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Thread: Earth's Core

  1. #61
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    Book 3 – Into The Wild

    Chapter 5 – A Year And A Half



    “Each gate you break through marks your body fitness level. The swelling of the lowest gate indicates that your body is currently tackling the first level of bodily fitness, level F”.

    “Level F?” Zax understood by the description of the level of each gate that he is heading toward the first level of a Mist User, but… “Master, how come it’s like this if I never trained my body to surpass level G and H like with my soul and Qi?”

    “It’s another difference that is due to the body’s lack of unique energy and requires an extensive explanation before you could comprehend the meaning of the answer to your question”.

    Kartius did not plan to drop all this information on his Martial son in one day. Cultivating in the Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement can push a practitioner to insanity. It is impossible to keep a clear head. And yet, Kartius did not expect the Black Core’s miraculously effect. Because of it, as long as his Martial son showed eagerness to learn, there was no reason to hold back and with Zax’s unique soul, sustaining an attentiveness state of mind was extremely simple.

    “The body, unlike the other aspects, at least after reaching level S, doesn’t require the practitioner to attain an insight for a breakthrough. And if you’ll know what body fitness level signifies for Mist Users you will also understand why”. Kartius scattered his drawing of the interpretation of Pain and sketched the seven gates with their corresponding levels.

    “Earth’s Cores have an outstanding innate ability that you already should know of, that is, when forming the first crack on an Earth’s Core, the mist energy advances all three aspects to level F”.

    Zax nodded in a sign that he did know it.

    “Afterwards, while cultivating mist and advancing as a Mist User, the mist energy continues to temper with the soul and the body, but less substantially than when forming the first crack. At this point, Mist Users must reach a compromise. Cultivating the body is too difficult and cultivating the soul is imperative if one wants to cultivate the other two aspects. A weak soul cannot assert itself in a stronger body or maintain control over a greater amount of Qi or mist. To cultivate without drawbacks, there are many techniques that temper with the soul when cultivating mist. But the requirements of such techniques are awfully high. A technique that tempers all three aspects is unheard off! Therefore, the preferable solution of Mist Users is to cultivate the soul and the mist respectively, whilst letting the mist to temper the body at each breakthrough. As a result, the body fitness level of a Mist User remains at level F until a Mist User breakthrough level B. From level B, the body fitness level remains three levels below the mist level”.

    “Oh… Master’s mist is in level S, Core Master, right? Then that means that your body is also in level C?” Zax asked. “What it means for my cultivation of the body, Master?”

    “What, Zax? You think that I’ll train you in a cultivation technique that I, you Martial father, don’t practice? You were right in guessing my mist level, but as for my body fitness level… I’ll tell you when you reach it”. Kartius taunted. “The point of bodily refinement techniques is to transcend from the norm. When I embedded the formation in your body you instantly broke through level G. When the first gate will dissipate, your body fitness level will reach level F. And as for how a bodily refiner practitioner contends against a Mist User…”

    ‘Master is grinning’. Zax finally caught to one of his Master’s stag expressions.

    “A practitioner of any bodily refining technique, other than the Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement, can contend again any Mist User that is exactly a level higher than him. Those who practice and cultivate in the Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement can contend against Mist Users more than a level higher… Your goal in the next three years is to reach level C with your body fitness level. A practitioner of the Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement in the Beginner phase of level C can contend against an Advanced phase Mist Master to a settlement. You, if the Black Core is truly on your side, in the Beginner phase of level C you will be able to contend against a Beginner phase Mist Lord!”

    Kartius paused and stared Zax in the eyes. “Should I say more?”

    ‘Fighting a Mist Lord as a C level Mist User… No! As a bodily refiner practitioner!’ Zax clenched his shirt in his fist, right where his dantian was, where the Black Core resided. “Thank you, Master, for educating me!” How to describe the feeling in his heart, his sudden affection for his Master and Martial father compared to the misery that he knew for the past year? Fortunately, he learned the phrase from his Master, as Heavens Looking Down On Earth!


    April eleventh, year 5788.

    A year and a half passed since Zax became Kartius’s apprentice and Martial son. During this year and a half, the now thirteen years old Zax and his unparalleled Master have come to understand a little better the will of the Black Core and the entity that left it for Zax to find.

    After the first session of cultivating the Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement, Kartius was stunned that the amount of the refined extract of the medicinal plants that he rinsed Zax with and should have been enough for him till breaking through the second gate, was completely consumed. Granted, by not having to worry about Pain and utter Destruction, Zax could practice for as long as the accumulated herbal liquid that the membrane absorbed was not spent, but to finish it in one day without a sign of a breakthrough…

    The dispirited Kartius thought back to his big brother and poured the quadruple amount of the precious refined extract of the medicinal plants on Zax, an amount that typically should suffice from reaching from the Beginner phase of level E to the top phase of level D.

    When a week of solely meditating elapsed – since to cultivate his body Zax only had to sit outside of the cabin’s protective formation, his Master instructed him to meditate until his soul will break through level D – Zax finally broke through the first gate and his body fitness level reached level F. At the same time, Zax felt another pulse passing throughout his body and black spikes pierced every millimeter of his body. When the black spikes faded, the second gate that represented level E was glowing in black radiance.

    Seven months of training in just the very same manner, Zax’s body was already at the Advanced phase of level E, the third gate was glowing in black radiance, Kartius had one less jar of herbal liquid in his cabin – waiting for another to be prepared by the Krikitory caretakers of the hot springs – and the piece of spiritual knowledge, fragment of the entity, that Zax studied had also became fully appreciated.

    With respect to the petite remnant of the colossal entity, even when fully appreciated and clear, the piece did not transmit a lot. Upon perfecting his study of it, Zax grasped the complex framework of the patterns that the moving black hues had made. It enabled him a one piece peek at the external appearance of the entity, which was nothing that made sense.

    Following Zax’s achievement in Adraak Meditation, a bundle of new pieces emerged from his subliminal mind, all obscure and unfathomable like the first piece was in the beginning, but by making this one step forward, the white barrier, the bottleneck to level C, was effortlessly dispersed.

    Seven months into his training Zax bellowed triumphantly to the cave’s ceiling he knew as skies!

    The day his Martial son completed his task of reaching level C with his soul, Kartius just watched Zax in astonishment, remembering the boy he carried with his own hands and brought back to his Martial niece. A boy without future on the Martial path, whose sole achievement was breaking through level F with his soul on his own.

    The reimbursements of the diligent training were beyond common sense. In terms of quality, Zax’s soul at the Beginner phase of level C was equal to the Advanced phase of the same level of any other Mist User. With his Soul Sense, Zax accomplished unprecedented feats than anyone of the same level. One thousand and two hundred meters was the new limit of his Soul Sense, two hundred meters farther than any Beginner phase Core Master!

    That day Kartius praised his Martial son and was truly joyful with his decision to make him his apprentice. The day after, Zax’s new training regime started.

    As his body cultivated according to the changes of the Black Core, Zax was taught by his Master six sequences of bodily maneuvers, each comprising a hundred and eight or nine moves, in total six hundred and fifty bodily maneuvers. Slow gestures, fast strikes, turning from a certain position, jumping and standing awkwardly. The sequences were odd, no Martial technique or attack or defense forms. They were more like a dance with consecutive rhythm, regardless of how impracticable it seemed to get from one position to the next.

    Kartius did not give Zax time to meditate for soul cultivation. A day after his soul reached level C, Zax was told to familiarize himself with the new prowess of his soul and then was ordered to exercise only the bodily maneuvers for days, sometimes for weeks at a time.

    Five months since Zax began training the six sequences he could finally remember the precise implementation of each move. Thus, his proficiency in executing them had made it to the Beginner phase, as said by his Master.

    At the same time, Zax was Twelve months into his training in the Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement and the fourth gate was glowing in black radiance. He no longer practiced in a safe distance from the protective formation and the accommodating cabin of his Master, but deeper inside the desolated cave, surrounded by white smoky mist.

    At the time of training for twelve months, Zax learned from his Master their whereabouts in Valgarel and the origin of the smoky mist occupying it.

    “We are in a relatively small cave that’s connected to big brother’s cave. No one can get to us without crossing big brother’s cave, and big brother’s apprentices know not to bother us, either”. Kartius started with the simple stuff.

    “Caves such as this are small in number, handful all over New Earth and considered part of the secret wonders of our world. This cave, and others like it, is called ‘Essence Cave’. What’s particular about them and liable for their name is the smoky mist which dominates their environment. It is the essence of numerous deposits of Earth’s Cores, Sun Stones and other minerals that penetrate the shells of the stones, mix the essences and cause their energies to burst from the ground in the form of acidic smoke and mist. The acid level in the smoke and its density corresponds with its color. Light to dark brown smoke possesses the lowest degree of acid, white to gray smoke has a medium accumulation of acid and yellow to red-orange has the highest. The area where the cabin is has a low density of the brown smoke. The entrances of Essence Caves, on the other hand, always seem to have a high density of red-orange smoke, which bring about its walls and tunnel to collapse and seal them. That’s what makes this cave so hard to find”.

    From the clarification of the smoky mist, Zax understood that his body fitness level was the variable that dictated within which area and type of smoky mist his training will be carried out.

    Zax was told by his Master that the effect of the Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement formation is the reason he can stay idly outside of the protective formation, and because of the Black Core he do not need to worry about Pain or Destruction due to excessive training. The Black Core made it so that Rehabilitation will halt his cultivation and the adversities of Destruction when the herbal liquid is spent. So Zax wondered, “Master, won’t it be more affective if I’ll cultivate where the red-orange smoky mist is? Won’t it be faster?”

    “Not unless you want to die”. Kartius laughed, not over the question, but because he anticipated it to arise eventually. “Even if you are not hindered by Pain and Destruction, your adaptability is limited by your fitness level. That, even the Black Core cannot change, or at least it did not do anything about”. He was unambiguous in his words. “Continue training, your transitions are still clumsy… If I could, I would have shown you how to keep a smooth rhythm, but modifying the sequences to be suitable for a growing human’s muscles was arduous for your Martial father in itself”.

    A year and a half, half the time before Kartius’s and Zax’s return, went by in a blink of an eye. Since breaking through level E, Zax had to be rinsed by fifty to sixty liters of herbal liquid a day to sustain the Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement formation embedded in his body. To keep up with the demand for the refined extract of the medicinal plants, Kartius asked for the help of the entire mountain village. The hard working Krikitories readily complied with the request, however they had only so much of the gigantic clay jars. To maintain a constant flow of the herbal liquid, the Krikitories filled tens of five and six liters jars for Kartius to pick up once a week. As a result, Kartius’s cabin looked like the gathering place of a private pottery class.

    Exercising the sequences of six hundred and fifty bodily maneuvers, Zax barely paid attention to the passage of time. He did not have his wristwatch; the cabin did not have electronic devices or even a calendar and the smoky mist of the Essence Cave would have ruined the materials that made the Nightly Cover formation – if anyone had bothered to install it. A year and a half had passed and Zax was not even aware that he already was a year into his teenage years, a thirteen years old young man.

    The density of the smoky gray mist was fairly high. Zax’s incessant maneuvers scattered the smoky mist for fraction of a second before it condensed again. “Ah!” Some steps and gestures were trickier than the rest and Zax, with his body fitness at the top phase of level D, was forced to breathe out violently.

    “Ah!”

    “Foo!”

    “Hu!”

    Half a year ago he huffed and puffed like a battered old man after persisting to perform tenth of the bodily maneuvers. Four months ago he reached this state after the three hundredth move of the fourth sequence. A month ago he completed all six hundred and fifty bodily maneuvers before tottering on his feet. As Zax improved his proficiency everyday by practicing nonstop, within a sheer six months, only very few moves made him pant.

    “Ah?! I’m flying!”

    The last leg swipe sent him to the air, as it supposed to, and Zax felt his body rising and rising without the setback of gravity or the heaviness which was the product of his standard physical fatigue.

    Falling back on his feet, Zax ceased the sequence and stood in his place. “A hint! Definitely, a hint for the next level”. Being used by now to bodily breakthroughs, Zax was sure of his assumption. He closed his eyes and reviewed the last sequence assiduously.

    “Could it be…?” Zax got a sort of an idea and was anxious to try it. He immediately opened his eyes and resumed the sequence from its first move. First he wanted to repeat the moves the same way he usually performs them. Getting to the leg swipe and rising up from the ground, the sensation of flying was absent.

    “As expected”. Zax said indifferently. It was the execution of his idea which he entrusted his expatiations in. He picked up again from the beginning of the sequence, only the second time was an exact imitation of the sequence before last.

    “Ah!”

    “Foo!”

    “Hu!”

    Even his breaths had the same rhythm. Zax launched into the air and…

    “Damn!” He fell down angry. “Again!”

    Funny enough, the loud panting of the past six months were the cause for Zax’s habit of speaking to himself when excited or frustrated.

    Turning, bending, leg swiping, rising up and falling down were the core moves in the said sequence. After seventeen failures Zax was fed up.

    “I’m doing something wrong. I really thought that if my breathing will be the same as it was when it felt like I was flying, then I’ll gain insight into the objective of the maneuvers that Master taught me”. In his mind, when he checked and rechecked what could be different, only the rhythm of his breaths stood out.

    “Ah! Foo! Hu! Ah! Foo! Hu...” Zax sat and reiterated the rhythm of the breaths for hours. “Ah! Foo! Hu! Ah! Ah…!” An impatient slip broke the rhythm and Zax felt something in his head going “BANG!” as if hit by a boulder.

    “Stupid! How could I not see it! Oh… if Master saw me struggling over something so simple, he would think that the Black Core wasted its modifications on the Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement formation for a buffoon!” Zax said with a crooked smile and without further ado he began the six sequences from the start.

    “Ah!”

    “Foo!”

    “Hu!”

    ‘Leg swipe!’ Zax exclaimed in his mind.

    Several meters above the ground, Zax felt himself carried by an air current that gushed from inside his body. His body did not actually rise higher, but attained a rich sense of freedom which made it feel like it defied gravity.

    Landing, Zax was enthusiastic.

    “I can’t just start from the middle; the breaths also have a sequence. By starting from the fourth sequence, I foolishly separated the links and broken the chain!” Zax’s body was vibrating with emotion.

    “Congratulations! Oh congratulations, little Zax! In only a year and a half… I’m so proud of you, little Zax!”

    A voice that did not seem to come from any direction resonated in Zax’s mind. Zax was startled, but as the voice continued praising him gleefully it sounded so lovely, like that of his big sister when she was happy with him, yet more mature and with boundless affection.

  2. #62
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    Book 3 – Into The Wild

    Chapter 6 – Savage Caves



    Kartius sat inside a fifty meters deep gorge, shrouded in lava like smoky mist. In his hands he was clasping a black sphere, a Black Core, and on his chest, up where his clavicle was, a lone azure gate was glowing.

    “Hmm…” Kartius circulated his breath. It helped to bare the pain a little longer, and when it did not, it was good to have the indissoluble Black Core in his hands, to alleviate some of the stress…

    ‘Absolved from Pain and Destruction… Zax, my Martial son…’ For a year and a half now, whenever Kartius was by himself, in another session of training, he pondered about Zax and the inconceivable heaven given gift in his dantian and directed each thought to the Black Core in his possession.

    ‘At the beginning, big brother was interested in the Black Core no less than I am. But because of his condition he had to let it go, it was useless for him. So I entered a closed doors training to take you for my own’.

    His hands clenched the Black Core without conserving strength. His soul could not support him, to lessen the Pain – it was part of the burden of the Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement formation in his body. But matters that weighed on his mind made it possible to avert his attention.

    ‘Coming out with no results, I convinced big brother to let Martial niece Zetsa bring her little brother to his cave. Who would have thought that afterwards I’ll boldly take him as my first apprentice…? There was no other way for me to investigate the effects of a Black Core on a body that received it... But it turned out that apart from Zax, no one can detect the Black Core or what he proclaims it had done to the Earth’s Core in his dantian. If I was not present there myself and saw the same shape and size cavities on the flat mountain wall and sensed the radiance reforming his Qi and Qi channels, how could I believe it myself?’

    Kartius got up and fought back the instinct to call forth a layer of defensive mantel. The mist energy of a Core Master will do little to nothing against this level of smoky mist anyway. Instead, Kartius started to exercise sequences of bodily maneuvers.

    If Zax were to see his Master right now, his mouth would have hung opened.

    Kartius’s bodily might was on a rampage. Attacking was not his intention, but where he passed rocks and earth split apart and then shattered to smithereens and the gorge, in no time, gained the appearance of a battlefield.

    ‘And today”, Kartius kept reflecting, ‘after a year and a half, before I was able to conceive substantial finds that will help me attain the energy of the Black Core, I actually see and care for him as a son…’

    As a Martial cultivator, Kartius reached a fork on his path.

    It took him hundreds of years to reach his current place, and during this period of time, in terms of cultivation, he only had himself to worry about. That was one side of the path, the selfish and egoistic, lonesome path that will benefit more the cultivation of a practitioner of the Martial path.

    The other side was nearly identical. The difference was that if a practitioner were to choose it, sacrifices will have to be made on his or her expanse, to support the growth of someone else, a new generation.

    Kartius was swaying, for a certain amount of time favoring one side over the other and then swaying back to the inception of the fork.


    “You broke through the fourth gate!” The voice declared jubilantly in Zax’s head. “Magnificent! You are magnificent, little Zax!”

    “The Core Breaker gate!” Zax entered his sea of consciousness. The fourth gate was in the midst of fading. Black spikes sprout from Zax’s body. The fifth gate’s azure radiance transformed to black. “Hahaha! I made it! In just a year and a half… I’m a Core Breaker, I’m a Core Breaker!” Zax shouted and expressed his joy by showing off his new bodily capabilities.

    “What ridiculous things are you spouting? There is no Core Breaker that can match you. Have you forgotten what your Master said? Even Mist Users in Beginner phase of the Mist Lord level cannot bully you now!” The voice proclaimed as if it was it that achieved the breakthrough.

    “Ah, who is it?” Zax took notice of the odd voice and spread his Soul Sense around, but could not discover anyone in its radius.

    “Don’t bother, little Zax, you won’t be able to find me”. The voice said in amusement. “You are cute, but I don’t think that we are ready to meet”.

    Someone that could converse with him without being found… Zax thought of the possibilities of whom it could be, knowing that whoever it was, the feminine voice signified that it was a woman and definitely a senior on the Martial path.

    “Senior, are you by any chance big sis Zetsa’s elder Martial sister?” Zax asked. Out of his big sister Martial brothers and sister, Zax had yet to meet two of Zetsa’s elder Martial apprentices. One of which, Zax remembered, was a sister and he suspected that the voice belonged to her.

    “Little Zetsa is also cute”, the voice replied. “But to me she is more than a little sister”.

    “Senior-”

    “Stop calling me ‘Senior’. Would you call the man that hurt you a senior just because he is older and stronger?”

    “The man who hurt me?” Zax was confused. “Who are you referring to?” It sounded like the feminine voice had someone specific in mind, but who was behind the voice that knew stuff about him? “…and how should I call you?”

    “Of course, the man of the Martinez family that assaulted you in the Young Mist Users Conference. Who else?”

    “You know of what happened in the Young Mist Users Conference?!” Zax called out in surprised and his face frowned. “Are you a figment of my imagination?“

    “That’s rude!” The feminine voice was offended. “I know what I know because Zetsa told me. Your sanity is in place and I’m most definitely real!” The feminine voice affirmed and went silent. “If I tell you my name, can you promise not to tell anyone that we talked?”

    “Can we meet?” If it was the voice of lunacy it could say anything. While conversing, Zax also delved into his sea of consciousness, to check for quirky fluctuations. His sea of consciousness was serene.

    “Little Zax, as much as I would like to meet you, he would not allow it. In his eyes you are still not qualified and even if you were, you’ll have to rely on your own prowess to come meet me. As you are now, your level of cultivation is low”.

    ‘Mmm… why do I get the sense that big sis’s Master is that one that doesn’t see me qualified?’ Zax was not stupid. He maybe not knew who the voice was, but he did know in whose territory he was in and whose approval his Master train him to receive.

    “I won’t tell anyone that we talked”. There was nothing else, so Zax agreed.

    “I’m glad, little Zax, that you trust me. I also trust your judgment. My name, little Zax, is Laivien… I reside in this Essence Cave for a very long time”. The feminine voice, Laivien, sounded melancholy, however her tone became lively as she went on saying. “For the past year and a half I’ve watched you train diligently, advance faster than anyone before you, and celebrates each breakthrough with great exhilaration. It made me joyous…”

    Laivien’s sincere confession somehow made Zax’s heart quiver. The sound of her voice transmitted gratitude and dependence. It was weird to have someone he did not know be so affectionate toward him.

    In Zax’s mind appeared his mother, as if she was saying those things to him. Her eyes were tearing, but on her lips was a smile.

    “Laivien, if you watched for the year and a half, why only now you speak to me?”

    “Little Zax, there are many things you don’t know, were not told, about Valgarel. It’s not my place to tell you of them, but your Master’s. I chose to speak to you today because, otherwise than your Master, I think that you are ready for the Savage Caves”.

    “’The Savage Caves’, what are those?”

    “In New Earth the Essence Caves are considered secret wonders for being hard to find, for being the idle place to practice bodily refining technique and for having an immense source of energy, though only humans manage to harvest it. When Essence Caves are good for bodily refinement, the Savage Caves are good for soul refinement”.

    “So there is another type of caves!” Zax understood. “But, Laivien, if you not just watched but heard me and Master talk, Master said that I can keep training my soul by exercising in Adraak Meditation until I’ll breakthrough to the next level with my soul”.

    “I’m aware of your Master’s decision. However, I say that he is wrong. If you wait for your soul to breakthrough, because of your Master’s uncertainties you will shamelessly waste an unprecedented opportunity!”

    “How dare you to belittle my Master!” Zax got angry.

    How could he not? What was his Master for him in the past year and a half? A Master of the Martial path during his training sessions and the rest of the time… who could say that he also was not like a parent?

    “Martial father”

    “Martial father”

    “Martial father”

    That was all Kartius used in order to refer to himself in the content of his relationship with Zax. After a year and a half, of course Zax could no longer look at his Master as nothing but a Mor. When he was resting after an exhausting training session, Kartius brought food and cocked for him. When the belly was full but the rest was not enough, Kartius arranged a place for Zax to sleep in his cabin, a comfortable mattress made out of countless paper thin vines. As they grew used to each other, was there a thing that Zax still concealed from with his Master? Absolutely not!

    Zax’s repressed concerns of his ruined relationship with his friends and family was a constant reminder, that although he found himself a path to follow according to his dreams and aspirations, there were still things that he had to make amends for. And the better Zax got due to his fast improvements, the more he realized that his friends and family were no less important to him than being a mighty Mist User.

    To deal with this burden, it was his Master that talked to him, assured him that in this world there is not something that cannot be fixed.

    “A damaged relationship with someone that is close to you is one of the easiest. All you need his courage”. It might be obvious, but sometimes simple answers had to be said in a certain manner that only few could express. Kartius always managed to advise Zax in a way that strengthened his resolve.

    In a year and a half, Kartius had already attained the position of a father figure in the eyes of his apprentice. The reasons that Zax kept called him “Master” instead of “Martial father”, were that he was shy and already used to the former manner of addressing.

    “You claim to know better, to hear and see everything since Master brought me here, but where were you this all time? Only now popping up out of nowhere, speaking to me without showing your face and still daring to speak badly on my Master!”

    “Little Zax!” Laivien rebuked. A surge of pressure that was only inferior to that caused by the Black Core and the entity, engulfed Zax’s whole sea of consciousness, as if it was an ant in a human’s hand. “I chose to turn to you now out of care and I’ll never ever speak badly of your Master!” Laivien clearly was furious. “I’m not suggesting something that your Master did not consider, I simply give words to what he hold himself back from saying”.

    “I don’t understand you! Why would Master deliberately impede my training?!” Zax threw back.

    “Because of your abnormal improvement and the hint of dark attribute in your soul!” surveying Zax’s expression from someplace far far away, Laivien saw that he was not aware of the latter part of what she was saying. “You don’t know… I get it now. That Master of yours had really changed!” A soft sigh reverberated in Zax head and spread tranquility.

    “The Black Core has done to your soul more than raising its level, little Zax, it left a remnant of dark attribute... an elemental energy you should not seek answers to understand right now. All that you should know is that at the moment, the dark attribute is dormant. If, however, your soul will be under a great deal of pressure it would awaken and convert your soul. You can’t withstand the intensity of the conversation in your current level. Even I and your Master can’t… But that still don’t change the fact that the Savages Cages are the best place for you to make up for tossing the principal of Pain”.

    “How is that related? The principal of Pain is a principal of a bodily refining technique. You said that the Savages Caves are for soul training”. Zax was not satisfied with Laivien reasoning mostly because he did not get it.

    “The principal of Pain in the Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement has more than one purpose. Aside from supporting the cultivation process, it also builds your character as a Martial cultivator. I won’t tell you much of it because the Black Core has already outdone it, but without letting you to be forge in the true way of the Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement, even at the risk of awakening the dark attribute, you will never be qualified as a Martial cultivator!”

    “Master said that I should wait to reach the next level, maybe then he will talk to me about the Savages Caves”. Zax began to consider her remarks. His Master did tell him to wait after all.

    “I believed him too, at first”, Laivien said. “Up until he decided to teach you the bodily maneuvers and told you to stop cultivating the soul. Your Master is impeding your training for caring too much for his apprentice. Let me explain, the ‘Savage Caves’ is not a mere name, all who enter them will be affected by a mental boundary that arouse the savage instinct in beasts and human alike. The Savage Caves known to have at least three caves of savagery, but up to date; no one has managed to cross the third cave and so only three are really counted”.

    ”There is only one tunnel that allows entrance to the first Savage Cave, and one tunnel between each Savage Cave.  There are many experts who think that they can venture into the Savage Caves, but for one to cross from the first cave to the second, the soul must be at the Core Master level. That said, so long that you don’t fall to complete savagery and survive the first cave, the benefits will be substantial, even more so than those of the principal of Pain!”

    “Better than the main principal of the Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement…” Zax muttered.

    “And it’s not all. Because of the Black Core’s modification to the Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement, the herbal liquid is not sufficient anymore to sustain the formation. On the other hand, at one point or another, a trip to the Savage Caves will be unavoidable since only there the medicinal plants that can sustain the last stage of the formation are growing. In your case, it will take years and an inconceivable amount of the current herbal liquid for you to break through the next gate. You are already in need for the Savage Caves’ medicinal plants”.

    “Little Zax, do I give you the impression that I harbor malice animosity toward you?” Laivien suddenly asked.

    “No”. Zax answered plainly. From start to finish, Laivien might have said things that he did not appreciate to hear, but not once he felt her trying trick him. At most he could just say that there was a tension between their opinions due to disagreement. Besides, after the surge of pressure Zax had no doubt that if Laivien wanted to harm him, she did not need to put much effort.

    “Then agree to go to the Savage Caves. I believe that with the unique soul that you have, you will be able to surpass the hurdles of the first cave, and when you’ll return, we could finally meet!”

    Laivien’s powers of persuasion succeeded to tempt Zax. He was about to agree when he realized… “Laivien, even if I want to go, how am I supposed to tell this to Master? Master will surely want to know from whom I learned about the Savage Caves and then I’ll have to tell him that we talked!”

    “Be at ease, little Zax. In the end going or not is your decision. If you’ll make it wholeheartedly, I’ll take care of your Master”. Laivien said confidently.

    “I’m still unsure…” Was he supposed to let his master talk to him about the Savage Caves himself and act as if he did not know anything about them? That will be the same as deceiving him, and how could he? He is no more the young boy who said white lies to hide his training sessions from his parents.

    In the past year and a half, even if his Master was not awfully strict, Zax still developed a sense of discipline toward him.

    “Little Zax, let’s make a compromise. If you truly want to go, then no matter what I’ll support you with dealing with your Master and if later you still won’t feel comfortable with him, then I will not mind you telling him that we talked. Is that fine?” Laivien sounded like a mother who tries to help her son confess to his father something bad that he had done.

    “It’s fine”. Zax answered like an obedient child.

  3. #63
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    First sponsored chapter is out thanks to Adam from United States, Richard from New Zealand and Imran from the UK!

    Book 3 – Into The Wild

    Chapter 7 – Leaving




    Kartius was making his way to the cabin, back from the gorge. It was a journey of fifteen to twenty minutes in his top speed, but there was no reason for him to hurry, therefore he stride idly as he mused over his internal conflicts.

    “Laivien”, his attention shifted to the foreign presence that entered his mind. “Is everything fine? Do you need anything?”

    “Only that you come visit me more often, big brother”. Laivien tone was playful. Not for naught she sought her big brother, but before she could reveal her true intentions, she had to soften him.

    “You know that I would if I had the strength”. Kartius said, nearly apologizing. “And I don’t want to be a nuisance when big brother spends time with you”.

    “Mmm… you don’t need to rely on Kartion. I’m sure there are other means…”

    There sure were other means, treasures of him, Kartius, which he cannot misuse if even to visit his little sister. “Little sister, how about this. I’ll come to visit you whenever you want after my next breakthrough. Are you pleased?”

    “Huhuhu! Big brother is very considerate of his little sister”. Laivien knew that she hit a sensitive spot and when to withdraw before it will explode. In addition, Kartius depended on his treasures to surpass the last gate of the Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement and it was not only for his sake…

    “Little sister, now that you extorted a promise from me, what is it that you truly want?” Kartius was no fool and definitely not a plaything for his little sister. Her and his big brother’s situation was the reason for his submissive behavior. His heart ached for them. Nevertheless, now that he showed her that he is in a benevolent mood, she will get right into why she used her own treasure to reach him.

    “I’ll get right to the point, if big brother is so willing to comply”. Laivien said.

    “What is it?”

    After a short pause Laivien finally opened. “I want you to send Zax to the Savage Caves”.

    “What!” Kartius was startled.

    “All of Kartion’s apprentices have been there. It’s about time to send yours as well”.

    “Little sister, I don’t know from where this is coming, regardless of what you heard and saw from my own apprentice, he is still too young and inexperienced! Besides, big brother spent treasures, which I don’t have, when he sent apprentices!” Kartius retorted.

    “Big brother, you should remember that not only Zax’s words and action I hear and see. Yours are not hidden from me, either”. Laivien shot back. “But I will not repeat what you already know as truth, only state the facts”.

    “And what facts are there, that makes you know better than me what’s good for my Martial son?”

    “First, you should know that your Martial son had broken through the fourth gate”.

    “He made it past the fourth gate!” Kartius was astonished. In the past year and a half his exaptation of Zax to reach the goals he set for him, sooner than three years, grew absolute. Be that as it may, he still assumed that at least half a year would pass before Zax will make another breakthrough.

    “Second”, Laivien ignored his reaction and kept going. “His soul’s capabilities already match those of a Beginner phase Core Master. It is only because that the quality and quantity of his soul energy are in the Core Breaker level that the first cave is still good for him. If you keep delaying him until the next level, with his unique soul, the effect of the cave will lessen tremendously and the second cave will still be out of reach. Third, with regard to his bodily cultivation, he needs the herbal liquid of the plants in the Savage Caves and in great quantity, at that. Otherwise, forget him making progress!”

    “The hint of dark attribute I will not even mention since there is nothing you can say to disregard what would happen if it will burst. And his body fitness level is still not sufficient”. Kartius got back to his senses. “Should I recite you the dangers of the Savage Caves?!”

    “No need if you already started to prepare him to deal with those dangers. For what other reason did you stop him from cultivating the soul and taught him the bodily maneuvers? Your Martial son is not a slow learner even if his advancements are not aided by the Black Core. He broke through the fourth gate at the same of partly figuring the breathing sequence and a few of the breaths. In a couple of months I am certain that he will hone it to the degree of knowing the corresponding breath of each move!” Laivien did not say anything about the dark attribute. Certainly it was a subject she could not refute.

    “Knowing the breathing sequence will not progress Zax to the second phase of the bodily maneuvers exercise. If they’ll chase him, he will get caught, and in the Savage Cave it will be on a whole other level of difficulty!”

    Laivien was perfectly aware to whom her big brother meant by calling “They”, however, her opinion stayed the same and her response even more so inflamed. “Their scouts won’t attack him right away, they’ll first follow him. Because they won’t be able to detect his body fitness level and the Earth’s Core in his dantian, they’ll think that he is just a coreless boy, another human ‘in our service’ that practice the body refinement technique. Therefore they won’t inform their elders until he will already arrive to the first Savage Cave and by then it will be too late, since none of their scouts is past the Core Master level”.

    “Then they’ll simply leave their scouts outside of the first cave for a period of time and if Zax won’t return they’ll either presume that he died or will send a Core Master to check for him”.

    “By that time it will truly be too late”. Laivien said emphatically. “If he’ll learn the overall breathing sequence, it will take him a mere few months to unify all three and reach the Intermediate phase. If beforehand he will also reach the Advanced phase of his current body fitness level, even Beginner Core Masters won’t be able to catch him, and anyone below the core master level, better won’t dare”.

    “Indeed, but you said it yourself, with the current herbal liquid, forget the Intermediate phase, he won’t be able to Advance to the Intermediate phase of his current body fitness level”.

    “That is correct, and that is why I wonder how much my big brother care for his only son”.

    “Don’t speak in riddles, say what you-” A bit slow, but Kartius understood what his little was saying.

    “My own stock…” His own treasures.

    “Your puny stock, big brother”. Laivien reminded him.

    Kartius sighed. Due to this talk, at the moment he also swayed toward the side of a Martial father, ever so far from the side of a Martial cultivator.

    Simultaneously a terrible thought aroused in his mind. Did his little sister spoke with his Martial son? One way or another, Kartius reminded to himself that speech is silver and silence is gold.



    “Little Zax, it is done. In time, your Master will send you to the Savage Caves. When exactly depends on your achievements in the coming months”. Laivien informed Zax.

    “Will… Will Master say or ask anything that’s related to you?” Forget about the dangers of the Savage Caves, what Zax worried of the most was his Master inquiring about if he did or did not speak with Laivien.

    “Rest easy, little Zax”, Laivien said happily. “Your Master’s temperament will be as usual and no question, answers or explanations will arise”. She assured him and her presence faded from his consciousness.

    To celebrate Zax’s breakthrough into the experts’ circle, Kartius hunted a beast which was at the Mist Master level to cock for his apprentice. Kartius cocking skills were below average compared to the common human’s skills. Fortunately, he knew how to prepare the meat, and by itself it was a delicacy Zax never tasted before. Later, the two shared Zax’s first cup of wine, which Zax handled better than most humans, after all, his tolerance for alcohol was an additional component that improved as his body did. Still, the taste of the alcohol was unpleasant.

    “Since your body fitness level is at the same phase and level as your soul, tomorrow you will resume cultivating your soul. You will spend eight hours of the day exercising the bodily maneuvers and the rest of the time meditating, therefore you will also not get to sleep anymore, so be prepared!” Kartius said during the meal.

    Zax did not ask or said anything about the Savage Caves and just listened to his Master instructions in anticipation.



    And so, five more months have passed.

    In those five months, Zax’s days started by first soaking in the herbal liquid, which he noticed was different by its smell. The fragrance was highly concentrated, its sweetness reached the boundaries of sickening. Zax was sure that it was not the same herbal liquid he used the days before – the old him would have faint from an ounce of this fragrance, and that was no joke – but when he raised the question to his Master, “Get inside!” was his Master’s miserable response.

    When the formation embedded to his body got his fill of the herbal liquid, next order of business was Zax’s daily training in the bodily maneuvers. Under the constant supervision of his Master, in the past five months, Zax’s experienced the most rigorous manner of training. It concluded after eight hours whether Zax wanted to or not, since Kartius pushed his body to the limit constantly.

    Despite the intensity of Kartius’ training regimen, Zax still did not proceed to the more dense and high level smoky mist areas.

    Kartius did explain why. “If your body fitness level will improve faster than your soul, than a heavy setback will befall on you and it is hard to estimate how long it will take for you to surpass it”.

    Staying in the same area might have slowed Zax’s bodily cultivation, but it did stabilize and kept his training schedule in order of importance.

    As Zax got back to mediating, he noticed that the pieces, fragments of the entity, from his subliminal mind counted by the dozens. Seventy nine pieces, to be exact. Now that Zax was past fully appreciating one piece, it was not hard to study the others. However, his progress was not as fast as it was when he studied the first piece. Of the seventy nine that appeared after the first, after fully appreciating one, the advancements were meager, at best, and another eight to eleven more pieces resurfaced from his subliminal mind.

    In the end, breakthroughs and insights were achieved in the following order.

    First, of the five months, it took Zax around four months to seize the perfect breathing sequence. As for keeping up with its rhythm… that was still too difficult. Nevertheless, Zax’s control of his body seemed to improve greatly due to him diligently training as his Master instructed, and Zax himself noticed it when he exercised all six hundred and fifty bodily maneuvers more easily.

    Second, on the side of Adraak Meditation, Zax reached the Advanced phase of his current soul level after nearly consuming the whole five months. Afterwards, the quality of his soul had only progress to the peak of level C.

    Lastly, without knowing of his Master, Martial father’s sacrifice… Zax’s body fitness reached, as well, to the Advanced phase of level C a little after his soul. By testing his strength, speed and reaction, Kartius proudly told his Martial son that unless the opponent is a Peak phase Mist Lord or above, he has nothing to worry about.



    Within Kartius’s cabin.

    “Memorize this map”. Kartius drew a map of the rough layout of the caves from his big brother’s cave to the first Savage Cave. He drew it on an old piece of beast skin, using a drop of blood since there was not anything else as replacement for ink.

    Zax carefully memorized the map. There were one hundred and seven caves between here and the first Savage Cave. Zax did not ponder over why he should memorize the route instead of tacking the map, with his current soul level it will not made a difference either way.

    “Done, Master”. Zax said. ‘A week or two journey into the inner parts of Valgarel’. He was excited. His Master already informed that he will not be there to accompany him and that only added to the rush.

    “These are the plants that you should look for in the Savage Cave”. Kartius showed Zax an old drawn picture of two types of flowers. One had a red stalk with seven white petals and a lone orange stamen. The other had a green stalk with two purple petals and a lone green stamen. “There aren’t many of them in the first Savage Cave. After you hone your soul and character, get a sense of time with your inner mind and seek as many as you can in a day’s time. Even if it’s only one or two, remember that no matter what, you are not to enter the second cave!” he said unequivocally.

    As Zax studied the shape and color of the flowers, Kartius turned to the square box and removed its wooden lid. He returned to Zax holding a sleeveless fur coat.

    “The beast it belonged to was a Two Headed Beaver at the Core Master level, therefore his skin and fur are at the Core Breaker level. Think of it as a second skin, as long as you wear it others, who never encountered a Two Headed Beaver, won’t be able to discern if you are a human or a beast”.

    “Thank you, Master”. Zax said happily, wondering if other beasts will really take him for a humanoid beast if he’ll wear it, knowing that he will have the answer in a while.

    “Hearing about them now is not that time, no until my big brother say so. I’ll remind you only this, outside of the cave there are enemies who oppose my big brother and those by his side. Although those outside won’t be able to harm you, if they’ll call for reinforcement you will be in trouble. For a safe journey you only have two priorities, keeping you identity a secret and getting to the Savage Caves as fast as possible!” Kartius empathized to the point that it was useless to ask if Zax understand.

    Zax, too, did not ask questions about the enemies. His Master warned him of the wild before he accepted him. Besides, for some reason he did not feel threaten. Beast Mist Users or human Mist Users, if all that he needs to be careful from are Peak phase Mist Lord then what are the chances that he will face one?

    An azure mantle wrapped Zax.

    “I will see you off outside of the Essence Cave”. Kartius’s hand reached for Zax’s head through the mantle. It was the first time that he caressed it and Zax could not help but lower his gaze from this Martial father.



    Zax decided to pass through the Krikitory village of the Krikitories field workers for a chance to see his big sister. As soon as the young Krikitories saw approaches, they ran home and back outside and jump him with tens cups of water. Zax could not comply with what Zetsa told him about the mentality of the young Krikitories and could not bring himself to disappoint any of the little ones. And so he drank all the cups of water.

    In the village, no one of his Martial brothers and sisters were or his real blood sister was. The adult Krikitories also did not know where they were, and so, disappointed, Zax left to the cave’s entrance.

    “Oh, out and so soon?” Guarding, or so it seemed to look like, was Rarahel. She saw Zax and spoke from afar. Her draconic complexion was surprised for a moment before it returned to normal.

    “Big sister Rarahel”. Zax said respectfully. He did not forget how detached from each other his big sister and Rarahel were the first time he met her. Not knowing if she will act the same way with him, Zax still chose to start off humbly.

    “Congratulation for making it to level C, little brother Zax” Unexpectedly, Rarahel answered back warmly.

    Zax could tell that Rarahel looked at him differently than she looked at his big sister because, after living for nearly two years with just one person that was a humanoid beast, Zax intuition and ability to read the facial expressions of beasts was as good as it was with humans.

    “Thank you, big sister Rarahel”. Zax said.

    “You actually broke big sister Zetsa record. I’m starting to wonder if it’s only you two or that all humans are freaks, hahaha…” She actually felt opened enough to laugh and that even more caught Zax off guard.

    Zax thought again if his first impression of Rarahel was accurate or poorly timed. He thought of her as the cold and rigid type, but she turned out… okay. It made him wonder what her deal was with his big sister. Still, Zax refrained from asking.

    “Well… I doubt that you didn’t work hard for it”. Rarahel said in a serious tone. She, too, trained in the Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement.

    “Master taught me well”. Zax replied, adding to himself, ‘if only she knew…’

    “But didn’t you Master said that your training should last for three years. Even if your progress is that amazing, going back home for a break will be a waste. Don’t underestimate my Master’s evaluation if you want him to accept you”. That she said strictly.

    “Big sister Rarahel, I’m not taking a break from training. Master sends me to train my soul in the Savage Caves”.

    “What!” Rarahel bellowed. “What does Martial uncle think?!” Making a stumped expression, she grabbed Zax, almost preventing him from leaving the cave.

    “Big sister Rarahel, Master told me of the Savage Caves enough to know that going there will only do me good and I’ll be fine”. Zax let loose his consent in his speech.

    “It’s not about being physically strong there…” Rarahel had more to say, however she did not know what her Martial uncle wish to share or withheld from his only apprentice. She had no right to undermine her Martial uncle, so she reluctantly stopped deterring Zax and quietly said. “You are simply too young!”

    “Goodbye, big sister Rarahel”. Since Zax could not agree with her, he responded silently, as well, and he left, accompanied by her last words...

    “Beware of the true form of the wild…”

  4. #64
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    Book 3 – Into The Wild

    Chapter 8 – Twenty one




    Outside of the cave was the lush vegetation that the Essence Cave Zax livid in for a year and eleven months could never sustain and the cave of his big sister’s Master’s lacked in compression.

    Heeding his Master’s and Martial sister’s, Rarahel, warnings, as Zax stepped outside he casted his Soul Sense to detect hidden enemies. After reaching the Advanced phase of level C with his soul, Zax’s Soul Sense could extend for one thousand and seven hundred meters. Other than the foliage, Zax did not discover any other life forms.

    “They are either too far or waiting in the neighboring caves”. Zax thought aloud.

    He did not waste time because of enemies he could not find. Recalling the first direction he had to turn to, Zax’s body flickered onwards.

    ‘I traveled the outer parts of Valgarel with big sister. Other than the experts of the five sovereign tribes, there is no one that I should be afraid off. I wonder what could be different in the inner territory…’

    Zax felt confidence in his chance to at least escape if dangers arise. While training in the bodily maneuvers exercise, he was chased by his Master and at unpredictable moments even had to avoid his Master’s mist attacks. Sure, none of his Master’s mist attacks were aim to kill, but critically injure him was highly acceptable by his Master.

    “It’s fine to lose an arm or a leg”, Kartius actually said. “Your regenerative abilities can deal with the loss thanks to the changes the Black Core had made. Otherwise, only as a B level practitioner of the Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement you could grow back limbs”. That day Kartius sent a mist attack that nearly decimated all of Zax’s four limbs. “Still, this is not an excuse to be complacent! You don’t have the mist energy to spend on your body. Without external help similar to the herbal fluid, your body won’t receive the nourishment to come up with the energy to regrow one limb!” At the end of that training session, Zax truly lost a limb and only after two weeks it grew back.



    Zax followed the map he craved to his mind and in four days reached the boundaries of the outer parts of Valgarel.

    There, he noticed humanoid beasts with bull heads, guarding the tunnel to the inner territory. There were seven beasts. Zax first detected them with his bodily senses. In his body fitness level his senses were a lot sharper than most beasts. To determine the level of the guards he used his Soul Sense.

    “Six Core Breakers and one Mist Master”. According to their souls levels they ranged between these levels.

    Since he did not know the procedure of crossing territories, Zax remained at a distance greater than their senses. To not cause unnecessary troubles, he picked up and threw several big rocks to distract the guards. All he need was for all seven to shift their gaze together for a few seconds.

    The impact of the rocks with the trees Zax aimed them at created two explosions and a rain of leaves and splinters.

    Two guards were sent to investigate as the others watched them from their post at the cave entrance. When the remaining five bull heads shifted their gazes all that they could perceive of Zax was the guest of wind his fast movement created as he passed them in practically an instant, extremely entertained.

    “That was easy!” Zax was truly overjoyed. Two years ago who would have dare to imagine, especially him, that the boy with clogged Qi channels could ever give such a show!



    On the second week of his journey Zax used his Soul Sense spontaneously, as he continuously used it to avoid unwanted surprises. It was a habit he developed after the encounter with the bull headed guards. Though they did not discover him, if he had used his Soul Sense back then, he himself would have sense them a lot earlier than his bodily senses.

    A few figures were following him.

    “Hunters or Master’s enemies?” Zax asked himself. Four days ago he met with a party of humanoid beasts that acted as hunters and the day after with a group that was actually led by a human and while the other members were on all four. In both occasions Zax sprinted before they could make up the color of his fur coat. Besides the human, not the beasts in his party or the humanoid beasts of the day before were above level E.

    This time, however, things were a bit different. Zax’s speed was not at its peak and he did not want to alert them, if those after him were indeed enemies. Relying on his Soul Sense he learned that the pursuers were fifteen in number, ten Core Breakers and five Mist Masters. Zax wondered how he can fare against this great number of experts, but remembering his Master’s warning, he simply surveyed their speed and allowed them to follow him up to the entrance of the first Savage Cave. There he in fact discovered that six more enemies, most likely, were waiting for him.

    Suddenly.

    “Told you, boss”.

    The group of fifteen caught up, becoming with those who waited a group of twenty one. All the beasts looked humanoid with vicious canine heads.

    “My sense of smell is the best in our unit, boss. Known as the thousand odors snout! With a sniff I could tell that this is just a human boy wearing a Two Headed Beaver fur coat!” One juvenile canine boasted.

    “Freaking pup”, the one the juvenile canine talked to, the boss, was a large humanoid beast with a wolf head in the Mist Master level. The wolf boss slapped the head of the juvenile canine and averted his gaze toward Zax, who stood between the six that were waiting and the fifteen that trailed.

    “Who would have thought that such a young child is practicing that body refining technique…?” The wolf boss seemed a bit shaken.

    How could he not? They trailed Zax since the very same day he left that cave… always at a distance of two kilometers or more from him, but six days ago they actually lost him! Luckily, one of his pack members was familiar with the scent of a Two Headed Beaver and besides being able to tell that it was a human wearing its fur coat, he could retrace Zax’s steps, which helped the wolf boss to guess Zax’s destination and send a member of his pack to arrange a blockade at the cave’s entrance, in case he and his unit will not catch up to Zax.

    “I can’t assert his powers, boss”, another canine said.

    “Me neither”. The wolf boss replied with a growl. “It can’t be that his soul level is higher than a Mist Master. It must be the fur coat or a treasure for the cave... Calrob, can you tell the level of the Two Headed Beaver it belonged to?”

    “Afraid not, boss. Even if my mist energy stimulates my eyes and nose to the limit, I can only detect the leftover essence of a Mist Lord. This fur coat belonged to at least a Core Master Two Headed Beaver”. The canine head that spoke was part of the six that were waiting for Zax.

    “Grrr…” The wolf boss growled once more.

    ‘These guys are quite haughty…’ Zax quietly watched them. ‘Talking about me as if I don’t have a say in what they are planning’.

    He did not try to forcefully enter the cave since the six in front of him clearly were not willing to let him and also… now that he was so close to the first Savage Cave, if his pursuers were reluctant to follow inside, than it was also a good opportunity to consider again how he will fare against so many experts. Zax felt goosebumps all over his body. After almost two years of isolated training with his Master and a voice in his head, these guys were going to be his first real interaction… a clash of experts!

    ‘Fourteen Core Breakers, Seven Mist Master, twenty one in total!’

    WUSH!

    The longer Zax trained in the six sequences of bodily maneuvers the swifter and more agile his control over his body became. Although he knew all six hundred and fifty bodily maneuvers and the perfect breathing sequence his rhythm was still behind the Intermediate phase. But, classifying two in the same phase does not mean that their proficiency is equal. To classify Zax at the Beginner phase is akin to saying that he is in the Advanced phase of the Beginner phase. Not exactly the most sophisticated way to put it, but it did not matter since a large gulf separated Zax’s level of control of the body and the twenty one canine heads’!

    Apart from the seven Mist Masters, the others could only hear the sound of Zax movement as he reached in a flash to the canine that evaluated his fur coat.

    “Calrob, right? Can you tell what level am I?” Zax smirked.

    Calrob’s dog face paled. He was one of the Core Breaker experts and those who saw nothing but a flash or a shadow as Zax made his move.

    SLASH!

    The two Mist Master next to Calrob launched their claws at Zax. However they were too slow and too obvious in their movement. With a “WUSH” sound Zax slide back to the center of the twenty one experts.

    ‘If that’s their top speed…’ Zax smiled. “Well, my Master warned my about you. Are you supposed to be Master Kartius’s enemies?” He taunted.

    “Lowly mutt!” The wolf boss called in anger. “Listen up, Fangs, this one body fitness level is definitely at level C! Revert to your beast form!” Following his order something strange happened.

    Despite the astonished expression of the other twenty, not one of them argued with their boss and in several seconds, Zax learned something new and finally understood what Martial sister Rarahel meant by warning him of the true from of the wild.

    The twenty one canine heads all transformed from their humanoid physique to their true animalistic appearance. Surrounding Zax, within the length of two short breaths, were two to three and a half meters tall, two and a half to five meters wide twenty one true canines on all four.

    Zax was utterly shocked! He could tell with his Soul Sense that the Mist User level of the twenty one remained the same, but their bodies, on the other hand, increased in both power, speed and for sure, control!

    Was Rarahel alerting Zax of some beasts’ secret when she told him to beware of the true form of the wild? “No” is the answer. She was merely reciting a phrase of Valgarel. The reason Zax did not know that – by meeting certain conditions – beasts had the ability to change appearance from humanoid to animalistic or vice versa, was lack of proper education. Children in Kingdom Earth learn of the beasts’ ability to transform only in the second year of post Core School. Since Zax never been to one how could he possibly know it? Since for beasts this is an innate knowledge, his Master also did not bother to mention it and his big sister had long ago stopped thinking about it as something odd.

    Zax composed himself. ‘I’m still faster and stronger! Let’s see if their numbers can do them any good’. He sure felt valiant.

    “Arhwoo!” The wolf boss, the third biggest in size, howled and the twenty one canines moved in union. They ran in circles around Zax.

    ‘Is that what they call a Battle formation?’ Zax wondered while patiently waiting for the canines’ first move.

    SLASH!

    SLASH!

    Two canines jumped at Zax, sent a paw strikes and retreated. The two missed Zax, but it seemed that their primary intention was to test Zax, which, as the wolf boss predicted, avoided the two paw strikes.

    SLASH!

    SLASH!

    SLASH!

    SLASH!

    The canines doubled their numbers.

    “Hahah!” Zax swiftly avoided and laughed. “Too few, too few, stupid dogs, come at me in double digits”. Since he also tested himself and felt assured with his abilities, Zax did not fight back. He utilized the results of his training in the bodily maneuvers and moved like a typhoon inside the circle.

    “Arhwoo!” The wolf boss retorted, opening his jaw his voice come out again in a human speech. “Kill! Kill! Kill!” He was not hotheaded, but driven by the instinct to kill his tribe’s enemy!

    Instantly, the canine complied to both their boss’s commend and Zax’s insult and eleven out of the twenty one jumped inside the circle as the remaining ten shrank its scope.

    Attacking with their paws and fangs, the canines used their mist energy to strengthen further their bodies and around them white and silvery aura spread outward.

    “Not enough space”. Zax muttered. He wanted to evade the smallest touch with even the canines’ tails and fur; however the eleven were synchronized with each other and could deal with the crowded area of attack. “Time to leave the circle”. He made up his mind. The canines were clearly experienced in fighting using this formation.

    The ten canines that made up the border of the circled formation were fast, but not enough to prevent Zax from slipping outside of the formation.

    Within three steps Zax arrived to the border of the circle and ran along it. He mimicked the pace of two of the ten canines, two Core Breaker, that made the border and eyed the space between them.

    WUSH!

    Zax kicked the ground and dashed forward. Naturally he could also jump above the border, but where was the fun in it?

    BANG!

    A mixed wave of white and silver mist energy struck Zax and flung him back.

    SLASH!

    A huge paw followed promptly and hit Zax in the back.

    “Humph!” Zax sneered and dodged a bite that was aimed to his right arm. “The fur coat really held up!” He was satisfied with his Master’s present, even if against this sort of foes he could also do without it. “This border is supported with mist energy”. His inability to use his Qi fired him up. “Where are the doggies that hit me and tried to bite my arm?”

    “Die, human!” The canines were also enraged. Zax himself was not much in their eyes, they fought beasts in the past that were below their level yet to slippery to catch, but the Two Headed Beaver fur coat was troublesome to deal with.

    “There!” Zax found the two canines that annoyed him.

    The two were Mist Master and could somewhat see that they were targeted by the human. Knowing their limit, they still tried to meet Zax in a joint onslaught.

    Explosive mist energy burst from the two canines, the other nine in the circle moved from their way. Violent mist energy hissed and the two canines pounced at Zax, baring their most noteworthy feature, their fangs, which glowed in condensed pure silver color.

    Four fangs, two hands.

    The glowing fangs remained Zax two kids in his pre Core School that fought one day and how one kid broke the other’s front teeth when he punched him in the face.

    Well, the space between fangs in the canines’ mouths was too wide to break two with one punch.

    ‘All out!’ Zax felt a surge of unrestrained excitement filling his sea of consciousness and spreads to every nook and cranny in his body. He summoned up his full strength and sent his hand to meet with the canines’ fangs attack.

    BANG!

    The three clashed. The two canines, in total bewilderment, felt like they hit an unmovable wall. Zax hands grabbed one fang of which canine and stopped them in the collision.

    CRACK!

    The sound came from the two fangs in Zax’s grip. He swung his hands to the sides, pulling the two canine heads and…

    BANG!

    The two heads collided, two fangs broke each other and the other two were shattered in Zax’s grip.

    The impact stirred the two canines’ brain, they collapsed, unaware of the poor state of their jaws.

    Watching how two of their experts in the Intermediate phase of the Mist Master level could not budge a single human boy, not even half their size, and then losing to him so effortlessly, the nine canines still in the circle joined the others in the border.

    “What? Don’t tell me that this is all you got, little doggies”. Zax mocked. These were the enemies of his Master? Laughable!

    “Arhwoo!” The wolf boss howled. Two of the canines left the formation in full speed.

    “Calling for help?” Zax immediately realized their intention.

    He did not plan to stay for Mist Lord level canines to join the fight, but those who held the formation seemed bound on not attacking, nor letting him out.

    “Good, good! Won’t be any fun unless we see how long you can contain me!” This time nothing obstructed him from coming straight at the border, not that in the previous attempt it was a difficulty, and Zax also wanted to break it in its strongest point, not trying to jump above it or going at any canine other than the wolf boss.

    A series of collisions resonated like the sound of giant bells each time Zax punched or kicked the placement of the wolf boss in the formations. The united white and silver mist energy formed a mantle that protected the canines and attacked Zax much more brutally than the fang attack of the two canines.

    “Hahaha! Here is more power and more power!” Zax did not go all out from the beginning. He gradually raised the strength of his attacks. This attitude served him as an outlet to his dormant frustration, and he wanted to free himself from all of it! To cleanse himself before he will make this one more step in the path his Martial prepped him for.

    “Use more of your mist energy! His attacks are getting stronger!” The wolf boss barked in vexation. How was it possible? He knew that the human before him is just a boy, probably not two tenth of his age, so how come he become that much strong in such a young age?! Was that body refining technique really that formidable?!

    ‘This cannot be allowed to go on! We must restrain, otherwise he’ll become a huge threat to the elders’ goal and our tribe! We must endure until a captain will arrive… and hope that it will be a Core Master!’

  5. #65
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    Book 3 – Into The Wild

    Chapter 9 – His First Time




    Zax banged his punches against the white and silver mantle of the canines’ formation. He threw tens of kicks and punches since the canines retreated to contain him until reinforcement will arrive.

    BANG!

    The mist energy of the canines depleted faster after his attacks and the wave of energy did not have the power anymore the shove Zax back.

    “Hold!” The wolf boss commanded the members of his pack.

    “Boss, this is too insane!” One of the canines responded.

    “Boss, is that boy truly a human?” Another asked.

    “It’s beyond what I heard about body refinement techniques!”

    “Of course it is!” The wolf boss answered. “This human trains in the most powerful body refinement technique! Now, enough talks! Conserve for the formation!”

    BANG!

    Just as the boss wolf finished talking, Zax follow up kick broke through the mantle and hit one of the canines in his rib cage. Crackling sounds came out from the canine’s upper body and blood sprouted from his jaw.

    “Spread out!” The wolf boss had no choice. The instant a link in the formation broke the time to repair it was long in comparison to the time it would take for Zax to escape and the cost of mist energy will be spent for nothing.

    WUSH!

    Zax dashed out of the formation. Turning around he saw the canine he kicked lying on the ground, somehow still conscious. The other canines created a blockage, this time around the cave’s entrance and Zax was in between.

    Zax interest in his ability to contend against the canines subsided. “Previously you didn’t let me in, now you don’t let me out”. He was amused.

    The wolf boss lowered his stance to what seemed to be preparation for attack or escape and his pack members done the same.

    “That’s it for me”. Zax announced, turned his back to the canines and idly strolled into the long tunnel.

    The murderous gaze of the wolf boss watched Zax back in fixation. His intention was to stay and wait for reinforcement, even if it meant prolonging this dangerous battle. However if the human boy chose to enter the cave, that will be good as well.

    ‘How long it will take, we wait for you human, and then let’s see if your body refinement technique can stand against a captain!’


    Zax mood was excellent. He had his first real fight and dominated his enemies to the level of his satisfaction – letting out his pent up frustration also contributed for his good mood.

    The tunnel was over a kilometer long. For ten minutes Zax simply walked and reviewed in his mind the battle against the canines. What he looked up at was mostly ways to improve his control of the body since he realized that it was correlated to the bodily maneuverers he trained.  In the fight his breath and movement were synchronized, roughly on the same level as his proficiency in the bodily maneuverers. The thing that was the problem was the rhythm.

    “If it’s that, then I should just keep training in what Master taught me”. Zax reached to the conclusion. The bodily maneuverers and the breathing sequence were harder to execute than the intuitive movements in the battle with the canines, training in them will improve his overall form.

    In the remaining seven hundred meter or so of the tunnel, Zax let loose his eagerness of reaching the other side, to the first Savage Cage, and ran the rest of the way.

    Stepping out of the tunnel Zax’s mind went blank for a second and in the following moment his body was midway to hit the ground. An invisible force penetrated Zax’s mind and raised tidal waves in his sea of consciousness. Zax felt the force taking over as if it was a part of him that he had no means to fight back, much like the sensation that drove him to the Black Core, multiply by thousands. Agitation built up in his soul and its blurred appearance began to shudder. Immense savagery materialized to the shape of a bubble that encompassed his mind.

    “Graah!” Zax cried, barely holding up his awareness. He opened his eyes and saw everything in red. ‘Savage Caves…’ were the only two words his mind could produce. He now understood what made the name so suitable.

    “Graah!” Zax’s cry changed to roar. The bloodiness in his eyes augmented the savage desire.

    Zax crawled up to his feet. His control of the body felt like he was walking in water. The bones and muscles opposed every move he wanted to make, turning him slow and clumsy. “Grrr!”  An irritated growl left Zax’s mouth and he tossed his fur coat. He tried to get a gist of the environmental essence, but his soul sense was confined to the bubble of savagery in his head.

    With a soul at level C and the capabilities of a Core Master all that was left within Zax’s power was to keep contact with his actions. Little did Zax know that for anyone else with a soul below the Core Master level, even a minuscule trace of self would not remain.

    “Grah!” In an attempt to release himself from the mental shackles of the cave’s savage force, Zax coordinated with the insane savagery and bashed his head and body in the ground and the surrounding rocks and trees. Nothing was sturdy enough to not break or crumble after Zax bashed himself against it, but due to his speed, the moment of impact painfully stung as if he fell twenty storey to a pool of shallow water. Still, it was either go with the flow of savagery to the extreme or to fight with it and achieve nothing.

    When he settled down, blood ran down from all over Zax’s body, the wounds, however, were already in the process of healing and closing. Zax sat as if he was meditating, but it was completely the opposite case. Though his body seemed calm, Zax felt his head about to explode. The savagery was overbearing. Zax’s fingers dug into the ground, seeking for something to tear apart. He was no longer in a state of even making up words in his mind. To stay sited took everything he had.

    The air inside the first Savage Cave was very hot and humid like the steams in the belly of a volcano. Hundreds degrees high. As a result, sitting steadily as Zax did quickly became intolerable.

    It took a day for Zax to get used to the imposing savagery and another day to estimate how much control he had over his body, sixty percent.

    RUSTLE!

    The sound of leaves parting came from behind him. Zax opened his eyes and dashed forward as out of the bushes a two meters long green lizard with bulges on its back emerged with the intent to jump him. Its eyes were the same color as Zax’s, blood red. The lizard did not halt when its ambush failed and sprang at Zax, which avoided its first attack by a hair's breadth.

    The lizard burrowed its claws in Zax’s skin, but could not break past it. Its eyes turned redder, it raged and rolled with Zax on the ground as its dark white aura frantically burst out of its body.

    ‘This lizard is berserk; it completely lost it to the savagery!’ Zax deduced.

    Since he was a bodily cultivator his output of strength depended on how much he could generate it from his muscles. With an overall control of the body at sixty percent, the strength that he could use was of even lower percentage!

    “Get lost!” Zax kicked the lizard that used the momentum of the kick to jump over a tree and attack him again.

    ‘How can it be so strong?’ Zax could not understand.

    Though he mostly saw red, Zax could still somewhat distinguish colors due to his eyesight improving with the rest of his body. By its color, the lizard was a Peak phase Core Breaker in terms of mist energy. Its soul level, Zax could not sense, but it clearly was not stronger than his. And in terms of bodily cultivation… there was not even a need to mention it.

    ‘Its power surpassed that of the Core Breaker canines’ by a great margin and even some of the Mist Master!’

    The lizard was eccentric and Zax just spent two tiring days to gain partly control of his body.

    ‘If one more troublesome beast will appear I won’t have the energy to fight it… I must retreat and look for something to nourish my body’.

    Zax clashed with the lizard for a bit longer before he managed to break its leg and escape. The lizard, even with broken legs, tried to chase after, but its speed dropped substantially and it could not keep up with Zax.

    Anything and everything inside the Savage Cave seemed to emit the color red in more dominantly than the original colors. Zax realized that it was mostly because of his eyes. He picked his fur coat when he escaped from the lizard and neither it nor the color of his skin was supposed to be red. Nonetheless, he looked at himself and at the fur coat and red resided everywhere.

    “Fruits!” After running for a while Zax found an accumulation of trees with long branches not far from him. Growing on the branches were oval shaped flowering plants. His stomach rumbled, he was hungry and preferred meat, but was not planning to be picky. He picked up a fruit and bite voraciously.

    ‘Not delicious but better than nothing’. Zax finished the fruit in five bites. The fruit was bland but had the texture of an apple and was bursting with fluids.

    Reaching out for the third oval shaped fruit, something flashed in Zax’s field of vision. Zax hastily moved away from the tree. He caught up to the speed of the creature that moved so fast just as it stopped, clanged to a branch fifty meters or so away from him and locked eyes with him.

    “Sheea!”

    ‘A person…!’ The creature was actually a human.

    Up until Zax noticed him, he moved cautiously from branch to branch, making his ambush. However, that moment it has been discovered a golden savage aura exploded as he launched at Zax and it screamed in a chilling shriek.

    “Wait!” Zax cried. A human? Was it really a human? He saw one among the hunters when he journeyed to the cave, and here appeared a second one, a middle age bright skin, and dark hair man in tattered garb.

    The man ignored Zax’s plea.  He was actually was an Intermediate phase Mist Lord and by the redness of his eyes, his soul completely submerged in the savagery.

    BANG!

    The man moved faster and hit stronger than Zax. Lost in savagery, the imposing force of the cave did not impede him and so, even if in normal circumstance Zax could handle an Intermediate Mist Lord, in this current situation he ended up being in a disadvantage.

    “Wait!” Zax called out again. His tough body could withstand the attacks of the man so long that they missed his vitals. “Wait!” Even though he evaded and tried to escape, the man obstinately kept coming after him.

    Zax knew that it was not the man’s fault, that he was under the savage force, he felt it himself! For that, and because he did not want the hurt a human, Zax held himself from hitting back.

    ‘There must be a way! There must be a way!’ Zax brainstormed of what he can do to help the man gain his senses. ‘The cave entrance!’ It was several kilometers from them and near the spot where he fought with the green lizard, but nothing else came to his mind.

    WUSH!

    Zax avoided a punch that raided him for above.

    BANG!

    He was struck by a wave of golden mist energy and lost his footing.

    “Sheea!”

    The man’s hands were shaped like claws and with his golden fingers he slushed at Zax.

    “Stop!” Despite the savagery telling him otherwise, Zax still only defended.

    The man was insane, but Zax was not. Moreover, he was human. Zax did not believe that a beast life weighed less than a human’s. But he himself was a human and he grew among humans in an environment where Killing was the most heinous crime. Killing a beast… that he could do, his sister done it, but only for preservation, for food. That was also why he did not kill any of the canines, enemies or not, it was not something that he could bring himself to do.

    The man hands waved wildly, leaving golden streaks in the air. No matter what Zax said, the savagery had a greater hold on the man’s mind.

    Zax attempted to outrun the man. The cave entrance was his only solution, salvation, and it was not far.

    THWACK!

    The two collided and their bodies flung on the ground. The bright skin man landed atop of Zax. The man swung his golden claws, penetrated Zax’s fur coat and ripped to shreds. Zax grabbed the second claw that was headed to his throat and was amazed by the force behind it.

    ‘Is that an Intermediate Mist Lord?!’

    Zax’s hand slowly receded, his other hand pushed the man’s face, but the man was thirty centimeters taller than his hundred and seventy centimeters. His hand could only stretch so far and there still was the man’s other arm that clung to his elbow and tried to crush it.

    “Grah!” Confronting the mad man that poured his killing intent over him as if it was a raging river, the savagery Zax subsided these past two days, lashed out in a roaring retaliation.

    The redness in Zax’s eyes intensified. His left hand squeezed and crushed the right hand that pressed it. His right hand clawed at the bright skin man’s face and the pressure cracked his cheekbones.

    The man stayed irrepressible and unbothered by the pain. His golden aura emanated from his body in its maximum potency.

    “Grr!” Zax shifted his hand and hurled the man off of him. “Grah!” He wanted to kill, to slice him up, the savagery steered his body and his strength peaked above its level, but his awareness was not entirely lost. “Grah!” Zax soul repressed the savagery, it was within his power, however it took a lot of time and soul energy to finish and the man already recovered his stance.

    The internal warfare put Zax once more in a weakened position. The man was coming at him as his aura bolstered his assault and the heads of two golden lions appeared where his hands were.

    Zax knew that if he will let go a second time he will truly be submerged by the savagery like the man and the green lizard. His control of the body diminished to fifty percent after the boost from the savage force. It was just like a drug that the more one takes, the ghastliest its aftereffect and the greater its control the next time.

    The two tyrannical lion heads were close enough to deliver death decree when Zax instinctively sidestepped using the bodily maneuvers his Master taught him.

    WUSH!

    His body fluctuated with several after images.

    Though the bodily maneuvers were not meant to attack or escape, Zax discovered that while executing the bodily maneuvers, he was able to generate more power and move smoothly. The drawback was that under the climates and mental pressure of the cave, the bodily maneuvers exhausted him twice as fast.

    The two lion heads followed Zax, yet either missed or were slapped away. Zax could tell that the longer the battle would be dragged, the more likely he would lose it or lose to the savage force.

    ‘If I’ll stop the lions will definitely hit me, but this way I’m not moving any closer to the tunnel!’

    He completed one cycle of the six sequences and somehow could keep going despite the great amount of energy he was depleting. Zax was baffled over from where this vitality emerged and it would have continued to stupefy him if not for the unavoidable end that will occur the moment he will spent it.

    BANG!

    One lion hand exploded and a bloody mess replaced the right hand that made it.

    “Sheea!”

    The man cared nothing of his lost hand and splashed his blood as he constantly waved his arm along the remaining lion head.

    ‘No!’ Zax exclaimed. The struggle of his soul required most of his concentration and his breathing became disoriented, the sequence was broken!

    His back was bent and his eyes faced the ground. The golden light of the lone lion head flew in a straight line to his face and all Zax could perceive was the sharpness of its teeth and the sound of its roar.

    ‘Move! Move! Move!’ Zax shouted in his mind. The power of the strike was similar to that of an Advanced phase Mist Lord and sufficient to shatter his skull!

    Due to his unique soul, his inner mind could keep up with the speed of a Core Master, plenty of time to bellow tens of times for his body to… “Move!”

    The savage force of the cave rammed the soul energy and dispersed it. A curtain of blood obstructed Zax’s vision. His body dodged and the lion head passed above his head. Zax’s body curved, his right arm arced from the ground and the five fingers of his right hand clenched into a fist.

    BANG!

    Zax felt something hard break like an eggshell and small, tough pieces of it along with a hot liquid covering his hand.

    The shock of what might have happened reawakened him and a surge of soul energy brought him back to sobriety.

    The curtain of blood turned transparent. Zax saw his fist rinsed by a hot liquid and redder than his other hand. He looked to the side. ‘Did he escape?’ He thought that maybe the lion head also got destroyed; together with the bright skin man’s other hand.

    However…

    Zax watched in disbelief. The man lay dead. And his own hand was covered by the bony pieces of his skull and blood.

  6. #66
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    Book 3 – Into The Wild

    Chapter 10 – Kill Or Be Killed




    Blooded splattered and littered the ground around the body of the bright skin man. On the way to his big sister’s Master’s cave and on his journey to the Savage Cave, Zax did not hunt for food. Valgarel had more than enough fruits trees and with his Soul Sense it was not a problem to find them. Therefore, the consternated Zax could only watch at his first kill, a human kill, with a rigid expression on his face.

    In his sea of consciousness the internal warfare reached a cessation, but the mental state of savagery was an inseparable part of anyone who ventured into the Savage Caves, regardless of how much the imposing force of the caves affected him or her.

    Inside the bubble of savagery that contained Zax’s sea of consciousness, his soul throbbed like a pulsating heart, immersed in the passion of his loathsome deed.

    “It is wrong! Wrong! I shouldn’t have done it!” Zax tried to convince and subdue the side of him that sought more slaughter. The savagery contradicted with his morals, so Zax forced himself remorse rather than sincerely feeling it. Under the influence of the bubble of savagery it was like telling a kid who did not receive a present that he wanted on his birthday that he should express sadness despite the many more other presents, candies and everyone that cheered him.

    Around six hundred meters to the north, trees began to rattle. Something was approaching in fast speed and large strides. Five hundred meters to the opposite direction, a bird’s cry reverberated and strong winds lifted stones off the ground.

    “More insane beasts and humans!” Zax looked at the two directions the possibly more savage beasts or humans were coming from and withdrew a step back. “No! I can’t fight anymore. I don’t want to kill. I didn’t come here to kill!” His body leaned to where the lifeless bright skin man was laying. Zax hesitated, to leave it and run felt like escaping the scene of the crime in the culprit’s shoes.

    “To not even bury him…” Zax did not know much about ceremonial burial, only that he could not perform it, thus not give the proper last respect to the man he killed. What was left to him was to simply dig a hole in the ground and cover the man’s body with dirt, yet under the current predicament the risk of him taking care of the man’s body could be at the expanse of his own life. Zax turned around in repentance.

    Even after a dual fight against external and internal forces, Zax unbelievably discovered within him the energy to run for the cave’s entrance. ‘I will organize my thoughts outside and come back in. The cave’s force… Master sent me unprepared... No I had it too easy because the Black Core nullified the principals of Pain and Destruction! Laivien said that the Savage Caves will be able to make up for it. Now I just have to find a way to hone myself like Master said!’

    At the very least, when the savagery did not rule Zax, its lingering presence aroused a certain level of lucidity in his mind.

    “Hisss!”

    “Rrour!”

    “Scree!”

    Loud calls of savagery seemed to chase after Zax.

    ‘Why are they coming after me?!’ Zax looked back as he ran. Whoever they were, they were too far and the foliage hindered Zax from seeing the beasts or humans or both that madly followed.

    “Stop chasing! Stay away!” They were already on his trail, so it did not matter if he yelled or stayed quiet. “Come at me and I’ll kill you!” Zax roared for the sake that some of them still had a hold over their actions, for the sake of not foolishly risking his life, for the sake of not losing to the savagery again and for the sake of not killing anymore.

    “There!” Zax saw it at a distance of a few hundred meters, the cave’s entrance. In a leap he crossed the starting line of the cave and the range of its savage force.

    “Haaa!” His head felt like it was being yanked right out of its place. Inside the tunnel, the bubble in his head did not disappear, but was pulled back by an invisible attracting force to the cave, taking everything it encompassed without any consideration to the accommodating person.

    Zax succumbed to the will of the bubble and reentered the cave right as his pursuers arrived. None was human. One was a bird around the same height as Zax with four wings, another was a fifty meters long snake and the last one was five time the size of Zax, a mammal from the mustelidae family that had the characteristics of a badger.

    The snake and the badger fell into a primal frenzy and jumped each other the instant they met. By the time Zax reentered the cave, both suffered deep injuries while the bird waved its wings, casting strong winds at the two. The three’s cultivation was pretty decent. By the color of their showy auras and mist energy, the snake and the badger both were Intermediate phase Mist Lords and the bird was a Peak phase Mist Master.

    “Grrr!” Zax grabbed his head. The pain exaggerated the influence of the savagery and instead of using this chance to escape unnoticed he was more inclined to stay and fight.

    CRASH!

    The badger, with the unconscious help of the bird, smashed the snake’s head, killing it and still kept tearing the rest of it body. A river of blood streamed out of the snake’s neck. Though Zax saw mostly red, the sight of an even deeper shade of red and a look over his right hand made him realize why he was chased.

    It was the scent of blood that reeked from him.

    As to why the bird, even if one would say unconsciously, helped the badger… Historically speaking, snakes were the common enemy of many animals, which included the type of bird the four wings bird evolved from and badgers.

    Just as there was basically not a single piece intact of the snake’s body, the two beasts turned on each other. The badger pounced first on the bird, bit and ripped its upper left wing and tossed it aside.

    “Scree!” The bird yelped and punched the badger’s left eye with its talons.

    ‘A chance!’ Zax saw the opportunity and pushed himself to use it.

    “Rrour!” The badger pushed the bird to the ground and was mid ripping another wing when it noticed Zax attempting to escape. It kicked the tattering bird and roared.

    ‘It’s coming!’ With barely fifty percent control on his body, Zax could not have gotten far and the beasts were still experts. A skirmish was a matter of couple of seconds to them.

    Feeling the killing intent emitted from the badger, Zax had a déjà vu of the bright skin man and an insight to the curtain of blood that still cost its veil on him.

    “Graah!” Something snapped in Zax’s mind. He turned and sprang full force and more at the badger.

    The badger’s claws and Zax’s fist met and with a “Splash” sound, the fist explosively blew the badger’s arm.

    SLASH!

    The badger’s other claw slashed and left four shallow marks on Zax’s chest. Blood dripped from the four wounds, but Zax did not show the slightest care.

    “Grrr!”

    He growled, caught the badger’s neck and shoulder. “Grah!!!” His eyes were nothing but red. He extracted all of his given force and ripped the badger apart.

    Releasing his grip, the two parts fell as blood showered Zax. The abundant energy that he had left was near depletion. While panting, the attrition brought him back to his sense. However, he was not the same as when he killed the bright skin man. This time around, Zax snapped because he reached for the savagery, he sought the complete intoxication of the curtain of blood and now that it was over, transparent to certain degree, the dose of savagery made him assess the situation with wild eyes.

    ‘Alive…’

    The bird was still breathing, barely able to stand up – the badger apparently broke its legs – unable to fly, submerged by savagery, it desired to continue with the only one that was left.

    Zax panted couple more times and then filled his lounges with air.

    WUSH!

    His body flickered. He did not fight with the savagery, only regulated its influence. His control of the body rose to seventy two percent, but his disposition with his morals reached a new juncture.

    So long that he was inside the Savage Cave, taking lives could not be considered a senseless act. ‘In here it’s different than what I was taught’.

    He reappeared next to the bird.

    ‘An aberration that is part of the Martial path…’

    “Scree!” The bird opened its beak. It waved at Zax its complete two wings and the half torn one with accumulated dark silver mist energy that sharpened it feathers.

    BANG!

    Zax punched and the bird’s head exploded.

    “Killing for survival… Kill or be killed!”



    Cannot leave, too outraged to stay. After finishing up the bird type beast Zax strode solemnly in the Savage cave, in search of more fruit trees. To get rid of the blood he rubbed himself with dirt over and over, he was not sure that it would help, but twenty minutes went be without encountering anymore beasts or humans.

    ‘To survive I have to adapt to the savagery. I was on the right track when I let go against the badger, but the way I’ve done it was reckless. Killing like this… ’

    Concentrating his soul energy, little by little, a bridge started to be formed in Zax’s sea of consciousness between his soul and the savagery.

    ‘In small doses my soul will get used to the savagery in moderation’. Zax sighed to himself. ‘For now my priorities should be finding more of those fruit tress since raising fire to cook meat will definitely attract problems. Next, I’ve got to find a place to train. Until I will be able to handle the savagery and gain a hundred percent control of my body, my soul won’t be able to find the tranquility to mediate. Besides, the bodily maneuverers were what saved me against the man… I don’t know why, but when I executed them, I could move much more swiftly and the opposing force of the cave also alleviated for a little while. Training here will no doubt be stressful, but under the pressure I might improve faster’.

    In the Savage Cave, calls of savagery could be heard from generally every direction. To avoid additional encounters Zax headed for the opposite direction of any sound that was on his way. That made him to go on circles for a while. Luckily he was able to find several fruit trees.

    Amazingly, after eating five fruits all of his energy was restored. It was amazing because one should not forget that Zax’s body fitness level was in the Advanced phase of level C! Because he did not have Qi or mist to nourish it, rich food was the only thing that could provide him the supplements to sustain the body.

    “Mmm… That was great! The taste wasn’t much, but it filled me up more than the herbal liquid and Master’s food!” Zax stretched his body in satisfaction. After the short meal his body returned to perfect shape, though he still could not utilize it freely, but with his mind determined to survive and the acceptance of savagery, dealing with Beginner phase Mist Lord without losing his mind was practicable.

    Also as someone who trains in bodily refining technique, the injuries that Zax bore already healed.

    ‘But staying here is still not good. If more than one beast will come or if I’ll be exhausted from training, at one point or another I will lose my life’. Zax mulled over his limited options. ‘If this is the first cave I can’t imagine how many times worse are the second and third are’.

    Reaching to this conclusion, Zax picked a few fruits to go and went on searching for a place where he could train without interruption.

    A day had passed before Zax accomplished his search. What he found was a desolated grove with nothing but fruit trees and not one bit of savage sound.

    ‘I should not be rush. The bright skin man and the green lizard both were quiet before they attacked me’.

    The grove had a circumference of over five hundred square meters. Zax carefully inspected it, one square meter at a time, and expended his inspection to a kilometer outside the grove. Since the bubble prevented him the use of his Soul Sense, Zax had to rely on the senses of his body to detect crazed beasts or humans.

    Around seven hundred meters from the grove was the farthest Zax could go before the madden cries of those that inhabited the cave reached his ears. He did not know why the grove was left deserted, but it was good enough for him to decide not to leave it for a while.

    Fruit trees were all that was in the grove, but not far from it was a large water reservoir that Zax could get to with no worries.

    After finding a suitable place for him to peacefully sit, the next thing on Zax’s agenda was to observe the fluctuations of his soul that was the reaction to the doses of savagery.

    Though even in his current level the soul appeared as a blur, Zax could evaluate its condition by sensing its energy. As expected, the assimilation of savagery was arduous on the soul and slowly progressed. Since the bridge that connected the savagery and the soul was made of soul energy, it also reflected the adaptation of Zax’s soul to the savagery.

    One dose of savagery after another crossed the bridge in the form of an energy wave and was swallowed by the soul. To Zax it seemed like forcing a person to eat something that he does not like in hopes that he will acquire a moderate taste for it. Currently, to Zax’ soul, each dose was like a mouthful of the hottest peppers. It passed through the soul, infiltrated past its defenses and inflated it. The only reason that the core of the soul, the spirit, was not in danger, was because the savagery was a state of mind, an emotion that was carried by an outside energy to alter the soul.

    ‘It’s approximately one dose every second’. Zax calculated at which point his soul will get used to the savagery and, as a result, will be able to nullify its compelling effect. “Naturally, afterwards there won’t be a need for the bridge… but with one dose it will take a long time, yet two are too much”. Zax tried to think of a method that would allow him to expedite the adaption process. He contemplated what he can and cannot do. His current state could not even permit the peace of mind to study the pieces of spiritual knowledge in Adraak Meditation.

    “Adraak Meditation!” Zax cried while having his first smile on his face since he entered the Savage Cave.

    “It’s completely unsuitable. But Somnolence Meditation…!” Zax instantly sat crossed leg. Still smiling, he began to meditate.

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    Book 3 – Into The Wild

    Chapter 11 – Not One Ounce Of Effort




    While carrying out Somnolence Meditation, Zax reached to the conclusion that he definitely made the right choice. Entering the state of Somnolence Meditation during the process of adaptation to the savagery was similar to when Zax dismantled the icy grains of the Inner Spirit formation and merged them with his soul. The difference was in the fact that the savagery already appeared in the form of energy, so there was nothing to dismantle, and also in the complexity and cohesion of the doses of savagery… the difficulty of the icy grains was at a level in which even someone below level F could handle, the savagery, on the other hand, was a burden even Core Masters struggled with.

    To support his soul, Zax figured out a way to reconstruct the bridge of soul energy in a manner that will lessen the intensity of the doses, which will make it easier for the soul to receive, and will allow more doses to pass together as his soul becomes more adapt. Though, to maintain the new structure of the bridge, Zax had to constantly stay in a meditative state.

    Two days have gone by while Zax meditated.

    “Whew!” Zax breathed a sigh of relief and awakened for the meditative state. “When I meditate, each progress doubles the amount of doses. It’s a shame that I can’t keep the new shape of the bridge at all times. Currently my soul can handle sixty four doses of savagery… I wonder how it corresponds to my control of the body”. His habit of talking to himself from his training days in the Essene Cave resurfaced.

    Zax got up on his feet and stretched himself. Though he did not eat anything in the past two days, to a bodily cultivator it was not much if from the beginning his body was full and especially if he did nothing to wear it.

    As for how much the savage force of the cave affected Zax after two days of the right form of meditation, well… the desire to lash out at something and rip it apart was still there. However, now Zax’s hold on it strengthened a bit. As long as nothing pushed him to defend himself at any cost, his grip could hold.

    “I should check my control with the bodily maneuvers since I’m all too familiar with them than any other sort of movement”. Zax decided and started to execute the six sequences.

    “Tsk!” Zax finished the cycle and tutted. “Around seventy five percent of control… Too slow and too little”. The effort to move his body was the basis for his analysis of his control over it. Practicing in the bodily maneuvers felt like he forced himself to perform them in a pool of mud. “Then again…”

    When it came to the bodily maneuvers Zax was more than overly perceptive. With his mind in a clearer state than two days ago, he could observe with almost ease why the output of strength and level of agility were higher while he worked out the bodily maneuver, compere to any other move or gesture of the body.

    “Training the bodily maneuvers under these circumstances would be like weights training, like raising the level of difficulty. I already know all the moves and breathing sequence, all that I have left is to perfect the rhythm”.

    “Weights training” is a gentle way to put it. Although the pressure of the cave is more mental and the more one fights with the savagery the harder it is to bear, its effect so domineering that the body also affected by it to a degree that every cell in the body feels like it is carrying weights. Still, the results of training in such of environment are not the type that will make the body stronger; the pressure on it is but an illusion. What would improve is the technique. Instead of gaining the strength to force an action couple of times, one will gain the ability to execute flawlessly the action. For a practitioner that would seem like trading quantity for quality, but over time it is easier to find methods for strength more so than refinement.

    “As of now, the bodily maneuver will exhaust me after about three cycles. Luckily the grove is abundant with fruit trees and just a few seem to fill me up. I will divide my training schedule accordingly to twenty hours of bodily maneuver and four hours of Somnolence Meditation. That way I could exchange sleep for meditation. First, though, I will have to get a sense of time”.

    And so another day had passed and, although not accurate to the time outside the cave, Zax managed to dedicate a small portion of his concentration to a twenty four hours cycle of time.



    WUSH!

    VISH!

    PHU!

    Zax’s body caused all the possible wind’s sounds as he practiced the bodily maneuvers. Slow, fast, deep breaths, shallow breaths… all were executed as they should in the first three cycles and only the rhythm lagged behind.

    As more days continued to pass, Zax trained the bodily maneuver not just externally, but mentally as well. In his mind it was simpler to keep up the rhythm for a while longer, but was harder to match it with the six sequences and breathing sequence. Therefore his training split to three parts, thirteen hours of physical training, seven hours of mental training and four hours of meditation.

    During these demanding days, Zax found a little solace atop the fruit trees that surrounded him. There was only one type of fruit and on most trees it could be found with its apple like texture and not much of a taste, however, on a handful number of trees the same fruits grew to their ripe stage and their taste was phenomenal!

    For every thousand unripe fruits, Zax managed to find one ripe fruit and savor its taste. It did not have the apple like texture beneath its peel. When the fruit was ripe its inside were filled with a sweet and burning nectar as if it was a balloon filled with wine.

    Little did Zax know that the fruits were actually the rare Blood Red Grapes that made the wine the Supreme Rulers drank when they announced their pact of brotherhood and sisterhood unification. Zax, like every child in Kingdom Earth, learned about which drink the Supreme Rulers used to seal their pact, but only in writing, that is, its name.

    What was so special about the Blood Red Grapes was something that Zax was in the midst of learning on his own. The Blood Red Grapes had only two stages, “Ripe” and “Unripe”. The unripe form of the Blood Red Grapes that Zax ate once in a while was considered as one of the most lethal poisons in Kingdom Earth. It was not that the fruit was poisonous or with accumulation of toxins in its early stage, but the immense vitality of its early stage was what made it so dangerous.

    The Blood Red Grapes sucked the vitality of its environment in order to grow. A place where constant slaughter took place like the Savage Caves was its ideal place to grow in. Much like the place where it grew, only Core Master could physically tolerate the vitality of one or two grapes. That was because the physique of Mist User in level S was equal to level C in terms of bodily cultivation. If someone below that level would eat an unripe Blood Red Grape, the vitality will agitate all three aspects of his or her, and their body would instantly combust.

    Since Zax’s body surpassed level C by a few phases, his constitution could handle six or seven Blood Red Grapes and afterwards, if he will not wear himself, weeks would pass before the sense of hunger will arise.

    As for the ripe stage of the Blood Red Grapes, the fruit spends its vitality to reach this stage. Later, it is still better if one is at least a Mist Master before simply picking and eating\ drinking the Blood Red Grapes. Otherwise, to drink it in its exquisite form as a high class wine, there are still a few stages of external refinement before it is recommended.

    The great number of fruit trees was also the actual reason why no one except from Zax approached it. When there is nothing to kill then the need to devour and the instinct to survive restrain the savagery, if only for a short while. Beast and human in the Savage Caves are not exempt from needing to eat. Though their temperament would still be savage, herbivore beasts in nature will seek food that they can eat, digest and sustain themselves with, while carnivore beasts in nature will follow the herbivore ones and those that eat anything will roam to wherever they want but will be mostly drawn to where the greatest accumulation of food is. Since tolerating the Blood Red Grapes depends on fitness level of the body and despite their wonderful taste when they are ripe, it is very unlikely that beasts or humans in a savage state of mind will come looking for them.

    Also, the grove Zax found was one out of many smaller and larger ones in the Savage Cave.



    A month had passed and Zax’s daily routine also showed hints of improvement between each day of training.

    If each dose of savagery was compared to a drop of water, then by now there was a constant stream of savagery that flowed to his soul in the first twenty hours of the day, and a river in the last four hours of the day. How did that interpret with regards to his control of the body? Well, Zax already regained more than eighty nine, closer to ninety percent control of his body. The remaining ten percent, however, were a whole lot harder to regain and even in his meditation time, Zax barely made progress.

    With respect to the bodily maneuvers, every day was full with new surprises. Zax could tell that his training did not at all contribute to the bodily refining technique he followed. Nevertheless, each day another cycle was added to the continuity before he needed a break to replenish his energy. That symbolized that although his body fitness level did not increase, his technique did and as a result less energy was spent on executing the bodily maneuvers properly.

    And then there was the rhythm. Yes, improvement in the bodily maneuvers did signify that Zax also made progress in keeping up with the rhythm and matching it with the sequences, but after a month of training with meticulous attention to his weakest point, Zax sensed something novel when combining and executing the bodily maneuvers with the rhythm. The longer he could sustain the two together, the more he realized that there was another look, a profounder perspective to the rhythm that his Master left him to figure out alone, much like the breathing sequence.

    Lastly, Zax temperament also underwent transformations in the past month. Zax developed familiarity with the intent to kill. He did not think about it a lot, but his morals and view over taking another’s life were changing, cultivating and gaining insight, one must say.

    His previous repentance for killing the dark skin man or the badger and the bird was long forgotten. Now and then, Zax asked himself questions of who that man was? Who the green lizard was? Who the three beasts that chased him were?

    “Experts on the Martial path, ready to risk their life in training, willing to take mine”.

    Put aside the challenges that a Martial cultivator has to go through in order to advance on his or her path, did Zax not know of the dangerous of Valgarel regardless of why he ventured into it that day with his big sister?

    Why then it was illegal to cross the border between humanity’s territory and the beasts’?

    And those four words he spouted after killing the bird type beast and followed his notion for survival, “Kill or be killed”. That day they were said under the influence of anger, hate, hostility, irritation, savagery! Their meaning to Zax was a spur of the moment. Only a month later did the true significant of the expression meant something intelligible to Zax.



    Training in the Savage Cave was the only real time when Zax truly was alone. When he cultivated his soul, before his big sister opened for him the path of bodily cultivation, his time alone was a mere few hours a day. If it felt like more, it was because that back then Zax isolated himself from others.

    And when Zax trained with his Master for nearly two years, though he had only one person besides him, it was during that time that his heart began to open up again.

    Now in the Savage Cave, Zax was by himself for two months, yet though he would have appreciated company, with the savage force that reign the cave, in mind, Zax acknowledged the need for isolation and used it to concentrate on nothing but training.

    Two months after he found the grove, the hint of insight that eluded Zax and was the key to mastering the rhythm finally unwrapped itself.

    “Unreal! Unreal!” Zax could not restrain himself and jumped on his feet like a joyful Krikitory cub that was praised by his mother. “Hahaha! So that is what it was!” He announced triumphantly.

    “Hahaha! I want to try it!”

    His brows touched and a serious expression appeared on his face.

    The first move of the first sequence of the bodily maneuvers was extending the hands from the shoulders forward. The first breath of the breathing sequence that accompanied all six hundred and fifty moves was a slow inhale. The two together were the beginning of the perfect execution of the bodily maneuvers because they required the practitioner to open outwardly and solidify inwardly the foundation of the following moves. As for the rhythm, it was slow, steady and impeccably done.

    Thus, the cycle began.

    Zax’s perception of time with the inner mind was what determined how slow was slow and how fast was fast. Every person that reached the realm of outer and inner mind could choose which one to you use daily. Regularly using the inner mind, though, put a strain on the soul and that was why most people led their life with the basic state of mind, the outer mind. To Martial cultivators, however, training was executed with the perception of the inner mind for fast progress.

    If someone of the same soul level as Zax saw him perform the slow moves of the bodily maneuvers, Zax would really seem slow to them. But if someone in a lower level saw Zax, even the slowest move would seem fast. That was not just how Martial cultivators trained, but also how they fought.

    In the state of inner mind, Zax followed his discovery of the rhythm attentively.

    WUSH!

    VISH!

    PHU!

    The savage force of the cave still impeded him, but everything from his bodily maneuvers to the breathing and his new outlook of the rhythm proceeded without a glitch.

    The cycle was over.

    Zax stood in his place, staring at his hands, arms, over the shoulder and the rest of the body.

    “Not one ounce of effort”. An ear to ear smile spread across his face. “Perfect execution”. His hands clenched into fist. “That’s it, the Intermediate phase of the bodily maneuvers!”

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    This chapter was sponsored by Adam from United States! Please join me in thanking Adam!

    Book 3 – Into The Wild

    Chapter 12 – Dealing With Core Masters




    “The Intermediate phase of the bodily maneuvers!” Zax could not help but to say it once more. “The six sequences birth the breathing sequence, the breathing sequence birth the rhythm and the rhythm birth a sort of energy!”

    Zax finally figured the main goal of practicing the bodily maneuvers.

    WUSH!

    His body disappeared, flickered, moved faster than ever before. He jumped, kicked, punched, swayed, bent, rose in every manner he chose. By reaching the Intermediate phase of the bodily maneuvers his proficiency in utilizing the body whichever way he liked, advanced to a new level. No gesture or movement had a wasted ebb and flow. Even with the burden of the cave’s savage and imposing force that reduce his control, Zax’s precision in maneuvering his body was effortless and graceful.

    Zax stopped at the edge of the grove, closed his eyes and contemplated the next thing he should strive to achieve now that he had absolute control of the six hundred and fifty moves, the breathing sequence and the rhythm.

    “The energy converged spontaneously and sustained from the one hundred and second gesture of the sixth sequence to its last move and vanished. At the time of the last seven moves and gestures it felt like each of them carried fifty percent more power! Learning to summon the energy should definitely be my next aim, and it’s probably the prerequisite for reaching the Advanced phase of the bodily maneuvers”.

    “Still, there something that I don’t understand. If my execution of the moves, breathing and rhythm was perfect and unified all three from the first move, than what made the energy to converge only near the end of the sixth sequence?”

    Zax walked blindly to a close by tree, which while testing his new bodily capabilities he saw that had a ripe Blood Red Grape ready for harvest on one of its branches. He jumped, plucked the grape and drank its delicious nectar.

    The grape did not fill him with vitality, but the nectar had a special cure like property that lessen the effect of the savagery temporarily and cleared the mind.

    “There can only be three reasons. First, I simply didn’t notice the energy. Second, its accumulation was too low to bring in into existence. Third, I had to get close to, reach or execute once the moves, breathing and rhythm in union in order to break through a certain bottleneck before the energy could emerge”. All three reasons were reasonable and all could be true or false, however Zax had a way in mind to be sure.

    He extended his hands from the shoulder, slowly inhaled and moved accordingly to the rhythm.

    “Gah!” Zax fell on his knees and spat a mouthful of blood.

    “Impossible!” He muttered, panting.

    Mid way the first sequence Zax felt a growing mass weighting on his body till eventually he could not carry it anymore. The instant he stopped the mass recoiled and a surge of energy bashed his internals.

    “Ugh!” His insides felt like they ruptured and entangled. ‘Can’t move, got to rest and heal’. Zax retained a calm state of mind, said to himself and allowed his body to gradually heal.

    ‘What was that? The first time the energy dispersed and converged in each move separately. But now it energy emerged right from the start and streamed from one move and gesture to another and accumulated till it was too much to bear’.

    ‘By converging from the start it proved that I broke through a bottleneck when I reached the Intermediate phase, so when the energy accumulated instead of dispersing it made sense that it acts differently in the next level. But if it’s truly like this, then anytime I’ll stop before a sequence or possibly a cycle of all six is complete, the energy will recoil. Then again, that much accumulated energy will blow my body to tiny pieces... Doing it like this can’t be right. I must disperse the energy in every move and let it converge rather than stream and accumulate, that must be the proper way to maneuver it. I’ll test it when my body will heal’. Zax assessed what went wrong and when he reached the conclusion he stopped thinking about it and began to meditate.

    It took Zax’s body nine hours of recuperation before it was back in shape, yet drained from energy. Couple of unripe Blood Red Grapes later and he was ready to try his hypothesis.

    ‘First move. I feel it converge. Disperse right when the first move ends’. Zax self instructed. ‘Second move. The energy converged, repeat the same process’.

    Zax exercised the same caution and employment of the energy in one move after another.

    ‘The last gesture of the first sequence… I can’t keep up longer than this!’ Zax dispersed the energy that converged in his left foot with a little slide of the heel.

    “Dispersing and converging… is the proper way…” Zax breathed heavily. “But… I barely finished one sequence…” He picked up a rock, threw it on a tree and several unripe grapes fell over.

    Taking the first bite, Zax smiled. “So that is the new challenge!”



    From the day he reached the Intermediate phase of the bodily maneuvers Zax reevaluated his daily schedule. There was no point anymore to train on the rhythm at one time and the bodily maneuvers and breathing sequence at another. He combined all three and was able to implement them in whatever he did. Since the progress of his meditation slowed down to near a stop, after he resumed ninety three percent control of his body and a similar ninety three percent adaption to the savagery with his soul, Zax realized that unless he will dedicate more time to meditating he will be stuck in the Savage Cave for maybe years – in case the adaptability of the soul was related the bubble that engulfed his sea of consciousness.

    Zax arranged his new daily schedule to evenly train for twelve hours in the bodily maneuvers with the goal to converge and disperse the energy in each of the six hundred and fifty moves and gestures, and the next twelve hours to meditation and reconstruct the bridge between his soul and the savagery to something more efficient.



    The swirling air turned comparably to a cyclone and Zax was at its eye for one moment and in the next somewhere else, where the bodily maneuvers took him.

    Almost four months have passed since he ventured to the first Savage Cave. Apart from the vicious encounters in the first couple of days, Zax did not meet any other beasts or humans. As it so happened, something, someone, was about to stir his peaceful days.

    “Footsteps!” Zax let the energy disperse and halted his movement. “Two feet… could it be a human?”

    The sound of the footsteps did not yet reach the grove, but also nor far from it, a few meters or so. Zax also trained not far from the same direction, so even though he was over one hundred meters from the edge of the grove, he could pick up the sounds.

    WUSH!

    ‘If it’s someone that can stride so calmly, then he must be a Core Master at least in soul level!’

    From his first days in the Savage Cave Zax learned that Core Masters, or to be precise, a soul with the capabilities of a Core Master is required in order to fend off the savagery.

    Nevertheless, although his soul level and body fitness level did not advance at all in the past four months, his utilization of the body experienced leaps and bounds and his control of the body and adaption of the soul were closing in on the ninety seventh percent.

    Worst case scenario, if a Core Master would attack him, he will be able to run and disappear before the other will catch him.

    “Hahaha… So someone else got here first”. A voice responded to Zax’s emergence and laughed sorely.

    The one who stood before Zax was a slim man with a black skin, a trimmed haircut and chiseled muscles. The black man was about ten centimeters taller than Zax, around a meter and eighty centimeters in height, in his early twenties and wore a loincloth that was made out from beast skin.

    “Friend”, the man turned to Zax. “Are you capable of speech?”

    In other words, Zax understood, the man was checking if he lost to the savagery.

    It is important to note that regardless of how well one can handle the savagery, the redness in the eyes is inevitable within the Savage Caves. Therefore, when two meet inside the cave, it is preferable not to rely on the look in one’s eyes.

    “Are you a Core Master?” Zax answered with a question. It may have sounded rude, but better to be rude and safe than polite and dead.

    The man smiled and released his aura that shown in azure hues. “Are you not a Core Master?” He asked back.

    Zax was startled. The arrival of the black man was so unexpected that he only considered himself as the need to know guy. “My soul is”, in an unexplained way it was true, and without a Soul Sense the black man could not know to which degree. “But I’m a bodily refiner practitioner”. With that in mind, the black man will also need to be considerate.

    A flash of surprise appeared on the man’s face for a short moment. “Then both of us good, no need for savagery”. He happily said. “My name is Carl. What’s yours?” Carl asked straightforward.

    “Zax”. Zax replied, still on guard.

    “Okay, Zax, I will not beat around the bush. Since you seem to be in this grove before me, I’ll ask forthrightly, mind if I pick a few ripe Blood Red Grapes?”

    ‘He came here for the grapes…’ If it will start and end with picking couple of ripe grapes Zax would certainly not care, but if that Carl will get what he wants and come back in the future for more, it would be quite bothersome for Zax.  ‘It looks like he also prefers not to fight’.

    Zax was not looking to kill more beasts or humans than he already did, so if the other one did not provoke him he could subdue that much of the savagery. On the other hand, if someone will assault him with killing intent, then do not blame him.

    “There aren’t many ripe grapes. I rarely find one myself. I’ll recommend that you’ll try your luck someplace else”. Zax said.

    “If that’s the problem, I’m willing search and give up on my own. If it is my presence which troubles you than let’s do it like this… I’ll enter the grove and search for ripe Blood Red Grapes for three hours while you will follow and keep an eye on me until the three hours are over. Then, if I’ll find a ripe grape it will be mine, if I’ll find more than one, then for every three that I find you’ll get the third. Whether I’ll find grapes or not, I promise to leave and not bother you again. How is that?” Carl fairly suggested as if he done so in the past.

    Zax thought over Carl’s suggestion. ‘If I’ll say No, then there won’t be a reason for him to hold back. And until I’ll reach the Intermediate phase of the Intermediate phase of the bodily maneuvers, I’ll rather avoid confronting with Core Masters’.

    The path of getting to the Advanced phase of the bodily maneuvers required the practitioner to converge and disperse the energy in all six sequences. Zax was able to exercise the bodily maneuvers with the energy nearly to the end of the second sequence, that is, almost reaching to the Intermediate phase of the Intermediate phase of the bodily maneuvers. The day he will be able to exercise the maneuvers and the energy to the first move of the fifth sequence, he will step into the Advanced phase of the Intermediate phase of the bodily maneuvers.

    ‘On the other hand, if I’ll say Yes, this guy, Carl, might know and be willing to tell me where I can find the plants Master instructed me to look for in the Savage Cave’.

    “Three hours”, Zax said. “Starting now”.

    Since his suggestion was accepted, Carl did not hesitate to show his gratification. His azure aura shimmered and his body sprang into action. Although the grove was not that big, to a Core Master who cannot use his Soul Sense and struggles to detect the slight difference in coloring between a ripe grape and an unripe grape because there is not that much of a big difference, examining thoroughly one grape after another when hundreds to thousands are hiding around behind leaves and branches can still take a considerable amount of time.

    “There is one!” Carl announced in delight thirty two minutes into his search. “One within half a hour is not bad. If I’ll manage to find six or five…” He was satisfied with that much.

    “Carl”, Zax followed from a distance of ten to twenty meters. There were many trees in the grove and he did not want to lose eyesight of Carl even if he could hear him.

    “What is it Zax? If it’s not urgent please save for later. Remember that you already initiated the three hours”. Carl said impatiently without even glancing at Zax’s direction. He meant what he said, but also knew that if he pushed, maybe Zax will agree to extend the three hours.

    “I can’t say that it’s urgent, but there is something that I want to ask”. Zax replied.

    “Mmm… then let’s sit and talk about it when the three hours are up”. He said decisively.



    Three hours later.

    “In the end I could only find four”. Carl sulked. “Here, one is yours”. He threw one to Zax that shortened the distance between them to eight meters.

    “Thank you”, Zax caught the ripe Blood Red Grape. Since he discovered the grove he found and ate three or four grapes every week. After two months the numbers dropped to one or two a week. Additional two months or so later and looking for even one became tiring and at the expense of too many hours of training.

    “Well then, I’ll leave now”. Carl said and turned his back.

    “Wait!” Zax called. “My question…”

    “Oh, that… I wasted three hours on three grapes. I’m not in the mood to stay and talk for no reason”.

    It was hard to tell if Carl played upset or really was. Either way, it seemed to Zax like Carl had another agenda besides the grapes. “Answer my question and I won’t mind you staying for another hour”. Zax tried to negotiate.

    “An hour? Even if you’ll give me an hour for every tree and keep your share this grove still is done for. Do you have any idea how long it takes for Blood Red Grapes to ripen?”

    “Ah…” Zax was lost of words. He did not know how long it takes to the grapes to ripen. Also, if Carl was not interested in more time to search or even the whole grove, then was he wrong about him having another agenda?

    “If you don’t know, you are probably even less time than I in the Savage Cave. It takes the grapes two years to ripen. Now, please forgive me, there are many trees and many groves of Blood Red Grapes in the Savage Cave, but only a handful that are not occupied or with safe guys to deal with in this part of the cave”. Carl said and once more turned to leave.

    “Okay, stop!” Zax stepped before Carl, shortening the distance even more to a mere meter. ”You either want something and that is why you keep refusing or you are truly hard headed”. Zax frowned. Why else did Carl make his point about what he cannot get from the grove and the grapes? He talked too much despite his reluctant behavior that Zax had an idea of what he wants. “You already evened us when you gave me the grape, so I can’t expect you to answer my question for letting you the three hours. What else do you want?”

    Carl sighed. He was frank when the other side had something that he wanted and cunning when he had something that the other side wanted, but if the other side did not bother to play around and spoke frankly, he also realized that the game could not go on for both sides to win.

    “How long have you been in the Savage Cave, Zax? I’m six years, give or take couple of days”.

    “Six years?!” Zax was flabbergasted. He himself could not imagine staying for more than one year in the Savage Cave, and that was only because he was not sure if in one year he will be able destroy the bubble in his head.

    “How long are you?” Carl repeated the question.

    “About four months”.

    “Ah! Four months is nothing. Six years is a speck compared to the many that lost to the savagery and the many that did not”. Carl forced a smile and said. “There are experts that have been in the Savage Cave for more than two hundred years. Naturally, all of them broke through the Core Master level. What I want has something to do with these guys”.

    “You want me to help you deal with super experts that two hundred years ago were already Core Masters?” Zax sneered. He might as well not ask anything and search the plants on his own.

    “Not at all, not at all“. Carl shook his head. ”I’m not looking for death or even a spar against it. I broke through the Core Master level seven years ago. And you, whom I’m still not clear about your body fitness level, don’t strike as someone who can handle those guys. My offer has something to do with them, but not at the risk of our lives, on the contrary, for our sake and benefit!”

  9. #69
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    Book 3 – Into The Wild

    Chapter 13 – Bizarre Friend




    “Fine, let me hear your offer. So long that it’s as you say, not excessive and can also benefit me, I’m willing to listen”. That much receptiveness Zax agreed to give Carl.

    “Hahaha…” If the two were any closer, Carl would have pat Zax on the back. “You won’t regret it, well… only if you’ll disagree, but that will be after a long time, when you’ll realize your mistake”. Carl phrased himself sensibly to not make it sound as if he was threating Zax and also to plant the seed of doubt in the content of disagreement. This was definitely an acquired virtue to his personality, something that only years of expectance could foster.

    “My offer is quite simple. Let’s form companionship in the Savage Cave”. Carl held up two fingers and crossed them, smiling.

    “Companionship?” Zax echoed.

    “Indeed”. Carl immediately confirmed. “To search freely for ripe Blood Red Grapes, neither of us has the ability to move freely in the cave. Sure, the savages generally should be weaker than us, but they don’t care for fatigue or death and there are too many of them to take lightly. And let’s say that you do manage to avoid clashes with the savages, it is very unlikely that you will find a Blood Red Grape on a random tree. Eventually you will have to look for groves like this one and then hope to not meet an expert already dwelling in them or hope that if there is an expert, then that he or she will show you courtesy”.

    “All for the sake Blood Red Grapes? I thought that there was something else that you were interested in…” Zax ate enough of the Blood Red Grapes to know that they may help to mollify one’s temperament in the Savage Cave, but only for a short time. It was not worth it to seek them for a short lived pleasure. Better was to stay in his undisturbed plot and train.

    “You have been in the Savage Cave for four months, Zax, but how long have you been in the grove?” Carl asked.

    “For nearly the same length of time”.

    “And how many ripe Blood Red Grapes did you truly eat?”

    “Over thirty”. It was not the exact number, but Zax received the impression that a high number rather than an exact number was what Carl wished to hear. He also did not have problem to honestly answer since despite the savageness in Carl’s eyes, he did not sense enmity or a killing intent from him.

    “Then you probably misunderstood something good as your own doing”. Carl said decisively and frowned. “Blood Red Grapes should not be consumed whenever you feel like eating one. Of those thirty that you ate, I suspect that an uneducated guy like you had wasted the real benefits of at least two thirds!” Stating so firmly, Carl grip on his three grapes tightened as if to guard them from the slapdash fellow in front of him.

    Seeing Zax’s confused expression, Carl nodded his head and said. “I’ll elaborate to help you understand. In the Savage Cave the greatest impediment is making the soul adapt to the savagery. This becomes even more of a problem the longer you stay in the cave. My soul, for example, a year ago managed to ninety eight percent adapt to the savagery. Since then, however, I did not make any progress. The reason is that over time the savage energy condenses and liquefies and in an even longer period of time… No need to mention the less fortunate. What I’m trying to say is that the ripe Blood Red Grapes, if consumed before exercising adaption methods, will help increase the soul’s durability for a while. In other words, will hasten the time it takes the soul to adapt to the savagery”.

    ‘If that is true’, Zax suddenly realized, ‘not only I was a wasteful fool, it also explains why I barely made progress this month…’ Unconsciously he began to grip his grape in the same protective manner Carl did. ‘It’s not good to stay here longer’. He came to the conclusion.

    “If we’ll travel together to find grapes, what’s your plan?” Carl already proven to Zax that he was unbounded by the savagery, if venturing in the cave, Zax felt that a guy such as him would be an acceptable companion.

    “Not complicated at all, as a matter of fact. If the two of us will go together to the other half of the cave, where it’s abundant with grove even larger than this one, and present a united front when facing an expert that already took control on a grove as his training grounds, if we won’t be able to convince him to let us look for Blood Red Grape, at least we will make him think twice before discharging his pent up savagery on us. That’s the focal idea of why I offer that we should travel together”.

    “Besides the grapes, there are of course more ways that we could support each other. Dealing with the savages will be less dangerous, and although we train in different refining techniques, we could also exchange pointers. Naturally, when one of us does chose to train alone, the other will keep an eye for him, as well”. Carl stated the pros alluringly. As for the cons, there was only one. But a too obvious one that he could do nothing about and so he hoped that Zax will go along with him if he will emphasize the positive.

    Trying his capabilities against a Core Master did sound tempting to Zax and he wanted to do so since he reached the Intermediate phase of the bodily maneuvers. But… “How do I know that I can trust you? Both of us are still in the Savage Cave and unless our souls will perfectly adapt to the savagery, the risk of lashing at each other is too high”.

    “That…”

    Discussing the con in the end was unavoidable and with respect to the effect of the savage force of the cave, anyone that just began to adapt to it knew how tricky it was to keep the savagery at bay. Even when the soul a hundred percent adapted to the savagery, if staying in to Savage Cave for a long time, the savagery will still build up the desire to kill, this was why those who trained in the Savage Cave for tens or hundreds of years were dangerous to deal with.

    “…Is something that you and I will have to ask ourselves if we are willing to risk”. Carl answered honestly. “I’ve been for a short time and a long time in the Savage Cave… time here is relative to your achievements. A long time, because after six years I was not as lucky as you in finding a desolated grove and so my soul still did not adapt to the savagery. A short time, because in those six years my training had not even begun”.

    Zax considered Carl’s reasoning. ‘Put aside the Blood Red Grapes and a Core Master as a training partner, I’ve got between five and a half to seven months before the day of evaluation by Master’s big brother. To be on the safe side, I can’t afford to stay here longer than six months…’

    “Is that all?” Zax asked.

    “If you agree than there is only one more thing”. Carl said.

    “What is it?”

    “If we do travel together, then if savages attack us, we can’t interfere with each other. To help, the only thing that is allowed is to attract some of the load off in case there will be many savages. That way our killing intent won’t be directed at each other... By asking are agreeing to form companionship?”

    Zax walked closer to Carl and raised his hand.

    The two shook on it and a companionship was formed.



    It took Zax and Carl four days to cross to the other half of the cave. It was not that the Savage Cave was bigger than most caves in Valgarel, but to cross it without arousing the attention of the savages, those who submerged in the savage force, one could not act rashly.

    In those four days Zax learned from Carl why experts chose to train in the Savage Cave.

    “You are not a Core Master so you are unaware of it, but the most important thing for Core Masters is to cultivate the soul…”

    In essence, the Savage Cave for those that wanted to cultivate the soul was akin to the Essence Cave for those that wanted to cultivate the body. The mere difference was that in the Savage Cave one could practice a soul refining technique of his or her choosing, and the Blood Red Grapes were the counterpart of the herbal liquid Zax soaked in when he practiced the Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement.

    Zax also got an answer in regards to the plant that he sought. Regrettably, Carl was not familiar with the plants and did not recognize them when Zax drew them and described their colors. On the other hand, Carl told Zax that from what his elders told him, there are roughly eight types of unique plants that grow in the Savage Cave and most of them can be found the closer one gets to the tunnel to the second Savage Cave. At which point, Zax decided to first complete the adaption of his soul to the savagery, since Carl also confirmed his hypothesis.

    “The bubble will vanish when your soul will adapt to the savagery… I suggest that you assess its state once every day so you won’t be caught blindsided when it will start to condense”. By the look on his face, it seemed that Carl learned the hard way that the bubble should not be taken for granted.

    Zax wondered, when Carl advised him, why Carl’s elders did not warned him about it or if they did warn him but like the bubble, Carl took their words for granted.



    “I’ll take three, you’ll take two”. Carl said to Zax. It was their sixth day of companionship and five savages followed their trail, not as a group, but together they came at them nonetheless.

    One human, four beasts.

    After four months in the Savage Cave, Zax came to understand that pulling punches and mercy could make him pay a hefty price. It dawned on him when he thought back to the green lizard, the first beast he encountered in the Savage Cave. Even with broken legs it still came at him. If it had managed to find and attract other savages to his position before he reached the Intermediate phase of the bodily maneuvers…

    ‘Killing for survival’. Zax told himself, thought he was content when the human was not among the two the Carl left for him.

    Zax’s speed astonished Carl more than his strength. The two beasts were at the Advanced phase of the Mist Lord level and one of them was a panther type beast, not the fastest of the type but still very fast, yet Zax speed was even faster.

    Carl mistook Zax’s speed as a result of his cultivation technique, however he was wrong. Zax’s speed was mostly due to his perfect execution of every movement of his body. Nothing was wasted or forced, not even hindered by the cave’s force. And all the credit belonged to his diligent training and breaking through to the Intermediate phase of the bodily maneuvers.

    The two killed the five savages and receded their killing intent before addressing to one another.

    “When I was young I dreamt of training in a bodily refining technique. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to be accepted as an apprentice by those who follow this method of cultivation, so I had to settle on the training the elders could provide me”. Carl reminisced. “We should leave before more savages will get here”. He said before Zax could comment and an azure aura emanated from his body as he fled ahead first.



    “My method of adapting the soul?” Carl replied to Zax’s query. “I visualize a nine points star and shape my soul energy accordingly. When the savagery reach to my soul it passes through the star, its sieve like center thins the savagery to fine feasible threads. Why? What’s your method?”

    “I formed a bridge with my soul energy between the savagery and soul, but the closer that I get to a hundred percent adaptability, the less useful the current form of the bridge is and the more complicated it is to create a new suitable one.  Nowadays, I can only make progress when I meditate”.

    “Somnolence Meditation?”

    “Yes”.

    “I do the same, but with the bubble condensing…”

    “How about this, you will teach me your nine point star and I’ll teach you the current form of the bridge I’m using. Maybe if we’ll combine the two it will help”.

    “Sure”.



    “Remember, repress the savagery as much as possible and let me do the talks”. Carl said.

    After eleven days of traveling they found their first grove in the second half of the Savage Cave.

    “Okay”. Zax said and the two walked past the boundaries of the grove.

    “Leave!” It did not take long for someone to appear and shatter their hopes of a desolated grove.

    It was actually a human that welcomed Zax and Cal, a tall and muscular geezer with pale skin and white braided hair. His body was covered by a beast skin Cloak and nothing more.

    “A moment of your time, friend”, Carl step forward.

    “Leave!” A vast azure aura burst from the geezer and his red eyes turned redder.

    “As you wish”. Carl said and took Zax by the hand as they left.

    Several kilometers from the grove.

    “That’s it? You said to let you do the talks and after two words you retreat?” In the name of the Supreme Rulers! Carl’s instantaneous turn around left Zax angry and stunned at the same time.

    “You are inexperienced so you talk nonsense”. Carl shot at him. “Remember that I told you about those guys that train here for years? Well… that guy was one of them and with exceedingly low tolerance for civilize communication!”

    “Fine, but won’t all those we meet will be the same?” If what Carl said was acceptable as a reason to leave as they did, then they will not be able to convince anyone to negotiate with them. “Why are we traveling together if no to give the impression that we are no pushovers?” Zax argued.

    “Our companionship is exactly so others won’t take advantage of us! But among those who did not lose to the savagery in this cave, there are many experts that can thrash us with a single hand. You are inexperienced because you can’t judge who is an expert that we can deal with and who isn’t. Practically anyone on this half of the cave has adapted to the savagery. That already put their capabilities a step above ours, which means that the previous guy was also staying in the Savage Cave for training and not bound to it like we are. Furthermore, that guy possesses a grove on the latter half of the cave, even if on the outskirts of the latter half that should still indicate something about him. Now recall how quick his eyes were to redden, this should tell you that he has been staying for a very long time. Hence, not someone that we can deal with. And as I told you, I don’t, and neither should you, pursue an early death”.



    “That should be…” Zax said.

    “The ninth”. Carl continued.

    “At least we are not short on groves”. Zax sighed.

    To nine groves they have been to in two months and from nine groves they turned their backs with empty hands. The only bright side in their journey was the few random findings of ripe Blood Red Grapes, which the two equally shared, the progress in practicing the bodily maneuvers for Zax and the two percent for Zax, over one percent for Carl in the adaption process of their souls to the savagery and the good company that each of them perceived from the other.

    They entered the grove and Carl released his aura to attract the attention of anyone who might dwell in it.

    “Tsk, tsk, tsk…” Short moments later a beast in a humanoid form crossed the trees in a fly and clicked its tongue. It was a bird type beast, a male by his physique. His body was covered by elegant blue, red and green feathers, his arms were two folded wings and his head was that of a parrot. “Don’t come in, don’t come in”. The parrot head repeated in shrieks and stood afar from Zax and Carl on a branch.

    “Marvelous friend of the Zuzubare tribe”, Carl apparently recognized to which tribe the bird type beast belonged to and used it to open with flattering.

    “Leave at once, leave at once!” The Zuzubare tribe member shrieked, his eyes reddened and an azure aura exploded from its feathers as his wings spread to the side in a hostile manner.

    ‘Great…’ Zax thought to himself. ‘”As you wish”’. He quoted Carl frequent phrase in despair.

    “Why so imperious, friend?”

    “Ah?!” Carl’s words almost caused Zax to stumble. “Carl…?”

    Carl ignored him, instead…

    “Friend of the Zuzubare tribe, for quite some time me and my little brother here traversed the Savage Cave. In our journey we fended many of the savages. Sadly, none could challenge us. Please forgive my insolence in advance”. Carl’s aura exploded, his legs kicked the ground and his body shot toward the Zuzubare tribe member. “Allow me to exchange pointers with you, friend”. His last word reverberated.

    ‘What’s going through his head?’ In the time that they traveled together, Zax came to know Carl pretty well. His personality was frank, most of the time, and lies never seem to leave his mouth. Cunningness, however… Zax chose to stand and watch.

    BANG!

    Carl’s left foot kicked the Zuzubare tribe member who defended with his wings and tens of feathers scattered. “Admirable!” Carl praised joyously.

    FUISH!

    A punch, slicing the air, followed the kick.

    BANG!

    Brilliant dark golden aura and mist energy burst out as the Zuzubare tribe member defended himself and was thrown thirty meters, toppling the surrounding trees.

    “A Peak phase Mist Lord!” Zax stared in puzzlement. “A moment ago this parrot head beast emitted the aura of a Core Master, now it’s a Mist Lord?”

    Carl heard Zax’s inquiry, however said nothing and turned to the lying in the dirt Zuzubare tribe member. “You teach me a lot, friend, here I come again!”

    “I yield! I yield!” Shrieks of surrender were uttered pleadingly.

    As the dust dissipated, the Zuzubare tribe member was bowing with its curved beak to the ground.

  10. #70
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    Book 3 – Into The Wild

    Chapter 14 – Connecting The Pieces




    “Hahaha!” Carl laughed. “What are you saying, friend of the Zuzubare tribe? No need to yield in a friendly exchange, but oh my, who knew that you are just a Mist Lord. You ended up in such a poor state because of my impotent perception. Rest easy, to make up for my wrongdoings me and my little brother will settle in this grove until you will recuperate”.

    The beak of the Zuzubare tribe member paled as he heard Carl imposing himself so nicely and with fake consideration. “Se… Senior! Don’t bother! Don’t bother!” He shrieked.

    “Hahaha!” Carl laughed aloud shamelessly. “Of course it won’t be a bother”. His aura flickered and his body appeared next to the parrot head. “Let me give you a hand, friend. Little brother Zax, go fetch us couple of ripe grapes. We should celebrate this blessed encounter with such a welcoming friend!”

    “Sure…” Zax replied. ‘I’ll ask him later’. This ordeal was way off compared the usual “come and go” from all the groves they have been to and Zax wondered what was it that made Carl act differently now rather than in previous encounters.



    “So many…” Zax’s eyes lingered on the amount of ripe Blood Red Grapes that were on the trees. Less than a hundred meters into the grove he already saw plenty of them, tens followed by hundreds! “We struck it rich!” He could not contain his excitement.

    At first, when Carl told him to look for ripe grape for a celebratory reason, Zax wanted to know where the thrifty Carl has gone to. Now he did not care.



    “Oh… you return so fast”. Carl was impressed, or maybe acted impress.

    ‘Acting’. Zax guessed, basing his assumption over the time they traveled together and got to know each other.

    Despite the many ripe grapes, Zax decided to bring only three, one for each. Until his and Carl’s souls will reach a hundred percent adaption to the savagery, no matter what, it was better to conserve. “There are hundreds more, Carl”. An ear to ear smile adorned Zax’s face.

    Hearing this, Carl pupils constricted. Even though he exchanged some words with the Zuzubare tribe member when Zax was way and had some sort of an idea as to how many ripe grapes they would find in this grove, Zax’s discovery was beyond his expatiations.

    “And you brought just three?” Carl maintained his gleeful demeanor. Next to him the parrot head looked like the cave’s ceiling fell on him and there was nothing that he could do but get used to the weight or do something wrong and let it crush him.

    “Never mind”, Carl said. “Little brother Zax, say hello, this Zuzubare tribe member’s name is Zri. Zri, my little brother, Zax”. He introduced.

    “Nice to meet you, Zri”. Zax said.

    “Za…” Zri said in return. He could not read Zax mist cultivation level so he either was not much, maybe like him, or too formidable.

    “Zax, Zri is a bird type beast, so it’s hard for him to speak. Only because he is a Zuzubare he can utter some words that he took the time to learn”. Carl explained.

    “Oh”, Zax abruptly remembered Shulip, and how she could also just whistle because of her vocal cords. “Then don’t force yourself”. He told Zri.

    “Good, now that we all know each other, let’s drink”. Carl raised his grape, punctured it and was the first to drink.

    Zax was happy to do the same and Zri had no choice but to comply.

    “Back to train! Back to train!” Zri shrieked. Although he was still hurt from the exchange with Carl, the grove was big, nearly two thousand square meters, and since he did not trust the two and had nothing within his powers to do to retaliate or argue, he chose to leave them be, while staying as far away from them as possible.

    “If you insist”, Carl said. “We will stay over here for the time being”. Since he did not know the size of the grove, Carl had yet determined where will be most comfortable to accommodate him and Zax.

    Zri left upset but quietly.

    “How did you know that he was not a Core Master?!” Zax hurriedly asked after Zri left.

    “Hahah… Zax, little brother Zax, you are nothing but inexperienced!” Carl taunted. He then shocked Zax. “I didn’t. It was only a speculation”.

    “Explain”. Zax more demanded than asked. Since when did the cautious Carl act according to speculations? And would not it also put him in danger?

    “Don’t frown. I had more than eighty percent chance of being right and I was!” Carl tapped on his shoulder to reassure him. “Zri is from the Zuzubare tribe, one of the sovereign tribes in the inner territory of Valgarel. Among the bird type beasts, the Zuzubare tribe members have a unique trait which allows them to change the color of their aura and its oppressiveness to either that of a level below or above their level of cultivation. Unlike true experts, Zri was also quick to try to intimidate us. Because of it, I figured that he merely used his tribe’s trait and most likely his soul is not even in the Core Master level. He probably carries treasures given from an elder of his tribe that enable him to change the color of his eyes and deal with the savagery until his soul will adapt to it. This grove was also probably left for him by a tribe elder”.

    “So it was like this…” Zax understood. “But how could you have known that the elder was not here? And won’t he come eventually?”

    “If the elders was here, he would not have let Zri, a Mist Lord, risk himself by greeting us. And if he’ll return here in the future... well, that simple, we’ll just have to escape as fast as we can”.

    “…”



    Relying on the plenty ripe Blood Red Grapes in the grove, within half a month the souls of both Zax and Carl had finally attained a hundred percent adaptability to the savagery. On Zax’s side, the progress was especially swift thanks to Carl teaching him his nine point star adaption technique. It was two levels above his most advanced bridge structure in effectiveness. And once Zax combined the two to a nine point star bridge, his adaption progress became frightening.

    Due to the complete adaption, the bubble that encompassed their sea of consciousness faded and the two could once more use their Soul Sense. Still, because the savagery was a perpetual force that influenced the inhabitants of the Savage Cave regardless of how well they adapted to it, the two could only manifest a tenth of their Soul Sense’s range and continued to consume ripe grapes.

    That aside, the two’s main goal from the start was not to adapt their soul to the savagery, but to cultivate and hone their souls in the best environment for soul training in all of New Earth. Thus, the two finally started to train in their respective soul refining technique.



    BANG!

    Zax’s fist landed on the protective layer of mist energy that surrounded Carl and repeals appeared on it like waves.

    BANG!

    The second fist penetrated through the mantle and sent Carl flying.

    Carl gritted his teeth, waved his hand, forming shapes with his fingers and mist energy at the same time, a seal reformed from the remnants of the mantle and rays of azure light shot at Zax.

    ‘A long range attack!’ Other than those of his Master, Zax did not see long range attacks of a Mist User and Carl’s were also different than his Master’s.

    Zax jumped and wriggled to avoid the rays attack. He was all too familiar with them from previous spars he had with Carl, and although they could not hurt him badly, they still hurt a lot.

    On a side note, from sparing with Carl and battling with the savages, since coming to the first Savage Cave all of Zax’s clothes and the fur coat he received from his Master were mutilated. If it was not for Carl showing him how to make a beast skin loincloth, Zax would have been completely naked by now.

    The long range attacks missed and Carl was forced to divert those he could to the ground so the grove would not be harmed.

    “Remember, easy on the explosions!” Zax halted on the branch of a tree and reminded Carl while smirking. The grove did not possess a repealing force and the savages can be attracted by the noise.

    “Inexperienced toddlers should mind their own business”. Carl replied. His azure aura shimmered and mist energy shrouded his arms and legs. “Come at me now!” His four limbs quadrupled in size, black azure fur covered them and fearsome claws grew from his fingers. Carl looked as if he fought to restrain a ground shaking growl and pounced to Zax’s direction.

    “’Assault Of The Leader’ Martial technique, close range attack… when are you going to show me your true beast form!” Zax shouted back.

    Yes. Carl was a beast in human form. He revealed it to Zax when their souls adapted to the savagery. Why?

    “I won’t tell you further than this about myself. If you are a Martial cultivator, venture to the wild yourself and learn on your own”. He said back then. At most he was willing to explain that beasts have three forms “Animalistic”, “Humanoid” and “Human”, but not all beasts are able to transform by simply wanting to. He was not willing to show Zax his humanoid or animalistic forms, but confessed that when a beast dies it changes to its animalistic form.

    Carl ignored Zax and the two clashed.

    Punches, kicks, slashes, mist attacks, physical attacks…

    They clashed in the air, fell back on a tree and launched themselves once more.

    “You’ll never beat me in this form!” Zax said. After reaching the Intermediate phase of the bodily maneuvers, every move he made generated the pinnacle of his bodily movement. Every fiber of his being moved in harmony no matter what was the command Zax’s brain initiated.

    He caught Carl’s arm and with great force pulled them from protecting his chest. Carl’s legs hindered Zax’s so kicking was out of the question. Zax released his grip from Carl’s right arm and before it could defend his chest, shot a straight punch to Carl’s stomach.

    “Argh!” Carl felt the punch turning his internals. Instantly a surge of mist energy filled his abdomen, stabilized the internals and circulated the remaining force.

    “Brat!” Carl squealed. “But I won’t let you see my true form even if you’ll beat me to a pulp, hehehe…” Carl knew that Zax’s display was due to his dissatisfaction with him holding back.

    “Then you’ll keep losing to me”. Zax retorted unhappily. “…are you okay?” Nevertheless, his last attack was driven more by an impulse than the desire to win in the spar and unintentionally he put all his power behind it.

    “Don’t worry, I’ll be fine”. Carl assured him. “Though it seems that you get stronger the more you train in those bodily maneuvers of yours… be that as it may, despite being faster than me and slightly stronger, you better avoid real fights with Core Masters. The powers of Core Masters vary and more complicated to assess than in lower levels”.

    “Not sure that you can say it in your state…” Zax taunted now that he knew that Carl was fine.

    “Say whatever you want, I won’t show my true form to an inexperienced brat”.

    “Hmph!”



    Thirty five days since finding the grove.

    Zax sat in a meditative position while practicing Adraak Meditation.

    ‘I can see it!’ His voice echoed in his consciousness.

    Over a thousand pieces of spiritual knowledge from his subliminal mind were laid before him. All were fully appreciated. Even more so new fragments of the entity were scattered for him to get to and study, but he did not address them. A new insight was within his grasp and for the last two days Zax battled with himself to not lose it.

    ‘This one and this one. This and that, the other one back there, also. One more. Yes! I need that and… that, no! That!’ Whether it was due to the benefits of cultivating the soul in a Savage Cave or the consequences of a hard work or maybe his adaption technique, Zax finally gained the insight to construct the pieces into the entity’s original shape.

    A day, two days three days… ten days Zax sat with eyes close, unknowingly being watched over by Carl who suspended his own training, till finally his eyes opened and his face beamed with gratification.

    “Only a hundred and ninety six pieces fitted…” He complained, but it did not sound like it.

    Out of the one thousand two hundred and seventeen pieces that he fully appreciated, he could only fit together a hundred and ninety six pieces of the great puzzle, barely anything of the real shape of the entity. Nevertheless, when the hundredth piece linked with to the ninety ninth, his soul broke through the bottleneck to the Mist Master level. Seven hours later he gave up, for now, on the puzzle after the ninety sixth piece.

    “Congratulation, little brother Zax”, since they arrived to the grove Carl did not stop calling him like this. “I can’t assess how far your soul advanced, but by looking at your face I can tell that you made a breakthrough”.

    “Hahaha!” Zax got up and walked over to Carl. “I did, my soul broke through the Beginner phase of the Mist Master level!” After getting accustomed to each other and recognizing their friendship, although refraining from talking about where he came from, Zax already told Carl that his soul is actually in the Core Breaker level and because of his own traits, its abilities matched those of a Core Master.

    “That is splendid. Maybe you should start training as a Core Master from now on”. Carl explained vaguely to Zax the purpose of soul training for Core Master. Only saying that it is not about raising the soul’s level and before starting he should discuss it with his Master.

    “I will, but Master told me to hone my soul before returning and crossing one level doesn’t seem to me enough. I’ll keep meditating until I’ll make it to the Intermediate phase of the Mist Master”. Zax made up his mind. Either that or he will return before the three years’ time his Master’s big brother gave him will be up. ‘Three months is the longer that I’ll stay’. He estimated.

    “If you came here to hone your soul, then generally speaking, you achieved that when your soul adapted to the savagery. Pay attention…” As Carl finished talking an immense killing intent surged from him and invaded Zax’s consciousness.

    The terrifying killing intent was thick and suffocating, however with a nudge of his soul energy it dispersed like a warm breeze.

    Before Zax could vent his anger for the sudden assault, Carl threw his hands up apologetically. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I did that just to show you. By surpassing the savagery of the first Savage Cave, among other things, you can now withstand the oppressing killing intent of those that are not above the Core Master realm. Though, that does not mean that you can cross now to the second Savage Cave”. Carl said.

    “The Core Master realm?” Around this point Zax stopped listening.

    In truth, Zax did not know much about the Martial path after breaking through the Core Master level. Since he was accepted as an apprentice by his Master and began cultivating the body, he no longer wondered about things beyond his reach and concentrated about the goal laid before him. Now hearing this new phrase from Carl, his curiosity arose.

    “A brat in the Mist Master level should not probe”. Carl waved his raised hands to the sides. “This is a matter between a Master and apprentice. Regardless of how capable you are, you had not even made it to the last level before the Core Master’s!” He rebuked. “Besides, it’s beyond the point. If you think of staying until you’ll reach the Intermediate phase to hone your soul then let me divert you toward something more vital for a Martial cultivator”. Carl knew of Zax’s level of cultivation with regard to his body and soul, but was unaware how long it took him to reach those levels. Still, he was able to guess that Zax was younger than him by a great margin, which was why he felt that it was appropriate for him to instruct his companion of two and a half months. “You can keep cultivating the soul and practice your bodily maneuvers, but until the day you’ll go back to your Master, use the savage force of the cave to explore the morality of your actions under its influence”.

    “You mean whether it’s right for me to kill or not?” Zax asked to be sure. In his time in the Savage Cave he thought about and developed his own concept over the matter.

    “Not just that, also how to accept lives that you take. But bluntly, yes. You have been in the Savage Cave for a short time, and soon after you arrived, you found a shelter to aid you. When we traveled I saw you fight and kill humans and beasts, but even raged by the savagery you seemed to cogitate before each kill. To be honest, I’m always saying that you are inexperienced because things that you say or do or just to make fun of you. But, the truth is that you are inexperienced and for a long time you will stay that way, even when you’ll accumulate as much knowledge as I have and more. That is why I advise you, instead of answering that you know why or when to kill and how to deal with it, continue to ponder about it until you’ll leave to your Master”. In his finishing words Carl implored Zax to listen, it was the evidence that he himself learned to care for the boy.

    “It will take me a month to finish my next training session. But when I’ll be free, let’s go search for the plants that you are after. Till then, just think about what I said”.

    Carl immediately turned, indicating that he is going to a closed doors training. He knew that for his words to sink in Zax’s mind, for the time being, he should leave him alone and as soon as he can. By doing so, even if Zax will want to retort, his words would be directed at no one but him to ponder about.

    ‘Killing for survival…’ Carl, apparently, did rattle Zax’s conception. But to reevaluate it after all the lives he took and carried by this belief… ‘Not now, not today’. He just made a breakthrough. This was a cause for celebration, not a fitting time to submerge in doubt over depressing subjects.

    In a month time, although Zax solely trained on the bodily maneuvers, dispersing and converging the energy past the second sequence was as difficult as making a breakthrough in cultivation, as if before the first move of the third sequence there was a bottleneck that he could not perceive.

    A month passed by quickly.

    “Are you prepared to go?” Carl returned for his closed doors training, saying nothing about his last discussion with Zax.

    “I am”. Whether for the plant or any other reason, Zax was eager to go out into the wildness of the Savage Cave. In the grove he could not cultivate his body, the bottleneck of the third sequence was too enigmatic and whenever he wanted to cultivate his soul, Carl’s words echoed in his head and he began to mull over things that he already made his mind on.



    “Graw!”

    “Araa!”

    “Sss!”

    From left to right and up ahead the calls of the savages reverberated in the cave. It was not that in the grove the trio, Zax, Carl and the aloof Zri, had peace and quiet from those savage sounds. But the acknowledgment that for the most part they were safe made it as if all outside sounds diminished to whispers or absolute silence before resonating beyond the grove’s borderline of trees.

    “The best place to find noteworthy plants should be around the entrance to the second Savage Cave. It’s the energy of the second cave that supplements the truly unique flora, while the force and the bloodshed of the first cave supports the growth of the Blood Red Grapes. Let’s go”. Carl explained and moved out first.

  11. #71
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    Book 3 – Into The Wild

    Chapter 15 – Brotherhood




    “We drew the attention of the savages”. Carl said. He and Zax left the grove no more than five minutes ago and the savages that roamed the area of the second half of the first Savage Cave, picked up on their scent with no delay.

    “Should we fight?” Zax asked indifferently.

    In the past month Carl gave Zax a short time to think about the weight of death. In the Savage Cave even the most delicate of beings, whether human or beasts, will sharpen its claws or fangs or talons, and regardless of how much one will preserve, eventually blood will smear the hands, paws, wings and first life will be taken.

    Zax was a mere youth in his fourteenth year of life and already killed, sometimes against his will, sometime without even considering it. His conception was to “Kill for survival” and it still was after one month of pondering about it. However Zax did comprehend why it was important for him to look at death this way.

    It was not the first time that he noticed it, but in the past month he found a different angle to look at it. When he came up with “Kill for survival” concept, it was to reason with himself that the first lives that he took were not his fault. He saw his big sister kill beasts for their meat as nutrition and so his conception followed his big sister’s example. To kill to sustain the body and to kill to sustain life were both part of to kill to survive. That was how Zax saw it at first. However in this fleeting month Zax realized that it was not the similar actions of his big sister that he sought, but her approval for his.

    “Not yet. If we will, more will come in tides. Let’s take care of them in one go”. Carl said. To keep up with Zax he used his mist energy to strengthen himself and even though he was still slower, the savages soon could not keep up and lost them.



    “This many are good enough”. Carl announced several hours after the first batch of savages.

    “I wonder why they don’t attack each other…” Zax said.

    The two stopped on a tall branch and jumped down. Soon after, the savages arrived, a group of twelve, seven beasts and five humans.

    “The beasts are mine!” Carl proclaimed. It seemed that he still was pushing Zax on the matter of death and measured that it will dawn on him heavily if he will take the lives of those from his species.

    Zax frowned, but Carl already launched himself on the beasts and attracted all seven. “Mindless souls”. Carl murmured. Rather than being attract to him, some of the seven jumped each other and began to fight. The same was with the five humans.

    “One Mist Master and four Mist Lords”. Zax stared at the five. “Why they chased if they are gonna fight each other?” The Mist Master looked like a young man. He was being torn apart by a female Mist Lord while the other three, another female and two men, attacked Zax.

    The female that was coming at Zax was the strongest of the five, at the Advanced phase of her level. She was fully focused on Zax and when one of the other three hindered her, she instinctively drove him back.

    For the first couple of seconds Zax hesitated. The two women were the first that he encountered in the Savage Cave. Two formidable women… he could not help but somewhat see a reflection of his big sister on their faces. What made his heart falter even more was that the expression of his big sister’s reflection was too surreal, not that different from the two women’s.

    “Die!” To do what he had to Zax forcefully bellowed. His punches were thrown to the chests and destroyed the hearts of the two women and then the three men. A quick death overall.

    When the fifth body hit the ground Zax stopped justifying the need to kill. He survived and that was it. Shaking his hand to get rid from the bit of blood that stained it he looked for Carl.

    “What are you doing?” Zax asked. Carl was crouching beside one of the beast that he killed, it had the body of a giant bear, but the head was destroyed during the fight so Zax could not tell for sure.

    “Taking a slice of his skin”. Carl said.

    “Your loincloth still on, you know…” In their time together, Zax saw Carl skinning a beast only to teach him how to make a loincloth.

    “Are you planning to collect and hold the plants in your hands once you found them?”

    “Ah...” Zax was lost for words. He actually did not think about it till now, and then he remembered why. “Master urged me to return when I hone my soul and gave me a day to look for the plants… because of how he put it I did not expect to find many…” Zax was embarrassed. When he said it aloud it sounded to him like an excuse of an irresponsible child.

    “Little brother Zax, sometimes calling you ‘inexperienced’ is simply not enough…” Carl shook his head and finished making two pouches from the bear’s skin. Since he used his mist energy to clean the skin Carl managed to make two fine carrying tools and Zax gladly and shyly received one.

    “What?” Carl said when he saw Zax glance surprisingly at the pouch in his hand. “You think that only you interested in treasures?”



    The two journeyed to where Carl believed was their highest possibility of finding rare plants, the entrance to the tunnel that lead to the second Savage Cave.

    On their way they passed some groves that were too outrageous in their size. Because beasts kept attacking them, Carl was afraid that they will disturb the experts in those groves and so chose to divert their path more often than he wanted to, to not get close to the groves. Better them being the target of hundreds of savages than for them to be the occasional outlet to the pent up savagery of one of the experts, which for tens or hundreds of years trained in the cave.

    As they ventured deeper into the cave, the hills and forests dwindled and were taken over by meadows and mountains. To reach the cave’s walls Carl and Zax had to climb the mountains that were the dwelling places of many winged beasts. Among all, a Three Beaks Vulture was the dominating predator of the high terrains. To fight him in his natural habitat was akin for Zax and Carl to dealing with another Core Master, and when the Three Beaks Vulture dived, his speed was not slower than Zax’s.

    To pass the mountains unhindered, the two went through ravines and only when their path was blocked did they climb as swiftly as they could.

    A week after they left Zri and his grove, the two arrived to the cave’s wall. The terrain was hundreds of meters higher than their starting point, and to find the entrance that leads to the second Savage Cave, or at least its area of influence in the first Savage Cave, what was left for them was to look left and right and choose a direction.

    On the high terrain the Blood Red Grapes could not grow, and as a result, to replenish his strength Zax hunted the winged beast, eating tens kilos of beast’s meat every sitting, five times a day. Carl, on the other hand, sustained himself quite well with just his mist energy. He explained to Zax that once one reach to the Corer Master realm, then just by circulating the mist in a certain manner, it will replenish on its own. Of course, there are techniques for Mist Users in lower levels, but they are less affective.

    Zax sure envied Carl, but since nothing could be done for his clogged Qi channels he said nothing and continued eating.

    A day time later the two detected a force that they did not recognize, foreign to the first Savage Cave. The force had a peculiar energy signature that Carl picked up with his mist energy. Afterwards, both he and Zax crossed an invisible boundary that exuded an immense gravitation force.

    “Carl!” Zax shouted.

    The gravitation force was thirty to fifty times stronger than outside the invisible boundary. To Carl, who had to fortify his body with layers of mist energy, the gravitation force transpired too abruptly. A moment of unbalance subverted his control and his layers of mist energy dispersed instantly.

    BANG!

    Carl’s knees sunk into the barren soil. A mouthful of blood spewed on the ground and his body crushed completely.

    Seeing this alarming scene, a realization and fear of his only friend, his brother, about to be lost unless he act, befell on Zax. He rushed to Carl’s side, picked him up and carried him outside of the invisible boundary.

    “Thanks… cough… Little brother Zax… cough”. Outside, Carl found his footing, however leaned on Zax for support. “How frightening… cough…” Blood still spilled from his mouth. “…Now I see why the savages stopped following us… cough…”

    “Enough talking, Carl”, Zax scolded. “Can you heal?” He asked worriedly.

    “Amm…” Carl closed his eyes and surveyed the damage to his internals. “Yes. The gravitation force broken the outer layers of mist energy, but you dragged me out before the inner ones slumped. My body is just in shock. Let’s wait for a day and reenter”. After speaking he sat in a meditative position and closed his eyes.

    Zax also said nothing and quietly waited for a day to pass.



    “Are you ready?” Carl asked Zax. He and Zax were a step from the invisible boundary, about to cross it again.

    “Inexperienced brats are not qualified to ask”. Zax teased.

    “What’s that?!” Carl was genuinely angry at himself for providing Zax the opportunity to tease him in his words.

    “Don’t force yourself if you have troubles hearing”. Somehow, after the experience of almost losing him, Zax ended up more open and attached than before to Carl. He laughed and crossed first.

    “One day, brat, I’ll show you my true form and we’ll see who have troubles hearing…” Carl followed with a grin.

    “Promises, promises…”

    “Fine, little bratty brother Zax, let’s go see how far is the scope of this boundary from the entrance to the other cave”.



    “There!” Zax pointed a short time after they crossed the boundary. Ahead of them, nearly two and a half kilometers from where they entered, was the entrance of the tunnel to the second Savage Cave and as they got closer to it so did the gravitation force became more oppressing.

    “I thought that the gravitation force is a byproduct to the proximity to the second cave. So it’s actually leaks from the other side…” Carl said. “We should stay away from the entrance… this far from it”, he stopped Zax four hundred meters from the entrance. “Should suffice”.

    “Carl…” Zax turned to him with baffled look in his eyes. “I can’t release my Soul Sense… did you try to release yours?”

    The soil within the area of influence that the invisible boundary contained was barren and covered by a carpet of sand that was sharp as glass. Still, Zax did not doubt what Carl told him before they left the grove; that the energy from the second Savage Cave supplements the most unique plants in the first Savage Cage and that by getting close to it they will find them. But he did ponder how in a place like this any plants supposed to grow and it occurred to him that if not above ground than beneath it they might be thriving. Thus, Zax used his Soul Sense only to discover that it cannot leave his sea of consciousness.

    Carl followed his elders’ tips and before searching for the plants he assessed how close he can get to the entrance to the tunnel. Only then, he was told to start looking for treasurers. Therefore, unlike his inexperienced companion, he did not use his Soul Sense until Zax mentioned it. “The gravitation force probably represses it”. He also failed to release his Soul Sense. “Never mind it; the plants should not be too deep in the ground. We can dig to our heart’s content to find them”.

    Zax sighed. The distance the walked from where they entered the invisible boundary was nearly two kilometers and five hundred meters. If this was the scope of the boundary from the entrance to the tunnel…

    “Tsk! This soil is actually leaving white marks on my hands!” Zax complained. “The glassy sand is sharper than a Beginner Mist Lord’s claws attack”. Since he mostly fought beasts in the Savage Cave, Zax compared the sand to the attack most familiar to him.

    SHRIK!

    SHRIK!

    SHRIK!

    Carl was using the Assault Of The Leader Martial technique to tear up the ground, but beyond the sand, his claws could only dig through the soil a few centimeters at a time. ”You are looking for a certain type of flowers, right?” He spoke without halting or giving Zax a chance to answer. “What are you complaining about when I search for a certain type of root? Don’t forget, anything that grows here is considered a treasure, and treasure cannot simply be pluck from the ground!”

    The two labored for hours. One patch of earth after the other they dug and more.

    “A red stalk… Found one!” six hours after they started Zax yelled in delight and Carl rushed over.

    “Hahaha! Little brothers do suck the luck out of their elders!” Carl laughed.

    It was the stalk of the flower with the seven white petals. “Look at that!” Zax shoved the sand and was aghast. The flower was not buried deep in the ground; it was laying on it covered by the sand with only the stalk and the roots planted.

    “The gravitation force causing it to grow lying down and the glassy sand hid it”. The two of them took another look on the barren soil and the shiny sand. “Who knew that this place was so sly?” Carl exclaimed.

    “If the other flower Master told me to look for also hidden underneath the sand, then all I need to do is to sweep a little”. Zax’s lips stretched to a smile.

    “Now that’s truly unfair!” Carl sulked.

    “Hehehe… Don’t worry, I’ll help you dig, even though you can just change to your animalistic form and make it easier for both of us”.

    “Nope, staying in my human form. And since I consider what you said as a promise I’m not going to care, either”.

    “You are happy, aren’t you?” Zax could tell, after finding the flower he himself definitely was.

    “Of course I’m. I can’t call you ‘little brother’ as a figure of speech. Between us there is already brotherhood”. His sincerity emanated strongly from his eyes, and Zax who was a youth closer to his child then his adult years, averted his gaze.

    Suddenly it struck Zax; it was not a momentary thing, he truly did see Carl as a big brother.

  12. #72
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    Book 3 – Into The Wild

    Chapter 16 – Out Of The Second Cave



    The glassy sand that covered the soil was really like a carpet of treasures. Carl halted his search for the roots to help Zax to sweep the soil. In this job his mist energy proved to be most effective. Because Carl had to maintain a multiply layered mantle, he could not just brush the sand with a wave of mist energy, but what he could do was to use the layers of defense to sweep the sand with his hand without touching it directly like Zax.

    Quite often the two found a new plant, whether one that they looked for or another. However, those plants that they did not come for the two refrained from collecting. There was only so much place inside the beast skin pouches and some plants, if handled poorly, could spread toxins that according to Carl: “Too dangerous for even us to deal with!”

    “Nine red stalk flowers and four green stalk flower”. Zax said and tied his pouch to his loincloth. In short, these were the flowers he sought and the most the he and Carl could find.

    “Let’s head out to hunt before we dig”. Carl said. “In the past two days we both wasted a lot of energy enduring the gravitation force”.

    “I can also eat something”, Zax agreed. “The bird type beasts we hunted before were annoying to deal with, but their meat was delicious”. He reminisced.

    “Then bird type beast it is-”

    RUMBLE!

    Tremors in the ground interrupted Carl. The ground shook violently as if something massive inside of it was moving, and above it fluctuation in the gravitation force emanated.

    “Arg!”

    For a fragment of a second the gravitation force increased ten folds and brought both Carl’s and Zax’s knees to the ground.

    “Hold on!” Zax saw that Carl was struggling more so than him and supported him.

    BOOM!

    The ground exploded and a few hundred meters from them a figure appeared near the entrance to the tunnel.

    The ground stopped shaking. The fluctuation in the gravitation force ceased. Zax and Carl, however, stood in utter bewilderment, not daring to make one step or breathe too deeply. Like statues the two stood and watched the figure that came out from the tunnel to the second Savage Cave.

    A man, about as tall as Carl, stood with his body half turned to the two. His upper body was bare and apart from the short needle like black hair on his head, his skin was red and steamy. At the back of his neck was a tattoo of a spiral cube. To his lower body he wore black sturdy long pants with six pockets on each side. The sleeves of his pants were crammed inside his dark green shoes.

    The man stood slightly bent and panting. From his profile he looked to Zax and Carl disoriented and mad. Low growls left his throat, the countless amount of steam that emanated out from him gave the impression that under his skin he contained a blazing fire.

    “Graaaaa!” He suddenly released a deafening roar to the cave ceiling.

    The sound wave hit Zax and Carl and threw them back. Covering his ears, a terrified expression appeared on Carl’s face. “Zax! Go! Go! RUN!” The sound wave repelled the gravitation force and the two could manifest the peak of their strength to escape.

    When the roar hit Zax cracks all over his body began to sound. The same was with Carl, but his mist energy supported his physical structure. “Carl…” Zax was still dazed from the roar. His soul was clearly inferior to Carl’s and apart from the wave that followed the roar, the man exuded a magnificent dominance which assaulted Zax mentally.

    “He is...”

    Zax’s eyes fixed on the man; they saw it when Carl tried to speak to him but was too slow compared to the man’s next actions.

    The man lowered his head from the roar and an oval shaped black object appeared in his right hand.

    CRUNCH!

    The man bit the object and a crunching sound echoed.

    CRUNCH!

    The second bite devoured completely the black object.

    THROB!

    THROB!

    THROB!

    THROB!



    A series of pulses resonated from the man’s body, abruptly halted and a last thunderous pulse burst from the head of the man as its epicenter.

    With the last “THROB”, from the man’s head a black dome was released and spread. The last thing Zax saw before it engulfed him and Carl was his own dark reflection on the dome.

    “Ahaaa!”

    “Ahaaa!”

    Both Zax and Carl lost sense of reality and self awareness. Inside the dome their souls swelled as if infected and the pain was inconceivable!

    “Graah!” Carl wriggled and coiled, mist energy hissed from his body and his voice deepened more and more.

    “Grr!” Zax greeted his teeth. His body bent backward from the initial pain and Carl was right in front of his eyes. He saw him hitting himself, hitting the ground, roaring and twisting as if possessed. What shocked Zax was that while Carl seemed as if turning savage from the pain, he, on other hand, managed to cope with and overcome it to some degree.

    What Zax did not notice was that inside his dantian, two black streams of energy were issued from the Black Core, both to his sea of consciousness.

    One stream followed to Zax’s soul, while the other to the fifth gate of the remaining three gates of the Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement beneath it.

    The dark attribute in Zax’s soul immediately began to grow and expend, transforming the soul and its energy unbeknownst to Zax.

    On Zax’s torso the gate to the next level, level B, the equivalent to the Mist Master level of mist cultivators, shined with its black radiance. Much like the dark attribute, the fifth gate, in a sluggish pace, also began to expand as it fed on the energy of the dome.

    “Arhwoo!” A howl reverberated inside the dome and Zax looked with a mystified expression on his face.

    Carl lost himself and transformed to his animalistic form, an over four meters in height, six meters in length canine, a black fur wolf with red paws.

    “Arhwoo!” His howl resonated as if several voices emerged from his maw. Red eyes averted their attention to Zax. “Rhwoo!” Carl pounced at his direction.

    “Carl… he is one of them?” Zax recalled the canines he fought before he entered the first Savage Cave, his Master’s enemies. “It… it can’t be!” Any attempts to wrap his head around it went down the drain. The shock was too intensive and by the time he made out the giant wolf intent, a paw struck him and claws ripped through his chest.

    “Ahr!” Zax was tossed aside like a rag doll, blood gushed from his wounds and his left arm’s bones shattered.

    Zax used the momentum of the fall to roll over and jump back to his feet. “Carl!” He screamed for him to wake up. “Carl-” The black fur red paws wolf attacked again.

    WUSH!

    Zax’s legs kicked the ground and his body avoided the coming strike. ‘What’s happening?! How come Carl lost to the savagery? It can’t be! He adapt to it… Why!’ Seeing his companion, his friend, his brother damned to be a savage for no reason, Zax did not know what to do, to who can he call for help?!

    “Please! Stop what you did to him”. Zax caught a glimpse of the man that came from the other side of the tunnel while moving around.

    The man was standing with his hands holding his head, ignoring the two.

    “Rhwoo!” Carl aura exploded and his speed increased. His gigantic body became even bigger as his muscles grew and tore past his skin and fur. If under the regular savagery of the first Savage Cave one who loses himself received a boost of fifty percent strength, than just now, that already mighty Carl, under the black dome received a boost of two hundred percent.

    WUSH!

    His speed surpassed Zax.

    BANG!

    Zax raised his right arm to defend, but the assault was too strong and blew him away.

    “Carl-” Blood gushed out of Zax’s mouth and the word was muffled. “Carl…” He did not care if he was an enemy, his brother’s body was expending like a balloon and what would happen when his muscles would not be able to stretch anymore was all so clear.

    BANG!

    A heavy paw landed too fast for Zax to react and buried him forty centimeters deep in the hard soil.

    “Ca…” Zax held on only because to constant healing and expansion of fifth gate, then again, with every attack the damage to his body was being done faster than the healing. ‘Outside of the dome, outside of the boundary’. Zax imagined it as the only solution to bring Carl back.

    “Ahaa!” A sharp pain in his shoulder suddenly made him burst in agony.

    CRUNCH!

    Carl bit Zax’s left arm.

    THROB!

    A pulse echoed and the black dome retreated to the head of the man.

    Zax was buried in the ground and was barely affected when the dome passed him again, but Carl was thrown fifty meters or so from the man.

    At that moment, in Zax’s consciousness, the black attribute finished the transformation of the soul and the blur that it was, radiated dark light like a black Sun Stone for a split second and returned to normal. Beneath Zax’s soul, the fifth gate of the Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement faded. At the same time, the sixth gate appeared at the center of Zax’s chest and in but a few breaths black spikes emerged from all over Zax’s body, not only completely healing him, but also changing the sixth gate’s azure radiance to black.

    Zax rose from the ground around the same time that Carl did. Carl’s muscles ceased expanding, but his mind was already lost to savagery worse than that of the first Savage Cave. Being much closer to the man, who stood still with eyes close, than Zax, Carl howled and jumped him.

    “Carl, no!” Zax’s body moved on his own, feeling stronger than ever before and with a clearer mind that dissolve the redness from his eyes and any trace to the savagery from his consciousness.

    Nonetheless, with his body fitness level in level B, Zax still could not match the man who was unmoved by Carl’s assault. The eyes of the man stay closed, concentrating on what he was doing; all he did to address Carl was nudge his finger a little.

    Before Zax’s eyes, Carl’s back bent unnaturally as his spine was struck by a black aura that came from nowhere and raided him from above. Next, a black aura engulfed the man who had a satisfied smile on his face and his figure disappeared.

    “Carl!!!”

    Under the pressure of Zax’s kick, the tough soil was no better than tofu. He sprang forward to the giant mutated body of his brother that lay without moving on the ground.

    “Carl…“ Tears streamed on Zax face.

    Carl’s body was paralyzed, but his soul and mind was still powered by savagery. As he saw Zax he growled and howled.

    “I’m so sorry, Carl…” Zax raised his hand, he wanted to shelter Carl from his pain, from what he became, but it was too late and in his animalistic form he needed very little to manage against the gravitation force that returned to its previous state.

    “Grrr…!” As Zax got closer Carl grew madder and his aura lashed at Zax. The killing intent, the aura, even if Carl was not hurt, in Zax’s current body fitness level, he could do nothing to harm him.

    “If it wasn’t for me you would not have come here…” Zax cried and blamed whether it was accurate or not. As a youth he was closer in times of pain to the mind state of a child. Because of it, unlike an adult, he did not question the many “What Ifs” that could happen if Carl did not meet him.

    “I’ll take you out, big brother”, Zax lifted Carl as best as he could. Most of his body was being dragged along, while his head rested next to Zax’s, growling and howling, but inert.

    Outside of the boundary that was formed from the force that leaked from the tunnel was no different. Carl’s savage behavior remained the same, his soul lost.

    Zax continued to carry him steadily and carefully like Atlas from stories past that carried the sky. It was both a burden and a virtue that could not be given up.

    “Shree!” The savage bird type beasts and other winged beasts spotted the two as they came down from the mountains and instantly attacked.

    When Zax saw them his mind was seething. “Savagery!” For the first time his killing intent manifested on his command, he could not stand it anymore. He gently laid Carl, turned to the coming savages with his fist clenched so hard that blood seeped through his skin.

    “Ahaaa!” All pain came out in ferocious roar, so strong that the bubble of savagery in some of the flying beasts wavered.

    A sentence that he once heard and was directed toward him with compliance played in Zax’s head.

    “Do you want me to kill those who hurt you?”

    His big sister asked.

    Tens if not hundreds of savages flying beasts inhabited the mountains near the tunnel to the second Savage Cave. The louder they were the more came out from their dwellings.

    Zax cared nothing of how many they were or how much up above him they flew. Those that dived at him or Carl were decapitated with one sharp blow. Those that sent long range mist attack from above were slaughtered even more viciously. With a kick to the ground Zax jumped as high as he needed to reach his target. Thirty meters, fifty meters, hundred meters… the beasts were also bigger than him by a large margin. When Zax reached one in the air, his claws sunk to its flash and ripped it apart effortlessly, then, instead of falling back to the ground, he stabilized his feet on the huge body of the beast and bounced toward another one.

    ‘Die! Die! Die! Die! Die!’ Zax yelled in his head. Blood soaked him everywhere, yet he was completely sober. ‘Big brother Carl! Big brother Carl!’ How short was the time that he could call him like this and receive his acknowledgment?

    “Do you want me to kill those who hurt you?”

    When the sentence repeated Carl was replaced by his big sister, and then the look in her eyes when she said it.

    Countless thoughts began to circle that ten words sentence.

    ‘To have so much willingness to murder’

    ‘To say it as if it was nothing’

    ‘Not for survival but for the immature words of a child’

    ‘Smiling right after’

    ‘Killing for no reason’

    ‘For no care of consequences’



    Zax’s mind tried to decipher another instance of death that his big sister unknowingly inculcated in him and with every life that he took his conception little by little changed.

    ‘Killing for survival is incorrect’. He finally determined and the thoughts in his heads converged into two voices of reason.



    ‘Killing for… killing for… killing for…’ There was nothing that could justify the act of taking another’s life in Zetsa’s eyes back then.

    ‘Why?’ Because killing does not need to be justified, to justify it is to make an excuse and seek remorse for something that cannot be undone.

    ‘Then why there is justification when it’s for food or self defense? How can it be okay to kill without feeling remorse?’ Because for food or self defense is also an excuse. Killing can be done without a thought, like killing a hundred enemies while having something else in mind. It is too simple for and honestly does not worth the troubles of remorse.

    ‘But the law says…’ Can the law decide that the life of a human is greater than a beast’s?

    ‘No’. Then how is it sensible to step on an ant and rub the shoe from it?

    ‘…’ What makes the law right? Why does it even being mentioned?

    ‘…’ The law is right because it has the power to inflict its ideals. It is mentioned only by those that are infested by it.

    Killing is not only for survival.

    Killing does not need justification. Killing does not need remorse. Killing does not need the law or rules.

    If killing is for something, then it is for killing and nothing more. If something needs to be killed, than kill it. If something can be solved by killing, then kill. If something wants to kill, then kill it. If something cannot live, than kill it. If you have the strength, then you can kill.

    If you do not want to kill, than do not kill.

    It starts and ends with nothing that precedes or follows.

    ‘Killing…’

    Just “Killing”, nothing more is needed.

    ‘What of the implications?’

    Kill them, too.



    A curtain was lifted from Zax’s mind. Around fifty beasts remained with only ten or so targeting him or Carl.

    Did he listen to the two voices of reasons? He was not sure. But he did heed their conversation.

    He moved back to Carl’s side and his killing intent subsided. The man from the second Savage Cave crippled his body and the dome that came out from his head submerged his soul in savagery. By now there was also almost nothing left of his mist energy due to exhaustion.

    Zax turned his head to the remaining savages. Without any change in temperament his eyes emanated the same willingness to murder his big sister had in her eyes… it was formed by nothing but the decision to kill.

  13. #73
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    Book 3 – Into The Wild

    Chapter 17 – Closure




    With an indifferent expression, Zax turned to the remaining savage beasts and launched himself at the closest one, killing it and moving to the one after that and after that and after that…

    Unhindered by the weight he once gave death, his body moved naturally and freely. With his mind set on killing, Zax did not ever bother of doing it brutally. To kill, he only needed one gesture of the hand. In a way, when killing was not ruled by hate or pain, its execution was somewhat even graceful.

    In no time Zax and Carl were the only two living being on the mountain.

    “Grrr!” Carl growled when Zax approached him.

    “Carl…” Zax saw him and tears began to fall again, clearing the blood on his face. He lifted Carl’s head, rested on his shoulder and hugged it. “I love you, big brother”.

    Zax snapped Carl’s neck and he died.



    For hours Zax cried besides Carl’s corpse. But eventually he realized that he could not stay anymore, that his time in the Savage Cave should come to an end.

    Zax insisted on carrying Carl all the way with him to the place where they met, to bury him in that grove, underneath a Blood Red Grapes tree that in Zri’s abundant grove he loved to drink even for fun.

    From one side of the cave to another Zax traveled with Carl. From one side to the other they traveled once more and if savage beast or humans were obstructing their way, they died.

    To put him out of his misery on the mountain or in the grove was a decision that Zax did wholeheartedly. His big brother was lost and his body was broken and torn. Even as a savage, Zax did not want for him to live like that when death was already certain.

    Zax proceeded through the cave and in six day returned to the grove in the first half of the Savage Cave.

    He buried Carl under the tree he used to sit by and meditate. Since he was not familiar with the proper ceremony, Zax looked for a ripe Blood Red Grape. After the changes the dark attribute had done to his soul, Zax could use his Soul Sense to the best of its abilities, and with that, he easily found a few hidden grapes and rinsed Carl’s grave with their nectar.

    When he finished, Zax left.



    Months earlier, at the entrance to the first Savage Cave.

    The canines continued to safeguard the entrance of the cave, though, since the enemy was gone, they returned to their humanoid forms.

    Around fifteen remained of the original twenty one. Among them the wolf boss was impatiently waiting.

    “Boss, a captain as arrived”. A canine head informed. Instantly the eyes of the wolf boss lit up and his gaze turned from the cave to the arrivals.

    One of his unit members and another one in a human form, a captain.

    “What is that your canine told me, Rolv, your unit lost to a human and a boy, at that”. The captain said with a raised brow. His appearance was that of a black skin human with black hair that was tied by many beads. His height was over one meter and ninety centimeters tall and his physique was perfectly chiseled.

    Rolv, the wolf boss, bit heavily with his teeth from the shame and addressed the captain with utmost respect. “Captain Kane, my canine should not have bothered you, a Core Master, with this small matter. Please forgive his impudence, I promise to put him in his place later”. As he said it the complexion of the canine that escorted captain Kane, the captain in the human form, paled, but he did not dare to refute his unit’s boss.

    Although Rolv acted as if it was a mistake, he actually was very satisfied that with his canine. The tribe had eleven captains, only four of them were Core Masters, the only Core Masters of the tribe besides the two elders. To manage to bring one was no doubt a great feat accompanied by great fortune on his side. Though, his initial assessment called for a Mist Lord, if the boy comes out from the cave will it not be better to have someone on a different realm?

    Rolv decided to reward his unit member when this matter will be over.

    “I came here because that is as far as the elders let me to the Savage Caves. They even allowed Him to enter the first cave before me, even though I broke through to the realm of Core Master years before Him”.

    Captain Kane said in disdain toward the “Him” that received the elders’ permission instead of himself to enter the first Savage Cave. What truly infuriated captain Kane, was the Him, get to keep half of what he may bring from the Savage Cave.

    Rolv and anyone in the unit could tell who “Him” was, one of the Core Master captains of their tribe, and the only tribe member currently in the Savage Caves.

    “Captain Kane, you should still not trouble yourself, this matter can be taken care off by a Mist Lord”.

    Rolv knew that this bitter captain Kane already made his mind to stay. What kind of higher rank canine of their tribe would let himself to be replaced by someone of a lower rank? Insisting that he should not bother was only to solidify the notion that captain Kane was staying on his own accord and that he, Rolv, would not be reprimanded by the elders for summoning a Core Master captain.

    “Enough, Rolv, tell me about the human”. Captain Kane demanded.

    “Yes, sir! The boy was a practitioner of the Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement bodily refining technique. I can’t say with certainty what his level was, but the powers that he showed surpassed even our enclosing formation”.

    “How many of you formed the formation?” Captain Kane asked. With the one that escorted him they were sixteen, but he knew that several others were hurt and if he did not see them here, they must have been taken back to the tribe.

    “After two of our Mist Master lost to the boy in the circle, the rest joined the formation. Our greatest number was nineteen, Fourteen Core Breakers and five Mist Master”.

    Captain Kane’s pupils contracted. Nineteen canines forming the formation, even if all were Core Breakers, could restrain a Beginner phase Mist Lord. With five Mist Master even an Intermediate phase Mist Lord would not necessarily break through the formation.

    From his assessment and what he knew of the Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement bodily refining technique, captain Kane appraised that Zax was, at least, in the Intermediate phase of the corresponding level to a Mist Master for mist cultivators.

    “Impossible!” Captain Kane suddenly muttered. For a human boy to reach that level in such a young age… unheard off regardless of which bodily refining technique he followed. “Are you sure about his identity? Did he use some kind of treasure when you besieged him in the formation?”

    The mentioning of a treasure startled Rolv as if he was awakened from the disbelief Zax shrouded him and his canines in. As a unit’s boss, of course he knew who and what his unit can handle. To not manage to handle a human boy, how ridicules was it?

    “It was a human boy, sir. He wore a fur coat that my unit’s Calrob apprised to be of a Core Master Two Headed Beaver. That cannot be counted as a treasure, sir, but thinking back he must have had more stuff hidden on him. Otherwise, how could someone so young dare enter to the Savage Cave?”

    Captain Kane nodded. “I see… How long ago did he enter the cave?” he asked.

    “Less than a day ago”.

    “I don’t believe that the boy’s soul was at the Core Master level”. Captain Kane said decisively. “He must have possessed a treasure, and since even treasures have an expiration date, he would probably stay until his soul adapt to the savagery, depend on the treasures in his possession, or until the treasures will expire. Either way, I don’t think that he was sent to die”.

    “Sir, at the chance that the boy did not use treasures in our fight, in the future he will definitely be a threat to the tribe for its involvement…” Rolv pointed.

    “That cannot be allowed to happen! That woman that he took in is already showing that kind of potential. Another one with great potential cannot be left for them to cultivate!” Captain Kane howled. “If this boy is as you said, we don’t need to worry of him staying long or dying without confirmation in the cave. From now on, this unit and I will settle near the cave’s entrance. We will not get involve with those that goes in or leave it, if they are humans in the Core Master level or beasts from small tribes don’t bother, anyone outside of this criteria can be questioned or dealt with however you want. These are the rules. And when the human boy will appear, verify that it is him and inform right away”.

    “Where will we find you, sir?” Rolv asked.

    “I won’t be far, close enough for my Soul Sense to pick you up and what’s happening. But I won’t leave it constantly on. Choose one of your canines to follow me and I’ll show him where I’ll stay to cultivate”.

    “Yes, sir!” Rolv listened. “Luke, go with the captain!”



    “Sir!” A young canine head rushed through the forest, yelling. “Captain Kane!”

    “Still yourself! I know!” The pup did not make it half way to captain Kane’s dwelling when the captain’s figure flashed past him, leaving four words.



    “Captain Kane!” As he arrived, the first to notice him was the unit’s boss, Rolv. “Did you feel it? Something came out from the cave, concealed by black mantle! This… this…” Rolv was in complete shock. The black light came out and his unit members that were staying fifty meters from the cave’s entrance all fell to the ground, unconscious in their animalistic form.

    “That was…” Captain Kane was not doing better himself than that low rank Mist Master, Rolv. His facial expression was ugly to behold, as if he ate something sour, and if one looked closely, they would have detected that his fist were slightly trembling. “An existence beyond the Core Master realm!” Captain Kane replied. Such being he did not even need to use his Soul Sense to detect, not when it showed itself in a manner so ostentatious.

    Captain Kane’s gazed on the direction the existence left. “Either a secluded expert or… Kingdom Earth!” The thought of a human in this level of cultivation of was truly frightening. Although there was peace between the two species, one would still prefer that the grass in his neighborhood will be greener.

    “He possibly made a breakthrough in the cave and felt like celebrating. Your canines are fine. Know that it is noteworthy that you and the pup managed to stay conscious. Look like even our tribe has potential worth cultivating”.



    “Stop!”

    A forceful voice commanded and Zax halted his steps right as he existed the tunnel from the first Savage Cave.

    Zax looked ahead with more attention. ‘The canines head…’ Enemies, Carl’s tribe members or just humanoid beast that happened to be there, he did not care. Because he did not mind them, he also stopped when they commanded. How could they give him trouble, anyway?

    “You made it out, hahaha!” The wolf boss was there as well, bursting in laughter.

    Zax heard the footsteps of someone rushing to arrive from behind the trees and another set of steps following the closer ones.

    “Is that him?” A black skin human in black garments appeared, asking the wolf boss and pointing at Zax.

    ‘Carl…’ The man had a certain resemblance to his deceased big brother and Zax felt a pinch in his heart. Nevertheless, the feeling was inadequate to the moment. If he needs to kill his big brother’s tribe member he rather do it and be done with it without added sentimentality.

    “Are you standing in my way?” Zax asked without the slightest emotion.

    Captain Kane stepped forward a little. He tried to grasp Zax’s mist cultivation and Soul level but to his surprise he picked up nothing, so he proceeded cautiously, wondering if it was the boy treasures that eluded him or if his cultivation was at a level where he could use specials skills to hide it. Thought, not once did he consider Zax surpassing him in any aspect other than the body.

    The wolf boss answered. “Kid, last time you did not kill anyone, therefore we won’t kill you right away. Either come with us to meet our elders or be dealt by captain Kane and be fed on alive!” His wolf head turned to captain Kane, indicating to Zax that he was the one he should be worry off.

    Zax’s Soul Sense spread. ‘Eleven Core Breakers, five Mist Master and a Core Master… their numbers grew smaller by four, but they brought a Core Master to compensate’. He said to himself. “Who is Carl to you?” He asked. For his big brother he convinced himself to maybe avoid unnecessary clashes.

    “Carl?” Captain Kane’s face distorted and a thought passed in his head. “You met our beast kin? I see… and the chump did not realize that you are an enemy, hahaha! Let the elders know their foolish mistake, hahaha!” Captain Kane laughed.

    Hearing this captain Kane belittling his resting big brother, Zax calm temperament began to boil and his killing intent emanated. ‘Good! Good! Don’t say that I didn’t give you a chance’.

    Sensing the terrorization killing intent, captain Kane’s laugh stuck in throat and the sixteen canines behind him felt shivers passing through their fur.

    “Boss…” One of the canines verbalized his fear in his tone of voice. Other than the one word nothing came out, but all the other fifteen canines remembered the previous encounter with Zax and knew what their unit member wanted to say.

    “Everyone, step back. Leave him for the captain”. The wolf boss barked at his unit. He could not tell what was different but something creeped him, his instinct, telling him that something was amiss and no matter what he and his unit should stay away from Zax.

    “Boy…” With effort, captain Kane repelled the oppressing killing intent and frowned. He stared at Zax as the boy approached him one step at a time and his eyes landed on the beast skin pouch tied to Zax’s loincloth. A smile stretched on his human face, treasures!

    “Grahwoo!” Captain Kane howled and transformed to his animalistic form, an over four meters in height, six meters in length canine, a black fur wolf with red paws.

    His resemblance to Carl was almost a hundred percent identical. But who was Zax? A cultivator of a bodily refining technique, with his eyes alone he could differentiate between the one in front of him and Carl. There was not a second pinch to his heart.

    “Graow!” An explosive azure aura was released and Captain Kane sprang toward Zax with his red claws growing, radiating fiery azure glow.

    Zax sensed the might of the red claws. ‘A high level Martial techniques?’ If it was, then even for him it was best to avoid it.

    WUSH!

    Zax’s legs increased the rhythm, his body shifted sideways; his figure flickered in captain Kane’s eyes and then disappeared.

    “Where?” Captain Kane halted in amazement. His left ear nudged a little and his body reacted accordingly, jumping to his right.

    BANG!

    He was not fast enough and something heavy struck his left ribs. Cracking followed the impact and captain Kane retreated twenty meters more the instant he got his footing.

    BANG!

    Another strike landed on his head and the world turned upside down.

    BANG!

    Another blow and captain Kane’s skull split open. In two blows to the head he died.

    “Captain!” The wolf boss howled.

    After the last blow Zax reappeared and stopped near the body of captain Kane, not a drop of blood dirtied him.

    ‘How…? How…!’ The wolf boss stared and could not tell what was inside the Savage Cave that turned a condescending human boy with some skill and potential, into the monster that stood next to his captain’s corpse.

    “Won’t kill me right away?” Zax gaze moved from the corpse of the giant wolf to the wolf boss.

    His body flickered and sixteen “BANG” sounds followed next.

    One last thought passed inside the head of the wolf boss, moment before it was his turn as the sixteenth. “Is it worth it, elders…? The consequences our greed brought upon us!”

  14. #74
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    Book 3 – Into The Wild

    Chapter 18 – Chaoyue, Zhihui, Shenghuo




    Zax swept his hand and the little blood from his last kill was erased. ‘In the end I’ve gotten sloppy…’ His tone possessed a hint of criticism. His business here was over and he left back to his Master’s place.

    Rarahel was safeguarding the cave’s entrance the same way she did when he left for the Savage Caves. As she saw him her poised countenance turned to shocked. In a few months the atmosphere of the boy underwent multiply changes of growth.

    Rarahel was not oblivious to what was the first Savage Cave. She had been there herself. But no need to mention Rarahel, the third youngest in rank of her Master’s eight apprentices, even her most talented eldest Martial brother did not manage to surpass the savagery in such a short time. And when Zax left and she checked him out with her Soul Sense, at the time, she could not determine his soul’s level, but treasures? She could tell that he clearly did not have on him.

    “Big sister Rarahel!” Zax happily greeted her most welcoming face, even if it carried a stupefied draconic expression. “Big sister Rarahel”, he lowered his head a little. “Please forgive me for taking your warning for granted back then, when I left for the Savage Caves. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for looking up for me!” He said courteously.

    On the receiving end, Rarahel kept arranging her thoughts and Zax’s apology and gratitude were a side note in what was going on in her head. Her mouth opened and all she could do was blubber. “What happened to you?!”

    As the question reached his ears, Zax’s smile faded and he solemnly responded. “I’ve been to the Savage Caves”. There was nothing more than this to elucidate, nor did he want to say further. “I’ll see you later, big sister Rarahel”. He left straight to his Master.

    In his return Zax did not pass by the Krikitory village. In a short time span he arrived to the base of the mountain where his Master punched the ground and opened an underground tunnel to the Essence Cave. By now, however, the tunnel was sealed again, and so Zax imitated his Master’s left and right.

    Despite knowing that the entrance to the Essence Cave is shrouded by the most dangerous concentration of smoky mist, Zax was curious to test his bodily improvements and decided to risk it by venturing inside without the support of his Master’s mantle. At worst he would retreat back to the tunnel and look for the assistance of his Martial elder brothers and sisters.

    First Zax let his hand in the smoky mist and it tickled. After a few seconds the tickles began to itch and his hand reddened. Zax pulled away and his hand returned to normal.

    Assessing the distance he had to go with his Soul Sense and how deeply his hand got hurt, Zax smirked. “It’s just an area of eight hundred meters or so. Nothing much”. He jumped in.

    Two things that escaped Zax’s calculation were the pouch and loincloth.

    Practically two steps into the Essene Cave, the smoky mist incinerated the pouch and loincloth and Zax’s glory was fully presentable. Luckily, the plants that he brought were fine and unharmed.

    Zax breathed a sigh of relief. He was used to his Master’s Mantle as the means for transportation in and out the Essence Cave. Also, when he trained in the Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement his clothes were also being soaked in the herbal liquid, it was the sole way to preserve them outside of the protective formation around his Master’s cabin without the mist energy mantle.

    ‘I should have tested a piece of cloth… at least the most important thing, the plants, are fine’.

    “Zax!” Laivien’s voice rang in his head, full of delight and immense surprise. Her familiar and warm voice filled the emptiness left by in Carl in his heart and Zax mood improved greatly. “You entered on your own?! So impatient! I was about the tell him… Never mind. Come to the cabin, I’ll tell big brother to meet you there”. Laivien said in a hurry and her presence left his consciousness.

    “Big brother?” Zax was startled. It was the first time he heard of it. Was the voice in his head his Master little sister?! ‘Ah! Almost thought to ask Master for explanation… better wait for Laivien to tell me that it is okay to let him know that we converse sometimes’.



    Kartius was standing still on the terrace. Zax saw him from afar, waiting expectantly for his Martial son. As he saw him, the expression on his Master’s stag head changed from happiness to surprise to bewilderment.

    “Master!” Zax dashed to Kartius. He stopped a meter from his Master and greeted him. His body was shaking; he truly missed his Martial father!

    “You have grown”. Kartius place his hand on his Martial son’s head. “And you are naked…” He did not need to guess why, Laivien already told him in an amused tone.

    “That is…” Zax was embarrassed. His Master’s remark made him feel indecent by being exposed, even though his Master did not wear clothes either and almost none of the humanoid beasts his saw. On the other hand, they had no need for clothes in any other form than their human one and it only now dawned on Zax.

    “Come inside, I have a few beast skins. Cover yourself and sit with me”. Kartius pulled Zax to the cabin. “I sense that many changes occurred in you and I see that you found the plants, although I’m not sure that they are of use to you anymore… Regardless, let’s first enter inside. Tell me of your experiences in the Savage Cave and then I will decide what to do with them”.

    With the delicate control of his mist energy, Kartius made a pair of pants and a shirt whilst Zax told him everything about his time on the way back and forth from the Savage Cave and his time in the cave itself. When he shared the parts about Carl and the things he learned or partly learned from him, his temperament became morose.

    Kartius listened assiduously to every word without raising any question. Most of what Zax told him did not faze him, but a few parts were too shocking that his hand clenched and his aura was struggling to get free, wanting to express the wildness he restrained.

    Zax finished at killing the canines and leaving back from the entrance of the Savage Cave.

    ‘She was right’. Remembering how Laivien persuaded him to let Zax go, Kartius now admitted to himself in her favor. “You have managed to surpass my expatiations, Martial son, even for a human your growth cannot be described as anything but stupendous…” Kartius’s gaze fell on the lower area of Zax’s stomach, his dantian. ‘How much of it is thanks to you…’

    “Master”, Zax said anxiously. “Everything that took place… your decision to send me to a place such as the Savage Caves, those canines that wanted to capture and kill me, the things I learned from big brother Carl, the discovery that he actually was related to the canines, Can you further explain it all to me?”

    Gauging his Martial son pleading countenance, Kartius sighed inwardly. “Of these enemies you will learn everything soon enough. For now, it is good that you did not leave anyone alive”.

    “As for the one that took you under his wing… I’ll say a these words. That Carl was in league with the tribes that seek to detriment my big brother. However, even in those tribes there are some, few, who are not interested in creating enmity with big brother. Carl, as I believe, was one of those few. Furthermore, knowing that you follow a bodily refining technique, he probably suspected or did not want to take the chance that you have relations to big brother, for that he refused to show you his animalistic form. He chose to trade our conflict for your friendship”.

    “Big brother Carl…” Zax felt a lump in his throat and his eyes revealed a hint of red. ‘So that was his reason… if he wanted to…” If Carl used his animalistic from when he first learned of Zax method of cultivation, he could kill him effortlessly just in case. ‘But he did not care who I was even when we just met…’ It was fine if he wanted to ignore a possible enemy of his tribe, but to refer to him as brother… How could his place in Zax’s heart not grow?

    CLAP!

    Kartius clapped his hand. The sound was akin to something exploding between them and sufficient enough to bring Zax back from his grief.

    “There is still some time before the end of the three years, though I’m sure that you will receive big brother’s approval. In less than three years you broke through the fifth gate…” His voice went silence. “Zax”, it rose again with a resolute tone. “You asked and as your Martial father I’ll provide you the knowledge”. Kartius sounded ambiguous. Nevertheless, he proceeded.

    Zax rubbed his eyes and released a pent up breath of sore emotions. He steeled his demeanor and his ears perked up attentively.

    “We should start at the three forms that beasts have. The three are ‘Animalistic’, ‘Humanoid’ and ‘Human’. Every beast has these three forms but not every beast can freely transform between them. The prerequisite that determine the beast’s ability to transform are the beast’s class and level of cultivation”.

    “Zax, this matter is something that you should have learned in a system that was built to impart this knowledge on you… it starts simple, but considering Martial niece Zetsa’s experience when she learned it from big brother, it may become confusing since this issue extends beyond the format of differences not only between beast and beast, but also between beast and human and Nature intervention. Us, beasts, have our instinct and profound connection to nature which helps us to acquire this knowledge, but not in a way that can be emulated by a human”.

    “Before I’ll continue, I’ll be honest and say that if you’ll return to Kingdom Earth just to attain this better understanding, it will be a lot more helpful than me explaining”.

    “Please, Master!” Zax persisted.

    Did his Master just suggest that he should go to school? Otherwise, which other system he meant that will provide this knowledge, or any Martial related knowledge for that matter? Either way, of human’s schools Zax, no doubt, knew a multitude more than his Master. It did not even require him to think before insisting that his Master should continue.

    ‘Use my words’. Laivien voice resonated in Kartius’s head.

    “Very well, Zax”, Kartius complied with Laivien and began to quote her word for word. “Before our three forms, much like you humans, we beasts are first classified by three classes that are innate and not something that can be influenced. The lowest class is ‘Shenghuo’, life. Beasts of the Shenghuo class are the least intelligent, but among beast, if given the chance, their cultivation is the fastest. Shenghuo beasts, if smart enough, can transform to their humanoid form right when becoming F level Mist Users and to their human form once they reach level C in their cultivation. Wild beasts and beasts of small tribes like the Krikitory tribe are classified as Shenghuo”.

    “The following class is ‘Zhihui’, wisdom. Beasts of the Zhihui class are fairly intelligent, compared to the Shenghuo class. They are also the second fastest cultivators among beasts. In the outer territory of Valgarel, only one out of the five sovereign tribes is populated by Zhihui class beasts, the Silverhorned tribe of your Martial sister Rarahel”.

    “The canines that chased you to the Savage Caves and their whole tribe are also of the Zhihui class of beasts. With regards the three forms of Zhihui class beasts, to transform to their humanoid form the prerequisite is for them to reach level C in their cultivation and to their human form they must break through the Core Master level”.

    “As for the highest class of us beasts, that is the ‘Chaoyue’, transcendence. Beasts of the highest class are intelligent as humans from birth. Though as cultivators they, we, are the slowest, our existence is the one that rules Valgarel!” Kartius took over and burst out proudly.

    ‘Big brother!’ Laivien rebuked.

    ‘My Martial son should know who is Master is!’ Kartius said back. ‘Go on…’ He submitted himself to her words once more.

    “Even among the strongest tribes in the inner territory of Valgarel, very few are born as Chaoyue. It takes more than two beasts at the Chaoyue class to procreate a Chaoyue offspring, but when one is finally born; his statues in the tribe will be second only to the tribe’s elders”.

    ”I, big brother and his three eldest apprentices are of the Chaoyue class. That is why our enemies’ actions against us are moderate despite them great in number”. Kartius again intervened and after saying what he wanted, relayed Laivien’s explanation.

    “Chaoyue class beasts can transform to their humanoid form once they break through the Core Master level, and to their human form…”

    Laivien consulted Kartius for her next words.

    “When they reach the level of the man you saw coming out from the second Savage Cave. As to what his level of cultivation should be, we will get to it later”.

    “Master”, Zax raised his voice, he had something in mind which boggled him. “If the Chaoyue class is the highest, what other than intelligent it has that superior to beasts of the other two classes? They, you said, are faster cultivators…”

    “Beasts’ cultivation speed is relative to the beast form… a Shenghuo that cultivated beyond the Core Master level and a Chaoyue of the same level, generally have the same cultivation speed. Besides intelligent, what makes a Chaoyue beast superior to the other two classes, is our body. In a manner that might be easier for you to understand, the body of a Shenghuo beast is only slightly stronger than that of a human at the same level of cultivation, while the body of a Zhihui beast is a level tougher than that of a Shenghuo’s and a Chaoyue’s body is a level tougher than a Zhihui’s. The purpose of bodily refinement technique is to even to odds between two classes of beasts. Though even as bodily cultivator Chaoyue is to slowest, but the reason which slows the progress is different than the one that slows a mist cultivator”.

    “The more superior your body is, the greater your consumption to the refined extract of medicinal plants and other means of bodily cultivation is. And you, Zax, due to the modifications of the Black Core, have gained a body with an even higher consumption than that of a Chaoyue beast, which is why Martial father is ashamed to admit that even I envy a little my Martial son”.

    The explanation ended up being a mixed of both Laivien and Kartius words.

    “These are the differences between beasts and the prerequisites that enable beasts to change form. The differences between beasts and humans are what come next”. Kartius said and Laivien began to recite.

    “Nature cannot be unfair to any of its creations. If beasts possessed strong bodies, great instincts and a stronger connection to nature, than humans possessed a greater insight as cultivators and are not bound by the shackles of natural instinct. This interpreted not just in the frightening cultivation speed of humans, but also in their ability to invent and create numerous cultivation techniques, Martial techniques and formations. This is why every new generation of humans grows faster than the previous one. At birth they are granted the fruits of hard work of their predecessors. In Valgarel it’s much rarer and there are probably less than ten beasts that can compare themselves with humans’ unique properties, big brother is among them!” Last sentence belonged to Kartius.

    “However, being fast cultivators and innovative is only one thing. The freedom from their natural instinct is what truly made beast appreciate humans, it is why beasts made the pact with humanity Supreme Rulers to end the war between two species. Zax, beasts rely on humans to pave the way to the world above the surface of the earth!”

  15. #75
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    Book 3 – Into The Wild

    Chapter 19 – Omnipresent




    “Ah! Beneath the blue skies?!” Zax recited completely stunned. “What does that has to do with the differences between beasts and humans?”

    “That is something we beasts understood at the time of war between two species, but is actually related to an earlier event”. Kartius began to explain in his own words. “We beasts have attempted to venture back to the world above the surface of the earth thousands of years ago. The few of us who ruled our species braved alone through the one path that leads above the earth. However, as they got close to the surface they started to sense the entities which roamed on the other side. At that time the instinct of our rulers was petrified by the new world and its powers, warning not to stay, to go back once more to beneath the earth. You must understand Zax, unlike humans, to us beast an instinct is an impulse we cannot defy, out rulers had no choice but to stride back and forbade entry to the path”.

    “Afterwards, occurred the event that changed our perspective of humanity. When humans attacked Valgarel for Earth’s Cores, their actions taught us that humans are not confined to their instinct and are free to act on their whims even at the price of unreasonably endangering themselves. Back then, none of the Chaoyue or Zhihui beasts had attained their human form and the Shenghuo never held much of a position in Valgarel. Therefore our rulers could not understand humanity’s boldness, only realizing it as the key to open up a safe passage to above ground”.

    “So beasts stopped fighting with humans to use them as cannon fodder?” Zax doubted his own ears. History lessons in school elucidated that the war stopped for peace. It never expounded that there was more than that. Could it be that what his Master told him was some sort of a secret? But such significant information… Is it right for him to keep it for himself?

    Kartius chuckled. “You seemed to be distressed. Were you unaware of it? Even so, what is there for you to worry about? Has it not been revealed that the Supreme Rulers traveled to the world above ground years back and recently didn’t humanity send a new expedition to survey the new world?”

    “They did”. Zax nodded, his heart that was throbbing in an increasing pace had calmed down, and he understood what his Master was saying.

    The Supreme Rulers had made the risk to go beneath the blue skies long ago and if matched with the beasts that attempted the same feat before them, although the beasts sensed the dangers, the Supreme Rulers experienced them and come back. And now, was there not another expedition that was sent above ground? There was, and one of its members was even the son of Supreme Rulers Ariel Dauch. That expedition definitely received severe instruction from the Supreme Rulers with regard to the dangers they must avoid and not lead back to New Earth. The only thing about this expedition that Zax could not tell was if it came back.

    “Beasts are not using humans; we simply let you do what you do best, that is, whatever you want on your expense and our slight benefit”. Kartius detected that his words sounded as if he alienated his own Martial son for being from a different species. It was not his intention and so he retracted. “Zax, whether beasts or a human, whatever those who rule and lead may decide, never forget that in this world your Martial father has one son!” He said sternly, more so because he was embarrassed than to make his point.

    “I’ll never forget!” Zax responded earnestly. To learn his Master’s stance of their bound from his own mouth stirred Zax’s heart with warm gratitude.

    “Besides”, Kartius continued. “Today it’s just an old matter. As time passed and we kept learning about ourselves, we beasts discovered that in human form we can sever the shackles of our instinct for a while. Apart from that our clarity also improve and we become more attuned to the paths of cultivation, this is why we stay in a humanoid or human form unless we are in a fight”.

    “…some see it, and sum up the differences between beasts and humans, as if beasts are the servants of Nature and as such we are born with strong bodies and affinity to what it made us. And humans are the progeny of Nature, born with the power to surpass their feeble existence”.

    ‘That should suffice’. Laivien approved as Kartius’s voice faded.

    “Is there something further that you want to ask about us beast and our relations with human?” Kartius till asked.

    Zax thought a bit over what he learned. “Why big sis and I were accepted as yours and big sis’s Master’s apprentices? Did you not care that we were humans?”

    Kartius sighed. A voice echoed in his head. ‘Are you willing to answer truthfully? Otherwise don’t cover it with lies and shatter later his impression of the one that opened up for him the path of Martial cultivation’. Laivien said.

    Kartius mind was set. ‘Have I not solidified my place as his Martial father? It’s fine for him to hear my decision from back then’. He answered back.

    “The decision to recognize Martial niece Zetsa as his apprentice is between Martial niece and big brother. As to why I chose you…” Kartius raised his right hand. Turning the palm up, a Black Core was sitting on his hand. “When I found you unconscious in the Essence Cave, this stone was embedded to the mountain wall near you. I initially accepted you because I could not refine this Black Core and learned from Martial niece Zetsa that you, somehow, claimed to have a similar stone in your dantian. It is shameful of your Martial father to admit, but I asked for big brother to allow Martial niece to bring you over so I could uncover the mysteries of the Black Core”. Kartius added. “Unfortunately, the Black Cores seem to have their own will, and cannot be refined or taken to the dantian like regular Earth’s Core… Nevertheless, that doesn’t matter anymore, Martial son”. He emphasized the words ‘Martial son’, for Zax to feel again their significant and not take for granted his previous shrift.

    Kartius’s hand sank and the Black Core in it disappeared.

    ‘The other Black Core is in Master’s possession!’ Zax was stunned. ‘The reason Master was willing to accept me…’ Despite the initial selfishness, Zax was adamant in what his bound with Kartius meant for either of them. And was he not the same? Did he not come after his big sister so he could be given a chance for his own dreams and desires?

    After nearly three years, both Kartius’s and Zax’s desires became secondary to their Martial father Martial son bound.

    “Let’s move on”. Kartius said to Zax. “I’ll tell you why I decided to send you to the Savage Caves”.

    “Master!” Zax showed once more his attentiveness.

    “There are several variables, but why now and empty handed was because of and for your soul. For starters, due to the modification of the Black Core to the Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement, the principals of Pain and Destruction could not forge your temperament. You see, by constantly undergoing Pain and Destruction the soul receives the traumatic implications that the body goes through. Remember the pain you felt when you first left the protective formation that surrounds the cabin? Imagine being immersed in such maddening pain over and over again without being able to overcome it until there is no smoky mist that can harm you. The aspect which deals with all of it is the soul and the consequences… I will only say that it’s similar to the savagery of the Savage Caves”.

    “Then there is your soul uniqueness and rapid evolution. At level C you already were capable of executing the same abilities as a Core Masters. Now, being in level B in such a young age, according to what you told me, the savage force of the first cave doesn’t impede you anymore. If I sent you at this state to the Savage Cave…” Kartius weighed his following words, more than breaking through the next level, the real reason he believed the savage force stopped affecting his Martial son was the dark attribute in his soul. However he was not sure how much Zax was aware to the existence of the dark attribute and did not want him to tangle with it until the appropriate time when his soul will grow stronger. ”your only choice would have been entering to the second Savage Cave, in other words, a death sentence”.

    Zax nodded lightly. The savagery truly was not a challenge for him anymore. He could stay and roam the first Savage Cave for as long as he wanted. Only the area near the tunnel to the second cave can execute his powers to stay in, as a result of the gravitation force.

    “The first of the two last variables is, again, because of the modification of the Black Core… As I said before, a superior body has a great consumption. To train in the Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement you had to start a stage early to use the extract of more potent plants than those that grow besides the hot springs. Since to hone your soul there wasn’t a better place than the Savage Caves, I asked you to find these plants there”. Seeing the bundle of plants Zax brought Kartius additionally said. “Except of the encounter with the man that came out for the second cave, I must say, you had an easier time than I expected”.

    ‘Easier time?’ Zax felt like refuting, however, the mentioning of the man brought to mind what he did to Carl and alongside it was the fact that without Carl Zax would have been stuck in the first Savage Cave for far longer than he intended.

    “Master”, Zax still wondered about what Kartius said about the plants. “When I broke through the fifth gate I did not use the extract of the plants that I collected, nor did I find a suitable area in the Savage Cave with smoky mist, how then was I able to break through?”

    “Ahmm…” Kartius mused. “I thought about it when you first told me what the man did when he came out of the second Savage Cave. If I guess correctly, he probably found a treasure in the second cave that resonated with the formation of the Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement in your body and just form its magnificent aura you were actually lucky enough to attain a breakthrough. It’s too bad since as it stands, neither of us can acquire such treasure on our own… Nor do I believe that without your unique soul, even if you managed to break through, you would have avoided the same calamity as your companion, Carl”.

    As Kartius saw it, Zax surviving what happened should have something to do with the dark attribute, still, he could not confirm it since nor ne or his big brother ever ventured to the second Savage Cave, despite having the treasure to afford the trip.

    “What else, Master?” Zax asked. To be the lucky one to survive instead of the one he recognized as big brother was painful for him to reminisce. Zax wished to someday unveil what truly the man did and why only Carl was affected, but for now other than listening to his Master, he was too weak to do anything else.

    “The last variable is the bodily maneuvers. You should know this yourself, but training in the bodily maneuvers in the Savage Cave bore fruits more effectively and faster than in any other cave. Moreover, by sensing the energy, indeed you crossed to the Intermediate phase of the bodily maneuvers. And by being able to almost execute the first two sequences without a hitch, I’ll confirm that this is exactly the requirement to step into the Intermediate phase of the Intermediate phase”.

    “These are the reasons why I sent you to the Savage Cave”.

    “I understand now, Master, but can you tell me more of the explosive energy of the Intermediate phase. Why is it so hard to control? How could the body possess such an odd energy? You thought me that the body doesn’t have a unique energy”.

    “Pause, Zax, and think about it yourself. Otherwise I will rob my Martial son his own ability to produce insights”.

    Forcing Zax to solve the problem of the Intermediate phase’s odd energy on his own, when he seemed to struggle with it, on some level amused Kartius. The source of his amusement was unknown to him, but in fact was his first time gazing at Zax with the eyes of father witnessing son striving to grow.

    On his behalf, it should be mentioned that his reason of wanting Zax to gain insight on his own effort instead of being given insight was a genius excuse.

    “Don’t feel so bad”. Kartius could tell the pouting expression on Zax’s face with eyes closed. “Of all the things that happened, your improvement in the bodily maneuvers is the most worth praising! Even I am, your Martial father, just a step into the Advanced phase of the Intermediate phase. Big brother is the only one that I could tell that broke through the bottleneck of the Advanced phase”.

    “Is that true, Master?!” Zax called out in surprise.

    “It is”. Kartius lowered his head in validation. “Ahm!” His eyes struck open, from the suddenness almost scaring Zax. “For the energy… so long that I won’t tell you what it is, I can still give you a hint”. He said. Seeing Zax’s bewildered face change to irrepressible anticipation, he continued. “Hahaha… so eager. Good. Listen well and don’t rashly ask questions later, this is for you to figure out”. Kartius waved a finger at Zax. “The energy, its existence is far above that of the three aspects, it is omnipresent”.

    “Omni what?” Zax murmured unintentionally, instantly doing what his Master told him to refrain from. However, the word “Omnipresent” was new to him, one who stopped going to school after the third grade. At most he could tell the “present” part of the word, but the “Omni” did not make any sense.

    TUK!

    Kartius’s finger flickered and hit Zax’s forehead.

    “Ouch!” The force left a red spot on Zax’s forehead.

    “That’s for you not listening”. Kartius said solemnly.

    “Sorry, Master”. Zax robbed his head and apologized.

    He remembered how painful were his Master’s strikes when he sparred with him, but actually assumed that now that he broke through the fifth gate he could take a few kicks and punches. It really startled him that with a flick of his finger, his Master could still inflict on him such pain, and he also realized that in the past and now, his Master never shown or fought him in his animalistic form, that is, his strongest form!

    “Don’t be sorry, use your head!” Kartius sat back and crossed arms. “What left for you to know is the source of the world ‘Realm’”. He said. “However, I’ll not expound too much on this. Instead, I’ll explain to you the levels of a Core Master, who you can contend against and then we will proceed to your future path of training”.

  16. #76
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    Book 3 – Into The Wild

    Chapter 20 – After Three Years




    “Even within the Core Master level there are more levels?” Zax raised his head quizzically.

    Carl taught Zax that not all Core Masters are equals and that there is even a level higher than a “Core Master”, but he did not think that the Core Master level consists of several levels of its own. Rather, Zax thought that the Core Master level is like every other level before it, made out of four phases.

    “You are incorrect… Earth’s Core holder, Core Breaker, Mist Master, Mist Lord and Core Master are the embodiment of a Martial cultivator’s achievements. Of the four, however, Core Master is the only one that should not be referred to as a ‘Level’. The Core Master embodiment of Martial achievement is called a ‘Realm’, the second realm of cultivation. The first realm consists of every level before the Core Master realm”.

    “A realm? Then even after breaking through so many levels and phases, I am still… Big sis is still in just the first realm?” Zax asked aghast. He asked in regards to himself and Zetsa, but inside his stomach an eruption of skepticism arose. Forget about him, there are those that lived for hundreds of years yet did not made it to the Core Master level, no, Realm!

    “Do you think that crossing realms is simple?” Kartius rebuked then sighed. “To special cases like yours and Martial niece Zetsa, it may seem so. But not every being in New Earth is a top genius or a lucky genius like you two. And we beasts, to tap into our latent potential we even must first obtain our human form and then hope to stumble upon a proper cultivation technique or spend tens of years to develop one…”

    ‘Ah… Master is right’. Zax regretted his ignoramus reaction for realizing that without the support of the Black Core, he never would have achieved his current body fitness level, possibly not even his soul level. Even if he dare call himself a “Genius” for reaching level F with his soul without the help of an Earth’s Core, he still would be categorized in the latter example of his Master.

    “Zax”, Kartius’s stag head had a pitiful smiling expression. “On the subject of realms it’s not that I don’t want to tell you because I think that you are not ready. In truth, it is still a very obscure subject. In all of New Earth the highest achievement of Martial cultivation is breaking through the last level of the Core Master realm and breaching the third realm. And among the over one hundred and seventy million habitants of New Earth, at most, ten have reached that realm!”

    “So little…!” Zax was astonished.

    “Might be even less!” Kartius declared. “I myself can confidently recount only two, Kingdom Earth Supreme Ruler Ariel Dauch and the ruler of Valgarel”.

    “Supreme Ruler Ariel surpassed the Core Master level… realm?!” That even more brought Zax to a daze state.

    Who was Supreme Ruler Ariel Dauch? Other than one of Kingdom Earth three rulers, he was the ruler of El-Eden, the faction, the region, his home in Kingdom Earth. To any boy who grew up in El-Eden, Supreme Ruler Arial was an object of adoration. Much was the same for Supreme Rulers Gid and Trey in their own regions.

    “Don’t underestimate that man”, Kartius mistook Zax surprised reaction to a doubtful one. “If there are only ten cultivators in the third realm, then among these ten, Supreme Ruler Ariel Dauch and the ruler of Valgarel are the two top experts of New Earth. If anything can be said on beasts’ and humans’ relationship these days, it’s that these two alone can be counted as the pillars for peace between our species!”

    Zax was speechless. He swallowed his saliva. Listening to his Master he began to wonder in awe.

    “Who is it, Master? Who is the strongest beast in Valgarel?” Like a child he probed to know more of the impressive existence that made him awestruck.

    “Hahaha!” Kartius could not help but laugh. “His Valor Ozeyn, that’s how we refer to him. Even experts among humans that know him dare not refer to him in any other way!” To Kartiuys, Ozeyn was perhaps the equivalent of Supreme Ruler Ariel to Zax. Talking about him with his Martial son elevated his mood.

    “Where does he live in Valgarel?”

    “Why? Want to meet him? Ahmm… What would you say if I told you that my big brother met him?!”

    “One of the two top experts?!” Zax could not contain his excitement and called aloud.

    ‘Kartius…’ Laivien voice suddenly echoed in Kartius’s head.

    ‘Oh!’ Kartius realized that in his own moment with his Martial son he actually blabbered too much. “Yes”. His tone hardened and the jolly temperament receded.

    “But enough of this. The Core Master realm is what you should learn about now”.

    The severe tone of his Master was like cold water, splashing in his face. There were things that could bring out Zax’s inner child, but he himself was a young man nearly half way through his teenage years. “Yes Master”. He replied tactfully.

    “The Core Master realm consist of three levels of refinement and six bottlenecks of insight”, Kartius said. “To ascend beyond the existence of a Core Master, a cultivator must refine the aspect he trains in three times. Each time is considered a level and each level has two bottlenecks. The first one is midway a level, the second one is at the peak of a level”.

    ”The bottlenecks of the three levels are vastly different than the bottlenecks of insight. The six bottlenecks of insight are all soul related and to reach the third realm not all are compulsory to break through. Out of the six only three bottlenecks of insight and the three levels of refinement are required for a cultivator to reach the third realm. That being said, although many Core Masters choose to break through only the first three bottlenecks of insight, individually there is no difference in difficulty among the six. However, if you break through a level while discarding the two bottlenecks of insight, the opportunity to gain them back is lost”.

    “Why would someone not break through all six bottlenecks and three levels and be done with all of it?” Zax asked curiously.

    “Because, even though, individually, they are the same, each bottleneck of insight becomes harder to unravel after the previous one. By breaking the first three a cultivator can concentrate on breaking through the three levels, which are compulsory and also increase in difficulty”.

    “Then, Master, what are the benefits of the six bottlenecks?”

    “That is complicated to say for certainty. As a mist cultivator in the Core Master realm, I only unravel the first two bottlenecks of insight and broken through the first level. In terms of strength, my mist energy did not improve after unraveling the two insights and my soul also did not undergo any changes… More than that, much like the energy you grasped in the bodily maneuvers, I won’t say anything further”.

    Zax was a tad dissatisfied. The realm he knew nothing about yet still was a definite goal at the back of his head, at the back of every Martial cultivator’s mind, was something he both wanted to reach on his own and hear more until he makes it.

    ‘So this is why experts stay in the Savage Caves to train their souls…’ At least that became clear to him.

    Kartius eyes concentrated, assessing his Martial son. His Soul Sense also probed, but that Zax was unable to notice.

    “Master?”

    The staunch look in Kartius’s eyes relaxed. “At the moment I will say that unless it’s not a Core Master at the Peak of the first level, you can contend against any Mist Master at the first level of the Core Master realm. Your equals will only be those in the Advanced phase, depending on the mist refining techniques they follow and their Martial techniques”.

    “So when I’ll break through the sixth gate…”

    “There won’t be many that will pose a threat to you. Therefore, you will be free to roam New Earth to your hearth’s content”. Kartius confirmed much more than Zax dared to think.

    Zax’s eyes opened wide with a stupid expression on his face. In his mind resurfaced a phrase Serah once used to describe the legendary kart in her favorite online game Mocca Kart… “Unbound by the road”.

    ‘Unbound by no one!’ A strong impressive sensation gushed inside Zax, stirringly spreading to every fiber of his being. Part of it he could not deny was because the memory of a dear friend he truly wanted to see right now, but most was the new desire that emerged within him or maybe an old one that finally consolidated to a comprehensive form.

    “Oh…” Kartius exclaimed. It was easy for him to read Zax body language, even if he kept steady. His rapt gaze also signified the depth of his thoughts.

    ‘It seems that you awakened something inside your Martial son, big brother’, Laivien affirmed.

    “Zax”, Kartius called, bringing him back to his senses.

    Zax lifted his eyes, noticing now that his hands were clenched and drenched with sweat.

    “It appears that you thought of something good”.

    “Ah… Yes Master”, Zax was still quite excited and had no reason to hide his ambitions from his Master.

    “Well, then that’s good. The best kind of mood to get into before training”. Kartius took his own words gravely.

    The rigorous training regimen of a Martial cultivator was not something leisurely. Out of a hundred or a thousand experts how many truly find joy in training? Relatively to the long life span of an expert, most get fed up pretty quickly and at first simply driven by desire. Kartius himself had years piling on his back by the hundreds, even if in the beginning he loved training, did he sustain this love this long? In some days… maybe.

    As for his impression of Zax… Kartius knew that as far as it goes for desire, Zax possessed the right one to push him on the Martial path for a long time. But “Desire” could also be interpreted to a “Goal” and once a goal is reached, the hard work that brought to it is stopped. Kartius detected the desire for something big from Zax, but love for training? That was something it was still early to determine.

    “Master, are you going to instruct me now the new path of training?!”

    “Mm!” Kartius nodded. “There is still about a month before the assessment of big brother. That time should be spent properly, understood?”

    “Yes, Master”.

    “Good. Good. But I must inform you, Martial son, due to the extreme consumption of the Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement, you won’t be able to continue refining the body without similar treasures to the one the man who came from the second Savage Cave had. Regrettably, because from the start the Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement is a very demanding bodily refinement technique and after the modification of the Black Core, on that aspect, it only become worse. Other than the second cave there aren’t any other places for us to find you the proper plants to nourish the formation. Therefore, until you either figure out the energy of the bodily maneuvers or reach level A with your soul, you will no longer refine the body”.

    “Ah?! Master, the bodily maneuvers I can somewhat understand, but the soul? Why I should wait for it to reach level A if it has nothing to do with the bodily refinement technique?”

    Kartius frowned. “Who says it has nothing to do with the bodily refinement technique? Even if it does not affected by the Pain or Destruction of the Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement, for your future cultivation of the body, it’s actually the bodily maneuvers that don’t possess any importance while the soul is the most crucial!” Kartius rebuked, but did not finish there. “It was right of you to ask, but don’t do it with false assumptions. As a practitioner of the Martial path, don’t repeat this mistake!”

    Zax nodded promptly. He understood his Master and why he got angry. Though, with regards to his Master’s instructions, they still were not clear to him, but after angering him, Zax willingly accepted that in the future it will become clear to him on its own.

    For now he decided that he should just put his all to accomplish at least one of the two tasks his Master gave him. Preferably, reach the Mist Lord level with his soul.



    The long awaited date was nearing as time flew by and the span of three years almost came to its end.

    In the short time that was left for him, Zax spent each day practicing the bodily maneuvers until prostration. In the Essence Cave there were not Blood Red Grapes that he could eat to instantly renew his strength and so when Zax could not move his body anymore he sat down and began to meditate.

    Despite his assiduous temperament in training, Zax’s sole achievement was gathering more pieces of spiritual knowledge from his subliminal mind. The number of fragments of the entity far surpassed ten thousand, but Zax soul level remained at the Beginner phase of level B. He also did not have luck in connecting the pieces.

    As for the plants that Zax brought from the Savage Cave, they were useless to him, but still of help to Kartius.

    Sadly, Kartius was too proud to ask his Martial son for the plants and Zax himself was oblivious to his Master’s need of them. Luckily, the two had one hell of mediator that funny enough, none could admit to talking with… Laivien suggested to Zax that he should give the plants to Kartius, while revealing to him that the plants Kartius used to help him reach the Advanced phase of level C with his body fitness level were treasures meant for him to step closer to the second realm with his body fitness level.

    To Zax it was more than enough to lower his head while not giving up an inch until his Master agree to accept the plants.

    Laivien also supported Zax by convincing Kartius that it is okay for fathers to receive gifts from their sons.

    Eventually, Kartius took the plants from Zax, and as his Martial son trained according to his instructions, he too resumed his paused training.



    ‘Zax’, Laivien’s presence beckoned in his sea of consciousness.

    Zax halted his movements not before dispersing the energy.

    ‘What is it, Laivien?’

    ‘Little Zetsa appears to be in a hurry to find you. She is one her way, she entered the Essence Cave, go greet her, don’t forget that it’s been three years, and see what so urgent’.

    “Big sis Zetsa is coming?!” Laivien’s first two words were about when Zax stopped listening and his body began to shake.

    At last, after three years, he could see his beloved big sister again! After returning from the Savage Cave he missed her more than ever, missed his family and friends, as well. But Zetsa was a tunnel away from him, yet, no matter how much he longed to see her, he was not allowed to leave the Essence Cave until the three years were up and his Master told him so.

    To cope with the ache in his heart the only thing Zax could do was submerge himself in training. And that helped, up to when Laivien said that his big sister herself is coming for him.

    “Little Zi!” An all too familiar voice reached his ears as a silhouette engulfed in a dark golden aura, an Advanced phase Mist lord aura, burst through the smoky mist and stopped several meters from him

    ‘Laivien…’ Zax guessed that it was she that led his big sister toward him. But that was as far as he thought of someone else when his big sister landed next to him.

    “Big sis…” Alongside the words followed two streams of tears on his face.

    In three years’ time his big sister nearly did not change, yet when he looked at her something did seem out of place. It was not her amazing achievement of getting to the Advanced phase of the Mist lord level, nor the fact the she let her hair grow past her waist or even her action of cancelling her aura while in the smoky mist area that commonly only those at the fourth gate of the Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement can stand. What shock Zax was that his big sister was a meter and seventy seven centimeters tall, and he was a centimeter taller!

    “Little Zi!” Zetsa stepped forward, covering the distance between them in two strides.

    The palm of her right hand touched his cheek and unconsciously Zax eyes closed and his soul sank in its warmth. Zetsa’s two arms slide and in an instant she pulled Zax to a hug.

    “Little Zi, I am so happy, little Zi”. It seemed that Zax was not the only one or the one who was influenced the most by their parting.

    Zax woke up, amazed at what ease he lowered all of his defenses before his big sister. ‘Was I like that in the past?’ He asked but his body did not care and returned the hug to his big sister.

    “Why did you come here, big sis?” Zax asked. When the hug loosened the two still held each other hands. “Don’t get me wrong, big sis, but in a few days I would have returned and you could see me then. Did something happen?” It was the only reason that Zax could think of for Zetsa to come in spite of his Master’s order that no one is permitted to interrupt his training before the conclusion of the three years.

    Zetsa closed her eyes, savoring in her mind the moment of seeing her brother again. Her eyes reopened after a few seconds. “Something happened, happening, little Zi”. In her voice sounded the urgency Laivien mentioned.

    “What then?”

    “It’s too sudden, Zax”, here it was, the name she used to call him that accompanied her serious mode. “You need to come back home with me right now!”

    “What? How can I, big sis? In a couple of days I’m finally going to meet your Master and have him assess me… Wait! Is something wrong at home?! Are mom and dad okay?!” His refute was cut short by the realization that his big sister might hold back her words if it was related to their parents.

    “Zax, mom and dad are in the hospital”.

    “Hospital?!” Zax complexion paled.

    “Mom about to give birth!”

    “How?! Wait! Mom is pregnant?!”

    “Fool! You were away for three years and I spent most of my time training. Do you want our parents to be all alone?!”

    “Ah… No… Big sis”. Zax, a fourteen year old, could start growing his first facial hairs but in the face of a pregnant woman, the idea of his pregnant mother, lose all sense of comprehension.

    ‘Go! I’ll deal with the matter of your assessment’. Laivien said to him.

    “Can you?” Zax recklessly said aloud.

    ‘Go!’ Laivien repeated in irritation and a wave of energy struck Zax’s soul. It was the first time Laivien assaulted him, but it was not in a harmful way, rather in a manner that made him regret not obeying the first time she told him to go.

    “Let’s go”. Zetsa said.

    Zax nodded and the two bodies flashed, heading from the wild, from Valgarel, back home.

  17. #77
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    Book 4 – Conflict

    Chapter 1 – Back To Kingdom Earth




    Zax and Zetsa traversed the wild caves of Valgarel like two gusts of winds.

    Zetsa stared wide eyes at Zax. Witnessing how much he evolved as a Martial cultivator, she found it difficult to compare him with the little boy that she left with her Martial uncle. What shocked her most was that even though she ran at her top speed, Zax effortlessly followed next to her.

    “Little Zi, you are the first and only apprentice Martial uncle ever accepted. In just three years I can sense that your cultivation in the Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement has reached the sixth gate. This is unprecedented! What kind of training Martial uncle put you through?!”

    Zax had a faint smile on his face but he did not laugh. There were so many things that contributed to his growth and his current achievements, some, though, were painful to reminisce.

    “A lot had happened, big sis, but if you want to know I’ll tell you”. Zax said with eyes ahead and a mixed expression of forced elation.

    And so he told her, every detail of the past three years.

    Zetsa’s response was completely flabbergasted, even more intense than Rarahel’s, due to her learning only now that her little brother ventured to the Savage Caves.

    “Zax…” Was the one word that sneaked past her lips, more than that nothing came out.



    With their speed, the two covered the distance from Zetsa’s Master’s cave to Kingdom Earth’s cave twenty five under ten hours. As the wildness got replaced with residential neighborhoods and the beasts with humans at every turn, Zax’s hearth tightened from how estranged he felt by the scenery.

    “You can’t go like this to the hospital”. Zetsa stopped on a roof of some building and said to Zax. Her eyes were pointing at the beast skin garments and the disheveled hair on his head.

    “The clothes at home probably no longer fit me and dad’s clothes are still too big. Besides, does it really important?” Zax was used to the way he looked. In Valgarel no one ever judged his sense of fashion. In his point of view, if the clothes were comfortable enough to train in, they were good enough for everything else.

    “Our grandparents, family members and mom’s and dad’s friends are in the hospital, so I would say yes. Take this”. Zetsa threw at him a small key. “Go home wash yourself. I’ll go quickly to buy you something proper to wear”.

    Zax sighed. On one hand he was still fine with the way he looked, on the other hand, in front of those who knew him and he cared about, he did not want to look like a buffoon.

    “Fine”. He said and left home.

    Entering the house, Zax had an odd feeling as if the air became thicker and a familiar taste filled his mouth. Urges to fall on the sofa in the living room, to turn on the Screen and his computer, to open the cabinet and take out a snack, bubbled in his stomach. In just a few seconds he acclimated anew to the old environment of his home. Standing at the entrance inspired a sense of tranquility, time, however, was short and he could not allow himself to dwell on the moment.

    A quick shower was Zax’s reason for stopping by.

    Not long after they parted, Zax finished cleaning and fixing his appearance and Zetsa returned with two clothing bags.

    “Hurry”. She told Zax, after helping him cut his hair and handed over the bags.



    The figures of the Martial experts, brother and sister, flashed inside the corridors of the hospital, avoiding the people that were waiting or that could hinder them. The two wanted first and foremost to see how their parents, especially their mom, were doing.

    Using his Soul Sense, Zax detected many familiar faces, but he and Zetsa did not have the capacity of dealing with them right now. Their mom was in a room with their father, a nurse and a doctor. The way it looked, it seemed as though they were preparing for her to give birth.

    “Stop. And stop using your Soul Sense”. Zetsa brought her and Zax’s haste to an end behind a round corridor, not far from the room their parents were in.

    Zax understood her intentions, that if suddenly he will appear after three years while his mom gave birth it will startle her and danger the baby. As for canceling his Soul Sense, besides Zax’s interest in whether he is about to get a baby brother or a baby sister, anything that went in that room was too much for him to bear…



    “Mom”, Zetsa stepped into the room a minute after her father returned from spreading the great news of the new and healthy baby to the family and friends that hanged around in the waiting area of the floor.

    “Sweetheart”, Laylen’s eyes were shining and her face had a distinct glow. She was half sitting half lying on the hospital bed while holding the baby as Marco was leaning by her side.

    “Come here, Zetsa, come see your little sister”. Marco waved his in invitation. He, too, had a certain glow of a new father around him.

    Seeing her parents so blissful, Zetsa knew for a long time that despite how much she and her little brother were loved by their parents, the couple still longed for a child they could nurturer and raise exemplary without falling short to his or her brilliance.

    “A sister?!” Zetsa momentarily froze. Holding herself from going to meet her new sister, she said. “Mom, dad, I’m not alone”.

    “Oh, you brought someone with you from the waiting area?” Marco asked.

    When Zetsa got the call about her mom and dad going to the hospital, she was in Kingdom Earth, and so quickly arrived to see how they were doing. When the doctor said that even though it is early, they might accelerate the delivery, the last thing Laylen and Marco saw was their daughter, leaving for the waiting area.

    In truth, that was when Zetsa decided to bring back her little brother. The doctor gave an estimate time of nineteen to twenty four hours before the birth and it was just enough to bring Zax back.

    A minute ago, when Marco informed everyone in the waiting area, his head was with his wife and his newborn daughter. In his excitement he barely looked at those that waited before returning to Laylen and the baby. Because of this, both he and Laylen thought that Zetsa was in the waiting area and asked the nurse’s or doctor’s permission to enter the room alongside someone else, one of their parents, possibly.

    “I did, but not from the waiting area”, Zetsa said.

    Marco and Laylen seemed confused at first but reading their daughter’s behavior a thought pupped in their heads and both, for the sake of the baby, had to restrain their reaction.

    “Enter”, Zetsa turned her head and called out.

    “Zax!” Marco’s and Laylen’s voices echoed faintly. Abruptly seeing the son they were convinced by their daughter to send away “for his own good”, stimulated their tear gland and streams slid down.

    “Mom…” Zax’s gaze was first locked on his mother who was half lying on the hospital bad. “Dad…” He called for the two of them from the entrance of the room. Not a day had passed since he met his big sister after a three years separation, now his parents were before him and what to say, what to do, how to feel… he was too overwhelmed to make up his mind.

    “Mom, Dad, I brought Zax back”. Zetsa repeated for their parents to realize that no, it was not a dream. She grabbed Zax hands and brought him closer.

    Laylen held the baby and could not get up, but Marco could and he did. “Come here, Zax”. He called calmly.

    With his chin down, Zax walked around the hospital bed. His body was stiff, harder to control than in his first days in the first Savage Cave. A hand fell down on his head, a gentle touch as if it was made out of cotton.

    Marco rubbed Zax’s head as if to get a sense that his son was really there. When he had enough to satisfy his uncertainties, his hand fell to the back of Zax’s neck and pulled him to his chest.

    “I’m sorry”. Zax’s muffled voice broke though the enclosure of his father’s wide structure. His arms wrapped rightly around his father as the aloof child that he was when he left to Valgarel returned to apologize to those he pushed away. “I’m sorry for the way I’ve being, for taking everyone for granted, for isolating myself even from you”. His words meant for everyone, his mom, his dad, his big sister.

    In that moment, Zax pressure was a bit stronger, and made his father fall back to the chair that he was sitting on. Zax also fell, but to his knees, sobbing on his father lap.

    It was after a certain passage of time that he regained his poised demeanor.

    Zax sat on the hospital bed, the room was quiet. With his mother’s help Zetsa passed him their little sister from her hands.

    “Have you chosen a name yet?” Zetsa asked.

    “We did. We thought of two names, one for a boy and another for a girl”. Marco said.

    “Liz, Liz Zel is her name”. Laylen said with a smile.

    “Liz…” Zax whispered the names. She was small, too small and fragile. But she slept soundly in his arms, breathing softly with a repetitive sequence and a paced rhythm. Outside she was barely moving, but inside Zax could feel her lungs expanding, could hear heart beating and her blood circulating. She was perfect.

    ‘Ah!’ Zax’s eyes flung opened. Her little body suddenly sent a shiver through his arms and without prior notice she began to cry.

    “Give her to me, honey”. Laylen said. “Honey, give me your little sister”. When Zax did not comply the first time Laylen repeated.

    ‘Amazing! How a body so small can generate such a reaction from me?’ Zax was rather astonished from the tiny shiver that alerted him moment before Liz, his little sister, started crying. His mind was completely absorbed with the harmony that a baby, not even a day old, had. So much that he was ignorant to his mother’s request.

    Finally, Marco took his baby daughter from his son’s hold and Zax awakened form the submerge state of mind, raising his head and questioning his dad.

    “Why are you taking her?”

    “It’s wonderful that you feel so connected to your little sister that you lose track with the world around you, but your Liz needs her mother now”. Marco replied. “Let’s leave the girls and come see who didn’t go home after my announcement. We stayed too long that whoever stayed probably think that we forgotten about them, also no one will expect to see you”.

    “That’s right, Zax, other than mom and dad no one knows yet that you returned. If you feel anxious, better meet everyone early in one go”. Zetsa said.

    “Do they know how long I was gone?” Zax asked. “Where I’ve been to…?”

    “We told everyone who asked what Zetsa told us and made out the rest…” Marco said, leading Zax outside of the room.

    “To get into the subject we had to tell everyone who asked about your Qi channels, but we didn’t elaborate. Everyone recognize your big sister’s talent, so we told them that she has a great Mor that accepted you as a Tal and decided to take you for a three years of secluded soul training. Many big schools allow their students to go home only once to twice a year, so it was not difficult for them to understand. Other than that, the only thing that I and your mom knew and kept to ourselves was that your big sister’s Mor resides in the beasts’ territory”.

    ‘So that’s the story…’ Zax thought and left the room together with his father.



    Grandpa Zal had the loudest reaction when Marco arrived with Zax. Swelling up as if about to burst from exhilaration he actually yelled. “A granddaughter and a grandson in one day! Hahaha!” His boorish laughter made the nurses come over and ask to leave or lower the voices.

    Plenty of people were remained in the waiting area. The residents of cave twenty five possessed a strong communal bond and any joyful occasion was a cause for mutual celebration.

    The family and friends remembered Zax as the ten or eleven years old boy that they last saw. Now what they saw was a young man waking next to his father with a well built physique and a dauntless demeanor years beyond his age and status. Even if Zax was not in the mood, the atmosphere he fostered in Valgarel and gave off was already an inseparable part of his being, embedded too deeply to remove.

    Among everyone, grandpa Zal was the one most interested in Zax’s growth as a cultivator of the soul. He still remembered the shock his grandson gave him a few years back. When he heard about the case of his Qi channels, no one in the family, other than Zetsa, knew more than him what sort of loss it was for a boy so talented. However, then came the news that an expert accepted him as a Tal, and for grandpa Zal, at that time, it provided a peace of mind that there is still someone who has not given up on his grandson.

    Zax received the welcome backs, answered some questions, got updated and at a certain point, when the company stopped being so talkative and oppressive, allowed himself to open up.

    “Marco, now you have two daughters and one son while I have a two sons and one daughter”, a short stature blond man that came to the hospital with his wife to visit the Zel couple called. “One of my boys already married and the other doesn’t have to spunk to ask Miss Zetsa out. Your son and my daughter, on the other hand, are not far apart in age, she is only older in a year. How about it? Should we tie them together?” The man had a grin on his face.

    Although Zax did not reveal his soul level – which had no impression on anyone since people were interested in what goes down in the dantian – or the fact that he practices the legendary method of a bodily refinement technique, for the personal lives of the common people, status as a Mist User meant nothing compared to a matchmaking with a family they were in good terms with. After all, only in stories an expert Mist User will ask for the hand of a girl with low cultivation and a mediocre class.

    “What are you talking about, Melik? My son is not even fifteen years of age-” Marco said but then was cut.

    “That’s right, Melik, your daughter is too old. Marco, bring your family for a dinner this weekend, my daughter celebrating her fourteenth birthday in two weeks, far more appropriate match to your son!” Another man said.

    On his behalf it should be said that apart from his demeanor, Zax grew up to be a fine looking young man. What could be better for these men than a spouse with a steadfast bearing that can take care of their daughters and give them cute grandchildren?

    Following the second man, many offers and jokes were thrown on Marco and his flushed son. He thought to surprise his family and friends, but ended up speechless himself.



    “Let’s go outside. Mom and dad gonna have a rough night”. Zetsa said.

    The family got back from the hospital several hours ago and the Nightly Cover formation had already darkened the bright ceiling of the cave.

    Liz’s crib was placed in their parent’s bedroom. The three were currently asleep, but Zetsa experienced the homecoming of one baby and was not fooled by the present tranquility.

    The two sat idly on a bench not far from the building.

    “How are you feeling?” Zetsa asked Zax.

    “I don’t know. Calm, contented, scared…” Zax played with his fingers, cherishing the darkness of the night that was absent in the Essence and Savage Caves he spent nearly all off his time in while in Valgarel.

    “Are you thinking of your friends?”

    “Yes”.

    “I think that by morning Serah, through her parents, will be the first to know that you returned. They haven’t been in the hospital, but they called mom…”

    “…it doesn’t matter. I need to return for your Master”.

    “You can stay a few more days, enough to meet your friends”.

    “…”

    “It won’t be harder than meeting mom and dad. It only seems like it because you already faced them”.

    “It almost has been three years. I don’t know where they are, if they have time, if…”

    “Here”, She took out her Caller from a pocket in her pants and showed it to Zax. “You know where Serah’s parents are. If she is staying in dorms or sleep at home you can find out by simply calling or going to their home”.

    Zax’s hand hovered above the Caller. He did not take it.

    “I’ll go to their home tomorrow morning. I’ll catch her or her parents before they’ll leave”.

    “Fine. Want me to tell you at least where Take is?”

    “Where?”

    “In the advanced post Core Martial School, Mist Breaker. It’s here in El-Eden and he is staying in their dorms. I still teach him now and then, but the extended Edomachi family wants him to be taught by the experts in this prestigious school”.

    “So what? You are not good enough as a Mor for him anymore?” Zax became a bit cranky.

    “He and his parents don’t think so, but the rest of the family do. The Edomachi family is a very exalted high class family. Take and his parents are merely a branch that carries the fruit a little bit farther from the trunk”.

    “If they want the support of the main family they don’t have a say in the matter and I don’t blame them. Most certainly, you don’t get to judge them”. Zetsa reproached him.

    “Thanks for telling me where he is… I should go see Take, too”. Zax retorted.

    “You will”.

    “Anything else to talk about?”

    “No. Let’s just enjoy the serenity of the night”.

  18. #78
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    Book 4 – Conflict

    Chapter 2 – The First One



    As a cultivator with body fitness level at the sixth gate of the Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement, as long as he did not exercise and exhaust himself, Zax could stay awake and energetic for days and weeks.

    Early morning, when the Nightly Cover formation gradually deactivated and the cold air of the night condensed to refreshing dew, Zax stood in front the apartment building were Serah and her parents lived.

    At some point during the night Zetsa returned to help their parents since she was not tired and for the time being could also stay at home.

    Zax, who felt fine outside, remembered that Troel, Serah’s father, leaves to work at an early hour. If Serah’s parents learned of his return from his mom or dad, he might as well see one of them first as a warm up.

    A tell figure was coming out from the building’s entrance. On one shoulder the man carried a backpack and his hands he stuffed in the pockets of the coat he wore.

    “Good morning, uncle”. Zax waited in a visible place from the building lobby, so as not to startle Troel when he came down.

    Troel did see Zax when he came down the last stairs, but the young man outside was not the boy he remembered or imagine that he will meet as he goes to work, so his attention was elsewhere before the young man turned to him.

    “Good morning, son, do I know…” It took him but a moment of concentration to recognize the familiar facial feature that matured a lot since last he saw him. “Zax?!”

    “Yes, uncle, it’s me”. Zax smiled softly and raised his hand.

    TRUNK!

    The backpack slid from Troel’s shoulder to the ground. Troel slapped Zax’s hand and hugged him. “Brat, you were gone for a few years and suddenly became so formal?” He laughed and released him. Holding his shoulders, he took a good look at the boy that used to spend many weekends at his home, playing with his daughter.

    “Walk with me to the bus stop”. Troel picked up his backpack and gestured to the direction he was going.

    “Sure, uncle”. Zax said.

    “My, Zax, I congratulated your mother and father yesterday for the new baby. They told me that you returned, but it did not occur to me to, at the time, to congratulate them for you, too. Moreover, you also deserve congratulation for being a big brother!” If when he left home Troel still was slightly tired, now he completely woke up and stared at Zax with wide opened eyes.

    “Thanks, uncle. You don’t need to go that far. I came back for a few days, to see mom, dad and Liz, my new baby sister”.

    “’Liz’, so they kept the ‘Z’ but put it at the end… You know, after you left and your parents began to explain your situation, people…” Troel looked at Zax with a hint of pity. He tilted his head to the road, to not sullen the mood. “Never mind”. He said and changed to subject. “How well your soul training has been?”

    “Pretty decent, uncle, better than what most would think, so no need to feel bad for me”. Zax said resolutely.

    Since his return, Troel was not the first one to show sympathy for his circumstance. At the hospital, too, there were a few, which despite the cheerfulness, revealed a sorry expression on their faces.

    The two arrived to the bus stop. Other than them were two other people that waited on a bench, an old couple.

    “Decent is what all of us should aspire to achieve”. Troel said.

    Like those at the hospital and any other person in Kingdom Earth, only mist cultivation could move him. That being said, he and no one else were looking down on Zax. At the end of the day, the sort of cultivation that meant anything was only a wishful dream to the common people, and dreams were not something substantial to build one’s life around.

    Only those of the high class with either experts in their roots or a lot of money, could afford or had the means to turn dreams to reality.

    “You came to see Serah?” Troel asked, though the answer was obvious.

    “Yes”. Zax replied. He could find out the answer on his own with his Soul Sense, but refrained from doing so. He rather preferred to see her when both of them stand face to face.

    The bus made a turn at the corner of the street and the old couple stood up.

    “I’m sorry, Zax. Serah can come home from the dorms only during the weekends”.

    This was a possibility within Zax’s expectations. If Serah was accepted to a Martial school, naturally there will be restriction on her free time. And whether it was Serah, Dane, Anet or anyone else from their Earth’s Core searching group, with their beneficial finds, it was clear to Zax that none of them may be at home.

    “Did you come just for her, or to see all of the others from your group at the Great Earth’s Core Pursuit?” Troel suddenly asked.

    “No, I came to see everyone”. Zax said.

    The bus doors stayed opened and Troel was with one leg in, delaying the driver who showed patience.

    “…I don’t know for sure about all of you kids, but Serah told me…” He seemed as if a touchy subject was at the tip of his tongue. “Go to Anet, that girl should be home…”

    His other leg climbed the step to the bus and the doors closed before he had the chance to say goodbye.

    “Of everyone Anet is the one at home…” The one who was accepted to the most prestigious Martial school in El-Eden, one of the three greatest Martial schools in Kingdom Earth, Eden Formation?

    Even if back then all she received was a two years scholarship, with the Earth’s Core she possessed and her diligence, acquiring an extension for further years should have been a small matter.

    Zax was not impervious to the frown on Troel’s face or the concern in his voice and so he wanted to ask Troel if there was a special reason for Anet to be at home. However, the bus’s doors closed and stopping it was not the same as forcefully stopping a big savage beast.



    Of all those who were with him in the same group in the Great Earth’s Core Pursuit, Zax knew where every one of his former friends lived.

    He did not hurry to Anet home and took his time walking there. In case Anet was still sleeping, Zax decided to wait for the atmosphere to get livelier before going over to see her.

    The apartment building she lived in was not far from their pre Core School which helped Zax to be precise on the current time. The first ring of the school bell was at eight o’clock in the morning; the second was at nine, the third at nine forty five at the fourth at ten.

    Zax waited in the park near the school. He could gather his resolve better when he was alone, that was why he did not go home.

    Till the fourth ring of the school bell Zax ran in his head all the scenarios that could happen when he will meet Anet. He started them over and over with different opening words each time, facing a surprised Anet, an angry Anet, a thrilled Anet, an impassive Anet and the door to her house…

    It was somewhat hard to drag the scenarios farther than the initial encounter, since Zax could not predict how much Anet changed and in what way in the past three years. The Anet in his head was the ten years old girl that first was just another girl in his class and then became his friend through Serah and lastly a friend close to his heart.

    The bells finished to ring and the kids in the school’s playground made their way back to class as Zax joined them and left, too, to Anet’s home.



    “Yes? Who are you?” A middle age feminine voice asked from the other side of the door.

    “It’s Zax Zel, Anet’s friend”. Zax said.

    After a bit of quiet the door opened and a woman that looked like a housewife in her late forties stood at the entrance.

    “You are Laylen’s son?” The woman asked.

    Zax never had been to Anet’s house before. He saw her mother couple of times in the past and she did not change much. He, in contrast, had grown and transformed. Even if she remembered how he looked in the past, she did not recognize him now.

    “Yes, Mrs. Lensi”. Zax answered. He did not know Anet’s mother’s name and was not familiar with her enough, like with Serah’s parents, to call her “Aunty”.

    Mrs. Lensi gauged the young man in front of her and stepped back. “Come in, Zax”. Opposite from Zax, she, was acquainted with his mother and knew his name.

    “Thank you, Mrs. Lensi”.

    “My daughter’s friends do not call me ‘Mrs. Lensi’. Call me ‘Aunt Beka’ or ‘Aunty’”. Anet’s mother, Beak, said.

    “Ah… okay, aunty”.

    Zax surveyed the house with his eyes the instant he entered, searching for Anet.

    “Anet is in her home, if you want to see her, I guess you do… She won’t come out…” Beka showed Zax where to go in the house that was fairly big, bigger than his parent’s, at least. She seemed drained and troubled, not in a talkative state of mind like Troel.

    Zax nodded and walked through the hallway to the third room on the right.

    He knocked but received no answer, so he knocked again.

    “Anet… are you wake? It’s Zax”. He said loud enough for her to hear but not wake up if she was asleep.

    Beka watched him from the other side of the hallway. “You can open the door, she probably doesn’t hear you”.

    Zax looked at her, said nothing and grabbed the round door knob, twisting it clockwise to the right.

    A cold, bitter, gloomy environmental essence was perceived by Zax when he opened the door. He frowned and a bad feeling emerged in his heart. ‘What’s the meaning of this aberrant environmental essence?’ He asked himself and looked for Anet.

    Sitting on a bed, covered with a blanket up to her knees was a young teenage girl, Anet. Headphones pressed against her unbound blond flowing hair and the Screen in front of her bed was on.

    She looked at him and expected to see her mother. When she realized it was not her mother, her eyes widened in distress as if she saw a ghost.

    “Anet”. She read his lips since the headphones were on full volume. She kept staring, uncertain, heavily breathing.

    Zax walked closer. ‘What’s up?! What’s wrong?!’ She looked like a frightened mouse, cowering.

    “Zax…?” She asked in a feeble voice, lowering the headphones and wondering in incredulity.

    Of those he called “Friends” Zax considered only seven as true ones, whether they were thinking the same of him today or not. His seven group members during the Great Earth’s Core Pursuit.

    ‘She is so…’ Zax, in turn, after hearing her pronouncing his name, could not utter a word. He saw the Anet that he remembered in the face of the girl before him, but he also saw another, gorgeous girl that even in her worst days seem capable to bewitch every man, certainly a teenage boy that for the past four years or so secluded himself in training.

    “Are you really Zax?!” The mesmerizing girl leaned forward, the rims of her eyes turning red.

    “It’s me-” By the time he answered she already made out his mature appearance with his childish one. Her left leg slid from the bed, in one step she closed the distance between them and flung herself at him.

    Zax felt his heart pounding. Anet was as tall at him, at most one centimeter difference like his big sister. She clanged to him, buried her sobbing face in his neck, all of her weight was between his arm as if she did not have the power to stand herself.

    Outside of the room, at the other side of the hallway, Beka heard her daughter’s voice asking, the blanket falling to the floor and the sobs the boy she let in aroused in her daughter. She silently moved away.

    “I’m sorry…” Anet murmured to Zax’s ear while crying, “I’m sorry for not understanding. I’m sorry, I’m sorry”.

    ‘’Anet, stop!” Zax pulled away her arms and she fell to her knees, holding her face and crying.

    ‘What is wrong? What in the name of the Supreme Rulers happened to her?!’ Zax grimaced. He sensed that the environmental essence in the room was affected by Anet’s emotional state. He got down on one knee and pulled Anet’s hands, once more, this time from her face.

    In the past three years, when Zax reminisced about his friends, not once did he feel toward Anet what he was feeling right now. But what was Anet to him in the past? Third best friend after Serah and Dane, second best female friend after Serah… was that all? No. He never had the same open brother sister relationship with Anet the same way that he had it with Serah. Anet was someone he opened up to much later, in his last year of pre Core School. She was the girl that joined their group, the girl he unjustly resented, the girl whom made him overwhelmed when he realized that he mistreated. The girls which warmed her way to his heart without clarifying her place in it.

    In this moment, Anet was the girl which awestricken his teenage heart and solidified her place in it as something first.

    To deal with her, Zax had to toughen up. He grabbed Anet’s cheeks softly and raised her hand. “Tell me what happened? Why are you crying?” Whatever it was, Zax had a sensed of obligation to make it vanish.

    Anet said nothing. She hid her eyes with her hands and cried and cried.

    Zax saw that while in this state he could not get through to her so he waited. After thirty\ forty minutes Anet’s emotional crisis gradually subsided.

    “Zax”, she called to him. The two of them were sitting on the floor, no longer touching, and she raised her head on her own.

    “Hi, Anet”. Zax responded. He wanted to smile to her, to lighten her mood, but could not force himself.

    “Hi”, Anet answered back, mostly because she could not think of something better to say, an excuse to justify her actions.

    “Why were you crying? How come you at home?” Zax asked. It did not seem right to him and deduced that it had to do with her outburst.

    Hearing his questions, Anet began to shake like the moment she saw him on the doorstep.

    “Stop shaking, Anet”, Zax grabbed her arm but did not extract force; she already appeared to him too fragile. “Tell me, are you scared of something, someone?”

    “I’m sorry, Zax”, Anet replied. “I did not know how painful it was to you back then, how hard it is…”

    ‘What!’ An implausible thought emerged in Zax’s head. “Did something happen to your Qi… mist channels?!”

    “No”. Anet said almost inaudibly, but with reassurance.

    “What then is bothering you? Tell me and I’ll fix it!” Whether if for that he came or to simply reconnect with his friends, Zax was determined. Knowing himself and what he was capable, if it is a matter of strength he will gladly comply.

    “It won’t do, Zax… you can’t”. In her voice and how she gazed at him, Anet, immerse in despair, saw only the young Zax she could relate with.

    “I’ve changed, Anet, I’ve became stronger. I’m not the boy you saw beaten in the Young Mist Users Conference. I can fend for myself and others now!”

    “How? You unclogged you Qi channels? Even if you did… you… even big sister Zetsa, is not enough. Please, Zax, I’m sorry, forget about how I am. It happened and it’s over. I’m okay with it”. Although she said it firmly and steadily, tears could not help but spill in two streams from her eyes.

    Zax wanted to prove her, yet Anet still had things to say and he chose to not interrupt her. “Don’t pay attention to me. I was just swamped with all kinds of emotions when I saw you. I was thinking of you a lot since… When we were children it was difficult for me to understand the importance of what you lost and why you secluded yourself from others. But when I had to shut myself, to submit… I began to identify with you even if both of us deal with different cases”. Saying so far, Anet finally felt some ease and regulated her breathing.

    “From what I hear you still feel sorry for me and now even look down on me”. Zax said sternly.

    “No!” Anet yelped. “I’m not, I just don’t want anyone else to get involve and hurt”.

    “Anet, I do want to sit with you and tell you everything that happened to me in the past three years, and hear all the things and everything that you experienced. But of those I came back to see, you are the first, and I can’t stand seeing you like this. Even if I can’t do anything about it, tell me and let me decide!” Zax persisted.

    Anet lower her head, contemplating. She bit her lips, turned her back to him, pushed her hair to the side and lifted her shirt.

    Zax watched her without disruption, however when the shirt was up and her back was expose to him, his eyes turned blood red and his contained killing intent went wild.

    On Anet’s back a long and repugnant scar stretched from the back of her neck to her tailbone as if acid spelled on it.

    Zax gnashed his teeth. “Who did this to you?!”

  19. #79
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    Book 4 – Conflict

    Chapter 3 – Show Your ****ing Face!



    With much effort Zax concealed his killing intent from leaking out. His voice, on the other hand, did poorly and reverberate his fury.

    Anet trembled and lowered her shirt. She kept her back to him, shameful and sorrow for what had been done to her, the way she was marked.

    “Three month ago, my school, Eden Formation, held its half year Martial competition”. Anet slowly recited. “At the time, everything was fine. I even registered to the general fights of the Intermediate class”.

    “I did well in the fights. Eden Formation is not the biggest Martial School in El-Eden, but it has the best resources and cultivation techniques and so the awards for the first ten places were really good. I contented against other students between the ages twelve to sixteen in the Intermediate class and made it to the last ten. I lost in the fight for the ninth place, but the one that I most regretful about, is the fight that I won for the tenth place…” Anet’s voice cracked as she reminisced about the mistake of that day, which nowadays she considered her own.

    “My opponent for the tenth place was a student from my year, Binjo Derneldar. He and I had the same level of cultivation and our fight was mostly evenly match. Eventually I was able to surpass Binjo because the comprehension of my technique was better than his. I pushed him to the edge of the ring a lot of times and he managed to preserve just enough to not fall out. But when his mist energy was near depletion… that’s when he began to exploit that status of his family to threaten me, saying that I should concede if I know what’s good for me…” Anet clenched her fist. Her gaze was glued to the floor as tears dropped from her face. “I was reluctant to give up, but I knew who the Derneldar family was. One of the five greatest families of El-Eden and an exalt donor of the school. I did not want to give up because of the status of my opponent, but I had no choice. Binjo and I exchanged blows and I told him that I agree… I told him that I agree to lose and he… he said that if I am so easily convinced than later he will convince me to sell my body and expect that I comply, ‘like the upper class ****s’”. Anet bit her tongue and blood spilled from her mouth. Even today Binjo’s words filled her with resentment.

    Zax’s pupils contracted. ‘Is there someone really that vile?’ In his fourteen years of life he had yet to encounter the perverse. That was why the words that Anet used when she quoted Binjo were more stirring as they contrasted with his morals.

    “After he said it I became furious. Not caring who his family was, I beat him and won the fight. Like this I made my mistake”. Anet’s body loosened as depression sank in. “A day later were the last three days of the month, and when everyone could go home. Some students stay in the dorms, but I chose to go. Binjo did not bother me after the fight and I was excited for making it to the top ten and getting a mist cultivation pill. I was delusional!” Anet cried. “When I waited at the students’ terminal for the train a profound force engulfed my body and I lost consciousness. When I came to, I woke up in a warehouse, bound by the same force. Bijno was in the warehouse”. Anet’s voice faded. Recalling Bijno and the darkness of the warehouse made her pent.

    Zax sat quietly, but his heart pounded as if his Master stamped on his chest repeatedly. ‘If he…’ Not even in his thought was he able to complete the sentence.

    “After Binjo appeared, another person stepped out from the darkness… A Mist Lord Binjo referred to as ‘older brother’”. Anet crossed her arms, her fingernails dug into her skin. “Binjo… he wanted to rape me”. She said so silently, if Zax was not a bodily cultivator he would not have heard her. But maybe that was what Anet wanted; after all, she did not know that other than his soul, Zax also cultivated his body.

    Zax held himself from bursting the question “Did he”. In truth, whether Binjo did or did not, Zax’s mind was set on only one decree.

    “I wasn’t, I was not raped”. Rather than to Zax, whether he heard her or not, Anet’s words were directed to herself. “Jirendo, Binjo’s brother, did not let him rape me despite his protests. Because Binjo sullied their family name more than once in the past year, he could not let him act selfishly again, even if he will choose to kill me afterwards… Binjo was infuriated, but did not argue. For a short moment I thought that, that’s it, he will let me go. I was wrong. Binjo really hated me for beating him in the competition and more because his brother forbade him to execute his deviant tendencies. ‘I will not kill you’ he said nicely as if to reassure me that nothing bad will happen. But then the expression on his face changed, he turned my back to him, stripped me from my clothes and…”

    The blow of the event was too traumatic. Anet swayed and Zax caught her before she hit to floor. His hand touched her back and her eyes opened in shock and her dark white mist energy lashed at him.

    Zax did nothing to avoid the lashes of mist energy. They could not hurt him anyway. He sensed Anet’s soul level when she mentioned entering the competition and discovered that she is at the Advanced phase of the Core Breaker level. Seeing the color of her mist and aura, he was sure now of her overall level of cultivation. If it was not for the savagery he tried to contain, Zax would probably praise the teaching methods of the number one first rate Martial school in El-Eden.

    “No!” Anet yelled and sprang to her bed.

    Footsteps rushed through the hallway. “Anet, honey?!” Beka entered the room. She saw her daughter clinging to her bed and she gasped. “Baby!” If Bake knew what happened to her daughter it was not clear. By the time she got to her daughter’s side Anet steadily sobered.

    “I’m fine, mom”. She said softly.

    “How exactly are you fine, Anet?” Beka burst into tears, gripping Anet’s shoulders.

    “I’m sorry, Zax”. Anet lowered her head. She was too upset to notice that her outburst did not harm him the slightest.

    Zax breathed heavily and got up. “Anet”, he disregarded Beka and raised her head with his palms. Maintaining eye contact, his gaze was unwavering. “You don’t need to tell me anymore. I will make them pay! I will destroy all those who hurt you!”

    Zax’s emanated a confidence and might that pierced through Anet’s sea of consciousness and washed her soul from the pain. In his longing to comfort and emphasize that his words were not empty, when he touched her cheeks, Zax unintentionally allowed his soul energy to pass from him to Anet. Naturally, it was not in a harmful manner, his soul energy carried a soothing intent. He gave her the “Calm” and kept the “Storm”.

    Before Anet had the chance to respond, Zax turned his back and left. Hurriedly leaving, when he exited the building his figure flashed.

    Anet, who wanted to call him, tell him to stay, that she does not want anyone else to get hurt, ran to the living room’s window that viewed the street in front of the building. She somehow felt better after Zax consoled her and sensed the strength in her rejuvenating. However, when she opened the window and saw Zax vanish, faster than she, an Advanced phase Core Breaker could see, her mouth hanged open and no word came out.



    Zax’s destination was the number one Martial school in El-Eden, Eden Formation. Before he went there he first passed by his home, to check online the address of the school.

    Both of his parents were home. They decided to stay and take care of Liz together in her first days in home. They were happy that Zax did not leave yet back to the beast’s territory. They knew from Zetsa that he had to, but their son just got back, how could they give their consent for him to go so fast after barely having him home for one day?

    Liz was lying in her crib, not that she could do anything else, but after getting the address of the school and learning the route to it from cave twenty five, Zax had the quick desire to see his little sister before going.



    Eden Formation was located at the epicenter of cave two. From cave twenty five the distance was two days drive if going by bus and a day or so drive, depend on the vehicle, by private transportation. Zax was around a year and a half younger than the eligible age for driver license, though, with his level of cultivation he could register for a private vehicle unhindered when the time comes.

    Having no means of transportation other than his two legs, Zax ran the distance to cave two and after several hours passed through the tunnel of the luxurious and high class cave.

    In a way, cave two was the most magnificent cave Zax ever been in. Still… he did not come to or was in the mood for sightseeing. In no time he arrived to the gates of Eden Formation.

    Zax approached the school gates calmly. He stopped a block from the school and walked to the gates in a calm pace.

    The gates were closed and behind them were six youths wearing the school uniforms proudly. Five of the six youth stayed by the school gates, talking – the sixth one seemed to busy experimenting different shapes with his mist energy.

    The two golden harps that made the school gate were not locked or gave the impression that they ever need to be. Most people knew that the closed gates indicated that entry to the school at the current hour of the day was restricted to school’s personal or exceedingly important people.

    “What do you think that you are doing, kid?” One of the five youths, not taller than Zax but bulkier, asked Zax when he caught him about to touch the gate.

    The other four youths were with their back to the gate and did not pay attention to what went outside the school, and the experimenting youth was in his own small world.

    “I have some business in your school”. Zax replied indifferently.

    “Is that so”, the bulky youth that spoke with Zax took upon himself to deal with him and the others, after a glance, eradicated any shred of interest they might have for the visitor.

    As a matter of fact, as cultivators with some ability, the youths assessed Zax’s cultivation the instant they saw him. When they did not feel any mist energy from his body with their own mist, which circulated every part of their bodies, they immediately thought of him as another rich boy, probably of the same class as they are. They thought the he was using a mist concealment jewel, which no one below the high class can afford, and that actually made them look down on him. They, as proud students of Eden Formation, would never hide their cultivation.

    “I suggest you leave, kid, if you hide your cultivation, your talent, at best, is probably so so. That being said, if you really want to get in, you can either wait that we will open the gate in four or try to open it yourself right now”.

    “Barnard!” The four youth scolded.

    “What nonsense are you spouting? This brat is not qualified to enter our school even as a janitor!” One red head youth said in disdain.

    “Yeah, look at him… If he was a student he would have come in his uniforms. If he wants to be tested and register he can do it next year. This year registration is over. No need to bother our Mors with special treatment for him!” A black hair blue eyes youth snickered.

    “Guys, guys”, the bulky youth, Barnard, raised his hands and calmed his friends. “Just let him, just let him… Our duty is to guard the gate, but is there truly a need…?” Bernard winked at his friends.

    Giving Barnard’s words a second thought, the four understood and smiles spread across their faces.

    The four might have been proud and arrogant. However, the smiles on their faces were easily read as mischievous out of boredom rather than mean out of condescension.

    “Go ahead, kid”, in their eyes not only Zax looked as nothing special, but also younger than them, which he was in two to five years.

    “Go on. If you’ll open the gate we promise not to get in your way. We will even be your guides”.

    “Yeah, that’s a promise from seniors. Although you don’t belong to our school, open the gate and seniors will be nice and give you a piggyback to wherever you want to go”. The black hair blue eyes youth said and immediately after the other five, even the one experimenting, started laughing.

    Zax did not mind their attitude. His business was with Binjo and his elder brother. He assumed that Binjo’s brother was not a student, which meant that other than going to the Derneldar main estate to get information of his whereabouts, he could only find him through Binjo, which he had to deal with anyway.

    Zax surveyed the gate with his Soul Sense, also checking the six youth’s cultivation. Other than the one experimenting and, surprisingly, Barnard, the other four were at the Advanced or Peak phase of the Core Breaker level. Barnard and the experimenting youth were both at the Beginner phase of the Mist Master level.

    Zax was lost for words. First Anet, than six more youngsters bellow the age of twenty close or at the Mist Master level! His Master’s explanation of the differences between human and beast resounded in his head, though, Zax knew that this youths were more than just human, they were all geniuses among humans, geniuses with genes, luck and various levels of talent, not to mention phenomenal Qi and mist cultivation techniques!

    When Zax finished surveying the gates, the youth suddenly appeared to be ordinary as ordinary comes in comparison to the gate.

    He was not familiar with the materials the gate was made of. He could only tell that it was tougher than even the Mist Master canines’ bones in their animalistic forms. If Zax had to give an uneducated guess, he would have said that the gate was made of a very pure piece of Peral metal.

    At first contact with the gate Zax sensed nothing special that required him to be careful from what the youth expected will happen. Only after he began to extract force did he feel it. Embedded to the gate was a repulsive formation.

    The repulsive formation used the energy Zax extracted on it, condensed and pushed it back. Zax felt the force coming out, returning, from the gate. In his sea of consciousness a tremor elapsed and he was startled.

    ‘It can’t be’. The returning force from the gate only gave him a slight itch in the palms of his hands. The tremor was due to a spark of insight. Zax, which moved back after the first try, laid his hands again on the gate and pushed.

    “Wasn’t painful enough the second time?” The five standing youth laughed and watched in amusement Zax’s second attempted.

    Zax extracted some strength on the gate and it shot back to his hands. ‘The energy of the Intermediate phase of the bodily maneuvers, this and what the gate repealing are one and the same! Moreover, the energy the gate sends back measured to the amount of force I extract!’ Not only Zax recognized the energy, its name was even at the tip of his tongue. ‘This is kinetic energy! How could I not see it before?! The energy of the Intermediate phase of the bodily maneuvers is an accumulation of pure manifestation of kinetic energy, Kinetic Force!’

    Exalted from his insightful breakthrough to even name it, Zax stopped holding back and even smiled back to the five youth. He laid his hand on the gate once more and pushed.

    “Kid, no matter how many times you try, even Intermediate phase Mist Lords-”

    CHIIING!

    The sound resonated from the gate hinges. The five ceased laughing and even the sixth experimenting youth got up.

    “Wha…!” The youth exhaled.

    The repulsive formation had a limit and the force Zax extracted far surpassed it. Though the itch in his hand evolve to a slight pain, Zax ignored it and slammed the gate open. Surprisingly other than the hinges, that two arched parts of the gate remained intact, that is, their shape was not bent. The repulsive formation, though… it shattered like glass. As the gate opened oddly shaped fragment made of golden energy, most likely mist energy, fell to the ground and dispersed.

    The six youth felt their throats drying. The outsider they looked down on performed a never seen before deed. Other than staring in utter bewilderment at Zax and then the opened gate and Zax again… they could not think of more to express their shock.

    Zax entered the number one first rate Martial school in El-Eden and halted before the six youth. “I don’t need a piggyback. Just lead the way to the place where I can find a student named Binjo Derneldar”. He said.

    “Piggyback…?”

    “Show the way to Binjo name student…?”

    The six blabbered.

    “Did I stutter?! Take me to Binjo Derneldar!” Zax growled. His prior moment of happiness that he gained from his insight faded the instant the gate opened. Now that he was in and had to rely on others to find his prey, his killing intent surged up.

    “YES!” Being stroke by a small portion of Zax’s killing intent; the six youths complied in unison.

    The Martial school, Eden Formation, was much smaller than most schools. Due to its hard requirements, its number of students was thinner than most schools. The school had a few training grounds and seven, not so large, buildings in total. One was a faculty two storey building. Two seven storey buildings were the boys and girls dorms. One three storey building was the cafeteria. And the other three six storey buildings accommodated the different grades of students during the school day.

    “Brother, Binjo Derneldar should be in the Intermediate grade building. That should be this one”. Barnard said respectfully to Zax. “But, brother, from your temperament I can tell that you possess enmity toward Binjo Derneldar. I don’t know why, brother, but put aside that causing problems in our school can bring forth on you the wrath of the Disciplinary Class, which the vice principal responsible of, even if they just send you away for being the top expert of your respectable Martial school, the Derneldar family is too powerful to mess with”.

    Barnard was talkative for several reasons. Admiration, repentance, fear and… understanding. “That trash Binjo Derneldar is lower than manure, but the *** he came out from is intact to a very strong body. Brother, you showed the six of us something beyond our wildest dreams. Let us return the favor, even if it can’t compare…” In his last words, Barnard’s tone even had a hint of pleading. For being younger and more capable than them, Zax clearly impacted him and the other five.

    Zax did not show the slightest reaction to Barnard’s words. He cleared his throat and stepped forward to the plaza of the Intermediate grade building.

    Taking a deep breath…

    “BINJO DERNELDAR, SHOW YOUR ****ING FACE!”

  20. #80
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    Book 4 – Conflict

    Chapter 4 – This Is My Demand


    “BINJO DERNELDAR, SHOW YOUR ****ING FACE!”

    The words exploded in the air. If someone had ears he or she would hear the words kilometer away from Zax. If someone was deaf than the vibration caused by the sound wave would pique his or her attention from a fairly long distance as well.

    CREEK!

    Innumerable high pitch sounds reverberated as glass windows shattered to tiny pieces by the sound wave.

    Zax’s roar was clear and tremendous and in no time everyone in the school became aware of his presence.

    “Brother, you made too much of a mess! The Disciplinary Class will definitely arrive. Arr… the six of us are going back now. Good luck, brother”.

    Barnard and the five other youths were supposed to keep guard and accept those who had the authorization to enter the school in current hours. They followed Zax because they said that they will guide him and were afraid to anger him by taking their words back.

    It was not simply because him being stronger than them that they complied. As students of Eden Formation they could show some superiority even to students from different Martial schools who were above their level.

    But there was one exception, one type of people their age that even if they knew nothing about, they dared not act highly in front of. Experts that broke all reason!

    As someone younger than them, Zax’s feat at the school’s gate was part of this exception and the six youths even believed him to be the top student of another first rate Martial school.

    Zax waited silently without showing interest in Barnard and the others. Was it bold of him to behave so imperiously? Maybe. Did he think what his actions might cause by barging in and provoking the number one Martial school in EL-Eden? A little. Was he not afraid of rousing experts that he could not deal with? Not even slightly.

    Zax was bold because of his restrained rage. If the number one Martial school would want to inflict punishment on him, then he will accept it after his business will conclude. If strong experts would show up, with his new insight he already had an idea of a temporary rough method to utilize the Kinetic Force as if he performed the bodily maneuvers.

    What would happen if others will find his identity and involve his family? They will do it on the expense of their own, and no high class family will act rashly in a case with indeterminate variables like Zax’s age, cultivation technique and Mor – only a handful will ever consider a Master.

    Zax stood confidently at the plaza of the Intermediate grade building and as his roar waned, other calls of bewilderment emerge from the populated school’s buildings.

    “Who dare to intrude?!”

    Twenty gold and black uniforms wearing early and mid twenties men and women jumped from the sixth floor of the Advanced grade building and encircled Zax.

    The twenty were even in gender and all had golden ribbon strapped to their left arm with the words “Disciplinary Class” knitted to them.

    “Identify yourself, boy”. A bald unshaved man turned to Zax.

    The Disciplinary Class members have assessed Zax with their Soul Senses the instant their mist energy could not detect his mist level of cultivation. However, these twenty were between Peak phase Mist Master level and Beginner phase Mist lord level. Zax repealed their Soul Sense like the repulsive formation he destroyed at the gate, only, since he could not execute a long range soul attacks, he merely surpassed them.

    Seeing his young age and knowing the school entry rules, the twenty estimated Zax level of cultivation generously and also suspected that he was a member of a great family. Otherwise, how could he have the legendary soul concealment jewel and why would he want to mess with a member of the Derneldar family?

    “I’m not here to cause troubles. My sole business is with Binjo Derneldar”. Zax said solemnly.

    The twenty frowned. The boy they surrounded was quite impudent but seemed to have the skill to back up his imposing manner. Furthermore, a hint of a killing intent of which they never sensed before oozed from this younger youth.

    “This is Eden Formation, the number one Martial school in all of El-Eden. If you were able to open the gate with your own strength, you have the right to enter the school’s grounds. That much is allowed”. The bald unshaved man gave Zax the benefit of the doubt, considering him an Intermediate Mist Lord with possibly high grade Martial techniques, a super genius. “But to come to our school, interrupt the school day and expect us to let you harm a fellow student under school supervision... that’s already count as causing troubles!” The bald unshaved man said as the others continued to firmly block Zax from all side. Nonetheless, they also were reserved with how they dealt with him.

    An Intermediate phase Mist Lord was not someone they could deal with one on one, but all twenty together? These men and women received the proper training of brain before brawn. If it comes to that, even a Core Master would not have easy time breaking their formation.

    “I will not leave before dealing with Binjo Derneldar”. Zax answered back. “If you want to stop me, try!” Zax said, pissed off. He encompassed the entire Intermediate grade building with his Soul Sense, to find out how many students were inside and which one reacted to his threat, but a bizarre formation activated and made him feel like everything inside the building was shrouded by impenetrable fug.

    “BINJO DERNELDAR, I COME FOR YOU!” Zax bellowed and shot toward the building.

    “Not good!” His speed astonished the bald and unshaved man. “Together!” He commanded the others and as if they read his mind they immediately purred their mist energy to the Disciplinary Class ribbon.

    BOOM!

    Zax was hit by a protective formation that covered the entire building and was thrown back. “This again!” The formation was not the same as the canines’, but it did bring back memories.

    “Jalal, the impact right now!” One of the ten females said to the bald and unshaved man, Jalal. “What kind of speed and power that boy has?!”

    “Forget about it. Execute Nineteen Heads One Body Hydra formation!” Jalal responded.

    The ribbons on the twenty, which were a quick activation signal to all the restriction formations on the school’s grounds, last half their shine after Zax’s assault. The force Zax exhibited was on a level only Core Masters could endure, a level beyond the protective formation, and Jalal’s keen observation noticed it right away. Thus, he commanded the nineteen other to execute their strongest formation from the start.

    Zax turned around. He did not want to use violent on anyone other than his prey, but behind him the twenty Disciplinary Class members were not willing to be pushed around.

    BOOM!

    Zax concentrated his strength in his fist and the blow formed a breach in the protective formation. At the same time a nineteen heads transparent gold and silver hydra appeared with Jalal at its base.

    The hydra was huge, its nineteen necks reaching seven meters height from the base which was three meters tall and four or five meter wide.

    WUSH!

    The hydra tailed flickered and struck as Zax was about to enter the breach in the formation.

    “Fast!” Zax gasped. If he wanted he could kill the twenty men and women with ease before proceeding to find Binjo. With that in mind, he took the twenty for granted.

    Receiving the power of the tail strike, Zax was way more amazed at the gap between humans’ formations and beasts’.

    The tail swiped Zax off the ground, but was unable to throw him off. Zax finger latched to the mist energy that formed the tail without letting go.

    “Ouroboros!” Jalal sent mentally to the heads through the connection they had during the formation.

    “In this form, class president?!” One of the Mist Lord level Disciplinary Class member asked.

    “Fi Han, take him, the others, don’t let him escape!”

    “RIGHT!”

    It has been barely a second since the tail struck Zax and the nineteen head were coming at him.

    ‘It’s like a real body…’ Zax felt through his hands that the hydra, although made from mist energy and was transparent, had the same texture and bulginess as a lizard type beast. “Have it your way!” He told the twenty with an annoyed expression. If this was a spar or a spontaneous fight, Zax might have smiled and enjoyed it, but with Binjo and what he and his brother did to Anet, he only felt anger.

    The golden maws of the hydra’s head of the Disciplinary Class member Fi Han, was nearing Zax at an outstanding speed. In Zax’s sea of consciousness a tidal wave of soul energy swirled and charged from Zax’s head to his hands to the hydra’s tail.

    The soul energy was an ordinary soul attack, but with capabilities equal to those of a Core Master’s soul.

    The soul energy was invisible, but perceptible and to take out the hydra completely it divided to twenty streams. The first to be affected by the soul attack was Jalal. The soul attack penetrated his sea of consciousness and hit his soul. Jalal expression turned blank and unresponsive and following him the same expression appeared on the other nineteen.

    The Hydra formation was similar to the canines’ formation in its capacity to stay activated even if one of the bodies forming it lost connection. In general, it would only mean that this specific part of the hydra is incapacitated. But when all the bodies forming the hydra losing their connection and the passage of the mist energy that sustained the formation is disturb…

    The Nineteen Heads One Body Hydra formation dispersed and twenty bodies fell to the ground.

    “Urg…” As they hit the ground the twenty slowly regained their senses. The strongest they were, the faster they recovered. But a strike to the soul is a strike to the most important aspect of a living being. The twenty, along with their formation, lost the capability to stop Zax.

    Zax turned to the Intermediate grade building. This fight, short as it was, made him lose patient.

    “BINJO DERNELDAR, OUT OR HAVE IT WORSE WHEN I COME GET YOU MYSELF!” Zax roared.



    Inside the Intermediate grade building, fourth floor, a large dojo, a white skin orange hair youth around a meter and eighty centimeters tall was shaking nervously. This youth was Binjo Derneldar.

    When the windows suddenly shattered and his name was mentioned with visible hostility, Binjo and the seven students beside him jumped on their feet and their teacher stopped lecturing.

    “BINJO DERNELDAR, SHOW YOUR ****ING FACE!”

    The voice resonated and Binjo reacted accordingly. He was not worried, only surprised. Who will dare mess with him?

    Since he was on school’s grounds Binjo thought that the guy outside is an idiot and did not even care what his grudge with him was. He sent a message with his Caller to his five elder brothers and father about what happened as a habit, but counted on the Disciplinary Class to take care of things.

    As the Disciplinary Class members arrived before Zax, Binjo’s teacher asked two students to clean the shattered glass while he resumed the lesson. No one said anything to Binjo. Even the teacher, being familiar with his background, kept quiet.

    BOOM!

    When Zax’s fist struck the protective formation, Binjo stopped being smug and from the force of the impact even the teachers all over the building lost their calm.

    It should be noted that the teachers of each grade are only a grade higher than their students. The teachers of the Intermediate grade building, in terms of cultivation, were no better than the students of the Advanced grade building, some were even students themselves. Naturally, by getting teaching certification they learned a bit more of the school special formations. More to the point, they knew that only a Core Master can break the defensive formations and that not even the Disciplinary Class, which had greater jurisdiction than most teachers, can handle a Core Master for long.

    Following a second “BOOM” a golden silvery light radiated, the creation of the Hydra formation, the “Nineteen Heads One Body” Disciplinary Class’s specialty, attracted all the students and teachers to the windows, all apart from one.

    Binjo picked up his Caller franticly. Anyone who could bring the Disciplinary Class to use one of their twenty person formations was not someone he could take the risk of being frivolous about.

    Binjo messaged his elder brothers and father again and told them that a Core Master burst to school looking for him.

    BEEP!

    BEEP!

    BEEP!

    BEEP!

    BEEP!

    BEEP!

    He received six instantaneous messages of the same content.

    “HIDE!”

    Though for a Core Breaker to hide from a Core Master was kind of pointless, Binjo’s elder brothers and father knew that the school has special formations embedded to school’s buildings that can hinder even a Core Master.

    Binjo was a mere Core Breaker and other than hiding there was nothing for him to do against a Core Master. Their intentions were for him to hide and for them to act.



    Outside, on the plaza of the Intermediate grade building.

    “Formidable, very formidable!” An aged voice stated behind Zax.

    Zax turned and saw. Standing beside the fallen Disciplinary Class members was an old man with combed white hair.

    Zax used his Soul Sense to detect the cultivation of the old man and puckered his brows when he discovered that the old man was a Mist Master in the Core Master realm.

    “Ahm… tell me, are you a beast or a human?” The old man probed. He too checked out Zax cultivation level with his Soul Sense, but could not perceive anything. Only from his assessment of Zax’s fight with the Disciplinary Class he assumed that the young follow might belong to some rare breed of beast and is not, or not much, below his level of cultivation if he cannot detect it.

    ‘Am I a beast?’ Zax thought about the question and to his surprise found that he did not care which he is.

    “Senior, if you came here you probably heard me. I’m here only for-“

    “Binjo Derneldar… yes. I heard. If it wasn’t for the soundless formation that surrounding the school than the whole cave would have known by now…” The old man said. “Alas, you cannot have him regardless of your rancor. Do you not know where you are? This is Eden Formation. This school’s founder is none other than Supreme Ruler Ariel Dauch! You made a lot of disarray, whoever, whatever you are, but you did not kill or seriously harmed any of the students. Not yet, anyway. If you have a feud with a student, then take care of it outside of school. If your problems is with a member of the Derneldar family seek retribution on their property. If it’s all clear, leave!” The old man rebuked Zax.

    “Vice principal”, Jalal stood, holding his head and said to the old man.

    “Jalal, help the others to the infirmary”. The vice principal said with his gaze still fixated on Zax.

    “Take it outside of the school?!” Zax clenched his fists and gritted his teeth.

    ‘That’s why Aney is at home and no one punished Binjo for what he did to her?! Because it wasn’t on school’s grounds?!’

    “Is that how you take care of your students?!” Zax stopped restraining his killing intent. Listening to what the vice principal said, every fiber of his body itched and his rage expanded toward this vice principal.

    The vice principal was hit by Zax’s killing intent as if he was a coreless child and ice water purred on him.

    He gasped and took an involuntarily step back. “That killing intent!” The vice principal never experienced the Savage Caves, thus his soul was not proficient in dealing with this much desire to kill. What few words Zax said while releasing his killing intent reached deaf ears due to the vice principal’s numbness.

    “You…” By now the vice principal could not imagine Zax as anything but a beast. He was aware of Zax’s presence when he roared the first time and headed to watch how his Disciplinary Class handle him at the same time of receiving a message from Binjo’s father. However, not in his wildest dreamed did he expect that this one, seemingly human youth, is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

    Still, a Core Master is a Core Master and the vice principal of the number one Martial school in El-Eden was not just another Core Master at the first level of the realm. The vice principal steadied himself with all his might. “You… your business is with a student, but I tell you, no one in this building would dare venture into Valgarel. If it is revenge against someone else in the Derneldar family, than bear in mind that by taking it here you’ll become an enemy of the strongest man in all of New Earth! Are you willing?!” The vice principal managed to keep his composure, but the killing intent that Zax released was too huge of a mental blow.

    “Not that it will come to it, you harming our student, but you should pay attention to the vice principal, still”. A mature feminine voice said calmly and a red head middle age woman wearing a golden white suit and white high heels appeared next to the vice principal.

    “Principal Ram!” The vice principal said in relief.

    The Eden Formation’s principal stepped in front of the vice principal. Zax’s killing intent was still free and loose, but it did not seem to bother her.

    “Kid, as a human you should not be insolent toward your Supreme Rulers. Did no one teach you this?” The school principal asked.

    If her soul was stronger than Zax’s, capable to tell if he was human or a beast, Zax did not care. In his opinion, what the vice principal said was akin to saying that it is not the school’s business if Anet was assaulted by another student outside of school and that infuriated him.

    “Kid, why won’t you come to my office?” The school principal nicely invited.

    “You first ignored, than threaten and now making demands…!” In his rage Zax misinterpreted the tone in the school principal’s voice.

    “Ignored?” The school principal was confused, yet did not show it. Actually from what Zax said before to the vice principal she already sensed that the boy’s matter perhaps really involves her school and not just the Derneldar student.

    Zax turned to the Intermediate grade building. “Fine, this is my demand, if Binjo Derneldar wouldn’t be brought to me within sixty seconds, I’ll topple this whole building!”

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