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Thread: Earth's Core

  1. #41
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    Book 2 – Black Core

    Chapter 5 – Long Awaited Breakthrough




    “Don’t force yourself, Zax, stop. You should take a break”.

    In an incomplete apartment with dust all over and a two meters in diameter hole in the floor, an apartment in Zetsa’s building, a Mor and her Tal were seated in a meditative position.

    Two and a half months had passed since Zax’s tenth birthday. The date for this year Great Earth’s Core Pursuit has been decided and released to the public. This year the Great Earth’s Core Pursuit will launch earlier than the year before, in the first of April and will continue until the thirtieth of June.

    The fourth of April was the designated date for the participants from cave twenty five and the participants from seven other caves.

    With a month and a half before the biggest event in every coreless child’s life, not a lot of time remained for Zax to achieve the objective of the taxing soul training his big sister elected for him. Coincidentally, eight days ago Zax’s interaction with the bottleneck of level F has reached a critical stage. Since then, Zax could not enhance his soul anymore by training in the Inner Spirit formation or by performing Somnolence Meditation, each time he tried the results were less and less affective, as if behind the bottleneck was an insatiable abyss that devoured all of his attempts to strengthen himself.

    To pass through the difficult bottleneck in time for the Great Earth’s Core Pursuit, after consulting with his big sister, Zetsa came up with a method, which was more of a gamble, to improve Zax’s chances in a task that the number of coreless children who faced it before him could be counted on two hands, and for the number of those who passed successfully it one hand was too much.

    Environmental Stimulus was the technique in question. It emphasize on training all three aspects of a living being, body, Qi\mist and soul at the same time in rotation in uncommon environments that the participant was unaccustomed for. The belief was that by broadening horizons one can stimulate any of the three aspects or all three; therefore the probability to attain insight in his or her practice could increase significantly. Needless to say the for the chance to gain insight, those who walk on the Martial paths, particularly experts, at the verge of the next phase or level would go to substantial lengths, even risking their lives.

    Zetsa was anxious due to the limited time her brother had. She selected four different locations for Zax to stay in and survey himself, hoping for a glint of accomplishment to appear in his eyes as soon as possible. During this period of introspection Zetsa chose to be at Zax’s side every second of the day. The bottleneck to level F was not the same as the bottleneck to level E and D. Although it seemed insignificant, since any child above the age of ten who participated in the Great Earth’s Core Pursuit has afterwards crossed it, it was really misconception to believe that it is so simple. Only those who reached naturally to level F, that is, without an Earth’s Core, or researched the matter were able to realize what sort of juncture it is, comparable even to the bottleneck to level D!

    The first location that Zetsa chose was their grandparents’ farm. There, she reminded to Zax that it is a form of training before instructing him to do whatever he feels like doing, so they walked.

    Leaving Zetsa’s Sun K-79 behind, they walked for hours, from the early morning till late at night when eventually they ended up arriving home. Since the mentioning of the word “training” Zetsa noticed that her Tal interpreted the meaning of this method of exercise in a much complex manner than it was.

    Admittedly she did not explain to Zax the concept of Environmental Stimulus, for it was something he had to find out for himself, but as a result it turned out counterproductive. Still, Zetsa did not say anything to Zax and at the second day she informed to pack a small backpack cause they were going back to get her Sun K-79. The predetermined second location had been replaced. The new second location was the road.

    Going forward to a day later, Zetsa took Zax to the apartment building she owned. There, she picked one of the incomplete apartments, one with a giant hole in the floor, and told him to just seat down however likes. For two days they walked. On the first day the agricultural vicinity was the epicenter of Zax’s environmental perception. On the second day it was the road and familiar buildings that were emptier than he recognized. It was the silent scenery that only a child who did not go to school nor have to work could encounter. At the third day Zetsa wanted for Zax find to be at ease and merge with an incomplete form, obviously, she did not tell him that either.

    The fourth location was so radical that Zax lost the feeling in his legs when he and Zetsa arrived there. It was a little bit past tunnel seventy eight, one of the border tunnels between humanity’s territory and the beasts’.

    “Big sis… staying here is illegal for minors, you’ll be in trouble…” Zax tried to alter her decision.

    “No one will know, come on, there is a hill a kilometer that way”. Zetsa ignored Zax’s pleas. She grabbed his hand and pulled him after her apathetically to his fears.

    In New Earth any cave visited by a member of humanity, even those in the beasts’ territory, was numbered. There was only a slight difference in the numbering process between the caves in humanity’s territory and the beasts’. The first difference was that beasts’ caves that were numbered had zero as an initial digit. The second difference was a rule that required the humans who ventured into caves in the beasts’ territory to fully map them before retreating.

    Cave zero eight was a soundless jungle. It gave the impression that the only beasts roaming were the spirits of dead ones. Nevertheless, here and there were signs of large and small footprints and gusts of wind rattled the thick vegetation, carrying uniquely refreshing smells.

    The hill that Zetsa took Zax was around a hundred meters tall. Many of the surrounding trees were much taller, though, and were able to provide shelter from the constant baring light of the Sun Stones at the high ceiling of the cave, since it did not have anything like the Nightly Cover formation applied to it.

    “There are four tunnels connecting to this cave, Zax. One leads to cave twenty five while the other three to deeper parts in the beasts’ territory”. Zetsa lower her head as she explained to Zax. Her little Tal stuck so close to her that his breath tickled her exposed bellybutton. The only thing that he was shy of doing was cling to her leg, like his third years old self whenever she was about to leave home.

    Zetsa pushed Zax away with an impervious facial expression, indicating that she was not joking and this is exactly the fourth location. “In a couple of hours I’ll return to take you back, Zax. Where I go is doesn’t matter, why can’t I stay you should not ask and getting back on your own is on you, Zax”. Her tone was rigid and callous. It was worse than a stab to the chest, treating he beloved little brother in such a harsh manner, but it was for his sake. There was not a lot of time remaining for the Great Earth’s Core Pursuit and if Zax’s soul will not reach level F before that, much of his future prospects will diminish.

    “No… no… You can’t leave me her, big sis, I want to go, take me back…” Zax was on the verge of crying. What he could not understand was why he was so uncomfortable, why the concept of being in the beasts’ territory frightened him to this degree.

    Well, there was an answer, one which Zetsa was aware of and hoped that her little brother will be able to prevail against it. The answer was Zax’s highly sensitive soul. Whether it was a coreless boy or a Mist User at the Core Breaker level, if either of them was here instead of Zax, he or she would not have felt any different than how he or she felt on the safe side of New Earth.

    Of the three aspects of a living being, two are capable of sensing the environment. The basic one is the body of a living being, whatever it may be. The more complicated one is the soul of a living being. A Mist User can first utilize the soul to sense the environment at the Beginner phase of the Core Breaker level, to what extent is a whole different story.

    Zax’s soul level was only at the top phase of level G. Common sense dictate that he should not be able to sense the environment with his soul, especially involuntarily. Zax, however, was an enigma beyond common sense. In comparison to a Core Breaker, his soul was of lower quality and his soul energy in lesser quantity. From some reason, though, he still was able to perform a soul attack, even if by the simpler method there is. Sensing the environment, although a far more difficult feat, to a certain degree, by experimenting for a while with the new grasp of his soul energy, has made possible for it to developed on its own.

    On top of the desolated hill, Zax stood alone. Zetsa disappeared in a speed he could not comprehend. Being there on his own, Zax’s Soul Sense could extend only as far as the skin on his body. Generally, he was not able to perceive farther than his body sense of touch, but when he came to contact with specks of the environmental essence he could feel a minuscule bit of the terror it carried. As to what specifically was the source of the invisible terror, that was too hard to tell.

    Zax waited for hours, not daring to leave to hill, afraid to even move from his initial place. Misperception of sounds and shadows deluded him to think that sometimes something was watching him, sometimes he himself saw something besides the thick vegetation, other times to even feel warm breaths at the back of his neck.

    Where was his More? Where was Zetsa? Where was his overprotective big sister?

    Zax asked himself countless time. “It’s not right… It’s not right…” Sensing one thing with his Soul Sense but been unable to perceive it with his body five sense threw him off balance. Hours later, when the light in the far away tunnel to cave twenty five dimmed, Zetsa returned. She did not say anything nor assessed the tensed Zax from up close. She grabbed his hand and pulled him back after her apathetically.

    Another three days passed. Now.

    “Forcing a breakthrough is impossible, Zax”. Zetsa sat next to him in the incomplete apartment, giving only this advice, and then quietly continued to watch him.

    Zax did not care. He was restless. He could not train or meditate like he used to. Not only that, he was stuck in the same juncture for such a long time. It was a first for him to really struggle. In the past the path of training laid all he had to do before him. Staying in the activated Inner Spirit formation for as long as he can, dismantling the icy grains or replacing steady sleep with Somnolence Meditation. He had done them all. None of them was easy to begin with but at least they were not obscure.

    The bottleneck of level G? He tried to remember how he broke through it, but back than it happened spontaneously and since the differences between the Advanced and Top phases of the previous level and the early phases of level G were typically infinitesimal, he could not grasp any insight in relations to the process.

    Most of all, there was tomorrow. The return to the fourth location. Zax had nightmares for three consecutive nights. In those dream he stood at the top of the hill, waiting for his big sister. The giant trees were overbearing than in reality. Their height was unfathomable. They loomed above Zax’s head, hiding the cave’s ceiling, enabling a scarce number of light rays to penetrate through the leaves and branches and illuminate the closest layer of tree trunks that surrounded him. And from the darkness, the darkness behind the first layer of three trunks, Zax could sense his fears taking form and approaching.



    March thirty one.

    On top of a small hill in the beasts’ territory, approximately a kilometer from the tunnel to humanity’s “safe zone”, Zax sat on his bottom. He sat for two hours since the day has started a cave away. His back by now was bending forward and his neck was down. He was tired but he could not sleep.

    “If I close my eyes they will appear”.

    “They” were the surreal things that terrorized him in his dreams, which were the reason for his lack of sleep for the past month and a half. He never saw or heard them, but he did smell and felt them, and even more so on top of the cursed hill.

    When one aspect of a living being is in turmoil, the other two bound to also suffer. Since the night after his first experience in the fourth location, Zax began to develop difficulties controlling his Qi. He wanted to put aside the burden of his soul training, however, ignoring the disarray of his soul has made it impossible for him to concentrate on an aspect he just recently became aware of and did not have time to properly examine.

    His unsettled soul also affected his body. Day by day, Zax began to eat less and less. A week has passed and he lost two kilos of his weight. At the following week he lost another two, and then four and one… In a way, that got Zetsa to worry about him even more so than the inability to control his Qi. His parents, as well, started to doubt her methods of training. She discussed it with them couple of times during the past month and a half and managed to convince them by saying that it all will be over before the Great Earth’s Core Pursuit and implored them that she knew what she was doing. Zax’s big sister and parents ended up supervising him during his meals. They forcefully made him eat even if he did not want to, even if he told them that he feels nausea. After Zetsa’s explained, Marco and Laylen understood that Zax’s body only projected the imbalance of his soul and in truth, no matter how ill he seemed to be, The best thing for him was to nurture his body as he regularly did.

    “I’m tired… I’m tired…” Zax constantly repeated. “There they are! No, there! Behind me? Where are you? Leave me alone!” The instant he closed his eyes and slipped into the nightmarish dream world, Zax’s Soul Sense intensified, decrypting with almost ease the cautionary tales of the environmental essence around him.

    “Big sis!” Zax jumped on his feet, calling. He surveyed the area left and right, up and down. When he did not find anything he sat again and sobbed for an hour.

    “Why did you do this to me, big sis? Why I have to suffer so much, big sis? If it’s for a breakthrough, I no longer want it…” Zax rubbed his eyes, his whole face, his head in frustration. “This things… I don’t want to stay here anymore, big sis, please come and get me, big sis…”

    After three more hours Zax calmed down a bit. The body’s fatigue since passed, though only temporarily. Some changes also accrued to his soul. None were significant or allowed him to finally figure how to break through the bottleneck to level F, but once in a while, after this long time of continuous agonizing, were moments of clarity in which the stress to his soul was even invigorating.

    Zax took advantage of these tranquil moments to meditate. His intentions were not to enrich a part of himself, rather to reminisce the better days of his short life from as far as he could remember.

    Remarkably enough, Zax could remember as far as his first year in this world, despite the fact that so far back these memories were simply tiny fragments of major moments.

    The more Zax drifted in his memory line, the better he could make up certain events. One memory caught his attention, him at the age of three strolling with his grandparents in their farm. It was midday and Zax first time walking freely in the open fields with no one in sight, for his grandparents were behind him. He was a small boy in a wide space with nothing to obstruct him, and for a split second the moment Zax remembered suddenly expended infinitely.

    Another memory, years later from the last one, was of Zax’s first day in school. Oddly it was not the school, per se, that he remembered, but the flood of people he passed by on his way to school with his mom. How lively and exciting were the streets when the road he walked on headed to a new place, somewhere that even then he could tell was a step up for a child's life. How much Zax yearned for the presence of others right now, it was nearly unbearable to his child little heart.

    Led by these lonesome feelings, another memory appeared before Zax. His first time at his big sister’s place, his first day of training. Throughout all of that day Zax was excited. Excited to be trained by his accomplished big sister, excited of going to become strong like the fighters in the Earth’s Core’s showdowns, excited that his greatest desire was taken seriously by an adult he looked up to. However, during the past month and a half he was not so sure anymore. One part of him truly believed that he could not handle the drawbacks of his current tribulations, while another part that was separated by a miserly narrow line, somewhat still had the forte to hold out.

    “That is…” In the blink of an eye the memory of him in his big sister apartment vanished and instead a peculiar memory creeped on Zax. Following its appearance, along the cruise over the fluid like stream made of seemingly white energy, Zax could not locate any other memory, recent or distant.

    With but a brief glance, before devoting his fully attuned attention to the one picture that stretched high and wide beyond whatever he could perceive in his meditative state, Zax recognized the scene that took over.

    “The hill!” Zax lost his composure and began to panic. “No, no!” He managed to maintain the meditative state reluctantly, only to not have this memory embitter these blessed moments of serenity. “Away!” Zax madly commanded. “I don’t want to see you! I don’t! Go! Leave me alone!” More than anything he was afraid that the memory of the hill, or others that were related, will contaminate the previous memories which granted him solace.

    Unknowingly, while the soul was on the verge of breaking, the body started to heat up as bones emitted sounds of cracking and muscles tensed, while correspondingly the Qi frantically gushed through the Qi channels in circulation.

    Zax’s body swayed and fell to the ground of the hill as blood ejected from his mouth. Nevertheless, his eyes were kept closed. Enduring an external and internal eruption of numbing pain, Zax forsook his well being wholeheartedly.

    “Away! Away… awa…” As the last of his strength faded, only silence remained in his consciousness. Zax’s body stopped moving, his Qi settled down and the light of the distorted blur that was his soul gradually dimmed.

    “Eh!” A single note of realization awakened Zax from his beaten state. He pushed. He separated. He divided his mind flawlessly and naturally into two, forming the outer and inner mind state, advancing with his soul to a level equal to a F level Mist User.

  2. #42
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    Book 2 – Black Core

    Chapter 6 – A Bit Of Qi Utilization




    Approximately three hundred meters from the hill, on which Zax was standing with a wide expression of wonder on his face that quickly changed to an expression of utmost sense of achievement, Zetsa was watching her little brother with bated breath.

    How long as she being doing it, observing Zax from afar whenever she left him on top of the chosen fourth location? “Since the very beginning” was the answer. Yes, it was not in Zetsa calculation that Zax’s soul was so exceptional that it could develop a Soul Sense. Such strange occurrence has made it difficult for her to estimate when it happened, which is why up until Zax showed the severe reaction to the environmental essence in a cave that was part of the beasts’ territory even he was not fully aware of this ability.

    “He actually made it”. Zetsa sighed and with no time to spend she leaped from one tree’s branch to another, toward the hill. “An F level soul that could use soul attacks and has Soul Sense… No! It was within his capabilities when his soul was at the top phase of level G! How terrifying, little Zi, your strong points differ than mine so I can only guess the benefits of naturally breaking through the juncture of level F with your soul”. Zetsa praised her little brother\Tal. “Here you are!”

    “Big sis!” For the first time in a long time Zax Jumped on his big sister with the affection of a jolly little boy. His enormous achievement made him forget his sore body and Qi channels.  “Hahaha… I knew you were behind me without even looking, hahaha…” Zax cheerfully declared. He was saying the truth, after just advancing to level F the condition of Zax’s soul was at its peak and his Soul Sense extended to a radius of a hundred and thirty centimeters in which his inner mind was aware of every little thing and change in the environment. Because of that, Zax was not surprised to see his big sister suddenly appear from behind him and was even the first to call aloud.

    “What was that? You say that you were able to tell that I was behind you?!” Zetsa questioned the words she thought came out of Zax’s mouth and with him hugging her body like a little monkey she unconsciously touched her ears, to see if they were working right.

    “What? You don’t believe me? Fine I’ll show you!” Zax got down from his big sister, turned his back to her and walked a few steps. “Do anything that you want, but don’t go too far and I’ll tell you exactly what you are doing without looking”. He urged her.

    “Do something? Do what, Zax, stop playing. Your body and Qi channel went through a great ordeal of stress and tension. Come on, I’ll carry you, we are going home”. External appearance was enough for one to grasp the state in which Zax’s body was in. A little probing with her own Soul Sense allowed Zetsa to also figure the state of his Qi channels. Furthermore, what did Zax just ask of her? To entertain the idea that his Soul Sense could extend beyond skin and hair, past one meter!

    How could she believe it? A Mist User in the Core Breaker level, even at the peak of the exalted level, can extend his or her Soul Sense at most to a radius of a hundred and five centimeters. Zax took it one big step farther, literally! Zetsa did not accept nor believed that. The benefits of naturally advancing to level F, in regards to Soul Sense, she expected them to be somewhat beneficial, but not to an extent that surpasses the proficiencies of a Mist User in the Core Breaker level!

    “I was four steps from Zax when I arrived behind him, roughly the length of one meter. I didn’t hide my presence when I came forward… It doesn’t matter. One meter is still too long and he noticed me before I approached him. How unreasonable is it?!” Zetsa probed the scenes of a moment ago in her mind. “A skill that only Core Breakers can develop, for Zax who now has a soul at level F, a radius of ten to twenty centimeters for his Soul Sense is already beyond my expectations. Fine, let’s test it”.

    Zetsa stood exactly one hundred and ten centimeters from Zax. “Which hand am I holding up?”

    “Your left”. Zax replied instantly. “I can tell even if you stood a little bit farther. It’s weird, after I divided my mind I could detect, if I wanted, what’s happening around me easily. Even the threatening feeling from before, the one that hunted me…” Although he was already past that uncontrollable sensation that ran amuck through every fiber of his being, addressing it with words or in his inner mind still caused a deep distressing response to his soul, especially now that he could interpret its origins.

    “Look here, Zax”. Zetsa bent her legs in a sitting position and with her finger drew a short line on ground. “This is the length of one centimeter”. She explained. “The thing that enables you to sense the environment to a certain degree is called “Soul Sense”. Try to extend the reach of your Soul Sense with the inner mind as far as you can and then count how many lines like this one you can place in a sequential order. Oh, and start from the center, where you are standing”.

    “A hundred and thirty lines, big sis”. Using the perception of the inner mind, Zax needed ten seconds to count. He did not have to put any effort to the task, though at the Beginner phase of the F level, Zax benefited in more than just his Soul Sense. The quality of his soul had no parallel within the scope of the F level. To place imaginary lines and count them in a certain order in ten seconds was a plain assignment.

    Even so, Zax’s unique soul was not able to process and interprets everything within the radius of his Soul Sense as fast as a Core Breaker, or even an E level Mist User, if there was one who had a Soul Sense. If Zax tried his hardest it still would have taken him at least eight seconds to count all the lines.

    “That’s wonderful, little Zi”. Astonished from the conformation, Zetsa lifted her brother from the ground and held him with hands stretched. “My little Zi is so magnificent!”

    “Haha…” Zax laughed.

    “You’ve done well, little Zi, much better than me, I must say”. Zetsa took him close to her bosom, ready to depart from the hill. “Are you well?” She asked.

    “Yes”. Zax replied with a soft smile and drained face. A warm and fuzzy feeling radiated from his big sister’s body, entered his body and slowly relived its soreness like a strong sedative.

    “Then say goodbye. We won’t return here in the near future”.

    “Goodb…” Zax murmured, relaxed finally and with closed eyes.



    April First.

    Zax woke up after sleeping soundly for twelve hours. “So GOOOOD!” He exclaimed when he realized that his body, Qi channels and soul were no longer aching, as he was already used to due to the constant anguish and forgot how it felt to wake up peacefully.

    “Grughghg!” Zax’s stomach growled. “I want to eat!” Huge appetite suddenly overtook him. “Meat! Eggs! I want to drink orange juice! Mom! I’m hungry! Make me something big to eat”. He ran exited to the living room. “Mom!”

    “Shhh… Quiet down, Zax”. A silent voice whispered from the living room. “Mom and dad are sleeping”.

    “Sleeping?” Zax turned his head to the source of the voice, but it was dark in the living room. Actually with was dark all over the house and even outside of it. “Big sis?” Using his soul sense he made his away to the living room and the sofa on which Zetsa lay.

    “Zax, are you up?” The lights in the living room turned on. Marco and Laylen stood next to each other in their pajamas.

    “Make me something to eat, mom, I’m hungry!” Zax pleaded. It was night and he spoke aloud, but he really was hungry, too hungry to pay attention to the sleepy faces of his parents or slightly care.

    “Zax?” Both Marco and Laylen were surprised at their son change of attitude that they continued to stand, holding each other. “Are you really hungry, do you want to eat?” Laylen asked gently, afraid of sounding imposing, afraid to scare away the spark she had not seen for a long while and now, all of a sudden, returned to her son’s eyes.

    “He is well, mom, dad, Zax finished this long session of training. He got back to his usual self. His soul advanced to the level of a F level Mist User”. Zetsa informed their parents with an apologetic smile.

    They returned home around ten o’clock at night and at that time their parents were already asleep. Zetsa decided to wait until the morning, but now was as good time as ever to tell them that their little boy “resurrected”.

    “Will you make me something to eat?”

    “Zax!” Laylen burst into tears and grabbed her son tightly between her arms. “You are okay, Zax, my Zax, my Zax. Sure honey, anything you want, mommy will make anything for you”.

    “Laylen…” Marco eyes reddened. Was it not worried about his son? Was he not worried about his wife? He was. The cool head of the family, lenient in times, strict in others. He carried himself day in day out with a firm disposition for his son to turn to, for his wife to lean on, for his daughter to speak unrestrained.

    At last, the pretense was no longer necessary.

    Massaging his forehead and eyes, Marco exhaled heavily once, as if released from a great burden. “Our son, a coreless boy, has reached level F with his soul, Laylen”. He spread his arms around his wife and son. “Did you ever think that it will be possible… for our son, without an Earth’s Core?”

    “It’s not important, Marco. Zax his back, look at him, look at his eyes”.

    “And his stomach, mom, don’t forget the stomach! I’m hungry!” Zax added.

    “Sure, I won’t dare. Let’s make a feast for all of us to enjoy. But don’t make too much noise. It’s still night”. Laylen laughed, clearing the streams of tears on her bright face.



    After the midnight meal, Zax took a warm shower with Zetsa while Marco cleaned the dishes and Laylen prepared new sheets for his bed since the old ones were dirtied by his sweaty and dusty clothes that he wore since his last session of training and went to sleep in.

    The next morning Zax woke up around seven o’clock in the morning. He was not tired, but he felt that if he allowed himself he could sleep for the fun of it for days.

    “Don’t gobble. Eat slowly”. Zetsa served him a bowl of hot porridge.

    “But it’s tasty!” Zax said with a full mouth.

    “Your body consumed small portion of food for almost two months. If you’ll force too much too fast you’ll harm your body”. Zetsa educated, afterwards Zax’s eating pace slowed down a little.

    “What are we gonna do today? Are we going the grandpa Ger’s farm?” Zax asked.

    In three days he and all the other ten years old kids of cave twenty five will depart to the place where the Great Earth’s Core Pursuit will occur and even though he reached the goal of his soul training, he was a little bit anxious and did not want to simply wait at home for the awaited date.

    “No, we’ll go to my place. You don’t have enough time for a new training session, but don’t you want to learn some cool techniques that you can execute with your Qi?”

    “Eh… Ehhhh!”



    Outside the abandoned construction site which was Zetsa’s incomplete apartment building, what was meant to the receiving lawn by now sprout into unruly greenery.

    “Wait a moment on the paved road”. Zetsa told Zax.

    Examining the open at the front of the apartment building, Zetsa shifted her gaze to a sufficient area for what she had on mind and gracefully raised her hand in a waving motion.

    In the blink on an eye, silvery particles of mist energy created a wave of cutting wind that trimmed the greenery to a fine length of one centimeter tall in a space twenty meters long, ten meter wide. Right after, another gust of wind blew away the remains of the cut vegetation, leaving a nice and open field fit for an outdoor training.

    “Whoa!” Zax called out, full of awe. The hasty gardening was too fast for him to perceive. In his eyes the scenario was divided into two parts, Zetsa waving her hand followed by a sudden explosion in the greenery. However it played, it still was amazing to just see the foliage rise to the air, as if the earth burped it out.

    “Here is good”. Zetsa took off her shoes and walked barefooted on the trimmed and tickling grass. “Come here, little Zi, take off your shoes and socks, as well”. Zetsa invited Zax with a smile on her face. In a way, it felt like they were on a lovely picnic without anything but a lawn available to lie on and the company of each other.

    “Let’s sit down for a bit, little Zi, before I’ll teach you the Qi utilization techniques, though, don’t expect much, you should finally get to know why I chose to train you in soul refining techniques instead of Qi refining techniques”.

    “Isn’t it because the soul is harder to train and so the benefits are also bigger?” Zax asked quizzically.

    “Close, little Zie, not “benefits”, but for just one “benefit””. Zetsa pointed up a finger. “Do you know what are the changes that convert a regular person to a Mist User after absorbing an Earth’s Core?”

    “Hmm… We learned about it last year in school. After absorbing an Earth’s Core, through meditation a person needs to form the first crack on the Earth’s Core’s shell. When that happens, a person will then become a Mist User starting at the lowest phase of the lowest level. Our teacher also explained to us that after becoming an Earth’s Core holder of the lowest level, no matter whom, anyone will be able to perceive the existence of the merged Qi and mist in the body, which will be a level higher than a regular person, and similar to the Qi, the soul will also advance a level”.

    “Exactly!” Zetsa shouted. Excitedly she asked Zax another question. “And if you are already in that “higher level”, what then?”

    “Then…” Zax repeated, still dumbfounded from his big sister’s autistic behavior. “Then…!” He said again and his eyes widened abruptly. “Are you saying?!” Zax exclaimed.

    “Yes!” Zetsa lips twisted to a broad grin. “Now that you have reached level F with your soul, after you will absorb an Earth’s Core and form the first crack in its shell, your soul will instantly advance past the bottleneck of the next level, it will reach level E!” Zetsa laughed. “And that is not even the kicker, hahaha, unless it’s a medium quality Earth’s Core, or having above average talent, even if you reach level F with your Qi, you will still not advance to the next level after absorbing an Earth’s Core! Hahaha… see why your big sister is so proud of you? See why I pressed you to train in soul refining techniques even when you were on the verge of collapse?”

    “In just a few days I’ll become an E level Mist User, hahaha! That’s awesome!” Zax jumped on his feet.

    “Your soul will reach the level of an E level Mist User, little Zi, in terms of mist you will still be at the lowest level”. Zetsa did not want to spoil Zax’s joy; however, misleading him would have wronged him even worse. “Nevertheless, the difficulties of wholly advancing one’s level are tied to the level of one’s soul. The soul is the nucleus of a living being, it cannot maintain control over the Qi or mist even if it’s just a level higher than it. Yet, if the soul’s level is the one which is higher, then it can support the cultivation and advancement of the Qi or mist up to it matching its level”. She hastily added.

    In truth, even if Zax’s soul remain in level F, advancing the next two levels still will be far easier than naturally breaking through the bottleneck of level F. Until he will reach the bottleneck of level C, it is safe to say that the road ahead of him was paved neatly.

    “Now that you understand, let’s proceed to the next matter in hand”. Zetsa got up and Zax, who was already on his feet, eagerly clenched his fists and dug into the earth with his toes.

    “First, the one and only principle of what you are about to learn. What I’ll teach you shouldn’t be taken as a formal technique of any sort. To a coreless boy who didn’t even scratch the surface of this abundant aspect of himself, there is no way for you to learn in time any real Qi related Martial technique. To do that you will first need to follow a Qi refining technique, or in the future, mist refining technique. What you are going to learn are superficial survival tricks”. Zetsa clarified and made sure that Zax also understood.

    Seeing his consenting node, Zetsa’s eyebrows tensed. “Good. Keep your legs steady, close your eyes and try to feel the Qi that flow through the Qi channels in your body”. Zetsa instructed.

    “I feel it”. Zax said after but a few seconds.

    “All of it. Once you grasp it, it is not as simple as the soul. The Qi isn’t accumulated in one place like the soul, but spread throughout your body. Take your time; verify that your consciousness reaches every nook and cranny within your body. With the level of your soul you should be capable of doing it, just don’t be rush. Even to an Earth’s Core Holder it can take hours to form full connection with whole of the mist in the body”.

    Nearly two and a half hours later, Zax concentrated face gradually relaxed and a serene expression appeared in his eyes. “When I felt it before it wasn’t like this, tangible to this extent…” Maybe only in his explosive first time, though back then he definitely was not in control.

    Zetsa watched him and slightly nodded with approval. “Being repeatedly pushed to the verge of life and death has bestowed many advantages upon you, Zax”. She said to herself.

    “It’s the deference between grasping a portion of your Qi and all of it”. Zetsa opened. “Remember to reach this proficiency whenever you use your Qi or soul energy. No matter which aspect of your being you utilize, you should not treat it halfheartedly. When you’ll return from the Great Earth’s Core Pursuit, this will become your first method of training before proceeding to mist refining techniques”.

    “Okay, big sis, what now?” Zax took to heart Zetsa’s teaching and awaited for further instructions.

    “Now, Zax, you will observe and imitate what I’ll do. Move back a little and don’t use your soul sense no matter what!” After saying so, Zetsa followed her own directives ostentatiously in order for the steps to truly be engraved in Zax’s mind.

    A silvery thick misty aura immerged from Zetsa body instantly. Distortions in the air signified the vast power Zetsa withheld. “I’ll use my aura to help you visualize the process, but I’ll do so only once so pat attention”. Spreading her arms to the sides she kept saying. “This is a hundred percent usage of my mist energy, gashing out from every pore of my body. Try it yourself”.

    Zax watched and obeyed. Spreading his arms in the same manner, the best that he could do with his Qi was let it flow throughout his body as it did before, while this time maintaining a thread of consciousness for instant take over.

    Five minutes had passed. Zax’s calmed demeanor began to frown has time passed. Even though he extended only a thread of his consciousness, it was difficult to wield over time.

    “You can stop”. Zetsa said, yet she kept showing of her aura. “The quality and amount of Qi you possess is insufficient for a prolong usage. Rest for ten minutes, let your Qi channels recuperate”.

    Ten minutes later.

    “Times up. Get a grip on all of your Qi again”. Zetsa said since Zax ceased the thread of consciousness.

    This time it took Zax two hours to gain full awareness to all of his Qi.

    “Arms to the sides”. Zetsa said and spread her arms also. “The first time was to let you realize that even if you don’t execute a profound Qi or mist technique, it’s still hard to maintain for a long time. Qi is energy, any usage of it, and basically any action count as a usage, spend your Qi. But it doesn’t mean that you only have a limited amount of Qi to spend in your entire life.”

    “Let me simplify it. Think of Qi and Qi channels like an extension of your body. If you run for a long time the body gets tired and weak. What then you do? You rest and nourish the body to renew its strength. Excessive use of Qi, in cases like yours even a little usage, will reduce the Qi in your body and tire the Qi channels, to recuperate what you do?”

    “Rest”. Zax answered involuntarily, but he began to feel tired again and wished his sister will hurry.

    “Much like what you do when the body is exhausted, you rest and nourish the Qi by nourishing the body with healthy food. Just so you know, there are other ways to nourish the Qi, but they aren’t easy to come by. Never forget, exhausting completely one of the three aspects of a living being, soul, body or Qi will result in certain death! ”. Zetsa talking pace stayed indolent.

    Two minutes after.

    “You can stop to rest. After ten minutes, repeat the exercise”.

    Two hours and fifteen minutes later.

    “Watch clearly and try to imitate the movement of my aura with your Qi”. Arms to the sides, Zetsa’s aura began to move slowly from her left side of the body to accumulate only in the right side.

    Imitating his Mor, Zax controlled the Qi in his body and allocated it to only the right side of his body.

    “Excellent. On to the next step”. Zetsa complimented and shifted her aura only to the upper right side of her body.

    Once again imitating his Mor, it took Zax a few seconds this time to concentrate his Qi only in the upper right side of his body.

    “You are doing well, Zax, two more steps”. Zetsa said. Her full aura then moved to cover only her right arm. The great concentration of silvery particles made it seem as if Zetsa’s arm was made out of pure silver.

    “Urgg…” Zax shrieked. The more Qi he accumulated onto one place and the smallest that place was, the more it felt like filling a half a liter bottle with a greater and greater amount of water.

    “Remember this feeling. That’s your current limit”. It was already within Zetsa’s predications and a good lesson for Zax. “If you’ll try to concentrate your Qi in an even smallest space in your body, your Qi channels may tear apart. Helping you then, even I don’t have the confidence, so don’t push yourself!”

    “Okay, big sis, last step, last step”. Zax winced.

    “The last step”, Zetsa smiled and decided to spare the surroundings. “Punch the ground!”

  3. #43
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    Book 2 – Black Core

    Chapter 7 – The Beginning of The Great Earth’s Core Pursuit




    The second in April, year 5785.

    Three o’clock in the afternoon.

    A line of eleven parked busses stretched to a bit over a hundred meters at the entrance to tunnel seventy seven from cave twenty five.

    Families from all over cave twenty five accompanied their eligible youngsters and saw them get on the busses. Approximately six hundred and forty participants were about to be sent from cave twenty five, this year.

    For the second consecutive year Zetsa volunteered as the representative Guardian of cave twenty five’s participants. She walked toward the first bus, where her parents, her little brother, his friends and their parents waited.



    Eight o’clock in the morning, the very same day.

    Zetsa was on her way to leave her parents’ house to the cave’s management office. “Zax”, she called him. “Come here”. She asked in a low voice.

    Putting down the fork on the breakfast plate, Zax got up to send off his big sister. “I’ll see later, big sis”.

    “I know you will. I didn’t call you for that”. Zetsa rubbed his unruly morning hair. “Listen, Zax, I’m telling you now cause later I simply won’t have the opportunity. In the search big sis won’t be able to help you find Earth’s Cores. It’s against the representative Guardian’s event rules; at most I can appraise the Earth’s Core or Earth’s Cores that you will find. But”, Zetsa said before Zax pouted. The next part was of utmost importance for her to impart on him. “Even if you won’t find an Earth’s Core, you will still receive a compensatory one at the end of the search, that, however, is not what I want you to remember, Zax. What you should remember is that even if you will be forced to absorb the Earth’s Core that the event’s comity arranged for those who didn’t find during the search, by no means try to form the first crack or any crack on the Earth’s Core’s shell”.

    Zetsa bent closer to Zax’s ear. “As long as the Earth’s Core is intact in your dantian, you can use your unique soul to push it out. Don’t do it in front of others, if you already absorbed the Earth’s Core wait for me to take care of things”.

    Listening to his big sister, at first Zax wanted to ask her if it is really possibly to remove an absorbed Earth’s Core, yet when he was about to ask her, a more pressing question came out. “If I’ll take out the Earth’s Core, what then?”

    “Then, although it may take some time, your big sis will do a few favors and get you a better Earth’s Core than you can get from the event’s comity”.

    “Good quality Earth’s Core?!” Zax nearly jumped of excitement.

    “Do not let your imagination get carried away, little Zi. Your big sis will do her best”. Zetsa refrained from promising something too good. E level Earth’s Core, if she could get the lowest quality of that level, it will already be above and beyond.

    “Now that you know finish your breakfast, I’m off”.



    Back to current time.

    Alongside Zetsa walked a happy looking, tall and ridden man with a black wig on his head. He was the head manager of cave twenty five’s management office, Nuci Poweil. Unlike governor Edomachi, Nuci Poweil did not possess the “Governor” title and was a mere representative of the esteemed high class Poweil family that managed several other caves in El-Eden.

    “This year our children are within the first groups in the queue, hahaha…” Head manager Nuci was satisfied with this year arrangement. “Their chances of finding good Earth’s Cores are a lot better than the previous years, isn’t that right, Miss Zetsa? Hahaha…”

    “Who knows”, Zetsa answered honestly. “A decade ago, I remember, that there was a kid who was in the last batch and found a high quality Earth’s Core, while two years ago, within the first five groups from Tongguo who entered the search cave in their region, each and every child came back empty handed. If anything, I’d say that it is all about luck”.

    “Well, luck is something that none of us can control. In this case it’s best to be among the first groups and hope the heavens and Supreme Ruler look fairly on all of our children”. Head manager Nuci was in his late seventies and managed cave twenty five for more than forty years. Over the years he sent thousands upon thousands of participants to take part in the Great Erath’s Core Pursuit. Obviously he had a better insight in regards to the matter in question, thus, Zetsa could not contradict his pearls of accumulated wisdom and had to agree with him, even if she did not believe that the “Heavens” or Supreme Ruler Ariel Dauch have anything to do with the luck of the young participants.

    When all the kids sat in the busses, placing their provisions backpacks on their knees and before their families waved them good luck and goodbye, Head manager Nuci, a C level Mist User, Core Breaker, amplified his voice with his mist energy and delivered a customary speech.

    “Young future Mist Users and valued families members. It is a great honor for me that today I, Nuci Poweil, get to send once more and for the forty fourth time as the head manager of cave twenty five, our young ones onto their most significant journey in their life.

    “Children of cave twenty five, tomorrow you will face the most taxing challenge that any coreless child faces once in his and her life that will determine how great your future is going to be.

    “It is not a challenge that you should be afraid of. On the contrary, it is your moment to transcend the limitation you have been living with so far, from coreless children to full fledged Mist Users!

    “Children of cave twenty five, I wish you the watchful and blessed eye of the heavens and our Supreme Ruler Ariel Dauch”.

    Head manager Nuci finished with a bow, turned his head to Zetsa, who sat near the driver on the first bus, and with a slight node wished her an ample journey.



    Zax sat at the back of the bus with Serah, Dane, Anet and a few other kids from his old school.

    “My sister participated two years ago in the Great Earth’s Core Pursuit, you know”, Zushi Sarker, a short, blond hair blue eyes kid lowered his head and talked with a hand on his mouth. “She told me that no matter what, me, and my friends better form a group before entering the search cave”. His blue eyes turned to the seven kids next to him and revealed his intentions.

    “Why do we need to form a group? Won’t we have a better chance to find more Earth’s Cores if we spread?” Weysey Inoki, a black hair green eyes boy raised the question before Zushi got to finish what he was saying.

    “Think about it yourself. What will happen if you’ll find an Earth’s Core?” Zushi asked.

    “The rules state that if a participant finds an Earth’s Core he or she has to leave the cave and show it to the attendant who stays at the entrance of the cave”. Weysey answered as if he was quoting his homeroom teacher.

    “See, here is the problem. What if you will come across other participants on your way to the attendant?” Zushi swept his gaze across the understanding faces of his friends. “I’m not saying that we should form a group to steal from others, only to protect ourselves. My sister told me that the representative Guardians aren’t really there to keep us in order or so that no harm will come us, at least not from other participants”.

    “I’m okay with forming a group, if it’s only to protect ourselves”. Serah said.

    “Me too”. Anet also agreed and the other five, beside Zushi who came up with the idea, including Zax also nodded in agreement.

    “If we form a group we need a leader”. Merly stated.

    “Sure. Zax, you’ll be the leader”. Zushi said without hesitating even though the idea was his.

    “Me?” Zax felt a bit uncomfortable acting as the leader.

    “You were the strongest boy in pre Core School, plus you are Miss Zetsa little brother, how can you be anything less?” Truly, if not on the Martial path, then at least on the political one Zushi will most definitely have a bright future!

    “Fine, if that’s what everyone wants”.

    Sure enough everyone nodded in agreement.

    “But how will we decide how to divide the Earth’s Cores if we’ll found any?” Dane raised up the question.

    “We can do it like this”, Zushi began to explain. “If one of us finds an Earth’s Core, that is, the first to locate it with the eyes, then he or she will call “not here”, best if it would be loud enough only for the members in our group to hear, and the Earth’s Core will be his or her. If more than one member of the group calls “not here” at the same time for the same Earth’s Core, then those who called “not here” will decide who gets the Earth’s Core by a game of rock paper scissors”.

    “Sound reasonable”, Dane felt the need to give his approval. “But what if you already found an Earth’s Core and locates another one?”

    “Well, the only opportunity for someone who already has an Earth’s Core to find another one will be when the rest of the group will escort him or her to the attendant at the entrance to the cave. If that happens, then those who found another Earth’s Core can choose which Earth’s Core they want to keep and the rest of the group will play a few rounds of rock paper scissors to decide who will get the other Earth’s Core”. Zushi paused, to make sure that his explanation was clear to everyone. “Are we a group?” He whispered.

    “We are”. The other seven whispered back, among others who had the same idea.



    Cave one hundred and thirty nine was a border cave within Supreme Ruler Ariel Dauch’s region, El-Eden, and the gathering cave for all of the ten years old participants of El-Eden and their representative Guardians.

    Lines of busses from all over El-Eden who carried tomorrow’s participants were parking in a giant parking lot near a dome like compound. Besides the compound, which was more than a thousand hundred meters long, six hundred meters wide and ninty meter tall, were various tents and two other square buildings that were each about a sixth of the compound’s size.

    “Participants of cave eighty seven, join here in rows of forty…”

    “Participants of cave three, join here in rows of seventy four…”

    “Participants of cave one hundred and forty one, gather up here in rows of fifty…”

    “Participants of cave twenty five, assemble here in rows of forty…”

    “Participants of cave eight, join here in rows of sixty…”

    “Participants of cave one hundred and one, join here in rows of thirty…”

    “Participants of cave ninety nine, assemble here in rows of fifty five…”

    The seven representative Guardians from the seven caves of tomorrow participants ordered the soon to be “Young Mist Users” under his or her care. Some even utilized their mist energy and with gentle touches of their aura helped the young ones to construct the rows.

    When the first group was ready, its representative Guardians led it to the closest tent to the parking lot where a big sign read: “Registration Stand To The Great Earth’s Core Pursuit. Year 5785!”.

    Zax and his group of eight managed to sneak themselves to the head of one of the eleven rows to watch carefully the registration process which sparked their and every other coreless child present, for that matter, curiosity.

    A good looking woman, wearing blue uniforms with a white ribbon that stretched diagonally across her left shoulder to her waist and read: “GECP STAFF”, accepted Zetsa and the group from cave twenty five. Since the small tent only meant to house the woman and a small desk with a computer on it, Zetsa actually stood outside of it.

    “Here, the list of participants from cave twenty five and my contact information as their representative Guardian”. Zetsa handed the woman a small rectangle yellow chip. The staff member woman inserted the chip to the computer and a few seconds later took out, from a box beneath the table, a red ribbon which read in golden letters: “GECP GUARDIAN”.

    “Please wear it in all times”. The woman gave the ribbon to Zetsa, who immediately wore it in the same manner as she did. She also gave her a piece of paper, on which she wrote a few numbers. and returned the chip before directing her to the next tent.

    Passing one of the medical tents, Zetsa led her group to a tent near the entrance to the compound that had a sign beside it which read: “Time Bracelets Registration Stand”.

    “Tomorrow’s participants…” The man in in the Time Bracelets Registration Stand said to himself. The Time Bracelets Registration stand had a huge tent filled with sealed boxes. Like in the previous tent, Zetsa did not enter, but waited outside for the staff member to approach her.

    “Serialization token”. The man, who was short with words, said to Zetsa. Zetsa gave the piece of paper she received from the woman at the initial registration stand.

    The man looked at the serialization token and sighed. “This year they send the smaller group first…” He then turned his back to Zetsa. “You are good”. After so Zetsa turned as well and entered with her group to the giant compound.

    Thousands of neat bunk beds filled more than two thirds of the compound. Beside them were showers and bathrooms. At one corner of the compound was a staircase to a second floor and at the center of the compound was a lectern.

    Zetsa was the second representative Guardians to lead her group into the compound. The first representative Guardians to arrive already ordered the boys in his group to settle and choose bunk beds.

    “Boys of cave twenty five”, Zetsa opened aloud when the last of her group entered the compound. “Choose any of the bunk beds over there and settle your backpacks on them. Keep together and don’t seek only bottom bunk beds. No one is allowed to go to the second floor and no one is allowed to occupy an empty bottom bunk bed if there are empty upper bunk beds with participants from our cave, cave twenty five, who already picked the bottom ones! Go, you have ten minutes to choose beds in orderly fashion and return.

    “Girls of cave twenty five, wait for a while. Your bunk beds are in the second floor. Obey the same rules as the boys when you go up there. I’ll help you find a side for our group and when I’ll leave none of you is allowed to go to the first floor until I’ll return!”

    Zax’s group consisted of five boys and three girls. Before the five boys left they agreed with the girls no to mention anything about their already formed group and that if someone would ask, either the boys or the girls, to join some other group they will say that they have to think about it.

    Thirty minutes after the last of the representative Guardians arrived with her group to the compound and the last participant from her cave laid his backpack on an upper bunk bed, a stern elderly staff member with a black ribbon across his chest, reading in red letters: “GECP DISCIPLINARY SUPERVISOR”, walked into the compound and stopped in front of the lectern.

    “Silence!” The elderly man, who, according to his ribbon, was the disciplinary supervisor of the Great Earth’s Core Pursuit event, amplified his voice with his mist energy and the dominating aura of a Beginner phase Mist Lord exploded out him upward.

    Instantly the more than five thousands coreless participants, and even four of the representative Guardians, were paralyzed.

    “Welcome to the one in a life time event, the Great Earth’s Core Pursuit”.  The elderly man spoke with an indifferent tone and eyes that gave the impression that they could inspect every detail of every person in the compound, altogether!

    “I’m the disciplinary supervisor of the event and the man who is responsible for overwatching the proceeding of the event in cave zero thirty nine, El-Eden’s designated cave”. The disciplinary supervisor drew back his aura but kept his harsh tone.

    “Participants and representative Guardians, every year there are tens of thousands new participants in the Great Earth’s Core Pursuit. To ensure a safe and bright hunt for each and every one of the tens of thousands participant, a set of rules has to be enforced.

    “The rules are not complex. Starting with the first and most important one, participants are not allowed to enter the unsafe zone!  Inside cave zero thirty nine are two tunnels, of which, one is a forbidden tunnel leading deeper into the beasts’ territory. The unsafe zone is guarded at all times by the event’s Guardians that will disqualify any participant who will try to go through any tunnel besides the one he or she entered from to cave zero thirty nine.

    “The second rule should already be known to most of you but still require clarification. Twenty four hours after the beginning of the event, all participants, whether if you found an Earth’s Core or did not, must get back immediately to the attendant at the entrance of cave zero thirty nine to sign that you participated in the event and your finds.

    “DON’T BE MISTAKEN!” The disciplinary supervisor hastened to say. The preceding part was always the cause for many misunderstandings that he had no patient to deal with. “Even if you come by with empty hands, the event’s organizers, our Supreme Rulers, directed us, staff members of the event, to keep a stock of Earth’s Cores available for distribution to any of the unlucky ones. Please realize, all of you, participation in the Great Earth’s Core Pursuit is not a chance for you to gain Earth’s Cores in order to become Mist Users. “Participation” means that you get one chance to find the best Earth’s Core out there to better your position and future prospects as dignified Mist User!”

    “Best Earth’s Core?”

    “High quality Earth’s Cores?”

    “They definitely won’t give those who come back empty handed any good Earth’s Cores”.

    “Yeah, probably the lowest quality Earth’s Cores…”

    “Common Earth’s Cores like my mom’s and dad’s…”

    “High quality Earth’s Core! High quality Earth’s Core! High quality Earth’s Core!”

    “Oooo!”

    A wave of whispers and speculation mixed with cries of excitement could not help but resonate in the compound. To the ten years old coreless children the knowledge that they will soon pass the threshold toward the greatest opportunity that they will ever get in their entire life, to receive the chance to search for those legendary Earth’s Core that only one in a million can find, made many of them drool buckets.

    “Settle down, settle down…” The elderly man said mildly. Although the disciplinary supervisor, he still gave his consent, to some degree, for the children’s boisterous excitement. After all, with children the louder the noise the higher the spirit and in a pitiful event, such as the Great Earth’s Core Pursuit, sometimes high spirit was adequate to compensate the lack of fortune that many will encounter.

    “Participants of cave eighty seven, quiet down!”

    “Participants of cave three, stop talking!”

    “Participants of cave one hundred and forty one, keep it down!”



    The representative Guardians saw that the disciplinary supervisor, an A level Mist User they all respected, did not want to topple the children’s enthusiasm by force like when he entered, so they used their own aura to aid him, since their aura and voices were both familiar and, in a way, more authoritative from the perspective of the children they were responsible of.

    “Now that all of you have calmed down, know that I will not accept any more interruption. Try me and I will cut hours from your time of the hunt!” The voice of elderly disciplinary supervisor sounded resolute and right after it sank in the mind of every child in the compound, a hush fell over.

    “The third rule I should mention is an extension of the second rule and it is about the time bracelets. Tomorrow, before entering cave zero thirty nine, each of you will receive a time bracelet which function as a timer that will show you how long do you have in the hunt until you have to return. The time bracelets are green and in addition to time, they can also tell your geographical location in cave zero thirty nine. The time bracelet will calculate your remaining time and distant from tunnel three hundred and twelve and will turn red to notify that you should head back before the end of the twenty four hours you each have in the hunt. Anyone who will dare to be late will not receive an Earth’s Core, whether if he or she found one or not, until a month after the official end day of the event!”

  4. #44
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    Book 2 – Black Core

    Chapter 8 – Pursuing Earth’s Cores




    “Now then, the fourth and last rule…” The disciplinary supervisor nocked on the lectern. “No one is allowed to venture outside of your residency. To those of you who have difficulties to understand, you cannot leave to compound we are currently in. And once you will be divided and transferred to the two square buildings, you cannot leave them, either, without permission! There will not be farther explanations. Disobey any of the four rules and think of it as if you brought upon yourselves the wrath of Supreme Rulers! ” The disciplinary supervisor turned and left the compound with his last warning still roaming in the air.

    From start to finish the elderly disciplinary supervisor did not say anything regarding fights, thefts or even grouping many against one during the “Hunt”, as he named the pinnacle part of the “Great Earth’s Core Pursuit”. Only the participants who were in organized group took notice of it, some wondering, others secretly rejoicing. Of course, the seven representative Guardians already knew the reason why the disciplinary supervisor did not say anything about these conducts. Regardless of the young participants’ success rate in this event, in the end there will not be a child who will not have an Earth’s Core. So why not? Why not add a little bit more challenge besides the required luck? The earlier these children will learn how to safeguard their fortune, the more they will deserve to keep it.

    There were not any quarrels or arguments about bottom bunk beds or who showers first when the representative Guardians finished helping the girls settle in the second floor and afterwards left the compound.

    In eight o’clock in the evening, after snacking on some of their rotations, Zax and the thousands other boys and girls received one nutrition tablet, each, from a group of fifty or so stuff members which came by the compound and had white ribbons hanging from their shoulders to their waist, which read in brown letter: ”GECP SERVING STAFF”.

    The tablets were orange with smooth surface and seemed easy enough to swallow.

    “Listen, everyone, the nutrition tablets that you received should last you for twenty four hours. You should take them on an empty stomach tomorrow morning, so if you brought food with you, either eat it now or after the event, otherwise you’ll feel nausea and abdominal pains. If some of you still can’t swallow tablets, it is fine to also chew on them or drink them with water, however the taste will be awfully bitter so be aware and don’t waste them by spiting them out. Eat them and your energy will last till the end of your search”. One stuff member on each floor explained to the groups of boys and girls. When the stuff members finished distributing the nutrition tablets they bid the young participants good night and a bountiful search.

    The next morning at four o’clock, thousands of snack wrappers were thrown around the compound. The representative Guardians who came to gather their groups were momentarily stunned by the sight of so much littering. It appeared that during the night someone managed to jam the compound trash chutes, all twenty in the boys’ floor.

    The seven representative Guardians sighed in union. The disciplinary supervisor will rebuke them no doubt.

    “Participants of cave eighty seven, get yourself organized and ready to leave…”

    “Participants of cave three collect your backpacks and get ready to leave…”

    “Participants of cave one hundred and forty one, you have ten minutes to get organized…”



    The seven representative Guardians led their groups in seven long lines to the entrance of tunnel three hundred and twelve.

    Tunnel three hundred and twelve was extremely large! At least three hundred meters wide and two hundred and fifty meters tall. Its length from cave one hundred and thirty nine to cave zero thirty nine was also no joke, about seven hundred meters. A white partition of identical length split the tunnel into two sides, one for the returning participants of the previous day who came in bunches, the other for the new participants and their leading representative Guardians.

    Zax and his group of eight converged at the head of the row they were part from during the long walk to the other side of the tunnel.

    “Did you take the nutrition tablets, Zax?” Zetsa asked.

    To not seem partial she tilted her head toward the rest of the group. She did so even though she was not obligated to do more than her representative Guardian’s duties, which were similar to the event’s Guardians’ duties.

    “Not yet”. Zax answered.

    “Good. Take it two hours after the beginning of the search”. Zetsa respond.

    “Seriously, Zax, how lucky of you to have a Mist Master for an elder sister”. Merly babbled.

    “Did he say…?!”

    Not many of cave twenty five’s participants knew of the special relationship between one of their peers and their representative Guardian. Because of their parents they all knew that Zetsa was actually “Miss Zetsa”, a B level Mist User, Mist Master, capable of appraising the density of the mist inside an Earth’s Core and determine its quality. Hearing what that one boy said to that other boy, who were both clenched together with six other kids, about Zetsa, a Mist Master, all the close by participants from cave twenty five wanted to puke their guts from envy.

    “That boy… was “Zax” his name? Is he Miss Zetsa’s little brother?!”

    “Why didn’t you try to approach him?!”

    “How should I have known?!”

    “That boy is cute, kinda…”

    “Crap, it looks like he is already in a group!”

    “See how they walk close to each other… Try convincing him to join us”.

    “That girl is not his girlfriend, is she?”

    “I’m much prettier than that one, urgh…”

    “You try! Argh… he is avoiding stares, he can hear us, how pathetic are we…”

    “You’re pathetic! He freaking has a Mist Master to his disposal!”

    Silent whispers escalated to loud whimpers. Soon every participant knew about and cursed that one kid from cave twenty five who was the little brother of a Mist Master representative Guardian. Luckily, not everyone was sure who the specific boy everybody talked about was since there were thousands all around them.

    In Zax’s group of eight, seven pairs of eyes looked at Merly with furious expressions.

    “Argh… I’m sorry everyone!” Merly lowered his flushed cheeks. “But… but… now that they know that Zax is Miss Zetsa’s little brother, maybe nobody will mess with our group”. Merly did not have the same level of sharpness and adulation as Zushi or the confidence to look at his friends’ eyes as he made up the excuse.

    “They can still follow us and grab the Earth’s Cores on our path before we do. Do you think Miss Zetsa is the kind of person to threaten children if that’ll happen?” Dane said.

    “But they don’t know-”

    “Yeah, I’ll bet some of them will be willing to try their chances anyway. Miss Zetsa as her own duties in this event…”

    The group’s internal conversation was in low voices so that others will not listen. However, that only heightened the agitation among the eight participants.

    “Stop arguing, it doesn’t matter anymore what others have heard. When the search will start just keep your eyes on the surrounding and if anyone will follow you, put a hostile front together to scare them”. Zetsa interfered. Her voice reached only the ears of her little brother’s friends. “I and the other representative Guardians, most of the time, will do patrols around the cave. If you want me to appraise Earth’s Cores, you can meet me every three hours beneath the Hooked Beak rock, it’s a forty meters tall rock, twenty meter wide from its base, seven kilometers west of the other side of the tunnel”.

    Zetsa’s offer brought excited smiles on the little faces of Zax’s friends. To have the support of a Mist Master they all were utterly thankful to the magnificent Miss Zetsa.

    “Zax”, Zetsa focused her voice only for her little brother to hear. “When we’ll get to the other side of the tunnel read my aura briefly with your Soul Sense. I’ll show you the exact direction to the Hooked Beak rock”.

    Along the path to the other side of the tunnel nearly a hundred staff members distributed green bracelets that showed “24:00:00” in neon colors, bright orange red.

    “The timer will start when you’ll enter cave zero thirty nine. Remember to return when its color change to red!” Some of the staff membered bothered to explain.

    At the end of the tunnel the seven representative Guardians stopped. Right where the partition ended, a tall old lady stood. By the look of it the old lady was the attendant responsible to sign the returning participants and their findings and collect from them the time bracelets.

    The seven representative Guardians bowed respectfully toward the old lady. Clearly she was not as simple as her outward appearance.

    “May I?” One of the seven representative Guardians asked the other six and they all nodded or shrugged.

    The representative Guardian turned to the thousands of coreless participants behind him with a deep voice. “Twenty four hours. That’s all you have. Now, there will be no pushing or shoving until everybody is out of the tunnel. You lot, head out…” The representative Guardian then began to send group, after group, after group of participants to cave zero thirty nine in bunches of fifty.

    Since Zax’s group was at the head of their row, they got to be among the firsts to enter cave zero thirty nine. Zax remembered what Zetsa told him and for a split second extended his Soul Sense when he passed by her. He did not know how, but when Zetsa was in the range of his Soul Sense a minuscule portion of an environmental essence flashed in his inner mind and left a gut feeling that acted as a trail to the Hooked Beak rock, that is, as long as was willing to follow it.

    “Come on, there are too many participants coming out. Let’s get far enough so no one will be able to follow!” Zax said and the other seven agreed. A warm tingly feeling spread through their bodies, the hair on their hands and legs stood on end and a shining glint appeared in everybody eyes. The hunt as began!



    Cave zero thirty nine was vast like a small city cave. The shape of the cave was not a perfect square, but it was one more than it was a circle. The cave stretched far and wide, nine kilometers or so in each direction. It was more similar to the nature reserve caves than cave zero eight. Though it had its wild element in the lush vegetation and rough terrain, there were also unpaved roads, shoes footprints and unsurprisingly and quite sadly, candy wrappers…

    After two hour in the search Zax’s group took their nutrition tablets. As they advanced deeper into the cave they became more pumped up for the search. They were all aware of the process of finding Earth’s Cores since it was not complicated.

    Earth’s Cores were most of the time beneath the earth. In the Great Earth’s Core Pursuit to find Earth’s Core there were only three ways. The first way was the most draining and uncertain, digging. Finding a spot which pleases the eye, kneeling and hoping that underneath it there is an Earth’s Core.

    The second way was venturing throughout the cave. There was not a shortage of Earth’s Cores that were partly above the surface, stuck to heavy rock or completely out of the ground. The challenge was detecting them between the dense vegetation and even the earth that had similar shades of color. If following the second way, one can find an Earth’s Core ten minutes into the search or come back empty handed. Regardless of the results, one will benefit from a bit of insight into the beasts’ vicinity and a great adventure story.

    The third way was the least demanding but the most heinous and did not require any profound explanation. The third way was grouping against and stealing from other participants.

    “I bet the nature reserve caves have plenty Earth’s Core scatter around”. Serah groaned. It has been three hours since their group of eight entered cave zero thirty nine and yet they could not find one Earth’s Core in this miserly cave.

    “There can be hundreds of thousands of Earth’s Core in the nature reserve caves, and it still will not change anything. No one is allowed, apart from the Supreme Rulers and selected few, to go beyond the paved roads without a permit, and they don’t give any for Earth’s Cores hunting”. Zushi said aloud what everyone already thought in respond, even Serah.

    In the residential caves of Kingdom Earth it had been couple of hundred years since someone, literally, stumbled upon an Earth’s Core. For various reasons, fanaticism – which can be interpreted as fear of Nature – as the most prominent, pursuing Earth’s Cores in Kingdom Earth was an illegal activity. If someone accidentally found one in a residential cave it still would have been tolerable, but if someone dared trespassing into the secure areas of the nature reserve caves, a severe punishment will be inflicted upon them.

    Now, why would someone want an Earth’s Core when everyone in the general public already had one? Well, the common answer will be for money. Pursuing Earth’s Cores the conventional way in Kingdom Earth was indeed illegal, but selling and buying Earth’s Cores was the unconventional market that only the top tier of the high class of Kingdom Earth got to enjoy, since they, basically, were the only ones who could afford it.

    Normally, in Kingdom Earth, Earth’s Cores are divided one per person regardless of statues. The exceptions are often Earth’s Cores that are donated to Martial or scientific research, and less often, Earth’s Cores that are found by Mist Users who ventured in the beasts’ territory.

    “I wonder…” Zax said in a speculating tone.

    “What’s up, Zax?” Merly asked.

    “Stop everyone”. Zax did not give an answer right away. The group was deep into the forest; about two kilometers from where they came from, lifting small rocks and blowing leaves that concealed the ground.

    “Did you find an Earth’s Core?” Anet was the first to ask and besides her the rest of the group waited in anticipation for good news.

    “No, I didn’t”. Zax waved his hand casually, shattering the hope of his friends. “But wait… Big sis taught me something which might help…” Zax said vaguely on purpose. Anything that was related to his training could not be shared with others without his Mor’s permission first.

    Focusing with his inner minds, Zax used his Soul Sense to the best of his abilities to grasp some of the secrets of his surroundings. An invisible force in the shape of a bubble released from Zax’s soul and surveyed the space in its small domain.

    Zax frowned, though his Soul Sense was much more helpful than all his other senses in this situation, it was still very limited. Zax walked like a nomad, not doing his baffled friends the favor of illuminating their wondering minds of what he was doing, nor paying attention to them at all. Using his Soul Sense was very straining and demanded Zax to maintain his utmost level of concentration. Then again, after ten minutes it undeniably paid off marvelously!

    “Hahaha!” Zax laughed as his hands dug into the ground.

    “Show it to us, Zax, what are you digging?”

    “Zax, come on. You have been quiet for some time. Did you find an Earth’s Core? What did Miss Zetsa taught you?”

    “Dig there!” Zax pointed his finger without even raising his gaze from the hard soil. “Pick a sharp stone to cut it. It’s just beneath the rightmost tree’s root!”

    Zax dug nine centimeters before the tip of his index finger felt the buried, roundish smooth surface. The light reflected from the smooth surface of the first Earth’s that he found mirror the exquisite mist that was trap inside.

    “By our glorious Supreme Ruler!” Weysey cried. “There are two! Guys, there are two Earth’s Cores under the root!”

    “What?” Even Zax was in shock. He was sure that there was only one Earth’s Core buried two centimeters under the bulk root.

    “One here, two less than a meter over there!” Mi, the shyest member of the group, gasped stupefied. “Amazing, Zax, you are too amazing”. She said in total admiration and jumped on Zax’s back.

    “Ah?” Zax felt awkward.

    “Amazing!” Dane burst laughing. “O, almighty lord Zax, allow me to show you my deepest affection as well”. He jumped on Zax with perky lips, ready to kiss him.

    Before Zax had the chance to react. “Me too, hahaha, make place, Mi, Dane”. Merly butted in with more than fifty kilos of pure fat dangling in his stomach as he prepared himself to jump on Zax.

    Sensing an impending disaster, with a swift motion Zax pushed Mi and Dance off his back rolled with the newfound Earth’s Core in his right hand before Merly crashed on him.

    “Stop it!” Serah reprimanded the three overexcited group members. As a matter of fact, she, too, was beyond words a moment ago. However, when she saw how friendly Mi let herself be with Zax, it pissed her somewhat.

    “Are you okay?” Anet, much like Serah, felt uneasy seeing how affectionate Mi was with Zax. Nonetheless, she was too reserved to show it.

    “Yeah, sure”. Zax got up with a grin. He retrieved his Soul Sense and shifted his consciousness back to the outer mind. “Look”. He lifted his hand for Anet and Serah, the two closest to him, to see the thing which everyone currently in cave zero thirty nine coveted.

    “Hahaha, Zax, if you can repeat whatever you did to find these Earth’s Cores our search will end earlier than we expected”. Zushi and Weysey stepped forward together, each holding a round and brownish Earth’s Core.

    “You are exaggerating, Zushi, I only found two Earth’s Cores. The third on was unexpected”.

    A bit reluctant, Zushi and Weysey passed the two Earth’s Cores to Zax. “Which one are you planning to take for yourself?” Zushi asked.

    Seeing the envious glances of his friends Zax sighed inwardly and looked at the three Earth’s Cores in his hands. He was interested in the Earth’s Core that he missed. Using his Soul Sense one more time, he was curious if he could perceive its existence. Oddly enough, there were no problems sensing it at all. His Soul Sense detected three round objects with smooth surfaces. Now if Zax had a soul comparable to that of a Mist Lord’s, he Soul Sense could then have penetrated the Earth’s Core’s shells to determine its quality.

    “The seven of you can compete for all three”. Zax gave the three Earth’s Cores back to Zushi. He decided to relinquish is right as the one who discover them, according to their prior agreement, in favor of his friends. “We’ll find more anyway”. Though he sounded confident, Zax knew that he was insanely lucky to already find three Earth’s Cores. Soul Sense or not, it will not be easy to find another five.

    “Zax…” Amazed, Serah wanted to sway his mind, but Zax turned his back before she could say anything.

    “Are you sure Zax?” Dane asked.

    “Yeah, don’t be overconfident. We are not the first group in this year event. More than ten thousand participants already were here before us…” Zushi reminded.

    Although each of his friends tried to convince him, Zax knew that they also coveted these three Earth’s Cores very much. The chances of them being of better quality than the ones the event’s organizers have kept aside were a lot higher.

    “Forget it. I’ve already made up my mind. Do rock paper scissor already, the bracelets show that we still have more than twenty hours. Who knows, maybe in another three hours we will find three more Earth’s Core”.

    Having nothing more to say, the seven looked at each other and raised their hand.

    “I wonder who will win…” Zax saw a big rock with flat surface and sat on it. “Let’s see if I can predict what each will do”. The eight were pretty close to him, within the range of his Soul Sense. “Eh!” Zax cried astonished beyond belief. He jumped on his feet, distracting his friends from the first round of rock paper scissor.
    Last edited by Lonahora; 06-30-15 at 05:42 AM.

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    Book 2 – Black Core

    Chapter 9 – Earth’s Cores Are Peculiar




    Staring at the rock he sat on, and then confirming yet again with his Soul Sense, a stupefied expression spread on Zax’s face.

    A stash of Earth’s Cores! A cluster of more than one hundred Earth’s Cores! Some embedded in the rock, some underneath it.

    “Such a great number! At least one must be! At least one!” Among the so many Earth’s Cores Zax nervously said to himself. “D… D… At least one golden pillow, D level Earth’s Core!” The one in a million Earth’s Core… Was it really impossible?

    “Zax?” His friends asked. Looking at his fervent behavior a daring thought popped up in their mind which they were too afraid to say aloud. “More Earth’s Cores?!”

    Ignoring his friends, Zax pulled his right arm to his waist. A concentration of Qi swirled in his upper right side of the body.

    “Ah!” Zax bellowed, throwing a straight punch at the rook.

    BAM!

    The rock shivered however there was not even a sign of a crack.

    Seeing how solid the rock was and how his punch barely moved it, Zax did not care and readied himself to punch once more.

    BAM!

    Zax’s punch connected with the rock. The accumulated Qi in his arm strengthened his muscles, bones and toughen his skin, yet the rock still only shivered.

    The reasons for Zax’s inability to break the rock were not because the condense amount of Earth’s Cores that somehow affected the rock structure. The rock itself had nothing special to it. Zax’s inability was due to the low level of his Qi, his lack of technique in both controlling his Qi and the proper movement of his body and the use of the two simultaneously.

    At the moment Zax was not aware of his gauche internal and external properties nor had the guidance and time to learn how to be more proficient in any of them.

    BAM!

    In the third punch Zax’s fingers began to tingle.

    BAM!

    After the forth punch all five finger were numb.

    “Tell us, Zax, did you find more…?” Weysey asked.

    The seven completely forgotten about the rock paper scissor and the three Earth’s Core they had to compete for. Zax wild manner upset them. Among the seven only three were familiar with Zax’s fierceness and even their hearts shook each time a “BAM” echoed. If it was them, broken bones would have bulge from their hands after the first punch, that is, if they had to guts to punch with will all of their might like Zax.

    “Gather rocks, help him!” Zushi instructed the others. As the most poised he came to the decision. He trusted Zax intuition and the weird technique, or what not, that Miss Zetsa taught him in order to find Earth’s Cores.

    Immediately the others started to look for sturdy rocks that they could lift, however…

    BAM!

    “Can we even get close?” Mi hesitated.

    The rock in question was big enough for one person to sit on, but not for five to hit at the same time and Zax did not leave any opening for the others to join in.

    BAM!

    CRACK!

    After the sixth punch Zax fell on his butt and a small crack finally appeared on the rock. Panting Zax looked at his right hand. It seems that even with the support of his Qi he could not avoid breaking skin and shedding some blood.

    “Why'd you have to go so far?!” Surprisingly Anet beat Serah in being the first one to scold Zax. “Give me your hand”. She sat down next to him and from her backpack took out antiseptic spray and a bandage roll.

    “It’s not hurting”. Zax said with a smile. He finally cracked the rock. Unfortunately, he dispersed too much Qi executing his unrefined technique and had to rest before his body could replenish his internal reservoirs. Thankfully, the nutrition tablet helped speed up the process.

    “Try to break the rock were I cracked it”. Zax pointed at the line that appeared on the rock’s surface. “Don’t force yourself and be careful”. Since his friends could not use Qi to strengthen the skin of their hands, it was clear to him that even if by smashing rock against rock the force of the thrust will suffice to hurt their hand worse than his.

    Dane was the first to check out the rock. He looked through the crack but it was too thin. “Are there really Earth’s Cores in there?” He surveyed the stone that he held, it weighted approximately four kilos. To use it to break a rock that seemed to weight ninety kilos was exhausting just by thinking of all the efforts involved.

    “Trust me, it won’t take too long and you’ll see for yourself”. Zas reassured his friends. He was also sure that with the great number of Earth’s Cores inside the rock, it was not that much solid inside. The crack that he made appeared thin and meaningless on the outside, but on the inside…

    Zax used his Soul Sense to assess how deep the fracture spread. “Should be deep”. He said to himself. Though the surface of the rock cracked only after the sixth punch, it was probable that the crack initiated from the inside. “Eh!” Zax sprang to his feet. “Where are they? Where are they?” He was utterly frantic. “The Earth’s Cores”, he cried. “I can’t find them… Not inside the rock. Not beneath it. There were more than a hundred. WHERE ARE THEY?!”

    “A hundred Earth’s Cores!” The seven gasped. Such a ridiculous notion was on the verge of insanity.

    With no regard to his current physical and internal state, Zax accumulated his Qi instinctively in the right half of his body. His face went pale, but it happened so fast. He no longer repeated the same kind of movement for a fist and a punch. He unconsciously remembered a certain move that he saw; watching the Earth’s Core’s showdowns and his inner mind gave the instruction. The fingers in his right hand stretched, his hand actually formed the shape of a spearhead, the rotation of his body originated from the toe in his right foot and from there his Qi surged up with the rotation.

    “Graah!” Zax roared.

    PENG!

    Zax’s right hand penetrated through the crack. His hand sank into the rock up to the wrist. In a scorch sound the rock split in two. The shocking thing was that inside there was truly nothing.

    “It can’t be!” Zax was dazed. Blood covered his fingers and dripped from them to ground. Using his Soul Sense Zax ran around, searching for the lost Earth’s Cores.

    “Stop him!” Dane called. He was sorry that he asked Zax if there were Earth’s Cores in the rock. Because of him, he thought, Zax went crazy and broke two of his own fingers, maybe more. “Help me stop him!” Dane grab Zax by the shoulders and Merly helped him. “Zax! Your hand, Zax! Stop struggling!” The two screamed at him.

    Zushi and Weysey also tried to block Zax from the front, but the look in his eyes was strange, as if he did not see or hear them. To just two of them Zax was too strong to stop, but with Zushi and Weysey they managed to pin him to the ground. It also helped that he did not fight back and lost consciousness.

    Five hours later.

    Zax regained consciousness. Opening his eyes he saw the trees’ branches above him. Beneath his head he felt something soft, a backpack. Moving himself a little he found his friends around him, digging, moving rocks, tearing roots.

    “Wha-” An excruciating pain in his right hand made him gulp his words. Zax looked at his right hand. A hardening bandage was wrapped around it and prevented him from moving his fingers. He also felt something cold covering his hand, but could not tell what it was just by feeling.

    “Hey, Zax woke up”. Mi that was searching nearest to him informed the others.

    “Idiot! Stupid! Brute!” Serah cursed Zax. Her eyes were red, she held back her tears. She did not want to cry for the idiot who scared her. Once was more than enough…

    “What? Why did I do?” Zax asked baffled. Serah and Anet were holding each other hands. Zushi, Dane, Weysey and Merly also stared at him angrily. The seven gathered together around Zax.

    “What sort of technique did Miss Zetsa taught you to discover Earth’s Cores”? Zushi inquired. He was sure that Zax’s method was more than a trick, picking up an irregularity in the surrounding that indicated the presence of an Earth’s Core. Definitely a technique!

    After Zax lost consciousness they all started to speculate. A technique to find Earth’s Cores… How come they never heard of such thing? Since the seven of them enrolled to post Core School, most of what they were learning was how to prepare themselves to the greatest event in a coreless child’s life, how to conduct themselves in this event and what to do after, when they will hold their one and only Earth’s Core in their hands.

    The curriculum was identical to an almost equal extent in all schools. If there was a technique, a method to better the chances of the younger generation would they been kept secret? Only if it was dangerous, the seven reached to the same conclusion.

    Zax was lost of words. What sort of technique did he learn from his big sis? None that was related to finding Earth’s Cores. All he used was his Soul Sense, but he could not tell that to his friend so he had to make up an excuse.

    “Never mind that”. Zax replied at last in an attempt to change the subject. “What have you done to the roots and earth?” His friends looked like minute size land workers, soiled from head to toe.

    “We were searching your Earth’s Cores”. Wesey said as though it was obvious.

    “My Earth’s Cores? The hundred Earth’s Cores!” Zax remembered. He was about to use his Soul Sense, but he noticed the rook that he split to two.

    The insides of the two halves were completely solid. “The fracture…” Zax searched for what gave him the confidence to put his all for breaking the, estimated, ninety kilos rock. “How deep did the fracture go in? Was there a fracture at all?” There were no Earth’s Cores inside, so the internal structure of the rock could not be anything but solid. The crack that he made with his punches, it was as deep as the eyes close, that is, not at all.

    One on hand Zax was extremely disappointment and confuses, he definitely sensed them, the Earth’s Cores, but after going through so much trouble, where were they? On the other hand he was absolutely astonished. “I split a solid rock in one move that I unintentionally remembered and never before practiced?”

    The punches were the product of a basic Qi utilization technique that he learnt from his big sister to strengthen a specific part of his body. In contrast, the spearhead strike was a genuine offensive technique that he merely saw on screen. Zax did not even know the name of the spearhead strike and when he thought to review what he did with his inner mind it was too hazy. What he tried to remember was more than sights and sounds; it was the concerted movement of his body and Qi. To survey the past of these two profound aspects was still beyond his soul’s level.

    “Forget about it”. Zushi said to everyone. “Zax awake now. Anet, Merly and Dane won each of the three Earth’s Cores, unless you do want one of them, Zax?”

    “I’m good”. Zax replied, got up on his feet and picked his backpack.

    “Then let’s keep searching. We have more than thirteen hours to find five more Earth’s Cores. We can go deeper into the cave, or go to the direction of the Hooked Beak rock. If we get there under a hour we might catch Miss Zetsa and she will appraise the three Earth’s Cores. Maybe we’ll find more on our way”.

    “Let’s keep heading deeper. It’s not like we have additional Earth’s Cores to replace the ones we already got if their quality is bad. We should keep searching and go in the direction that Zax found the three Earth’s Cores”. Dane said. He was right on mark. With only three Earth’s Cores, even if each of them had an Earth’s Core, it was pointless to assess their quality, at most for personal knowledge.

    “Everyone agree with Dane’s suggestion?” Zushi asked.

    Everyone nodded. Somehow and somewhere during their search, the role of the group’s leader was passed on to him without anyone noticing. It did not even crossed Zax’s mind that Zushi did not ask for his approval, and Zushi also did not realize that he was the one who led the decisions making. Zax from the beginning was good in being just a member of the group, and Zushi just wanted a righteous search for the whole group. Taking one’s position without him dwelling on it was part of the beautiful simplicity of a child’s mind.

    “A friend of mine told me that the best Earth’s Cores can be found around the unsafe zone”. Zax recalled Take’s advice. “We don’t need to enter the unsafe zone, just a few kilometers from it should be fine”. He hastily added.

    A distant location but with a higher success rate for finding quality Earth’s Cores was as good or better location than anywhere around. The only thing they had to lose was time. Than again, at worse, they will return late from the search, but the Earth’s Cores that they will find will eventually still be theirs.

    “Sounds good, but it’s really far. We should make haste”. Zushi smiled.

    Zushi’s group of eight proceeded in direction of the two Earth’s Cores that Weysey dug out. They kept searching with their eyes alone since they wanted to move quickly.

    A short unproductive hour had passed.

    “It’s useless. That group went east of us-” Mi talked about a group that they encountered around twenty minutes ago.

    They were a group of four girls and two boys. When they met no one bothered to exchange any words. Each group was satisfied with the number of its members and neither suspected that the other already found Earth’s Cores, or so it seemed.

    “West of us”. Zushi corrected her. “East is the other side. And why are you mentioning them? Do you want us to follow?”

    “We can… can’t we?” Being asked for her opinion in a matter that regarded the course of the whole group has put Mi in an awkward position to her personality. “They went northwest…” She waited for Zushi to correct her again, in case the second time she was wrong. Zushi said nothing and so she continued. “They did not look around for Earth’s Cores when they passed us. It felt like they had a place in mind-”

    “We also have a place in mind”. Weysey said.

    “Yes, but we are keep searching for Earth’s Cores and it slowing us down”.

    “You’ve got a point”. Zushi backed Mi. “Northwest will not set us out of our course in a great margin. Actually, it’s not like any of us knows the way to the unsafe zone. Amm… I’m up with going northwest. After all, we’ll still be heading to the opposite direction from tunnel three hundred and twelve”.

    “If Zushi says so…” Weysey shrugged his shoulders.

    “Dane, Anet, Zax, Merly, Serah?” Zushi asked.

    “Okay”.

    “Yes”.

    “I’m fine either way”.

    “Of course you are. You already got an Earth’s Core. I’m fine as well”.

    “Zax?” Zushi turned to Zax who strolled at the back of the group. “What’s up? You did not speak a lot since you woke up”.

    Zax’s expression was fixated on the ground. When he heard Zushi calls him he raised he head as if he woke up from a dream. “What? Yes. Let’s go northwest… sorry, I’m just thinking”. He said and lowered his reflective gaze to the ground once more.

    When the group changed course northwest, Zax was preoccupied with pondering at the back.

    An Earth’s Core that in retrospect should have been in the range of his Soul Sense he missed… A cluster of Earth’s Cores that essentially was not there he supposedly discovered… What was there, his Soul Sense missed and what was not, he found.

    “What’s wrong with my Soul Sense?” Zax pondered. “The Earth’s Cores… I was sure that inside the rock and beneath it were more than a hundred Earth’s Cores, but when I checked again they completely disappeared and then I lost control of myself”. The scenes of him parting the rock, frantically looking for the absent Earth’s Core, ignoring the calls of his friends and fainting played in his inner mind over and over.

    “Did I really lose control?” As his insight sharpened Zax began to question. When it happened, was his mind not as clear as it is now? “I was fully aware”. Parting a ninety kilo rock? “Am I not the Tal of my remarkable big sis? With my best it’s not impossible”. He started answering his own doubts. Frantically searching? “How can I not look where a hundred Earth’s Core disappeared to?” Ignoring the calls of his friends? “They don’t have a Soul Sense… they could not understand, I didn’t ignore them, finding the Earth’s Core was just too urgent”. Fainting? “Big sis told me not to exhaust my Qi”.

    Nevertheless, and with all the answers that he came up with, Zax still hesitated to try out his Soul Sense. There was one thing that was tied to his use of Soul Sense which scared him, one question. The environmental essence of cave zero thirty nine, a beasts’ cave. “Am I incapable of dealing with it for a prolonged time?”

    After Zax’s soul advanced to level F, he did not have the time to experiment with his new found ability that he suddenly was able to control. Using his Soul Sense to search for Earth’s Core was truly a brilliant idea, but was he so wretch that he was limited to a place where the environmental essence was less wild than the most meager of the beasts’ caves, a border cave?

    Zax refused to believe it. “The environmental essence of this cave, of any border cave, if not before then I’ll do it right now. I’ll surpass it!”

    A shimmer glistened in Zax’s resolute eyes, his Soul Sense explosively emerged and extended to a radius of a hundred and thirty five centimeters.

  6. #46
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    Book 2 – Black Core

    Chapter 10 – One Of Three Options




    A hundred and thirty five centimeters. By unsheathing his resolve and going all out, Zax actually extended the reach of his Soul Sense’s radius by an additional five centimeters.

    This achievement was far from expected, almost unprecedented. Not only his Soul Sense surpassed the reach of the common C level Mist User, Core Breaker, at the moment of his advancement, even at its current level, which in soul energy was equivalent to F level Mist User, it still was in its growing period.

    The reason for that, although unknown or maybe was just of little importance to Zax, was the shock that he suffered merely six hours ago or so.

    “Hmm… I can feel it, the environmental essence of this cave”. The microscopic particles, which were invisible to the naked eye, floated in the air, embedded the soil, stones and vegetation. To interpret the past of each particle was beyond Zax’s abilities, at most he could perceive an obscure hunch, an idea – like the one he had of cave zero eight’s lethal environment essence – of what roamed cave zero thirty nine in the other nine months of the year.

    Nevertheless, Zax rejoiced. The environment essence of cave zero thirty nine was not in any way tyrannical, on the contrary, it was quite placid. “If beasts live in this cave they must be very peaceful. In cave zero eight…” Zax shivered. If he will associate the beasts with the environmental essence, then cave zero thirty nine was the burrow of rabbits and cave zero eight was the den of tigers.

    A sudden realization dawned on Zax. “If it’s not the environment essence that made me… act rashly. Then, could it be the Earth’s Cores?” Zax gazed upon the backpacks of Merly, Anet. Inside each of them was one brownish Earth’s Core. “At first I thought that it was the environmental essence that fooled my Soul Sense to think that inside and beneath the rock there was a cluster of Earth’s Cores. But it doesn’t explain why I didn’t locate the third Earth’s Core Weysey found. If it’s not the environment essence…” Zax rehearsed his hypothesis. “Then it must be the Earth’s Cores!”

    “Zax”, Serah called him. “Zax!” She raised her voice.

    “Serah?” Zax’s gaze traveled impassively from the three backpacks to Serah’s flushed face.

    “Well, are you coming or just keep standing there?”

    “Ah… Yes!” Zax answered hastily. He was so focused on the three backpacks that he did not notice the growing distance between him and the rest of the group.

    “What were you daydreaming about?” Serah asked. Amusingly she, too, was a few steps behind everyone. Closest to her were Mi, Merly and Anet who seemed to talk about school. And at the front were Dane, Weysey and Zushi who also talked about something.

    “Nothing”, Zax replied. “Just thinking about Earth’s Cores, you know…”

    “Hmm… are you sorry for not choosing one when you had the chance?”

    “No”. Zax answered simply.

    Though Serah already knew that he was not the type who has a temperamental personality, with the subject of Earth’s Cores on the line even a leopard might change his spots. Be that as it may, Zax was confident in his friendship with Serah. Did he not give her a premium account card of the “greatest game in the whole wide world”, Mocca Kart, less than half a year ago? In this particular case, even if he met Serah for the first time in his life five minutes ago and gave her the premium account card she would have been so awestruck, she would have let him open a second in game character and choose his own kart!

    “Then, is it about the thing that big sister Zetsa taught you in order to find Earth’s Cores?”

    Zax hesitated to answer. Lying to the whole group and lying to his best friend in the face was entirely different.

    “I’m right”. Serah proclaimed. “Why do you still want to use what big sister Zetsa taught you? You tried before and yeah, you found three Earth’s Cores, but you also wasted us five hours, not to mention that when you went wild and broke your fingers!” As his best friend, Serah, clearly, was without restraint when she reprimanded Zax. And she would have done so even if she received one of the three Earth’s Cores.

    “Sorry…” Angry Serah reminded Zax of angry Zetsa. Avoiding her stern eyes, Zax, at least, was grateful that she did not ask about what his big sister “taught” him to find Earth’s Cores. “Could big sis have not told me because she thought that using Soul Sense to search for Earth’s Cores will be straining? Or is it because she has known that Earth’s Cores can distort the mind and perception of a Soul Sense?”

    Seeing how Zax lost himself in thoughts right after apologizing, ticked Serah off. “Whatever”, she sneered and grabbed his left hand. “Daydream what you want, just keep up the pace!”

    “No Earth’s Cores here either”. Zax was disappointed. When he just started to search with his Soul Sense he managed to find two Earth’s Cores and a bonus one in just ten minutes. Apart from his original goal, Zax wanted to find an Earth’s Core to see how his Soul Sense will react to it, but he had two difficulties. The first one was that Earth’s Cores were not as abundant and easy to find as he initially hoped. The second difficulty was his Soul Sense, ten to fifteen minutes was the longest that he could sustain it before having to rest for about the same length of time.

    Sweeping his eyes for maybe the fiftieth time at the two backpacks ahead of him, which belonged to Anet and Merly, and then shaking his head in disapproval. “It’s not the same as back then. Is it because they were moved or touched?”

    The two Earth’s Cores, hidden inside the inner pockets of the two’s backpacks, had a lingering sensation that repressed the natural essence, which previously reigned around the Earth’s Cores, and little by little resembled the presence of Anet and Merly when they were within the domain of his Soul Sense.

    Zax waited for two more minutes and resumed using his Soul Sense to search.

    “Water?” Zax sensed. Through the trees roots that entered and exited the domain of his Soul Sense, as he and Serah followed hand in hand the rest of the group, Zax grasped the obscure origin of the water in the trees roots and could tell that in the direction that they were heading was a large water reservoir. “West of us… a lake? Hard to tell. But up ahead I’m sure, less than a hundred meters, behind those trees there is a flowing river”. Of the latter part he was certain.

    As his Soul Sense indicated, roughly a hundred meter behind a small grove was a narrow river. Alongside the river and in it were hundreds of participants. The many participants numbered, more or less, a sixth of the event’s participants. So many that nobody batted an eyelid at the group of eight that Zushi led.

    “They are searching here…” Merly pointed to the obvious. “There is the group from before!”

    The hundreds of young participants search for Earth’s Cores within the calm water of the river or at its banks

    “Excuse me”, Zushi turned to a boy not far from it.

    “Yeah, what?” The boy walked barefooted along the river’s banks. His eyes were fixated on the muddy earth.

    “Our group heard the flowing water and came here to fill our empty bottles. We didn’t expect to see so many participants searching here… Can you tell us why you are search here and not spread around the cave?” Zushi told a little lie to not arouse the suspicions of the boy. By the way it looked, anyone who got here done it knowingly with the purpose of searching here for Earth’s Cores in mind. Saying that they came to fill up their water bottles was a safe excuse rather than saying that they followed some other group, since even after taking the nutrition tablets one can still exhaust himself or herself and get thirsty.

    “You came to fill up your water?” The boy stopped walking and raised an eyebrow as he surveyed Zushi’s group of eight. “From which cave are you?”

    “Cave twenty five”. Zushi answered.

    “Cave twenty five… the cave whose one of its participants the little bro of their representative Guardian!” The boy exclaimed. “Nah… probably none of you guys. Otherwise you would have known about the river. Or maybe not all of the representative Guardians know about it…?” The boy speculated aloud.

    “Know what about the river?” Zushi pushed for an answer.

    “Well… it won’t hurt telling you guys, you can probably figure it out for yourself and then it won’t matter how much you know”. The boy reasoned with himself. “This river is flowing from the inner beasts’ territory, which is past the unsafe zone, to a lake a few kilometers from where we are”. The boy leaned down and drew on the muddy ground with his finger. “Most of the guys and gals here that I met are from the same cave as I, cave three. Searching in and around the lake, I heard that groups of cave eight and ninety nine are there. Anyway, our representative Guardian told us that the river carries Earth’s Cores from the inner beasts’ territory”.

    “So that’s why!” Zushi eyes flew open and the others in his group also were thrilled.

    “You realized”. The boy said in an indifferent tone. “Some Earth’s Cores sink to the bottom of the river, others around the banks of the river and others reach the lake and sink to its depths… Eh?” The boy abruptly ceased talking with the group and called. “Odil! I cut my foot!”

    “Do you need help?” Anet stepped aside and asked.

    “No!” The boy nearly shouted. “No”. He repeated more calmly. “My friends will help me. Okay, I said enough. You guys should go do what you want”. Somehow the boy attitude seemed anxious.

    “Are you sure that you are fine?” Zushi pressed. He, Weysey, Dane, Serah and Zax, after hearing him out, imagined how severe the cut to his foot was…

    “Brabra”, a group of ten boys and girls arrived to the boy’s, Brabra’s, side in a hurry.

    “Yes, yes, yes. My friends are here now. You can go search”. Even with his friends around him Brabra wished for Zushi and the others to leave already. “Oh”, he actually had one more piece of advice, maybe out of the goodness that Anet conveyed to him. “If you search, don’t go to the lake. Even if its bottom is full of Earth’s Core it’s way too deep to dive. Some even say that there are beasts in it and that is why the representative Guardians of caves eight and ninety nine patrolling there…”

    “Thank you for telling us”. Zushi said and led his group back to the forest.

    With one eye on the populated river and another eye on his friends, Zushi leaned on tree and said. “Before I’ll present our options, does anyone wishes we go to the lake?” Since no one answered Zushi continued. “The first option is heading to the unsafe zone through the dense flora, like before. You already know how it is…”

    “The second option is going along the river’s banks seen as it will definitely lead us to the unsafe zone. By choosing the second option we will proceed faster and our chances of finding Earth’s Core might increase. The only problem is the many participants around the river. If we do get lucky and someone who belongs to a big group will notice us… You saw how that boy, Brabra, suddenly called “I cut my foot”. I’m sure that was a sign to his friends that he found an Earth’s Core. If we can guess other groups’ signs, they, most likely, can guess ours”.

    “The second option isn’t that bad. We just need to be cautious”. Serah said.

    “I also think that it will better than wasting time and reducing our chances in the forest. It’s not like we know which of the unpaved roads that passed through it can lead us to the unsafe zone…” Zax also agreed.

    Finding Earth’s Cores in the river with his Soul Sense was an attractive prospect. Not only could he test his Soul Sense with Earth’s Core that were not touched by participants, supposedly, there were more Earth’s Cores accumulated in the river and lake than anywhere else in cave zero thirty nine. And then there was that last thing… All the Earth’s Cores in the river and lake were said to come from beyond the unsafe zone, the acclaimed destination they planned to get close to as much as they were allowed, that is, stay couple kilometers away from it.

    “Let’s hear the third option before deciding”. Dane suggested.

    “Yes, maybe it’s better than the other two, is it, Zushi?” Merly asked.

    “Well… the third option has its pros and cons. Basically, it’s the same as the second options, but instead of going along the river’s banks we will proceed by walking in the river. Look at these guys, the river is not that deep. At its center the water is waist-high. If the stream remains steady, going in the river, not necessarily at its center, should be fine”.

    “It will slow us down significantly”. Weysey pointed.

    “That’s the drawback”, Zushi began to explain the pros and cons. “If we walk in the river we might spend all of our time before getting close to the unsafe zone. On the other hand, if there really is in the river a large amount of Earth’s Cores we might not need going to the unsafe zone after all”.

    “The water in the river isn’t deep, but watch how they struggle to walk in it”. Serah gestured at the participants in the river. “To reach the unsafe zone we will have to go against the stream. Let alone getting wet, do any of you feels like tiring yourself without knowing for sure that you will find an Earth’s Core?”

    “I only have my pajama… No one said that we’ll need a second pair of clothes…” Mi sulked.

    “You brought a pajama?” Weysey was taken aback. In his defense he grew in a farm. In weekends, when school was closed, he used to camp with his big brothers, wearing the same outfit for days.

    “Only one pair…” Mi seemed even more depressed since there still was one more night for them to spend in the event before going back home.

    “Let’s vote and be done with it”. Zushi frowned. As intelligent as he was, how could a ten years old boy understand the mindset of a delicate little girl?

    “By show of hands, who wants to search through the forest?” No one raised a hand and Zushi continued. “Who wants to follow and search on the river’s banks?”

    Surprisingly, everyone but Weysey raised their hands.

  7. #47
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    Book 2 – Black Core

    Chapter 11 – Losing It



    Of Zushi’s group of eight, the five boys walked barefooted in the shallow water of the river, less than a meter from the river’s banks, where the three girls followed at the same pace.

    Zax turned his Soul Sense On and Off every ten minutes as if it was a light switch. If there were Earth’s Cores in the river, his Soul Sense only enabled him to tell where they were not. One positive thing, which evolved from this tedious repetitiveness, was that little by little Zax got more used to the oppressive environmental essence of cave zero thirty nine and could separate tiny bits of its various past residues. This helped Zax to keep clear mind, outer and inner alike, and distinguish between the illusion of the past and his Soul Sense’s present discoveries.

    As time progressed, many grim faces, sullen faces, pouty faces and many more facial expressions could be seen around the flowing river. Cave zero thirty nine was one of the tree searching grounds of the Great Earth’s Core Pursuit. It had meadows, forests, hills, which were not far off from being called “Mountains”, a very deep and large lake and a river that was flowing to it.

    Of all the wonders of cave zero thirty nine, two places where the epicenter for most of the participants in the Great Earth’s Core Pursuit. Throughout the cave, they were told by their representative Guardians, the lake and the river possessed the greatest deposits of Earth’s Cores. But did it mean that whoever searches in those wondrous places could really find an Earth’s Core? The answer was unequivocally No. What the representative Guardians of cave three, eight and ninety nine meant when they recommended the young participants of their caves to search in the said two locations, was that they, the young participants, will have a higher success rate for finding Earth’s Cores in the lake and the river than anywhere else in cave zero thirty nine.

    This transparent interpolation of the representative Guardians’ words, only at the latter half of the event, became evident to the many young participants.

    “There it is!” Zax nearly announced aloud. “Almost missed it. Truly can’t trust our eyes, lucky my Soul sense detected it”. It has been a hour or so since they started searching in the river and while doing so it was difficult to determine by eye sight which stone was a dark pebble and which one could be an Earth’s Core.

    “Dane, Dane, pass on some of your snacks”. Zax called using their new agreed upon sign, repeating twice the name of the last of them who spoke, which meant for everyone to stop and gather beside the one who called it.

    “The nutrition tablets filled us”. Anet politely declined. In her response she actually included Mi and Serah who looked at her perplexed.

    “Wha- Anet… A fair warning, we will eat up all the snacks. If you don’t eat some with us now, don’t complain later…” The confused Weysey tried to sway her mind. An ugly expression was on his face. “Anet, Serah, Mi, come!”

    “I don’t feel like eating snacks, either”, Zushi surprised everyone and completely shocked Weysey. “And my legs are cold. I’m going ahead with the girls on the river’s banks”.

    “What?!” Merly was about to oppose this madness, but then…

    ‘Okay”, Dane lowered his head to his open backpack. “Us four will eat by ourselves”. His tone sounded as if he was smiling.

    “Hahaha… your loss, guys”. Zax stuck out his tongue. At that moment it hit Merly and Weysey, too.

    The girls, Anet, to be precise, might have found another Earth’s Core! At the same time as Weysey, Merly, Mi and Serah reached that conclusion, they also understood why she did not use the sign. Calling twice in Zax’s name right after he called twice in Dane’s name would have made it too obvious.

    Zax did not rush to pick up the Earth’s Core that was five centimeters behind Dane’s foot. Since it was too sudden, he could not grasp more than the external shape and so it still was not conclusive that the round object his Soul Sense located bulging from the bottom of the river was an Earth’s Core. A perfect sphere with a smooth surface, yes, an Earth’s Core… Zax reached out for the candy bar Dane offered him. “Let’s see”. He whispered as he took the first sweet bite and wrapped his Soul Sense around the stone.

    Unlike the earth and pebbles, Zax’s Soul Sense could not probe into the round stone, therefore he asserted with absolute certainty. “An Earth’s Core!” Slightly hesitating, Zax accepted the opportunity to survey the surrounding of the Earth’s Core, the environmental essence around it and finally the Earth’s Core itself.

    “Will it be like before?” The question played in his mind as he waited for the answer. No. It was not. Or at least not right away. First was the bottom of the river that the Earth’s Core was stuck to. Soil and small pebbles, there was nothing to elaborate about it. Next was the environmental essence. Water and sparkling shreds, fragments really, that when he split them were arduous to interpret. However, when he looked at them in his mind, like the pieces of a great puzzle, he sort of could, inconsistency, see, hear, touch, smell and taste the nature’s of this portion of cave zero thirty nine.

    What it was, an Earth’s Core? Then he moved onto his last hurdle. He tried to understand what his Soul Sense perceived when it wrapped the brownish stone he determined to be the subject of his pursuit. “Tough”, Zax first analyzed. “Impenetrable”, at the very least to an inexpert ten years old boy. “More? Try to get more of it!” Zax scolded himself, but apart from external analysis, he acquired nothing from the abnormal object that was an Earth’s Core.

    All this probing of the surrounding, the environmental essence and finally the Earth’s Core only took place in the span of three bites and the time it took Zax to bend the knee and reach out with his hand for the Earth’s Core. In spite of this, as fast as it was, getting into the root of a matter, formless or not, was several times more tasking than grasping the considerable presences of anything that passed in the domain of his Soul Sense.

    By when Zax’s fingers felt the half shape of the Earth’s Core that bulged from the bottom of the river, he depleted a third of his soul energy and was ruled by a couple of flustering emotions. “Is that it? Then what was the cause of the misperception I had before?” He thought of the contradictions of the Earth’s Core that was not there and the many that were. “Environment essence, was this all the cause of adjusting to the environmental essence?”

    Zax concentrated his Qi in his left arm, and as much as he could in the tip of each finger. He grabbed the Earth’s Core and pulled it out with ease. “Eh…?”  He noticed something in the water, floating on the river. The sheer bewilderment made him stood up, holding the Earth’s Core in the open for others to see, that is, not bothering hiding it.

    “Zax”, Dane said in a subtle voice. “Zax…”

    “Quick, Zax, what are you doing?” Merly moved to one side, Weysey to the other, both of them covered Zax.

    “Why aren’t you picking them up?!” Zax voice ranged. There were just so many, enough for every participant for the next couple of days. “So many Earth’s Core!” Pronouncing it aloud, Zax immediately got the attention of all of the participants searching in the river and river’s banks.

    “Crap! I think he lost it again!” Dane said to Merly and Weysey. The look in Zax eyes before he turned, his imprudent conduct with the Earth’s Core that he picked and his disregard of his friends and the other participants around them. “Don’t let him lose control again!” Dane called for Zushi and the girls so they will also pay heed to Zax before he will start breaking rock, or his bones…

    Unfortunately it was too late. With a swift movement Zax slipped through the enclosure of Dane, Weysey and Merly. It did not seem intentionally or with effort to not allow them the chance to hold him back. His body moved on its own. His Qi energy supplied enhancement for physical superiority and his mind, inner mind, was already at the level of F level Mist User. It was ridiculous to expect from three average ten years old boys to keep Zax in place.

    “One for Serah, one for Zushi, one for Weysey, one for Mi, one for me, thousands for all of us to pick!”

    Zax actions confused not just his friends who were helplessly chasing after him but also the other participants who heard him mindlessly talking to himself and picking what seemed to be imaginary Earth’s Cores.

    “This guy… he can use Qi!” Some stared with awe at Zax’s light and agile movements, knowing that obviously it was due to Qi utilization.

    “Yeah, but what good is it for him if he lost it?” Others were able to hold their disbelief at bay.

    Among the thousands participants it was not unimaginable if there was a double digit number of participants who could utilize their Qi. Still, though, it was rare to meet them. A participant that could utilize his or her Qi would usually – according the gossip and rumors that originated from the mere stories of participants from previous year – ventured to the most hard to reach places, in the designated cave for the search, after high end Earth’s Cores.

    “Poor guy… Is that an Earth’s Core he is holding?!”

    “How many are we?” Someone immediately asked.

    “We share the same idea?” Another replied.

    “Three guys are already after him”. A fatty boy pointed.

    “I think they are his friends”.

    “Only three!” The same fatty boy who pointed at Dane, Weysey and Merly changed his view.

    “And one that could not preserve against the pressure of the event and is rashly kicking, flipping rocks and swinging his hands around. Who wants to be the first to approach him?” A tall girl said.

    “Let’s keep searching…”



    Zax ran across the river as if he was infatuated with each Earth’s Core of the many that covered the river. An unexplainable attraction oozed from both the environmental essence and the Earth’s Core he thought were piling in his backpack, and seeped into his consciousness.

    There were no words for Zax to describe the strange pull toward wherever he headed, nor could he distinguish his own actions. Slowly his mind stopped caring for the floating Earth’s Cores or those that he picked up. The more he advanced up the river the more he treated the Earth’s Cores as breadcrumbs, leading to the bakery.

    When Zax’s backpack was too heavy to carry he tossed it away, that was when the many Earth’s Core also disappeared and when his Qi was alarmingly near depletion. Zax’s soul energy, on the other hand, was vigorous. His Soul Sense was drawn back the moment he picked up the first Earth’s Core, so he did not exhausted it, and since then it was like when he tried to break through the bottleneck of level F. His soul’s extraordinary sensitivity confronted with an imposing force that mentally affected Zax, demanded of him to run.

    “I don’t… I don’t think that we can go farther than this”. Zushi was panting and the other six members of the group also.

    “Tell… Tell… HIM!” Serah huffed.

    On the time bracelets fifteen of the twenty four hours had passed. In the river and the river’s banks the nearest group of participates was two to three kilometers behind them. Unlike Zax’s relentless pursuit forward, they, the rest of the group, did not have the same disposition. The fatigue took a heavy toll on them, even if the color of the time bracelets still remained green, will they be able to return before the color changes to red?

    Zax had no idea how far he ran, how close he was to the unsafe zone, how certain it was for him and his friends to return late from the search and be punished for it. For Zax it all seemed like a dream, out of his control, comfortably dominated by his subconscious.

    A green silhouette leaped and vanished from an unknown location, then reappeared in front of Zax, halting his steps.

    “Are you, kidos, looking to be disqualified from the Great Earth’s Core Pursuit?”

    A well built middle age man in green uniforms and a silver colored ribbon that stretched diagonally across his left shoulder to his waist and read: “GECP EVENT’S GUARDIAN”, reprimanded Zax and the other seven that followed him.

    Zax stopped long enough for the buffed event’s Guardian to finish his sentence, yet the instant his subconscious comprehended the unexpected obstacle he tried to pass him.

    Out of breath, Zushi and the other six could only watch with conflicting emotions as the event’s Guardian kicked Zax to the air with mild force and grabbed his feet like chicken before slaughter. They were torn between whether to be glad that someone finally stopped Zax or frightened since that “someone” was an event’s Guardian whom it was very unlikely for them to meet unless they got really close to the unsafe zone – not to mention that Zax just ignored the presence of the event’s Guardian and tried to go past him.

    “The heck are you doing brat…?!” The event’s Guardian raised his hand about to slap Zax back to his senses, when he out of the blue swallowed his words and winced. “You…” The event’s Guardian glared at Zax with disdain in his eyes.

    Right before he readied himself to personally educate the insolent young participant who did not know what was good for him unless it struck him in the face, Zax raised both of his hands to the event’s Guardian’s torso and dealt him a soul attack.

    “What are you?” The event’s Guardian asked, but seeing how the boy struggled in his hand he realized that, although exceptional and probably with unique background, the boy could not handle the pressure of the event and, as one of the participants before suggested, lost it.

    Using his white Core Breaker’s aura the event’s Guardian put Zax to sleep with a little bit of his overbearing mist energy. After Zax lost his consciousness the event’s Guardian turned him upside down and took a careful look on his face. “Little monster”. It sounded as if he murmured in amusement.

    “Did you, brats, decided to crap all over the event’s rules?!” The event’s Guardian’s face darkened. He turned his head to Zushi and the others and barked.

    The three girls and four boys flinched with no words to respond. Even if they had something to say, to explain, they, each and every one of the seven, knew better than confronting with an event’s Guardian.

    “Nothing to say…” Not that the event’s Guardian expected them to answer his rhetorical question. “To which cave do you belong, and who’s the representative Guardian responsible for you?” The event’s Guardian changed the tone of his voice to be more restrained.

    “The eight of us are from cave twenty five”, Zushi, though not composed as he usually was, was better than any of the others in answering the event’s Guardian’s questions. “Our representative Guardian is Miss Zetsa Zell, Zax’s”, his gaze moved to the unconscious Zax in the hands of the arms of the event’s Guardian. “Big sister”.

    “Zetsa Zell…” Were all Zushi and the others could hear from the event’s Guardian verbal reaction. His face and posture did not change, nor how tightly he held Zax, as if he was familiar with the name and level of cultivation that was tied to the very same young woman, but was unconcerned of neither.

    “Ignorant brats”, the event’s Guardian turned to the seven. “Do you think that you can make it back in time just because the time bracelets are still green?”

    “The disciplinary supervisor said-” Zushi spoke in a weak voice, however quieted and closed his mouth when he noticed the quiver of the event’s Guardian’s lips before he was about to speak.

    “You were also told not to enter the unsafe zone!”

    Zushi’s group of eight was still a distance away from the unsafe zone, but none of the conscious seven was willing to refute the event’s Guardian’s scolding.

    Sighing to himself after arriving to some sort of a sympathetic conclusion the event’s Guardian said. “If you followed the rules diligently, things wouldn’t have come to this. Can’t do anything about it now, either…”

    The event’s Guardian laid Zax softly on the ground and took out from a pocket a squared device with a three dimensional screen. His finger slid across the screen and a three dimensional layout of the cave appeared on it.

    The structure of map was hard to for the seven children to understand, but seeing the colorful lights that intersected and then formed the hologram completely made them forget about it or the situation they were in.

    A three dimensional display was currently the peak of humanity’s display technology. It was such a costly expense that even for a high class family it was rare to own just a simple design, needless mentioning a complex design with two hundred and fifty six colors like the one the event’s Guardian presented before the seven middle class children.

    “This here is where we are. The eight green dots are you”, the event’s Guardian explained to Zushi and the others. He touched one of the green dots and a panel with numbers appeared above it. “Here is an estimated time of how long it will take you to return and analysis of physical condition. Last is the duration of effect of the nutrition tablets that you took. Assuming that all of you are at the same physical state, you have an hour until your body will burn the remnants of the nutrition tablets in your blood”. The event’s Guardian thought for a second, and then rephrased himself. “More or less than an hour, depending on how much you’ll keep exhausting yourselves”.

    “What… What will happen after an hour?” Mi’s facial expression paled and she asked in a shaking voice. With the way the event’s Guardian explained their current state with the impressive hologram, she reluctantly started to imagine her body dehydrate to the point where there are no more fluids in it and she looks like a hundred years old corpse that with the smallest disturbance can crumble.

    “You’ll become tired, really tired, and very thirsty-”

    “Like a hundred years old corpse…” Mi could not help but continue in her mind with outmost certainty – so was the mind of a child.

    “But you’ll be fine if afterwards you’ll just drink a lot and eat sugary stuff”.

    “Not become a hundred years old corpse?” Mi accidently let out.

    “What?” The event’s Guardian asked confused, yet Mi was simply happy to known that nothing bad will happen so she remained awkwardly silent.

    The event’s Guardian rubbed the back of his neck, gauged the seven children and the one that surprised him beyond anything he could have thought a ten years old boy can do to surprise him and offered. “Don’t go any farther than here and don’t spread in the dense flora. In an hour I’ll return to take you back”. He said and in the swift manner of his appearance he also vanished.

  8. #48
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    Book 2 – Black Core

    Chapter 12 – Becoming Mist Users




    “Wait…!” Zax screamed when he awaked. For a few second his heart was pounding in an accelerating rate and his mind was disoriented. Without knowing what it was, a deep anxiety enveloped Zax’s soul. A disgusting sensation which made him vomit as he repeated again, in the midst of forgetting toward who, what or where. “Wait-”

    “Zax!”

    A voice entered through his ears and rang in his head. Zax did not recognize who it was. His body bent by a reflex when he felt the surge of fluids coming up from his stomach, and though his eyes were wide open, his vision was too blurry to even count the shadows surrounding him.

    “Not again-” Zax cried in his mind. The taste of the digested candy bar that he ate earlier was way too abusive to his taste buds as it came out, enough to never want to eat another sour chocolate candy bar again in his life. What Zax did not know was that most of what he tasted, and was reluctant to taste again, was a side effect of the nutrition tablets that was meant to leave his body in the conventional way…

    “Are you fine now?”

    This time the voice was clearer and recognizable, yet Zax was not confident that it was the same one from before. It was Merly, and according to his voice he stood two meters to his left, with his back turned to him and a sickly expression on his face. Zax did not hold Merly’s distant attitude against him since he came to learn, during their last school year, that he has a weak stomach. Zax appreciated Merly’s effort to ask how he was.

    “Yes”. Zax answered and straightened up. In the first place, apart from the candy bar, Zax did not eat anything since the evening before the search.

    Seeing his friends surrounding him and Merly coming over with eyes up, it took Zax a moment to examine their facial expressions and where they were. Their faces had a contrasting mixture of worry, satisfaction, nausea – the only one which Zax could understand – and excitement. Zax eventually could not figure what his friends were and he did not want to make any assumption since he did remember that they currently participate in the Great Earth’s Core Pursuit. However, they now were near tunnel three hundred and twelve, which led back to cave one hundred and thirty nine, and on the ground around them was a big pile of small rocks. There were also many other participants also appeared in the vicinity, talking to each other, waiting or returning from the search.

    A silent groan left Zax’s mouth when he stood up and dizziness struck his head.

    “Drink water”. Weysey, who was the tallest of the all group and sturdiest among the eight, apart from Zax, supported Zax as he drank from the bottle while the group walked away from the smelly puddle.

    “Why are we back?” Zax asked.

    The other seven members of the group behaved discreetly and withdrawn. They picked a remote place to talk, a hundred meter from the tunnel, where others could still see them, but not hear, and it seemed that this was what they wanted.

    “Before we tell you, you should also eat something”. Zushi said.

    “I’m not hungry”. Zax frowned. Not because it could be seen that he still was not feeling well, but because of the thought of putting food in his mouth.

    “You should eat anyway”. Zushi insisted and the others tried to push they left over snacks to Zax.

    Forced by his friends and without the strength to resist, given that all the muscles in his body were sore, Zax picked the fruity jelly beetles that Mi offered him.

    “Now can you tell me why we are back? How much time we have till the end of the event?” Since he could answer the latter question, Zax looked at his time bracelet and was astonished to discover that there were less than fifteen minutes for them to spend before having to go back through the tunnel.

    “How can it be?! We just were searching in the river!” Zax called in disbelief.

    “You don’t remember?” Dane asked. “That’s because you’ve done it again, did you, Zax?”

    “Done what?” Zax asked baffled.

    “You used big sister Zetsa’s trick to find Earth’s Core and it made you go crazy, again”. Serah answered.

    “Big sis’s trick…?” Zax asked himself and finally recalled. I dawned on him what possibly happened, though, once more, he was not sure why. “I picked up the Earth’s Core in the river, my Soul Sense did not detected anything odd about it or the environmental essence. Then why? Why I don’t remember anything that happened afterwards and why…” The one question which boggled him the most, the one that was related to the distress that was in his voice when he woke up and called the word “Wait”, Zax could not make up the words to express. At most, he found a way to rephrased it. “Why I want… No! Need to go back?!”

    “Let him see, Zushi, let him see”. The voice of Merly pressing Zushi to show him something brought Zax back from his pondering state.

    “Don’t shove me, Merly. Fine, I’ll show him. Don’t be impatient!” Zushi shoved Merly back and turned his head to the others. “Let’s make it look like we are eating snacks. I’ll show Zax and all of you act normal”.

    As if it was decided in advance, Serah, Dane, Anet, Mi, Merly and Weysey, each opened up one of his or her snacks and tried to hide Zushi and Zax without looking suspicious.

    Zushi handed Zax his backpack that he carried for him when the move from where they previously were. “Open it up”. He grinned and told Zax.

    Doing as Zushi said, Zax took back his backpack and saw what was inside it that everyone wanted him to see.

    “An Earth’s Core?” Zax said quietly and raised an eyebrow.

    “Bet Miss Zetsa did not teach you that…” The grin on Zushi’s face spread to a wide smile. “You can’t assess the quality of an Earth’s Core, hehehe…”

    “Of course I can’t. Only Mist Masters or stronger can assess the quality of an Earth’s Core”. Zax responded defensively. What his friends thought him to be? As a Mist Master, his big sister could definitely tell the quality of an Earth’s Core, but he barely was qualified to be called an F level Mist User and even that, only from the neck up.

    “They think big sis taught a method to find out the quality of an Earth’s Core because I lied about my Soul Sense…” Zax understood.

    As if to reaffirm his conjecture, Zushi continued. “No. If you were able to do that, then the rest of us should really be ashamed of our uselessness”. Though he said it as a joke, if Zax was old enough and wiser he could tell that the ten years old Zushi was content with such words.

    “Is this the Earth’s Core that I picked in the river?”

    “One of them”.

    “One of…!”

    Zushi’s hand moved quickly and covered Zax’s mouth. His smile appeared more genuine than a moment ago. “Unfortunately, among the seventeen that you found – including the three in the forest – this one was the only medium quality E level Earth’s Core”.

    Feeling his body shaking and his eyes bulging out from their sockets, Zax did not believe that Zushi could lie over such a sensitive subject in such a sensitive time. Not even for an incy wincy joke!

    “An E level Earth’s Core”. Zax gulped. “H… Ho…”

    ‘How?” Zushi helped him and in return Zax only nodded.

    Zushi closed Zax’s backpack for him and the others relaxed their “Normal” postures.

    “Fourteen from the seventeen Earth’s Cores that you found were of high quality. How you managed to find so many great Earth’s Cores… ask the Supreme Rulers”. Zushi leaned on the cave’s well, started eating his own snack and delved deeper in the explanation. “I’m assuming you don’t remember running like a crazy person in the river, picking up small rocks and Earth’s Core and piling them in your backpack?”

    In response, Zax shook his head.

    “Thought so… I also didn’t see how it started, since I joined Anet to see if she really found an Earth’s Core right after you found one. Dane told us that when you reached down for the Earth’s Core you suddenly began to panic, ran and jump around. By then, not only me, Anet, Serah and Mi noticed. All the other participated watched you and said that you went crazy because of the event’s pressure. We, on the other hand, saw you act weird before and could connect your behavior to the technique that Miss Zetsa taught you”.

    Zushi went on, telling Zax how they chased after him, met the event’s Guardian who at first Zax tried to hit, but then he knocked him out and rebuked the rest of them and in the end and unpredictably – after showing them the features of the time bracelets with a three dimensional device – allowed them to search near the unsafe zone for an hour. He then continued telling how the event’s Guardian came back with none other than Miss Zetsa to carry them back with the help of a mysterious technique, which they performed together, that made them float behind the event’s Guardian and Miss Zetsa as they rushed through the cave to the entrance.

    “When we got here Miss Zetsa was the one who noticed your packed backpack, though Weysey was the one who carried it”. Zushi finally reached the part about the Earth’s Cores and there was not a lot of time till they had to go back to cave one hundred and thirty nine. “Can you imagine her face – our faces – when she emptied your backpack from the rocks that you picked up and then revealed to us a batch of fourteen Earth’s Cores? No to mention us seven, even Miss Zetsa was dumbstruck. Luckily, the event’s Guardian left before Miss Zetsa found the Earth’s Cores, or that at least was what Miss Zetsa said without explaining why. She just told us not to tell anyone about the amount of Earth’s Cores that you found or how you found them”.

    “Maybe it’s forbidden to pick up more than one Earth’s Core”. Weysey on the side speculated.

    “I thought so too, at first, but the disciplinary supervisor didn’t mention any rule about it”. Zushi said. “Doesn’t matter now, we all have great Earth’s Cores and the rest aren’t here anymore”.

    “Not here?” Zax asked.

    “After finding the Earth’s Cores in your backpack, Miss Zetsa assessed the quality. The best one among them you got. The second best Earth’s Core was a low quality E level Earth’s Core, then four high quality F level Earth’s Cores and eight medium quality F level Earth’s Cores. A played rock paper scissors for the Earth’s Cores. Anet won the low quality E level Earth’s Core. I, Weysey, Serah and Dane won the four high quality F level Earth’s Cores and Mi and Merly got two medium quality F level Earth’s Cores. The rest Miss Zetsa took when she left”.

    “A medium quality E level Earth’s Core…” Zax sighed after a while of silence.

    “Thanks to you we all got lucky”. Zushi said and got up.

    There was less than two minutes to the end of the event for their group and a new batch of participants began to emerge from the tunnel while those of Zax’s batch were ordered to head back by the meticulous timer of their time bracelets.

    As they took off the time bracelets and throw them in a crate with wheels that stood on a rail beside the entrance to the tunnel, the old lady, the attendant at the entrance to cave zero thirty nine, typed on a twenty five centimeters screen the names of the returning participants and their results, though, she done so without paying particular attention to anyone but the screen in her right hand and whenever a participant stepped forward to sign himself she simply nudge him away.

    “Zax”, Zushi had one last thing to add. “Miss Zetsa also told us to inform you that you’re in big trouble for breaking your finger”.

    “…”



    On the other side of tunnel three hundred and twelve, in cave one hundred and thirty nine.

    “Participants of cave eighty seven, join here in rows of forty…”

    “Participants of cave three, join here in rows of seventy four…”

    “Participants of cave one hundred and forty one, gather up here in rows of fifty…”

    “Participants of cave twenty five, assemble here in rows of forty…”



    The seven representative Guardians were already waiting to the participants under their care. When the last participant of each group arrived from the tunnel, the representative Guardian led his or her group to one of the two square buildings on the premises.

    Inside the square building that Zetsa led the group of cave twenty five were thousands of square floor seats. Each upholstered seat was fifteen centimeters deep into the floor and had a seating space large enough for only a child to sit in. The margin between square seats was wide enough for adults to walk on one at a time, and so, alongside the thousands of seats were a hundred or so brown uniforms staff members of the event, spread around holding large sealed cases.

    “Please hurry them, the future Mist Users, to any of the seats”. A female staff member in brown uniform with a yellow ribbon that stretched diagonally across her left shoulder to her waist and read: “GECP CORE INSTURCTER”, approached the representative Guardians and asked of them.

    Immediately after, of the four of the seven groups that finished the search and came by the same square building as Zetsa’s group, the representative Guardians guided the young participants to their arranged seats.

    “Everyone sit, sit in your places. Those who did not fare well in the hunt raise your hands. Staff members will now distribute compensatory Earth’s Core. Take them and hold them with two hands beneath the navel – no need to raise your shirts – that is where your lower dantian is located. Sit in a cross legged position and wait for farther instruction”. The fairly young staff member, core instructor, amplified her voice with her mist energy and a white disciplinary aura that signified the cultivation of a C level Mist User, Core Breaker, emitted from her.

    Following the directions of the core instructor more than fifteen hundreds hands went into the air, some just standing like columns, others impatiently waving.

    After a short ten minutes every young participant held beneath his or her navel the brownish sphere that was an Earth’s Core, in anticipation to finally become a Mist User.

    “Greetings everyone, my name is Jergaria Lus. I am one of the two core instructors in this year’s event, and that means that my job in the last phase of the Great Earth’s Core Pursuit is to guide you through the process of becoming Mist Users”. Jergaria, the core instructor, spoke confidently in a soothing tone. “Now, you all should know that once a mental link is subconsciously formed between you and the Earth’s Cores in your hands, the Earth’s Core will merge with your body and enter your lower dantian. Since this can happen anytime, I ask of you to not get nervous. You should have learned about the phases of the process at school, but in practice it’s quite different, therefore, you have me, the staff members around you and your representative Guardians as support”.

    Jergaria halted to read the complexion and atmosphere of the young participants. “Before we begin”, the results were the same every time, so the right words were already at the tip of her tongue. “Let me say that I know that all of you are tired. It has been twenty four hours since you took the nutrition tablets and the energized effect currently wearing off”.

    Some of the participant looked at Jergaria as she talked, some stared at their Earth’s Cores and some sat with closed eyes.

    “Do not let the fatigue wear your spirit.  When you’ll start the first phase, Link Forming, it will fill your body with vigor. Your untapped Qi will, for some, become noticeable and for a short time, which should be until you’ll start the second phase, a surge of new found strength will renew your wakefulness”.

    Jergaria waited for the spread staff members and representative Guardians to insure the readiness of the young participant. To not distract anyone from her, the only voice in the square building was Jergaria’s, therefore they answered her by nodding slightly.

    “Beginning the first phase, Link Forming”, Jergaria announced. “Hold the Earth’s Cores in your hands near the lower dantian. Allow it to touch the body below the navel, through the shirt should also be fine. With eyes open don’t concentrate on anything particular in your line of sight, but try to imagine the shape, texture, color and even the inside mist of the Earth’s Cores that you found or received. See it in your mind’s eye as if it’s right in front you, I repeat, imagine the Earth’s Core, do not look at the one that you hold and do so with eyes open”.

    Zax listened to Jergaria’s voice. “Link Forming” He repeated how she named the first phase and thought about how obscure its process sounded. Nevertheless, unlike the many others which sat around him, it was not the first phase that caused the frown to his face.

    “The Link Forming”, Zax figured it out from the start. “It’s soul energy”.

    How many like him were in the short history of Kingdom Earth? Coreless ten years olds with soul at level F… One who cared would not even bother counting with two hands.

    Zax felt it, how threads of soul energy moved around from his consciousness to various body parts and retreated, like a living being looking for food in odd place, using only the sense of smell. Zax could also now feel the attraction that radiated from the Earth’s Core, the vile attraction that the threads of soul energy were drawn to.

    When the first thread made contact with the Earth’s Core, Zax could so easily and disgustedly feel and hear it, a high pitch “Ding” sound that echoed in his consciousness and shook the foundations of his soul.

    “It’s not it” Zax somewhat determined without even knowing what was that he found wrong. “No! No! No!” More threads reached for the Earth’s Core, the prestigious medium quality E level Earth’s Core, and the grievance grew with each Ding. But Zax, who with a simple thought could take control on the living threads, without understanding what was it that unnerved him so much, could not bring himself to stop the process he, since his earliest memories, wished for.

    The Earth’s Core was finally there, in Zax’s dantian, like in many others participants and the first phase was complete.

    “That’s what’s amiss, this Earth’s Core, I can’t… I can’t…” With the Earth’s Core in his dantian it became well defined to Zax. “I can’t keep it”.

  9. #49
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    Book 2 – Black Core

    Chapter 13 – Going Back




    The revelation of possessing the wrong Earth’s Core and its presence in his dantian enlightened Zax’s conception and granted him the knowledge of what was the thing he felt immense regret for and what he had to do to fix it.

    Jergaria, who for time strolled between the participants, for time stood in one place waited for the majority to complete the first phase, Link Forming, and once she decided they were ready, she opened up with her amplified voice. “Good, good, everyone, you’re doing well. I’ll now proceed to narrate the second phase, ”Grasping”. Those who still did not complete the first phase, keep concentrate on it. The staff members, representative Guardians and I, as well, will repeat the instructions how many times you need”.

    “Now that you have Earth’s Cores in your dantian, the flow of Qi in your body should be more apparent. Do not force yourselves to feel the flow of Qi right after the Earth’s Core disappears from your hands. Wait a little bit; Earth’s Cores have a particular attractive influence on Qi. It will take a while, could be seconds, minutes or a few hours, but eventually, the accumulated Qi in your body will stream to the lower dantian all on its own, and when enough Qi will pass through the Qi channels of the lower dantian, it will be impossible not to sense it”.

    Jergaria’s description of the effect of Earth’s Cores on Qi and the promise to sense it lowered a lot of eyebrows into the combination of enthusiasm and obedience. It was the dream of every coreless child with mild background to feel and control the strange power that only the talented and prestigious of their peers could learn to use like a full fledged Mist Users. It was now the time of everyone to grasp the power which differentiates the weak from the strong in Kingdom Earth.

    “When you realize the sensation of Qi that fills your dantian, do not try to form the first crack on the Earth’s Core’s shell just yet, like you might have heard or been told. Let the nesting Qi in your dantian dwell there for a while. Comprehend its circular movement around the Earth’s Core. Once it will seem to you as if it’s alive, look for what makes you think so. This will help improve your control on the Qi before binding it to your will. It’s like shacking and awakening a body part that fell asleep, like a leg that you sat on for too long or the whole body when you wake up in the morning”.

    Working with young minds, Jergaria was well versed with the kind of descriptive speech that can arouse the imagination of children in a way that will help them through the process of becoming Mist Users.

    She did not wait for all the young participants to complete the second phase, Grasping, since it depended on natural talent. For most, she knew, the second phase will take around an hour, for the talented at most half an hour, for those who lack any affinity it might be even five hours, which Jergaria definitely did not have.

    “On to the third and last phase”, Jergaria announced in a loud voice. “Last one you should know is simply called “Cracking””.

    Of the few who finished the second phase or were near its end and listened to Jergaria a certain thought popped to mind. “Whoever invented these terms have a terrible naming sense!” Nonetheless they all listened carefully.

    “In accordance to its name, the sole purpose of the third phase is to from the first crack on the Earth’s Core’s shell, thus you’ll enter the Beginner phase of level F as Mist Users. How to approach the shell with your Qi I and my associates in guiding you will now reveal to you by using our mist energy externally”.

    Following her words, Jergaria raised her right palm and emitted her white mist energy twenty centimeters above it. “Pay attention”. She said to the young participants. Slowly but surely, Jergaria’s mist energy began to take shape. The mist energy swirled and double in size, Jergaria’s face also slightly turned ashen. After ten seconds the mist energy took the shape of a meter long chisel. The shape held itself for three to five seconds, and then it swirled again, taking the form of giant scythe. For two minutes Jergaria’s mist energy took the form of different tools, likewise the mist energy of the staff members and representative Guardians, which none were below the level of Core Breaker, and demonstrated their exquisite control over the mist energy, though only Zetsa’s mist energy and one other representative Guardian were barely see through and sparkled in a silvery light.

    When the two minutes passed Jergaria lowered her hand and so did the others. “It is far more difficult to shape mist energy outside the body, so do not be anxious by the task laid before you. Each of you, close your eyes and reach your dantian with your consciousness. To do so easily, if you still did not grasp the technique, sense your Qi attentively and your mind will visualize, on its own, the state and vicinity of the dantian”. Jergaria gave a moment for those who had to follow her instruction before continuing. “In your dantian, shape your Qi to a tool that seems comfortable to use in your eyes, better it will be if it’s a tool meant for penetration. Even a nail will do. When the shape is vivid and you are able to hold it for more than five seconds, use the tool you shaped offensively to from the first crack on the Earth’s Core. Most likely none of you will succeed in the first, second third of sixth attempt, but keep trying. This is the last phase, the last obstacle between you and becoming Mist Users”.

    For her last words Jergaria, like with every group she had seen through the process, encouraged the young participants and then began to walk around them to personally assist those who struggled.

    Zax waited, against all his inner discomfort he waited and contemplated. To do what he planned he had to muster his courage and determination. Till it was done Zax also listened curiously to Jergaria and thanks to his unique soul and low proficiency with his Qi, it was not hard to follow the steps in her instruction. Nevertheless, for his plan to work he could not and had no intention to crack the Earth’s Core in his dantian.

    Zax had to partly thank his big sister for what gave him the confident to carry his plan. It was the knowledge that she shared with him regarding the possibility to remove an Earth’s Core from the dantian so long that it has not been cracked. It was possible due to Zax’s soul’s level and during the first phase that Jergaria taught he also understood why.

    “Now is a good time as any... Please don’t suspect anything, big sis”. Zax sighed inwardly. Since the Earth’s Core that he found was of great quality, there was no reason anymore to act as his big sister told him. He saw it in her eyes when the group of cave twenty five formed their lines when they returned from the search. She was pleased with his finding and expected him to return home with everyone as a Mist User.

    Holding back the Qi from streaming to his dantian was like holding back an itch. Zax, however, did so almost effortlessly. Zax was able to hold back since a part from some level of proficiency in handling Qi, to go against a natural flow one also had to have the discipline properties which only the soul of a Mist User in the level of Core Breaker has, and apart from quantity and quality of soul energy, Zax’s soul was not inferior to that of any Core Breaker.

    “Burrraa…” Out of the blue Zax leaned forward and puked.

    Luckily to the boy in front of him, it was Qi which mostly sustained Zax and he did not ate a lot of candies when he sat with his friends near the tunnel after he woke up, again. Still… it was the sound that terrified the boy and made him leap from the ground seat and caught the attention of Jergaria and the other helpers.

    Moving in a manner that seemed to the young onlookers as if her body flashed from one place to another, Zetsa, and two seconds after her, Jergaria, reached Zax.

    “What happened, Zax?” Zetsa lifted his face and raised him from his seat the moment he stopped puking.

    Zax’s complexion was pale, a white gray color. A bit of foams stained his lips. He wanted to regret his stupid plan, but it was too late so he whispered with the little bit of voice that he had. “My stomach hurt”.

    Being close enough to hear him as well, Jergaria guessed what happened to Zax and told Zetsa to come to the entrance of the square building with her.

    “Poor boy”, Jergaria told Zetsa as Zax leaned his head against her shoulder, sleeping. They were waiting for a staff member to arrive. “It happens rarely. The Qi backlash when a kid tries to form the first crack. They rush and skip the completion of the second phase almost without even trying. The body cannot stand the backlash and suffers the most. Fortunately, there is not permanent damage. Some can even start working again on the second phase after a day’s rest”.

    Jergaria reassured Zetsa, who knew the effect of a backlash in the dantian and that essentially there was not a severe case of a child that tried to form the first crack on an Earth’s Core’s shell, but Zax was Zetsa’s beloved younger brother and she could not betray her feelings for him in front of anyone. Jergaria, who was of aware that as a Mist Master Zetsa should know the meaning of a Qi backlash in the dantian, realized that between the boy and the representative Guardian there was some sort of a relationship and so explained out of courtesy.

    “You should not worry. He will be taken care of. You can come back for him the moment you will return the group of participants under your care to their home cave”. In an attempt to do good, Jergaria reminded Zetsa her obligations as a representative Guardian which meant that in a few hours, when the last participant from cave twenty five will finally become a Mist User, she would have to take the group back home, leaving Zax behind.



    When Zax opened his eyes the Nightly Cover formation of cave one hundred and thirty nine was already active.

    “Urg…” Zax groaned. “It was much worse than I thought it will be…” He said to himself and recalled his own action.

    The only way for him to avoid this latter part of the Great Earth’s Core Pursuit, forming a crack on the Earth’s Core in his dantian and becoming a Mist User, he had to take drastic action. What Zax did was separate the flow of his Qi to two opposite streams and made them collide in his dantian, yet in manner that will not affect the Earth’s Core in there. The results were agonizing to the point that the part of him losing consciousness afterwards was beyond his calculation and what he thought he could withstand and what he cannot.

    “The Earth’s Core isn’t cracked”. Zax breathed a sigh of relief. He paid less attention to his properly bandaged right hand or his shoes and clothes that were somewhat clean. His fears were that during the time that he slept the Qi flow returned to normal and again was attracted to the Earth’s Core. Surveying the condition of his Qi and Qi channels, it seemed that he was still slowly healing and the natural order had yet stabilized. For now, he decided not to use his Qi.

    Zax changed position from lying to sitting, noticing in the process that he was inside a large tent with a pile of folding beds to one side, a few closets with labels “Medicine Cabinet 1” and 2 and 3 up to 15.

    “Is that the doctor?” On a bed a few meters away from his a blond girl in blue scrubs, looking around thirty years old, was comfortably sleeping.

    Looking at his bruised wristwatch that suffered ill treatment during the search, though the display of the seconds and milo seconds was jumpy and the date, minutes and hours were readable. The time was past twelve o’clock midnight, April fifth.

    “Whaa…! Less than four hours are left! I’ve got to get going”. Knowing that he cannot make any sound from now on, Zax slowly got up from the bed, but right as his feet touched the floor he felt dizziness threatening to put him down.

    His body’s lack of nutrition could not be ignored anymore. On the chair besides his bed was Zax’s backpack. Zax recognized it by the color of the straps and the torn logo on the front side of the backpack which read: “Earth’s Core’s Showdo”. The missing “wns” were torn long before the Great Earth’s Core Pursuit.

    “It’s full”, to his surprise, Zax found all kinds of snacks filling his backpack. “They gave me their leftover snacks”. In this moment Zax was really happy for his choice in friends.

    Since water was the only thing he did not have, Zax took two sealed water bottles from a crate besides Medicine Cabinet 8 and headed out from the back side of the tent.

    Being nighttime, the amount of staff members walking around, performing their jobs, was nearly zero. Even the welcoming tents were closed. All of that was perfect for Zax’s plan since there were not many places that he could conceal himself.

    Zax’s destination was the dome like compound that all the participants were gathered in for their last night before the search.

    Two staff members were drinking near the entrance to the compound. Zax frowned. He remembered that when it was his group in there, some kids opened the compound’s doors on a dare, so it was not really a problem to go in or out, only, if one gets discovered he or she would be in a lot of troubles.

    After couple of minutes of waiting in frustration the two staff members emptied their cups and strolled on, allowing Zax to approach safely to the compound’s doors.



    CREAK!

    Zax opened the compound’s doors and instantly met a bunch of new participants, contemplating the same mischievous pranks that during his stay in the compound, among other things, managed to jam the trash chutes.

    “Who are you?” Some boy with curly hair asked. Under the dim lights of the compound the group that hung near the doors was composed of ten to twenty young participants.

    The twenty boys looked at Zax as if they saw a ghost, they played around the compound’s entrance since they got here and none of them saw a participant leaving. Furthermore, when the doors started moving they all thought the whoever opens them was a staff member or one of the representative Guardians, so their hearts jumped in fear, thinking that they were going to get caught.

    “I wasn’t feeling well so they took me to the Medical Tent when my group arrived”. Zax thought beforehand what he would say if anyone who had seen him entering the compound late at night will start to question him.

    Claiming that he was sick was a lot mellow than bragging that he sneaked out. No one will think much of a kid who probably got so excited that he got cramps or something, especially not other kids. On the other hand, if word got out that some kid had the nerves to sneak outside the compound in the middle of the night, he or she would defiantly become the talk of all the other kids and will easily be discovered by staff members or representative Guardians.

    Since Zax really was still recovering, even under the dim lights of the compound it was possible to see his pale complexion. The group of kids calmed down from the initial fright and made way for Zax to go to whichever group that he belonged.

    Zax found an empty upper bunk bed within an area of sleeping participants. He climbed the bunk bed quietly and closed his eyes to rest. In a couple of hours the riskiest part of his plan will commence.



    Similar to the sequence of events in the morning of Zax’s search, at four o’clock in the morning the representative Guardians arrived, called and organized their groups by showering the young participants under their with commands to get ready.

    Zax mingled within the group of participant he slept in the same area with. No one was able to suspect him because no one knew everyone among the thousands of participant whether if they were in the same batch or even the same cave group. And since the official procedures or over the day before, even the representative Guardians did not suspect the stowaway within their midst. Besides, such a farfetched thing as a stowaway participant has never happened in the past, so no one could even assume that it was happening right now.

  10. #50
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    Book 2 – Black Core

    Chapter 14 – The Dangers Of The Unsafe Zone




    Going along with his plan, Zax had a few things to fear from but each had the potential to end his endeavor.

    One was the nurse or the doctor, whichever she was. If she would awake up to see that he is not in the resting bed and alert the staff members and representative Guardians before he will enter cave zero thirty nine again then his plan will most likely fail.

    Second were the staff members that distribute the green time bracelets. If even one of them will notice that they are missing one time bracelet and will figure out Zax’s plan, what will follow will only be Zax’s plan failing. Not being caught by the staff members was only half of why Zax tried to avoid them. Zax also did not want to enter cave zero thirty nine with a time bracelet. Zushi told Zax of the different features that the time bracelets have and that one of them allow the event’s Guardian and possibly the representative Guardians, as well, to track the participants.

    Third thing was that his big sister, Zetsa. Yes, Zax realized that his big sister could not stay with him and had to return the group of participants back to cave twenty five. If she would return and notice that he was gone before he will enter cave zero thirty nine, she might figure out what he was doing, which will most definitely cause his plain to fail. Zax hopped that when the group of cave twenty five left cave one hundred and thirty nine it was already late and that was why his big sister did not return for him yet.

    The last thing Zax was scared of was the old lady, the attendant, at the end of tunnel three hundred and twelve. If that old lady was at the level of a Mist Master or worse, a Mist Lord, and used her Soul Sense to note who leaves or enters cave zero thirty nine, she would definitely discover Zax and right there and then his plan will...

    Zax could not do anything about the nurse\ doctor waking up or when his big sister will return. He decided to leave this worries at the back of his mind as the group he mingled into passed the entrance to tunnel three hundred and twelve.

    So as not to arouse the suspicions of the hundred staff members in the tunnel as they distributed the time bracelets, Zax switched lines whenever a staff member was about to approach with a time bracelet to the place in Zax walked in the line.

    Using his Soul Sense, it was easy workout. With the space between rows and lines being so dense it was difficult from the sidelines to notice his movement if one did not specifically looked for him. Within the rows and lines, as long as it also was within the domain of his Soul Sense, Zax could read the body movement of those around him, so to not even bother or make the other participants notice what he was doing.

    Finally he was about to reach the end of the tunnel. Zax hid his hands in his pockets, to not reveal to anyone that he did not get a time bracelet. The representative Guardians turned to the groups of participants under their care after receiving the approval of the old lady and deciding between themselves who will send the young participants off.

    One representative Guardians began to talk, but Zax did not listen to what he said. Zax read about how expert can notice if one among ten thousand looking at them in an eerie way and even to locate the one among ten thousand who looked at them. To avoid this mistake, Zax lowered his head till he felt the participant around him begin to move a fading “…head out”.

    Running to the cave, Zax did not dare to look back or even ask why or wonder if the old lady, the same one from two days back that saw his batch dashing to their search, used her Soul Sense or not. All that he cared about at that moment was keep running and keep hiding his hands. He was in and nothing would make him turn back.

    Little did Zax know that the old lady only covers only the left side of the tunnel, the return side, with her Soul Sense to count and evaluate the results of the young participants. Before that, when the participants head off to the cave, it is the job of the representative Guardians to know how many entering and later inform her.


    Four hours after the beginning of the search, eight o’clock in the morning.

    For the past four hours Zax looked for the river he and his friends followed. It took him a few hours to get to the river since he wasted time avoiding other participant and by being maybe too cautious from being discovered by the event’s Guardians or representative Guardians. Zax knew that if they will detect him in any other way but their special sensor, his second attempt in the search will end. So he could not allow himself to be casually seen or heard.

    Luckily for Zax, among the different kinds of Guardian which roamed in cave zero thirty nine, only one was at the level of a Mist Master. So even if his presence in the cave will be known and the Guardians will use their Soul Senses as a last measure to find him, he will only have to worry about this one Mist Master.

    Zax did not know the compass of a Mist Master’s Soul Sense, but he was sure that it is not large enough to detect him by engulfing a large space. Only by reading the environmental essence and detecting his unique print he will be found. And that was also a temporary expedient since – unless one creates some sort of an impact on the environment – a person’s unique print does not linger and fade quickly. It was something which Zax discovered accidently and up till not did not think much about it.

    In the end it was unavoidable for some participants to see Zax when he reached the river and began to follow along the river’s banks. From there it also was redundant to keep avoiding prying eyes. When participants found a searching ground they stuck to it and did not care who come by, unless he or she interrupt them or got their hands on the price they were looking for.

    Since he entered to the cave Zax had not used his Soul Sense. He was worried that the moment that he will use it, he will lose control on himself, if because the environmental essence of the cave, the hidden Earth’s Core or something else entirely.

    “Not before I’ll go far so no one will be able to see me”. Zax said to himself. “It’s not like I don’t know where I’m heading, Zushi said that I ran to the unsafe zone. And the river of Earth’s Cores… that I remember, if just a little bit, it’s…” He continued to reason with himself, however, when he attempted to remember the feeling, the desire and need from when he “lost it”, it was like trying to express something that just at the tip of the tongue but not quite there.

    When it was getting to ten o’clock in the morning, even if Zax looked as far back as he could, he did not see any participant. Zax could only assume that he reached the unsafe zone.

    “This batch has nine representative Guardians”. Zax lay on the ground, hidden beneath a bush, and recalled the seven female Guardians and two male Guardians as he pondered on how many event’s Guardians can be beside them. “If there is an equal number that would already be too much if all nine patrol in the unsafe zone…”

    Though the size of the unsafe zone was not small, Zax did not belittle the event’s Guardians who might be guarding in it.

    “I must proceed carefully, can’t use my Soul Sense, either… Zushi said that the event’s Guardian caught to the group on the river. They probably know that a lot of participant search in the river. In this case, a few event’s Guardians might patrol not far from here. I’m also positive that there is at least one event’s Guardian on this mountain”.

    It was hard to see it through the dense vegetation, but when Zax walked along the river’s banks he did see a mountain couple of hundred meters east to the river. It was a good high ground to monitor the clearings in the surrounding.

    “The place I need to go to… it’s in the other side of the next tunnel… in the next beasts’ cave…”

    To say that Zax’s spirit did not waver when he thought about and got closer to where that feeling, which was both alien and at the same time a part of him, instructed him to go, could only be a wretched lie. Zax was not stupid, even if he will overlook his deceiving actions; he knew that the path he was taking led to a place much worse and forbidden than the unsafe zone. But it was out of his control, the pull that made him keep going tormented his mind if even for a split second he thought to oppose it. And when he did as it want, it was as if every step forward was like walking on something he only read about, walking on a cloud.

    To appease this feeling, to appease himself Zax chose to abide regardless of the consequences.

    “The river started in the next cave”, he was told by Brabra, “there is no point in finding another path and it’s not like I can go around it”. Zax decided to crawl the rest of the way under the vegetation until he will see the tunnel to the next cave.

    Crawling for about two and a half hours, the wall of the other side of the cave surely became visible, so much that when Zax could see it without the interruption of the vegetation, it was possible for him to distinguish the shapes of the bigger bulges on it.

    Rumble… Rumble… Rumble…

    Suddenly the earth beneath him began to tremble. Trees fell one after the other and the small bushes were torn from the ground.

    “What’s that?” Zax lost his composure and asked aloud, terrified.

    A deep growl emerged through the breaking earth. Zax felt a sharp pain warping his abdomen and something hard as a rock hitting his head, making him lose consciousness.



    Zetsa, riding on her Sun K-79, got back to cave one hundred and thirty nine at nine forty five in the morning. Since a few kids from her group struggled to from the first crack on their Earth’s Cores, the whole group had to wait and ended up leaving late.

    Back in cave one hundred and thirty nine Zetsa had only three things to do. The first was to sign off Zax from the Medical tent, the second was to actually pick up Zax, see how he was doing and the third thing was to sign in the event’s Oversight tent that all the participants of cave twenty five became Beginners phase F level Mist Users, Earth’s Core Holders. Last thing she would have to do, after Zax will from the first crack on his own Earth’s Core and they cannot leave before that.

    “Is something wrong?” After she parked her K-79, Zetsa met some of the general staff members on her way to the Medical tent.

    The two staff members were restless, walking in a hurried pace and completely ignored Zetsa as if they did not notice her at all.

    Since other than her duties as a representative Guardian Zetsa did not have any other responsibilities in the event, she shrugged, assuming that the staff members were just cramped with too much work and too little rest.

    “Doctor Elliot”, Zetsa greeted the blond woman in blue scrubs as she entered the Medical tent.

    “Zetsa…” the expression on Doctor Elliot’s face was solemn. She stopped filling the papers on her desk and got up from the chair she was sitting on.

    “Where is my brother?” Zetsa asked. Matter of fact, after Zetsa greeted Doctor Elliot, her gaze immediately turned to find Zax, so she did not see Doctor Elliot’s facial expression until she realized that Zax is not in the tent and the other woman stood face to face with her.

    “My brother…” The tone in Zetsa voice was less polite this time, almost demanding. She remembered the attitude of the two staff members. She saw a couple more on her way to the Medical tent and they all looked the same, but this is the Great Earth’s Core Pursuit, an event of outmost importance and those who work in it cannot have an easy time, so once more Zetsa did not pay attention to any of the staff members.

    “Please sit, Zetsa”. Doctor Elliot asked. In truth, she was just a graduate and did not have a lot of experience with laying bad news.

    “Is something wrong with my little brother?” Zetsa nervously asked. “Was something wrong with Zax when we left?” She asked herself as she also tried to recollect.

    When Zax groaned in pain and his complexion turned pale in the square building, Zetsa did not understand what happened to him. Jergaria said that it was a backlash from rushing the process to become a Mist User, but was that really the cause? Zax was different from the other participant and almost anyone else ever before him, his soul was already in level F and he also was aware of his Qi. Jergaria did know that or could imagine that her teachings were adhering by such a prodigy; of course she would assume the most common excuse to explain Zax’s condition.

    “To force a soul to jump a whole level, from F to E, when it just achieved a breakthrough…” Zetsa could not deny the possibility of a backlash due to extreme tension on the soul, rather than what Jergaria suggested. “Was it too soon?” It was more complicated than this. Even If she wanted to keep Zax’s unique soul a secret for the time being, by law, their parents were obligated to send him to the Great Earth’s Core Pursuit and until Zax will become a Mist User he will remain within the boundaries of that law.

    Zetsa was a B level Mist User. In comparison to her, Doctor Elliot was a mere E level Mist User. Zetsa could run in her mind a thousand thoughts and speculations before Doctor Elliot could finish forming just the one. So between the time that Zetsa was immersing in thoughts and Doctor Elliot was about to answer her question, only one second had passed.

    “Your brother, patient Zax Zel… he disappeared during the night”. Doctor Elliot said truthfully.

    Releasing a breath of relief and then comprehending what she had heard, Zetsa held her voice from shouting. “Zax is gone?! Explain to me right now, where is my brother?!”

    “I will answer everything, every question, however, please calm down. We received a report not too long ago, we know where he is”. Doctor Elliot tried to change her tone to be more soothing, if it could help her. She knew that Zetsa was a representative Guardian, and a Mist Master, at that.

    When Zetsa signed in the information of her and patient Zax Zel in the medical form that Doctor Elliot gave her, Zetsa wrote herself under the “Kin” header as his big sister and under the “Mist User Level” header as a Mist Master. Right now it was Doctor Elliot job to break Zetsa the new, and she did not want to suffer from a Mist Master’s emotional burst.

    “A hour and half ago…” A hour and half because Doctor Elliot slept oh too well, something which she chose not to share with the fretful Zetsa. “We could not find your brother near the tents or the buildings. Initially we thought that he decided to return home by himself, but there isn’t public transportation to or from this area of cave one hundred and thirty nine till the end of the event. Still, Mr. Helyon”, Doctor Elliot referred to the disciplinary supervisor of the event. “He sent four vehicles to search the roads.”

    “In the meantime he also looked at Zax’s results from the hunt… A E level Earth’s Core…” It was reasonably hard for even Doctor Elliot to hide the envy in her tone of voice and look in her eyes. “With a price Earth’s Core like this we did not believe that Zax will commit an illegal act and try to retake the hunt. Nonetheless, while we waited for the staff members that searched the roads to update us, Mr. Helyon ordered the staff members that were on break to enter cave zero thirty nine to investigate the participants that are currently in the hunt. Half an hour ago a few kids admitted that they saw last night, entering the participants’ compound…”

    “Then my brother…”

    “All the Guardians are informed, most of the staff members also looki-”

    It was futile for Doctor Elliot to finish her last sentence. Zetsa upped and disappeared from her line of sight like a violent gust of wind.

  11. #51
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    Book 2 – Black Core

    Chapter 15 – Earth Shattering Brown Digger



    A strong pungent odor burned Zax’s respiratory system through his nostrils and rose to his brain, the body organ which contained the soul.

    Zax woke up from the smell, but when his eyes opened what he saw was foreign. All he could see as he stared above was the ground as the ceiling and a dim light illuminating from somewhere. The last imagery that Zax could remember was the earth he was lying on splitting and a black shadow, like a long and thick whip, moving quickly out of the cracks, tossing large pieces of the shattered earth.

    “Urgh…” Zax moaned when he tried to get up. His stomach and back were in pain he was not aware of until he slightly moved himself up. Before he could achieve a measly one hundred and sixty degrees position, Zax’s body fell back and acute pain circling his abdomen and lower back specify the area of his injuries.

    “Gural… Gural… Gural…”

    The sound was getting closer, from the direction that his feet were turned to. At the same time Zax also heard “THUMP, THUMP, THUMP, THUMP…” which was the sound of his heart throbbing.

    The same thing that made the “Gural” sound stomped the ground.

    “It’s getting closer”. Zax said aloud only because his mind was busy sulking in misery.

    “The unsafe zone… it wasn’t unsafe because its proximity to the REALLY unsafe beasts cave, but because there were still beasts roaming in the searching cave… I was such a fool! How I didn’t think about it?! If it was the entrance to the next cave that they didn’t want us to get close to, they could have just placed Guardians at the tunnel…” It was the voice of a child that learned his lesson which rang in his mind.

    However, apart from his own natural sprouting temperament, there was one other voice that Zax listened to and in the past few days it can be said, if one looked deeply, that it bewitched his soul, so much that it entwined and became an integral part of Zax’s foundations.

    The other voice was soundless, so Zax could only interact with it by accepting how it made him feel. The one dominating sensation was arrogance. The same arrogance that made Zax to so easily believe that his hardships will be to sneak into the batch of new participants and avoid the staff members and different Guardians as he crosses the searching cave, than facing the populated beasts’ cave he was heading to.

    In this moment, it was the sense of arrogance that made Zax to act, rather than keep sulking. Unsure if he should use his Soul Sense and if he do how it will affect him, Zax preferred to first bet on his Qi to survive the, might be, approaching confrontation, since it felt like his Qi was back in order, though surrounding the Earth’s Core in his dantian due to its inexplicable powers of attraction.

    Zax folded his knees and in both of his legs started to stream and to accumulate his Qi. In his mind he prepared himself to kick with his feet, to force himself up and find a way to escape, to threaten the beast – because, yes, he was sure that he was brought to this underground place by a beast – even to kick the ground and create lots of noise in hope that someone, a representative Guardians, an event’s Guardian will hear him and come to his rescue.

    Regardless of his chances to preserve his life, Zax was determined to retaliate.

    As the beast, a few meters from Zax, noticed his action it instantly halted its movement and only its voice continued to reverberate. “Gural… Gural… Gural…”

    The growling sounds repeated but the urgency changed. Sometimes fast, sometimes slow. Those were the only fluctuations that Zax’s human ear perceived. What was the meaning, the desire behind those sounds? Even if his mind was unruffled by the current situation, there was little chance that he will know the answer.

    “Is it not coming?” The question dared to slightly calm the uncertainty in his heart.

    As if to give him an answer, or maybe Zax did, unconsciously, understand the beast, the creature, which was no more than three meters away from his feet, stomped the ground with its heavy steps.

    Until now Zax raised his head to see the appropriate, probably futile, moment to kick when the beast came close enough. It hurt more in his stomach muscles than in his lower back when he bent his neck and body a bit up, but it still did not provide him a clear site of the beast. Zax only had a full impression of one part of the beast’s body when it turned around and stepped away. What he saw was the perfect shape of the beast’s tail that like a thick and long branch, crossed the distance between them and fluttered over his body. The whip like tail was covered by brown scales and the moment Zax saw it, no more than a meter above him, he knew that he could not obstruct such a massive thing.

    “It’s going!” It was like a scene from a dream or a late night movie. The monster was leaving and one person, although injured and shaken, got to stay alive.

    Zax concentrated his strength and endurance on getting up again. Being aware of the pain made it easier the second time, and although it was not less painful and felt as if a giant stone was weighing on his stomach, Zax managed to gradually move his torso up.

    “Gural… Gural… Gural…” The beast persistently returned and this time Zax got to see all of it, or at least from its front appearance, recognize it.

    In Kingdom Earth there were only two sole lessons which bothered mentioning to children the existence of the beasts. One was History lesson where beasts were talked about briefly and to the point. The other one was Geography lesson where the students learned in an abbreviated manner about the sort of beasts that ruled some of the major mapped caves in the beasts’ territory.

    To recognize the beast in front of him, it was not thanks to the history lessons or geography lessons that Zax knew it, but by watching beasts’ related shows on the Screen and being exposed to reading materials about the beasts’ territory that experts have published online.

    The beast that dragged him to this cavern was, in its full name, an Earth Shattering Brown Digger.

    The Brown Digger was a mammal type beast from the giant rodents’ family, even though it had brown reptilian scales covering its tail and hind legs. Its body shape was similar to that of a rat with brown fur. Its limbs, however, were short and vicious, adorned by long and tough claws that could tear through the earth as if it was a giant piece of tofu. The head of the Brown Digger was its least impacting feature. The head was large and not completely round, though it had reptilian eyes, the rest, even the snout, was covered by puffy layers of fur. Only the knowledge of its hidden sharp teeth could truly alert others from this not far from being adorable face.

    The Brown Digger that appeared before Zax was clearly an adult one. From the tip of its tail to its hidden snout the length was more than four meters. Its height when on its four limbs was around a meter and fifty centimeters.

    Zax stared fixated at Brown Digger preying eyes. When he moved up most of the accumulated Qi in his feet dispersed. If the Brown Digger could sense his Qi accumulating once more, Zax was afraid that he will strike first and kill him. At this point, not even the arrogance sensation could supply him with an idea of what to do, for the most part not by using his Qi.

    “Gural… Gural… Gural…”

    The Brown Digger expression was impossible to decipher. It growled and motionlessly looked at Zax’s direction. The one thing which differentiated it from a statue was the long scaly tail that was swaying and rubbing the ground.

    The standstill between the two had mentally and physically exhausted Zax. He tried to stay watchful of any sudden movement of the Brown Digger, but how long has it been since he last ate or drank something? He was not craving food or water due to his emotional state, but his body, the Qi, the soul… The three aspects of a living being were hardly bothered by emotional disposition when it intersected with the basic need for nourishment, for survival.

    Gazing at his wristwatch could also arouse the Brown Digger’s hostility, so Zax could not even tell how long he stood there while unknowingly grabbing his stomach right where it hurt.

    It was not long before Zax started panting. A few minutes of short and painful breaths brought him back to the coarse earth, this time on his bottom.

    “A soul attack…” Zax was panting even slowed the thought in his head. If it were not for his inner mind, his head would have being been utterly blank. “A soul attack with all my might… and then try to escape…” The cavern was embedded with a few Sun Stones in the size of a rise grain. Looking past the Brown Digger, because of the dim lighting, Zax was not sure if the cavern was sealed by the Brown Digger or connected to a tunnel that might be the means for his escape.

    Ten minutes, without a doubt, have passed since his bottom touched the earth. Another fifteen minutes as surely also followed as Zax and the Brown Digger continued their oppressive standstill.

    “An hour…? An hour has definitely passed since I woke up… Two maybe…?” Zax head was boiling. Not just because he fought to restrain his bodily needs, but also because of the odor of the cavern. The more and longer that the foul odor had entered Zax’s nostrils, the harder it was to bare it.

    In the end, a ten years old is a ten years old and in terms of his physique, Zax could only be said to be slightly better than an average ten years old boy. Thus, he collapsed.



    “Gural… Gural… Gural…”

    The growls hovered so close to his face.

    “Crunch… Crunch… Crunch…”

    Was he been eaten by the Brown Digger?

    “Flup… Flup… Flup…”

    Something wet and smelly, though less smelly than the cavern, constantly rub him.

    Zax opened his eyes, wondering if he broke some kind of a record in passing out. The thought was not the first thing to cross his mind, but for some reason Zax felt that before anything, he should cling to this one pearl of amusement, It was his coping mechanism in case the Brown Digger was really eating him and his body had been torn to the a state where he could feel anything.

    “But then, how am I awake?” The question took the form of a lifeboat, the one Zax always saw in Serah’s favorite online game, Mocca Kart, with dirt wheels and turbines – real lifeboat were unneeded in Kingdom Earth and today the only leftovers from the past were rare pictures and drawings of how it was when people lived above the ground.

    As he sailed across the sea of his consciousness, incapable of coming up with an answer, finding the most remote island, a metallic, salty liquid poured into Zax’s mouth and filled it to the brim in an instant.

    “Blugh…”

    Zax could not help but rise with his back that was lying on the ground and hit his head in the Brown Digger’s opened jaw.

    As if it was not worse enough before, Zax found himself between the sharp teeth of the Brown Digger as a gush of red green liquid burst from his throat and spilled all over his body. The bloody scene was surreal; all of Zax five senses suffered an absolute shock.

    Was he awake? Yes. Was it real? Certainly. Was he aware that his body was in one piece, up and without pain? Absolutely not.

    Zax’s hand pushed the current of red green liquid in vain. The current only stopped when the Brown Digger closed its mouth and Zax was unintentionally mimicking it, standing all four on the ground.

    Zax spat the red green liquid that washed his mouth and smeared all of his body. Tiny meaty pieces where here and there, on the ground, stuck to him or coming out from his mouth. Even without the help of his Soul Sense Zax knew the source of this ground meat. “The Brown Digger last meal!” If he could, Zax would throw up, but his body was past this poor habit and his gag reflex toughened in the past couple of days…

    Ground meat was not the only thing that came out with the stream of red green liquid. Thin slices of vegetation, mainly roots, were scattered everywhere.

    The red green liquid, Zax assumed, was partly blood, partly fluids of the green roots.

    As Zax stood up on his feet with a straight back his gaze first fell on the Brown Digger. The beast seemed to be in a laid back mood after releasing the tension in its stomach. It did not gaze back at Zax or cared for another standstill. It simply dug its face into the earth, licked and munched only the meaty pieces of its already digested meal.

    Seeing that the Brown Digger was not concerned with him a familiar feeling resurface in Zax. The former arrogance sensation changed back into the vague attractive desire, which was responsible for his current situation.

    “What’s got into me?” Zax asked, he wanted to hear his voice and did not fret about the Brown Digger hearing him. “First I’m using my Soul Sense and lose control while partaking in the search. When I return to myself it’s only after I faint and wake up, forgetting the stuff others say I did. Then, I’m slowly feeling like there is something in the beasts’ cave that’s pulling me toward it, making me want… whatever it is... Now I’m stuck in this cavern with an adult Brown Digger that first I feel confident enough to take on and after it puke on me, it’s all well…”

    As crazy as all of it sounds, Zax knew the origin to the madness that befell him. But dealing with it… The origin was the alien sensation, desire, need or whichever other name that Zax could find fit to describe it. And the problem was that during a short period of time, maybe after the second time that Zax lost control, the alien sensation was no longer alien and actually became part of him. That part, although messed up, was not something Zax could refute, and asking him to ignore or overcome it will be the same as asking a kleptomaniac not to steal. Zax’s actions, at first, were not done on purpose, but now it was unstoppable, at least until the sensation, desire, need or whichever… will be satisfied.

    What Zax cared about after he got up on his feet, apart from the sensation, was to clean himself as much as possible from the disgust that stuck to his body. Zax went as far as stripping out of his clothes – it was not like the only other being around paid attention to him, and even if it did, whether its meal was wrap by fabric, scales, feathers, fur or bald, a Brown Digger could eat anything.

    “Useless! I need to wash myself”. Zax gave up. When the Brown Digger snatched him, his backpack was either left behind or fell somewhere along the way to this cavern. If he had it in hand he could have used the water from the water bottles to clean himself since he emptied only a third of one bottle out of the two that he took from the Medical tent.

    “The pulling and squeezing from the Brown Digger’s tail…” As Zax saw his stomach, waist and back a spark of comprehension appeared in his eyes and he grimaced. Where the Brown Digger tail wrapped him, a belt of red and blue, ground skin and bruises, encircled his waist.

    “The juice of the green roots!” Taking a closer look made Zax call in wonderment.

    The red part of the liquid was the blood of the creature the Brown Digger ate. The green part of the liquid was the fluids of the roots that the Brown Digger ate. When Zax examined his wounds and saw that despite the severity of them he did not feel pain while turning, bending and even touching, an absurd hypothesis crossed his mind. He discovered that while the blood dried and hardened on his skin, the fluids remained gooey, tucked under an armor made of blood, as if it was an ointment under a bandage.

    “What the…!” Zax’s gaze shot at the Brown Digger who flinched from the quick and sudden movement and stared back at him suspiciously. “Your puke has medicinal effect?”

    Obviously the Brown Digger did not answer verbally or even treat the sounds coming out from Zax’s mouth as if they held any meaning which was directed toward it. Its intelligence was only a little better than that of the cattle that was raised in some of cave twenty five’s farms. In response to Zax’s subsiding gaze the Brown Digger’s mere action was lowering its head to its meal.

    As both kept a mutual distance, Zax drew his attention to his slowly healing injuries. To avoid rousing submerged pain, he inspected to which extent he could move. As he stretched his arms above his head it abruptly occurred to him. “My wristwatch!”

    Not knowing how long it had been since he ended up in the Brown Digger’s cavern, Zax lowered his hands to check the time and date in his wristwatch. He scraped the blood that smeared the tiny display and frowned right after. The date froze on the same day of the search he snuck into and the time also froze on an hour which, unless it was a new day, should have passed long ago. “It broke…” An immature sigh escaped Zax’s mouth.

    “Well then”, Zax’s hands loosened and fell to the sides of his waist. “If it doesn’t gonna eat me and instead chose to treat the wounds that its tail caused… Then maybe it won’t stop me from leaving”. Step by step, Zax exercised caution as he executed his decision to leave.

    “Not going to stop?” The thought softly wondered as he encircled the long body of the Brown Digger.

    The Brown Digger lifted its furry apathetic head from the earth, still chewing the ground meat its tongue picked up and stared at Zax. A black radiant appeared in between its eyes.

    “STOP!”

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    Book 2 – Black Core

    Chapter 16 – Black Core




    “STOP!”

    The one word suddenly sprouted, not as an external sound of the Brown Digger’s voice, but was conveyed like a wave of thought from the black radiance between the Brown Digger’s eyes.

    Zax stared at the Brown Digger with a suspended expression on his childish face. “It… It…”

    The black radiance, like a charming third eye, hidden beneath the Brown Digger fur, still echoed the one word which sounded as if it was spoken with Zax’s own vocal cords.

    “STOP!”

    The word repeated, less daunting the second time, though it remained firm and forceful. The wave carried another thing when it reached Zax’s mind once more, a tint of a submissive mutual desire between the black radiance and the domineering sensation that became part of him.

    Without paying heed to his actions, Zax’s right hand reached for the Brown Digger’s head. His fingers dug through the layers of fur, where the spot of black radiance shone, with each  millimeter deeper it felt like the familiarity between the black radiance and the domineering sensation was getting stronger, until the fingers were surpassed by the toughness of the roots and skull of the Brown Digger.

    Now, so close, as Zax half consciously returned to himself, the first thing he somewhat noticed were the Brown Digger’s eyes. The two reptilian eye balls seemed lifeless and hazy as fluctuations of brown mist energy swirled inside of them.

    Looking at them, Zax had a vague feeling that the Brown Digger was at the same state that he was and that maybe in his eyes, it was Qi that swirled.

    The Brown Digger, if he was half consciousness like Zax, did not oppose Zax closeness or touch. When the two were in contact it made both the Brown Digger and Zax experience a sort of kinship that originated from the other half of their consciousness. It could be described as if the two were under one and the same spell.

    “CLIMB!”

    Another word, with the same voice that sounded like Zax’s, but from the black radiance in the Brown Digger’s head.

    Unlike the Brown Digger, Zax sensed that he had a tad more control, enough to make the choice if to listen to the voice or ignore it. By relaying on how he felt, Zax was partial toward compliance. He had done so much for the irrational sensation; it also became an inseparable part of him that one could say he had done so much for himself. What was one more thing if it will only make him feel better? Not pressed by the need to do something he could not rationalize.

    It was already too late to repent, and too early of a ten years old child to listen for reason rather than an impulse.

    “Gurglegurglegurgle!”

    Before he even got to clench his hands with a grip of the Brown Digger’s fur and climb it, the two were startled by Zax’s stomach growling sounds. Zax fell to his bottom, the small bit for energy that he was about to extract could not be achieved in his body current state, despite the green gluey liquid that was healing his wounds.

    As if something clicked in its mind, the Brown Digger regained a miniscule portion of its consciousness. It turned from Zax, walked to a certain spot on the ground and in a manner of a few seconds, surprisingly dug out Zax’s backpack.

    Since the two shared a cryptic connection, when Zax’s stomach was growling, although both were mostly under the influence of the source of the connection, the Brown Digger still managed to receive a picture of Zax’s backpack and an idea of what its content meant for Zax. Moreover, the sound of a growling stomach has held a distinguished note all living beings could recognize.

    Zax’s incomplete awareness made him grasp his body movement slowly and with no relations to his will. It was the same as watching through dreaming eyes and going along with it. Zax grab his backpack from the Brown Digger’s mouth, opened it and one by one ate all the remaining snacks and drank all the water to his fill.

    The Brown Digger, who was affected by the cravings of Zax’s body through the connection, also licked the ground as he done before, only this time by what its counterpart projected.

    After couple of long minutes, Zax was sated and the black radiance shone brightly in between the Brown Digger’s eyes.

    “LEAVING!”

    One word, which was sufficient for Zax to understand what the voice, his voice, implied, caused him to put the backpack on his back and climb the Brown Digger’s back.

    “HOLD!”

    How the sound resonated made Zax wonder, for a few seconds, in some deep part of his consciousness, whether the Brown Digger was just a tool of the black radiance, when in fact it was the black radiance that had the connection with him. Could the words that carried his voice were actually his own from the start and since a beast like a Brown Digger cannot talk, the black radiance pulled the words from his mind and sent them back as its own? The question dispersed to nothingness with the first step of the Brown Digger out of the cavern to the tunnel that indeed was on the other side.

    The Brown Digger’s path was illuminated by a handful of grain size Sun Stones and regardless of how it was influenced to eat because of Zax, the affect seemed to be one sided.

    The tunnels in the profound world of the Brown Diggers were carved in a very systematic order, considering the low intelligent of Brown Diggers... Tunnels in and out caverns were slightly wide and tall as an adult Brown Digger on all four. Tunnels which functioned as paths to different locations beneath the ground were as wide and tall as two adult Brown Diggers. Crossroads tunnels were the biggest ones, they were the places adults sometimes fought against each other and pups sometimes played in. There were several others types of tunnels with different builds which signified different stuff for the Brown Digger, but in none of these tunnels the Brown Digger carrying Zax crossed.

    Lastly, and not entirely related to the tunnels but still part of the profound word of the Brown Diggers... The reason for the bad smell in the cavern that Zax was in and most other caverns was the method in which the Brown Diggers used to mark their private dwellings…

    Seeing the tender flesh meat carried by another of their own, was a sensible reason for Brown Diggers to fight over it, to try and snatch it, and most times that exactly what would had happened. Yet instead, while Zax rode on the back of the Brown Digger, whenever an adult Brown Digger was about to react to his presence, something unexpected took place that might have shocked Zax if half of his mind was not unconscious and the other half free from the dream like state.

    On the head of every adult Brown Digger, in between their eyes, a black radiance shone. The same happened to a great number of the Brown Digger pups and those of the little ones whom did not display the black radiance were forced to stay in their place by their parents, right before they and every other Brown Digger paused their activities. The effect of the suspension lasted up until the Brown Digger that carried Zax diverted its path to another tunnel and was too far for the other Brown Diggers to notice by smell or sight the human on its back.

    Time flew by as seconds turned into minutes and minutes to hours, eventually nearly three days had passed. A human boy could not withstand such journey without food and rest, but beneath the ground, in the world of Brown Diggers there was very little that could pose as nutrition for humans.

    The first day and a half was still beneath the ground and apart from drinking one time from an underground spring, Zax had nothing to satisfy his thirst and hunger. The Brown Digger, who through their connection felt that Zax was hungry, left to hunt while Zax rested, guarded by another Brown Digger with black radiance on its head. However, when it got back with a feathery carcass, Zax, in his half aware state, was reluctant to feed on it. Even the word “EAT!” that resonated in Zax mind, a wave in his sea of consciousness, it could not compel Zax to eat.

    “EAT!”

    “EAT!”

    “EAT!”



    The Brown Digger left Zax and hunted time and time again. It did not let Zax to climb on its back and continue when Zax refused to eat, it could not. The thing which controlled the Brown Digger sent it to find and bring food to sate Zax’s hunger; otherwise it would not let them proceed. In the sixth time the Brown Digger returned from the hunt it brought orange juicy fruits. Maybe it was their appearance, maybe it was the sensation or maybe Zax really knew what these fruits were… either way, he ended up eating them. Afterwards, in the first day and a half, the Brown Digger left only once more to bring food and by this time, returned quite fast with a branch of the tree that grew the orange fruits.

    The last day of their journey was above ground. There was a fairly good reason for a Brown Digger to live underground; it was not much of the most threatening beast. Any other beast of the same size or even a little smaller that lived above the ground was more dangerous than a Brown Digger, as if oversize rodent was still just a rodent. On their way to their destination in the last day, after Zax eaten the last orange fruit, the Brown Digger did not left to bring more of the fruits or allowed a moment of rest to either of them. During the last day the Brown Digger still obeyed the black radiance like a robot, but followed its instincts in regards to their survival.

    Finally they entered it. The entrance tunnel was uniquely small, similar to the in and out tunnels from caverns in the Brown Diggers’ world. The cave, however, was as big as any of the beasts’ caves, its scenery, on the other hand, was like nothing they encountered, whether they paid attention or not.

    Although the tunnel to the cave sank into the ground, this appeared to be of no concern to the duo. Smoky mist that sprouted from the ground like incomparable hot steam was the thing which delayed Zax and the Brown Digger for a short time after they entered. The smoky mist had lava like orange color, almost as bright and prominent as gold. It blocked the view of the cave and possibly burnt any sign of life that ever existed in the cave.

    The black radiance, although it deflected the smoky mist from Zax’s and the Brown Digger’s path by creating a barrier in the shape of a dome, it could not lower the temperatures of the boiling earth. Nonetheless, the Brown Digger, despite burning its paws with each step, did not slow down or even flinched from the pain. It continued onward for a few hours and collapsed when there was no need for it to go farther – that was when the black radiance faded from its head and only the barely half aware Zax remained, sort of, awake.

    The two arrived to a rock that could be either a base of a mountain the smoky mist cover, or simply a giant rock. Besides several cavities of the same size and shape in the rock, embedded to it were two fist sizes, glowing spheres which emitted a terrifyingly strong black radiance that far repressed the boiling earth and smoky mist’s capabilities within a diameter of a few tens of meters.

    The new black radiance, of one sphere out of the two, assaulted Zax’s consciousness, but did not harm his soul. The black radiance meticulously formed a black membranes armor around Zax’s soul. When the armor was indomitable, Zax’s soul was sheltered from any outside harmful fluctuations, yet could still interact and perceive as before. Following the complete formation of the armor, a black glimmer flashed in Zax’s eyes and he regained full consciousness.

    “Mmm…”

    Since he was aware to a certain degree of his surroundings and his action, Zax did not immediately react when he again looked at the world with clear eyes. The transition from an half aware dream state to refreshing clarity was also not abrupt as it is when one wakes up for a dream. The transition was subtle and in its process, Zax’s unique soul first familiarized itself with the black membranes armor, which seemed to be nothing special. At most, a defensive layer that moved along with the movement of the soul energy. Second, Zax’s inner mind, unobstructed by the sensation or voices that rang in his head, recalled as much as he could of the past two and a half days. After a few minutes he was perfectly he was perfectly versed with every at any given moment from the journey.

    Zax eyebrows contracted. Looking around at the smoky mist and the panting Brown Digger, he said aloud. “It wasn’t you, right? You were just a tool to bring me here”. His gaze moved to the sphere that formed the black membranes armor. “You guided us here… Are you an Earth’s Core?”

    It was ludicrous to ask, but the black sphere had the shape of an Earth’s Core and even seemed to have dark swirling mist inside of it. In Kingdom Earth there was not ever a known case of an Earth’s Core communicating with a person, at least no one ever publish the existence of such an extraordinary event. And yet, Zax was confident in his beliefs. Being so close to the origin of the black radiance, he did not know how it controlled the Brown Digger or him or how it communicated with either of them, but he was sure that it was the black sphere, one of the two, that done so.

    In spite of Zax’s hopes, the black sphere he turned his question to, did not respond. “Should I try it now that I’m finally here?” Zax pondered. “…If anything I feel like I should get closer, but not leave. No. This Black Core… I’ve done so much… I’ll take it!” Zax made up his mind and released his Soul Sense.

    There was nothing to sense. When his Soul Sense launched, the black armor also extended itself as part of the border of the Soul Sense. The black border severed Zax contact with the environmental essence and formed a void sphere with a radius of a hundred and thirty five centimeters. Within the void the lack of senses did not scared Zax, on the contrary, he felt at peace, like floating inside a mother womb.

    “THUMP!”

    Zax’s hearing was impacted and the sound was that of a pulse.

    “THUMP!”

    Zax’s smell returned, next, and the odor was sweet and vast.

    “THUMP!”

    Zax’s sight was the only one of his senses he was not sure if he had lost or merely darkened by his eyelids. With it he discovered a shining distant spot in the black cover of his Soul Sense.

    “THUMP!”

    Zax’s taste intersected with his sense of smell and the vast sweetness spread out in his mouth and filled his body.

    “THUMP!”

    Zax’s last sense returned. Touch. He stopped floating, and could tell that once more he was standing on a solid ground.

    “THUMP!”

    Zax five senses led him unanimously forward and with his steps getting closer, so was everything he sensed intensifying. “There, it’s showing me when I use my Soul Sense!” His right hand starched and his five fingers clenched something smooth and round.

    “THUMP!”

    The impulse passed through Zax’s hand and shook his whole body from his skin to his bone marrow. Startled, Zax fell on his knees. For a split millisecond he saw it, the being that left this black Earth’s Core behind. If Zax had to choose one word to describe it, then “Colossal!” was the one.

    “Ahaaa…” Other than a crude estimation of its size Zax could not fathom the entity’s features. His mouth was left opened and an indistinct voice came out. The shortest of moments of its true presence blanked his mind. When the moment was over Zax unintentionally withdrew his Soul Sense and the Black Core disappeared from the palm of his hand.

    “Where did it go?!” Zax’s eyes bulged out. A second ago he held the Black Core, one even might say tightly, and in the blink of an eye it vanished?

    “My Qi and…!” Inside of his lower dantian, the Qi that was swirling around the medium quality E level Core began to stream back to all the Qi channels and stir in them. Things were happening to the medium quality E level Earth’s Core, as well. Its color started to darkened. The Earth’s Core’s shell gradually turned pitch black, so much that it was impossible to detect or see with Zax mind’s eye the mist inside of it.

    “What is it doing?” Zax located the Black Core. It was right next to the E level Earth’s Core, sending pulses of dark radiance to the Earth’s Core, Qi and soul.

    In his dantian, Zax could only feel that his soul link with the Earth’s Core and Black Core was slowly fading, but in his Qi channels and soul… “AHHHHH!” Excruciating pain cut through Zax two of the three aspects, soul and Qi. Zax roared madly, winced and banged his head to the ground. “GRHAAAA!” His voice cracked and echoed for hundreds of meters as pulses of black radiance were sent from the Black Core and black long spikes pierced every fiber of the last aspect, his body. The sudden pain was intolerable to the point that Zax could not think straight. He was awfully conscious of everything, the piling of his soul, the disintegration of his body, the Qi which liquefied and formed crystal like clots in the Qi channels, but his mind… it retracted. All of it, in this rare chance, while the protection of the soul was wavering, the only safe haven was within the seed of his creation, the spirit.

  13. #53
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    Book 2 – Black Core

    Chapter 17 – Diagnosis




    While Zax’s body experienced convulsions as a result of the intolerable pain, his consciousness abandoned the three aspects for a place where none of them could influence him.  Within the sea of his consciousness, in the center which was the most conclusive place of the soul, Zax was cuddling, or more properly, the spirit that was Zax Zell took the naked form of a ten years old boy, holding his folded legs close to his chest, submerged in a deep sleep.



    When the Brown Digger woke up, it was no longer under the control of the Black Core and the black radiance also vanished from in between its eyes. Confused by its surrounding, the burns on its paws and it exhausted state; a great hunger howled from its stomach and from his mouth came out a cautionary growl toward the ominous smoky mist that its instincts kept warning about.

    “Sniff… Sniff…” The smell of blood was distinct, close by. The head of the Brown Digger turned to Zax’s body. With its nose the Brown Digger could easily smell the blood splattered beneath Zax torso – he spat it involuntary when his body started to spasm. On that note, the Brown Digger sense of smell was more unique than strong, since it was known to be capable to actually smell Qi or mist energy, even when inside an Earth’s Core’s shell.

    “Gurrrr!” The Brown Digger got close to Zax, his sharp claws ready to separate meat from bone.

    “STUMP!”

    A heavy hoof stumped the head of the Brown Digger and a voice that was sneering expressed his disdain. “Vermin…”

    “TUMP!”

    Another hoof sent the body of the Brown Digger flying. However, before it touched the ground again, the smoky mist corroded the giant rodent into nothingness.

    “That stone!” The remaining Black Core caught the attention of the husky voice. “I should take it to big brother. Better hurry now, creating another entrance would be tiresome”. A pair of black round eyes turned to Zax. “A human child… Must be Zetsa’s little brother”. An azure luster gleamed in the black round eyes as they surveyed Zax, in and out. When an assessment had been made the eyes closed and opened again, the azure luster vanished. Two muscular arms adorned by shining black fur picked Zax gently from the ground. “Unfortunate, how very unfortunate…”



    “I will say it again, my dear, his physical condition is stable, and in the past days I treated him to the best of my abilities. As you saw, and from what I read in the report, there were none external injuries and the inner ones were small and in the process of healing when you already brought him. For his body, he will need only couple of months of rest. It is also, probably, what prevents him from regaining consciousness. I hope you understand that we will have to wait to know for sure?” The man speaking was of age, bald and wrinkled, also a proficient practitioner that embarked on the path of medicine over a century ago. “His Qi channels and soul however…” The man sighed and laid his hand on Zetsa’s shoulder.

    “I don’t understand, Doctor Nijima, that my little brother’s body needs to heal to wake up, yes. But what about his Qi channels and soul?”

    Zetsa wished that she could scream at Doctore Nijima, but her parents sat not far from them, inside Zax’s room, besides his bed and the supportive care unit which was connected to Zax’s vein and supplied him fluids – different species, different methods…

    “It’s the third time this week… you said that your research will be concluded days ago, instead you came two times to diagnosis my little brother’s condition, each time you promise to return with explanation, and this is the third time in four days and I still hears the same words. If you cannot accomplish anything in your, supposedly, vocation, than ask them to send someone else, a team, if needed, but stop dragging time!”

    Nine days had passed since Zetsa returned from the beasts’ territory with Zax in her arms. When they, the comity of the Great Earth’s Core Pursuit, heard of the return of the young felon, they wanted to immediately address the matter of Zax’s inexplicable, illicit actions. As it so happened, for several reasons, things went the other way and they had to restrain themselves.

    First, to hold back the hostile treatment that any who breaks the Great Earth’s Core Pursuit’s rules receives, Zetsa sent a detailed message to the comity, highlighting the inadequate and irresponsible regulation and supervision the event upholds, which allowed a ten years old boy to sneak past all the event’s staff and the so called experts that are hired or volunteer as staff, and disappeared underneath their noses in the hunting\searching cave. Zetsa, with her parents involve, made it clear how far and wide the news of a ten years old missing during the event could spread in the kingdom.

    Following that, there was the reasoning that the case of a participant sneaking to a second hunt was a first and something so implausible, that the comity never thought they will have to officially explain it to the young participant before their hunt, among the other laws that they inform them about. To top the weirdness of such deed, the comity had to deal with the fact that the boy, Zax Zell, according to his report, had found and formed a Link with a medium quality E level Earth’s Core, in the undisputed names of the Supreme Rulers!

    And then there was the matter of the young felon physical condition. Frankly, for Zax to be brought back alive, it surprised anyone who knew about the case. For Zax to return uninjured, that is externally, was also quite a shock. And since regardless of the actions the family of the young felon threatened to pursue, in one way or another, the event’s comity had to get involve in some way.

    When Zetsa brought over Zax, she took him to the closet medical facility, which was the Medical tent of the event in cave one hundred and thirty nine. From there, things proceeded as one doctor after another came to see Zax only to shake his or her head submissively. The event’s comity had the decency to still treat Zax as a participant, and to mellow the situation that a mere child caused the used any means to first support the family. When their doctors came up with no results, the event’s comity began to even develop a sort of personal interest in the wellbeing of the “Felon”, “Boy”, “Young participant”, “Zax” – after couple of days each member of the comity had given his or her own name when talking about Zax.

    Doctor Nijima had a private practice which only high class families could afford. He had no obligation toward the national event, Great Earth’s Core Pursuit, so naturally the event’s comity had to pay a great sum to ask for his diagnosis.

    He ended up being the only medical practitioner that took care of Zax in the past four days. In the beginning it was for the money, since he was sure that with his century of experience there could not be something new with the ability to surprise him. It was easy to point out the physical condition of the patient, and so it was the first thing he did. Unfortunately, diagnosing the reason for the clots in Zax’s Qi channels, how his Qi liquefied and how the soul of a ten years old boy, or a soul in general, could have a hint of black in its color, were all things he never encountered which aroused his dormant curiosity.

    And what about the public hospitals which were in each populated cave in Kingdom Earth? The name would suggest the answer of why not turning to them…

    It has been a long time since the last time a family member of a patient of his, Doctor Nijima, dared not speak to him in a reserved manner, even when he was a sixty years old lad on the path of medicine that already could cure most diseases or odd conditions of the three aspects he faced. After so many years it was both refreshing and bitter.

    “Would you like some tea?” Doctor Nijima replied to Zetsa calmly.

    “What?” The question startled Zetsa for a short enough moment to make her forget her frustration and for Doctor Nijjima to make us of it.

    “I have my own kit for making tea, all I need is water”. Doctor Nijima spoke with his back to Zetsa, already leading the way to the kitchen.

    “Doctor…” Zetsa followed with a mixed expression on her face displaying anger and bafflement at the same time.

    “Herbs? No need. I’ll let you taste my personal mixture”. Doctor Nijima said nonchalantly. He opened the tap and let the water sprinkle on his finger before tasting it. “Terrible, terrible! You want to let an old man drink such poisonous water?”

    “What? Poisonous? The plumbing is fairly new…” While saying so, Zetsa asked herself why is she the one to speak defensively.

    “Then the water is fairly poisonous”. Doctor Nijima closed the tap in dissatisfaction. “Forget it. Go buy a bottle of clean water, it is fine, I’m willing to wait”. He sat on a chair and put his bag on the dining table.

    “Doctor”, Zetsa felt her head growing dizzy that in any moment she could flip and slap the face of the renowned doctored before her. “I’m not in the mood for tea and care nothing of how well and tasty you can make it. Talk to me about-”

    “Zax, your “little brother”…” He repeated with the same sound that her voice carried whenever she mentioned him. “You want me to tell you? Fine, there is not much and you can’t do anything with the information, but I’ll still do as you wish”. He opened his bag and took out a smell teapot made of several types of minerals along with four cups made from the same materials. “However we will talk on a cup of tea. So go on, go on, and bring me a bottle of clean water. Then and only then I will talk to you”.

    Facing the decisiveness of Doctor Nijima, a man Zetsa just realized is not a mere geezer, but an annoying one at that, Zetsa clenched her fists and turned to the door with fiery eyes. If only she could use force to make Doctor Nijima answer her question, she would have done it already. But alas, the annoying geezer was dimensions above her even on the path of her choosing, the Martial Path.

    As many who paid attention know, though the primary path of Doctor Nijima was that of medicine, one cannot just leave for over a hundred and fifty years without also cultivating the three aspects. And as many who lived long enough know, the name which virtually known today as Doctor Nijima, held two meanings. “Doctor” was not just an attached title due to his profession, but after years of painstakingly learning every possible thing on his field of research, it has become an inseparable definition of who was the Man. “Nijima” was remnant of the past, a name once widely known in Kingdom Earth of a boy which by the age of eighteen reached the level of a B level Mist User, Mist Master. Some speculate that if that boy had chosen the Martial path, he would have reached long ago to profound level of a Core Master, instead of been stuck at the Peak of the Mist Lord’s level for so many years.

    Zetsa got back with two cases of water, for the sake that if there really is something wrong with the plumbing, her parents and little brother, when he will wake, will have clean water to drink until the problem will be fixed.

    “Splendid”. Doctor Nijima said as he received a bottle from Zetsa and began to brew the pot of tea. Not long after, four cups were filled to the brim by a hot aromatic tea. “Bring them to your parents. They stayed in Zax’s room since my arrival”. He offered two of the four cups to Zetsa and affected by the rich fragrance of the tea, she quietly accepted.

    Couple of minutes late, Zetsa returned, took a seat by the dining table and seemed to wait for Doctor Nijima to finally speak.

    It took the all cup of tea for Doctor Nijima to begin talking, but eventually he laid the cup on a tray that was part of his kit and said. “About the body you already know. It will heal in a few months, as I’ve told you before. The Qi channels are a bit difficult to describe… it liquefied and formed clots in the Qi channels, that already supposed to mean death sentence, but in Zax’s case is body still sustaining. Do you understand my and those who checked you little brother astonishment? Put aside that mist energy, which is far more pure than Qi, liquefied only when on breaks through the Core Master level. However, even a Core Master will die in a matter of days if the flow in the mist channels will become clogged. With a superficial observation I can tell you that Zax’s Qi and Qi channels have been through some unimaginable transformations and that is mostly the reason that he is still alive. But with a proper diagnosis I can promise you that even if Zax will wake up, unless he will go through another ordeal of transformations, he won’t even be able to use his Qi, and the Earth’s Core in his dantian will remain sealed and unproductive till the day he will die”.

    “Unable to use his Qi…” The word cut through Zetsa’s heart and a great pain in her chest caused her body to shudder. She knew about the clots in the Qi channels, but was not sure of their implications until this very moment. It is safe to say that she was relieved to know that first and foremost Zax will live. However to live and yet never to be able to use his Qi, to cultivate, to become a Mist User… She saw the look on her Martial uncle’s face when he gave her Zax and could tell now what he avoided from telling her back then, when she asked him about Zax’s condition. “How can I ever tell this to Zax...?” She knew how much agony this revelation will cause to her little brother, “it will destroy him!”

    “Treat-”

    “Treatment?” As if he read her mind, Doctor Nijima said in her place. “That is why I told you that you won’t be able to do anything with the information. As far as I know, there are no treatment to the condition of Zax’s Qi and Qi channel. Granted, if one cultivate incompetently, there are ways to deal with clots in the Qi channels, but these ways are clearly unsuitable for treating Zax. You see, not only his Qi liquefied; it also did not kill him. That is unheard of! If it will be treated commonly, I’m ninety nine percent sure that Zax will die”.

    Zetsa wanted to say something in return, but could not find the words to rebuke Doctor Nijima or to urge him to find a solution since he said so form the beginning that he is still researching.

    “Then his soul, my little brother’s soul?” Hope. She had to find some solace. Just a little, it could not be that all is lost!

    Doctor Nijima did not immediately answer; he first finished a second cup of tea and motioned for Zetsa to do the same.

    “This is also an untreatable situation. However, after overviewing the progression of Zax’s convalescence as a whole… The source of the black color still eluded me. It seems in the midst of transforming Zax’s soul by eroding pieces of it and recreating them, yet without harming the spirit”.

    “Zax’s soul is peeling?!” Zetsa choked and rose from the seat. “The… the… the pain he must be going through!” Thought of it nearly made her go out of her mind. Any expert should know it… Not to mention peeling a soul, a simple soul attack such as one that barely shakes the soul can bring down a person. The gap in the severity of pain is even greater than the gap between a Core Breaker, the weakest kind of Expert, and a Core Master, a Super Expert!

    “Sit down, I have not finished talking. I’m assuming that is what it does because I detected in Zax’s consciousness scraps, which radiate energy that resemble normal soul energy. What more problematic is that we are still very lacking in means to treat a damaged soul. A normal person, in a normal case, even someone at your level, would most probably die if something will peel three to five percent of your soul. That is because such procedure is impossible to perform without creating repels that won’t harm the spirit, at the very least, that is what I thought until I met your little brother.”

    “Zax, on the other hand, you told me that his soul reached level F and is capable of using a Soul Sense that is stronger than that of a Core Breaker? Well, I’ll take that as a confirmation that Zax is not a normal person. And now let me indicate that over ninety five percent of his soul has been transformed. By that I’m saying bluntly that far more than five percent had been peeled from his soul, which in turn makes it a very abnormal case. Is Zax’s soul suffering from the transformation? In my uneducated opinion it is not”.

    Doctor Nijima took two more teacups from his bag and poured the remaining tea, with a gesture for Zetsa to take them over to her parents and closed his eyes, absolving himself from anything she might say in protest that he should first finish explaining the matter of her little brother’s soul.

    She returned from the room with the two cups that she brought her parents before and Doctor Nijima was pleased that the cups were empty.

    “There are all the words in the world for me to pick up, only to say what I don’t know about the condition of Zax’s soul. Conversely there is one certainty of which I’m one hundred percent confident about. When the transformation will be complete and Zax will wake up, his soul level should not be below that of a D level Earth’s Core Holder”.

  14. #54
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    Book 2 – Black Core

    Chapter 18 – No Different Than A Cripple




    A breeze of refinement blew and passed in every reach of Zax’s consciousness. The force of perfect completion originated from Zax’s newly transformed soul.

    Deep within the soul itself, the embodiment of existence, the spirit, has taken the shape of a petrified, curled up ten years old boy.

    “Puah!” The boy opened his sealed mouth, releasing a breath of black particles. The small lifelike particles spun around the spirit and merged with the inward layer of Zax’s soul. When the inside of the soul reverted back to serenity, a beat of awakening transpired from the spirit and the shut eyes of the boy rekindled in black luster.



    August twenty nine, year 5785.

    Little by little Zax opened his eyes as if they were rusted shutters. The lights in the room were turned off, but a machine that was also connected to him and hummed next to his right ear had a small bulb that kept on blinking in green light.

    “I can’t see much”. Zax said in mind. For some reason it felt like a burden to use his voice. “It hurts when I try to move”. It more like felt like he was shackled to the bed he was lying on. “Why am I so weak?” Yet, somehow, despite awaking to find that he was having an extreme discomfort to even let his eyelids stay open, Zax still asked himself coolheaded.

    “My head… my mind… it feels so refreshed!” Zax lowered his eyelids and mused on the great feeling in his sea of consciousness. “Is that my soul?” What he found nearly made his body flip, if only he had the strength. The blur that he could never grasp clearly, its appearance was still intangible; however there was something new to it. “No way! Why does it emit the black radiance like the…” Just when he was about to think of it, Zax found it. “The Black Core is in my dantian and also… the E level Earth’s Core also there, and its color also changed to black?! How can that be possible?”

    Thoughts ran through his mind, sharper, faster and calmer than ever before, regardless of how puzzled and distracted that made him.

    “I can’t make up what’s happing, how can I have two Earth’s Cores? Or is it one and another which is… a Black Core?” For whatever reason the Black Core did not seem to him the same as a regular Earth’s Core now that he was in possession of it. Or rather he knew that the two were different, but he could not point out in what manner.

    “Maybe big sis will know, or mommy or daddy”. Even though he was not affected by the passage of time because of the dormancy and before that was partly under the control of the Black Core, as Zax thought of those he had not seen since the Great Earth’s Core Pursuit and were missing to him in moments when he was alone, thinking that he will die in spite of his confidence, a pressing ache surge in his heart and tears began to flow from his eyes.

    “Moooom! Daaaad! Zetsaaa!” Zax cried. His memories of his experience in the beasts’ territory were clear and unhindered by strange sensations or black radiance. The tiny bit of his awareness that was present and witnessed back then emerged from where it was submerged and made all the pent up stress erupt in one go.

    “Mom! Mom! Dad…” Zax called for his parents. He barely gave notion to how in one moment his mind was so sober and in another he lost himself to mere feelings. But children do not acknowledge their weaknesses and limitations. Those things are a part of them that they do not question and can only concur by slowly maturing. Zax might have a soul that is on an equal level as a D level Mist User and most definitely more capable. His soul can grant him a clearer insight and comprehension than anyone whose soul level is lower, but having a better tool does not affect the proficiency of the user until they diligently train in it. Thus, Zax kept crying in a hoarse voice like a lost child.

    “Heavens, Laylen! Thank our Supreme Rulers! Our son has opened his eyes!” Marco burst, shirtless, wearing only pants, into Zax’s room, roaring for his wife as he flung to son’s side. He heard to voices from his son’s room in his sleep and awakened before his wife.

    “Daaad!”

    The tears were mutual. Marco knew that he cannot lift Zax from the bed, so he bent his back and hugged him gently, caressing one cheek with his hand and rubbing his face and tears in the other.

    “Dear!” Laylen screamed. Unlike her husband she did not approach her son instantly. When she saw that Marco was already there and her son crying on his shoulder, like the child that he actually was and sometimes she forgotten about since he grew so fast and chose to follow her daughter, Laylen stood on the threshold of the door and fallen to her knees moping. How could a mother lose her child and be depended on others to find him?

    “Mooom!” When the sound of Zax’s hoarse voice reached Laylen, she stopped thinking and ran to him with red eyes.

    “Oh! Zax, Zax, Zax, Zax…” Laylen’s cheek replaced Marco’s hand and she called for her son and kissed him.

    Marco buried his face in Zax’s small head. He did not express the sorrow that he felt, the thoughts of his incompetence as a father by calling up his son’s name. He just cried silently.

    It was not long before Zax fallen asleep between his parents. Marco and Laylen were awake for a while longer. It was the middle of the night, but to go back to sleep felt like abandoning their son, even though nothing that happened had anything to do with them. Eventually, they fell asleep. Laylen was lying carefully beside Zax and Marco leaned on the bed while sitting on the floor.



    Per Doctor Nijima’s instructions, on the morning of the following day Marco changed the fluids in the supportive care unit to a different medicinal fluid which Doctor Nijima prescribed for Zax after he will wake up. The first type of medicinal fluids were to sustain and nourish Zax’s body during the past months, the second type was to rehabilitate his body to perfect shape and could be given only when the body was completely healed.

    As a side effect of the rehabilitation process, Zax slept for four consecutive days. By the time he awakened again the supportive care unit has already been returned to the hospital the comity of the Great Earth’s Core Pursuit rented it from. It was also for the better that Zax remained a sleep for a little longer. Since his parents were not much of cultivators and it was their daughter who was in contact with the comity. Since his Qi channels were clogged and his soul jumped to level Zetsa asked of her parents to call her the instant Zax would wake up, before they will replace the fluids, knowing in advance that it will take her a few days to come back. Three days later Zetsa arrived to her parents’ home and a day later she was by her beloved brother side when he woke up.

    Zax cried right when he recognize his big sister, the one person beside him. She was there, sitting on his bed as if by intuition she knew that he was awakening. However, Zax’s back to normal voice quickly faded away as he remembered how he wronged his big sister. By looking in Zetsa’s eyes, it was easy to detect that she had similar thoughts, as well.

    “Did you calm down?” Zetsa asked. In her voice or facial expression she did not express the same longing for her little brother as their parents did. Zax nodded.

    “Good. Sit up”.

    Zax was sniffling and rubbing his eyes. He looked away when his big sister made eye contact with him and he noticed that something was amiss in the clear blue eyes that were always smiling at him. That sort of look in his big sister eyes purged his mind from his own selfishness, he was willing to trade everything he had for his big sister’s smile and his parents’ forgiveness, whom he did not forget how they shed tears for him even more so than he did for them.

    “Listen to what I have to say and don’t interrupt me”. Zetsa said solemnly, intending to convey for him everything of the past couple of months.

    Zetsa first imparted, not immediately rebuked, the kind of repercussions that she and their parents had to deal with because of his incomprehensible thoughtless actions, both from the event’s comity and their own suffering.

    “You were lost. Lost! Zax! Taken by a beast!” She gritted her teeth. “An E level Earth’s Core was not enough for you?! How could you be so irresponsible?!”

    Hearing his big sister’s voice cracking, Zax was afraid to talk back.

    “Well? Tell me, I want to know what was so wrong with an Earth’s Core most people can’t even dream about!”

    Realizing that she really was waiting for an answer, Zax gasped for a few seconds and began to narrate his side of his time in the Great Earth’s Core Pursuit.

    An hour later Zax’s voice silenced and Zetsa was in the midst of processing his bizarre story.

    “And you say that there was an orange mist in the cave?“ She said while thinking of something her Martial uncle told her the day he found her little brother and a day before he, unexpectedly, secluded himself in closed doors training.

    “Yes”. Zax replied softly, unsure of the temperament in his big sister’s words.

    “And the Black Core…”

    “There were two, but one is now in my lower dantian with the E level Earth’s Core… It changed its color to black… Big sis, I was waiting for you because I wasn’t sure what to do. My soul I feel has become so much stronger, and my body also feeling better than ever, but I can’t feel my Qi anymore…” Zax pleaded for Zetsa to impart him some guidance.

    “Little Zi…” Finally, a shred of affection came out from Zetsa’s lips and the expression on her face softened.

    When Doctor Nijima checked Zax’s three aspects the only abnormalities were in Zax’s Qi channels and soul. In regards to his body, something caused it some internal injuries but nothing further. He did not mention the existence of another Earth’s Core in Zax’s dantian nor the a change in the coloring of his E level Earth’s Core that he had yet to crack, and now and in the future he most likely will never succeed in doing so.

    “Could it be as a result of what changed Zax’s soul? Did uncle hide something from me?” Zetsa pondered. The things which Zax told her were unheard of, but also the condition of two of his three aspects!

    “Zax, Doctor Nijima said that when you will wake up, your soul should be the same as a D level Earth’s Core Holder. Try to see how far can you expend your Soul Sense?” If she had to inform Zax of the analysis of Doctor Nijima, she preferred to start with something that will not impede his attentive state of mind.

    “Okay”. With his big sister next to him, the feeling of vigorous power in his soul and the freedom from being under the control of the Black Core, Zax agreed and even smiled when he done so.

    Releasing the restrained force of his soul, the one he was afraid to use when he realized in the search that it makes him act funny, to say the least, Zax let loose his Soul Sense to the fullest.

    “It’s going! It’s still going!”  Zax was avid. His Soul Sense spread out side of his soul like never before, easily passing a meter and thirty five, his lost limit, and it kept going to every side like a sphere which he was its center.

    “Ten meters! Fifteen meters! Twenty! Thirty…” He counted by remembering the length of a centimeter that Zetsa showed him in the past. He effortlessly lined in his mind, one centimeter after the other, and watched with glee as they did not come to an end. After five thousand centimeters or fifty meters, Zax stopped counting. His perception was as fast as the progression of his Soul Sense and in the current level of his soul he could spend in thoughts on seconds as if it was half a hour.

    “Well, is he going to use his Soul Sense?” Zetsa started at Zax, stumped. As someone with a higher level soul she should have felt when Zax used his Soul Sense, but right now she still did not sense the anticipated fluctuation that a soul beneath the level of Core Breaker creates. “Zax-”

    “Big sis! Big sis! One hundred and fifty meter! One hundred and fifty meter! I can sense so much, big sis! Fifteen thousand centimeters! One hundred and fifty meters!” Zax called aloud and jumped to his feet, losing his balance and fell on the floor, laughing.

    “One hundred and fifty meters!” Zetsa actually screamed with bulging eyes. “That… That... That’s the length of an Intermediate Mist Lord’s Soul Sense!”

    “It’s like I’m everywhere, big sis”. The sheer excitement and immense sense of exaltation were high and beyond his first time using his Soul Sense, so much that Zax was unable to address to Zetsa’s remark and continued describing. “The first and the times after that, big sis, all my Soul Sense could perceive raw shapes and environmental essence. Now, big sis, my Soul Sense can perceive the same way my other five senses do and even better! I can see the textures and colors of what people wear outside as though I look at them through an optical lense. I can smell the breath of those who pass or are within the domain of my Soul Sense, even know how a plank of wood that is thrown on the other side of the street feels… Big sis, it’s amazing!” Zax gasped heavily.

    “This is unfathomable! Zax’s potential of the soul is simply unfathomable!” Zetsa deduced. After she tested him when his soul reached level F, Zetsa acknowledged the unexplained uniqueness of her little brother soul. Reaching this level on one’s own efforts was a feat very few had done before. Reaching level D with one’s soul, as a mere ten years old and without cultivating as a Mist User… Should she dare doubt her little brother?

    “Big sis”, Zax said a tad calmer.

    “Yes?” Zetsa answered with a tranquil tone and warmly raised Zax to her lap.

    “It’s flowing like water and I can control it by just thinking where I want it to go”. Zax’s eyes were closed, immersed by what he peacefully was doing.

    “What is?” Zetsa had an idea of what he was talking, but the conversation took a sudden turn to an insightful and composed level. If they will be able to keep it up, it might be easier when she will tell him…

    “My soul energy. It’s flowing leisurely in my body. Smoother than my Qi, big sis. In a thought I can accumulate it in the tip of my finger on one hand, and in a second thought have it all in the tip of another finger on my other hand”.

    “Little Zi, your proficiency with the soul has surpassed my own. Your big sis feels both ashamed for myself and proud of my little Zi”. Zetsa caressed Zax hair as he started at her dumbfounded. For her to praise him to this degree, saying that he surpassed his perfect role model, his idol. It was enticing and difficult to accept.

    “In the future Zax, if you’ll choose to train your soul meticulously your future prospects will be beyond comprehension”.

    “If that’s what big sis saying, then I’ll do my best! I also want to become strong!” Zax announced sternly.

    Now was the time. Now Zetsa decided to gradually, when the mood was at ease, to shift the conversation into the matter of his Qi channels.

    “Zax”, Zatsa stiffened her voice. If she wanted to reveal the sorrowful news, she had to compel her little brother into listen through the end. She had to make use of the vulnerability that he showed in her company. Only then she will manage to mold his understanding of the matter into something that he will be willing to accept.

    “Big sis?” The wheels began to turn. Zax was not stupid, not when it involved the different modes of his big sister. “Is she going to scold me again?” Whatever it was he presented submission, just to be safe.

    “When Doctor Nijima checked your body and soul, he determined that their conditions were temporary. Your body was injured and your soul was transforming – according to what you told me, both could be due to the Black Core that led you to find it and entered your dantian. With respect to your Qi or that Black Core… Doctor Nijima did not find anything out of place in your dantian or the E level Earth’s Core in there… Can you observe your dantian once more for me? Tell me again its state”.

    “She did not scold me!” The first thought in his head was alleviating. Zax repressed his joy since Zetsa still called him by his first name, in her “don’t mess with me and listen” mode.

    Surveying his lower dantian, things were the same as he told her before. The Black Core was near the E level Earth’s Core, which color changed to black, and he could not form a mental link with any of the two, nor control their placement in his dantian like he should be able to do with his soul, like his big sister told him. At most, Zax could only differentiate between the two.

    “It’s still the same. The Black Core is right beside the Earth’s Core and both are black”. Zax answered.

    “And your mental link with them?”

    “I can’t…” Zax said, disappointed for failing in something that should be, that was so simple before.

    Zetsa cogitated in her next order of words. “Zax”, she could not help but slightly frown. “The thing inside of you, the “Black Core”, is something only you seem to detect. Doctor Nijima, the expert who treated you, is a renowned expert in the path of medicine, yet in his analysis even he did not detect irregularities in you dantian… Not many know this, Zax, but there are things in nature which more often reside in places like unexplored caves in the beasts’ territory. I’m afraid that the cave you stumbled upon with the Brown Digger was one of those caves, Zax. What happened to you there… it’s understandable if even someone as capable as Doctor Nijima was helpless to find a solution. I converse with him about it and he also agreed, that is why he did not come to check you up after you awakened couple of days ago”.

    “What does it have to do with the two cores, big sis?” Zax began to feel impatient, discerning an ominous build up.

    “Zax, look into you Qi channels”.

    Again, Zax closed his eyes. When one’s soul increases in level, examining the three aspects becomes much faster and easy to be done.

    “My Qi had changed”, a look of surprise spread across Zax face. It appears to be like water and my Qi channels… I can’t feel a thing!” Anxiety burst from his mouth. “Big sis, there is something in my Qi channels, something blocking them…”

    “That’s enough, Zax, open your eyes”. Zetsa ordered. “Your Qi channels are clogged by your liquefied Qi”. She said in a straight face. “Having clogged Qi channels means death, Zax, but whatever happened to you had managed to keep you alive. Doctor Nijima speculated that like your soul, your body also endured a transformation, only it turned out as more severe and incomplete and that’s why you were in dormancy for a few months. You hear me, Zax? You were, are supposed to be dead!” Zetsa swallowed the bark in her tone; nevertheless her voice echoed a glimpse into her fiery rage.

    “I… Big sis…” Zax was speechless. It was the former, absent alien sensation which made him trust the Black Core. Is it because of it that his Qi channels are clogged? Is it because of what was done to him that he is still alive?

    “Doctor Nijima could not treat your Qi channels… no one can!”

    Whether for Zax’s sake or just to release bits of her concealed furious demeanor, Zetsa lashed out, enabled Zax from speculating anything in this point. Otherwise sinking into unprecedented depression will follow, and the realization of him never becoming a Mist User, forever remaining the same as a cripple, will come next.

  15. #55
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    Book 2 – Black Core

    Chapter 19 – Lost In Struggles




    “If I can’t use my Qi, how, then, can I crack the shell of the Earth’s Core?!” Zax shook his head; brushing away the intolerable thought that came into it.

    “You won’t”. Zetsa answered plain and simple. With just two words she dropped the anvil on half the fate her little brother had in her. “Arguing about it is pointless and won’t bear any fruits no matter how much you’ll try to bash your head for a way to unclog your Qi channels. Believe me, I tried, Zax”. She said in a harsh, realistic tone, though her words gave the impression of being honest and apologetic. Could she not decipher the look in her little brother’s eyes?

    “Then I never will become a Mist User, big sis! If I… If I… If that’s the truth than everything is meaningless! I’ll stay weak, big sis… I’ll never be able to reach you!” There was one other thing which Zax was afraid to say aloud, otherwise the word “miserable” undoubtedly will not suffice to express his standing among all of humanity, maybe among all of New Earth… “If I won’t become a Mist User… there won’t be anyone more useless than me in all of Kingdom Earth!” He said to himself, but salient or to the whole world, the words had the same devastating effect on his ten years old mind.

    Zax’s body rattled. Beads of sweat slid down his face. His stomach felt hot, like something was boiling inside of it, will he puke?

    “Zax”, Zetsa called for him.

    His teeth chattered and his fists clenched. “Ah uh ah uh ah uh ah uh…” Zax endlessly panted. “What is it?! What is it?!” An unimaginable pain pounded in his chest. “I can’t breathe, big sis! I can’t breathe...” Zax forcefully wailed.

    “Little Zi!” Zetsa flinched from her Zax’s odd behavior, wondering at first if something was still wrong with him due to his current condition or the Black Core he was talking about, but at the very same moment of shock she straightaway got a hold on herself. She did not have a medical experience, but she watched it on the Screen in various drama series and so could recognize a panic attack if she saw one in real life, and Zax was definitely having a panic attack.

    In an instant, before Zax’s last word echoed from his mouth Zetsa sprang into the kitchen and back with a glass of water. “Calm down, little Zi, calm down. You are too stressed, everything is fine, just relax, have some water and calm down, little Zi...” She done her best to soothe him, talking softly and calling by his nickname, but till the end, she was not sure if what she was doing was the right treatment. It was the first time Zetsa encountered a person having a panic attack.

    “Water, water…” Zax eyes searched in frenzy. He snatched the glass of water from Zetsa’s hands and drank only to cough at the first gulp.

    “Slowly, little Zi, drink the water in small sips”. Zetsa patted his back.

    She wished that she could use a technique to help her little brother, however she was warned and forbade by Doctor Nijima not to press her mist energy as a mean of treatment into Zax’s body, for it might cause his Qi channels to rupture, and if that will happen, clogged or not, Doctor Nijima assured her that Zax will die. With regard to helping Zax with her soul energy, Zetsa could only dream to be this good.

    Couple of minutes later.

    Zax held the glass of water between his hands, his gaze engrossed in the last drop of water he was not able to suck from the bottom of the glass. This small exercise that he came by on his own soothed his nerves and mental pressure.

    “Don’t let your inability to crack the Earth’s Core’s shell, use Qi or mist energy discouraged, Zax. Don’t forget that these three stuff represent only one aspect of a living being. There are two more aspects, of which, even of all three, your true forte is your soul. The venture on the Martial path, to become strong, strongest, you can still do so by training just one aspect, Zax”.

    Zetsa explanation was on spot and roughly any person on the Martial path knew of what she told Zax and most would even agree. Nevertheless, people on the Martial path did not keep a balance among the three aspects for nothing, and due to a certain two on one fight that Zax participated in the past, a memory resurfaced in his mind and filled him with bitterness. With this vibrant memory playing in his head, Zax was able to figure why it is best to train more than one aspect.

    Zax remembered how helpless he was on the day of the Young Mist Users Conference, when he and Masela were the last two to confront Clergyman. When Masela used her Qi explosively and attacked Clergyman, Zax place in the ring was equivalent to that of a third wheel. Yes, he could see them fight, calculate their movements and even cunningly end the fight, but that was simply because none of them pain him attention. That day he was the same on the ring as a sharp pebble in a playground that a barefooted child might kick or step on, and at worse get a little scratch on his foot.

    “You want me to only train my soul?!” Zax shot in anger as if he was criticizing his big sister for even brining the idea up.

    “Yes”. Zetsa answered apathetically.

    It did not come up the way she wanted it to be, yet the manner of which the conversation evolved has led her to sort through the right words she needed to lessen the blow that is the implications of her little brother’s condition on his dreams.

    “Your soul is extraordinary to a point where I dare say that there is no one with greater potential with the soul in all of New Earth than you are”. Zetsa said firmly. “You can like it or not but this is your only option. Imagine, if with a level D soul you are able to perform feat that should be several levels above your capabilities… Your soul capabilities are a step from the capabilities of a Core Master’s soul!”

    “One step from a Core Master…” Zax could not refute how seductive were Zetsa’s words of persuasion. He reflected on them for a while, and then said decisively. “Who could I beat if my soul could do the same things a Core Master’s soul does?”

    “That is…” Zetsa sighed inwardly. If the answer to this question was sufficient enough it could have been the key to conclude this conversation on agreeable terms. If only it was… “In a fair fight… you will lose”. Zetsa did not go around the bush and answered.

    “To whom?”

    “It’s difficult to say. If you can perform a soul attack on the same level of skill as a Mist Lord, almost anyone below Intermediate Mist Master, including, can lose to you on contact. Conversely, if a physical attack of even F level Earth’s Core Holder will manage to slightly strike you, you will lose. And there is still the possibility of long range attacks. Only Core Breaker and above can perform them… you won’t be able to withstand them, either”.

    “Can Mist Lords… Can Core Master use their soul for long range attacks?”

    “No”.

    “…If I choose the Martial path anyway… will I have any accomplishments?”

    By “accomplishments” Zax meant, and Zetsa knew, a “Name”, a “Statues”, and “Self Realization” in accordance to his ambitions.

    “As a practitioner that rely solely on aspect, there is a high possibility that in the future you will unveil the secret potential of the soul. That will surely affect New Earth, but if it happens, the time that it will take you to achieve it… hundreds if not thousands of years”. Zetsa based her evaluation of time on what she learned from the one she refers to as “Master”.

    “Regardless of what I choose, I never will become a Mist User in the true sense of the words and if I insist on following the Martial path, I will live my life in the bottom of this path and most likely will die before achieving anything…”

    “If the Martial path is your utmost desire, then you will have me by your side for the rest of such life”. Zetsa promised, she had nothing else to add.

    “I… I can’t, then, big sis, Zetsa. I can’t accept that, I won’t!” Zax said in disagreement. The pain in his chest reemerged, a second panic attack was coming and it felt impossible to stop. “The boy who never became a Mist User…” Zax struggled but was determined to speak out his mind. “I will never… ever agree! Big sis… big sis…”

    Zetsa helped him through the second panic attack without saying a single word until it was over. She was not willing to show pity to her little brother. In his eyes she could clearly see the two battles that he engaged with. One was to stay resolute with his dreams. Another was to not lose to the panic attack.

    Zax lay on his bed, covering his red eyes with his arm. Two salty streams dirtied his face.

    Zetsa, standing on the doorstep, looked at him and then averted her gaze. “Rest. Familiarize yourself with the new power of your soul. When you are ready, say the words. I’ll do my best to help you become stronger”.

    Like that, Zetsa left.



    September sixth, year 5786.

    Nearly two years have passed since Zax’s ten years birthday and a tad longer than a year since he woke up to learn that he could never become a Mist User.

    During the past year Zax’s life underwent a number of personal upheavals that made him secluded toward society, whether family, friends or strangers. Although things did not escalate in one day, they sure dropped on him one after the other, each one an unending grueling battle, starting with the investigator of the Great Earth’s Core Pursuit’s comity that arrived on the very same day that Zax awakened.

    Zetsa instructed Zax to answer all of the investigator’s questions, but not say anything about the “Black Core” and the “strange sensation”, as she put it. Her reasoning was that she and their parents already reached a settlement with the event’s comity.

    The investigator knew all about Zax’s condition from his clogged Qi channels to his D level soul. During their private conversation, which was more like an interrogation, the investigator coldly asked Zax, what were the detailed steps that he took to reenter the hunting cave? Why did he do so from the beginning? Was he not aware of how rare is an E level Earth’s Core? And so on…

    The most difficult question to answer was “What happened to you in the beast’s territory?” Which Zax was able to think for some time, thanks to his D level soul, instead of answering an uncalculated lie, and still make it seem as if his answer was instant. It was doable since both Zax and the investigator were discussing by mostly using their outer mind which had low, or regular, level of perception.

    Zax used the smoky mist as an excuse to not remembering anything after entering the cave the Brown Digger “dragged” him into. The investigator, which was an expert on the Mist Master level, heard from his seniors that apart from the Peral metal, Sun Stones and Earth’s Core, there are still many undiscovered\not understood wonders within the boundaries of New Earth, therefore he did not pursue a more elaborate answer from Zax.

    After an hour or so the investigator sat with Zax and his family, mainly talking to Zetsa, Marco and Laylen. He wanted to cover the agreements of the settlement and wanted for Zax to listen as well.

    First, it was decided to keep the case of Zax Zel a secret, a decision that was made for the benefit of the event’s comity, more so than the Zel family. Why the comity was willing to not advertise the case and publicly punish Zax as a reminder for all, of what happens to those who break the event’s rules, was because there was one more factor in this case which caught the event’s stuff off guard.

    Put aside that this case was a first and has the capacity to expose holes in the regulation and organization of the event that will harm to reputation of its chosen comity members, what would happen if people will make the wrong assumption if they learn that the same boy who broke the rules, ended up with a soul two level higher than any other kid of his age?

    Some may forget entirely that from the start the boy was known – later, that is – to possess an already F level soul and others may ignore the fact that by breaking the rules he lost the possibility of ever becoming a Mist User. Now, why would people still be willing to risk not becoming Mist Users? Well, from the simple truth that unless one select a path which require the use of Qi or Martial skills, for most everyday vocations, a strong soul will be more beneficial. To prevent future Rules Breakers, the second thing to be decided, agreed upon by both parties, was keeping Zax’s soul level a secret.

    The following two subject of the four parts settlement were a bit more sensitive. The first one was Zax’s condition. Though Zetsa told Zax that he may never become a Mist User, she was merely preparing him to the respond of the comity in regards of finding treatment for his Qi Channels. As she predicted, the investigator delivered the same conclusion of Doctor Nijima.

    “None of the doctors and scientists that we approached can unclog Zax’s Qi channels”.

    With one sentence and without further explanations, the event’s comity demolished Zetsa lost hopes for her little brother.

    The last matter to be discussed was how to announce Zax’s condition to the general public. One thing that both sides knew that they could not prevent was the public finding out that a ten years old boy from a certain cave in El-Eden has clogged Qi channels and is still alive. The scheme of how to let the public learn of it without uncovering the Zax Zel case came from the event’s comity.

    It was quite a clever idea. The event’s comity will come out with a statement that a boy – personal information was censored – who participated in the event of year 5785, during the last phase of the event, has been found that he was born with a rare syndrome that causes his Qi to liquefied and clog his Qi channels. After the initial shock of the public, the comity will than come out with a second statement, stating that although life threatening, the boy’s condition was discovered in time and was treated by experts on the path of medicine. However, the experts were only able to remove the risk from the boy’s life, but not unclog his Qi channels. Henceforth, the boy will not be able to become a Mist User. Lastly, the comity will ask the press to not trouble the family and child.

    Marco and Laylen nodded after hearing the investigator narrating the comity’s proposal and Zax, from start to finish, remained quiet on his seat.

    Zetsa, on the other hand, mentioned that there are a few people who witnessed Zax using Qi in the past. In response, the investigator only asked the list of names of these people, and got them from Zetsa and Zax after promising that no harm will come to several of them.

    Thus, the case of Zax Zel was officially closed and sealed within the archives of the Great Earth’s Core Pursuit.



    Next order of business was the struggle Zax had to face, following the settlement with the event’s comity, finding a post Core School that would accept him.

    By the fourth year of school, the administration of every post Core School cannot treats its student as mere children anymore. Whether in a Martial program or not, any child that enrolls to a post Core School should be considered and treated as a F level Mist User.

    Never in the past had this principle presented a problem. Never in the past, since the rule of the Supreme Rulers, there was a child who did not become a Mist User after participating in the Great Earth’s Core Pursuit. In the past year, however, there was such child who tried to enroll into the next year of a post Core School, yet was not a Mist User.

    The response was mutual and all the same humiliating among all schools toward Zax and his parents.

    “We are very sorry… Our school cannot accept your child”.

    Zax’s identity as the boy with the clogged Qi channels was not known and it was not like the various school principals could guess his condition on sight. But, since it was inevitable that Zax will need to reveal his condition if he wanted to enroll into a school or get a job in the future, the comity of the Great Earth’s Core Pursuit prepared a document for Zax’s parents to show to any school’s official they will meet.

    The document stated the condition of Zax’s Qi channels, a formal recommendation from the said comity and a warning that the information in the document should not be disclosed to those who are not authorized to read it, and if such thing were to happen, a thorough investigation will be carried out and the culprit will suffer the appropriate punishment according to section 1.583 of law 87, “Child Care”, of Kingdom Earth.

    With that, the schools’ officials that met Zax and his parents could not tell anyone about his condition. Yet, it did not mean that they had to accept him.

    Their excuse, which was fairly reasonable, was that they are not equipped with the necessary resources for a special case like Zax’s. They said that there is a reason why coreless children and Mist Users children are in separated schools. Children’s activities can sometimes be rough, a coreless child cannot contend against a Mist User child, and if the two get into a fight…

    “We are sorry. We don’t know of any other school to recommend for you. Our best advice is homeschooling”.

    And it was not just the school that made it hard, mostly for Zax’s parents. Zax, too, opposed his parents. He did not want to be surrounded by people he will never be able to reach. He did not want to be in the company of others. He solely asked to be left alone, and when he was not, he ran away to all the places he knew others will not bother him in.

    Eventually it took a very long talk between Zax’s and his parents. Regardless of his changed rebellious attitude and the condition of his Qi channels, his parents were unwilling to let him abstain from proper education.

    Six months after he awakened, Zax reached a compromise to be homeschooled by his grandma, Grandma Shi Oh, and in return his parents will not hinder his desire to train his soul as much as he wants to or force him to meet his concerned friends.

    Zax’s friends… avoiding them was his most painful struggle of the past year.

  16. #56
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    Book 2 – Black Core

    Chapter 20 – Choose, Staying Or Leaving?




    At the time of his dormancy, Zax’s friends came to visit him on several occasions. Apart from those he grouped with in the Great Earth’s Core Pursuit, only a handful of Zax’s former schoolmates had visit him, but of the seven whom he got closer to during the event, each and every one of them came to visit him as often as he or she could.

    At the week that Zax woke up, Laylen and Marco invited his loyal and caring group of friends to surprise their dispirited son. It took a little effort since the fourth school year has already started for Zax’s friends and due to their luck of being in the same group with Zax, they all were accepted to prestige post Core Schools. Anet was even summoned for review in one of the Three Martial Schools of Kingdom Earth, El-Eden’s best and only Martial school for coreless children, “Eden Formation”, and ended up receiving a two years scholarship in their post Core Program!

    When Anet arrived with the others, she even wore the white and azure uniforms of Eden Formation, which used the same grading system as Molten Core, the darker the shades of the uniforms the higher the grade of the student. Anet wore a lighter shade of uniforms, but the golden elaborate formation on her shoulder, the school’s symbol which emphasized the mental acuity of its students, made her look sublime.

    Zax could not bear seeing his friends. In his lowest moment, the closest someone was to him the harder it was to face them and with his seven closest friends it was the hardest. That is why he acted rebelliously toward his big sister and parents, while toward strangers and distant family members he acted aloof.

    First time seeing his friends after waking up, Zax felt like the dimmest Sun Stone on the cave’s ceiling. When some of them, such as Anet, Serah, Dane and Weysey, so emotionally hugged him, their soft and warm embrace made his lungs to shrink and his affection for them to regress to the deepest part of his heart.

    The seven knew of Zax’s condition. They knew of his ability to use Qi and of his E level Earth’s Core, therefore representatives of the event’s committee came to their homes to ask of them to not disclose this matter with anyone. Their parents even had to sign a confidentiality document and when Zax’s friends will reach the age of adulthood they will also have to sign a similar document.

    As ten years olds, Zax friends did not know how to conduct themselves in the presence of a friend who gave them so much only to end up as a cripple – a comparison that they either heard from their parents or figured out on their own after a few days in their new schools. They asked who he was, can he go out to play, if he wants to see the new updates on Mocca Kart, if he can eat snacks since “I brought some” Weysey said…

    Zax sat on the living room’s floor and leaned on the living room’s table. With every question of his friends a growing discomfort emerged in his heart. His responses were also nor positive and not entirely negative, but they caused his friends to feel like their company was undesirable.

    To try and dissolve his remote atmosphere, Zax attempted to better socialize by returning the same questions to his friends. That did help to improve the air around the small gathering that his parents arranged. The mood lifted so much that at a certain point Zushi praised and bragged that last month Anet became an E level Mist User and he and Dane were not so far behind.

    This revelation was the source of the following distance between Zax and his friends. He was happy for them, he cared for them, but he also envied their blinding glow.

    In an emotional breakdown Zax made his mind to stay away before he will do or say something that will hurt his friends, his big sister and his parents. If his future as a Mist User was sealed, then he will concentrate on the only thing that was left, his soul. And if in the far future he will achieve any perceptible achievement, enough to make him accept the path he unintentionally brought upon himself, then he will seek the strength to repent toward those whose love for him he discounted.



    September sixth, year 5786.

    Zax left grandma Shi Oh’s and grandpa Shi Chin’s small apartment after lunch. He used public transportation to get as close as he could to where is big sister’s apartment building was and continued onward straight into cave zero eight.

    Hidden within a grove Zax sat cross legged with eyes closed. Almost a year and a half has passed since he naturally broke through the juncture to level F and a year after he woke up at the Beginner phase of level D, he managed to reach the next critical juncture in his training, and the first to every Mist User, the bottleneck to level C.

    Since Zax did not want to be taken care of even by his beloved big sister, he stopped going to her apartment and as a result, stopped training in the Inner Spirit Formation. In the past year Zax’s method of training was self meditation and a few months after he awakened Zax made a breakthrough to the next phase that came after Somnolence Meditation, “Adraak Meditation”.

    Although Zax did not have to benefits of the external help that soul refining techniques, such as the Inner Spirit Formation, supply, the next phase of meditation had its own pros that the Inner Spirit Formation could not provide him.

    When exercising in Adraak Meditation Zax’s whole senses were engulfed by a void sphere that was similar to the one he experienced when he found the Black Core. In a way, the void sphere that the Black Core turned his Soul Sense into could be considered as the root to Zax’s breakthrough in meditation.

    Inside the void sphere the only sense of existence Zax had originated from his conscious mind. That was because the purpose of the Adraak Meditation was to utterly separate oneself from the outside world, even memories of it, and enrich the soul by uncovering the intimate spiritual knowledge from the subliminal mind. Generally, the more profound and insightful the intimate spiritual knowledge is, the more demanding it is to cultivate it, obviously the more prosperous the results are as well.

    In rare occurrences where a child reaches the phase of Adraak Meditation, he or she would be told by their Mor – a good Mor, that is – to keep training in Somnolence Meditation. The reason for it is rational and in most cases cannot be refute. It is the basic understanding that even if a child can learn the secrets of the subliminal mind, the mind itself is still undeveloped. The subliminal mind absorbs its knowledge from the outside world of its owner. If the owner is immature and lack eventful life, naturally the intimate spiritual knowledge of the subliminal mind will not be profound or insightful. Hastily tempering the soul in Adraak Meditation and in a young age will be the same to picking a fruit before its ripe, one will have fast accomplishments but in the long run it will show itself as wasteful and hinder future progress.

    Zax, however, had no one to teach him the consequences of training in Adraak Meditation. On the other hand, no other child in Kingdom Earth experienced the epiphany Zax did.

    The instant Zax broke through to the phase of Adraak Meditation; he encountered a minuscule piece of information from his subliminal mind, a piece that seemed like part of an immeasurable puzzle, yet somewhat contained boundless profundity.

    The piece was a fragment of the entity Zax saw when the Black Core entered his body. In his training Zax studied the piece for hours at a time, days if his parents would have let him. In his mind it was a clear picture that revealed only numerous hues of black, blending into an undefined mess. At first look it was the same as a bland screensaver of an old computer’s screen. On a second look, with further investigation, one would notice the depth of the piece and its inimitable abundant.

    There was no time limit to how much Zax could stare at the piece. But since the results depended on his perception, days could come and gone without him undergoing improvement or a few seconds of initial probing, right after sitting on his buttock, will show up as productive. Sometimes, as a sign of success in his training, a vibration will occur in Zax’s soul and after it he could see something new in the piece, new shade of black, new pattern of the moving hues, new depth that he had not perceived before and so on…

    By making new discoveries in his training, Zax’s soul improved in both quality and quantity of its energy, and because of the mysterious piece that was part of a higher entity, in terms of quality Zax already reached the purity of a Core Breaker’s soul. After he will break through from the top phase of level D, who knows how far he will be able to advance in his meditation and then how pure will be his soul!

    Finishing training, Zax proceeded to a correlated activity… tackling the impenetrable juncture to level C from every direction possible.

    As a result of surpassing the juncture to level F all on his own, Zax gain a sort of familiarity with the ambiguous presence of a bottleneck, a feeling only Mist User who broke through level D to level C get to know. Although the juncture to level C was as tough if not tougher as the juncture to level F, Zax was not stressed by its weight.

    In Zax’s sea of consciousness the bottleneck took the form of a white barrier. To transcend beyond it Zax tried to demolish the barrier with soul attacks, experimenting with his Soul Sense, probing it the same way he probed the piece of the entity. When he failed Zax hoped that all he needed his further training, more meditation. The problem was that the more his soul energy increased in quantity, the slower his progress in training was, as if the barrier compelled him to break through it if he wanted to make advancements.

    “AHHHH!” Zax yelled in frustration. “Break! Break! Break! Break!” He continued yelling and punched the ground. This behavior was his daily display of despairing. “What I’m missing? My training is at its limit! The white barrier… I surveyed every centimeter of it! My soul is a hundred times stronger than it was a year ago! What else do I need?!”

    Even though he was within a beasts’ cave, Zax was not afraid from beast hearing him. From the first place cave zero eight was not prone to have many types of beasts in it and even less territorial beasts. During his training, when enclosed inside the void sphere, Zax’s Soul Sense would activate itself on and off and emit its mightiness; much like how to torn tail of a lizard keeps moving after it has been separated from the body. Since the quality of Zax’s soul was that of a Core Breaker and within the void sphere he would lose contact with his sense, his Soul Sense also would lose all restraint and make itself known to any who enter its domain of two hundred meters – the increase in length was, of course, due to Zax advancements in the past year.

    Any beast that will stride into the domain of Zax’s Soul Sense would get the impression that an existence at the Core Breaker level lurks inside the grove. Due to this Zax could yell to his heart's content and no beast would dare to bother him.

    “You can come out now”. After he calmed down Zax got up on his feet and turn his head to the right. “Congratulations, big sis, for becoming a Mist Lord”.

    Out of the dense flora Zetsa emerge with a complicated expression on her face. In the past year her relationship with her little brother got colder whenever they met with each other. Zax was the one to initiate the cold atmosphere. At first she was not willing to unknot their bond, but in time, whenever she attempted to get closer to her little brother, it would backfire and the next time they will meet he would try to avoid her even more. She knew that it was the same with his friends and their parents, but with their parents, since Zax still depended on them, the aloofness got to a halt.

    Now, Zetsa came to the place where she was probably the only one to know that her little brother will be training in. cave zero eight. When she found out months ago that he returned to the beasts’ cave, she did not confront him. Instead she watched over him from afar. Nowadays, she let him train alone.

    “Little Zi, it’s too early, I’m still a step away from the Mist Lord level, only my soul reached it”.

    “Little Zi…” Her voice resonated in Zax’s head. He was aware of the pain he causes his beloved ones, and seeing the one whom in her heart he knew his place was at the epicenter… Zax wanted to ran to his big sister and beg her forgiveness.

    Zax withheld his swaying heart. Training did not tire him, but trying to surpass the white barrier did, so he had to exert himself to control his emotions.

    “Is there something…?” Zax asked softly.

    Zetsa did not answer immediately. She found a place to sit, on a bulky root that breached the ground and was large enough for three to four grown men.

    “Come here, Zax. If you finished training for the day come sit by my side”.

    “Zax” not “little Zi”, was how she called him, and with this little change the tone of her voice also changed from the sweet and loving to the severe and sharp. Whether a year or a hundred, Zax could not disregard that tone of voice. He obeyed and joined her on the root.

    ‘I sensed your progress, Zax. Without the support of an Earth’s Core you made it to the top of level D and the quality of your soul have already made it past it. I can tell that you are training in the next phase of meditation. Do you know its name?”

    “No”. Zax answered, slightly shocked. Was he so easy to read or was it because she was his big sister?

    “The phase after Somnolence Meditation is called “Adraak Meditation”. I never thought that you will reach it so fast. I, myself, spent five years of training before reaching that phase”.

    “Five years?” Zax repeated in his head, while feeling a sense of gratification.

    “And yet I keep training in Somnolence Meditation till this day”.

    Zetsa next words startled Zax out of his short moment of accomplishment. He could not help but ask. “Why?”

    And then she told him, explained what he would have known if his heart was not weak and his mind was not set.

    “But this evidently doesn’t apply to you, does it?” Zetsa smiled as if she read his mind.

    “I don’t think so”. Zax shook his head and did not hide anything. What was the point?

    “I guessed it, that your subliminal mind may possess something special, it had to, considering the condition of you Qi channels. That is why I didn’t interfere”.

    “It’s a piece of something that’s related to the Black Core”. Zax voluntarily confessed.

    “Another secret of our underground world…” Zetsa sighed.

    “Secret? You know anything about it?!” Zax nearly jumped back up. His inner mind instantly pondered the value of such information. Additional knowledge about the small piece could lead him to a breakthrough!

    “In Adraak Meditation you have to uncover the spiritual knowledge on your own. Others, too, can only give you another perspective, if they share the same experiences, but it’s best for you to find different outlooks independently. Ultimately, it is your subliminal mind that you meditate on”.

    “Hm…” Zax thought about and accepted Zetsa’s advice. With a few words she made the remnants feeling of today’s failure disappear. “Ah?” Something clicked to him.

    “Big sis, what did you mean by “secret”?” Could it be? The reason for her coming to see him… Was it his clogged Qi channels?

    “Oh!” Zetsa waved her hand in deny. “Nothing for you to know. Don’t think too much, and it’s time for me to get into why I searched for you”.

    “It’s not about me Qi channels…” Zax’s spike in expectation diminished his mood. It was his fault for bringing the subject up, even if he did not say it aloud.

    “Little Zi, remember when you woke up and we had the conversation of what would be the preferable path of your future cultivation?”

    “My soul”. Zax answered as the memory resurfaced. His letdown roused his isolated demeanor, so much that he missed the change of how Zetsa referred to him.

    “Lift your eyes, little Zi, can you really not stand looking at me?” She grabbed his arm and pulled his closer. “Did becoming a Mist User really meant to you more than all the people you isolated?!” She reprimanded and made his raise his head.

    Zax’s cheeks were red and his eyes teary. Who else but his big sister could make him look like that? “I don’t want others to look down on me”. He said back with cracking voice.

    “No one is looking down on you, Zax!” Zetsa’s complexion also reddened, but while Zax was driven by low self esteem, Zetsa was driven by her anger for her little brother’s behavior.

    “You pity me… I look down on myself!” Zax poured out his heart.

    Hearing his inner thoughts, his sorrowful confession, Zetsa realized something. “He isolated himself from his true feelings, too!” Under her grip she felt his useless resistance. “It’s good, it’s good”, she took him close to her bosom. “You can cry”. She said inaudibly, and he did.

    When Zax body stopped shacking Zetsa loosen her hold, but not exactly let to get away from her.

    “Zax, I got an offer for you”, her breath hit his face like a warm breeze that cleanse it from the dry tears. “I told you in the past that the soul is your path and your Qi is forever gone, Zax. But those are only two aspects. Your body is the third one I said nothing about”.

    Zax listened without saying or asking. “The body…” He only thought while resting in her arms. From what was known throughout the kingdom, the soul, the Qi and then the mist were the only cultivatable aspects. “Cultivating the body…!” It did not require a genius mind to figure that on the Martial path cultivating the body could be another method to become stronger. He quietly continued to listen.

    “There is another path, the path of the body, Zax”. Zetsa confirmed, and as she did, she noticed the increasing pace of Zax’s beating heart. “Are you willing to look at me calmly now?”

    In her arms Zax lifted his head. “It’s harsh, Zax, the most painful thing that one can experience. It is a path only handful in all of New Earth dare venture. Nonetheless, it does exist, it exists and it is mightier than any other path, but not here, Zax”.

    “I’m willing. Where?” Zax asked, afterwards Zetsa finally let him loose completely.

    “I mean it, Zax. My Master leading me on this path, he is leading since I was in your age, and yet I’m falling behind, crawling at the lowest level of hell”. A look of bewilderment and distress seemed for a moment on Zetsa’s face.

    “I’m willing”. Zax repeated despite the warnings, not even caring why now she chose to mention it. “Where?”

    “This place has rules, Zax, if I’ll take you there only my Master can let you leave”.

    “Big sis, I’m willing!”

    “Zax! Don’t be hardheaded and actually think before answering! I, too, am willing. I’ll take you there if that’s what you really want, but not unless you think!” Zetsa scolded.

    “Say it again, big sis, what I need to know”. For a path out of his misery, a path that can compensate for his inability to his Qi or mist energy, even if Zax knew that acted impulsively, he would still keep saying the same thing.

    “Cultivating the body won’t make your strength inferior to those who cultivate their mist. On the same level of cultivating no Mist User will be your equal, even if they’ll come at you one against a hundred”. It was not within Zetsa intention to just talk about the bad. The advancements of body cultivation deserved a lot of praises, but the perils of the method deserved countless warning.

    “However, whether if you succeed or not on this path, you will become a monster. The only different is that by failing, it will be a dead monster. Bear in mind, Zax, the method, the bodily refining technique my Master developed, its principal is growing through pain, the utmost pain that you can suffer. It pushes you to the edge of life and death, it won’t kill you, but it can make you long for death. It’s either making it through hell or dying…”

    “Moreover, my Master will never approve of you giving up because it’s too hard or will let you go before you will reach a certain level of accomplishment. Three years, that’s how long it would take before you will be allowed to leave, see our family, your friends, everyone but me. Till then you will be bound to one place where escaping means death. After all this, are you, from the bottom of your heart, willing to take this path?”

    Not as before, Zax thought of what Zetsa told him. Was he prepared to not isolate, but leave completely all the people in his life apart from his big sister? To risk his life on a path knew nothing about? Did he not have any other way to reface his dreams in concur them? If there was it either passed him or move to slow for him to bear.

    “I’m willing!”

    “Is that so…” Zetsa had her doubts. She would have had them no matter what; therefore she did not try to persuade Zax again.

    “Yes! So can you tell me now where it is and why you didn’t offer this path for me before?”

    “To train you in my Master’s method I have to first bring you to him. To get his permission I had to reach the Mist Lord level with my soul and even that was a compromise on his side. And the last thing, my answer to your ongoing question… It’s within a cave in the beasts’ territory”.

    “Ah! You are taking me to the beasts’ territory?”

    “Aren’t we already here?” Zetsa joked. She got up from the root and pulled Zax by the hand to stand next to her. “Let’s go. I already talked with mom and dad. You should tell them goodbye”.

    “Now? We are leaving today?”

    “We can’t waste time. We should go to my Master before he will change his mind about letting me bring you. Oh! And don’t get surprised by my Master appearance”.

    “Why? Is your master a b-”

    “A beast”.

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    Book 3 – Into The Wild

    Chapter 1 – Into The Wild




    On the way back from home to cave zero eight, Zax was torn with his decision to leave his family and friends, even though he stopped talking to them, for three years. When he saw his parents’ eyes, Zax traced regret in them. It made him ask himself all the more what his big sister told them to make them agree to let him go. Ultimately Zax kept his questions buried in his wondering mind. ‘Maybe’, he came up with one possible solution. ‘They chose to benefit of the doubt in their decision, by believing that they are giving me what they denied from big sis, when she was at my age, and her Master, in return, gave her…?’

    “It will take us around seven days to reach my Master’s cave”. Zetsa informed Zax.

    She parked her Sun K-79 at the entrance to cave zero eight. Apart from the clothes he was wearing, Zetsa did not let him bring provisions, not even his wristwatch.

    “How many caves do we need to cross before we get there?” Zax asked. Any step closer to their destination or away from home made the decision easier.

    “Somewhere along the lines of one hundred and seven-eight caves, all in the beasts’ territory”. Zetsa mused and said.

    “That much in seven days? On foot?”

    If the caves were paved with proper pedestrian roads, even then it would take a day or two to cross one cave.

    “Can’t we go on your Sun?”

    “Relax, little Zi, seven days are more than enough. If I was alone then two days would have been enough, three if I took my time. It will take us longer because I plan to carry you with my mist energy and let you rest during the nights”.

    “On your back?” Zax timidly asked. He was almost twelve and the seed of manliness and self awareness has already started to sprout.

    “Only if you wanna”. Zetsa pinched his cheek, smiling. She was dreadful for she knew what awaits her little brother, and yet happy beyond belief that the relationship between Zax and her was slowly mending.

    At the other end of tunnel seventy eight.

    “Don’t move”. Zetsa ordered Zax as her hands were suddenly surrounded by her dark silvery mist energy and emitted a glowing aura of the same hues. She drew symbols first on her palms, second on the air, third on Zax’s torso. “This formation is infused with both of our energies, mostly mine, almost none of yours, but it will exhaust you nonetheless”. Zetsa said as Zax’s body gradually rose from the ground until he was twenty centimeters from Zetsa and at eye level with her. “Think of it as advanced telekinesis”. She added as she watched Zax’s eyes widened in astonishment.

    “Like in the movies?” Zax asked while waving his arms. His body was no longer bound by gravity and it was even stranger than being inside his sea of consciousness. Any wrong movement could make him flip uncontrollably and the only thing that anchored him to the same place was the base symbols on his big sister. Wherever she will move to, he will have no choice but to follow.

    Telekinesis was the term people used in fiction movies and shows. It was different than the ability of an expert Mist User to move objects; it did not require mist energy. They called it a Devine Ability in the movies.

    “Like if you train hard then in the future you might be able to use”. Zetsa replied and stabilize Zax. “It’s a bit tasking, but great for extended use of carrying something, or someone, while having to keep your hands free and it makes the object half its weight”. Zetsa shrugged and turned her back to Zax. “Anyway, if your body starts turning, reach your hands and grab my shoulders… or you can just ask and I’ll carry you with my hands”. She smirked and, like an arrow leaving the string of a bow, kicked the ground and shot onto the air in a piercing jump.



    In the numerous forests, valleys and ridges that Zax and Zetsa traveled they encountered all sorts of beast. Some, Zetsa explained, did not possess an Earth’s Core and therefore, in terms of ranking, the cultivation of their three aspects was lower than level F. However, because of inborn capabilities, supreme instincts and physique, some coreless beasts at adulthood could contend, by solely relying on their bodies, against Mist Users under the Core Breaker level.

    Learning this out only strengthened Zax’s resolve to go through the hell his big sister warned him about.

    Apart from learning about the benefit of a strong body, Zax also learned a few survival skills and their current whereabouts in the beasts’ territory.

    The caves they crossed belonged to the outer parts of the beasts’ territory and were under the five sovereign tribes – including the cave of Zetsa’s Master. There were around twenty to thirty other tribes of beasts in the outer parts, but only the five sovereign tribes had experts in the Mist Lord level. The strongest beasts in the other twenty to thirty tribes were only at the Core Breaker level. Naturally, all the members of every tribe possessed an Earth’s Core.

    Except beasts that resided in tribes, there were beasts which lived alone or in other forms of the word “Pack” but “Tribe”, and those were known as “Wild Beasts”. Wild beasts, such as the Earth Shattering Brown Digger, were the beasts that even if they got a hold on an Earth’s Core, lacked or did not evolve the minimal mentality to cultivate it or could not break through beyond level F or E.

    The outer parts of the beasts’ territory were abundant with wild beasts. Though it was not needed – because instincts warned the wild beasts from Zetsa’s presence and even Zax’s Soul Sense as he embed an hostile intent and used it playfully – Zetsa taught Zax of the unique attributes of the flora on their way. She showed him flowers that help disguise one’s own smell, trees with edible bark, harmless insect and small beasts that squirt fluids that were toxic and can madden certain type of carnivore beasts.

    Zetsa taught Zax to use his Soul Sense not just to make his strength clear to aggressive beasts by embedding his intent in it, but to also assess the content of fruits and body parts of beasts, once they were sliced open and before he ate them, to check if they were not contaminated by their own poison at the moment of death.

    Drinking water was the most difficult thing to find in the beasts’ territory. Above ground rivers and lakes were in one out of four caves and they were usually dominated by packs of territorial wild beasts or were shared or fought over by the tribes. If one wanted to drink water in the beasts’ territory the options were to either risk it in the rivers and lakes or find a common type of plant called Blue Bark tree, which was filled with bitter sweet water.

    Seven days passed in the blink of an eye and the last tunnel on their path to the cave of Zetsa’s Master was a few hundred meters ahead.

    “Remember what I told you, Zax”. Zetsa meant her explanation about the beasts in her Master’s cave, which by the way was not numbered. “Try to be as you are… as you used to be at home. Putting aside how strict my Master is, my Martial uncle and brothers and sisters”, they were her Master’s other apprentices and younger brother, the one she told him that found him. “They are good natured and receiving. I’ll introduce you to the ones that are currently in the cave, since there are always few outside, you won’t get to know them all at once, but you still should remember… of my fellow apprentices three are my seniors, my two elder Martial brothers and my elder Martial sister. Aside from them I have four juniors, two younger Martial brothers and two younger Martial sisters. Two of my seniors are always outside, so I’m not sure who you’ll get to meet first, either way you should act respectfully to each and every one of them without exception”.

    ”Although we will be the only humans, the intelligent of my fellow apprentices is not inferior to any human of the same level of cultivation!” Zetsa made a point to herself to insert this information to Zax’s head every once in a while.

    “Afterwards I’ll introduce you to my Martial uncle. Over a year ago he started a session of closed doors training and a month ago he finally came out. The position of my Martial uncle is second only to my Master’s, but in terms of personality… sometimes they seem alike but it’s easier to get along with my Martial uncle, just be extra respectable toward him since he was the one to-”

    “To find me…” Zax finished. He asked her once about who they will meet when they will reach her Master’s cave and the answer kept replaying every day. “Are you going to tell me again about the Krikitory tribe?”

    The beasts of the Krikitory tribe are the original dwellers of her Master’s cave. According to what Zetsa taught him, the Krikitory made up their name to sound similar to her Master’s name out of their veneration toward him. Outside her Master’s cave the Krikitory are formally known as the Deep Water Bear tribe, but inside of the cave it is better to refer to them by their own chosen name, otherwise thy will get offended.

    The beasts of the Krikitory are herbivores. By Zetsa’s description they are a peaceful beast tribe. An adult Krikitory is a meter and fifty centimeters tall and has the same facial features of the ancient Black Bear – like the one in pre New Earth animal books. Their fur, on the other hand, is a mix of blue and brown. What makes the Krikitory special and give them their formal name is that when their fur gets wet, it hardens and take the shape of small scales. Due to this, the Krikitory are excellent swimmers and can stay under water for hours per each breath that they take.

    On the scale of mental evolution the Krikitory are quite behind. Only the members who surpassed the Core Breaker level have an intelligent which is almost equivalent to that of a human – on a side note, if it were not for Zetsa’s Master, the Krikitory never would have found a method to cultivate beyond level D, which is the reason for their deep feeling toward her Master and why they serve him.

    “Cheeky brat!” Zetsa pinched Zax’s cheeks.

    In the past seven days she noticed that as her little brother got closer to his first teenage year, he become more impudent and almost every time dared to speak his mind freely. Other than that, she also discovered new changes in her little brother which were to her liking. His eyes, for example, no longer had the pure look of a child, when she taught him in their journey a glint of seriousness was easy to see in them. His intuition was also sharper, actually years beyond his age. When he asked question about stuff that she taught him they always were on point and usually one explanation was enough for him to understand. Most of all, Zetsa was impressed with Zax’s calm and collected attitude when she showed him how to dissect a beast’s cadaver and let him try to cut one on his own.

    “Nearly there, at the tunnel’s entrance, that is”. Zetsa said.

    They traveled in the last cave, both of them on foot, since early morning, though it was difficult to tell because the beast’s cave they were in, or former ones, did not have a Nightly Cover formation.

    “Big sissster Zetsa!”

    A shout from down their path caught Zax off guard. In this beasts’ territory he was used to hearing all kind of communication sounds, but words that he could understand were nonexistent.

    From out of nowhere a slim and tall figure appeared before them, a humanoid beast with purple scales, a long tail and a snake head with a penetrating golden gaze.

    “Ohsss, isss that tender one your little kinss?” The lizard type beast spoken in a hissing voice.

    “Mes! Are you looking to make trouble for us?!” Zetsa scolded. She held Zax hand, so she felt the cold sweat forming on his palm. It was not why she scolded her little Martial brother, Mes, but because he did not bother to conceal his oppressing Mist Lord aura.

    “No waysss, I know better, sissster Zetsa. I was jussst eagerly waiting for your return to show you my recent breakthrough. Pleassse forgive me and don’t tell Master!” Mes pleaded like a scared child.

    Watching this bizarre scene of a Mist Lord humbly lowering his head to a Mist Master awestruck Zax for the first couple of seconds. However, Zax quickly remembered what Zetsa told him and collected himself.

    “Greetings, senior Martial brother Mes, this one is Zax Zel, nice to meet you!” He lowered his head to pay his respect to the beast before him, using the same exact words his big sister made him memorize.

    “Ssss, tender one, Zaxss, it’s a good thing for us to meet. But I, who might be your future elder Martial brother, presenting you with this embarrassing first impressionss… Big sisster Zetsa, do these two right and forget seeing me here”. Mes worked his kindly words and the introduction to slide around his actual mistake of shouting in a sensitive area.

    “If you’ll remember not to show off again in the future, I’ll forgive you”. Zetsa conceded. “Now go back and inform everyone that I’m back with a new addition to the family”.

    Grateful, a bright golden light emitted from Mes’s golden eyes and his figure disappeared.

    “A Mist Lord…” Zax murmured. Mes was the first Mist Lord that Zax laid his own two eyes on, not to mention the first intelligent humanoid beast! “He is a Mist Lord and he is younger than you are, big sis?” He asked intently. He and Zetsa were striding in the kilometer long tunnel to their final cave destination. “Beasts are sure amazing…”

    “Mes is not younger than me, little Zi”, Zetsa replied amused. “He has tens of years over me. The reason that I’m is big sister is because of two things. One is the word of our Master since he decided it, seconds it’s because that on the same level I’m far more stronger than Mes. It’s just that our methods of training are different; mine a lot harder to comprehend and achieve advancements”.

    They spent around fifteen minutes walking in the tunnel, hand in hand. Zax felt his head spinning from excitement, more thrilled than the day his big sister agreed to train him!

    “That’s it, my Master’s cave…” Zetsa pushed Zax forward in surprise.

    Stumbling on his feet, Zax walked a few steps and raised his head to meet the rural landscape.

    “Amazing!” Zax uttered.

    From the cave’s entrance to couple of kilometers ahead grew fields of flowers in rainbow like colors. There was a sort of a path right from the entrance through the fields that led past a forest, into a mountain range, to a place far away onwards...

    At a certain point the path split westwards, right before the first trees of the forest, up a small and wide hill to a distant village.

    “They are waiting for us at the village”. Zetsa said and bypassed Zax.

    “Ah… yes!” Zax joined her at his own pace.

    The scent of the fields was intoxicating and beside it was the sound of flowing water, left and right, like a melody of creeks.

    It took them a hour before they finally made it to the village, by then Zetsa told Zax that the tribe has six more villages spread within the cave and that this one belonged to the fields workers. As she explained, Zax himself was also getting use to the sight of the field workers Krikitories. They industriously collected any flower in full bloom and threw it inside big baskets on their backs. The Krikitories workers were not disturbed by the pair of humans and a handful waved their paws to Zetsa.

    “Utotive! Utotive!” Tiny members of the tribe, children Krikitories, fifty centimeters tall or so, ran to welcome Zax and Zetsa with wooden cups of water. “Utotive, wamp! Wamp!” They pushed the cups for Zetsa to take and drink them.

    “Big sis…” Zax said helplessly. There were over twenty young Krikitories and six of them forced their cups of water on Zax, calling… “Bukibi, wamp!”

    “Wamp, Zax. They knew we were coming and came to greet us. ‘Utotive’, ‘Blue Olive’, is what the small ones find easy to call me. ‘Bukibi’, ’Light Brown’, appears to be your new name… anyway, ‘wamp’ means to drink. Pick a cup and drink the water”. Zetsa said and picked one of the offered cups.

    The young Krikitory seemed overjoyed as she – the females were distinguishable by the braids that were embroidered to their fur – ran back to her mother’s arms, forgetting the cups with Zetsa.

    The other disappointed fifteen to eighteen young Krikitories glumly moved to Zax. “Bukibi, wamp! Wamp!”

    Seeing how the young Krikitories got sad and mournful because they were not picked, Zax felt a pinch in his heart. It was the first time for him to be in a situation where the happiness of those younger than him depended on his actions. In his eyes the young Krikitories reminded him of his younger cousins or first graders in his last year of school. Now a bunch of them looked for his affection and he could give it to only one of them…

    “Fine”. Zax surrendered. He could not pick one Krikitory over the other so he chose to accept all the cups that were offered to him.

    Looking at him drinking cup after cup, Zetsa pouted. “Little Zi, you can’t pamper them like this, otherwise they’ll come to you whenever they want to get praised by their mothers”. She said, yet when the young Krikitory that gave her water returned for her cup, she ended up accepting more of them, mostly for Zax’s sake.

    “This will be the last time”. Zetsa told Zax. “These guys are about the same age as two or three years old humans. They don’t know how to stop and their mothers won’t stop them either since the grownups admire anyone that Master allows into the cave…”

    The two left the young and the adults to their business. Zetsa led Zax to a large wooden pavilion on the outskirts of the village. Inside the pavilion five figures were waiting for them.

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    Please check out the question in the last post on my site Lonahora

    Book 3 – Into The Wild

    Chapter 2 – Martial Son



    Mes was the first that stepped forward to welcome Zetsa and Zax. “Big sissster Zetsa, I did as you bid. Martial uncle isss one hisss way”.

    “Good”. Zetsa smiled and squeezed Zax’s arm to release him of the bewilderment.

    Under the large pavilion, the other four figures lowered the wooden cups in their hands to the table at the center of their gathering, got up and approached the two arrivals.

    “Elder Martial sister Zetsa”.

    “Elder Martial sister Zetsa”.

    Two of the four lowered their heads and said in union while one, a bird type beast, just performed the same greeting gesture.

    The three were three humanoid beasts. The biggest one was nearly four meters tall, with yellow spotted fur over his body and a jaguar head. The second biggest was the same height as Mes, around two meters tall, and another lizard type beast but of different species. Her scales were fiery crimson and two silver horns grew out from the sides of her lizard head. The last of the three shared a similar height with Zetsa and was the bird type beast that stayed quiet. Her body was covered by dark blue feathers, she had two black eagle legs, which complemented her griffon head, and her upper limbs looked like folded wings that made up the shape of two arms.

    “Zax, these are my junior Martial brothers. This one is Tularg, he is a Dotted Jaguar”, Zetsa gestured over the jaguar head beast. “After me he is the oldest. Rarahel is the third youngest and is a Silver Horns Dragon”. Next she gestured over the silver horns beast. “Mes, that you already know, is the second youngest. His species is Thousand Meters Viper. And Shulip is the youngest, Lakes Griffon”. Last was the beast type bird.

    “Greetings, senior Martial brother Tularg, senior Martial sister Rarahel, senior Martial sister Shulip, this one is Zax Zel, nice to meet you!” As he done in front of Mes, Zax lowered his head to pay his respect to the three beasts.

    “Little brother Zax”. Tularg offered his hand for Zax to shake. He learned of this ritualistic greeting that was common in humanity’s territory from his big sister Zetsa.

    Zax reached for Tularg’s hand and his hand instantly swallowed within the animalistic grip. The pressure of the grip was a bit strong, but the sensation of physical contact with such of a formidable wild existence gave Zax a rush of excitement.

    “Can’t take it back now, big sister Zetsa”. Rarahel said. Although she was of the same type of beast as Mes, she did not seem to have any speech impediment.

    “Little Rara, stop antagonizing your elder sister”. The final, fourth beast, came forward and as he did, the other three made way.

    “Elder Martial brother Simel”, Zetsa said respectfully. “The issue between me and little sister Rarahel is personal. Please forget what she said”.

    As he heard his big sister talk, Zax realized two important things. The first was that the ape type beast, Simel, was one of the three elder apprentices of his big sister’s Master, and was genuinely grander than Zetsa herself. The second thing was that, despite her greeting, between his big sister and that silver horn Rarahel was a cold and complicated relationship.

    “Nonsense, little Zetsa!” Simel raised his voice in disagreement.

    Though he was the eldest of the present apprentices of the same Master, his appearance as a beast could only be counted as meager in comparison to the other four beasts. Being a Silver Skin Gorilla, most of Simel’s body looked like that of a hairy muscular silvery man, around a meter and ninety centimeters tall, with a piece of leather cloth covering the loincloth and a gorilla head. Nonetheless, his tone of voice possessed a unique noble sound and his demeanor when he spoke his mind was highly oppressing.

    “When brothers and sisters fight, parents are punished!” His words held meaning that was mutual to all of his junior apprentices and there was nothing else he needed to add to make them submit.

    “Greetings, senior Martial brother Simel, this one is Zax Zel, nice to meet you!” Zax hurriedly said when Simel disregarded the others and approached him.

    “Hmm…” Was Simel’s first response after an azure luster gleamed in his eyes. ‘I see what uncle talked about... brave boy!’ He said to himself. ‘Poor sister…’ He thought back to how Zetsa must feel, knowing for what she brought him.

    “Say, little brother”, Simel turned to Zax. “What kind of beast’s meat, did little sister Zetsa made you eat on your journey here?”

    “What?” Zax was dumbfounded by the question and why it was asked. It was true that on their way to this cave Zetsa hunted and cocked for him some beast’s meat, but was it safe to admit it to another beast?!

    “Big brother Simel, we had no time to properly search for something special… the best was a shallow water turtle”. Zetsa answered in Zax’s stead.

    “‘Shallow water turtle’? Ba!” Simel spat. “Don’t reduce yourself again for this crappy wild beast, little sister Zetsa. Listen up, little one”, he turned to Zax. “If our Master will truly accept you, I personally will take you for a hunt, and so will the others!” Simel promise was absolute and even the others had to give their consent, primarily because it was an actual tradition that started by their eldest Martial brother.

    “Martial uncle!” Simel suddenly turned and called out. The other five, excluding Zax, were a bit slower to call in the same obsequious conduct.

    ‘Big sis’s Martial uncle? Is he the one who found me?’ Zax pondered. For a few seconds now his big sister’s brothers and sisters kept their bowing posture in austerity. They did not emitted mist or soul energy; however, the air they were giving became tense and sultry, so much that Zax found himself spellbound with his gaze to the ground.

    “Martial nephews and nieces”. A husky voice broke the silence and the six apprentices straightened, Simel first, Shulip last and Zax imitated.

    The imperious figure of Martial uncle overshadowed the impression that Zax received from the five beasts apprentices. Martial uncle figure was completely black from his hoofs to the tip of his crown like set of horns atop his stag head. Except for his posture only his burly torso looked like that of a man, though it was coated by shining black fur. These two features of him were the sole indications that he, too, was a humanoid beast.

    “Zax, he is my esteem Martial uncle Kartius, hurry up and greet him!” Zetsa urged Zax.

    “Greetings, senior Martial uncle Kartius, this one is Zax Zel, nice to meet you!” Zax said and as he lowered his head again he had an acute feeling that something was off with this Martial uncle, yet he could not determine what it was.

    “Joined me around the table”. Kartius told Zax and the others and proceeded to sit next to the table.

    “Martial uncle, what about Master?” Zetsa asked. She hopped that her Master will be more amenable toward her brother if he will meet him and see in him what he saw in her.

    “Big brother won’t come”. Kartius said bluntly.

    “Did you not call him, Mes?” Zetsa looked at her Martial little brother heatedly, pondering if he had the audacity to disobey her in fear that their Master will catch on about him doing something stupid.

    “No, no, no, big sissster Zetsa! Martial uncle toldsss me not to call Master!” Mes said defensively.

    “Indeed I told him”. Kartius responded to Mes’s imploring gaze for help. “Zax’s stay here was left for me to decide”. Saying so far, the six apprentices understood their Master’s intention.

    Zax was allowed to stay in the cave, but his cultivation will not be supported by Master’s care.

    “Martial uncle Kartius!” Zax abruptly raised his voice firmly, shocking the six.

    Which one of them, ever in his or her life, dared raising their manner of speech in front of their Martial uncle?

    “Please allow me to stay and train and become as strong as my big sis… No! Stronger than anyone here!”

    “Zax!” Zetsa barked.

    “Bahaha!” Simel burst out laughing.

    “How impudent!” Rarahel criticized.

    “Ssss, future Martial brother Zax, ssss”. Mes was also amused.

    Tularg and Shulip preferred to keep their opinion privately.

    Zax ignored everyone but Kartius. He thought that it will be more appropriate for him to bow his head when he opened his mouth and shocked everyone, but an audacious feeling in his heart instructed him to stay unyielding as his will and the person that he aspires to be.

    “Boy”, Kartius said and everyone fell silent. “Don’t let your condition abolish rational thinking. I see that your soul is at the top of level D. That fast of a progress combined with the only other path that you have, certainly makes you a promising practitioner of the Martial path. But, the path to becoming stronger is embedded with more than just the difficulty of cultivation. On your own territory it won’t mean much, but here it’s a different matter. I’ll say without beating around the bush, stay here and it’s more likely that you will lose something important or die by someone else, sooner than you may imagine!”

    Kartius crossed his arms and surveyed Zax as he done the first time he saw him. The state of the boy’s Qi channels remained the same, but his soul became terrifyingly strong to his level and had something else in it. That something else was the reason for him not using a murderous intent to give the boy a peek to the abyss that is known as the Martial path.

    Zax had countless things to say in return. How he already lost something important. How he continues to lose important things deliberately and without restraint. How he is not scared. How he fared against death more times in the past than any child should. How he himself considered death as better than living at one point during this year, since he woke up…

    At the end, he chose to say nothing. Everything sounded the same and shared the same purpose, to stand his ground with his resolution. Enduring quietly was akin to showing that his mind did not sway by this Martial uncle’s cautionary words.

    “Very well, boy, Zax, you have my approval, you can stay”.

    “Martial uncle is generous, thank you, Martial uncle!” Zetsa was fast to react and singled Zax to do the same.

    “Thank you, Martial uncle!” Zax said.

    “Congratulations, Zaxss, from now on you are the youngest Martial brother of usss six and the other two that are currently out”. Mes’s golden eyes narrowed in delight.

    “Swhit! Swhit!” Shulip whistled.

    “Shulip is also happy not to be the youngest sister anymore”.  Tularg interpreted and then he explained to Zax. “Bird type beasts have hard time changing their vocal cords to reproduce sounds other than whistles. Wait for her to reach the Core Master level for her to tell you herself how happy she is to have a younger brother”. He chuckled.

    “Swhit! Swhit! Swhit!” Shulip waved her arms, which turned into two marvelous wings, and sent gusts of winds to strike Tularg.

    “Grahahah…” Tularg half laughed half roared and with a slight move of hand canceled the four blades of wind. “She thinks that I’m embarrassing her in front of her new younger brother”.

    “Enough of this juvenile behavior!” Just as Zax was about to get out of his awe toward these two beasts, whom with barely moving caused havoc in the air, Kartius raised his voice in mild anger. “If you will destroy the pavilion I’ll have you drink thousand cups of water a day for ten generations of the Krikitories!”

    What may sound as a joke clearly was not treated as such by Tularg, Shulip or any of their Martial brothers and sisters. The two apologized right away.

    “Sorry, Martial uncle, he won’t dream of harming the pavilion”.

    “Swhit! Swhit! Swhit!”

    In truth, even if he did not say anything, the two would never have the nerve to make the tiniest of scratches on the pavilion’s wooden beams and roof or marble floor. It was a gift from the Krikitory tribe to someone that none of those who attended this welcoming gathering will think to offend.

    “As long as you remember…” Kartius said to the two and got up on his hoofs. “Regarding the matter of a new Martial brother to you lot… Zax will join our Martial family and you will get a new junior apprentice, however, not as a Martial brother, but a Martial cousin”.

    “Uncle Kartius, you mean?!” Simel said in disbelief.

    “Martial uncle?!” The other apprentices had the same expression as Simel.

    “I mean that I discussed it with big brother, your Master. Zax will join us as my apprentice, if he will accept me as his Master”. Kartius’s eyes fell on Zax, his crown of black horns made him almost look sacred.

    Initially Zax thought that his big sister will continue to be his Mor and teach him all about the bodily refining technique. Yet, as he met eyes with Kartius, Zax sensed once more that this beast possesses some profound secret that he must uncover. “Master!”

    Zax recalled an old martial arts movie that he saw at Dane’s house. The protagonist dropped to his knees and called “Mor!” to the old man that accepted him as an apprentice. Zax copied the protagonist but instead of “Mor” called “Master”, since this was how his big sister and her Martial brothers and sisters referred to their teacher and how Kartius referred to himself.

    “Martial son!” Kartius answered.

    “Congratulations, Martial uncle! Congratulations, Martial cousin!”

    The six who watched the exchange from the side applauded their new junior and even more so, their Martial uncle.

    “Little brother Zax, you might not know it, but you are the first apprentice, Martial son, that Martial uncle has ever accepted!”

    “Thank you, Martial uncle, for seeing in my little brother what my Master saw in me”. Zetsa thanked. It was obvious to her that just by staying in her Master’s cave, without getting his support, becoming an official apprentice; he will have hard time cultivating the bodily refining technique. Even her two elder Martial brothers and elder Martial sister will not be able to provide the required assistant.

    Her Martial uncle never had an apprentice before. Therefore, in a normal situation Zetsa would have preferred for her Master to accept Zax as an apprentice. However, this situation contained a couple of complications which no one could help with. Due to these complications Zetsa had to agree that Zax will benefit more from having her Martial uncle as a Master, than her own Master.

    “Zax”, Kartius turned to his first apprentice. “From now on you can either call me ‘Father’ or ‘Master’, they both hold the same meaning, ‘a teacher of the Martial path’, so I’ll let you choose. When you decide, get up and never kneel as frivolously as you do now! Learn first what the difference between bowing slightly, as your seniors do, and kneeling!” Kartius said in a stern voice. “For mutual respect your knees should never touch the ground... That is all I’m going to say on the matter”.

    Zax gulped every word like the first drops of water after a long drought, which was a thing of the past in New Earth but still a taught subject in schools.

    “Master!” Zax repeated and stood up. Although Kartius said that both forms of addressing were the same, to Zax they meant two different things. Besides, his big sister referred to her Master equally the same and frankly, Zax still did not know what was wrong with “Tal” and “Mor”.

    “Then it’s settled”. Kartius said. “Zax, and you too should listen”, he turned to the others. “While I said that Zax can stay, my approval is only temporary. Even if I accepted him as my Martial son, he still needs to receive big brother’s own approval. If it was ten years ago, big brother would not have mind to give him the same chance he gave Zetsa. Unfortunately, these days big brother is very… anxious. To let Zax stay indefinitely, when the time comes big brother will want to test Zax’s abilities, he has the right to and a good reason. To make sure that my Martial son won’t disappoint, I received three years to prep him, Zetsa, I believe, already mentioned that to my Martial son and now I want all of you to know as well”.

    The sternness in Kartius’s voice vanished, his speech mellowed as his next words were spoken from his sincere heart.

    “For the next three years I plan to concentrate every second on preparing Zax, not just for big brother… During this period of time you can treat us as if we entered closed doors training”.

    “Martial uncle, are you planning to take Zax?!” Zetsa unintentionally blurted. Her relationship with Zax has just got better and now she will not be able to see him for three years!

    “We will not be interrupted unless it is big brother who is calling for either of us!” Kartius stated as an undisputable fact. “Nevertheless, it is very improbable that big brother, in his current temperament, will send a call for us. Because of this, my request for you, Martial nephews and nieces, is to please take care of big brother in my absence. His anxiety hampers his training… Your senior apprentices already doing the best they can, so they won’t be able to help if something were to happen in that cave”.

    “We know and understand, Martial uncle”. As the eldest, Simel’s response represented the other five apprentices as well.

    “I’m grateful”. Kartius said. This will be the second time in a short period of time that he will not be by his big brother’s side. He could only trust on his big brother’s sons and daughters to fill in for him.

    “Say your goodbyes to your Martial brothers and sisters, Zax”. Kartius told him.

    ‘Three years…’ Zax lingered in his inner mind on the notion of separating from his big sister again. Nevertheless his decision was made the moment his Master instructed him to say goodbye and he very well understood it.

    Zax said his thanks and goodbyes to his new Martial brothers and sisters and could not stop himself from running into his big sister’s arms for a hug that would last him for three long years.

  19. #59
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    Book 3 – Into The Wild

    Chapter 3 – Martial Father’s Teachings




    Kartius left the Krikitory village with Zax right as he finished saying his goodbye for the next three years.

    They went back on the path from the village and when the path split into the forest or the cave’s entrance, Kartius chose the former.

    Past the forest was the mountain range, there, Kartius forced Zax to climb relaying on his own strength. At most, he showed him a bear claws sign that marked a couple of rocks and told him to look for more signs.

    “They were made by the Krikitory village that resides on the mountains and take care of the various hot springs. The bear claws signs indicate the paths that they use to climb down or up the mountain. I’ll be climbing ahead of you, so search for the signs that lead to my direction”.

    It was two and a half weeks’ worth of a journey. In it, apart from the advice that Zax received from his Master, Kartius only helped Zax with food and water and the Krikitory’s path that he followed supplied him the rest. Warm places within the mountains to sleep at nights, hot spring pools to clean himself and enjoy for the first time in his life; Zax even met a few adult Krikitories, some of the caretakers, who were suspicious of him at first but once he mentioned the name of his Master, turned gracious.

    The Krikitories showed him the edible plant that grew around the hot springs. They told him which ones were testier after boiling in the hot springs and, after taking a look at his bruises from the climbing, which, if mushed, were good for making ointment for small injuries.

    When he reached the flat peak of the mountain Kartius led him to, Zax discovered an unbelievable spectacle. Atop of the highest mountain in the mountain range, a mountain couple of hundred meters higher than the other mountains and probably under the tallest cave’s ceiling in all of New Earth, was a tower made out from sparkling blue stones.

    Kartius did not say anything about the tower. From the top of the flat mountain he simply created a mantle from his mist energy around Zax and jumped crushed at the other side of the flat peak mountain’s valley.

    “Use your Soul Sense!” Kartius told Zax and formed a fist above his head that contained his Core Master’s might.

    “BOOM!”

    The ground shook.

    “BOOM!”

    Rocks spread all over.

    “BOOM!”

    A clear path appeared beneath the ground.

    “Ah?!” Zax was stunned. He listened to his Master and used his Soul Sense but still could not detect the underground path.

    “Do not be surprised. This place is one of the secret wonders of New Earth and cannot be detected by Soul Sense. Now brace yourself!” Kartius said. His mantle around Zax intensified and in his full speed he dashed into the path.



    Within the mantle Zax was not affected by the extreme speed, but until Kartius stopped he could not perceive anything of the surrounding, at best he saw flashes of reddish colors.

    The mantle around Zax fades a second before he came to himself and the duo of Master and apprentice arrived to the inside a spacious cabin.

    The interior of the cabin was mediocre. A large beast fur carpet, a square box around a meter tall and wide and two gigantic clay jars that Zax himself could fit in several times. From the two jars, through their wooden sealing, a sweet herbal fragrance arose and filled the cabin.

    “Sit down”. Kartius instructed Zax and sat first on the carpet.

    “Yes, Master”. Zax joined obediently.

    “Good. First, let us have a proper introduction. My name is Kartius, a Black Stag beast formerly from the Black Horns tribe”. It was a short introduction, but it covered all that Kartius wished to share with his Martial son in this moment in time.

    “My name is Zax Zel, human. From El-Eden”. Zax copied his Master. However it seemed too short, so he thought more for a bit and then said on the verge of lowering his head. “I thank Master for saving my life when I ventured and was lost in the beasts’ territory!”

    “Do you remember or Martial niece Zetsa told you that I saved you?” Kartius asked.

    “I remember my experience in the beast’s territory, but not Master saving me. Big sis was the one who told me”.

    “I see…” Kartius nodded. “You should stop naming the place besides your ‘Kingdom Earth’, ‘the beasts’ territory. Our three hundred and seventeen caves also have a name. Here we call our territory ‘Valgarel’; it means ‘Beasts’”. The first thing Zax learned from his Master, the name of the place he will stay in for the next three years, at the very least. “Repeat it”.

    “Valgarel”.

    “From now on, if something has a name and you know it, use it instead of referring to it with something else. If you don’t know the name of a person or a place, seek the opportunity and ask for the name. Knowing the right names is the minimal commodity to preserve one’s life on the Martial path. Do you understand why?”

    Zax did not answer right away. He thought of what his Master said and then remembered a certain event couple of years back. He reminisced the day of the Young Mist Users Conference. Back then he was saved by Habul Majid. If he ever met the man again or get into a conflict with someone like those from the Martinez family, will it not be useful to have the reputable name that supported him once in the past at his disposal?

    “Yes, Master”.

    “Then I won’t dwell on the subject”. If Zax answered promptly, Kartius would have asked him to clarify his answer. Since he did not, Kartius preferred to study his Martial son by watching rather than probing him.

    “Zax, tell me about what happened to you in Valgarel, your experience from the moment that you encountered the Brown Digger”. Kartius frowned when he recalled the beasts, the vermin. The topic may also seem like he probed into his Martial son’s business in contrast to his decision, but it was a matter that was correlated to Zax’s condition and as his Martial father, it would be negligent for him to not inquire.

    Zax did not hide anything from his Master. He began reciting from the very start, the first moment of craziness in which he spent his Qi trying to penetrate a rock for imaginary Earth’s Cores. He finished with revealing its relations to his practice in Adraak Meditation.

    Kartius heard the story and receded to telling his part just about when Zax fainted near the Brown Digger.

    “For now forget the Black Core. You have my approval to continue meditating as you usually do. For now it should suffice as the only soul refining technique that you should practice. The day you’ll breakthrough with your soul to the level of Mist Master, we will reevaluate your soul and what it requires for further growth”. Thus, Kartius put aside his Martial son’s earlier experience in Valgarel and proceeded to prep him for his big brother’s test in three years.

    “Let me see now, how well is you basic knowledge. Tell me all you know about the three aspects of a living being in order of their importance to a living being. Start with the least important.”

    ‘The least important of the three aspects…’ Zax thought for a short while. “The least important should be the body”. He said confidently. “I think so, because of the three aspects, in normal cases, the body is the only one that can be harmed to the extent that even if half of it is lost, a person can still stay alive with the help of medical instruments. With regards to Qi or mist, they both flow in the body through Qi or mist channels. Although my case is too odd, there is still no better example than what happened to my Qi channels. They are clogged, still in perfect shape, but with just being clogged, if it wasn’t a special case, big sis told me that I should have died. So in my opinion, in terms of importance, Qi or mist is in the middle”.

    “The most important I say is the soul. To my knowledge, if the soul will get even a light damage the person still would die. I don’t believe that special cases exist with the soul. It is the aspect I cultivate every day for the past year. Big sis says that my soul is unique, that it can accomplish things beyond its level. Well, I say, knowing my soul better than anyone else, that if something were to happen to my soul I will die. And if what I read online has a hint of truth in it, than I won’t get to reincarnate either! Oh… Does Master know about Going Online?”

    “You mean seeking information using your Computers and Screens?”

    “So you do know, Master!” Zax was relieved. What good would be his reasoning if his Master could not understand the idioms he used?

    “Don’t look down on your Martial father, Zax. Beasts are not oblivious to human’s technology”. Kartius snorted.

    “Sorry, Master!” Zax sensed the contempt in his Master’s tone and hurried to apologize.

    “Don’t make assumptions over things you haven’t first studied to the best of your ability on your own. Only then it’s fine to be wrong once in a while. And with respect to your one year of training your unique soul, so what?! Your soul is nothing but premature and your understanding, even of your own soul, cannot compare to the knowledge that is outside of the boundaries of your comprehension. There are experts and super experts that cultivated their soul for hundreds of years and still admit to know nothing”. Kartius said calmly. “Now, are you satisfied with your order of the three aspects?” He got back to the main subject.

    Though it could have been a coincidence, or maybe just his Master’s plan, but after getting lectured by his Master, Zax was not as confident as before with his ordering. “I was, Master”, Zax first admitted. “Now, not so sure…” It was not a way to escape from a wrong answer, but how he honestly felt.

    “Then let me educate you. As your Martial father, even if we are two individuals, through our mutual bond of Master and apprentice, it is fine for you to accept my wisdom as if it was your own from the first place”. Kartius stated the truth that tied every Master and apprentice. It was an essential concept an apprentice had to be aware of in order to accept wholeheartedly his or her Master’s teachings.

    Constantly watching over his apprentice’s expression, Kartius looked for conflicting thoughts by reading Zax’s body language and fluctuations of his soul. He said what he believed every Master should say to his apprentice. Some staff he figured on his own, others his big brother taught him. Regardless from whom he gained his knowledge, Zax was his first apprentice and his demeanor as a Master has also just begun to form and reshape.

    “Of the three aspects, for sustaining the life of a living being, the Qi is the least important. To understand why, you should firstly learn the natural role of each aspect. The natural role of ‘Qi’ is to be the nurturing energy that feed the body. Qi can replenish itself in a few ways. The Two most commons are rest and nutrition, food and water. At a certain level it is also possible to replenish your Qi through cultivation. Whichever way you choose, the main contribution Qi has for the life of a living being is sustaining the body. To simplify it, the Qi is like the Sun Stone in Martial niece Zetsa’s vehicle”.

    “If the body relies on Qi, than isn’t Qi supposed to be more important?” Zax asked.

    “That may sound like it, and I will explain it, but aren’t you more curious of why you, with clogged Qi channels, can still move your body around?” Catching Zax’s reaction as he was about to change his question, Kartius pointed at his dantian and carried on with the answer. “It is because of the Black Core in your dantian. It somehow acts as a Qi substitute for the body, or at least that’s my hypothesis. We will know for certain after you’ll start training in the bodily refining technique”.

    “And if Master will change his mind?”

    “Then it means that there is a different explanation. However, if I’ll end up being right, it means that between you and the Black Core there is a mental link, as for how it can help you, saved that one for later... My hypothesis is also based on the fact that only you can observe the Black Core in your dantian and the change in coloring that it has done to your original Earth’s Core”.

    ‘So Master’s hypothesis depends on my sanity…’ Zax realized. “What’s the natural role of the body, Master?” He did not want to go into it with his Master so he diverted the conversation back to the lesson at hand.

    “The natural role of the ‘body’ is to be the vessel that runs on Qi and safeguards the soul!” Kartius emphasized. “Though it sounds simpler than the Qi, as a matter of fact, the second aspect, for lacking a distinctive energy the body turns out as far more complicated than the Qi and even the soul! That, and the genuine difficulty of forging the body, is why there are maybe three bodily refining techniques in all of New Earth!”

    “Besides containing the other two aspects, the body is also the thing which connects the two. Qi may flow through the whole body, but its core, even for those who don’t possess and Earth’s Core, is within the lower dantian. Soul, on the other hand, remains inside the brain. Each in a different place, each within the body, Zax. The body can be harmed, like you said, but I tell you that if the dominion of Qi, the dantian, is destroyed, a living being can still survive. The body may lose its entire accumulated Qi, but as long as the Qi channels are intact, there are unique ways to make use of them, to pass other energies through them to sustain the body. On the contrary, if a vital organ of the body is destroyed, then no matter what the state of the dantian or the Qi channels is, there will be no point to them”.

    Kartius’s finger moved from Zax’s dantian to several places in the body, which were the places where vital organs were. He stopped, pointing at Zax’s forehead. “And that is where the most important is at”. He tapped once on Zax’s forehead and drew back his hand. “Qi is the energy which runs everything, the body is the container which keeps everything together and safe and the soul, the natural role of the soul, is being the last pillar of defense that guards the essence of a living being, the core of the soul, the spirit”.

    “Zax, you know about the three aspects, but do you know about the ‘spirit’?”

    “Only that it is the core of the soul…” Zax answered sheepishly. Was it not what his Master just said? “But, Master, doesn’t the body have a core?”

    “That, you’ll come to discover in time, Zax. I know of the educational system of you, humans, if it weren’t for your condition, you would have probably only started to learn the natural roles of the three aspects. I, your Martial father, will not renounce my Martial son for not knowing what I did not teach him!” Kartius said decisively. “Ease your heart and pay attention. You claimed that a damaged soul is a death sentence, but that is not accurate. The soul’s natural role is to protect the spirit, but it does much more than that. The soul is also the chronicle of a living being’s persona. It maintains the memories, the feelings and growth that make you who you are. When the soul is damaged two things that make it seem as if a living being is about to die are actually happening. The first is a shock that passes through defenses of the soul and affects the spirit. The second, if the spirit survives the initial shock, depends of how high the soul’s level, it will begin to slowly recover”.

    Kartius halted his teaching. He saw his Martial son thinking of what he said and waited. If there will be a question, he will answer it. If not, he will resume. Zax seemed to keep up.

    “Here raises the question. If the soul’s structure is fundamentally the same, it doesn’t matter where it’s damaged, than how come it is more important than the body, which has life depending vitals? The answer is that the soul is the keeper and last defender of the spirit. Unlike the three aspects, the spirit is not considered an aspect of a living being, but its essence. The spirit is what allows us to be. It is behind our influence, something that we cannot hone like the three aspects. It is given to us by Nature. With it, even if a living being loses all three aspects it can still enters the realm of incarnation. Let it be harmed and you’ll cease to exist. It is said to be the core of the soul because if the soul is not damaged it will forever be bound to the spirit, even to the next life”.

    “Master, Qi channels if harmed-” Zax was about to say.

    “You will die; depends which one of the many is harmed. However, the Qi channels are not a separate aspect. Their connection to the energy which runs the body is not the same, but similar to the connection between the soul and the spirit. Think of it like the body’s veins”.

    “In any case, these are the natural roles, the crucial truths, of the three aspects. Naturally, there is still much that you can learn. You will fathom more and more as your cultivation progress. If you have more question, put them aside for the moment. Some things are better to comprehend on your own”.

  20. #60
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    Book 3 – Into The Wild

    Chapter 4 – Principal Of Pain, The Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement



    “Now that you know of the three aspects a little more, come here, Zax”. Kartius got up from the carpet and walked to one of the two large jars.

    Lifting the wooden sealing of one jar, the herbal fragrance in the cabin rose exponentially, so much that Zax took a step book and unconsciously covered his nose.

    “Do you recognize this smell?” Kartius asked.

    “It smells like a few of the plants that grow on the mountains that the Krikitory caretakers of the hot springs use”. Zax replied.

    “In addition to one exceptional plant, the liquid inside this jar and the one next to it is the refined extract of the most potent medicinal plants that grow beside the mountains’ hot springs”.

    From inside the jar Kartius retrieved a wooden watering cup by its long handle. “Remove your clothes Zax. To practice the bodily refining technique your whole body has to be rinse by this liquid”.

    As the liquid spilled over Zax’s head and slid on his face a refreshing burning sensation aroused his skin and opened up the pores.

    “Lower your hands to the sides and take a deep breath with your nose”. Kartius said as he rinsed him again.

    Breathing the fumes that came out of the liquid, Zax felt the refreshing burning sensation spreading inside of his body like a ball of fire that he swallowed. Instantly, before the burning could cause adverse effects, the refreshing trait of the liquid cleansed his airway and filled his organs with virtue.

    No matter how much air Zax took in this one breath, his lunges kept expanding and his chest kept rising.

    “Now slowly release and repeat. Don’t try to reach the limit of your lunges, you may not feel it but they are already stretched beyond their limit”. Kartius guided and rinsed him a third time. “Let your muscles loose. Use your body’s senses to trail after the liquid, not your Soul Sense”.

    The fourth cup was the last cup. Zax whole body, inwardly and outwardly, was bathed by the herbal liquid.

    “That will take some time, however make sure to not move until I finish!” Kartius said sharply. His hands began to glow in his azure aura and in a manner, which seemed slow due to the after images, but actually was too fast, at least for Zax to behold properly, his hands formed strings out of his mist energy and knitted them into and egg like shape that surrounded Zax.

    Zax watched as the enclosure his Master created become more and more opaque. Over an hour passed and Kartius was not finished, but Zax could already see nothing but the smooth azure membrane that surrounding him. As the procedure went on, the membrane compressed and shrunk from initially being a head taller and wider than Zax’s person to two to five centimeters from touching him.

    Zax did not have fear from closed places, but being inside an impenetrable membrane for over three hours did take its tool. Fortunately, since he could not do anything else, it was suitable opportunity for him to train his soul. Two surprising things that Zax discovered before he started meditating were… even though the membrane was made by mist energy, he could not expend his Soul Sense beyond it and if he tried he got a strong feeling of being pressed by the membrane. Also, inside his consciousness was the herbal fragrance. It did not help him to break through the next level, but it did make it more comfortable to study the piece of spiritual knowledge from his subliminal mind.

    As it so happened, the hours that passed were parallel to the number of cups his Master rinsed him with.

    The membrane in its last phases of completion was the same as a second layer of skin. From being oppressive to being light to gradually merge with Zax’s body were the last three phases. Kartius finished and Zax could no longer see the azure membrane.

    “What I embedded into your body is the nucleus of the bodily refining technique that my big brother developed, a formation that is called ‘Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement’”. Kartius introduced the name of the technique with great pride. “In knitting this membrane you should know that there is no one better than I, your Martial father. But as far as supporting you through the cultivation process… Know that from here on there is very little that anyone can do”. He picked up Zax clothes and gave them to him. “Get dress, the membrane absorbed the liquid. Your body is perfectly clean”.

    Zax stopped meditating during the last phase of the membrane creating process. By then he also noticed that the membrane was doing something to the liquid, but according to how he saw it, it was more accurate to say that the membrane was feeding on the herbal liquid.

    “Master, before you completed the membrane I could sense its fragrance in my consciousness and my body also felt refreshed, like after bathing in the hot springs, but now I don’t feel anything of the liquid. Is it because of the membrane?” Zax was disappointed. He thought that if he could maintain the presence of the sweet fragrance in his consciousness he could improve the speed of his soul cultivation.

    “Instead of the customary pillars and channels that a formation needs to be executed, the Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement formation only need doses of the herbal liquid to function. This peculiarity corresponds to its class of difficulty, class S”. Kartius explained. “In the future, the further you will progress in cultivating your body, the more you will have to soak your body with the herbal liquid. For now, the amount of herbal liquid the membrane absorbed should be enough for you to reach level E with your body”.

    Hesitating a bit, Zax still forced himself to ask. “Will it take long for me to reach E level Mist User with my body?” He remembered Zushi saying couple of months ago that Anet has already became an E level Mist User and he and Dane were not far behind. Regardless of their current relationship, Zax did not want to lag behind the rest of their former Earth’s Core searching group.

    Reading his Master’s stag expression, Zax could only assume that what appeared on his Master’s face was a sort of a beastly grin. “Outside we’ll discuss it. You still have a lot more that you need to learn about the Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement and bodily cultivation in general. I’ll tell you over your first session of training. Let’s first step outside of the cabin”. Kartius said and headed to the cabin’s door.

    As the door opened and Zax’s head popped outside after his Master, a familiar sight made him gasp. The cabin and its terrace were engulfed by a somewhat transparent layer of brilliant coating. Outside of the layer of coating was what shocked Zax. The cabin was surrounded by a smoky mist. From each direction Zax looked, the smoky mist sprouted from the ground like in the cave he entered to with the Brown Digger and found the Black Core. The only differences to the previous cave were in the density of the smoky mist and its color. It was doable to look as far as twenty meters into the cave from the safe spot on the cabin’s terrace and the color of the smoky mist was earth brown instead of lava like orange.

    “Could… Could… it be that we are back in that cave…?” Zax stuttered. That accursed cave was the place where he lost his future as a Mist User. It was the last place in New Earth that Zax wished to be in.

    “No”. Kartius answered. “But make a wrong step from here on and it could be just as worse!” He warned and placed his hand on Zax’s shoulder, holding him firmly. “The cabin is protected by a formation that I set. What’s around you is the place you will be training in till three years from now… Zax”, Kartius’s tone made his apprentice to avert his gaze toward him. “Use your Soul Sense to sense your body”.

    Zax nodded and did as his Master instructed. With the additional perception of his Soul Sense Zax noticed something foreign attach to him like an invisible net. He did not bother to close his eyes to better concentrate on his Soul Sense’s finds, he did not need to. As a result, right as he probed deeper to figure out what the net actually was, although he already had an idea, Zax saw an azure glow originating from beneath his shirt and as he lifted it up there were on his abdomen seven azure glowing gates that started from his lower dantian and piled up to his clavicle.

    Before he could ask his Master what were the seven gates, Zax discovered that the seven gates appeared not just on his body, but more vividly and majestically underneath his soul. As if his soul was the jewel crown above the uppermost gate!

    “These seven gates represent the seven levels of the body. We, beast, number the levels the same way humans do. The lowest and first signifies level F and the highest and seventh signifies level S”. Kartius gave voice to his apprentice speculations. He stomped outside of the protective formation, into the brown smoky mist. “I won’t lie to you, Zax, in the current level of your body stepping beyond the protective formation is akin to entering a furnace and escaping the pain became impossible the moment the seven gates appeared in your consciousness”.

    “That is, however, the main principal of the Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement, the principal of Pain. To be forged with as little impurities as possible pain is part and parcel. That is also what makes this technique the number one bodily refinement technique in all of New Earth. As for how exactly it works, you will be entitled to know only if you step outside and endure”.

    ‘All I have to do is endure pain and then my body will become the same as that of a Mist User?’ Zax swallowed a too familiar massive bulge of self scorn and contempt, which weighed on him for far too long, and occasionally surged from his stomach to be stuck in his throat. ‘Endure?’

    In the past year he brought himself to believe that his life was meaningless if he could not achieve his goals, childish as they may be. His choice of training his soul before becoming a Mist User, which made him strong, and his choice of following the weird sensation to find the Black Core, which made him pitifully weak, were they not entwined with pain?

    ‘I will embrace it, Master!’ His words were kept to himself, but his state of mind also centered on complying with the recognition that he received from the one who kept referring to himself his Martial father!

    Zax crossed the protective formation. Right away the inner and outer seven gates glow intensified ten folds. The pain was indescribably excruciating, robbing Zax of any sense of realism as he tumbled to the ground.

    “Ah?” Zax faintly called.

    The pain stopped.

    Black luster gleamed in Zax’s dumbfounded eyes as black long spikes pierced from inside his body, not leaving one millimeter of visible piece of skin.

    “Zax!” Kartius sprang for his Martial son’s aid. ‘These spikes!’ Kartius matched them with the ones from Zax’s story. Still, not caring for what they were, or maybe not having the time to care, an azure aura covered his right hand as he launched it to shatter the spikes. He could not afford second guessing himself; it was an unexpected development in a very sensitive time that could cost his Martial son’s life!

    “Master!” In contrast to the first appearance of the black spikes, Zax was absolutely fine. Though the spikes also came out from his eyes, he could still see everything as if he watched the surrounding through Sun Stone glasses. Kartius, conversely, was on the opposite side of the spectrum of being fine.

    Kartius’s right hand, with all of his Core Master might, was pierced by the black spikes as if it was an illusion. Kartius, whom felt nothing from the spikes within contact and even with his Soul Sense or mist, stared in disbelief at his hand. Heavens knows how tough it was. To be pierced like that… All he could do was slip his hand carefully from the spikes and step back as his Martial son stood up like the miserable Pincupine of the giant rodents’ family on two.

    “Master, I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to!” Zax took what happened as his own fault. He fall backwards in shame as the black spikes faded and his appearance returned to normal, though unaffected by the scorching heat of the brown smoky mist.

    “Be calm, Zax”. Kartius roared. His Martial son was near diminishing himself again by breaking his back. “My hand is fine, look”. He presented his right hand. It bled, the palm had two holes and one finger was almost torn off, but at the same time his hand was slowly healing. “More importantly, remember what I told you!  If you still haven’t figured it, think of your worthiness for being my Martial son!”

    Facing his Master’s rebuke Zax was speechless. He straightened up and toughened the look in his eyes. “Master… I don’t understand what happened, I didn’t do anything. The Black Core… it sent a pulse throughout my body and then the pain stopped and the spikes came out”. He solemnly explained.

    Azure mist swirled around Kartius hand. He used his mist energy to hasten the healing of his hand. “Black Core… too bizarre… too bizarre…” Kartius murmured. “But it is also a proof, Zax, what the Black Core did prove my hypothesis that between you and the Black Core there must be a mental link!”

    “But what now, Master?” Zax asked anxiously. “I’m outside of the protective formation and don’t feel pain at all… The bodily refining technique…” He gritted his teeth and held himself from plummeting into depression because of the scourge in his dantian. “It’s not working!”

    “Hush, Zax”. Kartius mused. In the disarray that occurred, the seven gates sank inside Zax’s body. “Call up the seven gates again”.

    The seven gates reappeared in turn on Zax’s abdomen. As they did, something shocking revealed itself.

    “The first gate…” Kartius said and got closer to Zax. “No. Don’t move back. The Black Core did what it coveted, look”.

    Looking below his navel, the first of the seven gates was glowing in black radiance. Furthermore, it seemed swollen compare to before and steadily keep growing in size.

    “Is that good, Master?” Zax wondered. The expression on his Master’s face was difficult to deduce. Their bond was a meager couple of weeks old and while on the mountains his Master kept a noticeable distance.

    “Good?” Kartius responded. “It’s blasphemy! How could it be so wicked? This terrifying Black Core… Forget about nearly cutting my hand off, it crushed and reconstructed the Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement that my big brother shed blood and tears for tens of years to develop, and made Heavens Looking Down On Earth changes!”

    “Then… the Black Core did a good thing?”

    Kartius sighed. “It’s still cultivating… Might as well tell you what I promised, Zax”. He referred to the profound method of the Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement. “You may sit or stand. Your body undergoing immense changes, until it will finish, I’ll tell you what to expect”.

    As his Master chose to remain on his hoofs, so did Zax preferred to stand.

    “The Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement follows three principals ‘Pain’, ‘Destruction’ and ‘Rehabilitation’. Pain is the main principal. Every living being that can endure pain has a certain threshold. Imagine a line that to the left of it written ‘can endure’ and on the right of it written ‘can’t endure’”. Kartius used his completely healed right hand to neatly sketch on the ground and even write in a human language. “’Can endure’ comprises all that you can endure, safely till your breaking point. ‘Can’t endure’ comprises only one thing, destruction”.

    Kartius did not seem eager to relay to Zax the full detailed explanation now that the most essential principal of his big brother technique was shamelessly dumped. ‘Perhaps, as his Martial father I should count it as a blessing’. He reasoned with himself.

    “The better the technique for refining the body, the more tormenting it is. However Inflicting pain senselessly in hopes for becoming stronger will result in nothing but self destruction. Practitioners must judge accordingly their limits when training, even more so when cultivating the body, since it differs from the other two aspects - its senses are dull. The principle of Pain pushes the practitioner to the brink of madness, to as far as to stand on the line with face forward the right side, not because it’s what cultivate the body, but for the indisputable fact that even the toughest steel have to endure the heat of the fire and the strikes of the hummer to remove its impurities and be forge into the greatest weapon!”

    “Soul, Qi and mist, the foundation of every refining technique of one and the other is to circulate the aspects unique energies in a certain manner. The body cannot be forged that way. Since it doesn’t have unique energy, the circulation is more perceptible. The body, like steel, has to be broken to lose its impurities. That is the principal of Destruction. The longest you cultivate a bodily refining technique, in particular the Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement, the higher level of Pain you will have to endure. But, if you’ll recognize your threshold and know when to halt, Destruction won’t come to be at the cost of your life”.

    “Master, how the ‘Rehabilitation’ principal works? Right now I don’t feel influenced by the principal of Pain, but I still dimly detect with my Soul Sense that my body is breaking and rebuilding itself, does that mean that I don’t have to endure?”

    “Oh… finding out that you are not utterly cursed by the Black Core can really invigorate you”. Kartius felt like teasing. It has been a long time since he was a child and he usually spent time with his big brother or on his own, so he naturally forgotten how abruptly children can swing their moods. “Before I’ll proceed to Rehabilitation, you should know that Pain is not nuisance. Not for naught it’s the main principal, without it someone who trains in bodily refining technique cannot assert his limits and by practicing the Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement your thresholds expends significant, hence initiating higher level of cultivation. Then again, with the changes the black spikes made…”

    Kartius sighed again. ‘Oh, big brother hard work…!’

    “For now you should not be wary of the consequences of Destruction”.

    “The principal of Rehabilitation is the rebuilding that you said that you feel. Far from being a simple healing process, it is the most complicated part in the creation of the Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement formation. When the formation is done correctly it absorbs the herbal liquid so when Destruction comes to pass, Rehabilitation will instantly and meticulously reform the body stronger, purer than before. When the body starts to deconstruct faster than it reforms, it typically spells failure which interprets to permanent disability or death. For you, however, it only means that you should soak in the refined extract of the medicinal plants. As for the swollen lowest gate…”

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