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  1. #201
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    Book 8 – Element

    Chapter 3 – First Time At The Beach


    ‘Now if you wonder, potential heir, why the mere trials of the mortal’s second realm shoulder such immense significance in the eternal Martial path, you first need to understand what the six bottlenecks of insight are.

    ‘First five bottlenecks may vary in order but overall are equal and the same among all who aspire to traverse the Martial path; they are elevation from the small minded material, a comprehension of the worldly. If a cultivator denounces any of the bottlenecks in the appropriate time, his or her chances of Evolutionary Ascension will drop drastically. It is virtually impossible for cultivators who broke through the Martial Mortal realm by perceiving and comprehending just three bottlenecks of insight to achieve Evolutionary Ascension. At the best, after fifteen thousand years of livelihood they will reach the pinnacle of their path in life. Martial Mortals who comprehended four bottlenecks of insight… should they be lucky enough to reach the Peak of the Martial Mortal realm and should Nature look upon them favorably, perhaps will have one to ten percent chance for Evolutionary Ascension. Lastly, five bottlenecks of insight Peak Martial Mortals, they are the cream of the crop among mortal cultivators, titled as ‘Ascended Elite’, they possess between ten to fifty percent chance for Evolutionary Ascension.

    ‘That being said, potential heir, don’t miscalculate and think that all Evolutionary Ascensions are the same. The more insights you comprehend, the more… forget it. Some knowledge should be left alone until you acquire it yourself; it would be less bitter if you’ll fail…

    ‘At any rate, these are the basics of the six bottlenecks of insights. I haven’t mentioned the sixth bottleneck, since wherever you search in the three Valleys, their infinite Plains and myriad stars, to encounter someone who comprehended it is nearly impossible even for the all can Gods. In fact, for the piddling perception of a mortal to fully comprehend the sixth bottleneck of insight is an incredible wonder even Gods will find difficult to compare to with their most striking feats!

    ‘So, potential heir, are you starting to understand the magnitude of this one of two conditions you have left for cultivating Legacy Of The One’s Path?’ The expert’s voice sounded provocative, as if challenging Zax to answer, whilst indicating in his tone that he did not finish speaking and rather have not an heir who reacts like a robot.

    Up to this point Zax was listening attentively, so much that he brought himself to halfway open up his mouth to utter “Yes”, when it dawned on him that it is meaningless. The expert was already dead and this was just a message. Moreover, as excited and enthralled as he was by the informative content of the message, Zax was more trembling by the realization that if the expert cultivated Legacy Of The One’s Path then it means that he was none other than one of those extremely spectacular individuals who comprehended all six bottlenecks of insight!

    ‘Passible’, a positive shift in the expert’s temperament was noticeable as he continued with barely the space of time for his listener to reply rashly. ‘Although I did not complicate things, if you had casted the slightest hum, potential heir, then with accordance to how I formulated this message, it would have sensed it and end the message there. Regardless of why you held your tongue, here is the reward you earned, which is something I would like to stress out for you, potential heir… that is, much like when trying to perceive the bottlenecks of insight is a task you must do on your own, essentially, there is no really such thing as Master and Decuple relationship or external guidance on the Immortal Martial path. Yes, you can find assistant in all kinds of various and unique ways, profound or shallow, but ultimately the path to greatness is something that you should forge by contemplating understanding without others asking you for it, be it immediately or hereafter’. The expert’s voice tuned down, as if he reminisced personal mistakes. ’It may seem an obvious thing to do, but I do not expect nor believe that you can get the small wisdom of these words until the day of your Evolutionary Ascension, should it be reached accordingly, thus I will not expound on the sixth bottleneck’.

    ‘Is it over?’ Zax wondered after a moment of silence on the expert’s side.

    ‘These are the last of my words, potential heir’, finally, the expert began to conclude. ‘Legacy Of The One’s Path is what all believe to be the summit. In my life I was fortunate to find it and meet its conditions. It brought me far and beyond my peers, then my elders, eventually those ancient ones… but as you got to know, it did not make me invincible and could not compensate for my carelessness and poor judgment…

    ‘Outside of the earthly star, past the eddying Plain, encompassing is the lower Valley. Here is where you are. Do the best to carry yourself onward‘.

    The expert’s voice dimmed, as for now and forever there was nothing more for him to say.

    “Evolutionary Ascension…” Zax let out a sigh. “Did he have to be so obscure about it on purpose?”

    He got that it is a sort of transformation that preceded the realm of Immortality and what the overall conditions to meet it are, but there were still some unknown factors the expert hinted toward before deliberately leaving behind.

    “Star, Plain and Valley. In the first message I could not interpret certain words, now they are clear, but their meaning… I suppose its self explanatory that by Stars the expert meant Earth, Sun, Moon, etcetera… Plain and Valley, though…”

    The subject of space was in decline since humanity and beasts immigrated to New Earth. Whatever was taught in schools or shown in games and other forms of entertainment was even less educational. At best, Zax could only assume that “Plain” is probably a synonym to “galaxy”. As for “Valley” or even more confusing “lower Valley”, he had no idea what the expert referred to.

    His eyes lingered on the horizon as his doubts were slowly put to rest. After a while, his body began to shiver and he had to place his left hand on top the clenched right to restrain it.

    “Perfect mortal path, transcending tribulations that are in concert with all six bottlenecks, of which I comprehended five”. Zax voice was shaking in ecstasy. “I want to know, what percentage for Evolutionary Ascension would I have after comprehending the sixth? If it’s truly like the expert indicated... fifty? More? Hundred?!”

    Never encountering those legendary existences known as “Immortals”, Zax impression of them was, mostly, by the small stuff he learned in the expert’s messages and recent events in Demirva Ridge, which showed him the scarifies many cultivators are willing to make to improve their chances for Evolutionary Ascension.

    As for the eagerness to stride forward onto such realm, as someone so young yet bordering the mortal Peak whilst being so close to surpass it, it was unavoidable for his blood to boil for desiring to further the Martial path he all his life was immersed with.

    Standing up abruptly, the nest shook along with some of the branches making it issuing cracking noises under the force of his feet.

    “Two things, that’s all I got to do!” Everything else will unravel as he progresses, so no point letting it bother him.

    “The sixth bottleneck of insight required time, effort and patience. The dark attribute is absolutely the catalyst to comprehending it”. The relations between the two were so close he spared no second thought to the notion. “The last spark of insight is only partial; to completely grasp it my best chances are by utilization and exhaustion of the Dark Titan Storm form, that’s when I’m most in sync with it”. The prerequisite for that were foes who can actually challenge the Dark Titan Storm form, therefore just transforming was insufficient, and also why he decided to concentrate on the other thing…

    Jumping off the nest, Zax followed the direction his instincts told him where the third Black Core was at.

    Speeding through the forest of Titan Kapok Trees, skipping entire lakes, rivers and small hills in one leap, he wanted to get the third Black Core as soon as he could, hoping it will supplement the last spark of insight, and so allowed nothing to impede his advancement.

    As to why he did not fly? Quite simple, Zax was not far from Demirva Ridge, roughly six kilometers in its vicinity. Should the five powers send people to search the area, if they sensed his dark attribute domain then he was fairly certain that next thing to follow will be a relentless pursuit by their most formidable experts.

    One Sister Beatriz was enough to satiate Zax’s urge for a life and death battle, if by any chance more are on his tail, then he has the slightest desire to deal with them several at a time.

    “A troop…” Zax whispered as he noticed on his way a group of monkey looking, two scales Deformed Beings. The young were not bigger than a human’s palm and the adults were child’s size, seemingly around the Advanced phase of the second realm’s third. Two particular monkeys were at the Peak of the second realm.

    The sight of the tranquil troop made Zax speculate that the number of types of two scales Deformed Beings is pretty abundant. On his venture he saw many different two scale Deformed Beings, some in groups, others were the solitary type.

    “Nearly all one scale Deformed Beings are in hiding, without my Soul Sense it would have been hard finding them”.

    There were quite a few two scales carnivore Deformed Beings, some, due to certain physical features or traits, were stronger than the others despite both types having two scales and at full growth.

    Zax could only assume that those carnivore, two scales Deformed Beings were able to be so domineering over the rest of the Deformed Being around because the lack of three scales Deformed Beings to put them in their place. Actually, even if it was reasonable to think that three scales Deformed Beings are scarce, Zax had yet to encounter even one such Deformed Being even with his long range Soul Sense.

    “Maybe it’s for the best. A three scales Deformed Being is too dangerous even in my current state”. He wanted to challenge himself but he was not delusional.



    Selivereb was the small part of the smaller of the two continents. Not long after Zax began to run, while descending from high up cliff, he could see the distant coastline and the city situated near it.

    The white waves, the salty air, the shimmering blue expanse… If Zax’s personality was less callous and his age just a bit younger he was certain to yell mind blown “WOW”. Instead, he halted on the ground the moment his feet slammed down. The first real image he had of the sea was vivid in his mind and he tried to recall its end, but could not. As a result, the hairs of his back bristled and a tickling sensation in his stomach shot a wave of novel excitement that surged to his rapidly beating heart and heated his body.

    From what he could tell, the third Black Core was somewhere on the sea, if not across it!

    WHOOSH!

    A violent gust of wind blew, causing the vegetation to stir wildly.

    In a blink of an eye Zax crossed hundreds of meters; in couple more blinks he entered the city, disregarding the checkpoint at the entrance of its great wall, not that any of the officers or bystanders noticed.

    The city had less of Glorious Ground’s “steampunk” atmosphere and more coastal colorfulness. Zax was curious about what it had to offer, but forgo the idea. The sea had a bigger allure and the third Black Core still far, far away to waste time on sightseeing.

    The city’s crescent walls encompassed a wide range of land, starting from the western part of the city, where the entrance for those traveling the continent on foot was at. The eastern part of the city was exposed to the open sea, there; one could long harbors with many docks and a quantity of ships in many sizes, as well as beaches packed with humans and beasts.

    ‘It would be nice…’ Zax mused. ‘Coming here with Anet, Liz and everyone’. He has not seen them for a long time and upon adding the close call he luckily managed to avoid, a while ago, he missed them even more.

    ‘In the future. I don’t need to wait till I become Immortal, only strong enough to fight with fifth level Martial Mortals’. This thought amplified his determination to not stop until finding the third Black Core.

    The sea of a handful of steps away. Zax did not need a boat to cross it; he was fast enough and had plenty of power to do it on his own, whether by swimming, stepping on the water or flying. With no mishaps, so long as there was dark attribute in the world, be it above or below sea and ground, even in space, his peak physical condition was sustainable.



    “Liminton, hey, Liminton, have a look!” A short haired, tanned youth tapped the knee of the middle aged, black haired, gray skinned man beside him, who lay on a wooden crate.

    Liminton’s back rose up sluggishly. Rubbing the back of his neck he tiredly glanced at the impatient youth.

    “What, Bin Bin? Is the ship ready to set sail?”

    Unlike the youth, Bin Bin, Liminton did not look like a regular human. His gray skin was definitely not normal for a human, not to mention his razor sharp teeth and scaly cheeks, which one need to stare hard in order to discern. Liminton was undoubtedly a beast in human form.

    The pair was dressed as if they were also among those who came to enjoy the beach in this sunny day, but instead of getting down to the shore, they were waiting on a dock, around several crates and a crew who loaded them onto a charter ship.

    “Hahaha, look at this guy, Liminton, another fool trying to avoid the cruise fee, hahaha!” Bin Bin laughed out loud, acting like a mischievous ten years old.

    “Mm?” Liminton’s curiosity finally was piqued. “Hahaha”, he laughed, though more subtly.

    Their behavior caught the attention of the crew members, yet none of them dare approach to ask what so funny.

    “Oh, well, that’s enough, Bin Bin”, Liminton said as he noticed the crew members sneaking glimpses at them. “Let’s not attract troubles”.

    “What are you saying, Liminton?” Bin Bin tilted his head to the side. “You think the captain will fire us because the crew members can’t concentrate on their job?” He asked in dissatisfaction.

    “No”. Liminton shook his head and nudged his chin up. “We don’t want to fell into conflict with this guy”.

    Hearing this response, Bin Bin was even more baffled. “This guy doing something stupid, see, Zenkai and Ina over there also laughing at him. The girls in the second dock also making fun of him, why we can’t?”

    “Because this guy is strong”. Liminton answered solemnly.

    “Strong?” Bin Bin raised a brow, acting in a manner that asked: “then what are we?”. “Does this speed even count as that of someone strong?”

    “I can tell, he his holding back, by a lot. This guy should very, very strong and dangerous”. As his tone turned grave, his words started to sink into Bin Bin’s brain. “Have a look, Zenkai and Enderta also calming down their groups”. He continued to say, placing a finger at his nose. “Like myself they are aquatic beasts, and us, three, sense of smell in almost unrivaled. It’s indistinct, but my nose can still smell it, the odor of blood, both beast’s and human’s, of high cultivation level!”

    “Uncle Liminton, even stronger than you?” By this point, Bin Bin reverted to mannerism of a disciplined child.

    Quietly watching the well built, tall figure stepping on the water and bursting with propelling physical strength, Liminton contemplated before averting his gaze back to Bin Bin, the look on his face is unyielding. “Let’s pretend that he is. Does it matter? In a short time he will be dead, anyway”.

  2. #202
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    Book 8 – Element

    Chapter 4 – A Sea Adventure



    As Zax proceeded past the seashore and vanished into the horizon, he did not pay much attention to the people on the beach and those in the harbor. The sea was a fascinating spectacle it was hard for him to match it to anything he ever witnessed. The closest he could think of was the blue sky. The sea appeared just as vast and while there were differences between the two, as he went on, other than scope and color, Zax detected more and more similarities that made him equally appreciate both domains, despite that at the moment he was only able to traverse just one.

    ‘Amazing, life is so abundant here!’ Zax was at awe as he spread his Soul Sense and discovered myriad of living beings.

    Unlike the land, Zax found many types of fish that were nothing more than regular fish, that is had no cultivation base. They roamed in the sea, seemingly unconcerned from the aquatic schools of Deformed Beings.

    ‘Here is the opposite’, Zax noticed. ‘Maybe it’s specific to this area of the sea, but here one scale Deformed Being and regular aquatic creatures are more common than two scales Deformed Beings’.

    With was an interesting discovery, which made Zax first suspect that the reason for it was the existence of a three scale Deformed Being. However, no matter how far he advanced or how diligently his Soul Sense scanned, he could not find anything particularly unordinary.

    ‘My Soul Sense can’t reach the bottom of the sea’. As a result he was not certain how deep it was to the sea’s floor and if there reside two and three scales Deformed Beings.

    “A ship?” It was the first sign of human and beast life he encountered since leaving Selivereb of the Western Continent.

    It was sailing from the opposite direction, a not that big cruise ship, full to the brim with thousands of people and beasts in human or humanoid forms.

    “What are they doing?” Zax frowned due to confusion.

    As soon as he was noticed by the experts on the cruise ship and two on the fishing boat, glowing symbols and shapes resembling eels started to appear on the body of the ship. At the same time, a dome like mantle manifested above the ship. On it were engraved same glowing symbols but different shapes, something that resembled a flock of four wings birds.

    As the ship’s formations were raised, the many people and beasts aboard all stared wide eyes before ignoring the urgent orders of the crew members to leave the deck and hurrying to watch excitedly the vicinity, as if they all were informed that an exceptional rare show is about to begin.

    Further away came to view another, smaller vessel, a fishing boat. As the crew on the fishing boat noticed the glowing formation of the cruise ship, their complexion blanched and moments later a nearly identical formation was raised on the body of the fishing boat and above it.

    In contrast to the jolly behavior of the passengers on the cruise ship, the fishing boat’s crew members were much less enthusiastic. Halting their work and everything else, they agitatedly waved their arms and shouted toward Zax, while only few did the same on the cruise ship.

    “Mm?” Zax’s ears perked up, trying to hear the voices of the fishing boat’s crew members.

    “…Back…”

    “…Go Back!”

    “Return to shore!”

    “No! Don’t come over! Go back immediately!”



    Earlier, when he utilized the worldly dark attribute to fly across the sea, Zax decided to maintain a fairly fast speed that would have prevented those below the third realm on the slow cruise ship and fishing boat from noticing him. However, when he explored the depth of the sea on his venture, he gradually decelerated almost unconsciously, and by the time he paid heed to the glowing formation of the cruise ship and the shouts from the fishing boat, he was very close to a halt, in comparison to his original pace, that is.

    Having no quarrel with any of the two parties, Zax was not bored to start anything by approaching them against their wishes, even if he had the capital to do as he wants. Besides, he could read the air and temperament of each company and, as a result, an imminent sense of crisis brewed inside of his stomach.

    It was not something detectable by Soul Sense or any other of the five senses. Rather, it was a shift in the worldly dark attribute, like it was reacting to an opposing attribute being used domineeringly or maybe a summons by an unknown entity. Regrettably, Zax’s familiarity with the dark attribute was insufficient to discern which was the case or if it was something else entirely.

    “Go-” Was the last thing that reached Zax’s ears before all sounds vanished.

    Zax felt as if the world froze and even his mind was going at a snail pace.

    A gradual high pitched wail penetrated through the silence, steadily getting louder and louder while reverberating from every direction.

    On the cruise ship and fishing boat the mantles with four wings bird shapes pulsated as if coming to life. As for the passengers of each vessel, by their expression they seemed to be less influenced by the wail. Most covered their ears, others did not mind, while on all were plastered either pensive or fervent looks.

    Motionless between sky and sea, Zax was sweating profusely. ‘Dark Titan Storm!’ He shouted in his sea of consciousness, driven by immense fear.

    In but a blink of an eye, his physique swelled and darkened, exuded indomitable air, filling him with exalted power, yet his guts told him that it was not enough!

    Seeing his terrific transformation, the several third realm experts felt their hearts tightening. They all could tell that this change was brought by utilization of an attribute worldly energy, dark attribute energy, and that the level of understanding needed to master it was far beyond their comprehension.

    Such expert was someone to dread, a cultivator whom even the five powers would show appreciation.

    Although the experts shared conflicting views in which they regarded Zax… two to four dared to gaze at him openly in envy, supposedly pettily glad in other’s misfortune, and the rest, upright bunch who saw how he did not impose himself on the fellows from the fishing boat, in moderate admiration, they did share the same belief, which caused some of them to shake their heads in shame.

    Fixated on finishing the transformation, a sharp rise in temperature that felt like the sun was in decent, made Zax instinctively turn his head around toward Selivereb’s direction and there he saw it!

    A fiery red colossal, four wings bird, resembling a ferocious emperor among storks. Being well over hundred meters tall and having a wingspan of almost twice its height, its casual flap of wings sent gales that hit Zax from kilometers away and stimulated his skin cells.

    ‘Peak three scales Deformed Being!’ His pupils contracted.

    Its exoskeleton had a flaming luster and in a more keen observation it was possible to see minute tongues of fire in between its wings’ feathers, which were ingeniously formed from the same boney substance as the rest of the exoskeleton.

    The Four Wings Stork flew in lightning speed, too fast for Zax to fully turn around to meet its apparent intent to assault.

    Zax figured that the Four Wings Stork is specifically after from the conduct of the passengers on both vessels. Whatever he did to bring on himself its wroth he could not tell, at the moment, or even had the time to speculate.

    Doubtful on how well he can do against the assault of a creature whose strength rivals Peak fifth level Martial Mortal, Zax dejectedly prepared for the worst.

    Getting stronger than he is, while in the Dark Titan Storm form, was impossible to achieve. Just transforming and holding the form was already extremely taxing.

    ‘Defend! Defend! Defend!’ Was his only choice, hoping that his back muscles will be able to withstand whatever the Four Wings Stork lay on him.

    Getting couple of hundreds meter above Zax, the Four Wings Stork swept four times as he circled the sky and fluctuations, which resonated on the same level as the dark attribute energy that generated the Dark Titan Strom form, erupted from all over.

    Four small incarnations of the Four Wings Stork’s body, constructed by fiery attribute worldly energy, emerged shooting toward Zax and leaving behind them trails of Inextinguishable orange flames.

    BOOM!

    BOOM!

    BOOM!

    BOOM!

    The four incarnations hit Zax in succession.

    The first incarnation caused his firm back to arch backward, leaving a scalding burn mark before dissipating.

    The second incarnation came right after, colliding with his shoulder, sending him spiraling uncontrollably downwards.

    The third incarnation successfully hit the very same shoulder while he was in spiral, resulting in accelerating his decent and scorching the already injured shoulder to the bone, incapacitating his entire upper left side.

    The fourth incarnation arrived just as he touched water, hitting his right biceps, but to Zax surprise, right before the explosion pushed him to the depths and the sea closed in on him, the incarnation materialized using the energy it was left, the fiery energy meant to further burn Zax, and soared to the sky, returning to the Four Wings Stork.

    Coughing mouthfuls of blood, Zax was not in the condition to wonder why he was spared from the full brunt of the fourth incarnation or why the Four Wings Stork ceased attacking. In the Dark Titan Storm form his senses were amplified several folds, but the body itself was still difficult to manage, especially its ability to recover or even just confine internal damage.

    Fiery attribute energy invade from his open wounds, making his inwards feel like they were battling with raging fire.

    ‘Not good!’ Zax exclaimed the instant he had a grip on his injuries. ‘The formation on the ship and boat was split to two designs’.

    When he was spiraling toward the sea he caught glimpse of the two vessels. The mantles above them reacted each time a shockwave from the impact with the four incarnations reached them. Their four wings birds shapes flocked to meet the destructive force in capitulation, and right when the shockwave was about to slam the two vessels, it avoided them, just as it did not affect the sea, and continued to spread while the experts onboard made sure the formations don’t deplete their energy.

    ‘The bottom part of the formation… Ell shapes…’ Zax came to a realization.

    Could it be there was not just one Peak Deformed Being, but two? One who roamed the sky and the other… That could explain why the Four Wings Stork was reserved with letting its incarnation touch the sea.

    ‘Flee! I must return to Selivereb!’ He mustered all the strength he had in the Dark Titan Storm from and converted it to speed, all the while feeling miserable that he haughtily entered the sea.

    Seeing that he is followed by the Four Wings Stork, Zax did not dare to go above the water surface.

    “Schree!” Four Wings Stork called in a deafening voice.

    ‘Bastard!’ Zax thought and tried to raise his speed. His body was in a terrible shape and the Dark Titan Storm form was slowly reducing in size, the result of him losing concentration on it and draining its dark attribute energy.

    “Roar!” A howl from somewhere in the sea blasted Zax from his course and its reverberating voice induced tsunami waves.

    ‘The other Peak three scales Deformed Being!’ Zax hurried to stabilize himself and resumed his escape, for once being happy he was not flying in top speed when he left Selivereb.

    It was hard to tell of it became aware of Zax the moment he was forced to the sea or after the Four Wings Stork call and honestly, to the one whose life was on the line, it also did not matter.

    An icy blue, three kilometers long Horned Eel, a ruthless overlord among all aquatic creatures. Apart from the three azure scales at the back of its neck, which signified that it reach adulthood, the rest of its body was covered by millions of bony dark blue scales and at each hundred meter point grew a twenty meters tall bony horn.

    The Horned Eel, much like the Four Wings Stork, pride itself as a three scale Deformed Being that in its adulthood surpassed the limit of the three scales Deformed Being, who rivaled a fourth level Martial Mortal, and was instead a match to a fifth level Martial Mortal.

    It was hundreds of kilometers away from Zax. To its eyes it was impossible to see the intruder, but its innate talent allowed it to detect currents of misused attribute energy in a radius that exceeded the range of e fifth level Martial Mortal’s Sublime Soul Sense!

    Zax rushed through the see, occasionally resurfacing for a brief moment. The Horned Eel was faster in sea than even the Four Wings Stork was in the sky, but its distance from Zax was still too far to pose an immediate threat. It could only use long range attack that neither were quicker than Zax’s reaction nor followed him outside the water surface.

    In such manner of trying to alternate between the threat of the Four Wings Stork and the Horned Eel, Zax tried to get to Selivereb with his life intact.

    By the time the Western Continent was in his field of view, the Horned Eel and Four Wings Stork unintended coordination cost Zax a severe back wound and two limbs, an arm and a leg.

    The Horned Eel unlocked its jaw, exposing teeth that could grind diamonds to dust. A light blue, round glow flickered in its mouth; at this point he could already see Zax and aim with his eyes.

    “Roar!”

    A light blue ray shot from the Horned Eel mouth. Its speed was unimaginable and its entire trajectory froze that instant it passed.

    Zax’s Soul Sense saw it coming and for a moment he sensed death looming over him.

    ‘UP! UP! UP!’ Zax ordered himself. He must get above water! Selivereb was also not far!

    BANG!

    The light blue ray hit Zax’s leg. It instantly turned to ice that spread at an alarming rate while shoving him forward.

    Zax struggled to bring his head above water, than shoulders, upper half of his torso and lastly his dantian, before the rest of him turned to ice and the icy attribute energy retreated.

    BOOM!

    His only choice to close to gap between him and the safe shores of the coast city was to detonate the dark attribute energy in his frozen lower body, even though he was not sure he wants to survive without his manhood.

    To lose half of his body was a nothing short than disastrous before his physique broke through the second realm of bodily cultivation. Now, though, as long as he did not have a grave open wound, his heart and brain were fine, and dantian damage not irreversible, given enough time, Zax could recover.

    Seeing their pray crossing the sea line to the coast city’s shores, the Horned Eel and Four Wings Stork finally withdrew, as though between them and the ruling forces of the Western Continent was an unwritten agreement.

    Zax drifted to shore.

    Seen by the bathers, his condition raised cries of shock and fear before a motorboat was dispatched to collect his mutilated corpse.

  3. #203
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    Book 8 – Element

    Chapter 5 – Robbed



    "Mm…" Zax moaned in pain, feeling as if his Master stomped his head with one of his tough hooves.

    Slowly opening his eyes. "Darkness? Night time?" His internal clock told him otherwise and his vision was blurry so he could not count on it.

    He expected it would take an instant for his eyes to adjust, but even after he could see pretty much nothing. It took another instant for him to spot the metallic surface centimeters from his face and even to his sides and probably beneath his back.

    “Where am I?” It was all too confusing.

    Wherever he was, it felt like a really small and cold chamber, but why was he there?

    The attacks from the Horned Eel and Four Wings Stork left remnants that invaded his body and soul even after escaping to the safe shores of Selivereb. Those remnants were comprised from icy attribute energy and fiery attribute energy and where much more difficult to deal with than a regular mist or soul attack.

    Protecting the soul was much more critical than healing the body or even postponing its decomposition, besides; it seemed to be the main target of the remnants. As such, Zax was forced to his Inner Panorama, without being able to afford and ounce of concentration on what happens to his body and its surrounding.

    Expelling the last remnant and feeling his body completely healed, he was finally able to wake up and after three instants, recall everything that happened before he got to where he currently is.

    “What!” The moment he released his Soul Sense Zax was struck dumb, perceiving every detail around, not knowing if he should laugh or cry.

    The small chamber he was in, which roughly met his dimensions, was actually a coffin shaped compartment of a fridge, and that fridge was located inside a freaking morgue!

    A sixty something old man and a thirty something woman where in the room the fridge was at, currently performing an autopsy on a young female corpse.

    Zax was at loss. The duo of forensic doctor and assistant were only first realm cultivators. The old man was in the Mist Master level and the young woman apparently just broke through the Core Breaker level. They seemed like decent people that did not deserve to be frightened to death by a supposedly dead man.

    ‘I should knock’. He picked his approach to the matter of how to leave this disturbing place.

    Making an effort to move his hand above his head inside the small compartment, Zax’s placid temperament abruptly changed and killing intent erupted in his entire person.

    BANG!

    He blasted the lid of the compartment with a punch.

    “Yaaaahhh!” The female assistant screamed, terrified by the loud sound that interrupted the peacefulness of hers and the old man’s work.

    The old man exhibited a more composed reaction, not shouting or jumping like his assistant, though it was quite fortunate that he operated on a dead person, since that cut he mistakenly made, which split the corpse in two, seemed kind of fatal...

    “Doctor!” The female assistant shouted and pointed when she tracked the trajectory of the bent lid that was deep embedded in the wall.

    Again, the doctor did not react as surprise, but when he saw the same unnerving scene as his assistant, he suddenly felt weak in his knees and his complexion whitened.

    A long, muscular, vigorous arm was held out from within the dead’s chamber. At one end of the arm was a clenched, steaming fist. The five fingers opened, grabbed the side of the compartment and pulled.

    As the metallic bed rolled out, the being on it was more perceived by their trembling souls than eyes, since its urge to slaughter emanated an unrestrained, stabbing like sensation even the most impervious person could not ignore.

    “Shalina!” The old doctor reached to grab his assistant before she fell, as her mind could not hold on to Zax’s imposing manner and she fainted.

    “Tsk!” Zax annoyingly viewed the two and seeing that the old doctor was at his limits, he grudgingly restrained some of his killing intent and picked up a white lab coat that was laying down on a chair.

    “Tell me”, his voice sounded hoarse yet very much resonating in the old doctor’s sea of consciousness. “Don’t dare to conceal a single thing of what happened to me and my belongings after I drifted to shore!”

    “Y- Yo- You are alive!” The old doctor said in shock, but noticing in Zax’s eyes the glint of desire to tear someone apart, he got back to his senses.

    “You-”

    “Explain from the beginning, hurry!” Zax barked.

    “Two weeks and two days ago, you were found on the central shore. The affluent bathers were very exasperated so the city’s police dumpe- brought you here. There was only the upper half of your body and you drifted from the sea, so it was assumed that you are a cultivator who improperly tried to cross the sea and got punished by the two Overlords”. Still holding his assistant, the old doctor did his best not to stutter and was very much motivated to pay attention to monitor his words by Zax’s intimidating gaze.

    ‘Two Overlords, the damned eel and nagging bird…’ Zax made a promise to himself to kill the two in revenge and snatch their Pure Cores the day he will have the strength.

    As for the way he was handled when they found him, he did not care. The old doctor had yet reached to the crucial info he wanted to know.

    “I was here more than two weeks?” He asked as part of a larger question, but also because he was inwardly astonished by how long it took him to recover.

    If two weeks and two days passed than this should be the span of time it took him to protect and treat his soul. His body should have healed sooner, though probably required at least a week, due to the devastating power that remained in it post his escape.

    “Yes, please don’t get offended. A colleague of mine, who is a researcher of the soul, came to investigate the state of your soul since I could not detect the slightest sign of life from your body, I personally asked him to make sure that there is nothing that can be done for you”.

    The old doctor tried to placate Zax and though he did invite over someone he knew to examine Zax’s soul, it was not out of concern, but for his curiosity toward a specimen that managed to stay half intact under the wrath of the two Overlords.

    "Then…" Zax stressed each syllable. "Why have I been kept here?" He got closer and closer to figuring the whole picture, whilst testing the old doctor's sincerity.

    "No, sir!" The old doctor hurried to point out in order to avoid a misunderstanding. "It was my decision to preserve your body… shortly after you were brought and assumed dead in both body and soul, we tried to find relatives for last arrangements. Regrettably, no one came forward, so I decided to give you a proper burial myself when I'll be done with my work". The old doctor wore a gloomy countenance. "It's all my old brain fault. Recent case of the city’s police required much of my expertise and attention that useless me inadvertently neglected all other responsibilities".

    "Oh…" Zax raised his chin, staring at the old doctor with gravitas. "So I was forgotten".

    "Yes, sir, you were, but definitely no disrespect was intended. On the contrary, it is to my relief that I did not attend you rashly. Who would have thought that you were actually recuperating? Absolutely remarkable, sir, may I say that I've never met a more exceptional bodily cultivator in all my years as an examiner!"

    The old doctor nudge his poor assistant to wake up, as support for his claims and to not keep offending this white coated menace. However, all is efforts were in vain. Zax's killing intent was not reducing in potency.

    "I understand now", his tranquil tone made the old doctor heave a deep sigh, "but, something still elude me". Zax's following words were like weights on the old doctor's heart, signifying that the interrogation is not over, yet. "You describe so much care that was given to, so much thoughtfulness for someone anonymous-"

    "Sir is a great expert! Though I abandoned my Martial path long ago, I felt obligated to express last respect for a senior Martial cultivator". The old doctor said, apparently deeply inspired by his own words, to the degree of even interrupting Zax.

    "Is that so", Zax ignored the old doctor's servility. Lifting his hand up, showing its back to the old doctor, he asked. "Why, then, was my hand severed and spatial rings stolen?!"

    Here it was, the cause for his rage. When he raised his hand to knock on the compartment's lid, he felt odd and instantly discovered two infuriating matters.

    By the looseness around two of his fingers, he found out his spatial rings were missing. As for his Blue Stone, he placed it his mouth and locked his jaw when he fled from the two Overlords, since it could not be safeguard in a spatial ring and his clothes were tattered. Although he was not sure if his jaw was pried open or unconsciously unlocked, he could still feel the Blue Stone down his throat.

    The second incensing matter was the discovery that the spatial rings were not simply pulled from his fingers, rather, the culprit who took them actually cut off his hand!

    "This…" From the moment he saw him stands, alive, the old doctor knew that he would not be able to avoid this question, which is why right from the beginning he meticulously chose his words, so when Zax's get or do not get the answer, he will perhaps not take his anger on him or his assistant.

    "Speak!" Zax barked, getting angrier by the second. His Soul Sense could not locate the spatial rings or his severe hands anywhere in its radius.

    "I'll be killed, my assistant too".

    "Later is better than now!"

    "Sir- Sir…"

    The old doctor quickly contemplated which devil he would rather deal with, and indeed the one whose presence was missing was a better trade off. Besides, he might not have a strong cultivation base, but he lived and traversed the Martial path long enough to prepare some contingencies for a rainy day.

    "Those… were the Dewgong family's Gadik's entourage. The Dewgong family runs the city mayor office; their patriarch is a Martial Mortal and the mayor of Monivore city. It is said that he has connections in the underworld of the Western Continent. Gadik is the second nephew of the Dewgong family patriarch. He handles the crime syndicate in Monivore city. When the police released the report of your case, Gadik personally came to view which item the expert who dodge complete annihilation by the two Overlords. He was delighted when he saw that you haven’t lost your spatial rings and was startled when he could not take them off due to the swelling of your fingers. It was one of his men who, eventually, cut your hands off". The old doctor concluded.

    Zax grimaced. He stored the three extra dark attribute’s essences and mountain of Splinters in the stolen spatial rings. Searching for them was not the problem. From what he detected so far there were only a handful number of structures in Monivore city with formations capable of thwarting his probing.

    ‘Treasures and fortune like mine won’t be easy to move without anyone noticing. Hopefully Gadik had them hidden in the city’.

    The incalculable value of the three dark attribute’s essences was the only thing that could make him feel assured that they are still in the city. Of course, he also wished to retrieve his Splinters. Those things were not just a currency; one could also use them to absorb the world’s energy. Though they could not help with bottlenecks, the amount of Splinters that he had was probably more or less sufficient to help someone cultivate mist energy till the third realm.

    ‘Combined with dark attribute energy, my Soul Sense can reach a radius of almost twenty kilometers. In this scope there are four places I can’t review, a warehouse, by the look of it the main police station of the city, a hillside villa and an apartment building’.

    To erect a formation that can block his Soul Sense, in Zax’s estimation only a Martial Mortal is capable of that, which means that behind each of these four structures there is a Martial Mortal, and who knows how many more structures like these situated in the city?

    “Where can I find the Dewgong family and Gadik?”

    “Sir, the Dewgong family’s estate is at the center of the city. It’s the only estate there, therefore you cannot miss it. As for Gadik’s whereabouts, please forgive me, this don’t know. His men are sent here on the rare occasion that an expert’s body arrives. Gadik himself comes only in the event when the said expert is suspected of being a deceased Martial Mortal”.

    Seeing that the old doctor had nothing more to add, Zax interest in him subsided. Locking in on his first target among the nearby structures, the police station, he suddenly vanished, kindly made his way out through the corridor and door of the small building that served as forensic science lab and temporary city’s morgue.

    When his figure disappeared from the old doctor’s eyes, the old man swayed on his feet, before grabbing hold of the table beside him and getting his balance back.

    "Luckily…” He said, wiping the sweat from his wrinkled forehead. “Luckily I did not mention by mistake the matter of the crematorium…”

  4. #204
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    Book 8 – Element

    Chapter 6 – White Coated Menace



    The law enforcement in Ercas Mir was divided to two branches.

    Local branches of law enforcement were the police force in cities and disciplinary bureau in clans. Both were composed by indigenous. The local branches were under the supervision of the governing groups of their cities and clans, and the one of the five powers that in sovereignty on the area.

    General branches of law enforcement were forces of the five powers, stationed alongside the local branches of cities and clans, who dealt with all things foreign, such as foreigner’s registration and crime. Prime examples are the checkpoints before entry to cities and clans.



    Zax strode imperiously into the five stories police station. His killing intent was suppressed, for now, but any officer he passed or approached him felt a sense of urgency far above what their pay grade was worth.

    It should be mentioned that be it local branches or general branches, nearly all of their officers were first realm cultivators between the Core Breaker and the Mist Lord levels.

    Although in comparison to New Earth, Ercas Mir was at the forefront of the Martial path; its ruling powers were still in short quantity of second realm experts to make them the standard of law enforcement.

    With that in mind, it should be understood why the moment Zax stepped inside the ground floor of the station building, silence filled the room.

    The air he exuded was an intentional sign of his strong soul and overall cultivation. Conversely, his weird white coat attire, in addition to being barefooted, caused the onlookers suspect the stability of his mind state.

    Ignoring the complicated gazes he received from men and women in Blessed Army and Monivore city law enforcement uniforms, his vision locked on a close by female cadet who stood motionlessly, hoping for a senior to come and help her break the imposing eye contact with this eccentric expert.

    “Take me to the Martial Mortal in charge here”. His voice was steady, not loud not quiet, with a hint of something irrefutable.

    This was the manner that separate realms, meaning only cultivators of the same caliber could hold an even conversation.

    “Martial Mortal…” The female cadet was stumped, the concept of her being familiar with any Martial Mortal the being qualified to attend his or her guests, was nothing short than ludicrous.

    Hearing him from the side, a graying, shoulder length haired female officer, cautiously and politely stepped in to interrupt.

    “Excuse me, sir, my name is Belli Ar, I am one of the sergeants over watching this shift. Monivore’s law enforcement is managed by Commissioner Du Jev”.

    Despite the backing the police station had and its entitlement to moderate behavior even from Peak Core Masters, when an expert walked in and conducted himself haughtily, all first realm officers were instructed not to affront him in any way, in order to avoid an incident.

    Belli Ar continued. “He currently out of office. Is there maybe something that I can do for you?”

    Zax averted his gaze to Belli Ar, “Gadik Dewgong, where can I find him?” He asked, restraining the infuriated coldness from emanating.

    Belli Ar was momentarily stunned, yet regained her composure quickly. “Sir, this is Monivore city’s police station. Yes, we have information on every resident of the city, but when the person in question is of the Dewgong family, then apologizes, our hands are tied in both means and authority to do anything. I can only refer you to the mayor’s office building”.

    “Hands are tied?” Zax was not entertained by the irony or convinced by Belli Ar’s sincerity.

    “Yes-”

    BOOM!

    Zax stomped, causing the entire five stories building to shake.

    Glowing, green pictograms appeared inside and outside the building, its protective formation.

    “When this city’s police reported the finding of a washed expert’s body and brought him over to the morgue adjacent to this station, someone, an officer, and I don’t care in what department, let Gadik Dewgong know about the matter”. As Zax spoke the dark attribute worldly energy in the air resonated with his soul, extending a minor pulse that jolted the sea of consciousness of the officers in the entire floor.

    Not just officers were affected. People who were also in the station, for whatever reason, suffered the same consequences.

    Fortunately, Zax did not aim to kill anyone, yet. He made sure to lower the frequency of the pulse so at most those below the Mist Master level would only lose consciousness.

    Belli Ar complexion was terrible. She certainly was aware of the washed expert report from couple of weeks ago. Such cases were uncommon and always were connected to cultivators only the Commissioner had jurisdiction to deal with.

    As for Zax’s claim relating to Gadik Dewgong, she was not oblivious to these detestable activities, either. Gadik had a number of indigenous officers in his pocket and to prevent them from doing his bidding was akin to a death sentence for any local officer.

    “Having nothing to say?” Zax was not a fool, guessing that Belli Ar had the same difficulties to answer him as the old doctor. Moreover, unlike in the morgue, here were many prying ears and eyes, which made it harder on Belli Ar to cooperate.

    “Fine then”. Zax sneered, willing to be reasonable. “This was my first stop, anyway”. That is, reasonable only toward those he deem innocent.

    BOOM!

    CRACK!

    CRACK!

    CRACK!

    Stomping again, he utilized dark attribute energy to precisely strike the protective formation of the police station.

    A Martial Mortal might have been the one who erected the formation, but his intentions were only to at most obstruct the probing and assaults of second level Core Masters.

    BANG!

    The formation shattered in a clear, breaking glass like sound.

    ‘Not here’. Zax gnashed his teeth. He did not believe that Gadik kept his spatial rings in the main police station or any other station, but since the place was close and he already came here…

    BOOM!

    He stomped again, to vent his anger, and without the protective formation, fissure started to form on the walls and ceiling, as well as a loud alarm to evacuate the building sounded.

    The apartment building was four blocks away and the second closer structure with protective formation.

    Zax headed there like a wild wind. Where he crossed in his flight, people on the ground had to grab hold of something to not be yanked off by the wind.

    Regarding the main police station… he could not identify Gadik’s people without wasting time, so he left there knowing and not caring that some of the officers sent calls for reinforcement from the Blessed Army.

    BOOM!

    All it took was one punch to bring down the apartment building’s protective formation.

    “Holy crap!”

    “Someone broke the Dim Lam building’s protective formation!”

    “Move, move! An expert is going on a rampage in the city!”

    Bystanders who noticed what is happening only after the protective formation collapsed, began to shout and scream in astonishment.

    The Dim Lam building’s occupants were the sons and daughters of high class personal. Although many people passed it every day, only selected few of the middle class could enter its lobby, and that also required certain circumstances.

    To see someone attacking it, many were excited, finding joy in the misfortune of the presumptuous scions.

    Naturally, there were those who saw it differently. Speculating that someone who is crazy enough to pick a fight with the families behind the Dim Lam building’s occupants; will surely not care about the rest of them common people.

    ‘Hm? Not there either’. Zax did not find the spatial rings.

    ‘There is another place’. As he proceeded to the third destination, the warehouse, his Soul Sense detected an underground dwelling, roughly eight meters beneath the surface. It was located in what he presumed to be a sketchy part of the city, as there were less charming building over there and the streets were far worse than Glorious Ground’s Penerwoodrem St.

    “Hey, you, stop!” Upon arriving to the warehouse, Zax discovered that it actually had an Advanced third level Core Master guarding it, a short, red haired thirty looking man.

    The guard saw Zax appear out of air past the property line, which meant that his cultivation was not high enough to keep up with the intruder, and he knew it. Yet, he still roared at Zax to halt as if he did not care if he was even a Martial Mortal.

    Zax turned a deaf ear to the guard. Clenching five fingers to a fist he threw a straight punch.

    BANG!

    The warehouse’s formation lit up, seeming superior to that of the apartment building and police station.

    The red haired guard stared in disbelief. He heard from his employer what it took to erect the protective formation around the warehouse and who its owner was. According to his employer, first level and even weak second level Martial Mortals would have to attack four to five times before stimulating the formation to the same degree as the white coated stranger’s single strike did.

    “STOP! STOP! Do you have any idea who owns this place?! That’s Dewgong family’s property!”

    BANG!

    Zax struck again.

    CRACK!

    CRACK!

    The formation was a blow away from collapsing.

    The red haired guard was anxious. The intruder was unfazed by the mentioning of the Dewgong family’s name, and if he could not use it to intimidate him, while using force was also out of the question, then he really was helpless.

    ‘Immediately send back up to the Dewgong warehouse! A Martial Mortal is about to break in!’ He transmitted via his communicator, whilst wondering if anyone beside the mayor and police Commissioner can block this white devil.

    Of course he did not count the experts from the Blessed Army, those in the Mercenary Association’s branch and other organizations that had a post in the city. The warehouse was a private property of the Dewgong family, why should others concern themselves with it?

    BOOM!

    The warehouse’s formation crumbled into sandy sparks of orange light.

    “Belong to the Dewgong family…” Zax said to himself and released his Soul Sense.



    Meanwhile, in the Dewgong family’s estate.

    “This is impossible! Where is the person in charge of the city’s morgue? Send immediate word find him and for all first to third generations to convene in the second floor’s Conference Room!” A plumped, yellow skinned woman, wearing a wide robe that looked like a collection of creamy robs, instructed the young attended on the other side of her desk.

    “Yes, ma’am”. The twenty something fellow, in striped suit, nodded repeatedly. He pressed a few times at his ear plugged communicator before repeating the plumped woman’s words and leaving the room.

    ‘You heard? Great! Return home now. Your uncle is also on his way. Yes, I know. There is no need to worry. The safety deposit box in the warehouse holds less than half the Splinters. The rest keep essentials far greater than money and so were emptied in just in case. More important are the other things… don’t forget to bring them. Your uncle couldn’t risk carry them on his person while meeting his contacts- don’t argue with me! I was informed that he is going around, destroying all structures with protective formations. Who knows if he already located your hideout and simply delaying? Anyway, come home!‘

    Veins bulged on the plumped woman face. She disconnected the conversation in her communicator and gracefully got up from her upholstered chair, heading to the room’s door and then the staircase in the middle of the floor, straight to the second floor’s Conference Room.



    The warehouse had eight storage units. In each was one safety deposit box resting on a metallic table, surrounded by four to five formations.

    “Come back!” Zax roared at the retreating guard.

    “P-please, I wasn’t r-running”. Sensing the wave of killing intent from Zax, the red haired guard froze in place, regretting not leaving sooner, when this crazy white coated was preoccupied with breaking the formation.

    “Which deposit boxes were opened in the last two and a half weeks?!” Zax extended his arm and pulled, utilizing his dark domain to drag the guard to him.

    The guard did not dare to resist and after a breath of time the gap between him closed as the latter’s hand gripped the collar of his shirt.

    “Exalted sir, my job is only to keep away trespassers. When someone from the Dewgong family arrives I never follow them in”.

    “Tsk!” Zax clicked his tongue and dropped the guard.

    Taking a step, he launched inside the warehouse.

    BOOM!

    BOOM!

    BOOM!



    It took him nearly ten blows to break the formations on the first safety deposit box and open it.

    ‘A spatial ring!’ Zax’s eyes shone, but soon he discovered that it was not one of his two spatial rings. Removing the soul seal on the ring he still examined it.

    “Nothing!” His blood boiled from anger.

    BOOM!

    BOOM!

    BOOM!

    BOOM!



    One safety deposit box after the other had its protective formation ruined and ripped open.

    In the fifth deposit box Zax finally found a spatial ring that was not empty. It was packed with around two and a quarter million Splinters, but it still was not either of his spatial rings.

    “Whoever you are, this is my Dewgong family’s property. Leave it at once!”

    As Zax got to the seventh deposit box he heard a voice and immense aura being directed at him from couple of hundred meters above the warehouse.

    BANG!

    Zax burst through the warehouse’s ceiling. “Your Dewgong family will soon be erased if my belonging won’t be returned to me!” He shouted back while flying to meet the figure waiting for him.

    It was a long bearded old man, wearing a blue robe with gold fish patterns and golden sandals. The fluctuations of his black aura indicated that it was mixed with dark attribute.

    “Threatening my family…” The old man face turned grim. He could not sense Zax’s mist cultivation, but he himself was an Intermediate second level Martial Mortal. By Zax’s odd attire he did not believe that he was a member of the five powers and among independent experts, the old man met very few with the skill to shake his resolve. “I’m Dewgong Deg, patriarch of the Dewgong family and mayor of Monivore city”.

    “Dewgong’s head and mayor…” Zax creased his brows. “Gadik, bring me to him and you may salvage the fate of your family”.

    “Uncouth villain, you intrude upon the law enforcement institute of my city, causing uproars around the city, destroying protective formations worth fortune and not shying from even targeting my Dewgong Deg’s property!” Mayor Deg said glowering. He was not oblivious to the issue between his second nephew and the young expert in front of him and was even aware of their fully story, but he was not a righteous man either, which is why, among other reasons, he has not given Zax a response to his demand. “Depart from Monivore city and I can forget your insolence. The Blessed Army also doesn’t have to get involved”.

    “Old man”, Zax fully unleashed his killing intent and dark domain. “The Blessed Army has no experts with the ability to beat me in this city. As for you, one last time, bring me to Gadik, or I don’t mind reviving old habits…”

  5. #205
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    Book 8 – Element

    Chapter 7 – Dewgong Family On A Lock Down


    “Conceited punk”, mayor Deg muttered, thinking hard how to manipulate this predicament.

    By basing Zax’s battle ability on the average fluctuations of dark attribute and potency of his killing intent, he did not fear him. Also, the lad was practically no one before he heard about him from his second nephew and met him now, therefore, at most, mayor Deg assessed that he should only be careful from the opponent’s remarkable recovery capability, which indicated that he was a bodily cultivator, that even the joint effort of the two Overlords failed to entirely exterminate.

    The real issue was not exposing the existent of the dark attribute’s essences. There were many eyes currently watching the confrontation between the two of them. Mayor Deg was afraid that should the experts behind those eyes will discover that the source of the strife is in his family possession and are three dark attribute’s essences, the likes of which have never been seen before, they might forget the rules of the city…

    At this time that mayor Deg contemplated his moves, Zax was counting in his heart. Going down from ten was enough time for the other party to comply, that was his bottom line, and afterwards, he will destroy all formation protected structures in the city and collect all spatial rings, regardless to whom they belong.

    ‘We can come into agreement’. Mayor Deg’s Sublime Soul Sense voiced in Zax’s sea of consciousness. ‘Gadik will return the Splinters, and the dark attribute’s essences, you will receive a fair price-’

    Before he could finish the sentence, mayor Deg’s pupils contracted. Sensing a spike in the fluctuations of dark attribute and that the opponent is ready to make a move, he raised his wrinkled hand, from his spatial ring retrieving a long double edge sword. About to change into countering posture, he realized that the thing he concentrated on was an afterimage and Zax…

    POUCHI!

    Like a spear head, Zax’s darkened hand punctured mayor Deg’s abdomen, the old man’s dantian in his grip. It was a blow that harnessed all the dark attribute energy he could muster without transforming. Mayor Deg was an Intermediate second level Martial Mortal and though Zax could beat him in an attrition war, to win swiftly and without wasting time he had to rely on the element of surprise and not hold back.

    “In-sane!” Mayor Deg stared in fright at the wriest which hand was buried in his stomach.

    “Channel a hint of mist energy and I’ll tear apart your dantian!” Zax warned upon reading the expression of mayor Deg and realizing his intentions.

    Mayor Deg stiffened, the look on his face turned ugly and blood trickled from the corners of his mouth.

    “You are the patriarch of your family; this is your one last opportunity. I want all back! Everything! Otherwise…”

    “You can’t. You have no idea with whom you are messing, boy! Ugh!” Mayor Deg growled and moaned painfully when Zax pressed his dantian with a bit of dark attribute energy. Still insisting, mayor Deg said. “Those I associate with all have an agreement between us. Should one die by the hand of an outsider, the rest of us will chase the murderer restlessly until they are caught and killed alongside the loved ones, alongside anyone they ever had sentiment toward-” Mayor Deg coughed blood, his words of warning only made Zax tighten his hold on his dantian.

    “I don’t care if you have the five powers behind-”

    “No! Not the five powers! We may not be as strong, but we are also not as fickle! My acquaintances will surely avenge-” Again, Zax’s dark attribute energy began to assault the old man’s internals.

    WHOOSH!

    Zax flew, maintaining his hold on mayor Deg, in a few seconds he made it to the mayor office building.

    “Look!”

    From the ground, residents of Monivore city felt a gust of rancorous wind blowing. Shifting the gazes up they met a sight that caused all their hearts to sink.

    “It’s mayor Deg!”

    A woman in a skirt suit alarmingly called, pointing with her finger. She worked in the mayor office building and though mayor Deg rarely showed himself, she instantly recognized him.

    “Who is that?!” Another person pointed at Zax. “Do something, mayor Deg is being wounded by that person!” He shouted at the two officers at the entrance to the mayor office building, but the duo was at loss. Is there something they can do against someone who subdued their almighty mayor? They quickly sent word through their communicators, asking for reinforcement.

    “Old man, if I won’t find my stuff here, your family’s estate is the next destination and whoever we will find there… I’m curious how many lives you are willing to bear losing before surrendering!” Zax said, prepared to punch.

    Mayor Deg powerlessly watched, always readying himself for Zax to lower his guard, always cautious not to stir him further and have his inwards ruined.

    BOOM!

    BOOM!

    BOOM!



    The defensive formation of the mayor office building was as tough as the warehouse’s and even more complicated. On each of the one hundred and four floors of the building was an emergency power sources to reignite the formation if anything were to happen to it.

    ‘No! No! No! No!’ Zax was vexed. He had to search in a hurry a section of the building every time the formation collapsed, yet he never found where his spatial rings were hidden, at the best, there were couple of experts in the building with their own spatial rings. They seemed to notice Zax probing. Some allowed him to examine them, though not the content of their spatial ring, as that was impossible without handing them over. Others were a little bit lest content and raised a mantle to obstruct the Soul Sense.

    “Listen to me well”, Zax spoke to those experts with spatial rings, but his voice reached all ears. “If you are in cahoots with Gadik or someone else from the Dewgong family, I suggest you submit yourselves now. The more aggrieved you make me feel, the more pain I’ll inflict!”

    Zax warned and turned to mayor Deg. “You were awfully obedient till now. Is it because that you are patiently waiting for someone to come and save, or were you buying time for your family?!” His words were like whip, lashing at mayor Deg’s pride.

    “So long as you don’t cross that line, an agreement can still be endorsed”. Mayor Deg said in a small voice. ‘Do you thing rampaging would help you finding their location?’ He sent via Sublime Soul Sense. Certain words could not be said out loud to avoid their hidden spectators from thinking too much.

    Zax tacitly ignored mayor Deg. He, too, was aware of the several experts spying on them and the kind of problems that can arouse should they get involved. The most worrisome aura was conveyed from the direction of the Mercenary Association’s branch. It was not weaker than mayor Deg’s and to make it worse, if there was an organization that knew better than the five powers what transpired in Demirva Ridge, than it would have been the Mercenary Association.

    The Dewgong family estate’s had no grand walls around it; only two acres of a lavish garden encompassing it and not one living soul could be seen outside the estate house.

    “By the time you will break it they will arrive”. Mayor Deg duly, indicating the protective formation of the estate.

    Zax measured the formation. Mayor Deg was saying the truth. “You’re right”. For the first time he spoke calmly, yet there was great meaning to his tone.

    BANG!

    He blasted mayor Deg’s internals and pulled out his arm, letting the pale and bleeding old man fall while trying to support his body with mist energy.

    “You will pay-” Mayor Deg gathered his strength to get up on his knees and look up after hitting the paved ground. He was willing to trade his life for the dark attribute’s essences, the prestige that his family will gain after those second and third to him would absorbed them will be worth it, as well as his legacy. However, when he spoke those dreadful words and stared at the white menace, he suddenly had a bad premonition. ‘The fluctuations of dark attribute… how can they still grow stronger?!’ He was sure that Zax’s bodily cultivation was higher than his mist cultivation, high enough to catch off guard someone of his caliber, but not enough to accumulate so much dark attribute, neither by mist nor by body.

    What little did mayor Deg know that Zax was actually stimulating the dark attribute worldly energy and that in fact it did not stem from him.

    Zax’s physique changed, transformed… Dark Titan Storm!

    “W-wait!” Mayor Deg cried hoarsely, for the first time weighting the worth of the trouble he permitted his second nephew to invite to the family.

    “If this strike will manage to pass through, blood will be shed”. Zax said as a statement irrefutable even by him. He planned to punch with his full force to break the formation and was not sure if after succeeding he will then be able to draw back the overwhelming dark attribute energy before it reaching the estate.



    Inside the Dewgong family estate.

    The plumped yellow woman sat at the top of a long table, to her left sat a woman around fifty years of age, with brown skin, combed black hair and slanted eyes. Also around the table was a group of forty or so suited men and women, averaging in age from late twenties to probably eighty or older, in case some of them were cultivators.

    “Great aunt Zoey”, a man sitting three seats from the plumped yellow woman turned to her in both urgency and respect. “The enemy is in the periphery of the estate’s formation, reports are coming that the patriarch was defeated. The guards in the observation point saying that the patriarch is severely wounded and the enemy flying above him, preparing to attack the formation”.

    “Great aunt Zoey, you and the patriarch summoned all of us here because of this person? Who is he? What enmity does he have with our Dewgong family?” A woman six seats from great aunt Zoey asked. She, like the rest of the kin around her, was told to come to the family estate and bring their families with them. Now, outside the second floor’s Conference Room, among the seven floors of the large estate, were nearly a thousand Dewgong direct line family members.

    At a seat besides the far edge of the table sat quietly a thirty looking man with short black hair and yellow complexion. The more he listened to everyone narrating the situation or trying to understand it, the more unpleasant his expression became.

    Great aunt Zoey had yet responded to anyone. Her gaze, as well as the gaze of the woman by her left, shifted from one another, to the people talking to them and lastly to the thirty looking man at the edge of the table.

    Finally…

    “You all heard about the reason for the embargo to the Eastern Continent… An independent cultivator tried to cross the sea on his own only to return with the two Overlords at his tail, eventually sending his mutilated body drifting to the central shore, and now no ship dares to leave the its harbor because the two Overlords are squabbling to relieve their anger”. Great aunt Zoey opened and related the matter the in fashion she dimmed right.

    Hearing her, everyone immediately settled down and perked their ears.

    “A friend of mine told me that his rivaling shipping company set out anyway”, a young man, probably first time at the Conference Room’s table, raised his arm, saying. “But the two Overlords were not paying heed to the cruise ship’s formations. In the end, everyone onboard, without exception, were killed by a stray shot of one of the Overlords and the ship itself came back to shore as wreckages”.

    Receiving a look of “I was not asking” from great aunt Zoey, the young man tacked his head between his shoulders and resumed his silence.

    “The expert’s body was brought to the city’s morgue. He was a Martial Mortal, according to eye witness report that was done by the family, so a member of the family”, great aunt Zoey barely reached a halt before a few sets of eyes turned to look at Gadik with newfound realization. “WENT TO COLLECT HIS BELONGING”, magnifying her voice with mist energy, all eyes returned to her. “The expert left two high quality spatial rings. One had an amount of Splinters four times greater than the entire family’s earnings in the past decade. The other…” From resonating, great aunt Zoey’s voice steadied and became entranced by the recalling memory. “Had inside three dark attribute’s essences, not like any other I or great uncle have seen before. Great uncle tried to absorbed one but not only it repelled him; it also gave him a feeling that should he attempt twice and force it, he will extremely suffer for it”.

    It was enough to mention the amount of splinters to make these prominent members of the family to make them shiver in their seats in disbelief. How could one person carry such a big fortune?

    But then great aunt Zoey introduced dark attribute’s essences which even he patriarch could not absorb! A mere dark attribute’s essence frightened the exalted patriarch? Was sort of notion was that?! Only when several of them thought hard did they suddenly remember certain news that reached them through highly classified channels…

    “Great aunt Zoey!” An elderly woman, around the oldest looking people in the table, barged into the conversation, struggling to contain her amazement.

    “Sui Xun!” Great aunt Zoey snapped at the elderly woman and the latter smacked her lips in response. “We suspect but did not confirm. Husband ordered to accept the three dark attribute’s essence as they are, a treasure without a past! Clear?!”

    “Yes!” Some responded verbally, others by nodding. Those who made the same assumption as Sui Xun understood best the risk of calamity and so somberly erased all thoughts related to the dark attribute’s essence, leaving them to the patriarch, great aunt Zoey and the woman sitting next to her to figure how to deal with them.

    “Is the person outside also know about them…?” An elderly man that sat next to Sui Xun gathered the resolve to ask.

    At the edge of the table the thirty looking man clenched his fists, to stop himself from shaking. “No”, he said before great aunt Zoey took the burden. “He is the expert whose body was ravaged by the two Overlords, the owner of the two spatial rings I took”.

  6. #206
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    Book 8 – Element

    Chapter 8 – Deal Or Not Deal



    BOOM!

    The formation laid in the garden erected a woodland mirage; its sources of energy were buried in forty eight key spots.

    When Zax’s fist hit the mirage the energy it discharged was absorbed into the vista of woodland.

    ‘Hm? Does it require more than brute force?’ Zax doubted, but the energy he unleashed seemed to just vanish in the mirage. ‘No, it sufficed’. His eyes shone in satisfaction as the effect of his blow begin to appear.

    The vegetation in the woodland grew and multiplied increasingly fast, as if in an effort to suppress something erupting from inside. Nevertheless, just as it continually grew anew, so did it even faster wither and die.

    Soon, seeds that spread in order to instantly become ginormous trees turned to ashes before feeling the earth.

    BANG!

    The woodland mirage exploded and a gooey, grayish wave with properties of dark attribute surged heading straight to the estate and several other directions.

    The gooey wave was an unforeseen byproduct of the combination of Zax’s dark attribute energy and the lavish garden, which was actually a complex formation. It consumed most of what was in its path whilst evaporating since its state was unsustainable.

    “No!” Mayor Deg shrieked when he saw the base of his family estate slowly sinking and the walls corroding. Inside, among servants and guards, were the core members of his family, roughly two thousand people that should have been protected from even a Beginner third level Martial Mortal!

    “Zoey, cousin Duvwen, block it!” He yelled his heart out!

    Two figures shot out of the Dewgong family estate, a plumped yellow woman and a brown skinned, black haired woman. The former's fluctuations gave the impression of an Intermediate first level Martial Mortal and the latter's of a Beginner second level Martial Mortal.

    Watching the progression of the gray wave and its corrosiveness, great aunt Zoey's complexion blenched. "Come and help us!" She shouted into the estate, ordering the guards as well as all capable family members. "Duvwen, start the formation. The rest of us will send you all our energy!" She asked the brown skinned slanted eyes woman, who right away retrieved from her spatial rings eight jet black metal rods and by applying her windy green aura to them erected a paper thin solid green blanket over the entire wave.

    "Support Duvwen!" Great aunt Zoey yelled and fiery red, complementary mist energy streamed from her to Duvwen.

    The guards and Dewgong family members at the first realm crowded behind windows and atop verandas, sending their mist energy, too. Those few family members in the second realm acted the same while the fewer among them who mastered flight techniques floated closer the nucleus of the formation, Duvwen.

    At first, the untied effort seemed to reach a standstill with the gray wave, but due to it evaporating faster than the Dewgong's forces lost energy, in brief moments they attainted the upper hands.

    Mayor Deg heaved a sigh of relief, for an instant forgetting the quiet Zax's presence.

    "Was I not clear?"

    The instant passed and mayor Deg shifted his gaze up in astonishment.

    "Since my strike passed, blood must flow". His words barely fell into mayor Deg's ears when the old man's hands and feet on the ground felt a sudden tremor.

    BOOM!

    The diminishing wave exploded and from within it dark beam of black light tore a hole in the Green Blanket formation.

    Duvwen first instinct was to fix the hole in the formation, but just as she set her mind on it, the tiny hole spread and grew in a spiraling motion, literally becoming a Black Hole. By using her body as the nucleus of the formation, she placed herself as part of it and so could not escape the influence of the Black Hole. The further along it spread across the Green Blanket formation the more chaotic her mist energy became in her dantian and mist channels.

    Those who previously shared their mist energy, although were not affected by the damage to the formation, now faced the peril of being swallowed by the black hole. Great aunt Zoey and the Core Masters next to her who can fly were better off, but most family members and practically all the guards were facing imminent catastrophe, not to mention the rest of the people inside the estate, should the black hole would be allowed to continue to spread.

    "Stop it! Inside the estate are thousands of people, only a fraction of which are cultivators! Will you massacre innocent people!" Mayor Deg confronted Zax, the black hole was an attack he never before seen, abundant with so much dark attribute it was incredible terrible!

    "I can't". Zax said nonchalantly, deciding in this moment not to squabble over who was at fault for birthing this upheaval. In all honestly he was inwardly astonished. He knew the swallowing, devouring nature of the dark attribute, he in his current attainment of it, he could not make it so strong. 'The illusory formation fueled it to a degree that broke it out of my control. To stop it now I'll have to do it forcefully, as an external entity or else it will only vanish after fully consuming this green formation'. Though he realized what needed to be done, the consequences of inaction were of no real concern to his despise of the Dewgong family.

    Dewgong family estate was gradually collapsing be the vibrations and pulling force of the black hole. Screams of fear and pain were echoing from inside while guards guided the retreat of all residents to the far side of the estate.

    "Zoey, stand back, cough! I'm going to terminate the formation, cough! I fear it's the only way to prevent it from destroying the estate, killing everyone inside". Duvwen believed that if she was not connected to the Green Blanket formation, she could have put to a halt the black hole, but it caught her unprepared and now she had to pay a price for something no one could predict.

    Great aunt Zoey was about to say something, but eventually refrained from interrupting the already steadfast Duvwen. "Draw back, protect the family!" She ordered the experts by her side.

    Retrieving a long sword with World Gathering Bone as its blade, Duvwen swung the long sword, hacking tens of thousands windy threads that were embroidered to her body, linking her mist channels to the Green Blanket formation.

    Slowly, Duvwen began to separate from the formation, however with each tens or so clipped threads her the disarray in her mist channels issued wisps of chaotic mist energy that further damaged her internals. At the point where less than five hundred threads remained, Duvwen could not prevent anymore the blood from surging up her throat.

    Finally, the last thread was cut off. With the last of her strength, Duvwen pointed the long sword's blade at the weakening Green Blanket and black hole. "Be gone!" She roared, spun and thrusted. A green light emanated from the sword, clashing with the black hole denting it. Then the spinning long sword descended, piercing precisely at the dented spot. Duvwen followed next, reaching down she grabbed the hilt of the sword while half of it came out the other side of the black hole. She released all her excess mist energy through the World Gathering Bone blade, in the process rupturing a few mist channels, yet augmented its sharpness several folds. A green wave extended, spinning at the same direction as the black hole, ripping it from its center.

    "Duvwen…" From the periphery of the Dewgong family estate, mayor Deg watched his cousin placing her life on the line for the sake of the family. A deep, meaningful expression surfaced on his face. "Duvwen!" He repeated, his countenance vicious, resolute, mulish. 'The dark attribute's essences mustn't be returned. Our losses will be the fee for procuring new horizon for the family's Martial path!' He was prepared to die if only to obstruct Zax for one calculated moment.

    Should Duvwen not come out of this ordeal alive, his wife, Dewgong family's great aunt Zoey, was another candidate for absorbing a dark attribute's essence once it has been refined. The family had more potential candidates in its reserves, but right now their cultivation was insufficient. Either way, today's sacrifice would only matter if his wife will manage to escape, preferable with the rest of the family or at least a few future prospects. Mayor Deg was confident that by then his acquaintances will reach Monivore city, giving his wife the opportunity to ensure an escape route. To further motivate his determination, mayor Deg recalled the identity of the person he found to refine the dark attribute's essences. Though the cost will be huge, that person was trustworthy, his wife will not need to fear him scamming her.

    "The protective formation is destroyed, your estate is in ruin, many of the people inside are critically injured, some dead and of your strongest experts one is incapacitated, not that it's matter, when the formation crumpled you lost your lost line of defense". Saying that, Zax released his Soul Sense, looking for his spatial rings first, then all and other fortune he might find inside.

    Mayor Deg knew that it is time for him to act. He was selfish, favoring himself over everyone, but he had a few exceptions… His wife and the cohesive fate of the family.

    "How cocky". A voice suddenly rung out of nowhere in his ears. Mayor Deg's heart tightened. Was Zax going to kill him before he had the chance to make his move? 'Wait, that's not his voice!'

    "Who?" Zax asked, he heard the voice, too, or rather; its resonance was aimed at him. Searching with his Soul Sense it was none of those inspecting from afar, actually, they also seemed perturbed.

    "You killed my cherished subordinate… Helev Hetra, then go and cause mayhem in an army's city. Sure, Monivore city is situated at the outskirt of the army's territory and the troops here are lesser in numbers and cultivation base than the troops stationed in most of our cities, but still… isn't your attitude a bit too rampant?" The voice settled and Zax felt immense pressure focusing on him.

    A brown beam shuttled the sky like a long lance. It flew fast, Zax barely caught a glimpse of it when it was already too close to evade.

    PUCHI!

    The lance beam penetrated his Dark Titan Storm form and embedded itself in his leg.

    "Eh!" Though it pierced through his leg, the lance beam's energy did not scatter violently inside him. Instead, it solidified and manifested a gravitational force that hindered Zax's movement of the wounded leg. 'My leg! If I would have cancelled the Dark Titan Storm form, this gravitational force would have torn my entire leg in an instant, probably afterwards pull my bones, flesh and blood!'

    "Still resisting?" The voice said indifferently. "Very well, not like you can escape". Finished speaking, another brown lance beam fell down from the sky.

    ‘Defend!’ Zax shouted inwardly, his mind perceived the incoming lance beam faster than his body was reacting. Throwing his arms up and crossing them, he felt a pinch when the edge of the lance beam made contact with his right forearm.

    PUCHI!

    The lance beam went through couple of centimeters before the dark attribute energy strengthening the arm obstructed its advancement. Nevertheless, the instant it went it, the lance beam solidified and again a gravitational force was imposed on Zax.

    Clenching his teeth, Zax did not even consider whom his opponent may be or at what cultivation he is at. He grabbed the lance beam stuck to his right forearm and drew it out, summoning all the strength he add in his left arm while also trying to push it with the dark attribute energy comprising the Dark Titan Storm form.

    “Grrr!” It was not the most painful experience he underwent, and his tolerance went up significantly after absorbing the dark attribute’s essence, however facing stronger challenges and adversaries would always introduce new thresholds to pass.

    “You succeeded”. The voice said with a bit of praise. “There are no mist fluctuations around you. Your source of power is solely your tempered physique and attainment in the dark attribute”. The voice got closer, arriving from above.

    He was robust, with orange hair, white skin and golden full beard. He towered at a height of one or two centimeters shorter than Zax’s and wore shining light blue armor, white pants and a long white cape.

    “Let’s see, the orders were to bring you back, but how about we make a deal? If you’ll succeed to pull the lance in your, leg I’d give you a one minute advantage to run away. However, if I’ll catch you, then I’ll count your escaping attempt as retaliation and disobedience against the army’s orders and kill you on the spot. What do you say?” Outwardly, the orange haired man gave the impression that he is placid, yet from his words and previous actions it was clear that he is holding great enmity toward Zax for killing Helev Hetra. “Go ahead and accept the deal, take ten seconds to pull the lance out”.

    ‘This guy is from the Blessed Army!’ Zax figured by the man’s uniform. ‘A third level… No! His attacks were casually made… A fourth level? Fifth level Martial Mortal?!’ After encountering two Deformed Beings equals to fifth level Martial Mortal, Zax got a taste of the disparity between him and someone at the Peak of mortality. He also was aware that he escaped the two Overlords only because they were vigilance from each other and did not stray from their respective zones.

    ‘Pulling out the lance from my leg… is that a joke?‘ Starting to feel miserable inside and that soon he will not be able to sustain the Dark Titan Storm form, Zax’s mind ran numerous scenarios for saving himself.

    Surrendering and being taken to the Blessed Army? His life might get saved, but his freedom would definitely be wrest away.

    Trading the knowledge of the existence of the dark attribute’s essences for a safe leave? The other party seemed bent on subduing him, furthermore, if by some dumb luck he will escape this hindrance, then it would be easier to deal with the Dewgong family than the Blessed Army, regardless of how strong he will become.

    Fighting? No. There were no residues of the brown lance beam that stuck to his forearm in his body, but the not so deep wound was not healing and he was still uncertain how fast it will take it in his regular form.

    Accepting the deal? ‘The lance in my leg did not just solidify in my body; it’s locked in space, the worldly earthly attribute? I won’t be able to pull it not matter what’.

    ‘Five seconds left. If you’ll succeed in one, you can add the remaining four to your escaping minute-” The orange haired man halted midsentence, his attention shifting to somewhere far away and he frowned.

    SLASH!

    When he heard the air splitting and the sound of liquid splashing, the orange haired man knew he missed something. Resuming his watch over Zax, his eyes squinted.

    He was back at his normal form, the lance beam still attached to his leg at the same place in space and his hands stained in blood.

    “You severed your leg! No loopholes, but for creativity you receive thirty two seconds, you better spend your time praying to whichever God who is out there, waiting on the dead”.

    Staring at the orange haired man and commemorating his face to his brain, Zax turned and sped into the far distance, all the while holding back his rage and repeating one word in his sea of consciousness…

    “Dammit! Dammit! DAMMIT!”

  7. #207
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    Book 8 – Element

    Chapter 9 – Between The Hammer And The Anvil


    Indignation, resentment, hate, an oath to return.

    Flying as a black streak above Monivore city, going as fast as he can, Zax frantically sought a thread of lifeline that he could use to escape while being consumed by turbulent emotions.

    No matter how far, to which direction and how many quick turns, he had the constant feeling that the orange haired man can stretch his hand and catch as easily as picking up an ant from the ground.

    Twenty five seconds left.

    After making up his mind Zax decided to leave the city, but when he reached its farthest border from the orange haired man, a beastly killing intent was radiating from afar, giving the impression that it will arrive Monivore city before his thirty seconds are up.

    ‘Who is that?!’ The killing intent was acute and malevolent, slightly superior to the orange haired man, not much below that of the two Overlords.

    Thinking up the answer as quickly as the question was raised in his mind, Zax guessed that if the approaching expert did not belong to one of the five powers, he or she was still definitely arriving because of him.

    ‘Two… Two adversaries!’ The peril he was in aroused the fresh memories of his experience in Demirva Ridge and then the even newer memories of his short journey on sea. ‘Two adversaries!’ The second time he repeated a flash of insight shone in his eyes and his state of mind submerged in hasty determination.

    ‘Entering the sea without proper arrangement will evoke the fury of the two Overlords!’ His idea was to set up the orange haired man and the other person approaching against the two Overlords, however, simply leaving the continent in the same manner he previously did will only be provoking death one too more times.



    ‘He sensed her killing intent, stopped and turned toward the harbors. Is he thinking that he can get away on a boat? Absurd, even if I’ll do nothing the Overlords’ disposition is off. They will not care for the protective formation… In this particular occurrence it would have been less stupid to just alternate between flying and swimming’. The orange haired man sneered at Zax’s behavior and continued to count down, now and then averting a more concentrated gaze at the incoming killing intent and changing his countenance from smugness to seriousness.



    Unlike the beaches, the harbors and ports were crowded by people and humanoid beast. Most where crew members of some ship, be they sailors or experts responsible for maintaining the ships’ protective formations, etc. others were docks’ workers and concerned city officials, there to discuss when the embargo will be lifted.

    ‘I knew it!’ Restraining the urge to cry in happiness, Zax kept a stiff expression while hovering above a harbor pecked with stocked crates, ready to be boarded the instant it will be safe to sail.

    He got there so fast, many of those who followed his exploits since creating a stir in the police station lost track of him, locating him again when he stopped above the city’s harbors while simultaneously being noticed those already there.



    “L- L- Liminton, it’s him!” The tanned youth, Bin Bin, burst into a small cabin aboard a large ship, breaking the door lock in the process.

    “Yaah!” A feminine shouted in surprise and a delicate figure, clearly a human, ran out of the cabin, covering her naked body with a female sailor uniforms!

    “Dammit, Bin Bin!” Liminton yelled, getting up, naked, from the one person bed. “I told you not to interrupt my, you shitty brat, do you think it’s easy to seduce those sailor girls and convince them they will not lose their job if they’ll bring a man to their quarters?!” As it so happened, Liminton the beast had no apprehensions from being with a human woman.

    “He is alive, Liminton!” Bin Bin ignored the scolding. “The one creating troubles in the city, he returned, alive! Here again!”

    “Returned? Who?” Liminton was confused, inwardly weighting the good some beating will do to the inconsiderate punk. Releasing his Sublime Soul Sense he got the answer before Bin Bin replied.

    “That guy from two weeks ago who-”

    “Idiot! Don’t you feel it?!” Liminton silenced him. “Out, get out!” He roared, grabbed Bin Bin by the collar of his shirt and pulled him after him, still naked.



    Dark attribute domain unleashed, spreading in concert with Soul Sense.

    ‘There they are!’ Zax noted the spots where the ships and boats protective formations were embedded. The formation relating to the Horned Eel was etched to either the keel or turbines of each vessel. The formation for the Four Wings Stork was engraved on the funnel or stitched to sails.

    Taking a step forward, Zax descended, appearing in front of a confused old bearded man and throwing his arm in a swift snatching motion. Retracting his arms and opening his closed hand, a coin with two sigils, each emanating an almost indiscernible fluctuations, was resting in his palm.

    ‘Back then, despite the protective formations, they were afraid of me boarding because I didn’t have this thing’. Zax now understood why although the crew on the fishing boat had the good intentions of warning him, they were hesitant of to allowing him on the boat. ‘I can feel similar fluctuation to those of the ships’ protective formation, but nothing further. It can’t even be drawn to a spatial ring… If I bet right, this will eventually only work in my favor, I guess…’ Finally he had the confidence to grin, even though rage brew in his stomach, even if by doing so the orange haired man will be forewarned.

    Sending repels through his dark attribute domain, Zax resumed his flight in high speed across the harbors and ports.

    BANG!

    BANG!

    BANG!



    Successive shattering sounds echoed from the pockets of every person that was within the radius of the dark domain.

    “Hey!”

    “What’s that?!”

    “My Voyage Charm!”

    Using his dark domain, Zax destroyed all the coins with the double sigils, all the Voyage Charms. Surprisingly they were more fragile than he anticipated and less or not at all protected than he thought they would be.

    'There aren't anymore'. He inspected all the humans, beasts and establishments near the harbors and shores and done so quickly, concentrating on so many Voyage Charms and destroying them in one go squandered almost ten seconds of his precious time.

    "Blessed Army", at last permitting his temper to erupt, Zax shouted, addressing the orange haired man and through him to the power behind him that circuitously contributed to today's loss. "For forcing me to run and threatening my life… I swear, such opportunity will not come to you again! Should I see any member of your power whose cultivation I can manage, with no exception and until I'm satisfied, all I'll kill!"

    His voice thundered in the ears of everyone in the city, that he could due to his physique alone, but to deepen the impression on the orange haired man and all the other adequate cultivators in the vicinity, especially the one which killing intent he could feel penetrating him from afar, he amplified each word and syllable with the dark attribute worldly energy.



    “Crazy! Someone is actually waging war on the Blessed Army?”

    “Stupid cultivator, does he has a death wish?”

    “Yeah, how many perished under the overwhelming strength of the Blessed Army or any of the other four powers?”

    “Well… He does seem strong”.

    “He is, but how many like him are within the ranks of the Blessed Army?”

    “I think it’s the guy that assaulted mayor Deg and made a mess in the city”.

    “Blast it! Is the city and all its residents going to become a warzone because some reckless guy is board to the point of challenging the strongest force on the continent?!”

    The ones conversing in agitation and mix feelings where the second realm experts and up who currently dwelled in Monivore city. Anyone below the second realm could not be anything but docile in front of the trace of pressure rooted in Zax’s voice. Yes, those second realm experts and up knew that Zax was not just run of the mill cultivator, probably not even among Martial Mortals, but to almost all humans and beasts in Ercas Mir the ridiculous notion of standing against any of the five powers was a pipe dream only someone delusional would have.

    In another place…

    "Liminton, my Voyage Charm is torn to pieces!" Bin Bin said alarmingly. "Wait, was it him, this mad fellow?!" The two were on the deck, Liminton in his humanoid form, just about the same height as he had been in his human form, but instead of skin he wore a coat of gray fur with silvery patterns. Two long, wiggling tails extended from his lower back and atop his neck was the head of a feline beast, the like of which never was seen in a place such as New Earth.

    Watching at Zax departing toward the sea, again, after finishing his speech, Liminton's mouth opened but no words came out in the first few seconds. "He is an Ascended Elite? No, the understanding required for such control over the attribute…!" His spoke solemnly, in a barely audible voice, before turning to his young companion. "Let's leave, Bin Bin, there is no point staying here".

    "What? Why? If take another route we might end up arriving late!"

    "Doesn't matter, if my prediction is correct, no boat or ship will set sail from Monivore city for a long time after today… We should find some other safe way to reach the Eastern Continent or take the risk of crossing it without a vessel after getting new Voyage Charms".

    "Crossing the sea by what, flying? No! No way! Without the protective formations, the sea Overlord will not sanction passing through the Emerald Cross, we will have to go around it, and unless you intend to carry and protect me at the chance we'll encounter Deformed Beings or get caught in a storm, there is no way in hell, and be certain that no God can make me, that I'll-"

    "Alright! Alright!" Liminton felt the veins in his head throbbing irritably. "I'll speak to the others and see what they suggest, just keep your mouth shut for a while".

    "Thank you, uncle Liminton, you're good sport!"

    "Please shut up…"



    "Impudent filth!" The orange haired man was aghast by Zax’s boldness and livid when he figured his ploy. This sort of behavior immediately turned the offer he imposed on Zax null. His aura flickered in earthly brown and he dashed after.

    “She accelerated”. He noted of the distant figure with the unbridled killing intent, aware that her previous moderate speed was out of deliberation because of him, but now that Zax came up with a probable escape, moreover exhibiting no reservation of making one of the five powers his enemy, she wholeheartedly invested herself in the purpose of her arrival.

    Ignoring her and searching the city for an intact Voyage Charm, the orange haired man grimaced.

    The Voyage Charms were not cheap or expensive and usually acknowledge the Fee of the Sea, because without purchasing and carrying them the Overlords would definitely attack anyone that enters they territory. Because the embargo and the proximity the two Overlords maintained to the content in the past several weeks, manufacturing of Voyage Charms was put on hold and already existing charms were those bought to be used before Zax riled the Overlords.

    Now, with these remaining charms being destroyed out of the blue, the manufacturing of even one would take about half a day, a time neither the orange haired man nor the murderous woman had to waste if they wish to catch Zax.



    He could tell they are on his tail even without using his Soul Sense, the orange haired man and another person. “Mm? These auras are of the so called ‘Overlords’”, Zax held an irreconcilable grudge against them, too.

    Changing flight direction, he bolted toward the area the cold and burning aura where at.

    SWISH!

    A tens of meters long lance flung from behind. Zax avoided it; the orange haired man was too far to make it a surprise attack. However, when the lance rammed the surface of the sea water, a gravitational force exploded, expending in a giant dome like range of influence and with a pull five times stronger than that of the orange haired man’s former lance attacks.

    ‘His speed is only slighter faster than mine, but his gravitational attacks diminish my speed by sixty to seventy percent, and it did not even hit!’ Cold sweat dripped down Zax’s back. ‘A woman, no! She is a beast! Violet Scaled Troops?’ He got an idea from where came this bent on killing woman. She had a mixed coat of yellow fur and pink feathers. Her head and entire structure looked humanoid yet Zax intuition told him that it is her animalistic form. She was tall, a bit more than him, and did not have tail. ‘An ape type beast?’ She appeared more refined than that. ‘Doesn’t matter, she is three times faster than him!‘ He knew he must reach close enough to the two Overlords and arouse their attention in hope his pursuers really do not have Voyage Charms and so they will clash with them.

    SWISH!

    SWISH!

    SWISH!

    Three more lances were hurled. The orange haired man urgently expended the range of his gravitational attack more than trying to hit the small and evasive Zax, otherwise he will get entangled with two adversaries he rather not ever meet.

    “What are you waiting for, Ulvi? You know what will happen if you keep linger behind”. The orange haired man shouted along with transmitting his words via Sublime Soul Sense to the yellow furred, pink feathered beast woman, Ulvil.

    ‘I can’t maintain my top speed in your Gravitational Prison, Debuk Jin, and though I have an account to settle with him, it is the Blessed Army which he threatened. He must have a Voyage Charm, if you don’t want to lose him, how about revealing your Crescent Limestone before it’s too late’. Ulvil responded unemotionally. As much as she wanted to catch Zax it was not her mistake that allowed him this opportunity to escape, but the orange haired man’s, Debuk Jin, desire for vengeance. She knew it because she felt the same way while receiving similar orders.



    “Schree!”

    “Roar!”

    The sky filled with scorching redness, the sea froze, becoming white ice.

    They were in a stalemate for weeks; such were the repercussions of every occurrence that brought them together.

    Three intruders breached their territory, one of which possessed their seal of approval yet not their sign of protection, although in their rage it was not of their concern what he had.



    Zax could sense the heat from above the crimson clouds and the cold beneath the frozen surface of the sea.

    Blue rays of light and red pillars of flame were in his way, colliding, shattering and issuing fiery and icy fluctuations.

    This catastrophic vista he needed to pass through in order to completely escape. ‘He stopped throwing his lances’. Zax felt himself gaining speed.

    Debuk Jin indeed stopped attacking and even chasing, Ulvi the same. They were too late and alert of the moment in which the Overlords will cease the assaults on one another and target them. Till then, while not straying too far from the continent, they kept their eyes fixated on Zax, watching whether he will be obliterated by the torrent of sky splitting, sea parting attacks, or live to come back another day.

  8. #208
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    Book 8 – Element

    Chapter 10 – The Sea Is Dangerous And Full Of Treasures



    Once Debuk Jin and Ulvi stopped chasing Zax, he paid them no further heed. All hates and enmities he strived to put to the side than let them foster and eat at him when he was too weak to act upon them. Besides, up ahead was a tempest of ice and fire, none of which was directed at him, but attacks spawned randomly in short intervals and wherever. Going around it was also not an option, basically meant returning to his lingering pursuers’ hands.

    A ball of flames the size of two storeys building shot past him, the heat radiating from it burnt the skin on Zax’s right side. ’That was too close; it looked like just an oversized fireball, but its temperature… The intent is much fiercer than when that bird came after me’.

    These were no longer attacks aim at a minuscule nuisance such as Zax was in the eyes of the two Overlords, no! The two top Deformed Beings were exhibiting the epitome of their caliber with the intent of validating their sovereignty over the domain of sky and sea. As for the repercussion on the planet, naturally, they each were aware and when one delivered an excessive strike onto the other’s turf, the latter nullified it before harm could be done.

    Zax channeled, little by little, dark attribute energy through his physique, to test the two Overlords’ response to his daring presence. Fortunately, they were disinterested in him, which elevated a portion of the stress. Without dark attribute energy magnifying his physical capabilities, passing through the tempest would have been impossible.

    Darting, he executed a set of bodily maneuvers. These were not the six sequences of six hundred and fifty bodily maneuvers Grandmaster Kartion created and his Master, Kartius, altered to fit his different physique, nor did they were Zax’s own take on said bodily maneuvers or the byproduct of bodily mastering he gained by practicing the bodily maneuvers.

    In this moment of dire straits, where his reliance on the dark attribute regarded each step forward as escaping certain death, Zax felt his sense of comfort growing by less moving with accordance to what he was taught by Grandmaster Kartion’s creation and more by following the natural flow of the worldly dark attribute energy. The result was the first attempt of formulating the initial set of dark attribute maneuvers.

    Sliding, kicking, swinging, flipping, ducking, stretching and more… It was not like letting your body carry with the wind, kinetically, the dark attribute had its own unique nature. Every move that Zax performed felt like being painfully yanked by a multidirectional suction force from one position to another.

    ‘It meant to devour, compress and devour?’ Zax reflected on the little bit he knew about the dark attribute. ‘Am I supposed to compress myself? How am I supposed to do that?!’

    Being the equivalent to a baby on this new frontier, advancement inevitable had to come in the appropriate pace. Moreover, Zax could not afford dividing his attention, the numerous worsening wounds he was receiving were the proof of that.

    ‘Concentrate, the other side of this tempest is within sight!’

    It was not a long journey to take, but it sure was laborious one. Eventually, Zax managed to come through as he got out of the tempest’s range and weakly fell to the sea and rose above water, floating to whichever the waves would take him until he will regain some strength.

    ‘Beneath blue sky, atop blue sea…’ It was nice for a change to not worry about facing death at every turn of the way. Lifting his head up and watching the hazard zone getting farther and farther he felt relived for coming up with the idea of the dark attribute maneuvers, even if it was in its diapers.

    ‘If Martial brother Raroen had not been rush, this is the state he should have waited to grasp, instead of choosing an incorrect path. Master and Grandmaster, when I come back home, hopefully, will profit from my insights. And with the help of the dark attribute’s essence…’ He finished the thought with a scowl.

    The injuries were bearable, but now that he was in the clear from all of those wanting to harm him, the feelings of embarrassment and indignation crept on him from the back of his mind, again forcing him to deal by pushing them aside.

    It should be noted that the heart of a cultivator could sprout emotions much more intensely and less fickly than that of a non cultivator's. It did not depend on age, but sole cultivation of the three aspects with which a cultivator's experiences manifest increasingly richly. Prime examples of the effects of a cultivator's heart typically seen in matters of love and hate. Though the differences between those at the Peak of the first realm and even those at the second realm and non cultivators are not that substantial, they are still there even in these stages. It is possible to examine through the lasting affection of cultivator companions and the extreme grudges of cultivator rivals, in comparison to similar situation relating to non cultivators.

    Indeed, Zax's current cultivation of the three aspects was disproportionate and his overall cultivation was still immature to be concerned with the consequences of rooting hatred. However, as he progresses on the Martial path he will someday have to arduously hone his heart to the state of rising above it or muster the dangerous resolve of following through his demoralizing feelings before they pollute him. Otherwise, should he succumb, recovering his serene and unwavering self will be costly, to say the least.

    'The Black Core is ahead of me by an undetermined distance… I wonder if tracking it will really get me to the Eastern Continent, or maybe an island along the way?' Zax was curious about the largest patch of land in Ercas Mir. In the Western Continent he barely covered the lower half, Selivereb, yet discovered the invaluable treasure that was God made dark attribute’s essence.

    Having used so much dark attribute energy and straining himself to stay alive, Zax closed his eyes. He was tired and to a level of measurement, safe. He fell asleep.



    ‘Is that?’ The sky was dark when he woke up. The period of his sleep has ended after a day and a half in which he allowed himself to indulge in the solace of good rest. ‘Wild Beasts?’

    The kind of creatures that were akin to non cultivator humans in beasts’ term were copiously swimming together or alone, deep or near the surface of the water, as far as his Soul Sense could explore.

    ‘Selivereb’s forests were mostly populated by Deformed Beings, maybe if I went to some of the tribes and clans I would have encountered Wild Beasts’. The sight of them brought back childhood’s memories of the first trip he took with his big sister Zetsa to Grandmaster Kartion’s cave.

    Breathing out, his body has fully recovered. Changing to a seated position atop the water, with the aid of dark attribute energy, Zax stared down and observed with all of his sense.

    ‘When in sea’, he realized by witnessing the abundance of life and beauty. ‘It is under the water where one should traverse’.

    Diving, he propelled himself, shrouded by dark attribute energy, enjoying the scenery while sticking to the direction of the Black Core,

    ‘In this speed I’m bound the reach land in less than a day’. He gauged when suddenly he thought of something. ‘I can’t really tell the exact whereabouts of the Black Core, not from this distance. It also could be that I’ll found it someplace in the sea!’ Being a land dweller he just assumed, at first, that the Black Core must be also on land. ‘But if it made its way from New Earth, it should have been carried by someone, though that person could have died while traveling in the sea… forget it. I’ll know when I’ll find it’.

    Time passed.

    As he approached the sea floor, Zax was exposed to all kinds of interesting things, which in the past he only got to perceive via his Soul Sense… Weirdly looking Deformed Being, and not weak ones, like near the surface of the water, two scales and even a few young three scales, which was very much amazing. In Selivereb, not including the Four Wings Stork, he never saw three scales Deformed Beings. Those few three scales Deformed Being kept to themselves, seemed quite apprehensive of their surrounding and not at all territorial like the one and two scale Deformed Beings. Unexpectedly Zax found deposits of Earth’s Cores, high quality ones at that. He did not pick them up, however. There were also a small number of sighting of attribute essences, mostly icy attribute and in the form of solid glaciers hiding in under water caverns. Of course, there was also the mundane kind of interesting things, aged sunken ships, mesmerizing gems and even extraordinary looking Wild Beasts and Deformed Being that would fetch quite the sum in certain markets.

    ‘Something wrong!’ A sense of crisis washed over the charm of the underwater world. ‘The currents are changing’. They were numerous and for the most part subtle. He drifted one or two of them for a while, for they contributed to his speed, but now he had a bad premonition that he should not get close to them. ‘I can break free from their pull with little effort, regardless how strong it is. This bad feeling is due to something else’. The currents of the sea, wild and forceful as they were, had their limits when someone equivalent to third realm expert was involved.

    BANG!

    Like an invisible water serpent, a wide current wiggled and whipped Zax, catching him unprepared and ripping the last shreds of white coat he was still wearing, now naked, again.

    “What!” He shouted in astonishment as he was tossed several hundred meters with a stinging pain in his arm. Stabilizing and looking for the truculent current, to examine what in it packed so much force, Zax’s eyes bulged from their sockets.

    Giant whirlpools emerged from nowhere. Disrupting his Soul Sense, he could only vaguely tell that the something that was in the current that struck him was also within the whirlpools in far greater magnitude.

    “Raow!”

    “Grour!”

    “Uoom!”

    Tumultuous voices of angry and scared creatures caused the seawater to vibrate from kilometers away and closer.

    ‘An expert!’ Zax discovered, as he had yet to decide what to do since the whirlpools were like a huge wall that stretched from north to south, from the bottom of the sea to what gave the impression of above the surface of the water.

    “Zuilong, it’s another eruption! Lead everyone as close to the Emerald Cross as possible”. A beast that emanated third realm undulations and looked like a purple winged dragon with four muscular limbs and the size of seventy, eighty meters, shouted. Following its orders, a gold megalodon of an aquatic beast swum past its. Its blue aura released a mantle and wrapped with it around twenty figures, humans and beasts alike.

    Same situation occurred in other places close to the wall of whirlpools, but were too far for Zax to be aware off.



    In a remote part of the sea…

    “I told you, Liminton, I told you! It’s either through the Emerald Cross or certain death!” A peevish Bin Bin clung as hard as he could to the gray fur of the fleeing Liminton. Alongside them were seven other humans and beast, familiar faces from Monivore city’s harbors, all escaping.

    Though they set out later, by having it easy, in contrast to Zax, the two and their companions were well into the wall of whirlpools when it abruptly erupted.

    “You all are bunch of idiots, dumbass, rotting brains!” Bin Bin cursed. “Who was that suggested to go through the Nidbuk Ocean? Saying it’s less dangerous?! Benni, you freaking moron, if we don’t enter the Emerald Cross it’s all the same!” Bin Bin berated and a blond haired man with bright bristles bit his lips and said nothing.

    “Please, someone, help me recall. Who was it that said the Gentic Belt is traversable? It’s just swirling water that we can suppress together?! Zenkai, Nirik Je, Hason, you three are perfect specimens of the Common halfwit!”

    A brown fox opened in discontent. “You are going too far, Bin Bin, crossing the Gentic Belt is doable, you saw it being done on the way, and it’s just our timing and luck-”

    “Haaalfwit!” Bin Bin responded dismissively.

    “Enough, Bin Bin, you agreed to follow and said nothing when we shelved the notion of a boat or a ship”. Liminton rebuked. Last thing he wanted is for their companion to gang up on his provocative junior.

    “I agreed because you and Enderta didn’t leave me any other option, so…”

    “So nothing! Otherwise, do you want us to bring up who was it that antagonized the Armored Squid for its ink when it was absconding, making come after us in the end, instead of listening to the rest of us when we had the opportunity to find refuge, like the other experts, till the Gentic Belt will settle down?”

    “Yeah, Liminton, remind us please who was the insubordinate punk”.

    “Do tell, Liminton”.

    “I wonder, too”.

    “It must be someone who deserves some good beating”.

    “Second that!”

    “Third that!”

    “Let’s just say we all agree to kick that ‘someone’ ***”.

    As everyone singled out Bin Bin because of his remark, Liminton felt for doing it to the youngest in the group who was also a sort of responsibility for him. “Well, Bin Bin, should we let things go or-”

    “That is an inequitable denunciation and I’m not going to entertain it with justification”.

    “…”

    “…”

    “…”

    “…”

    “…”

    “…”

    “…”

    “…”

  9. #209
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    Book 8 – Element

    Chapter 11 – The Five Oceans



    “Calling for tying and ignoring Bin Bin for the rest of the journey to the Eastern Continent, all who agree say ‘aye’!” Enderta, the Blood Claws Hound beast, peached in – though she did prefer to beat Bin Bin to unconsciousness and drag him by a rope, a very long rope.

    “Aye!”

    “Aye!”

    “Aye!”

    “Aye!”

    “Aye!”

    “Aye!”

    “Aye!”

    Even Liminton concurred, treating it as a compromise to the previously beating suggestion.

    “Nay!” Bin Bin yelled, thinking of retreat but remembered that he is currently hanging on Liminton for his dear life. Aggrieved, he sucked in a deep breath in shock, though it only was his own mist energy, and started shedding crocodile tears. “Uncle Liminton, I can’t believe that you will betray me, your ONLY nephew, like this. My heart is shattered to countless pieces. You might as well leave me here, to die by the terrible whirlpools of the Gentic Belt!”

    “Brat! You are the one holding me! Did your grip just tighten?!” Liminton turned red from embarrassment.

    Moments later…

    “Fine, treat me like I’m the problem. This is a warning for the next to speak the truth, don’t do it, else you want to become a poor martyr like myself”. Constricted by a formation and tied to a ten meters rope of seaweed that its opposite side wrapped around Liminton’s torso, Bin Bin shouted a constant flow of words.

    “When do you think he will notice”, a slandered male figure with a long flowing brown hair raised its head and looked back at Bin Bin while asking Liminton. “That Vars’s binding formation also blocks sound waves from leaking?”

    “At some point he will probably say something that he knows I can’t ignore. Then he will notice”. Liminton replied, grumping. “I told his parents that I will take care of him, but I never imagined you humans can be so difficult”. Shaking his head, he submissively resigned to the situation. “Never mind him, Zenkai, right now we have to make a decision, to return or proceed with the Gentic Belt’s currents to that place…”

    “I know. Actually, it’s why I slowed down to your pace. The protective formation is holding fine, but sooner or later it will collapse, it was not meant to sustain an eruption. Enderta and I convince the rest to head for that ‘place’; we don’t want to be late to the Eastern Continent. Since Bin Bin will ultimately follow your steps, I’m here to ask whether you want to join us or try your luck on a later date?”

    The whirlpools’ fluctuations intensified. They started to emit dark brown lightning that disintegrated everything they struck.

    “We are about to exit the Gentic Belt”. Liminton mentioned. “If the Overlords weren’t provoked…” He felt miserable for not stopping Zax when he first saw him heading to the sea.

    “If only they killed him, like we all thought they would, then their temper would have been appeased. Regrettably, that man’s luck was too amazing. I really wonder if he survived the second departure, I think those that chased after him were from the five powers”. Zenkai said, knowing exactly how Liminton feels. Back then he and his three companions were also laughing at the rush Zax.

    “We’ll go there. Besides, it’s been a while and the Horned Eel is preoccupied with the Four Wings Stork. Who knows? Maybe a detour through ‘there’ is a blessing in disguise…”

    “Well, I’m not sure about it, but maybe you are right”. Zenkai was not as certain as Liminton, but he agreed that with the Horned Eel out of the way, things at that place might play differently. “Still, all I want is a safe passage to the other side of the Gentic Belt”.



    ‘The whirlpools are drawn to this direction’. Zax followed the undulations in the water. Initially he thought the cause of them were the whirlpools, but after observing the situation for a little while, from a safe distance, he figured that the same something he sensed in the current that hit him and the whirlpools is merely a scrap of something bigger and far away.

    ‘Weird, the dark attribute worldly energy his getting suppressed’. He maintained his calm, though the realization that up ahead there is something or someone strong enough to annul his greatest source of strength was terrifying. If he did not see others advancing to the same direction, he would have probably looked for another way.

    ‘I need to pass this wall of whirlpools to go to where the third Black Core is’. That was the essential purpose of his journey. ‘If I can’t go through water, I should examine the conditions above it before risking myself at the unknown’. By now he had to have learned a thing or two…

    Ascending to the surface of the sea, in no time Zax saw beams of warm light piercing the water. ‘Clear sky?’ He sure was surprised, he thought the whirlpools were connected to some kind of storm.

    SPLASH!

    He came out of the sea, suspiciously hovering between it and the blue sky. Looking down and checking with his Soul Sense. ‘They are several hundred meters from here, but still there…’ The giant whirlpools continued to spin and block the passageway through the sea. ‘Why those who came from within’, he referred to the number of experts who showed up retreating from Gentic Belt after the eruption, ‘didn’t simply go above water?’

    Zax hesitated. In the air he still felt the attraction of the Black Core. He chose the sea just because it was a fascinating new world to explore on his way.

    He resumed his flight toward the Black Core in the air. ‘Below is too dangerous and the direction the whirlpools are going is taking me far from the Black Core. It’s sunny day, anyways’.

    In a few seconds he got above the rim of the Gentic Belt, passing above the first whirlpool. ‘Here, too?!’ He sensed it again, an unfamiliar type of energy, an invisible force in the empty space between the sky and sea. “Argh!” An indescribable pressure weighed down on him out of the blue. “Gravity…” Zax uttered through clenched teeth.

    BOOM!

    It pulled him to the sea, blasting the water in an explosion that surged tsunami waves.

    The pressure vanished inside the sea, but Zax was above a giant whirlpool when it pulled him.

    “Grrr!” Extracting all of his strength, Zax tried to get away from the violently swirling motion of the whirlpool. The water moved so fast that they bruised and even cut him.

    He attempted to change into his Dark Titan Storm form, but the suppression on the dark attribute disrupted the precise control he had to muster, just like it did to his Soul Sense, but he still had an alternative.

    Channeling the dark attribute worldly energy to his legs, combining the immense power gathered with the new maneuvers, Zax waited for the instant the whirlpool will carry him to its edge, all the while being cut and bruised by the invisible force mixed with the water.

    BANG!

    He released all the concentrated dark attribute energy in his legs through his fast, blasting himself out of the Gentic Belt.

    WHOOSH!

    BANG!

    BANG!

    He managed out, shuttling so fast he reached to a stop after crashing against a structure of rocks on the sea floor.

    Yet again, deep in the sea, confronted by the towering sight of giants whirlpools, Zax raised himself up, alarmed of what would have happened if the pressure pulled him down after getting farther from the rim of the Gentic Belt. Now he got why no one tried to cross the wall of whirlpools from above, and why everyone he saw resorted to following the undulations.

    Waiting for his wounds to heal. ‘It seems I must go in this direction’, he wondered how ships sail past this pressure without being affected.

    “Hey”, as Zax swum along the Gentic Belt he heard someone shouting from behind. “Hey, are you okay? You got tossed from the whirlpool back there”.

    Turning his head, Zax saw nine incoming figures, five humans and four beasts.

    “I’m fine-”

    “It’s you!” The same voice who was leading the group changed his tone; it was a long brown haired man, wearing an orange, yellowish chest armor made from the carcass of some Deformed Being. The man was Zenkai!

    “How can this be?!” Another person joined the flabbergasted Zenkai, a short black skinned, curly haired girl, Benni, and soon after the remaining seven as arrived.

    “You are?” Zax asked, confused by how the other party knows him. Of the nine he could sense that four were in the third realm, however, their exact cultivation concealed and this was not a trifling matter. The other five ranged from the Beginner to the Peak of the second realm.

    “Zenkai”, Zenkai introduced with a smile to avoid a misunderstanding. Even if Zax is the source of their trouble, it obviously was not done intentionally and picking up a fight with someone mad enough to antagonize the Overlords and the five powers was not someone he wanted for an enemy.

    “You are the one that angered the Overlords and got chased by members of the Blessed Army and Violet Scaled Troops, it’s inconvincible to see you alive, still!” Seeing the odd look on Zax’s face, Benni hurriedly return to the subject of introduction. “Forgive me, I’m ‘Benni’, these are…” She turned to introduce the rest. “Enderta, Vars, Shila, Zenkai, Nirik Je, Hason, Liminton and Bin Bin”.

    “Zax”. Zax said calmly. The group seemed to follow the undulation, as well, and though they appeared to hide something, he was curious of what they know about the wall of whirlpools, the invisible force and everything else regarding the sea.

    The seven who were couple of seconds late read the atmosphere, quite awkward.

    “As you may have understood we saw you both times you entered the Seer Don Ocean. We were waiting for our cruise ships to set sail when not a day after your first departure the Overlords went crazy”.

    ‘So that’s it’. Zax nodded. “Sorry if I caused you problems”. He could not blame the entire world for the Dewgong family’s and the orange haired Debuk Jin’s actions against him.

    “Can’t be helped now”. Zenkai waved his hand. “Besides, because of you the Horned Eel Overlord has left the Earthly Crater”.

    “Yes, weak cultivators and regular mortals might be pissed at you, but those with the strength to get to the Earthly Crater are most likely quite thankful”. Hason, the brown fox, said.

    As some started a conversation with Zax, other quietly scrutinized him.

    Liminton was one of those pissed at Zax despite the opportunity in the Earthly Crater. He created a rift between him and Bin Bin.

    Vals, the forth and weakest Martial Mortal in the group, also found Zax unsightly. The slanted blue eyes, short blond haired woman was not interested in the Earthly Crater in the least, unlike Liminton who had a small urged to go there now that the Horned Eel was away. Her desire was in the Eastern Continent.

    As he resumed his way after the undulations with Zenkai and the rest, Zax conversed with them, raising all the questions he wanted to ask.

    According to Benni, they were situated in the Seer Don Ocean, not far from its boundary actually. The Seer Don Ocean is one of the five oceans of Ercas Mir, one of three accessible from the Western Continent. It is the second most dangerous ocean among the three, but with sufficient preparation its dangers can be eliminate from the equation and it is the shortest one to cross by a vessel to the Eastern Continent, which is why ninety present of all cruises take place in it. The two other oceans encompassing the Western Continent are the Nidbuk Ocean and Down Ocean. The Nidbuk Ocean is the safest among the three; however it takes the longest to reach from it to the Eastern Continent. The Down Ocean is the biggest of the three, is at the opposite side of the Western Continent, and notorious for its treacherous waters, which sinks nine ninety percent of all the vessels trying to cross it, hence the name.

    Zenvir Ocean is Blue Sea’s turf, in the south part of the planet.

    Kuden Dar Ocean is in the north part of the planet, the only ocean, other than Zenvir Ocean, that is not ruled by the Horned Eel Overlord. Its sky, however, are said to be under the sovereignty of an Overlord Deformed Being from the Eastern Continent.

    The party of nine was stunned from all of Zax’s elementary questions that anyone who is strong enough to get to where he is should know the answers to, yet they refrained from pointing out his inexcusable ignorance. Who knows how many experts are out there in seclusion, waiting to come out and learn about the world they missed?

  10. #210
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    Book 8 – Element

    Chapter 12 – The Earthly Crater



    “This obstacle called the Gentic Belt”. Benni explained to Zax, “It encircles the planet, like a very long belt, and can only be safely crossed through the Emerald Cross, on an equipped vessel. Imagined it as the sole punch hole on this large belt”. The girl was very patient and the closeness she maintained to Zax signaled the development of a certain interest. “The buckle is where we’re heading, the Earthly Crater, there- Eh, look! The eruption is finally over”. She pointed at the wall of whirlpools that showed waning signs.

    “Everyone, the Gentic Belt resumes its calm, but since we already agreed and the Horned Eel’s absence makes it a rare occasion, I say that we should still proceed to the Earthly Crater”. For fairness Zenkai raised the matter up for a second vote, but no one seemed to change their mind.

    They were a tad reluctant to prolong their journey, but the last eruption was fresh in their minds, an experience that should decline from their heads before revisiting.

    “The ‘Earthly Crater’, is that the home of the Overlord eel?” Zax asked, would have halted if the others were not going even faster now that the Gentic Belt’s whirlpools were receding.

    “Its home? Did you honestly crawl from under a rook that you don’t know?” Vals was speechless, annoyingly comprehending to what degree Zax’s lack of knowledge is and the sort of troublesome situations they will get into if the will not part ways with him in the Earthly Crater. Without waiting for an answer she continued. “No! It’s not its home! It’s no one’s home. The Horned Eel takes to this place as if it’s its holly ground, but it will never obstruct entry to it, otherwise all the experts in the world will untie to retaliate against it. Like Benni said, the Earthly Crater is similar to a buckle for the Gentic Belt; it’s where the undulations, which are responsible for the belt itself, originate from”. Vals stopped talking. She would have continued to speak if it did not look that they reach their destination.

    ‘The Earthly Crater…’ Zax got an ounce of understanding the moment he laid eyes on it.

    It had a circumference of forty seven kilometers and was thirteen kilometers deep from the bottom of the sea, which left Zax stupefied and wondering whether it is a collapsed cave from New Earth that got sealed by rocks and sand or goes between the network of tunnels and caves?

    The number of experts, humans and beasts, and Deformed Beings was staggering – some were even land type!

    Some seemed to be meditating; others were encircling the crater from within. Actually, the Earthly Crater appeared to have inner rings in it, seven in total, and by their look they were made by some great external power.

    ‘The Horned Eel?’ Zax thought, post noticing that his Soul Sense cannot extend out of his body and the closer he gets to the crater his control on the dark attribute worldly energy weakening. Currently, approximately two hundred meters form the crater; he could only muster twenty seven percent of his full capacity. “The undulations here oppressing that naturel stableness of the dark attribute. Do any of you feel the same?” He wanted to know if it was just him, in such a case he would rather not risk relying exclusively on his tempered physique to cross the crater in one of its rings as he sees quite a few experts and Deformed Beings doing down below.

    “My fiery attribute feels the same. Enderta, why is that?” Hason asked. As it so happened, it was not just Zax’s first time in the Earthly Crater.

    “It’s not just your fiery and dark attributes, it’s all attributes and it affects everyone”. Nudging her hound muscular neck, she gestured at the crater. “It’s this thing fault... Somewhere in the unreachable center of the crater there is an earthly attribute’s source or essence, it’s all within speculation since not even a being such as the Horned Eel Overlord had managed to get there, that suppresses all attributes, including earthly, and even some long range soul and mist techniques”. She whipped her tails, trying to generate a purple electric charge with her mist energy and lightning attribute, yet what came out were several finger thick five meters long currents that turned her expression bleak. “See the severity to which my Lightning Tail has weakened? And we are merely at the outer perimeter of the crater”.

    “Right”, Liminton finally opened his mouth, for Bin Bin to pay attention there was no other way for him but to get involved. “The moment we get down to the initial ring we will be oppressed by a gravitational force, not as strong as that above the Gentic Belt, but one still hard to handle, for Core Masters, and it’s even worse in the succeeding rings, but if we came here seeking an opportunity, I supposed it doesn’t matter. The closer a cultivator is to the center of the greater the strain, but same are the benefits. It is especially so for those with keen perception, if they are in peaceful state of mind”. The last remark was for Bin Bin to not blow away any good fortune he might obtain because he did not want to come to the Earthly Crater to begin with.

    “Zax”, Zenkai took liberties to call him in a tone less inviting than he sounded thus far. “Please don’t take offence, but from here our group has personal stuff to attend to. As an apology to my rudeness I’ll share with you the rules of the Earthly Crater, so nothing out of order will occur to you”.

    Inwardly taken aback by Zenkai’s sudden change of attitude, Zax figured the group has business they do not want to share with him, which was completely reasonable. “I understand. We’ll part ways after you clear the rules for me”.

    Smiling apologetically, Zenkai opened straightforwardly. “Frankly, it’s quite simple. The seven rings inside the Earthly Crater, they said to be created by the Horned Eel when he stumbled upon this place. If you wish to cross the crater, the easiest way to do so is by going along the seventh ring, it’s the widest one but the earthly attribute strain and gravitational force are the least offensive there. Then again, since you’ve been through so much and are the main cause the Horned Eel isn’t here to limit us, you might as well follow the majority and try to gain some insight into your attribute. The oppression on the worldly attributes is very bizarre and yet fascinating. I don’t think you’ll find a second place like this that influences the worldly attributes on the entire planet. If you wish to mediate, just remember two crucial things. The ring closest to the center of the crater is the most dangerous to stay in, and generally the Horned Eel forbids third level Martial Mortals to go past the third ring. Now that it doesn’t here is a chance for those who can, to enter the second and maybe even the first ring, but you should stay alert of the Horned Eel’s progeny. It won’t permit them to properly mature; therefore the strongest of them are equal to fourth level Martial Mortal. On the other hand, they could also regard this rare chance as too important to bother with the likes of us, so they won’t necessarily attack, should you disobey the rules”.

    “Is that all?” Zax asked.

    “That is all”.

    “Alright, thank you”. He said and left, heading toward the seventh ring.

    “That was ugly of you, Zenkai, and more despicable of you, Vals!” After Zax departed, Benni stopped holding back and berated the two.

    “Stupid little girl, if you fell for this dark star, why won’t you go accompany him!” Vals shot back.

    “I didn’t fall for anyone, but maybe you did if it’s so hard for you to stay near him!”

    “Suffice!” Enderta Barked. “Benni, we don’t know him well enough to let him join our group, accept that!”

    “Little girl, are you listening now-”

    “You, too, Vals, do you think Zenkai, I or Liminton need us to whisper us what to do?!”

    “Enderta, I think the two had gotten the point”. Zenkai rested a hand on her shoulder. She let the matter go, and like everyone else averted her attention to the Earthly Crater, just as Zax entered the seventh ring. Well… almost like everyone.

    Bin Bin could not hold it back anymore, he tried to when they met Zax, Liminton warned him of the guy and he knew firsthand how crazy he can be… But he was ignored for far too long and in the end not once was he addressed.

    “The hell is wrong with you?!” He shouted at Zax, though not even those close to him could hear his voice. “A person is tied and getting dragged into the butt whole of the planet and you don’t have spare a glance or ask what’s wrong? Good riddance, you inhumane bastard!”



    ‘This is the seventh ring and it’s already roughly thirty percent of the gravitational force above the whirlpools, moreover I can narrowly control ten percent of the dark attribute worldly energy’. Zax grimly thought.

    He did not know how second realm experts were supposed to cross the crater along the seventh ring if he, a bodily cultivator whose physique broke through the second realm, is having troubles. Looking around he saw that he was right. No second realm expert was present inside the crater, at least not alone. They were either accompanied by two or more Martial Mortals or were in a group of no less than twenty Peak Core Masters. Together, they erected protective formations and those few Core Master who insisted on trying their luck gaining insights from the Earthly Crater, they remained at the outer perimeter, at a safe distance from where whirlpools might emerge in another eruption.

    ‘Third level Martial Mortals are my limit, and when my Dark Titan Storm wears off, my best efforts would mean nothing against them’. He noticed members of the five powers in the Earthly Crater. Possibly because this was the domain of the Horned Hill or perhaps because around were stronger cultivators, they were keeping to themselves. ‘Were they sent here to train after the two Overlords began to brawl?’ It was not that important for him to know, it is just that for a short moment he felt conflicted about the threat he made to Debuk. Killing members of the Blessed Army was not the issue, killing those he had no enmity with, were not blocking his way or doing something that goes against his principles… that, somewhat, felt wrong.

    He let out a breath composed of dark attribute energy that dispersed the instant it left his lips. He closed his eyes, sat down and began to figure what is so unique about the Earthly Crater.

    The world inside his sea of consciousness, beyond his Inner Panorama… The sea surrounding it was dark and black, clear from the frailest of ripples. Similarly was the sky over it, dark and black with not the tiniest clouds. The patch of land that was the Inner Panorama was the size of a continent, the entire flourishing flora that bloomed atop it was no longer part of the vicinity, replaced by dark ash that shimmered, reflecting the light shone it from within the dark sphere at the center of the land, the soul.

    ‘Since that day’, Zax reminisced to his rebirth by the dark attribute’s essence, ‘I was here only couple of times, preoccupied by learning about the dark attribute worldly energy. I knew that things change‘; he turned his head in his nude manifested form, looking at the dark sphere. ‘Most things, anyway, but… that was just a shallow observation’. He understood now that he entered his sea of consciousness with the intent to perceive the mystery of the Earthly Crater. ‘In comparison to a first level Martial Mortal’s soul, mine still inferior with its current cultivation, or it should have been. When I was enlightened about the dark attribute, its worldly energy merged with my soul, strengthening it exponentially and transforming my sea of consciousness in the process’.

    To a bystander, a soul expert who Zax would allow a view at his sea of consciousness, the scenery could be seen as solitary and cold despite its vastness. Zax, however, did not think so. To him, after wholeheartedly assimilating with this dark world, which he should have done long ago instead of relying too much on his body, the sensation he received progressed his connection to the worldly dark attribute an unexpected step further!

  11. #211
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    Book 8 – Element

    Chapter 13 – Galu The Violet Knight




    ‘Here is not good’. Zax shook his head while sitting and contemplating the two domineering features of the Earthly Crater, its gravitational force and oppressive influence on the other attributes. ‘The seventh ring is too far, from this location the secrets of the Earthly Crater are too intricate to fathom’.

    The problem was… each succeeding ring had a gravitational force twice as strong as the previous one. The seventh ring had thirty percent of the gravitational force above the Gentic Belt, each he could not revolt against, and the sixth had sixty percent of that.

    Exiting his sea of consciousness and getting up, Zax walked patiently to the next ring. Due to the circumference of the Earthly Crater, each of its rings had a width between one to two kilometers. As for the area past the first ring, the deepest point even the Horned Eel, a Peak existence in Ercas Mir, avoided, this was a zone no living being could approach, both because till now the Overlord of the sea forbade it and since if someone did manage to get there, there was not a record of he or she ever returning.

    There were roughly a hundred experts meditating in the Earthly Crater and only a fifth were Martial Mortal or could stand their ground as Peak Core Masters against first level Martial Mortals. By the time Zax got to the sixth ring he passed nearly all of those experts.

    Feeling the invisible weight pressing on him, Zax was at a risk of losing his footing as his left knee bent. He let out a breath and composed himself, instead of straightening up he allowed the motion to continue until he was back to a seated position.

    ‘The difference is mostly in the gravitational force’. Zax thought back in his sea of consciousness as he fully began to concentrate, through his soul, body and even recently unclogged Qi channels; detect whatever he could of the Earthly Crater’s mysterious environment.

    Time passed. A day, three days, eight days…

    ‘Hm? This is?’ On the eve of the ninth day, though Zax did not pay attention to the passage of time, after what seemed like countless flawed observations, a wisp of something alien that was difficult to put into words appeared, possibly drawn by a correct assessment and involuntary response, hovering above the Inner Panorama.

    Pondering for a while, a brilliant spark lit in Zax eyes. ‘This speck of brown light is and earthly attribute!’ It permeated his dark world like a foreign invader. The Inner Panorama trembled and the spherical soul emanated dark light that shone on the brown speck, trying to expel it.

    ‘Does Nature really not permit to assimilate more than one attribute?’ Zax wondered.

    He already knew that a cultivator could only have one attribute, even those who cultivated mist or Qi refinement techniques similar to his big sister Zetsa’s Radical Fiery Icy Provocation Qi refining technique, which doubled in both fire and ice, had to one day pick the attribute they had greater affinity toward. Nevertheless, it was still disappointing to naturally absorb an attribute essence and not being able to use it.

    The earthly brown spark exuded a repulsive force in an attempt to repeal the dark light. It sustained for half a second and then got evaporated.

    Zax watched the confrontation unfold with creased brows and kept standing with a pensive gaze when it was over. ‘Something strange’, he deduced from the short exchange between the two attributes, yet could not pinpoint what it was.

    He thought and thought and thought meticulously, but the matter was so obscure even an expert would have a headache.

    Finally giving up, Zax resumed the state of silent inspection of all his three aspects perceived, whilst waiting, hoping for another earthly speck to show up.

    Eleven days, twelve days, fourteen days…

    ‘A second speck!’ This time, on the fifteenth day, he saw it descending from the cloudless dark sky like a falling star. Its descent reaching to a halt above the ash ground of the Inner Panorama.

    The Inner Panorama trembled and the spherical soul released dark light as the same situation repeated.

    ‘I was right!’ Having a trace of an idea of what to looks for was better than staring without knowing what to except and it proved itself when Zax grasp a better understanding of the strange phenomenon. ‘The earthly speck, possibly all of the earthly attribute’s essence in the Earthly Crater… doesn’t originate in the crater, but being attracted here by something’.

    The manner in which it was attracted was essentially the basis for the existence of the Gentic Belt and the gravitational force above it. Zax figured it out due to a fleeting reaction, which he could not explain, the earthly speck had to his dark attribute.

    As for what that “Something” was? Since Soul Sense was useless here, unless he will get up and explore the Earthly Crater the old fashion way of walking on the feet and looking with the eyes, he will never find out.

    ‘Scrutinizing the specks of earthly attribute spawns better results than figuring the mystery of the Earthly Crater. On the other hand, I could sit here in the sixth ring for months, perhaps years, before I’ll truly know why the specks does nothing after entering my sea of consciousness and what connection is there between them and my dark attribute. Is it the same for those with earthly attribute? The specks could actually have the same response to all attributes and if that is the case, then my view will require rethinking…’

    He did not want to waste years meditating on something he was not sure that could help him. Yes, there is a high likelihood that the Horned Eel obtained the means to exceed its limit and attain a strength equal to the Peak of the third realm by stumbling upon the secrets of the Earthly Crater, but no one can confirm that said secrets will have the same beneficial effect on someone else, after all, the Horned Eel is a Deformed Being and prone to the icy attribute, both things which Zax has nothing in common with.

    ‘In any case, the fifth ring can accelerate for me the rate of the earthly specks appearances, or at least it should’. He made his mind to advance a ring once more.

    ‘Oh? This is an unfamiliar face…’

    ‘This person got her only recently and yet he already progressed to the fifth ring!’

    ‘His perception is that good? Maybe I should go exchange insights with him…?‘

    Various experts began to take note of Zax, however, this careful and calculated humans and beasts had been through a lot to err by carelessly voicing their thoughts among strangers, furthermore in this hostile environment.

    “Eh?! Did my imagination run wild a moment ago?!” A beast cultivator, pretty much looking like a seven storey tall elephant with eight legs, three trunks and four Ivory tusks, suddenly murmured out loud in complete stupefaction.

    His voiced attracted startled eyes to his position on the fourth ring, Zax’s included, as he was on his way to the fifth ring, preparing to tackle its gravitational force.

    “Galu… moved!” Out of the nine experts in the fourth ring a second one cried, almost sounding alarmed. Following his remark, not just the attention of experts in the midst of passing the Earthly Crater and meditation was aroused, but even the aquatic Deformed Beings, loitering around the crater, stopped and averted their gazes as if their understood Netherling.

    A statue like figure in the third ring, one of only two that occupied the third ring, in the form of a teenage girl, slightly shivered. Cracks appeared on the thin, purple membrane that wrapped the teenage girl. Broken it could not hold against the gravitational force of the third ring and collapsed in two shorts breaths.

    Her hair was black, long and flowing in disregard of the fierce gravitational force. She was naked, yet undisturbed by her revealing figure. She gently pushed with her legs and her body rose up, as if floating. Then, in a blink of an eye, a crimson dress with purple hue appeared on her black skin.

    Each of her actions, as unassuming as they were, intensified the jolt of surprise for most creatures in the Earthly Crater that seemed to know and name her “Galu”.

    “Excuse me”, Zax said to an aquatic beast type expert in his humanoid form, which had white and green oily skin, wide fins above the elbows and knees and protrusions atop his bald head. Despite being in the nude, his reproductive organs were unseen.

    The expert was concentrated on Galu as if she was his goddess. When Zax called him he seemed to awake from some sort of hypnotic state and abruptly raised his vigilance.

    Zax took a step back. “I only have a few questions. I’m sorry if I startled you”.

    “It wasn’t you”. The expert immediately refuted him. “You are new”. He recognized in a single glance.

    “Yes, you can say-”

    “Well, then what do you want? I’ve been in the sixth ring for eight decades. If you’re looking to share insights you better not disappoint me”. The aquatic expert said condescendingly, clearly was not paying attention when Zax began to stride for the fifth ring. That might have been his bestial temperament. He would not look around for troubles, but they come find him on their own, then he will certainly not back down.

    “I just wanted to ask you about her”. Zax gestured with his chin at Galu’s direction, not daring to rudely point at her. “What’s the deal with her? How come she isn’t exuding any fluctuation yet somehow able to resist the gravitational force of the third ring?”

    “Speak quietly, dammit. Have you not heard of Galu The Violet Knight? Even if she is in a good mood, it’s best to be docile when it concerns her…” The aquatic expert preferred to get away from Zax then furthering the conversation with him, but the latter was still curious.

    “You are stuck in the sixth ring for eighty years. I am in the Earthly Crater for half a month and about to cross to the fifth ring. If you answer my questions I don’t mind later discussing matters of enlightenment”.

    “Half a month? The fifth ring?” The aquatic expert felt like his long awaited opportunity at last presented itself and instead of embracing it he was discarding it for possibly the next person to come, or rather be approached by the new guy. “Wait”. He was slow, allowing Zax to initiate the threat of turning away. “Let’s talk over there”. He showed him a boulder on the sixth ring that will hide them from Galu’s field of view is she will turn around.

    “A thousand years ago she received the moniker ‘Galu The Violet Knight’ and was a third level Martial Mortal at the time. Nine hundred years ago she came to the Earthly Crater. Five hundred or more years ago she was said to reach the fourth Martial Mortal level and since then had been meditating in the third ring”. Saulalu, the aquatic expert as he casually introduced himself, gave Zax the short summery of Galu. “My guess, as to why the gravitational force of the third ring doesn’t affect her is that she finally broke through its limitation?”

    “Broke through?” Zax was confused. The gravitational force stemmed from the secret of the Earthly Crater, an external sort of power that had nothing to do with one’s Martial achievements.

    “She should be the eighth to make this breakthrough. First was the Horned Eel Overload, then four of the five leaders of the five powers. The sixth was the Peak expert of the Mercenary Association and seven was Debuk Jin of the Blessed Army. I heard his gravitation technique was the fruit of his labor and is loosely based on the gravitational force of the Earthly Crater”. Saulalu spoke with clear envy. All those he mentioned were far superior to him in both cultivation and insight.

    ‘Debuk Jin’. Zax frowned as he recalled the orange haired man. At the time he did not catch his name. “Does he have an orange hair and his gravitation technique employed through mist energy lances?”

    “And earthly attribute”. Saulalu corrected.

    ‘Debuk Jin’. He added a name to the face and compelled himself to put it aside. ‘Seven cultivators and a Deformed Being that don’t have so much in common supposedly all obtained something by contemplating in the Earthly Crater that allowed him to ignore its gravitational force. That means that the source of the gravitational force can be annulled regardless of the kind of attribute a cultivator has. Are the earthly specks also the same?’

    “What is she doing?!” Saulalu glanced from behind the boulder, wondering what Galu intend to do now that she broke through. Will she depart like the other before her, or head to the second ring when she will see that the Horned Eel is not here to drove her away?

    “He left, currently in a long conflict with the Four Wings Stork!” Someone decided to goad Galu by informing her. “That is why there is so many of us. We are all waiting for someone who is capable to withstand the gravitational force to take the leap no one ever dared!” The speaker was a short, husky elder. Not a new face to those at the Earthly Crater but a new arrival. By his manner of conduct others assumed to man was very conning and definitely had the capital to struggle against the gravitational force of the third ring long enough to reach the second ring.

    “Is that you, Olaf?” Galu smiled mildly. “You think I’m unaware, you shriveled old man? I attainted my breakthrough twenty nine years ago. Since then I decided to spend another century, waiting for the chance the sea Overlord give me an opportunity”. She said while taking the first light step toward the second ring.

    “Good, good, my black beauty”. Olaf poked with a smile, knowing he will rouse the bear.

    Galu’s ears perked up, a second step in a momentary halt before landing on the ground, preceding the third.

    “Nice, my black beauty, my violet beauty. Don’t flutter now. See, your reception committee is coming to greet you…”

  12. #212
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    Book 8 – Element

    Chapter 14 – I Know What It Is!



    Two icy blue streaks flashed from somewhere outside the Earthly Crater. They passed through the seventh to the fourth rings without a hint of slowing down. Crossing to the third ring, the gravitational force had finally become too strong for them to ignore, thus revealing their true forms.

    They were nearly two kilometers long and covered by an exoskeleton armor of bony dark blue scales. Just behind their giant heads, three additional azure scales adorned the back of their neck.

    Horned Eels!

    Some were aghast by the existence of more than one, others confused them with the renowned Overlord and the sharpest few had managed to catch a glimpse at the irregular defect in the third and smallest azure scale of each Horned Eel.

    “Roar!” The two Horned Eels launched at Galu with the obvious intent to kill, in the process demonstrating to all who had doubts that even if their Overlord is not around, they will abide his rule.

    “Can they keep grow with damaged scales in their neck?” Zax asked Saulalu. The latter was an Intermediate second level Martial Mortal, his eyes even enchanted with mist energy, could not compare to Zax’s. Nevertheless, it was not as if he was unaware of the condition of the Horned Eel Overlord’s progeny.

    “No, the sea Overlord saw to it so they’ll never dethrone it. That being said, you better not underestimate them. From things I heard and now see, their strength roughly equivalent an Advanced fourth level Martial Mortal. Galu broke through the fourth level merely half a millennia ago. Her hope to get to the second ring should rely solely on her attainments from the Earthly Crater”.

    “You also need to factor her resistance to the gravitational force”. Zax reminded Saulalu.

    In this field of battle, close combat was typically the only method of fighting, at least for those restricted by the gravitational force.

    “Overgrown warms, your daddy is not here, yet you still have the audacity to act up?” Galu turned around, to meet the two Horned Eels. The second ring just tens of meters from her.

    She raised her right arm with opened hand and five stretched fingers as if it was a sniper. “Let’s see, if this won’t affect you, then I’m in trouble. For some reason, though, I’m feeling confident”.

    Purple aura erupted from within her body and swayed like a violet lightning, validating that she is not limited anymore by the gravitational force. Swinging her arm, violet electric jolt crackled from the palm of her hand. “I remember that Debuk Jin came up with lances. For me, I discovered something else”. Purple whip materialized in her grip.

    SWISH!

    SWISH!

    She flogged at the quicker of the incoming Horned Eels.

    BOOM!

    BOOM!

    BOOM!



    A series of explosions resounded like the rumble of apocalyptic thunders storm before the whip even hit. Each explosion released pulses of lightning and created distortions in the sea.

    The Horned Eel perceived the tip of the whip instant before it reached the space between his eyes. In terms of cultivation, Galu may not be his match, but as far as speed goes there was probably no one currently in the crater that could rival her.

    BANG!

    The Horned Eel rammed the lightning whip and then howled in pain as a huge, bloody gash engraved on its head. The pain was excruciating, paralyzing even. The attack discharged from the whip breached through all of its defenses and sent shocking current to its every cell whenever it attempted to move.

    The second Horned Eel saw its companion being severely damaged and got angrier. Its Overlord rubbed them from their true potential as three scales Deformed Beings and their shared miserable fate created an unbreakable bond between.

    “Roar!” In its rage it gotten faster, more ferocious, but alas, the whip once again proved to be unparalleled in terms of speed.

    BANG!

    The collision resonated and each human, beast and Deformed Being in the crater felt a minuscule portion of the pain the two Horned Eels suffered.

    “Tsk!” Despite thing looking in her favor, Galu was unsatisfied. ‘The real purpose of this Fervid Lash is to attack the soul. Against Deformed Being its strength is lessen by thirty to fifty percent’. She dispersed the residues of electric aura, which without her support crumbled in the face of the third ring’s gravitational force. ‘If they weren’t constrained by the battlefield… Could I have still won?’ She turned and continued to close the gap to the second ring.

    Eventually, in the short span of two seconds the Horned Eels recovered, but by then Galu had made the last step to the second ring.

    “Ha! Ha!” Two charming syllables escaped Galu’s mouth the instant she crossed. Her countenance looked almost entranced. She did not advance another step after the initial in, simply retained a standing position and with a giddy smile closed her eyes.

    ‘She made it!’

    ‘It’s… She’s… the first to ever reach the second ring’s region after the Horned Eel?’

    ‘Is that it?’

    ‘Why isn’t she moving? It doesn’t seem like she is resisting the gravitational force of the second ring?’

    ‘No matter one, this is my chance!‘

    The first to follow Galu to the second ring was none other than the second figure who was meditating in the third ring; an ancient looking woman with long gray hair, donning a set of robes. Standing up, she supported her weight holding a cane that seemed to be curved out of some special wood. “Respect the elderly”. She said, talking to herself, but her voice traveled to all the eager ones wanting to reach the second ring, filling them a sense of dread.

    After her, Olaf was the next to follow, subsequent by eight more experts and a Deformed Being the size of a mouse and with the frame of a four legged beast, that up until now remained very inconspicuous.

    The Horned Eels were infuriated, but failing to stop one lawbreaker was akin for their Overlord to failing to stop all of them. Their option to survive the wraith of their Overlord was to either by pleading for mercy or escaping to one of the oceans that is not under his sovereignty, and so they left.



    “They all just stand there”. Zax said. “Their expression enthralled, are they having enlightenment at the same time?”

    “We cannot join them, so forget it and focus on our agreement”. Saulalu demanded, though he could not help himself and stole envious glances at the twelve.

    “You are right”. Zax conceded. “I haven’t really had enlightenment; I can tell you my speculations but you’ll have to also pitch in”.

    “No enlightenment?” Saulalu repeated, disheartened. “You sure that you can move to the fifth ring? It’s not just stronger gravitational force there. If your understanding of your attribute is insufficient, the earthly attribute gathered there will generate soul attacks”.

    ‘So it’s more complicated than physically enduring the gravitational force…’ Zax thought. “I can manage”. He replied. After assimilating wholly with his evolved sea of consciousness and Inner Panorama he wagered that his soul, that was already unique to begin with, will contend well now against the soul attacks of weak third level Martial Mortal, and did not even have to transform!

    “It’s your business, so I won’t raise subjects relating to survival anymore”. It was fine with Saulalu to get right to the insights exchange.

    And so Zax divulged his entire experiences of two mediation sessions, in between sentence allowing Saulalu moments of contemplation.

    “I’m not sure what you mean by ‘earthly specks’, also, I neither heard about experts naturally collecting earthly attribute’s essence. Earthly attribute’s essence is probably the scarcest in Ercas Mir, if experts thought that they can obtain it by sitting on their asses in their crater, this place would have been by the thousands, perhaps more! I recommend you to keep this information to yourself, the sea Overlord will not accept this level of invasion and the world experts will not agree to let him hog the crater for himself anymore. This could lead to a war I know I don’t want to be responsible for”. Having cultivated in the Earthly Crater for close to a century, Saulalu had preferred to maintain his peaceful life of chasing after the secrets of the crater.

    “Who will believe it if I’m the only one absorbing earthly attribute’s essence?” Zax said to assure him.

    “Truth be told, I, too, have doubts about your claims”. Saulalu sure was fine with being direct.

    “Back to what you first said… are you saying that your attribute doesn’t react at all to the worldly earthly attribute?” In a sense, Zax’s dark attribute also did not react to the worldly earthly attribute energy, but to the essence manifested by its abundance accumulation in the crater. Nevertheless, he wanted to cover all corners.

    “It doesn’t. Like you, I sense that the crater is special. Many years ago I concluded that there is something drawing the earthly attribute here, and that ‘something’ also supported the advancement of the handful experts that are no longer affected by the gravitational force. That’s not all; thirty two years ago I’ve had an insight that eluded you in your short time here”.

    “Pray tell”. An insight he had yet to make… Zax yearned for a profound understanding in whatever that can make him stronger.

    “The gravitational force is originating from the peculiar ‘something’ hidden in the crater”.

    “I know”.

    “Yes, but you still missed a crucial thing”, Saulalu mocked inwardly the brat who is not even a month in the Earthly Crater. ‘Such arrogance was typical to young human experts’; having known this he figured Zax’s age, as well as the brat’s concealed scary potential. “Did you know, ‘mass’ is the nature of the earthly attribute and ‘gravity’ is a property of it”. Recognizing the nature of an attribute was a piece of information that was not easy to come about unless one has adequate understanding. Saulala did not have this kind of understanding in regards to his own attribute, much less the earthly, but sometimes one stumbles upon the fortune of learning from someone else.

    Comprehending Saulalu’s statement, Zax’s heart palpitated before the former had enough speaking. Whether it was useful or not, discovering the nature of a personal attribute required painstaking years of deliberation and luck. Zax had the amount of luck to compensate for the deficiency in the first prerequisite. To be told the nature of an attribute he had zero affinity toward, though it was not the same as understanding it with by his own efforts, could still contribute to his cogitation.

    “It’s not easy to encounter, much less produce, but I lived long and met many types of cultivators and so, when Debuk Jin made his breakthrough and demonstrated here his gravitation attack, I was around to witness it. Though I made the distinction centuries late, the sense I got from his attack was both different and familiar to the crater’s gravitational force”.

    “In what way?” Zax asked while reviewing in his head the memories of the earthly specks.

    “This… I’m not sure”. Saulalu confessed. “It’s not something that I only detected. I discussed it in several insights exchanges, but the topic remained obscure. Besides, half the complexity of the problem arise from an attribute that is not my own, or yours. Great quantity of earthly attribute’s essence could help get closer to solving it, but we talked about it…”

    Minutes of quietness elapsed as the two reflected on the exchange and what more they could share that could benefit both.

    ‘If not in the fifth, then possibly in the fourth there will be the amount of earthly attribute’s essence that I could make us of’. Zax found no other solution.

    “I’ll be going to the fifth ring, then”. Stepping stone had no need for words of farewell, and that is what the experts in insights exchange were to one another. Saulalu did not bother to say anything, anyways.



    ‘The gravitational force should be ninety percent of what above the Gentic Belt’. Zax was sure to remember. ‘I could do nothing then… ninety or one hundred don’t make such a difference. Then again, the terrain, the solid ground beneath my feet can be used as the supporting platform to carry my weight’.

    He raised his left leg and shifted it forward, to the region of the fifth ring, when a spark of insight struck him…

    ‘I know what it is!’

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    Book 8 – Element

    Chapter 15 – A Stride Toward Evolution



    A wave of overwhelming excitement, with only a tinge of reservation, surged in Zax.

    ‘There is a high probability that I’m correct! I must confirm’. To do so he had to proceed as close as he could to the center of the Earthly Crater. At the moment it was still too much for him just in terms of dealing with the gravitational force, so he resorted to what can be done now and advanced the last step to the fifth ring.

    “Arhg!” Zax clenched his teeth as his back bent forward and his arms nearly reached to block to fall to the ground. Breathing heavily he slowly raised his back up, stabilizing his stance with his hands grabbing and supporting the knees. ’I can’t use the Dark Titan storm in the vicinity of the crater, but I can operate it inside my body’. He stopped relying on his bodily strength, the moment he channeled the dark attribute energy accumulated in him – a tiny portion of it was unexpectedly generated from his sea of consciousness – he felt light as a feather.

    “Mmm…” He uttered in discomfort. ‘The increased attraction of the earthly attribute turned it violent. Its attacks on the soul can’t harm me, but they do interrupt my concentration’.

    He sat down on his own leisure, manifesting in his sea of consciousness. ‘A soul defense will allow me the freedom of meditating peacefully’. It was an obvious solution to the unceasing soul attacks and a simple one at that.

    His intent was not to make it a complex soul formation, he preferred to not waste time when his soul and dark attribute energies were practically one at the same after the assimilation. Hence, he was very capable of fending off the soul attacks with an easy to erect defense.

    ‘It probably won’t hold in the fourth ring, and without transforming I’m not sure my body will hold, either. I’ll meditate up to two months and choose to stay or leave depend on my accomplishments. At the latest I’ll recommence the search for the third Black Core after being here for three months. I rather not test how long the Horned Eel Overlord plan to prolong its absentness‘.

    With that Zax completed his preparation and refocused on proving his hypothesis.

    ‘The specks of earthly attribute’s essence gathered faster in the fifth ring’. In less than a day the first speck descended to his sea of consciousness, following which it was eliminated by the dark light. ‘The dark light emanating from my soul is triggered by the presence of the earthly specks’, he tried to delay it, but found it extremely rigorous on his soul. ‘Why? Is it really because of Nature’s rules or…’ He could not negate the possibility that it opposed the earthly specks them from turning from unassuming phenomenon to a source of harm. ‘Two are all I need’. He compromised, though it was meaningless for making the dark light less hindering.

    Two days later two specks were floating next to each other above the black desert that the Inner Panorama became.

    ‘Good’. Zax was relieved, the dark light was contained. Calmly, he examined the specks. ‘They repel using a gravitational field, yet not affect one another and remain in the same fixed position’ He squinted, despite the action being useless when done in his sea of consciousness. ‘Swallow’. He initiated the devouring nature of his dark attribute.

    The earthly specks shivered and then began to move in a very slow pace toward the not so far point where Zax commenced the drag.

    ‘Hahaha! It really is like this, hahaha!’ Everything was now clear! ‘The Earthly Crater doesn’t generate the pulling force of gravity, but that of suction of swallowing! The Earthly Crater should be renamed the Dark Crater, that “something” deep in its center must be dark attribute related’. It was merely the initial observation; there were other aspects to analysis, questions to be answered.

    ‘I can tell that the crater is using the swallowing property of the dark attribute’, Saulalu’s elaboration helped him decide to categorize it as that, at the chance of misconception. ‘Yet how come it has undulation mine doesn’t? Also, why it only attracts the worldly earthly attribute?’ These were not the only things he wanted to know, but the ones he believed to be most simple to tackle.

    In the days that passed Zax diligently meditated on three things with one common denominator, “Drag”. He matched and compered the two types of swallowing, his and the crater’s, along with the gravitational field of the specks that daily appeared in his sea of consciousness.

    ‘Gravity and swallowing, gravity and swallowing, gravity and swallowing…’ The more he looked into the two kinds of properties the more confused he was. ‘The crater’s swallowing pulls down everything in its domain, but it only sucks to its center earthly attribute. The eruptions and whirlpool in the Gentic Belt are only side effects, the combination of the undulation and the ripples from occasional bursts of earthly attribute’s essence. Why? Why it’s like this?’

    Zax was frustrated. ‘Today’s!’ The daily earthly speck descended and the dark light went wild in an attempt to set itself free from Zax’s control and banish all three specks. ‘Get lost!’

    The pain of restraining the dark light aroused waves in the dark sea and bombarding echoes in the dark sky. Instead of permitting a fraction of the dark light out to remove the new speck, Zax’s emotional state intermixed his intent with the action he was doing, rather than with what he intended to do. The swallowing he regularly operated fluctuated and for the instant Zax’s emotions got the better of him, it projected the opposite of a drag, a pushing force that shoved the new speck upwards.

    Amazed at what just occurred, the turmoil in Zax’s sea of consciousness was abruptly pacified.

    ‘It blew?!’ He immediately tried to repeat the feat, but his understanding of the dark attribute was maxed at operating its most fundamental property.

    The dark light resistance grew. The third speck could not be allowed to stay. With no other choice, Zax allowed a ray of dark light to shine on it.

    There were things that could be figured out in one day and there were things that required years of practice and trial to finally understand. The more Zax dug into his two questions the more he saw them breaking to smaller issues he did not consider before nor believed the he could comprehend in mere three months.

    One month passed.

    ‘It mimicked?’ It was not just a baseless speculation. After numerous attempts Zax succeeded to reverse the suction into a blowing force. When it happened he sensed feeble undulations, like those of the crater’s swallowing, which made him realize. ‘It is not the standard swallowing; it’s functioning in a similar manner to the earthly attribute’s ripples, with no relations at all to gravity!’ It was a ground breaking notion… attribute A can bypass its natural characteristics and actually behave like attribute B? That would be breaking through Nature’s rules!

    Zax was ecstatic. The magnitude of breaching Nature’s rules was beyond his comprehension. His joy spawned from something else.

    ‘That is why it has this diverse undulations, why only earthly attribute is influenced and why it is so strong! The source of dark attribute in the Earthly Crater promoted its swallowing property by integrating to it the functioning of a second attribute‘. Zax speculated. ‘Or maybe it’s something that the swallowing property could do all along? A profound method of operation and the earthly attribute reacts because it’s a shared quality?’

    There were couple of paths to explore the matter, and Zax was pondering which one will contribute more than just a superficial understanding of the swallowing property.

    ‘If everything originating from the crater’s swallowing property, I can treat it as a better guide then starting from zero by learning from the earthly attribute’s essences. That way I could also improve my understanding of the dark attribute as a whole’.

    It was decided. With no further need of the earthly specks, Zax let loose on them the shine of the dark light. Next, he opened up his senses to the swallowing of the crater, whilst in his sea of consciousness trying to grasp not just the theoretical knowledge of how the swallowing property works, but also the practical.



    Two months and twenty four days in the fifth ring.

    While Zax was meditating, the population of those that came to the Earthly Crater to cultivate outgrew that of those who just wanted to cross the Gentic Belt safely and was short of a vessel that can sail through the Emerald Cross.

    Experts arrive despite that any moment the feud between the Horned Eel Overlord and Four Wings Stork Overlord come to a temporary end. For some it was the first time in the crater and so they began in the seventh ring, for others the seventh, sixth and fifth rings were thresholds they already passed.

    The twelve in the second ring did not move a millimeter since stepping into it and maintained the entranced expressions. They, and most likely several others, reached the same conclusion as Zax in one form or another, an insight of understanding that time elevated to enlightening breakthrough.

    Stand to reason that like them, Zax should also had taken decades and centuries to unravel the riddle, yet he, in a way that is typical for him, spent less than a quarter of a year to brighten his horizon.

    He suspected it at a certain point in the exchange with Saulalu, that the one behind the Earthly Crater is none other than the existence who apart from being the origin of his creation, was also the mastermind who designed his unique soul, bestowed him the Black Core and instilled in him the dark attribute.

    During the passing months, Zax judged that the deepest part of the crater reaches somewhere in New Earth. It was impossible to tell where exactly, even if he knew the two locations the exists from the passage between New Earth to Ercas Mir lead to, so he set up his mind. What the exalted expert left at the center of the crater, he will go find out upon his return home.



    Strands of hair slightly rose and fell down before anyone could see. Zax opened his pensive eyes, his lips stretched to an inconspicuous smile. He placed a hand on the ground and pushed himself up, without extracting strength or channeling dark attribute energy to strengthen his physique. He got up effortlessly, yet was sure to not attract unwanted attention. What others, those who spent an extensive prolonged time of meditation, would think should they discover that a brat, whose time in the crater not worth mentioning, had become the ninth expert to cancel the burden of the Earthly Crater’s gravitational force?

    ‘It’s time to leave’. Zax declared in content. ‘Debuk Jin, I may still not by your match, but the gap had just gotten shorter!’

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    Book 8 – Element

    Chapter 16 – Finding The Third Black Core



    “When are you going to cheer up, Benni? You know that even if we invited Zax to join us, when we had to leave he would stay”. Hason, the brown fox, tried to show the depressed Benni some reason.

    The nine lingered in the Earthly Crater for a month and a half. Most of them wished to stay longer, but time was not on their side. They had to reach their destination in the Eastern Continent within twenty days and though it sounded like plenty of time, factoring certain obstacles, it turned out pretty short.

    “Leave her alone. I can’t believe she actually fell for a guy she knows nothing about”. Vars glowered.

    “Don’t be a jerk, Vars”, Bin Bin, who regained his freedom by learning his lesson, or at least pretended to, pitied Benni for knowing how it feels when everyone choose to make an unreasonable discoing, while the poor individual is the only sensible one – even if that was not accurately to say on the current case.

    “Don’t mess with a Martial Mortal, ‘Bin Sprout’” Vars retorted. Her mood worsened since leaving the crater and the cause was, again, Zax.

    Seeing him starts at the seventh ring while she at the sixth inflated her ego, but before she could sneer at him in her heart, he got up on his feet and moved to the sixth ring and then barely half a month later he proceeded to the fifth, where Enderta, Zenkai and Liminton were the only ones in their group capable of staying.

    “What will you do, eh? Beat me up?” Bin Bin was not afraid, though also not stupid to neglect assurances. “Did you hear her, uncle Liminton? Vars said that she will beat me, does she even care about giving you face?!”

    “It’s not what she said”. Liminton truly did not want to involve himself in Benni’s lovesickness, Vars’s bitterness and Bin Bin’s boredom. “But depend on how hard she will hit-”

    “No, my bad, uncle Liminton, I misheard. She really did not say that she will beat me!” Surprisingly, the fear of Liminton allowing Vars to actually beat him, was the push needed for Bin Bin to make the first honest stride on the path of reflecting over one own mischief.

    “Right, I won’t beat you, Bin Bin, never. I require healthy specimen to test my formations on”. Vars reminded Bin Bin that although he was previously tied to Liminton, it was her formation the constrained him and more importantly, silenced his voice.

    “Wonderful big sister Vars, please don’t get angry. Little brother Bin Bin was just worried about your reputation getting tarnished by others’ misconception”. Bin Bin slowly drew to the back of the group.

    “Well, it was you who associated her with the noun ‘Jerk’”. Zenkai held back his laugh, aware how much the lad wished to curse at him, which made him more amused.

    “Hahaha”. Bin Bin laughed awkwardly, getting behind Liminton, trying to recall how that thing he always calls “keeping your mouth shut” works…



    ‘The problem is my soul. If I challenge those with superior cultivation, while my cultivation is at a halt until I’ll comprehend the sixth bottleneck of insight, I need to come up with a technique to compensate over the inferiority’. He assessed that his soul defensive formation could support no farther than the third ring, as well as not be much of help against the soul attack of forth level Martial Mortal and up.

    When he exited the Earthly Crater he left though the Nidbuk Ocean, but as he followed the direction his gut feeling told him he will ding the third Black Core, he soon crossed to and proceeded to fly above the Seer Don Ocean.

    ‘Land!’ After a day of flight in moderate pace he finally saw it. It was not an island, like he wondered a while back, but a piece of earth that stretched far beyond his eyes could see, despite his distance from it.

    Unbeknownst to Zax, he arrived to the middle part of the Eastern Continent.

    ‘Halt!’ A deeply voiced command sounded and a group of five beasts in animalistic forms, ranging in size from that of a human to that of a five storey building, flew from the continent to greet Zax.

    The five were respectfully a Desert Cobra, Golden Sand Mink, Short Ears Caracal, Long Ears Caracal and Red Sun Oryx – though to Zax it did not matter since he was oblivious of their species’ names.

    “Another one arrived so soon. The Overlords’ quarrel is making it too easy for experts to cross the sea”. The Golden Sand Mink growled, his bestial nature coercing him to expose his sharp teeth. “Look what he is wearing, are these clothes made out of seaweeds…?”

    “Maybe it is the humans’ fashion in the Western Continent”. The Desert Cobra suggested. “Though it doesn’t seems to be much of a protective wears, like what the others were wearing”.

    After the White Coat was shredded, Zax indeed made himself something out of the sturdy seaweeds he found in the bottom of the sea, eventually coming up with clothing similar to the tunics that were common in the villages around Glorious Ground.

    “State your name and intent of intruding on the Beasts Union’s territory!” The Red Sun Oryx ordered Zax. Since he could not sense fluctuations of mist energy from the human, he assumed that he was a Peak Core Master utilizing substandard flying technique.

    ‘Five Martial Mortals, that is more than the five powers bother to invest on the passageway home’s Curators’. The five exuded hostile fluctuations of four first level Martial Mortals and one second level Martial Mortal, so Zax did not need to use his Soul Sense to probe. ‘Moreover the speak Netherling’. From his welcome in Virgil’s Pasture and the things he learned there, he thought that Netherling was a language indigenous to the Western Continent or at least Selivereb. What he did not take into consideration was that his Intel originated from a simple village, while even most of the second realm experts in the Western Continent spend their lives never crossing the sea. ‘On second thought, knowing a few languages is not a big deal for cultivators’.

    “My name is ‘Zax’. I didn’t come here to cause troubles to your Beasts Union or whatever, so move away and let me carry on with my business”. Zax paid back with his own hostile intent, just as a threat, and flew past them.

    The five beasts’ faces turned grim. The foreigner was an expert stronger than they encountered thus far. Their leader, the Red Sun Oryx, realized that they have to be careful with their temperaments and following response.

    “Ignore him. Because of the outcome of the conclave, many strong experts will keep coming, as long as they admit to not present an ill intent toward the union, everything else if fine”.



    The earth was a desert with thorny vegetation, mostly bushes, and the forests were few, much shorter and smaller than in Selivereb.

    Zax observed the vicinity with his eyes and Soul Sense, detecting some desert types Deformed Beings and several tribes of beasts, from them he reached the understanding that Netherling was probably the spoken language in all of Ercas Mir and his previous frame of thought spawned from ignorance.

    He continued to fly for a long time, sometimes curious to land and explore the cultural diversity of the eastern tribes. Unlike their counterparts in the Western Continent, here they all maintained their animalistic forms and only change to humanoid when entering their humble abodes and few establishments.

    ‘It’s in this city’. Zax determined, pleased that finally got to where the third Black Core is.

    The city clearly was beyond the territory of the Beasts Union. It was bigger than the cities he had been to in Selivereb, couple of time larger like a small country surrounded by tall walls.

    The steampunk air was absent and the peak of technological advancement appeared to be decades behind places like Glorious Ground. Nevertheless, where the city fell behind it also beautifully shined with its openness, bright coolers and overall joyous atmosphere. To Zax the city reminded the middle eastern’s king cities of the old history, where today they were only mentioned in museums and children stories.

    Hovering above the city his presence was noticed by its guards. They wore military uniforms with golden, cinderblock badges embedded with the words “Golden Desert Forte” on their shoulders.

    Their commanders reported his presence in their communicators and resumed their duties. Although it was against regulation to let someone into the city without processing and identity checkup, not mention flying without a permit, they too were informed of the great amount of experts on their way to the Eastern Continent. If some of them chose to make a rest stop in their city until the appointed date, it was better to let them and leave them be as long as they do not disturb the peace.

    Descending, Zax chose an inconspicuous spot between two buildings, to avoid alarming anyone. He vanished fast from the sky and appeared on the ground wearing the local’s fairly humble, extremely comfortable garments of dark fabric shirt and pants, which he “picked up” from a clothesline. He still was barefooted, but that was also dealt with after a quick rummaging with his Soul Sense.

    The streets were wide, yet full of hubbub. There were vendors, kids playing, street performers, busy pedestrians, large vehicles pulling larger carts and much more that supplemented the energetic ambiance.

    Zax got to a three story building that its ground floor was a rustic restaurant.

    ‘The second floor’. Unexpectedly, there he sensed the Black Core. He used his Soul Sense in an attempt to pinpoint its location, only to be met with obstructive formation, which he could break, but for now he preferred to be subtle in his approach.

    At the side of the building was the entrance and staircase for the upper floors. He climbed, clenching his fist. With the third Black Core almost in his hands, he was one Black Core short from officially becoming the true heir of Legacy Of The One’s Path!

    Less crucial but also intriguing was the question of how the third Black Core got to Ercas Mir from the first place. Since detecting it, it never moved, which meant that it was not used. Maybe someone carried it from New Earth, or perhaps a potential heir died in Ercas Mir and someone from above the ground find it?

    KNOCK!

    KNOCK!

    KNOCK!

    He waited for someone inside the respond.

    The door opened, apparently it was not locked. A brown skinned, native looking young woman in a beige blouse, long red dress and flowing brown hair draping over her shoulder appeared on the other side.

    Zax examined whatever he could from her. It was easier to determine her cultivation without breaking the formation, once the door was opened and the occupant was close to him.

    ‘An E level Earth’s Core Holder’. He was taken aback, while she was in the midst of pronouncing the first word. ‘In her dantian there is also an Earth’s Core!’

    The majority of the humans and beasts population in Ercas Mir uses low quality Pure Cores, inherit a Seed from a strong ancestor that continue to pass for generations, or cultivate publicly available Qi and mist refinement techniques.

    Earth’s Cores were nearly unheard of, an exclusive commodity to New Earth. To find them in Ercas Mir was very rare and bluntly signified the existence of some sort of relations to New Earth or someone from there.

    “Yes?” The woman said in an inquisitive tone. “Who are you?”

    “Don’t be scared”. Zax replied as he intruded without an invitation in, alarming anyway the woman in the process.

    “Sir, please, there is nothing of value in the house”. The woman stepped back in fear until she reached the edge of the living room and entrance to the veranda.

    Zax looked around. In the house the formation was not effective in any way. In the second room in the hallway there was a toddler sleeping in a cradle, beside it was a dresser and in one of its drawers, tucked between a layers of baby clothes, was the precious treasures of them all, kept inside a Blue Stone!

  15. #215
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    Book 8 – Element

    Chapter 17 – The Scythe And The Mace



    It was so close he could imagine its spherical smoothness in his hands. No matter how strong he would clutch, it will never break. It was a quarter of a whole, yet, for him, it was more perfect than any of the alternatives out there.

    Zax averted his outward attention from the young woman to the hallway and started walking.

    The young woman gasped anxiously. Her baby was napping in the nursery and the intruder was proceeding to the hallway. Additionally…

    She stumbled, fixed her posture and ran, as if hers and the life of her baby depend on it. She passed Zax who was calm and steady in temper, so much that he even moved a bit from her away, else she would stumble a second time.

    “L- Leave, sir, this home has only me and my son. We have Splinters! Yes, my husband left a sum, until his return, but we can do without them. Please, sir…!” The young woman stood next to the cradle, her baby boy in her arms. Overwhelmed by the pressure, she forgot to close the dresser‘s drawer.

    Zax smiled, partly amused, partly awkwardly. She could move the Blue Stone, actually, she could hide it wherever she wants on her body and not just in her blouse, and to him it would not matter. In this world there was no formation, no special technique and no means of obstruction that had the capacity to unable his connection to the Black Cores.

    “Give it to me, technically it’s mine, but I guess you wouldn’t understand…” His state of mind was so fixated on the Black Core, he jibber jabbered when the opportunity to speak occurred. “A better one was kept in this room?” Just as he crossed the nursery’s thresholds he noticed, but then it was already too late.

    The cradle exuded strange fluctuations and on its wooden frame runes and shapes that shone, in hard to tell yellow or gold, spread to the floor and all around the area the young woman was standing. A nearly transparent pillar of the indistinguishable yellow gold shade emerged from the floor, up to the ceiling and sealed from above and below. In its center were the cradle, and the young woman and the baby protected beside it.

    Amazed at the ability of the formation’s constructor to conceal it, Zax stepped into the nursery, stopping twenty centimeters from the barrier. “You went and did it…” He said, indicating in his tone his unhappiness.

    Within the barrier the woman began to express signs of relief, regardless of Zax presences. She could hear as well and see him and gathered that he took the defensive formation for a headache he will not be able to deal with.

    “Your husband… when is he returning?”

    His question aroused astonishment as well as confused her.

    “Your husband! Is he gonna back soon?” Zax repeated, pushing for an answer.

    The young woman’s mouth hovered opened for a second or two, undetermined whether to answer or not. Eventually, she closed it shut. Her look of uneasiness changes to obstinate.

    Zax sighed, curious to how old she was to handle the situation in such fashion. He already said that he was not here to do harm. Yes, he barged in, but that was the full extent of his misconduct. He shook his head. “You somehow activated this formation without considering the consequence, did you?” His words seemed to resonate in a manner that caused her confidence to waver. His saw that she was conflicted with the idea of having a conversation with an intruder, so he did her the favor of explaining himself. “The Soul Sense obstructing formation, when I arrived to the city I could detected hundreds of it etched to all kinds of structures. Although it’s rather unusual that someone bothered to erect one in an unassuming place like this, apparently it’s common in this city – is it offered cheaply or something? In any case, it is the reason why I, and other experts, do not concern with looking up things of value that may be hidden in such places”.

    In short, when something rare turns common interest in it is lost.

    “Your problem, which I supposed is my fault and that is why I’m trying to reason with you, is that the protective formation you triggered… it is on an entirely different level than the one etched to your home, something that is a waste on an ordinary place such as this, unless...”

    There was no need to elaborate what “unless”. The young woman’s countenance further worsened in realization.

    “This formation’s fluctuations spread not just around this room, but even the restaurant under and the floors above. For sensitive and vigilant experts it is also not a problem to sense it from kilometers away. Are you getting what I’m trying to say? Right now you are locked at the center of a beacon, a very suspicious beacon, that will soon drag here problematic bunch of-”

    “You are wrong!” At last, she spoke, cutting him midsentence. “Please leave us alone”.

    ‘I’m here for the something, but staying to protect you. In a matter of seconds now-”

    WHOOSH!

    Yet another incomplete sentence…

    Through the nursery’s windows and the veranda out in the living room, swift silhouettes entered the apartment with clear, hostile intent.

    They were four in total, humans, or at least in human form, Peak Core Masters, moving in unity.

    He was not a mist cultivator, so they could only assume. Bodily cultivators whose strength rivaled the third realm of mist cultivation were too scarce to expect an encounter with.

    A hand reached out, muscular, long. It grabbed Zax’s shoulder and pulled.

    Zax did not resist. ‘Are they her protectors?’ He guessed why the young woman was contradicting him.

    They wanted to take the fight outside the building. Once in the open the man holding Zax tossed him diagonally.

    Crushing would of caused too much of a commotion. Zax halted midair a meter above ground. Straightening, he raised his head, meeting eye to eye the over two meters and thirty four centimeters, bearded giant and his three companions as they stood on the stone railling of the veranda and scrutinized him.

    “Let’s not escalate the situation. I’m only here for a personal matter and have no intention to trouble the woman inside, or her baby”. Zax jumped toward the veranda to make a point, if they wanted a fight outside, then it was up to them to make sure he does not get back in.

    It should be noted that this ordeal could have ended in an instant. Nevertheless, the four, alert by the implementation of the defensive formation, come here to protect the young woman, which was also his goal, until her husband or someone else familiar to her will show up and take on the responsibility, perhaps would be even willing to listen? Perhaps not…

    Two men, two women, two azure auras, one fiery red, one windy green flickered brightly.

    Of the men, the shorter with light brown hair and light brown skin carried duel pistols and was the only one to stay on the railing after the other three plunged at Zax.

    The white haired, white skinned giant swung a just as giant two handed, double edged sword. He was the first to pounce.

    Following behind, coming second and third, were the two women. A black haired, white skinned barehanded and a red headed white skinned with fists clenching something or things tiny.

    Brimming azure mist glowed on the blade of the double edged sword. The giant man sliced, though without exhibiting the intent of a killing blow.

    TING!

    Zax caught the blade, his momentum from the jump unaffected by the impact. Shaking the blade, a vibration passed through it to the hilt and then the hands holding it. The giant man felt his bones cracking and suddenly his grip loosened.

    Releasing the blade, the sword fell along the giant man who could not be in more of a hurry to return and stop Zax.

    “Who are you?” Zax asked the barehanded woman as he caught her by the wrist, millimeters from delivering a palm strike to his chest. He wanted to know if they also had a connection to New Earth.

    A green luster reflected back on him from the woman’s eyes. She was almost impressed by the way he shifted his weight to maintain momentum and his quick reflexes, managing to hold her hand… but unlike the other three she invested herself in cultivating her bodily Martial art.

    Inhaling, she drew her hand, making Zax feel as if he was holding onto air. She rested a hand on his shoulder as her body soared upside down, whilst attentive to each of her opponent’s motions. Her body spun; her hand acting like the tip of a spinning top. Fluctuations of mist and windy attribute swirled around her like a mini tornado. She thrust her legs up and the tornado shrunk, concentrated with each kick into her body.

    ‘Pushing me down?’ Zax was amused. She was fast, astoundingly for a Peak Core Master and her bodily technique was elegant and beautiful as her well carved figure. Still, the difference between their bodily controls was akin to the gap between the heaven and the earth and even his most minor insight into the dark attribute maneuvers was vastly superior to her Martial art.

    Raising a hand, Zax tapped her by the shoulder. Her heart sunk, with her skills it should have been close to impossible for him to pry her hand off his shoulder, much less get a hold of her swirling body. Yet he managed, and when he did the inertia of her movement abruptly ceased, as if it her tornado was blown by a much greater, little did she know it was the difference of understanding the natural elemental forces.

    “Get down”. Zax wrenched her from her upper position, throwing her at the giant man. “Next”. His gaze turned to the red headed woman as his body still went up to the veranda. “Show me what you got”. If they sought to entertain him, he was willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. Who knows, the red headed or the last fellow with the duel pistols might surprise him and momentarily thwart his advancement.

    An azure gleam mixed with the red of each strand of hair. The red headed woman released the tension in her clenched palms, from which a pearly colored powder scattered in the air, forming a pinkish cloud.

    Using powder as a weapon was a first for Zax to witness, but he could still guess the purpose of the usage by past experiences. For the red headed woman, powder was her unique tool intended for erecting formations.

    ‘Formations expert!’ If anything, Zax was most interested about soul formations and therefore hoped that this was her type of specialty.

    It was just him and her inside the cloud. Everything beyond was blurry, hardly visible even to his exceptional vision.

    BOOM!

    BOOM!

    BOOM!



    Explosions reverberated from every direction.

    Bang!

    Zax felt a blast right at his face.

    Bang!

    Another one went off at the back of his neck.

    ‘A soul formation!’ The red headed woman gifted him exactly what he wanted. ‘Let’s see…’ He preferred not to, but without his Soul Sense he could not thoroughly examine the formation and it would have been a waste to rashly break it by sheer force.

    His Soul Sense stretched far enough to perceive everything clearly through the pearly cloud.

    The red headed woman used her own hair to construct the layout, shapes and forms that amplified her consciousness and channeled it with the powder. In essence, extended the domain of her soul beyond her mortal body and trapped Zax within it, in the process nullifying the physical, extracting and isolating the spiritual.

    ‘Remarkable!’ Even though he perceived it all, he had troubles comprehending it. ‘If our souls were on the same level… no! if mine was just a bit weaker and could not support itself with the dark attribute…’ He somewhat had a sense of dread.

    ‘Fortunately she is not that kind of opponent’. He felt embarrassed for having this thought. ‘Now, lingering any longer and I will really be pushed back’. Awakening his numb body, resuming the connection with the soul, the explosions dimmed. ‘Still not under its effect…’ A very minute influence, but influence nonetheless.

    Breathing in, compressing air in his lungs, Zax’s cheeks inflated and he blew.

    “Lenrah!” The duel pistols guy shouted.

    Simply blowing air was not enough for Zax to assault a Peak Core Master, but when adding high pressure and catching them unprepared, he could certainly give them a scare.

    The cloud collapsed and the powder scattered with the wind. The aghast red headed woman, Lenrah, felt something invisible hitting her abdomen and though it was painful no real injury was done.

    BANG!

    BANG!

    BANG!



    Enraged, the duel pistols guy shot at Zax, who was roughly a meter and a half from reaching the veranda and by now had his fill from testing his opponents. Besides, the formation on the pistols seemed to only generate strong, penetrating bullets that as dangerous as they are, against a bodily cultivator they were most useless.

    His final assessment… ‘There is definitely a genuine expert behind these four, but is it really the husband of the woman upstairs?’

    A foot on the stone railing, Zax caught the five bullets, so they will not ricochet into the apartment, and punched the last of the four.

    “Duthur, stop him”. As he and the two women regained their footing, the giant man shouted at the duel pistols guy, Duthur, but how could he?

    ‘Have they not got it?’ Zax wondered what the chances were for all four to be so dense and not recognize their inferiority.

    “Stand back!” Two voices echoing as one resounded in everybody’s ears.

    Zax was a step inside the apartment when he had a tingling sensation at his back. He turned around, prepared to confront with the man or woman with the capital to order the four and maybe the one who trained them?

    He could not see them, as they both were invisible, but certainly feel their oppressive demeanor.

    From the left sliced a crescent and sharp blade of a scythe.

    From the right rammed the heavy, deceive and vicious head of a mace.

  16. #216
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    Book 8 – Element

    Chapter 18 – Old Rivals Reunited



    It was no longer the meager power of the second realm, but a force to be reckoned with, a threat to even Martial Mortals!

    “Oh, apparently I shouldn’t have abstained from using my Soul Sense. Then again, if I used it, the impact of this surprise would have been abortive”. Smiling, Zax held his hands upfront, reached out and grabbed the invisible scythe and mace.

    Encompassed by a cohesive invisible energy, one man and one women moving in unison, bonded by a Companion's Link formation!

    “You two have gotten stronger”. Zax complimented. “But against the person I am now… even augmented by this formation, your chances cannot even be described as slimmer, in comparison to what they had been last time!”

    Channeling dark attribute energy, Zax’s fingers dug into the invisible energy weapons and with a dim “BANG” crushed them.

    The two retreated. Jumping to the rooftop of the adjacent building and staring down, “We had yet to reveal the full extent of our power”. They voiced simultaneously with a tad of unwillingness due to the loss.

    “Zechariah, Linor”. Zax’s smile grew.

    “Wait, you know this guy?” The giant man interrupted the reunion of old rivals and acquaintances.

    “Yes”, the two restrained their mystification as to why Zax appeared here, now, so strong, when he was thought to be dead! “A fellow indigenous of New Earth”. It was Zechariah doing the wording, but Linor’s voice resonated all the same.

    “Is it true?” The four were deeply shaken. “How come we haven’t heard about him?” The duel pistols, Duthur, wanted to know why they kept in the dark instead of being told about a possible allay and a one so strong, at that.

    “You did hear”. Zechariah, Linor. “His name is ‘Zax Zel’”.

    “Zax Zel? The supposed runner up of our generation’s Martial competition? Wasn’t he declared deceased by the Elder Master?” The barehanded woman asked.

    “Wait a moment”. Zax suddenly said, intending to renew the conversation with Zechariah and Linor after retrieving the Black Core from the Blue Stone.

    “You can’t intrude on this house”. Zechariah and Linor in a flicker moved from the rooftop to the apartment, in front of Zax, their aura not entirely hostile but also not submissive.

    “This formation… Are you and the other four, and maybe that woman’s husband, too, are members of Sinister Chain?”

    Zechariah’s and Linor’s brows creased. First he rises from the dead, and then he recognizes the organization they are in based on their formation? ‘Could it be that he faked his death, to hide the fact he joined the five powers?‘

    In truth, they recognized him the instant the defensive formation was utilized and they probed the scene with their Soul Senses. They were in immense shock and wanted to confirm that he is who he looks like immediately. They asked the four to investigate first, assuring them that they will show up in case they will not be able to handle the opponent and convincing them that this is an opportunity to familiarize with each other so in the future mastering the Companion's Link formation would be easier. However, as the notion that he might be a traitor occurred, along with the identity of the woman’s husband he mentioned and they are familiar with, their resolution to first get answers escalated.

    “This house is of limits, even to you, Zax. If there is a reason you must get in, then you first have to shed light over some of the questions we have”. Zechariah and Linor gave an ultimatum. Wary of the worse and how strong Zax has become, they maintained the formation.

    “Fine, I also have things I’d like to know, but first I will finish my business here”. He was disinterested in prolonging the argument.

    His figure was there and then it was not. Keeping up with it was futile.

    Zax returned to the nursery and approached the barrier defensive formation. The woman within was a mere Earth’s Core Holder, for here couple of seconds gone by since the activation of the formation, but for him it could have been hours. As of now she stood still, frozen in his time.

    TING!

    TING!

    TING!

    TING!

    TING!

    Five fingers penetrated the formation like sharp claws. Zax drew his hand and ripped the barrier. The floor quaked, the yellow gold shade began to collapse and fade.

    “Don’t touch her”. They were Peak Core Masters, but the Companion's Link formation enhanced their perception, made them faster and stronger as it did Rockwell and Riv. However they were still much slower than Zax.

    Despite it being liquefied, his was Qi was poor, meant to be cultivated the day he will obtain the full Legacy Of The One’s Path. As unique as it constantly been, his soul had yet attained the third realm’s capabilities of performing feats such as telekinesis. Thus, Zax extended his reach with the dark attribute energy, grasping with it and taking the Blue Stone from the young woman’s blouse.

    “See? I didn’t hurt her or the baby”. Zax raised his hands in surrender. With the Black Core being a Blue Stone distance away, he was in a wonderful mood.

    “Eh? It’s gone”. The young woman cried as they all returned to communicate at the same flow. “The formation!” Her voice turned high pitched from fright and the baby boy in her arms started crying by the approximate loudness.

    “Settle down, Savir”.

    “Mister Zechariah, Miss Linor, you arrived! Where is everybody else?” One moment they show up, the next vanished together with the intruder – now thief – following by the reappearance of the intruder and two of the six familiar faces left in the city to protect them in case of an emergency.

    “He stole it, please take it back”, without hesitation the young woman, Savir, beseeched. “Yurnal said that it’s for Yimin, when he will grow up!”

    “No, it’s mine”. Zax corrected her. “Zechariah, Linor, it seems that you are unaware of what she’s taking about. Let me tell you, it’s not something that belongs to anyone, but me. Regardless who’s the owner of this Blue Stone; I will return it, however not before taking the object inside”.

    “Zax, it’s you who don’t understand. Keep the Blue Stone, but don’t break the soul imprint on it just yet. First let’s talk and then, after both sides get a little bit smarter, decide what to do”. They were relieved that he was true to his words of not posing harm to Savir and Yimin, but they also had no idea what was kept inside the Blue Stone and what will be his… Yurnal’s response should he know that it was stolen.

    Feeling the Blue Stone wrapped by his palm, “I can manage to wait”. He was reluctant, yet complied since he could feel that the two were earnest with him.

    “Thank you”. They said, though it was obvious that Zechariah was the one leading the conversation. His and Linor’s different backgrounds hinder the synchronization of their formation, it was actually the last hurdle before they will completely master it, but it also allowed them to compose a more competent whole.

    “I’ll take Savir and Yimin to the hotel. There are too many Soul Senses concentrating on the building right now and the Golden Desert Fort’s guards will soon arrive here, too”. Lenrah offered.

    “I’ll go with them”. Duthur appeared determined to accompany the three, or more precisely, Lenrah.



    The confrontation took place in the span of seconds and with much consideration of the neighboring and dining population.

    Guests in the ground floor restaurant were only susceptive to a small portion of the booms, but they associated the noise to the liveliness of this desert city.

    Cultivators in the Peak of the first realm and stronger did realize that an altercation occurring and where. The weaker expert proceeded with their day, knew that even if the interfere they will only get in trouble once the guards arrive. The stronger ones cautiously assessed why the commission, if any of them felt driven by curiosity to show up in person in the uncommon place for a strong defensive formation to manifest, they were still weighting the pros and cons of getting involve.



    Ahead were Zechariah and Linor. Since last he saw them, Zax discovered that separately their cultivation reached, and so fast, to the Peak of the second realm. He also noticed that the other two, behind him, were not acting as if they take orders from the leading two and in moment of disagreement would even disobey them.

    ‘All of them have the same cultivation and are in pairs?’ He was not a hundred percent certain. ‘Are they complying with Zechariah and Linor because they can erect this formation or someone told them to?’

    Zechariah and Linor took Zax to an underground bar named “Gordy’s Grotto”. Inside was very spacious, yet cold and murky. On the bright side, the middle aged hostess was very nice; found them a fitting table with an extra open chair, since there was no table for five.

    Despite most tables taken by men, women and humanoid beasts, the bar was so quiet a person could hear his or her own heartbeats. The reason was the sounds blocking formations etched at the opposite side of each table. They had some additional minor functions, but overall were not elaborate formations, so not much was required to bypass them with Soul Sense, but for common courtesy or maybe some other reason, no one attempted to do so.

    Basically, here experts could converge and discuss on any matter without prying ears and if they were interested in something to eat or drink, all they had to do was raise their hands.

    “You drink?” The giant man,”Havreim” or “Giant Havreim”, Zax learned along the way, asked in a manner that either was offering the glass of dark beer in his hands or holding it in a semi drinking motion. The black haired, barehanded woman, by the way, was Varinka.

    “Rarely”. Zax said amiably. The big fellow was the first to treat him, the supposed invite. His answer, however, seemed to be the cause for Giant Havreim disagreeably snort and his change of generous heart.

    “Ignore him. Giant Havreim is just a drunkhead and a foodie”. Varinka slapped Havreim on the back, making him suffocate and cough.

    “How did you know that we are Sinister Chain’s members?” It was Linor who asked, but Zechariah voiced nonetheless as they continue to maintain the formation, siting side by side.

    “I met another pair, Rockwell and Riv, who claimed to be from the same organization and used this formation, though even individually they were much stronger than you two and their compatibility much better”. Zax was projecting the same level of bluntness. “My turn, when did you left to Ercas Mir? I thought that you were drawn from the competition, losing that opportunity to join the five powers as I did”.

    ”When you were approached by Supreme- senior Ariel, we were visited by senior Trey. She tasked us with joining Sinister Chain. Couple of weeks after the competition someone assaulted the Curators, allowing us a chance to leave without being noticed”. Zechariah chose the words. “This should count for at least two answers. How are you alive?” He first wanted an answer and then to move on to the following question.

    “I guess you were informed by senior Ariel that I died…” It was not hard for Zax to figure. “I never did, simply removed the Curator’s Marks to make it look like it”.

    “Removed the Curator’s Mark?” Varinka displayed the same skepticism that was plastered on Zechariah’s and Linor’s faces.

    “Do you possess communicator? Able to speak with Rockwell or Riv? They can validate my skill, if you still have doubts”.

    “No”. Zechariah and Linor shook their heads. He was able to suppress them as if he was the Elder Master. “We don’t. How did you get so strong?” Either of them and even Varinka and Giant Havreim could pick a multitude of better question to ask, but he was of the same generation, moreover they knew that he was sent on a later date to traverse alone and without guidance the world above ground. Logically, he should still be vigilantly wondering now in the forests of Selivereb, not showing up in the Eastern Continent and making their rigorous training of the past year or so look like a joke.

    Zax smiled. A young waiter served him a jug of beer and placed on the table a tray of crispy and spicy dried fruit. “There is more than one factor in play, but the main one… What do you know about Rockwell’s and Riv’s trip to the Western Continent?”

    “It’s our turn to ask question”. Giant Havreim grunted.

    “It’s interrelated”.

    “We don’t know what their job in the Western Continent was, but we know that they returned because of the Event in Demirva Ridge and the dark attribute’s essence they obtained”.

    Zax’s smile revealed his white teeth and at that moment, following by a drop of a large glass, beer spilling on the wooden panels of the floor and the shriek of someone biting her tongue, Zechariah’s and Linor’s eyes opened wide.

  17. #217
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    Book 8 – Element

    Chapter 19 – Three Out Of Three



    “Wait a moment, are you him?!” Zechariah exclaimed in outrage. Due to both his and Linor’s turbulent mental state, the Companion's Link formation became instable, the invisible energy agitated and in a “BANG!” they were thrown sideways.

    Waving his hand, Zax dissolved the rampant energy and helped Zechariah and Linor back to their seats before crossing the boundary of the table’s formation. He speculated that Rockwell and Riv had disclosed the details of the Event in Demirva Ridge and the invitation they extended for him to join Sinister Chain.

    “That’s a third question. Now is my turn”.

    “First tell us!” Giant Havreim demanded. “Were you the guy Rockwell and Riv claimed to obtain the perfect dark attribute’s essence, consume it, by some implausible miracle survive and kill those members of the five powers?” Like his three colleagues, he merely thought that Zax met Rockwell and Riv in the ridge by chance or something and not at all was the pivotal variable in the demise of the five powers’ representatives.

    “Linor, Zech, you tell me this guy, who is of our generation, supposed to be as strong as third level Martial Mortal?!” Varinka was on pins and needles, not even caring about the pain in her tongue.

    She had learned of the qualitative difference between common attribute’s essences and God made attribute’s essences, yet it was excruciatingly hard to believe that a twenty years old possesses the strength of what most experts spend thousands of years to cultivate, not to mention that in their generation – not measured by a certain period or date, but in Ercas Mir those who are considered experts and were born less than hundred years apart – he was among the youngest!

    Composing themselves, Zechariah and Linor did not reformed their formation, it was not that easy. Free from its restraints, they now could also choose to speak or not to their own words.

    “Well…” Zechariah opened, not finding more to say, to come up with a logical reply to Varinka. He gave up and looked for Zax for explanation. “Tell us, then anything you’d ask we will answer”.

    “Fine”, Zax complied, aware of how similar his reaction would have been if he was in their oblivious shoes. “I put my life on the line when taking the perfect dark attribute’s essence and I’m pretty sure that I reeked death in the moments it changed course, after I absorbed it, from trying to kill me to almost reincarnating me”. The experience etched in his brain, never to be forgotten. “Yes, I can handle myself against a third level Martial Mortal, but after what I’d been through it is the least I should hope for. Feeling envy? Go ahead and make the same bet I did. If you’ll survive, I promise you will also get a little stronger”. He placed the Blue Stone on the table. His turn could not be denied anymore. “Take me to its owner”. He only agreed to postpone taking the Black Core inside out of consideration to the mysterious expert that first found it.

    “Back to camp?” Giant Havreim grumbled, the first to digest Zax’s narrative. “You haven’t answered all we have to ask, only these two’s questions. And we are exchanging questions, not requests, so ask as many as yours now and let us continue with ours”. Regretful for the spilled beer, he picked another one of his several glasses; few were empty, and finished it in one lasting sip.  “No more fruits. Bring cheesy fries and dried slices of your best Deformed Beast meat”. He requested from the waiter that he summoned to clean the floor’s wooden panels.

    Waiting for the waiter to leave, Varinka corresponded. “Your story correlates with Rockwell’s, the reason for faking your death is also rational and you are not a stranger to Linor and Zech”. She first made it seem like she only intend to sum up. “But before convincing us to lead you to our camp, there are couple more matters you must disclose, such as why did you arrive to the Eastern Continent? How did you do it? Currently no ships are coming or leaving. Without a vessel it’s a dangerous journey even to third level Martial Mortal… How did you discover Second Master’s- Savir’s and Yimin’s home?” She would have added what so special about the content of the Blue Stone, but that would have been invasion of Second Master’s privacy. “So go ahead and think of stuff to ask us, since it’s your turn, let’s finish both sides’ question before moving on to requests”.

    PAM!

    Zax slapped the table and sneered. “Who do you lot think you are?” He had no ill intent toward Zechariah and Linor, yet they were on Giant Havreim’s and Varinka’s side, so he ended up addressing all four. “Frankly, I don’t give a damn”. He got up. Let them confront with the mysterious expert, who apparently is their Second Master.

    “We’ll take you”. A voice, typically poised and taciturn, declared in the heat of the argument. “We are taking you”. Linor said.

    “Linor…” Zechariah was taken aback.

    If there was someone sitting around this table that he will sacrifice his all to support without a second thought, it was none other than the brutish and deadly woman beside him, his closest companion since… His issue was not with her agreeing to Zax’s request; he himself was in half a mind to do so, but her not discussing it with him first.

    “On whose authority?!” Giant Havreim grunted displeasingly. “He is your compatriot, we know, mine too, in an unconventional manner, but don’t let it affect your judgment”.

    “Elder Master approved”. With these three words, Giant Havreim’s and Varinka’s objection flattened.

    “When did you talk to him?” Zechariah wanted to know. Because their formation was imperfect, they could use, to a degree, their communicators separately. So it begged the question, did Linor contact the Elder Master when they were bound by the profound intimacy of the Companion’s Link formation, or afterwards?

    “Just now”. Linor assured him with an understanding look. “He said that he is eager to meet Zax”.

    Giant Havreim grimaced.

    “You contacted him?” Varinka figured why his countenance turned sour.

    Keeping the response to himself, Giant Havreim stuffed his mouth with cheesy fries, a chunk of thin sliced Deformed Being meat and finished it off with a sup of cold beer.

    “Mm… you got berated”. Varinka grinned and pinched his muscular forearm. A bystander would think that she mocks Giant Havreim, but a keen observer will find the affectionate twinkle hiding in her eyes.

    Zax noticed, and so did Zechariah and Linor. Giant Havreim, too, and it was not clear if he blushed because the feelings were mutual or because he willingly gave in to the alcohol.

    Anyway, at this point Varinka did not mind lowering her guard in front of Zax. If the Elder Master re extended Rockwell’s and Riv’s invitation, then she can be a little less harsh in her cautiousness.

    “Will you come?” Linor stared at Zax, aware of what he will say, but she was not asking for herself. The Elder Master spoke through her.

    His expression was enough to imply his consent. Already on his feet, it was also fine for him to depart right now, which was quite clear, as well.

    Raising a hand, Zechariah called the waiter old fashion and all, instead of utilizing table’s formation. It took longer than it should, but eventually the waiter came and Giant Havreim paid the bill.



    “Are you that impatient to meet the Elder Master or is it because you can’t wait to open the Blue Stone?” Varinka raised a brow.

    They led Zax, not flying or running, but to his annoyance leisurely walking. After eating so much potent Deformed Being meat, Giant Havreim just wanted to savor the satisfaction at his own pace and rub his belly. Varinka was prepared in advance to tune down the precipitancy, being familiar with how the big guy is after a full meal. Honestly, sometimes she wonders how many non cultivator families can be sustained from one bite of the kind of Deformed Being meat that he likes to eat.

    On a side note: Gordy’s Grotto serves mature two scales Deformed Being meat and once a decade or so even the fledgling of a three scales Deformed Being.

    “Are you paired as teammates or couples?” Zax retorted. Ahead of him were walking Zechariah and Linor, and it seemed that the two were in the midst of a very personal, nearly heated conversation.

    Zechariah was hurt that Linor did not consult with him before contacting the Elder Master, redirecting her actions to the reason why they still struggle with the Companion’s Link formation. Linor was mainly nodding, giving the impression of apologizing, though she never said the words. Then, after a few blocks, Zechariah ended the discord with a whisper, which for a brief instant aroused softness in Linor’s posture.

    “They…” Varinka followed Zax’s line of sight, then glanced back at him with a smile. “You don’t understand. To perfect our technique it is required for each of us to wholeheartedly know our formation’s companion, much like comprehending a profound insight. Developing feelings of a romantic nature for one another is, when the companions are of opposite sex and are interested in the other sex, most times inevitable”. She explained ever so comfortably. “I’m not sure how much you knew either of them back in New Earth. Yes, you can say that externally they look like an odd couple, but you shouldn’t misjudge their hearts by the skin and bones around it or its temperament”.

    Zax listened and kept to himself. The talk of love reminded him Anet and for the first time made him wonder why did he think that spending two years apart is fine?

    Was he tired of her? ‘Absolutely not’.

    Did he miss her? ‘Since the day of departure to this very moment and tomorrow and day after tomorrow, for sure’.

    Would he return now, just for her, if the option was available? ‘Not yet…’

    This venture was not just for his sake. ‘I came here with two purposes. Finding out if our love can survive the test of time wasn’t one of them, it doesn’t need to be’. They were young, not as cultivated as they would like to believe, in their hearts, at least. Nevertheless, they were not regular people and as they continued to foster themselves, they could recall more vividly and feel more sincerely. Their love, Zax assessed days before leaving and Anet imagined the same, was not the fleeting kind.

    They exited the crowded, metropolitan part of the city, which was not as impressive as some of Kingdom Earth’s caves, going past rural neighborhoods and proceeding to the poor and secluded outskirts of the grand city “Sanctum Oasis”. Here the number of residences was small, stone houses that were built randomly around the area, perhaps out of miscalculated convenience, maybe under the influences of wanting to live alone. The number of people was even scarcer than houses’. They were divided into two groups: old and forgotten and young familial yet extremely poor.

    Normally, the only guests a place like this in Sanctum Oasis city would know are the patrol guards that show up every two to three days in the morning or night.

    “What’s her name?” Varinka intrude, recognizing hint of longing in Zax eyes and drawing his attention from trying to understand why he was led to this unremarkable place.

    “Don’t be nosey, Varinka”. Giant Havreim reprimanded. The big guy considered matters of the heart as something that men should keep just there, buried inside and out for air only in the company of the significant other.

    “Anet”. Zax did not mind.

    “Mm…” Varinka ignored Giant Havreim. “Want us to arrange smuggling her from New Earth like Zech and Linor? It’s possible, if the Elder Master or Second Master give their approval”.

    “No”. Zax declined on the spot, without the mood to explain. ‘When I’ll have the strength I’d walk with her hand in hand through the passageway’. He would not let her ever experiencing being on the run or worse, looming death.

    “Soothe yourself”. Varinka shrugged. “This is the place, by the way”. She pointed.

    It was a one storey cottage, not small like the adjusting houses and not large as some of the villas they crossed at the better parts of the city. It was surrounded by a courtyard of sand and rugged earth.

    If Sinister Chain’s leader wanted their headquarters to be unassuming, his certainly found a working solution. Using his Soul Senses, the place was not even protected by an obstructive formation, yet Zax could discover nothing particular.

    “It’s rude, you know, probing someone else home without asking first”. A man opened the wooden door and come out.

    His clothes were simple, adhering to norm and fitting the visage, a thawb, or ankle length, long sleeves, earth colors robe.

    His skin had a light brown shade, an obvious tan that masked his natural white skin. His short hair was black and so were his slightly slanted eyes.

    Zax’s heart pounded in his chest at the sight of the man whom his Soul Sense failed to detect. He started him, deaf to the calls of Zechariah, in utter stupor.

    It was their first meeting, but he unquestionably knew him and most definitely never believed that he would meet.

    “Supreme Ruler… Gid Chu Takeda!”

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    Book 8 – Element

    Chapter 20 – Joining Sinister Chain?



    “You are not my Tal or apprentice, so ‘Senior Gid’ or my whole name ‘Gid Chu’ is acceptable. This is how big brother Ariel told you to refer to him, might as well do the same with me”. Former Supreme Ruler Gid Chu Takeda exuded no air of haughtiness as one who grew up learning about the feats and temperament of his or her exalted founder would expect. In fact, he also did not have an iota of a cultivator’s air to him, just the impression of a middle aged man at his early forties who still retained some of his youthful features.

    ‘Supreme Ruler Gid Chu Takeda!’ Even if his life was on the line and he had to scream every name that he could scrap from his mind, Zax would have never assumed that the leader of Sinister Chain is actually former Supreme Ruler Gid Chu Takeda. His mood suddenly turned foul and he glared at Zechariah and Linor, his eyes demanding: ‘Could you not have freaking told me?!’

    The duo averted their gazes, truthfully were kind of anticipating his shock, more so because in the short span of time that passed since their first and last meeting he managed to surpass all their rigorous cultivating by an outrages margin.

    As for their initial response to former Supreme Ruler Gid Chu Takeda… they pretty much reacted the same way. Linor’s composed and cool demeanor faltered and her mouth opened wide enough to fit a bundle of Earth’s Cores while the mannered Zechariah nearly shit himself shouting “Founder? You are alive!” Apparently it is some sort of well kept secret in the family…

    “Varinka, Havreim, Linor, Zechariah, return to the hotel”. Gid Chu dismissed them and then gestured for Zax to enter the courtyard and inside the cottage.

    “Elder Master-” Varinka opened.

    “Leave”, he interrupted her attempt to sway him otherwise. “Your duties are unattended”. Gid Chu reminded, calm and patient, sending them off like a father rather than teacher or superior.

    “Elder Master, everything Rockwell and Riv said is true”. Giant Havreim said.

    “Of course it is”. Gid Chu nodded and with that stopped paying attention to his four apprentices. “Let’s get inside”. He turned to Zax. “Currently everyone is out, so we can have peace and quiet while enlightening each other. There is good coffee, too”.

    The cottage was spacious, consisted of a large room, right after the entrance, that most of its space was overtaken by the living room and the rest, the northwest corner, was the open kitchen. Two bathrooms, a laundry room, a storage room and four bedrooms were evenly divided beyond the east and west hallways.

    “You wonder why I picked this place to stay in?” Gid Chu read Zax’s inquisitive expression. “It’s not our headquarters, far from it. Take it as a temporary resident randomly chosen”.

    “Senior Gid”, the many things Zax wanted to ask him about amounted to too much that his pick of residency was barely at the bottom of the list. “Why did Senior Ariel say nothing about you here, moreover being the leader of the five powers’ number one opposing organization?”

    “Would you like to join Sinister Chain?” Gid Chu asked in return, “I mean, it was not why big brother Ariel sent you up here, if it was he could let big sister Trey handle your affairs, making sure you understand, but the five powers think now that you are dead and we already met. Ultimately we share the same goal, the betterment of our fellow New Earth’s citizens. Why not work together, then?” He pulled a chair for Zax to sit on by the round table at the back of the living room and turned to the kitchen, where he used a grinder to grind dark brown, slightly reddish, coffee beans he took from a jar that sat on the countertop.

    Zax smelled the rich aroma of the ground coffee. He was not a fan of the bitter beverage, never got the chance to drink enough to get accustomed to the flavor, but he appreciated the scent.

    He realized that Gid Chu was serious with his offer and addressed him on equal footing, his pick, perhaps because Zax was not his apprentices and he acknowledged his accomplishments in Demirve Ridge, not to mention his level of strength from recounts of Rockwell, Riv and Linor.

    Thinking about the pair and remembering that he still possess inside his Blue Stone the hexagonal token with two letters printed on it in Netherling, ”S.C” Rockwell gave him following the invitation to join Sinister Chain, Zax also recalled the same reckonings he made back then for either becoming part of a criminal organization or a Geared mercenary band.

    “I’m not good with taking orders”. He wanted to negotiate his terms of service. Requests were one thing and being constantly told what to do was another, against the nature he fostered growing up around more beasts than humans.

    Gid Chu washed and wiped two small cups. “And working in a group? Have you ever been part of a group working for mutual purpose?” He causally inquired.

    “I can work with other. I did”.

    “Then you always were the leader, remarkable”.

    Zax frowned. Was he being mocked?

    Following the silence of a lack of response, Gid Chu glanced at him while pouring the steaming dark liquid to both cups. “Being a loner is fine and dandy, but then what does it has to do with your disposition toward orders?” He carried the cups, each on a small wooden saucer, served Zax his and sat down. “There is no contract to sign or an oath you have to make. Heck! Looking at you, I cannot even buy you with our resources. That is, besides the thing you took, or rather its content…”

    “You know?” Zax was surprised. Not that Gid Chu was informed of the Blue Stone he stole, but what inside of it and its usage. He thought it belonged to the so called “Second Master”.

    “Hahaha”, Gid Chu laughed, choosing not to elaborate, and returned to the original subject. “Would you mind if I’ll tell you in the form of an order to save a life?”

    “Of course not”, or more accurately he would not care, since if the subject was someone who did not deserve to die and was nearby, then he would have helped regardless what others told him and in what manner.

    “What about taking a life to save a life?”

    For now he decided not to force the issue of the Blue Stone, partly at the chance Gid Chu would forward it toward the absent Second Master. “You won’t have to tell. I don’t particularly like seeing innocents suffer and don’t overthink killing evildoers”. In his book, the innocents were mostly non cultivators hoping for peaceful life, a concept he unconsciously associated with his parents, extended family and friends.

    “Lastly, should I order you to search for a name, follow the person, acquire the information and clean all evidence that you were ever present, all for the sake of New Earth, humans and beasts alike, would you refuse it?”

    ‘This is ridiculous’. Zax thought, knowing exactly what Gid Chu was coercing him to say. “Where did you send them, Zechariah and the others? What are they doing?” He reached for his cup, mimicking Gid Chu he held it by the handle, as to not get burn nor would he but this was common custom. As expected, it was bitterly offensive to his tongue and when he sniffed the aroma from right under his nose its richness turned pungent. In retrospect, most unexpected was that the coffee did not have any special properties. Inwardly Zax wondered why he assumed that the coffee Senior Gid, former Supreme Ruler of Kingdom Earth, serve him would be something rare that only cultivators can drink. ‘Did I indulge myself with too much of the Deformed Being meat Havreim ordered?’ He barely ate, but in recent months it was the largest meal he had…

    “You have to be a member of Sinister Chain to get exact details”. Gid Chu remarked as a reminder. “They are somewhere in a more populated area of the city, lying in wait till further orders, which importance they fully recognize”. He added the last part despite not being asked for their opinions.

    “Then this is something I cannot do. Senior Ariel wanted me to follow the steps of my predecessors, those sent to explore the world above ground, but I’m sure he truly intended for me to actually investigate the five power and just was not able to be explicit about it due to some sort of limitation. He stated that an oath was involved. Anyway, I have my own way of going about it and resting in place not it”. He was blunt. If he was the same young man who first laid his eyes on the most exalted figure he grew up to believe exists, he probably would have had a lot less spunk and expressed himself more meekly.

    For a long while, after hearing Zax, Gid Chu preoccupied himself in a concentrated sip of hot coffee. He was hard to read, always seeming placid, maintaining an air of hospitality.

    “I gather you are not interested in our Companion’s Link formation?”

    “No”.

    It was painly obvious.  Gid Chu just wanted to clear it for certain out of the way, but Zax was so direct that he felt a tad disgruntled. ‘Brat, can you comprehend how sought for this formation is and the figure who created it?!’ Naturally, he did not reveal it.

    “Then it settled”. He declared out of the blue with an approving smile as though they made an agreement Zax was unaware of.

    “What’s settled?” Zax uncomfortably shifted in his seat, leaning a bit forward.  He was not worried about Gid Chu imposing something on him, and if he was someone else then he would not have even batted an eyelash, but the man still was a hero of childhood, an elder who reshaped history. Without his involvement there is one third chance he never would have been born. So of course he will feel a level of shame and embracement, should he deny him.

    “Of course, that you shall join Sinister Chain!”

    “Senior Gid-”

    “As an outside contractor”.

    “Outside what?” Zax was confused. He knew what an “Outside contractor” is, but was taken aback that the supposed most notorious criminal organization has an acceptance policy for odd recruits.

    “This way it will be easier for you and me”. Gid Chu began to explain as well as narrate the state of affairs. “In the organization I’m known as ‘Elder Master’ or ‘Leader’. I share the leading post with another, a beast cultivator from Valgarel, referred to as ‘Second Master’ or ‘Second Leader’. You can say that the both of us established Sinister Chain. Currently we have seventy four members, including myself, divided into three groups: First are New Earth’s natives, such as me, Second Leader Yurnal and your acquaintances... Seconds are descendants of New Earth’s immigrants, basically sons and daughters of older generation members who were born in Ercas Mir. Last are Ercas Mir’s natives, with no bloodline connation to New Earth, like Rockwell and Riv that you met in Demirva Ridge”. Gid Chu kept holding his cup in one hand, the saucer in another and In between sentences drank his coffee. “All seventy four members are direct operators of the organization, as the seventy fifth you will be the sole outside contractor. The downside is that you will enjoy less of the resources, which doesn’t seem to be a loss… the upside is that you will have the ability to accept or refuse tasks and accomplish them without interference, though I do expect a flawless success rate, since you insist on working alone. Is that fair?”

    “Yes”. Zax agreed.

    “Hahaha”, as if struck by a amusing thought, Gid Chu laughed in satisfaction, postponing further proceedings. “Anyway, now you should feel relived”.

    “Yes? For what?” Zax had achieved nothing yet, merely joined Sinister Chain.

    “Why of course, despite big brother Arial’s doubts on the matter, us in Sinister Chain already obtained the results of the task he hope you, many before you and those sent after, will accomplish”.

  19. #219
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    Book 8 – Element

    Chapter 21 – Truths, Goals And Brining Up To Speed



    Zax was on the verge of retorting against the notion of already joining Sinister Chain when it dawn on him that if former Supreme Ruler Gid Chu Takeda declared so, he probably will not budge for any other demand. Thus, he semi officially became the seventy fifth member of Sinister Chain.

    As Zax showed no indication of asking himself, Gid Chu took his silence as the essential attentiveness he would like him to exhibit before bringing up to speed. “Might as well start from the beginning, won’t you mind?” It was a rhetorical question.

    Zax preserved his equanimity. Taking a sip from his cup he thought he detected a hint of a nutty flavor. ‘Also earthy…?’ They did not make the bitterness less harsh on his taste buds, but fixating on them enriched the overall experience, perhaps the first step toward acquiring the taste?

    “Back then”, Gid Chu opened. “I was serving, together with big brother Ariel and big sister Trey, in the Blessed Army. Big brother Ariel shined the brightest among us three, catching the attention of the high command. His talents were, are legit, so dazzling that me and big sister Trey had to strive with utmost determination just to keep up with the sight of his back. It is fine, though, we would not have attained our accomplishments without him presenting goals to learn from and surpass. Besides, we were wary of the five powers for New Earth. By attracting the limelight to himself alone, he could advance quickly in rank while helping us stay inconspicuous as we probed long enough to formulate an idea of the Blessed Army’s, correspondingly all five powers, intentions”. He snickered and reminisced. “If they came to know of our identities early on, things wouldn’t had been as simple. You see, at its core it was a web of deceit, enlisting to the Blessed Army”.

    For the most part Zax’s possessed a solid countenance. On the one side he was listening and on the other, trying impatiently to figure how the man sitting before him now came to be through the narrated history.

    “At the time of our enlistment, despite knowing of the world beneath the ground, the five powers’ attitude toward it was very lax, therefore when we joined the Blessed Army, by the time where we originated from was known, certain figures in the army were convinced of our, big brother’s mostly, value and allegiance, which, following by contemplating their intentions, enabled us to uncover a truth or two. These truths were the reason of my discharge, a decision that aroused distrust from those who had opposed big brother’s promotions and were cautious from our countryman’s Martial potential.

    ”It was not easy, but in the end, in order to leave and be free from the watchful eye of the army, be it in New Earth or Ercas Mir, I was penalized with a great but worth it price”.

    “Your mist cultivation?” Zax asked bluntly. Not trying to be impolite, yet not being able to sense an iota of mist energy when he used his Soul Sense before, he was quite curious about the former Supreme Ruler’s cultivation, unless it was concealed extremely well, like his presence. Additionally, Gid Chu’s cordiality simply gave him the impression that he is free to ask anything.

    Gid Chu lowered his head to his cup and whether it was a confirmation, he did not say it immediately. “Big brother Ariel remained at stationary position in the army, he was obligated by an oath and frankly it was good for him to stay on this front in the occasion of a storm… Big sister Trey returned to Kingdom Earth as the chief Supreme Ruler. She was still unlisted in the army but with big brother’s support it was agreed to let her manage Kingdom Earth. As for me, after conditioning my soul to the task”, he said as if admitting to Zax’s suspicion and as if it was understandable for him to exchange the mist cultivation he earned by the tutelage of the Blessed Army for freedom and a life as a soul cultivator. “I returned to Ercas Mir and roamed the oceans and continents till eventually establishing my own power, Sinister Chain, which fundamental goal is to eliminate the threat of the five powers”.

    Zax withheld his opinion on Gid Chu sacrificing his mist cultivation. Grandmaster Kartion had done the same for a cause that was righteous for him and sometimes another man’s shoes and another stag’s hooves are better left with no wet behind the ears sympathizers. ‘The five powers are a threat?’ He turned to the following matter.

    He was aware of their oppressiveness, especially against New Earth’s inhabitants, with their rules and limitations, yet their conduct never really posed a threat, on the contrary, they were open to receive and groom those prospects from New Earth, hence the Martial competition every half a century.

    ‘It correlates to their findings’. Zax thought, meaning the intentions and truths that were uncovered, probably long before he was born.

    “Here we return to the hope big brother Ariel placed on you. At his current position of a Lieutenant General, the second highest rank in the army, and as a fourth level Martial Mortal, along with all the contribution he made over the years and meritorious service, the General of the army is still keeping him, the majority of the army actually, in the dark from a few things I could not discover unless I was discharged.

    “Starting with understanding the magnitude of the truths we learned, after Sinister Chain was functioning and we gathered intel from four of the powers (Blue Sea not easy to get to or penetrate as the rest due to its topography) and investigating the roots of the different communities… initially we thought that the tribes and villages who grew up to become the first clans and cities were cells of humans and beasts left behind during the great immigration, but it turned out that we were entirely wrong. By examining the heritage of the human communities, there are no signs of any association to the pre immigration humanity. Furthermore, all documented history indicates that since they, first villages and tribes, were formed, the five powers were already reigning”.

    Allowing Zax a moment to digest, Gid Chu took a step back and said. “The truths about the five powers that we thought we so well understood are, one, the five powers emerged thriving right after the catastrophe that drove our ancestors underground, meaning there is a chance they were connected to it”.

    ‘They weren’t’. Zax said to himself, knowing it was the expert from whom he inherited his Black Core that was the mastermind of what he, too, entitled as “Age of Catastrophe”. Nevertheless, he will not tell it to Gid Chu, not his full truth, anyway, and not before he will have an alternative to mask the details he would rather keep to himself.

    “Second, the Generals of Blessed Army and Golden Desert Fort, Horn of the Violet Scaled Troops, Admiral of Blue Sea and Luminous Church’s Archbishop aren’t necessarily the highest authority of the five powers. From conversations we intercepted we know that outside this planet, somewhere in space, are situated absolute powerhouses, Immortals, who transmit orders to the leaders of the five powers here on earth. These are the two truths my big brother and big sister are also aware of and roughly the full extent of their knowledge (big sister Trey know a bit more because her oath to the Blessed Army less restrictive, which makes it safer to share my findings with her then with big brother). One of these truths is in inaccurate, but before I’ll tell you which I’ll sum what we knew of the five powers’ intentions before I left the Blessed Army.

    “Today it’s not much of a secret for anyone in the circle of third realm experts, be they five powers’ personal or not. In fact, anyone who can manage to infiltrate there mobile outposts undetected and rummage through the complied data (you do have computer skills, right? High cultivation cannot be relied on for everything), would be able to catch on what the five powers’ ‘purpose’, to be precise, is… excavation”.

    “They want the planet’s resources? New Earth’s resources?” Zax creased his brows, listing in his head all the valuables treasures unique to the world beneath the ground. Earth’s Cores and Sun Stones and all sorts of plants and minerals came to mind, yet none his intuition told him was something the five powers should covet. ‘Are they after quantity rather than quality?’ That was one possibility; the other was the remaining items on the list, or more accurately Places. He never been there but got close enough and heard a lot from his Master. ‘The second and fabled third Savage Caves?’

    “That is the rough estimation we made at first and most everyone believe”. Gid Chu said in a finalizing tone. His cup emptied, he rested it on the wooden saucer and placed it on the round table. “That is the gist of the accessible information available before Sinister Chain came to be, a raw perception of truths and purpose a great number of experts could tell you and nothing clearer”.

    He considered for a fleeting moment to ask Zax what he thinks, but discarded the thought instantly.

    “The truths about the five powers are that they are not five but three. Luminous Church is a branch of a religious sect called ‘Holy Palace’. ‘Planetary Battalion’, we speculate, is a vessel capable of traversing space. From there the higher ups of Blue Sea and Golden Desert Fort were sent. And ‘Voltic Star’, a planet we can’t decide if situated at the same Milky Way galaxy, is the home world of Blessed Army’s and Violet Scaled Troops’ high command. They all came here as alien groups of scavengers, not instigators who incited Nature thousands of years ago”. Gid Chu spat the last sentence. “This may sound like a minor illumination of the five powers’ background”. He confessed. “However with it we can eliminate detrimental misconceptions on our enemies. Moreover, it’s not all. It must be the most crucial piece of information we ever obtained… Considering the cost…” He said half to himself half to Zax. ”The reason for the geographical distribution of the planet by the five powers isn’t just territorial division. They are in a dispute, the heads of the three major factions behind them, the Immortal powerhouses. Apparently it wasn’t even them who discovered the planet, but their five subdivisions, the five powers. How? I’m not sure since they were supposedly in space. Yurnal thinks that the planet released fluctuations when the catastrophe occurred and they were sufficiently close to detect them. Be it what happened or not, after discovering the planet they reported it, following by receiving orders with a specific goals, first populating the land (don’t ask, failed to found out why), second excavation. As for their Immortals leaders, the important part, why they aren’t here as well. We were told that they are in a stalemate due to the claim for what they are trying to excavate and that none making a decisive move for the concern that escalation will draw the unwanted attention of other Immortal powerhouses”.

    “Told? By whom?” It sounded to Zax like someone or ones from Sinister Chain managed to infiltrate the five powers, get into a position in the know of things. It could not be a native to New Earth; otherwise senior Arial would not have needed him. He also doubted that the higher ups of the five powers were willing to trust those born above the ground, in a world under their supervision. Not to mention the obstructive oaths… ‘What left to weight are the possibilities of traitors in the five powers, or… Did they catch high profile prisoner?!‘

    “Vise Admiral”. Gid Chu answered plainly. “Blue Sea’s fourth level Martial Mortal. We captured and interrogated a few years back”.

    ‘Sinister Chain had the means to capture a fourth level Martial Mortal?!’ Zax could not hide the shock in his eyes, which Gid Chu read with amusement.

    Pointing at the Blue Stone in Zax’s possession. “The owner of this thing, Yurnal, he beat her”.

    “Yurnal!” At last Zax understood why Zechariah and the rest urged him to not be impulsive with snatching whatever item in the Blue Stone or even breaking its soul imprint.

    To intentionally force a fourth level Martial Mortal into submission was much more difficult than killing him or her. When experts on the same level were involved, it required for one of them to have superiority in both cultivation and technique. Yurnal, at the very least, had to be at the Peak of said level while his opponent at the Beginner phase!

    “This Yurnal is a Fifth level Martial Mortal?” Zax was ready to stand and leave if that was the case. He preferred to avoid Peak fourth level Martial Mortals, too, but felt more assured escaping from them than fifth level Martial Mortals.

    Gid Chu shook his head. “Of course not, do you think fifth level Martial Mortals are that easy to come by?” He raised an eyebrow.

    Zax did not answer, just felt relived in his heart.

    “He is a second level third realm bodily cultivator, like I am”. Gid Chu smirked.

  20. #220
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    Book 8 – Element

    Chapter 22 – Fate



    “Third realm bodily cultivator!” If he was shocked before, now Zax was utterly flabbergasted.

    As far as he knew about the state of bodily refinement techniques in both New Earth and Ercas Mir, the latter was far behind and the former had only three noteworthy bodily refinement techniques, one of which, arguably the best, was Grandmaster Kartion’s Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement. Another, most famous yet in second place, he encountered in the Martial competition, Elijah‘s Scarlet Armor. However neither Grandmaster Kartion nor Elijah had yet to create the third realm phase of their respected techniques, at least it was ridiculous to imagine that they managed to in the relative short span of time that passed since he left.

    “Aren’t you a soul cultivator?” Instead of considering other techniques, Zax concentrated on examining Gid Chu’s physique through his stature and what little he could see of his exposed skin. There was nothing peculiar, to be fair he was not sure that he could find any prominent indications that will expose the man before him as a bodily cultivator, he met very little of them… but not all signs could be hidden, something that would rouse his instincts, should he care enough to pay attention, had to be somewhere. Nonetheless, he still detected nothing and therefore doubted Gid Chu’s claim.

    “Don’t bother”. Gid Chu recognized the scrutinizing gaze in Zax’s eyes. He gave him that same look when he first saw him, only better concealed it. “It wasn’t that I was a soul cultivator as a last resort. I terminated my mist cultivation after reaching the first Martial Mortal’s level. By then my soul on its own was capable of dealing great damage to most Core Masters and my body was honed by the energies of the third realm breakthrough. At worse, I altogether had the battle powers of Beginner third level Core Master”.

    ‘That’s right’. Zax concurred. ‘My mist cultivation is held back till I gather all Black Cores. I had forgotten that Mist Users also strengthen their body with each breakthrough’. “Which refinement technique is it?” On a personal level it was more important for him to know the first bodily refinement technique to pave a path for the third realm, than continuing to discuss the five powers and their Immortal powerhouses.

    “Infinite Transformations Altering Body, Yurnal’s own creation. You, cultivate Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement, right? Well this is another Valgarel’s bodily refinement technique and from the mouth of one of the strongest being on this planet, Ozeyn, it’s qualified of being the third best bodily refinement technique”.

    ‘”Ozeyn” as in “His Valor Ozeyn”?’ Zax did not ask out loud, pretty much sure of the answer. Furthermore, receiving a reply to his initial question, the tremors in his heart ceased. ‘It can be ahead of the curve, that doesn’t make it better than Grandmaster’s. There got to be shortcomings in this bodily refinement technique that in my perspective wouldn’t be worth the haste’. Though ego was somewhat involved, the fact of the matter is that if he could go back and choose, Zax would have still preferred to cultivate the slow, even incomplete, yet best, than third or second best regardless how easy and fast they were in comparison.

    “Are you satisfied? If not we can exchange pointers later. Infinite Transformations Altering Body’s third phase might not be better than the subsequent basic tempering the body receives from mist energy when Martial Mortal attains the fifth level, not to mention the whetting from the other superior techniques, but it has its own benefits that should not be underestimated”.

    Zax said nothing in response, nevertheless it was determined that later he will verbally accept Gid Chu’s offer, if anything, to examine how well he can match himself against someone comparable to fourth level Martial Mortal. As for avoiding Yurnal because of the commotion he made and the Black Core he was reluctant to give up, unless the reputed Sinister Chain’s Second Leader will suddenly show up, he will reflect over his options after the exchange.

    “How much of your information did you get from your hostage?”

    “’Prisoner’. We had no intention of giving her back. It was already implausible for Yurnal to grab her before Blue Sea’s Admiral interfered”. Allowing killing intent to ooze out, Gid Chu wanted for Zax to understand the kind of conclusion there is and will be for anyone from the five powers. “She just recently broke through, yet still compelled Yurnal to a desperate situation and took the lives of six members in the process”. He settled down and proceeded to both answer and explain. “Breaking a fourth level Martial Mortal required effort meticulous and radical. It wasn’t that eventually we could make her talk… we isolated her spirit, smashed her soul and amassed whatever we could before the fragments dissipated and her spirit moved on. If she had the resolve to suicide at the time her captivity was imminent, she would have got the chance to exhibit one last act of devotion. In the end she probably deluded herself thinking that her Admiral will save her, which is why you might as well say that she willingly provided us with information.

    “To your query, of all the things we know, perhaps seventy to eighty percent came from her”.

    “So much… are you certain of its reliability?”

    “Have you ever tortured someone’s soul? If your skills are up to the task, the disparity in soul cultivation isn’t significant and the subject did not cultivate a relevant soul technique, then distinguishing results won’t be as challenging as you may think. Would you like me to pour you a second cup?” Gid Chu collected his cup and saucer and got up from the chair, on his way for a refill of his apparently delicious coffee.

    “No”. Zax said and waited for him to return from the kitchen.

    “They like the flavor stronger here, in this part of the world. After getting used to it, finding a decent brand in the Western Continent, back home, even in the eastern and northern parts of this continent is practically hopeless”.

    “I’m fine”. Zax repeated to close of the topic of the coffee. “Why the five powers are a threat and not the immortals behind them? Say that we’ll uproot and exterminate anyone and everyone from the five powers, won’t the Immortals put aside their differences and come?”

    “You are taking the notion of their existence pretty good… It’s a good point. It was a problem that we, too, thought of, but then we extracted a soul fragment that gave us the solution. When the five powers found and arrived to the planet, the fifth level Martial Mortals who lead informed their subordinates, only those who originated from the same place as them and were and reach the fourth Martial Mortal’s level (see why big brother still in the dark?), that only upon completion of the excavation their Immortal leaders will ‘descend’. I suppose they want to swiftly clear what treasure our planet has, and to avoid prolong struggle agreed to come for it only after it would be found. Considering that thousands of years gone by yet other than their attitude toward New Earth’s natives, nothing changed in the workings of the five power nor they were ordered to expedite the excavation, we can assume that time is not of the essence for Immortal beings and therefore we have plenty of it to nurture an Immortal from our own as a backing. That means that if we do exterminate the five powers, we’ll need to do it before they could alert their Immortal leader so we’d actually have the sufficient time to prepare for them”.

    There was it, ‘Sinister Chain’s grand plan’. Zax thought. “Immortals… I’m capable of having the upper hand against third level Martial Mortals; it’s commonsense for me to start and aim higher, which is why I want to ask… Is ‘Immortal’ the name of the realm after Martial Mortal?” Though he knew that the Martial path leads to Immortality, to use the concept freely in his questions without letting Gid Chu suspecting how he knows about it, he had to play dumb for a bit.

    “No”. Gid Chu’s answer caught Zax by surprise.

    ‘Was he misled?’ Although his own knowledge was also limited, Zax was sure that the expert was fully candid in his messages.

    “Calling it ‘realm’ isn’t entirely incorrect, but a better term to call it would be ‘Second Stage’ of cultivation. The first one is Mortality, afterwards comes Immortality. Immortality is also divided to different levels, possibly realms, but this is a subject we know very little on. We primarily got from her the importance of the second realm’s six bottlenecks of insight and that for third realm cultivators to achieve Immortality they must pursue a pinnacle comprehension of an attribute. The first is a prerequisite for the success of the Martial path; the second is a requirement for ascension”.

    Zax sighed inwardly. ‘Maybe they don’t know more than me, but I was just lucky to receive the guidance of the expert. Ultimately joining a large faction, larger than yourself, is truly more beneficial than being a loner’. It was a fact he could not deny.

    “So that’s how it is…” He acted as if he was completely oblivious, for a while silent, seemingly contemplating a thought, an insight. “Can someone really make it, a human or a beast from New Earth, is there someone with the potential to reach Immortality and back those of us with linage from before the great immigration?”

    “There is, two actually. Big brother Ariel and ruler of Valgarel, Ozeyn”.

    “Senior Ariel and His Valor Ozeyn?” The farther the conversation went the more incredulous certain portions of it sounded to Zax. It was actually due to the confident manner Gid Chu elaborated on each matter, but neither could be blamed. “My Master and Grandmaster told me that senior Ariel and His Valor Ozeyn are equally matched, or at least that is the common belief of New Earth’s experts. But should not senior Ariel be a fourth level Martial Mortal? The five powers not only have each fifth level Martial Mortal, their history, if everything you told me is true, is more abundant. Even if senior Ariel and His Valor Ozeyn indeed reach Immortality”, he wanted to say “Evolutionary Ascension”, but Gid Chu did not mention it so he picked his words carefully. “It’s likely that each of the five powers will have by then an additional Immortal or more in their ranks. Senior Ariel and His Valor Ozeyn won’t be able to face alone eight Immortals and do you even know how far the current Immortal powerhouses behind the five powers are in their Immortal path?”

    “There are no bulletproof plans, Zax”. Gid Chu emphasized. “Of course we, I, want to cover all aspects of our plan, but not all issues are solvable and to deal with them, to minimize deficiencies, we sometimes need to place bets on ourselves and be prepared to make a sacrifice”.

    “That sounds to me like glorying needless suicide. Why can’t we let the five powers excavate what they want and leave-”

    “Who said that they would leave?” Gid Chu interrupted. “Forget for a moment that they might drain this planet for all of its valuable resources for cultivation, why they populated the planet if not for assimilating it? There is only one occasion in which Nature’s decree that ‘the strongest rules and the week cannot complain for being subjugated’ can be disregarded, and that is when the weak’s life is threatened and there is nothing else to lose. That is our situation. We are oppressed, confined and vulnerable. There is no freedom in compliance, nor opportunity to forge our own path. And it’s not just we who are native to this Earth for countless generations. Those the five powers used to populate the surface of the Earth might be next in line, but in the same boat”.

    “So there is no other choice than objecting them…”

    “Exactly, and fighting back, that is the fate of those at the edge of the wooden board. Otherwise, death”.

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