young maiden ruminated. “Elder sister Beking, do you possibly have the same idea as me?”

    “Hamumni”, General Beking referred to the young maiden as well as turned her head to Lieutenant General Hasil. “That little postulant is probably the direct line progeny of either someone close to His Holiness that was sent to be cultivated in the Holy Palace, or even a new celebrant of The Almighty”.

    “If that is the case, General, should we not inform the Planetary Battalion? A new power suddenly siding with Luminous Church might require alterations to the agreement of the General of the Armies, His Holiness and the rest…” Lieutenant General Hasil pointed out.

    “Yes, do so after you finish the report. Hamumni, do I have your approval?”

    “I concur with whatever elder sister has in mind”.

    “Then it’s settled. Finish with explaining the cause of Rijok’s failure and get to it”.

    “Yes, General. Actually, about Rijok, what I know is what Sister Beatriz told me. While leading our two brigades, Rijok, the Blessed Army’s and the Violet Scaled Troops’ representatives formed cooperation for finding the sole perfect dark attribute’s essence. They eventually besieged the human mercenary in possession of the perfect dark attribute’s essence, but before obtaining it and before the Luminous Church’s group arrival, Sinister Chain intercepted them. The events that followed are somewhat hard to believe. In his dying moments, the mercenary who had the perfect dark attribute’s essence chose to consume it. However, instead of dying from the unrefined attribute’s essence he actually absorbed it, not only making a breakthrough in his bodily refinement technique to the second realm right after, but also gaining sufficient insights into the dark attribute to easily kill five out of the five powers’ delegates, and withstand and even counter the assaults of Sister Beatriz!”

    Hearing what ended up transpiring beneath the noses of them leaders of the five powers; both General Beking and Hamumni exuded menacing fluctuations.

    “You mean to say that there is out there a new noteworthy expert with too many foreboding qualities and a sore spot for the five powers?” General Beking clenched her fist. “A rebel with the making of Ascended Elite?!” The gravity of the news far surpassed the rage she felt for losing talents like Colonel Rijok and Cattelin.

    This sort of character, even weak, was still renowned for possessing the potential for reaching Immortality. Unless this individual was part of their power, the future prospects of such a threat would petition a swift elimination right from the budding stages.

    “That is so, General. Right now the identity and related information of that mercenary are under investigation and we are waiting for a response from the Mercenary Association”.

    “Tell me the instant more is known about that mercenary. If he resurfaces, immediately send one of the three other Lieutenant Generals or go after him yourself. If he is willing to join either Golden Desert Forte or Blue Sea, invite him directly and let bygones be bygones, otherwise... Eliminate on spot!”

    “Yes, General!”

    “Refrain from mentioning Blue Sea. He is a human cultivator. Before he joins to the Planetary Battalion his knowledge should be limited”. Hamumni added.

    “Yes, Admiral!”

    “Go!” General Beking gestured with her arm and Lieutenant General Hasil departed without a moment to waste.

    “In the end we failed to obtain even one dark attribute’s essence…” General Beking sighed when only Admiral Hamumni could hear her voice.

    “Your insights of the Earthly attribute and its worldly energy are already at an extremely profound level. Will you abandon something that you have an affinity and familiarity with for a bet at something uncertain?” Admiral Hamumni shook her head and proceeded to give her own answer. “No. If it would have been nine thousand years ago, then it would have been worth it for us. These days, we can just sit here waiting and hope for a stroke of insight”.

    A warm desert breeze blew across the young maiden’s face, raising briefly the azure veil, revealing underneath an eyeless countenance, just a seamless, snowy skin.



    Eight muscular legs, four burly arms, seventy two sanguine claws, rows of gigantic, ebony teeth and horns, regal aura.

    An over three hundred meters long body of golden scales and silver fur hanged between heaven and earth. Two portions of it, from the shoulder up and from the waist down, looked like those of a predatory, nightmarish beast while the middle, supporting torso was akin to that of a four armed dragon.

    “Mom, I’m afraid…”

    “Hurry, honey, get inside!”

    “Someone, call the police, a Deformed Being, yes! It must be a Deformed Being from another continent!”

    “No! It’s not a Deformed Being, it has fur!”

    “Who cares? Don’t draw its attention; the Blessed Army will protect us!”

    Many of the residents and visitors of the city below screamed, ran, and cried while a minority of the people and beasts, in humanoid and human forms, had their eyes glued in trepidation at the monstrosity above their heads.

    An apathetic stroke of tail brought forth powerful winds that swept every nook and cranny of the city.

    “Careful, stay away from the windows!”

    “Hold onto something!”

    “Hide behind the buildings!”

    Panic and hysteria ensued as nearly everyone, under the second realm of Martial cultivation, were swept off the ground and thrown by strong gales.

    “Sufficed!” An imposing, vibrant voice silenced the pandemonium, returned the piece to the city and when it subsided, people and beasts were beginning to resume their daily life, believing that the glorious ruler of this part of the continent saved them.

    “Your attainment with the soul has advanced yet again, Logan”. A rumbling sound, like that of an avalanche, reverberated from the open jaw of the nightmarish beast. “But your concealment skills are still lacking. If Core Masters will try to concentrate their senses just a little, they will catch wisps of my lingering presence”.

    “Do you think this is a joke?! I’m hiding you from the eyes of more than eight hundred thousand people, Kikon!” The imposing, vibrant voice berated and a tiny figure, in comparison, of a white skinned, shorthaired blond man, wearing a shining dark blue armor, silvery pants and a long silvery cape to his back appeared in the sky.

    The city the two hovered above was “Sonertone”, and was situated at the higher fields of the Western Continent. This time around, it was also the final destination for all those who partook in the High Rankers' trials.

    “Respected leaders”. A hoarse, third voice was heard calling in a welcoming manner.

    “Sheldon”, the nightmarish beast, Kikon, turned to the elderly bald and bearded man who flew from the top of Sonertone’s tallest skyscraper, heading to meet both him and Logan. “You have much to explain, and dare you words be not soothing to my ears, don’t say that I didn’t warn you!”

    “Kikon”, the blond man frowned. “You make a move against one of my cities and your clans will suffer greater consequences!”

    “Horn Kikon, General Logan, if you won’t calm down how could I explain you the matter of Demirva Ridge?” Although in front of him were the highest echelon of two of the five powers, Violet Scaled Troops and the Blessed Army. Furthermore, rulers of the Western Continent, the elderly man did not speak in neither servile nor proud tone. From his demeanor, one would assume the old grandpa was not the least bit weaker than these two hegemons of this entire planet.

    “Humph!” Horn Kikon snorted, finally quieting.

    “For respected leader Horn Kikon, I’ll make it brief. My Mercenary Association compiled all the information about the trial, its applicants and Event in the ridge in these data chips. You will also find date and time for the auction of the dark attribute’s essence acquired by us. If, after surveying the information, you are still not satisfied, this old man will personally entertain all of your demands”.

    As each one receiving a chip, it was obvious that Horn Kikon and General Logan were already not pleased with the Mercenary Association’s treatment, but both experts knew… Roughly one thousand years ago, that departing elder who left them back to the top of the Mercenary Association’s headquarters, was not only the lone survivor of the catastrophe of Demirva Ridge, but the first and sole person, at the time, to obtain, refine and consume God made dark attribute’s essence!

    With this, he caught the attention of a certain figure that even they have to act humble in its presence. Hence, after a quick inspection of the information in the chips, the two reached the same conclusion as General Beking and Admiral Hamumni.

  20. #200
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    Book 8 – Element

    Chapter 2 – Blind Direction




    “Lieutenant General”, a young woman wearing a glowing armor and skinny black pants with golden strings entered the office and saluted to the man with the long combed red hair and big blue eyes.

    Ever since news about the Event in Demirva Ridge were spread, Supreme Ruler of Kingdom Earth and Lieutenant General of the Blessed Army, Ariel Dauch, was summoned back to the army’s First Base, in case a confrontation with the other five powers would arose.

    “What is it, Shiva?”

    The young woman, Shiva, was exactly one of the Curators who guarded the pathway to New Earth at the time of Zax arrival to Ercas Mir.

    As she stepped into the room, a consoling expression was plastered on her face, which caused Lieutenant General Ariel to knit your brows.

    “Lieutenant General…” Shiva’s tone was hesitant. What she was about to relay to him was a subject of utmost care and importance to the Lieutenant General. “The youth you accompanied from New Earth, the Curator’s Mark I left in him perished”.

    “Perished? Can you confirm the manner it happened?” Lieutenant General Ariel felt his heart sinking. Zax was a talented junior that in Ercas Mir was not different than a kin, moreover, one that he himself convinced to go to this dangerous world above ground. If something truly accrued to him that it was only natural for grief to set in.

    “My apologies, Lieutenant General, I can only validate the coordinates and time where the mark perished. It happened in Demirva Ridge, not long after the black sky”.

    “Leave”. Lieutenant General Ariel ordered that instant Shiva clarified the situation.

    If she had least rephrased her words differently… using “vanished”, “disappeared”, “destroyed” instead of “perished”, all but the last one represented a small chance for him to believe that Zax might be still alive. Alas, she stuck to her choice of words; hence, there was nothing more he needed to hear from her.

    “Yes, Lieutenant General”. Shiva saluted again and left, closing the door to the office behind her.

    TAK!

    TAK!

    TAK!



    Lieutenant General Ariel’s finger knocked irritably on his desk as his head, with heavy heart, bent back and his clear eyes penetrated the ceiling of the office, or maybe it was his Sublime Soul Sense with which he viewed the gorgeous blue sky…?

    “Forgive this senior, junior Zax”. He whispered. “Those waiting for you at home, senior will ensure their health and happiness, I pledge”.



    It took the short and grumpy man four days of rest before waking up in the cave Zax found. At first he was confused and behaved disorderly. While his body fully healed, his soul still recovered from the trauma inflicted on it by Helev Hetra.

    In the sixth day, Fengar showed hints of clarity and was willing to communicate with Zax, though only for a short while before resuming meditation.

    Finally in the eighth day, today, Fengar was in optimal condition in both mind and body, thus finishing hearing Zax’s account of all that happened since he lost consciousness.

    Suffice to say that the shock he felt when he learnt about Zax’s miraculous feat, the consumption of the unrefined dark attribute’s essence, was too overwhelming to respond with words.

    Before listening to the lad, he had no idea that the dark attribute’s essence requires refinement as a prerequisite to being used. As such, he just secretly gloated when Zax told him how he cheated the scumbags from the five powers of the perfect dark attribute’s essence they pursued him for. But then, Zax got to the part where he felt an unbearable pain, describing it as a torture worse than being torn to pieces. Although his description was insufficient to emphasize the severity of pain, Fengar was not stupid. His age was worth more than a handful of complete non cultivator’s life times to understand the consequence of certain actions, more so when benefits are involve.

    As the saying goes… nothing comes easy, unless you do it right.

    As the telling of the extermination of the five powers’ members followed, the solicitous and profusely perspiring Fengar slowly dissipated, replaced by relief, then incredulity, then, as Zax extracted a bit soul and dark attribute pressure to prove his radical strength, utter astonishment!

    “Take it”. Fengar shoved the dark attribute’s essence to Zax’s hand. “Don’t misunderstand; I want it, probably feel miserable for this decision, and for a long time, at that. However, I have no means to refine who know to whom to turn. If I’ll try to look then I have no doubt that eventually someone from the five powers will find me. I had hopes in the beginning that it would be like any other dark attribute’s essence, but this darn thing is far more complicated than I dare risk bargain for. The staggering amount of Splinters and pills… they, I can find someone reliable to examine and determined their medicinal effect. So keep the dark attribute’s essence”.

    Fengar insisted on giving a full speech. The enticement for the dark attribute’s essence was something he could not hide, so to ensure Zax of his resolve he explained all of his reasons before the former could refuse him.

    Not knowing how to refute him, Zax yielded and placed the dark attribute’s essence in his spatial ring. “Do you still desire to proceed with the trials?” He asked since for him passing the trials and returning to Xinia was of no significant use.

    It was important to remember that while the five powers may think that the person known as “Zax Zel” of New Earth died, at least one of the five powers is aware of the extinct of the feral mercenary that came back from the dead, in addition to several untrustworthy mercenaries. Entering cities or clans before obtaining prior knowledge of his contemporary identity’s status would be too reckless regardless of how strong he became.

    “Crossing the ridge with you repelling the wraiths sounds quite tempting, it would turn these rotten trials from the worst into the easiest I had ever taken”. Fengar sighed, evidently negating the idea. “It’s better that for the next couple of decades I will lower my profile. My face had become too recognizable… if others see me at the end destination of the trials, people’s minds will run wild; speculating that to survive that ordeal I probably stumbled on some good fortune. I rather avoid this situation. If Vouvik and Shouva will be okay with it, we’ll take the trials again in the distant future, it’s not like we have lack of Splinters, anyhow”. He cracked opened a self mocking smile, in his heart laughing at the greedy bastard that he was, who ignored years of experience for an extremely costly dream.

    He and Zax destroyed the participation’s paper thin red certificates, officially forfeiting the trials’ assignment.



    The duo exited the ridge not for from its midpoint, descending from a mountain not too distant from a clan where Fengar, Vouvik and Shouva could converge.

    “Keep my communicator”, Fengar passed it to Zax.

    Zax did not collect the communicator of the five powers’ members at the chance they have trackers. What he did not know was that even if he took them, their channels were still password protected.

    “As long as you are on the lower part of the Western Continent, and we didn’t leave it, Vouvik will be able to locate your signal. At the first chance I’ll get I’ll buy a better one, maybe a communicator with a range that can cover the whole continent and some of the sea”. Fengar was eager. Communicator like the one he talked about had few other functions that a mercenary, or a person on the run, would find useful, so of course he was eager to purchase one.

    “Hahaha, don’t worry, Vouvik, I’ll be fine. It is you that need to make sure Fengar won’t become a miser on you and Shouva. The amount of Splinters on him can pile up into a decent mountain, hahaha”. Zax chuckled and porously spoke outloud and communicated with his soul. With everything in order, with regards to the companions and friends he made in the trials, he felt happy and in a mood to tease the short man, whose fiery manner was gradually resurfacing.

    “Hey, are you listening to me or nattering with Vouvik?” Fengar scowled. “Anyways, don’t say unnecessary things. Cheap? Ah! You can keep that box of crappy scrolls and articles Greenhorn Shouva gave you, I, generous great uncle Fengar, will buy for her Martial Mortal level quality goods! Tell me, do I sound like a miser now?!”

    “Fine, fine”. Zax raised his arm and ended the conversation with Vouvik. “I’ll be going, then. Vouvik and Shouva will wait for you in the Nektral clan. Vouvik said that you know where to find them there”.

    “Yes”. The joke was over, so Fengar nodded calmly. “The place you want to go-”

    “Just a direction, so I can’t really tell you”.

    The third Black Core… initially Zax assumed it would take time for him to break through the second realm of bodily cultivation so he could cultivate mist energy. The idea of gathering the remaining Black Cores was still far in the future. As circumstance changed and after having another lesson of the importance of personal strength while making enemies with the strongest forces in Ercas Mir, he did not want to postpone the assembly of Legacy Of The One’s Path.

    “Very well”. Fengar said understandably, giving up on trying to persuading Zax to stay in the group for at least until the dust of the Event in Demirva Ridge to settle.

    Fengar stretched up and placed a fist on the lad’s chest. “Take care of yourself”. He said, turned and left.



    Several days later…

    Sitting inside an abandoned giant nest, at the top of a Titan Kapok Tree, Zax wanted a change of scenery than the caves he typically secluded himself in.

    ‘I finished!’ Zax rejoiced. ‘It took longer than I thought, but the last bit of information about Legacy Of The One’s Path, left by the expert, is sorted out and deciphered!’ To comprehend the fragments of information he had to break through the second realm of bodily cultivation and since he did, the fragments slowly uncovered themselves on their own.

    ‘Potential heir’, the familiar voice of the expert echoed in his sea of consciousness. ‘Congratulation for achieving another step forward toward obtaining the qualification to cultivate Legacy Of The One’s Path. In contrast to what you may have hoped, in this last message there is not a lot that I plan to leave you with, just a few key points that you should not forget and shallow knowledge of the Immortal path’.

    As Zax listened, his attentiveness increased the more he heard. Immortal path? Be it New Earth or Ercas Mir, wherever he went, Martial Mortals where the epitome of Martial cultivation and “Immortals” were just beings of legend, perhaps real only for the five powers.

    ‘An exceptional soul, that is what I bequeathed to you, not a condition but a necessity for cultivating Legacy Of The One’s Path. Strong body, tempered physique, without it you would have never been able to endure an Evolutionary Ascension of such level. Liquefied, raw Qi, the bottom of the barrel if matched to personally cultivated liquefied mist energy, yet pure and abstained from the flaws of mortal mist refinement techniques. When these three aspects are aligned, potential heir, what remain are two more conditions. The easy one, gather all four Black Core that I had left, combine them into one in your dantian. Then, lastly, the hardest condition to achieve, even in the endless *****, *l*in, Plains, their stars, all three Valleys… Perception and comprehension of all six bottlenecks of insights before the third realm, for there are two methods of Evolutionary Ascension, commonly reaching the Peak of mortality and arduously striving for a miracle, and transcending all six mortal tribulations, perfecting the mortal path, creating a worldly defying miracle yourself!‘

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