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  1. #101
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    Book 5 – Horns

    Chapter 5 - A Sitting




    “Grandmaster, what I meant to say is, although many experts came after us, big sis simply saw it as an opportunity to get rid of Grandmaster’s nuisance”. Zax almost jokingly continued, all to not arouse the flames of fury if this third realm expert in front of him.

    A resplendent of contentment shone Grandmaster Kartion’s eyes and a light groan escaped his mouth, as if complementing Zetsa’s way of thinking by saying “as expected”.

    “At first we easily escaped from their encirclement and then, big sis sent me to find big brother Raroen while she and big brother Tularg lured the pursuers to stay on track after them”. Zax also saved up on words and did not dare to mention Tularg’s weak state.

    “After getting to the adjoining cave, big brother Raroen found me before I could find him. It was the first time that I met big brother Raroen. He gave me some pointers and then took me on his back, in his animalistic form, to further demonstrate the things I need to work at and to beat all fifty two pursuers (he let big sis kill one of them) without allowing one of them leave alive”. He concluded and respectfully waited for Grandmaster Kartion’s verdict.

    Grandmaster Kartion lowered his head and shut his eyes. Beside Zax, Kartius had a huge grin across his stag face.

    “Good! Good!” Grandmaster Kartion said twice in his pondering state. He opened his eyes and looked straight at Zax. “Zetsa is undeniably quick witted. You and Tularg did well listening to her. Moreover, Raroen gave you a personal lesson… that’s quite rare of him. There are only two of his juniors that he is willing to advise while I’m in close doors training”. Grandmaster Kartion pointed it out as something which Zax should not take for granted regardless of how much gathered from it. “Have you learned something from him or are you still contemplating?” He asked.

    From Zax’s ardent behavior when mentioning Raroen, Grandmaster Kartion saw it clearly that the boy did not disregard the personal lesson he received.

    “I have”. Seeing the chance to discuss and maybe attain a constructive advice, Zax answered promptly and in earnest. “Big brother Raroen instructed in regards to the bodily maneuvers. As he fought our pursuers he showed the Martial art he developed. From watching him I caught a glimpse of how I should practice the bodily maneuvers Master taught me. When I displayed it before, I followed the grain of insight I gained from big brother Raroen’s teachings and for the first time made it past the third sequence. Regrettably, the bottleneck to the fifth sequence was too difficult to surpass by relaying only on the grain of insight. Later I hope to mediate over what I learned in order to reach the Advanced phase of the Intermediate phase of the bodily maneuvers”.

    “Mm…” Grandmaster Kartion mused over Zax’s reply. “Don’t”. He said firmly. “That won’t help you to break though the bottleneck to the next phase. Everything has to be done gradually on the path of Martial cultivation. Enriching yourself over the profound way of the bodily maneuvers will only provide you the knowledge of how you should proceed, but not entirely enable you to make a breakthrough. Alongside the matter of the dark attribute, forget for now about seeking further insights in the bodily maneuvers”. Grandmaster Kartion said with no intention to elaborate into his reasoning.

    “Then, Grandmaster, what else is there for me to do to reach the fifth sequence?” Though Zax sensed that Grandmaster Kartion purposely answered with only half the information with respect to the bodily maneuvers and the dark attribute, he still pushed for a more defined answer. He did not want to practice on his own, make irreparable mistakes and reach the same well Raroen faced.

    “Make a decision”. Grandmaster Kartion said and his expression grew solemn. “Junior apprentice Zax, you have been inspected by I, Kartion, and your accomplishments in the teachings your Master imparted to you have been noted”. Grandmaster Kartion nodded to Zax as sign of approval. To that, Zax’s reaction, as well as Kartius’s, was to all tensed up. Those were the words both of them waited to hear for three years.

    “You earned the right to practice my methods and technique and be part of my Martial household”. Grandmaster Kartion, in his own official way, finally accepted Zax. However, the follow of his words did not stop there. “But, will you accept it?” Before this bizarre question could sink in Zax’s mind, Grandmaster Kartion said. “You have seen them on your journey here, and Kartius informed me that you even fought with several of them. I, Kartion, have plenty of enemies that confine me and mine to this corner cave in Valgarel”.

    ‘Able to confine a third realm expert?!’ Zax was shocked and afraid to ask aloud. Reserve as he tried to be, his reaction, though was no so discreet for Grandmaster Kartion to miss it.

    “The humans and beasts that seek to destroy me and mine certainly have the power to do so, at a great price, but capable nonetheless. That is because the prime adversaries of mine who lead the hunt for me and the household I’ve built are two third realm experts”. As he mentioned the two, as if recalling a painful memory, Grandmaster Kartion’s eyes seemed to grow foggy by bottomless hatred and his stag mien convulsed. This was only a matter of a fraction of a second before he returned to himself, he also did not let it radiate from him like his rage from minutes ago, but Zax managed to detect it.

    ‘Big sis and Master and big brother Tularg, big brother Raroen and the rest… by associating themselves with Grandmaster they have to deal with such a threat?’ His relations with some of them were more intimate than the rest, but overall, were they not those who welcomed and accepted him when he was in his lowest?

    ‘Does Grandmaster providing me a way out? Telling me to abandon them?!’ Zax’s body began to shake. “I ACCEPT!” He bellowed. ‘Unacceptable! Unacceptable! Unacceptable! Unacceptable!’ The only thing he could not accept was turning his back to those close to him.

    “You…” Zax’s outburst took Grandmaster Kartion aback. He did not expect for a first realm, tiny junior apprentice to be so overbearing when confronting his superior. Even his own apprentices, those eight children of his, are very careful with their responses when raising the issue of his enemies.

    Kartius, who silently sat in the same manner as his big brother, had his eyes blazing and his right hand hiding the smile on his face. Initially, he, too, exuded the flames in his heart through his eyes when his big brother mentioned the two third realm experts, the core of their anxieties. But his Martial son’s response stimulated a stronger feeling in his heart with purer, grander flames. He thought: ‘Accept? Accept what, you little brat? Care to tell which Martial father will let his one and only Martial son lose his life that you have to answer with so much vigor?’

    “Then I won’t speak further”. Grandmaster Kartion said. He leaned forward, his large physique dwarfed Zax’s even more. One hand he raised and lay on Zax’s shoulder, the other on Kartius’s. “Both of you did well”.

    “Hahaha!” Kartius received his big brother’s gesture with immense delight. “It has been three years and for the first time in a long time big brother disperses his reticence, hahaha!”

    “Enough, Kartius!” Grandmaster Kartion pulled his hands back and scolded. Despite what Kartius said, it did not look like a lot of change, if any, occurred to Grandmaster Kartion when he praised the two.

    “Junior apprentice Zax, there are more to say in the matter of those who want to eliminate our household. In time you, like your Martial brothers and sisters, will learn the full story. Now, however, it’s too early. You are young, the youngest in our household, yet the one who shows the greatest promise in cultivation the bodily refinement technique I developed. Therefore, concentrating on your cultivation is all that I want you to be doing for the time being”. Grandmaster Kartion was truly straightforward. When deciding on a matter he did not give a second thought to anything that could be a distraction.

    “Big brother, are we getting to it?” Kartius removed his smile and his tone grew stiff.

    “Yes”. Grandmaster Kartion nodded once toward Kartius and returned to Zax. “Junior apprentice Zax, what are your thoughts with regards to the future of your cultivation path?”

    The future of his path, the next thing in his training he had to focus on in order to break through to the last gate of the Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement… to that, Zax had only one thing on his mind. “Master explained to me that due to the modification the Black Core did to the Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement, I will be able to become much stronger than any other participant of the same bodily refinement technique, but at the same time I would require more potent resource to refine my body. Furthermore, according to Master, the smoky mist of the Essence Cave won’t be of much help to me and the only medicinal plants that would affect my body are those treasures growing in the second Savage Cave”. Zax recited.

    After a pause for a new breath Zax continued. “To go around my limitation, Master gave me one of two tasks to accomplish before resuming cultivating my body… either figuring out the identity of the bodily maneuvers’ energy or reaching with my soul to level A. I found out that the energy of the bodily maneuvers is kinetic energy and since then I gained more insights and my improvement in the bodily maneuvers was the fastest. So now I think that my cultivation path should return to practicing the bodily refinement technique with the help of Master’s guidance”. Zax finished saying assertively. His words reverberated the eagerness inside of him to get to the next level, to become “Unbound by anyone” in New Earth.

    “Mm…” Grandmaster Kartion mused. “At the time, Kartius instructions were the best that he could provide for you”. He said in total agreement, but still, with a hint of the possibility to survey further options. “Junior apprentice Zax, by practicing my bodily refinement technique you are entitled to refer to me as ‘Grandmaster’, but ‘Grandmaster’ and ‘Master’ have two different meaning to an apprentice. While the words of a Grandmaster should always be addressed with iron discipline, an apprentice constructs his foundations under the supervision of a Master, and first and foremost Master’s teaching”.

    “You wish to proceed with cultivating your body. If that’s your goal, would you agree for me to be your Master, be my ninth Martial son and a true Martial brother to my other children?” Not looking at Kartius, Grandmaster Kartion asked seriously.

    “Eh?!” Zax was flabbergasted by the impulsive offer. “No, Grandmaster”. Without a second to even consider the pros and cons, his answer was swift and resolute.

    “No?” Grandmaster Kartion was startled by Zax’s answer like his previous acceptances, but still raised a brow as if wondering “why ‘No’”.

    “Grandmaster, my Master is sitting beside me and that’s it”. A more sophisticated reply indeed did not cross Zax’s mind at all. To a question which others would go on and expound in many words of flattery and devotion, Zax had the sense to answer straight and simple.

    Not making a sound, Kartius gaze met with Grandmaster Kartion’s and the former had a smile in his eyes which could pierce the latter’s soul.

    Kartius received many great gifts from his Martial son in this one sitting, and Grandmaster Kartion was content with his little brother choice.

    “Are you feigns ignorance?” Grandmaster Kartion, for his own reasons, decided to if not make the junior apprentice to give a more reasonable answer, than at least undermine his resolve. “Kartius is an exemplary cultivator whose knowledge and experience can contribute immensely to anyone in New Earth. But, everything he knows, with very little exceptions, are things I taught him or showed him the direction he should explore. Even more so, if training in the Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement is what you want, there is no one better than I to instruct you. I’ll say it bluntly, junior apprentice Zax, if you’ll become my apprentice, to reach the last gate in the Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement you won’t need any prerequisite and we could get on it immediately”.

    With the seductiveness of his offer, it would be a lie to say that Zax was not completely tempted. With just one breakthrough no one in New Earth would be able to take for granted. There will be very, very few with the power to do so. And beyond the prestige the he would get in New Earth, who knows? Maybe he will reach to level of traveling freely the old world above ground.

    Yes, weaker experts have gone before him and couple of years ago a group of such experts left for the world above ground, but going as a Mist Lord or first level Core Master was worlds apart than going as someone with the power of a third level Core Master, maybe even a bit stronger…?!

    “Grandmaster, honestly”, Zax said softly, his head down, staring at the sparkling blue bricks of the tower’s first floor. “I really do want to become stronger sooner than later, there are many things I would like to do and a sense of the greatest freedom to achieve. But, by taking you as my Master in place of Master Kartius, won’t it only be that… gaining the same things slightly faster? I can do with taking my time, so long as Master Kartius is by my side. And if Master Kartius thought that Grandmaster could nurture me better than he is, I believe, then, that Master Kartius would intervene and ask Grandmaster to take me as his apprentice even before Grandmaster offered”.

    “Oh… and what if I told you that Kartius asked of me to accept you as my ninth apprentice before you arrived?” Grandmaster Kartion enquired.

    “Then I won’t agree to become your apprentice no matter what. If Master Kartius think that I should be Grandmaster’s apprentice rather than his, then he should first talk about it with me”.

    If such a thing were to happen, in which Kartius did not discuss it with him first, Zax would see past the statuses in their Master apprentice relationship and be offended. That is how momentous figure Kartius was in Zax’s life.

    One second, ten seconds, thirty seconds, one whole minute gone by quietly after Zax finished talking.

    Grandmaster Kartion was in a pensive mood. The words of a mere junior apprentice struck him deeply, a sample of his own personality reflected from the human boy his Martial daughter and little brother persuaded to let stay in his cave.

    “Zetsa passed me a message that you won’t need some time because of a girl…” Tanking to himself, Grandmaster Kartion sighed heavily.

    Before Zax could wonder if Grandmaster Kartion knew about the conflict with the Derneldar family, Grandmaster Kartion said. “Junior apprentice Zax, this cave is currently restricted to the enemies of my household, but that might not stay like this for long. Soon, Valgarel would be able to accommodate either us or them. Although your body fitness level is above most of your Martial brothers’ and sisters’, you are still quite weak and as a whole, due to you clogged Qi channels, unfit to be part of our strategy”. Grandmaster summarized explicitly Zax’s stand point in his outlook of their situation.

    “Kartius, instruct you Martial son what you think would be good for him. I approve of you request, taking him to her valley”. Grandmaster Kartion turned from Kartius to Zax. “Junior apprentice Zax, that will be it for us. Next time I will see you would be after your break through to the last gate of the Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement”. He said and got up.

    Kartius and Zax rose to their feet after Grandmaster Kartion. No additional words have been and Grandmaster Kartion, with heavy stomps, climbed to the upper floors of the sparkling blue tower.



    “Follow me, Zax”. Kartius said and jumped first from the peak of the mountain.

    “Where to, Master?” Zax asked.

    “Now that big brother evaluated and saw fit to accept you to our household, there is no need to keep acting”. Kartius was several tens of meters ahead of Zax and the strong wind whistled in their ears as they descended from the steep mountain.

    Still, as bodily cultivator, even a Sun Stone storm could not impede their hearing.

    Kartius’s voice got smoothly to Zax’s ears.

    “We are going to see Laivien!”

  2. #102
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    Book 5 – Horns

    Chapter 6 – Under The Pavilion



    “Martial son, you already knows about Laivien, don’t you?” Kartius was in the lead as the two entered the Essence Cave, passing through the smoky mist without any sign of deterioration from its acidic properties.

    In the past, the existence of Laivien was an issue Grandmaster Kartion did not permit to converse with outsiders, that is, individuals that were not part of the household and the selected few Krikitories that tended to her. Now that Grandmaster Kartion accepted Zax, Kartius could talk to him freely about any of the household’s matters. Naturally, he would not weigh on him all of the household’s problems, otherwise it my harm his concentration during cultivation. Thus, for the time being, Kartius decided to only properly introduce Laivien.

    “Yes…” Zax’s voice was a bit shaky.

    He promised Laivien that he will not tell anyone that they talked. In the end, he easily admitted for couple of reason. One was that he could not lie to his Master. The second was that he somehow figured that his Master already knew, and the third was the relationship between his Master and Laivien.

    With these reasons, it was pointless to lie. And why Zax’s voice was shaky, was because of the anticipation to his Master’s reaction.

    Kartius slowed his pace, affecting Zax’s also. They ran shoulder to shoulder, with respect to the difference in their sizes, in a similar speed to that of a level D Earth’s Core Holder.

    “That bored girl…” Kartius murmured, but his voice sounded as if he was to blame. “Martial son, Laivien is Martial father’s twin little sister and big brother’s spouse”. Kartius spoke in a straightforward tone.

    Zax nearly tripped. “Grandmaster’s wife?!” He was stunned. He was not surprised from the brother and sister tie since Laivien already blurted out about it. But for the feminine voice in his head to be Grandmaster’s wife? It was improbable for him not to get dizzy from this news.

    “That’s right”. Kartius glanced at Zax, hinting for him to attentively listen as he began to narrate. “Big brother is almost half a century older then I and little sister. In our tribe, he was the unrivaled genius cultivator. Our status, though, unranked his due to our bloodline. When little sister and I reached level F as Mist Users, our father asked big brother to take us as his apprentices. That is how big brother became our Master”. As he recounted, Kartius’s speed sometimes grew slower or faster and his hooves left deeper prints in the ground. He surpassed his tone from giving more meaning to the story than he intended to, but whatever he repressed was reflected in his body language.

    “Another fifty years later, little sister and I broke through the Core Master’s realm. At the time, little sister confessed her feelings to big brother and he, too, stopped holding back his true affection to little sister. From then on, the two became inseparable. Big brother was no longer my Master and I, of course, happily gave him and little sister my blessings”. As Kartius finished speaking his pace gradually increased until he halted in Zax’s maximum speed.

    Zax could sense that there was more to the story than what his Master told him. The parts that explained how the three of them reached their current state, confined to two caves in Valgarel. Nevertheless, he did not ask his Master to further expound. He trusted that his Master would tell him everything when he needs to know it, if at all he needs to know.

    “Mm…” Zax hummed as he thought. There was a question at the tip of his tongue that he pondered if it would be rude to ask. ‘Master taking me to her anyway…’ He assumed that it would be fine.

    Looking at his Master, Zax asked. “Master, is everything okay with Laivien? How come she is in the Essence Cave and in in Grandmaster’s side?”

    Kartius was a few meters ahead of Zax, he turned half his stag face to the side, shifted it back forward and replied. “Big brother is too protective, all of us, in fact, including me and his Martial sons and daughters”. His speech sounded as if there was a break between sentences, but it did not cease to prevent Zax from asking from what everyone worried.

    “Martial son, as you know, the only cave connected to the Essence Cave is big brother’s cave, which makes the Essence Cave a closely guarded secret from outsiders. Big brother received his cave from His Valor Ozeyn a long time ago, that is why our enemies don’t dare to intrude to big brother’s cave. If, however, the existence of the Essence Cave will come to light, even His Valor Ozeyn might have regrets of letting big brother have the cave. If that will happen, His Valor Ozeyn would probably give big brother another cave or two in exchange, but that would still be a great loss for us bodily cultivators. Because it is not known to outsiders, the Essence Cave is also the perfect place to hide little sister from our enemies. As for our exact destination, the valley in the Essence Cave little sister staying, it is a place that not even I can carelessly enter to. In the worst case scenario of use ever falling to our enemies, the most important thing would be to keep little sister safe; the smoky mist surrounding little sister’s valley is the best protection little sister would ever have in such a case”.

    The two were always proceeding through the most dangerous red orange smoky mist since they entered the Essence Cave and had very little visibility. After about an hour some changes began to take place in the red orange smoky mist. First there were some odd cunctation, which Zax barely noticed, now, on the other hand, azure spots appeared within the red and orange.

    Kartius did not pay attention to the new color in the smoky mist, but for Zax it was a first seeing it. The red orange smoky mist was supposed to have the highest level of acid, but as they continued onwards and the azure spots became more abundant. Zax wondered about it and used his Soul Sense to clearly see what it is, yet the instant his Soul Sense made contact with an azure spot, a splitting headache bombarded his sea of consciousness and his facial expression turned ugly. Zax gnashed his teeth as his heart was in turmoil. Other than pain there was one more thing he perceived from the azure spot. Upon touching it there can only be death.

    Kartius was not oblivious to his Martial son’s curiosity. He was in the midst of explaining to him about his little sister and the Essence Cave when Zax suffered from the contact with the azure spot. Kartius deliberately let Zax experience the threat of the azure spot, both to show him under what kind of protection his big brother put Laivien and to teach him that even an intangible instrument like Soul Sense has its limits and there is no need to make physical contact for a soul attack. Of course, if Zax was to try and touch an azure spot, Kartius would have stopped him instantly.

    “That is merely the outer layer of protection around little sister’s valley”. Kartius had a placid countenance. He took Zax by the arm, until he would regain his balance, and kept moving.

    “Ahead of us there are clouds of azure smoky mist. If one tries to probe them with Soul Sense, they can inflict a long range soul attack that can even affect a second level Core Master. If one were to touch them… My condolences”.

    “Master, isn’t it too much? How are we to go beyond this smoky mist?”

    For the first time since they entered the Essence Cave, Kartius had a smile on his stag face. “We will go past this smoky mist in the only way possible for cultivators under the third realm”. With a nudge of his hand a violet stone appeared between his fingers. One side of the violet stone was smooth as water. The other side was fractured, asymmetrical and rough.

    As if the accumulating azure spots could sense the violet stone, a corridor free from any type of smoky mist opened for Zax and Kartius.

    “This stone, Master…?” Zax was fascinated by the miraculous powers of the violet stone.

    “A stolen treasure”. Kartius refused to say more about it. “Asking if it’s too much”, he got back to Zax’s first question. “For a safe delivery, big brother will use and do whatever is necessary to protect little sister”.



    The corridor was enclosed by dense azure smoky mist. Its length was two kilometers and seven hundred meters long and only as wide as the one holding the violet stone, Kartius.

    Zax followed his Master closely. In several breaths they crossed the corridor, into Laivien valley.

    “You finally arrived”. A jubilantly warm voice resonated in both Zax’s and Kartius’s heads even before the scenery of the valley sunk in.

    “Little sister”, Kartius did not bother with talking to her in his mind. “We will shortly be there to see you”. He tapped Zax’s shoulder to stoop staring at the hidden valley of the Essence Cave and come with him.

    Zax sighed inwardly. For such a beautiful place to be unknown, barely reachable, ‘What a waste…’

    The valley had an encirclement of about four kilometers. A carpet of healthy green-blue soft grass was its carpet. There were small hills, shallow lakes and scattered lone trees. It gave the impression of a miniature cave.

    Near to the central part of the valley were five large huts, an adequate to the scenery habitation.

    As Zax and Kartius approached the huts, a group of seven young Krikitories arrived to welcome them. This group of young Krikitories did not seem older than the first young Krikitories Zax met three years ago when his big sister brought him to Grandmaster Kartion’s cave. However, as the tiny Krikitories met them, none of the seven ran impulsively with cups of water. At a first glance the seven appeared disciplined and exceedingly polite.

    Two young Krikitories broke from the group and stepped in front of Zax and Kartius. The two bowed and the five behind mimicked them.

    “Take us to Laivien”. Kartius said affably.

    The two young Krikitories straightened and the other five followed suit. Greeting the two guests seemed to be their responsibility. With them finishing doing what they were told, the seven raised their bear cub faces. Regardless of how they were taught to be around guests, they were still very young. Eyes sparkling as they studied the two visitors, all of the young Krikitories clapped their paws in excitement.

    Four young Krikitories ran to Kartius, jumped to grab his hands, saying. “Bulivon! Bulivon!” For them to reach with their small legs to the ground, and to not disappoint their attempt to show him the way, Kartius hunched his back.

    The same thing happened with Zax. Three young Krikitories ran to him, “Bukibi! Bukibi!” The assessed him the same way the young group of Krikitories assessed him three years ago and called him by the same name. Since Zax was much smaller than Kartius, it took less effort for the three to grab his hands and make him follow them.

    They barely walked a hundred meters distance before they reached pavilion that was situated at the back of the five huts.

    Around the pavilion was a group of adult Krikitories. Seven females and four male waited to the sides of the pavilion.

    Under the pavilion’s thatch, which was wholly made, like the frame and platform of the pavilion, from wood, was an egg like meter tall violet stone. And near that egg like stone lay a beautiful white doe.

    The white doe’s body was resting on all four, and just like this, she was still practically huge. If standing she seemed to be around eight meters to ten meters tall. However, despite her size, the white doe exuded a balminess of atmosphere.

    The white doe’s stomach was a bit bulging. On it and across her back she was covered by a thin, colorful blanket.

    The white doe directed her gaze to Kartius and Zax and her eyes were shining with splendor and bliss.

    To the left of Zax, a vibration issued from Kartius’s body. He transformed, became bigger and bigger, revealing his animalistic form.

    In but a second a fourteen meters tall stag stood in front of the pavilion.

    His mouth opened for all to hear as his voice softly got out. “Sorry for being late, dear little sister”.

    An even softer, cordial voice left the white doe’s mouth. “Big brother… Little Zax, allow me to properly present myself. I’m Laivien, a white doe of the Black Horns tribe. My Kartion’s apprentices refer to me as Martial mother or use my name. Whether you were taken as my Kartion’s apprentice or remained my big brother’s, you can also call me Martial mother or keep using my name. Apart from this, I’m pleased to finally see you with my own two eyes”.

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    Book 5 – Horns

    Chapter 7 – New Regimen And Conditions



    Ignoring the gazes of veneration of the adult Krikitories and basically giving a show to the little ones, Kartius took a step forward, toward the pavilion.

    “Big brother, you said that next time you will come visit me, would be after the pending breakthrough to the next realm of bodily cultivation”. Laivien said amusingly. Her neck stretched upward and her doe head and Kartius’s stag head fondly caressed each other.

    “Martial son, greet my little sister”. Kartius looked down to Zax.

    Seeing for the first time the true form of his Master, Zax was momentarily stunned. Then again, compared to Raroen he was barely over one tenth of the green scales purple mane dragon’s size.

    “Greetings, Laivien, nice to meet you face to face”. Zax was less reserved than he was when he first met Grandmaster or his apprentices. Laivien was no stranger to him and the two already had a friendly relationship.

    “Little Zax, how do you like my small valley?” Laivien inquired. The valley was her home and for Zax it was a first visit, therefore she hoped that as her guest he will enjoy the sheltered vista.

    “It is extremely pleasant”. Zax said after thinking quickly for a reply with his inner mind.

    Upon hearing his compliment, Laivien’s eyes turned crescent. “I’m happy that it is to your liking”. She averted her attention to the adult Krikitories. “Meet little Zax, these are my caretakers and good friends, along with the young ones who accompanied you and big brother. We are all living here together”. Laivien said.

    The group of adult Krikitories bowed slightly before Zax and the young Krikitories did the copied their elders.

    “Hello”. Zax smiled. The adults Krikitories still possessed the cuddly appearance of their days as cubs, and so gave the impression of easy to get along with folks.

    “Martial son, little sister, let us talk in private”. Kartius said.

    Laivien nodded. She lowered her chin to the meter tall egg shaped violet stone and a moment later all of the Krikitories left to either the huts, close by lake or fields of green-blue soft grass.

    “Martial son”, Kartius turned to Zax as they sat together. His big black stag body was outside of the pavilion, Laivien sat at her place under the wooden pavilion’s thatch and Zax between the two, sitting on the one stair of the pavilion. “Meeting my little sister and big brother’s spouse today was for you to know all three of us who founded this household. However, it wasn’t the main reason I brought you here. Today you are here to start the next step of your training according to what we discussed in the past”.

    “Am I to stay here and try to break through the six bottlenecks of insight of the second realm of the soul?” Zax asked. He had this thought circling in his head since he and his Master left Grandmaster’s tower. He was not sure how his Master expects him to approach these trials, which generally would only reveal themselves when a cultivator broke through the second realm, but whatever he will say, Zax was willing to try.

    “Indeed”. Kartius confirmed. “Formerly I tasked you with gaining insight into the kinetic energy or reaching the Mist Lord level with your soul. Now, you completed one task as well as got close to complete the other. As such, I want you to realize the bottleneck to the next level of your soul and attain a breakthrough. Seeing if you can perceive and comprehend the six bottlenecks of insight while in the first realm would be afterwards”.

    “Is that all, Master? If so, then can’t I cultivate the soul anywhere…” Zax said hesitantly.

    If it was three years ago, Zax would not have said anything. Regardless of where or with whom, he only had in mind the desire to get stronger. Three years later, Zax’s temperament changed. He was no longer a child, but a teenager. Far more content with himself than he was in the past, he now found another thing he wanted, in addition to getting stronger.

    Zax wanted to reconcile with his old friends, all of them. And with Grandmaster’s evaluation behind him, he did not want to wait months, even weeks, before seeing Anet again and have the resolve to ask her out. Though, he was still unsure with how to proceed if she would agree.

    Zax mentioning the ability to cultivate anywhere was in hope that his Master would then approve of him training in his home, in Kingdom Earth. Besides his friends and Anet, he also had a baby sister that he did want to grow without him. Lastly, and from the first place, his big sister said that he would not have to stay for long in Valgarel this time around, but he had yet got to talk about it with his Master.

    “Little Zax, are you, perhaps, unsatisfied with staying to train in my place?” Laivien probed.

    “That’s not it. It’s just that I stayed in Valgarel for so long and when I came back home with big sis, so much had happened that meeting my friends was… complicated. And there is also my little sister, Liz. I can’t possibly bring her here…”

    “And the girl that you like… is it that you can’t wait to see her again?” Kartius said, mildly amused.

    Zax face was directed to Laivien and his cheeks reddened soon after hearing his Master.

    Zax assumed that Grandmaster probably heard from Zetsa, as an explanation, why he could not come at the appointed time. He then figured that if Grandmaster knows, then his Master also heard about what happened with the Derneldar family, after all, he did not question his deferral when he got to and left the blue tower.

    “Oh! Did little Zax get himself a girl he likes?” Laivien asked, intrigued. In contrast to Kartius and Grandmaster, she was not aware of Zax’s last activities in Kingdom Earth.

    Zax was a bit shy from the two’s interest in his sprouting affection for the opposite sex. Nonetheless, since his Master asked and Laivien asked he could not keep it to himself anymore.

    “Yes…” He answered them both in one word.

    “Huhuhu!” Laivien laughed. “Big brother, isn’t your Martial son a fast bloomer? Huhuhu! Couple of days back to his home and already had himself a girlfriend, huhuhu!” She was happy for the boy she watched growing for the most part of the past three years, and taunted only because his swollen red face was so cute.

    “That’s enough, that’s enough, little sister”. Seeing his Martial son getting uncomfortable, Kartius decided to stop joking and deal with his hidden request earnestly.

    “Zax, it is true that if I task you to cultivate the soul until the next breakthrough, it won’t matter whether you’ll meditate in little sister’s valley or at your first home”. Kartius said.

    Zax attentively listened, hearing him indicate what he suspected, which could lead to receiving his approval, caused him to be even tempered.

    “Master need not worry. I’m currently at the Peak phase of the Mist Master level with my soul. When traveling with big sis and big brother Tularg I had a profound insight. Although it was not related to the matter of the soul, with this insight, the one I comprehended from big brother Raroen’s lesson and the discovery of the dark attribute I can feel that my soul became a lot more perceptive. Breaking through to the Beginner phase of the Mist Lord level… I believe that I can do it within two months at the earliest, five months at the latest!” Zax spoke confidently, among other intentions, to convince his Master. As if remembering something, Zax opened his mouth to add. “And with regard to the same troubles we had on our way, I’ll let Master test me and decide if I’m qualified to travel on my own!” He did not think that after prevailing against the Derneldar founder he could now take on his Master. This suggestion was purely for his Master to assess his survivability.

    Kartius did not answer right away. Meeting his Martial son’s determined eyes, he mulled over his decoction. “I can agree to your request, Martial son, but there will be a few conditions”.

    “Please tell, Master”. Zax said eagerly.

    “First, from this moment until you will break through the last gate of the Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement, regardless of where you will be, half your time will be spent here. Since estimating how long it would take you to conclude this condition, unless I tell you otherwise, the longest that you would be allowed to stay out of little sister’s valley would be four days. As for your stay in the valley, the shortest time before you can leave is four days”. Kartius said without leaving a room for compromise.

    He continued. “Second, upon sensing any bottleneck, you will have to return here and break through it under my supervision. The only exceptions are bottlenecks that upon sensing, you managed to instantly immerse with”.

    “Third, your time outside the valley will also have to be divided. At least one third of it you are required to spend in Valgarel, in which time, you will accompany me or one of your three eldest Martial brothers and sister in household’s assignments, be it secretly striking our enemies or gathering information. For such an occasion I’ll inform you ahead of time to be prepared”.

    “For the meantime, that is all. Along your progression in cultivation, I may alter or add new conditions. Until then, concentrate on cultivating your soul. Analyze the insights you gathered and then proceed to meditation”.

    Kartius heaved a huff of warm breath from his nostrils. “Your soul is extraordinary, Martial son. When we left big brother, he contacted me with his Sublime Soul Sense, the evolved epitome of a Soul Sense a cultivator who reached with his soul to the third realm possesses”, Kartius detoured to explain for Zax, “and gave his consent for my decision to push you toward the six bottlenecks of the soul”.

    “I’m telling you this to emphasize your priorities in my absence while you train. Breaking through the next level with your soul and then striving for each of the six bottlenecks before trying to advance to the second realm is the objective”.

    “It is more than just a mentally draining and tedious task… To my knowledge, what I expect of you is a deed, which never been achieved before by a first realm cultivator, nor second realm or third realm cultivator I heard of had succeed in comprehending all six bottlenecks of insight”.

    “But, Martial son, your forte is the soul. By what Martial niece told me and what you showed me as my apprentice, it was your strong point even before the Black Core affected your life, which is why I trust you with this task”.

    “Therefore, Martial son, not if, but when you will accomplish it, I can’t imagine that you will fail to reach the third realm faster than any cultivator before you. I can only guess, but I dare say that less than fifty years after comprehending the sixth insights, you will become the youngest cultivator with a soul in the third realm”.

    Kartius had stressed how deep his faith in Zax was, repeated the manner of conduct, instilled the level of hardship and encouraged wholeheartedly with the same tone of voice. The sort of demand he had from Zax was based on his speculations and assessment of what he believed his Martial son’s potential was. But because it was not founded on proven facts, he wanted Zax to perceive the good and the bad on the same level, and with his own efforts, chose which one to make a reality.

    Kartius allowed Zax some time to think. Not much was required. Zax’s inner mind processed every word his Master said, pondered a while about it and eventually internalized. Whether he liked it or not, he could not refute his Master. And besides, this was him, ultimately, getting what he wanted. Plus, the thing about the assignments sounded thrilling and interesting.

    “Thank you, Master”. Zax accepted the conditions.

    “Mm!” It gratified Kartius that Zax obediently listened to him. “Then it’s settled!” He announced. ”Moving on, when Martial niece Hagen returned from accompanying Martial nephew Tularg to Kingdom Earth, she heard from Martial niece Zetsa and later let me and big brother know about your triumphed in a battle against a second level Core Master”.

    ‘So that’s how they learned…’ It was clarified to Zax.

    “My thoughts about it, naturally, I’m proud of you my Martial son. As such, for your accomplishment, I will turn a blind eye to how long you prolonged the meeting with big brother. Instead of a year of secluded training as punishment, you will start and finish the initial part of your new training regimen here. Only when your soul will break through the next level, you will be permitted to leave little sister’s valley”.

    ‘Eh!’ Zax’s eyes widened, but he managed to hold back his voice. ‘This means that I’ll be stuck here for months!’ He stared pleadingly at his Master. ‘Please! Please! Please!’

    As it so happened, Kartius turned his remaining eye blind to his Martial son’s silence beseech.

    “Zax”, Kartius’s tone reprimanded.

    Without a chance to say more, Laivien interrupted him. “Little Zax, this is not a senseless punishment. Here, with the support of the violet stone, your cultivation and level of comprehension would be tenfold higher. Come, stand beside me”. She guided him with her head to climb to sole stair of the pavilion and stand between her and the violet stone.

    “Because of the piece in big brother’s possession and the loss of another one, this treasure is not as it was in the past. However, it still has several exceptional applications. Use your Soul Sense on me to ascertain my soul level”. Laivien urged Zax.

    Releasing his Soul Sense from the boundaries of his sea of consciousness, Zax probed Laivien soul.

    “Advanced phase first level Core Master”. Zax was a bit surprised. Laivien is his Master’s twin sister and supposedly training since childhood, yet her cultivation was quite low. “Your soul is different…” His brows creased. Zax found some kind of other matter inside Laivien soul, other than soul energy. “Is that a light attribute?!” He took a step back, raised his head and watched stupidly at Laivien.

    Laivien’s eyes smiled in respond whilst Kartius reverted to his humanoid form, sighing. “Little Zax, you recognized my attribute… did you finally notice your own?” A burst of laughter escaped from Laivien’s mouth before Zax could answer. “Huhuhu, but it seems that you don’t know about how attributes are obtained, what, you didn’t ask? Or maybe others preferred to keep your attention on what’s important right now? Huhuhu”. Her eyes met Kartius’s and reflected a little of disagreement.

    Laivien lowered her forehead to Zax’s and knocked it. “I’ll tell you. Attributes are external forces that a cultivator can start searching at the Peak of the Core Master realm. Inside the violet stone there is accumulation of light attribute and due to my excessive usage of the stone over the year, I successfully incorporated a bit of the light attribute to my soul, while still being in the first level of the second realm!”

    “Little sister… what knowing that will help him now-” Kartius tried to say, but again was interrupted by Laivien.

    “Well? Aren’t you enthusiastic now to know what else the violet stone can do and how it can help you?” Laivien passionately asked. Her appreciation for the violet stone was unquestionable, but each of her words of praise sounded to Zax as if they were made to build through something…

    “What else-” He carefully tried to ask, yet met the same fate as his Master’s futile attempt to get a word out.

    “Then again, little Zax, when all said and done about the violet stone, aren’t I also impressive?” Laivien mischievously cut him and knocked his forehead again. “Don’t be mistaken and think that anyone can obtain the light attribute like I did. This white doe, Great Laivien, since birth had unique affinity to the light attribute in Nature. With respect to the soul aspect, you are not that much better than I!”

  4. #104
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    Book 5 – Horns

    Chapter 8 - Headlines



    “Little sister, enough joking around. Both you and Martial son were born gifted with regards to the soul aspect”. Kartius said. “Martial son, Zax, you already in possession of an attribute. Big brother researched about it after he ventured to the second Savage Cave and digested a treasure with dense accumulation of dark attribute. You might understand why in the future, but according to what big brother discovered, it is impossible to have more than one attribute. So there is no point for further thinking about the light attribute in the violet stone”. Kartius said and then looked at Laivien.

    “Little sister, I’ll leave Martial son with you. In a month time, I’ll come again. Please instruct Martial son till then”.

    “Martial son, don’t disappoint me”. Kartius stopped Zax from impeding his leave with this sentence and turned his back. Recalling his piece of violet stone to his hand, he left.

    Zax’s mood was down. If the violet stone could improve his cultivation tenfold, then to break through to Mist Lord’s level with his soul he should need, at most, a month. His Master, apparently, did not give him the benefit of the doubt that he could break through earlier than a month.

    “Cheer up, little Zax, if you’ll make your girl wait for you a little, next time she’ll see you, you might earn a kiss”. Laivien mistook the reason of Zax’s mood. Nevertheless, if not convincing, her words of encouragement were still uplifting in their effort to assure him.

    Zax averted his gaze from his Master’s departed back. “Thank you, Laivien”. He said with a soft smile.

    “We know each other for some time now. Today we got to meet face to face. If you feel sad, do you think I won’t empathize? And in this case… how often do you think that I get to see my Kartion?” It was not a question, but confession that turned to a small rant, not against Zax, but the household’s current situation.

    Laivien shook her head. “We all have duties and responsibilities. Yours are now tied to my instruction and the violet stone. In the future, we are going to spend much of our time together. At a certain point I’ll let you know of my responsibility. For now, you should listen while I’ll explain”.

    Laivien’s abrupt change of attitude and firmness were justified and Zax knew it. True, he was not aware of the full story behind Grandmaster’s and the household’s enmity with those seeking to harm them, however, he already considered the individuals in this cave and the former as his second family, his Martial family. And for his family and friends, Zax’s weakness, for them to have a peace of mind, he was the type who gave everything he had and asked questions later.

    “I’m ready”. Zax said. Other than his own conviction, he also picked up the sadness Laivien attempted to bury in her tone of voice. He did not want to make it more difficult for her.

    Thus, once more, after he replied, Zax pushed everything not related to his cultivation to a corner in his sea of consciousness. He hoped that for one month, those things will be willing to wait.

    “Good, little Zax, here, place your hand on the violet stone. Don’t do anything else. Internally it already has too many fractures. With your body fitness level it won’t be difficult for you to break it by mistake, and until I tell you, don’t try to inspect it with your Soul Sense”. Laivien laid out the first guidelines.

    Zax complied. Laying his hand on the violet stone, he felt water like smoothness and cold. It was as if he had to constantly remind himself to keep his hand up, otherwise it would slide on its own.

    “That’s it, little Zax, the violet stone has a special way of handling it, you have to treat it as though it’s incorporeal. Release a strand of soul energy and let it flow through the hand holding the violet stone, to the stone itself”.

    Following Laivien’s instruction, from the blur that was Zax’s soul particles of soul energy floated out. In a blink, a rope made of those particles formed, one end connected to Zax’s soul, the other shooting and winding within his body. Eventually, reaching the palm of his hand and transmitting to the violet stone.

    “It is so surreal!” A world opened before Zax the moment his soul energy contacted the violet stone. The world was pitch black, yet made it seems like colors and shapes could emerge at any moment and fill it with pure radiance.

    “Look with your eyes”. Laivien’s voice sounded more vibrantly from simply everywhere in the pitch black world than directly in Zax’s ears.

    “Your awareness was sucked in by the violet stone. Divide it. Let your inner mind stay in the violet stone and your outer mind outside of it, to regulate your bodily functions”.

    “Alright”. Zax replied, yet, to his surprise, concentrating on making his inner and outer mind to perform two different tasks caused him a bit of a headache.

    The inner mind and the outer mind were two states of perception of one mind. Though one could both be immersed in reading a book with the outer mind and, at the same time, ponder numerous thoughts on its meaning with the inner mind, the two actions were associated with each other. If there was not an excessive aberration, then most cultivators would treat the use of inner and outer mind as a routine or second nature. And the higher the level of the soul was, more profoundly a cultivator will be able to indulge with the two states of mind.

    Attempting to concentrate on a different task with each state of mind… that is beyond deviating. It is something Zax never tried to do before.

    The preconditions for a cultivator to completely divide the inner and outer mind were also obscure. Other than reaching to the second realm with the soul, experts among cultivators could only speculate. What made the preconditions more difficult to unravel, was that in the three levels of the Core Master realm there were those who could and could not completely divide the two states of mind.

    Zax’s soul level was in the first realm; however, his soul was always peculiar with its premature achievements. In terms of quality and quantity his soul was the same as any Peak phase Mist Master’s soul. Nonetheless, Zax’s soul had the capacity to challenge the ability and strength of cultivators whose souls reached the second level of the Core Master realm. Whether it granted him the competence to be among those who could perform two different tasks with their inner and outer mind, he was about to find out.

    PUFF!

    Zax heard something explode in his head, an undulation from the dark attribute in his soul spread, assimilated with his soul, and then everything was seen in two sets of eyes.

    Unknowingly, Zax achieved what so many on the path of Martial cultivation struggled so much for.

    “Phew!” Zax took a deep breath and released it. When all of his awareness was sucked into the violet stone, it seems that his body did not function at all.

    Seeing Zax’s body responding, Laivien said. “Truly admirable, little Zax, I thought that you’ll have troubles and maybe fail to divide your mind. I can tell you now, this was big brother’s bet. If you weren’t able to maintain half of your awareness inside the violet stone and half in your body, then big brother’s hopes for you would have been for naught and my Kartion would have taken you as his ninth apprentice”.

    “How come?” Zax averted his fixated gaze from the violet stone to Laivien. “For merely dividing my mind, Master put so much weight on it?” Since it was his first time completely dividing his mind, and he did not know what a fervent subject of discussion it was in the cultivation world of New Earth, Zax treated his success nonchalantly.

    “Little Zax, if others will hear you, they would definitely think that you are too shameless for speaking like this”. Laivien reprimanded, however then she saw that Zax honestly did not understand the significance of his successful attempt. “You would think that it’s not an issue, but, other than me, big brother, my Kartion and his two eldest apprentices, no one in our household is capable of dividing the mind with accordance to what you did. As a matter of fact, like you, I also succeeded in my first try and later learned that it’s not as simple as I thought”.

    “If that’s what you’re saying, then I believe you”. To dwell on why his soul could do what others had to work hard before achieving was useless. If there was an answer for this question, Zax was sure that his big sister or Master would have told him it. “What I should do now?” He wanted to proceed, to break through the bottleneck of the Mist Lord level with his soul, he had only one month.

    “Huhuhu, but of course, start cultivating your soul”. Laivien said. She rested her doe’s head next to Zax. “I should warn you that the bottleneck you face is a considerable juncture for any cultivator”, her big eyes were slowly closing. Sleepily, she said. “But you are not any cultivator, aren’t you, little Zax?”



    As Laivien fallen asleep, Zax observed his new surrounding for a while with his outer mind and because of the link to the violet stone, had to rely on his eyes, rather than his Soul Sense, to look around.

    From what he saw, the way of life of the Krikitories and Laivien in the valley was structured quite simply.

    The four adult male Krikitories were the handymen and fishers of this petite habitation, and the females were the actual ones tending to Laivien, while everyone took care and educated the young Krikitories.

    When Laivien laid her doe head to rest, two adult females Krikitories and three little ones climbed the one stair to the pavilion’s platform with a bucket of aromatic oil. Together they removed the colorful blanket that covered Laivien, took turns to dipped their paws in the oil and with the guidance of the two adult females, all five applied the oil on Laivien’s stomach.

    Just as Laivien uttered a light moan, Zax stopped looking and closed his eyes and entered a meditative state.

    ‘Eh?!’ The instant Zax entered the state of Adraak Meditation he felt like his outer mind fell asleep, much like Laivien, and he was sucked back into the violet stone.

    In the pitch black world his inner mind was lodged, fragmented dots began to appear. From one to ten, hundred, thousand, ten thousand, one hundred thousand fragmented dots were all around Zax.

    ‘These are!’ The fragmented dots were black like the pitch black world encompassing them, but Zax still could discern and perceive every one of them with absolute clarity. ‘Pieces of spiritual knowledge… there are one hundred thousand fragments of the entity I saw!’ He was downright shocked.

    Last time he meditated there were just a bit over ten thousand fragments. Now, within the violet stone, without issuing the slightest effort, he had ten times the amount!

    ‘Is it because my soul got stronger? The insights I had? The violet stone? Laivien said that it has exceptional applications, but this…’ Either answer could be the right one, if not all three. ‘Hahahaha!’ Zax was overcome with elation. He did not care, he truly did not care. With so many fragments he would have higher chances to find those who fit each other and combine them together.

    ‘Last time I could only combine one hundred and ninety six pieces. After appreciated these new pieces, how many, then, will I be able to combine?!’

    Without further ado, Zax challenged himself to get the answer in one month.



    Just before Zax immersed himself in expanding the grand puzzle of the entity’s true form, more details of his conflict with the Derneldar family were released to the general public in Kingdom Earth and created a great stir.

    “A student of Eden Formation, top Martial school of El-Eden, and one of the five greatest families of El-Eden’s, the Derneldar family, confronted each other”.

    One headline read.

    A day later…

    “One teenage student of Eden Formation single handedly abolished El-Eden’s great family, the Derneldar family, defeating in the process an army of experts along with the renowned second level Core Master and founder of the formerly great family, Sibera Derneldar!”

    Then, as people began to throw names of which student could possibly be the super genius Eden Formation kept hidden all this time, another headline has emerged, privately, only for the eyes of those in the highest tier of Kingdom Earth’s high class society.

    “El-Eden chooses its seeded candidate for the next group evaluation!”

  5. #105
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    Book 5 – Horns

    Chapter 9 – Restoring Calm



    Kingdom Earth, cave fourteen, El-Eden’s capitol cave.

    At the three hundredth and seventy second floor, the top floor, of a crystal like executive building a red headed middle age woman wearing a golden white suit and white high heels, waited impatiently next to a close door.

    The woman had a vexed facial expression and could not bear sitting on the lavish seats and waiting at the same time, as the middle age male secretary politely suggested her.

    Watching the woman’s nonstop pacing from one side of the door to the other, getting irritated with each passing minute, behind his desk, the middle age secretary made his utmost to act invisible.

    This secretary’s experience in his vocation was top notch. He was aware of every decision that came out from the office the woman was waiting to enter and from the moment he saw her exiting the elevator, he could tell not just who she is, but why she arrived. As for her temperament… it was so apparent that, upon seeing the red headed woman, even the greenness secretary would be able to assess and know how to conduct himself with her.

    Hence, when the woman asked to see the person behind the closed door, despite her not making an appointment, the middle age secretary courteously offered her to sit while he will see what he can do.

    Since then, over an hour had passed and the previously tranquil atmosphere of the floor transformed to suffocating sedateness.

    Suddenly the middle age secretary’s eyes shone brightly as a message appeared in the screen of the office’s Caller on his desk.

    “Send her in”

    Those three words were like a boon from the Supreme Rulers themselves.

    The middle age secretary got up from his seat, attracting the attention of the woman as he approached her.

    Opening the door to the office on the other side, the middle age slightly bowed. “Please enter, Don Ram”.

    The red headed woman, who was none other than Eden Formation’s school principal, Don Dauch, coldly walked in as the door behind her closed.

    The office room atop the three hundredth and seventy second floor was spacious, yet very humble in compassion to the building it was part of.

    A sewn carpet was spread at the center of the metallic floor. Against the left and right walls were a steel cart with thick books and a stand with clean glasses and three liquor bottles.

    Welcoming Don into the office was a tall, slanted eyes middle age man with short black hair, wearing a dark blue suit. He leaned against a one legged desk, behind it was an ergonomic chair and a one way glass wall that viewed over the upscale vicinity.

    “Well, Don, since you came here without letting my secretary know, aren’t you going to greet me first?” The man asked in a solemn voice while being completely leisurely.

    “Eden formation’s school principal, Don Dauch, thank you for seeing me in such a short notice, chairman of the school board, Marksim Dauch”. Don said with humility, emanating indulgence, presenting an entirely opposite front than the one she had outside of the office. “For avoiding me for the last couple of days and making me wait almost two hours after I catch you in your office, all because you were dilly dallying, feeling apprehensive from seeing me after going around my back to take control over a matter I personally dealt with, and had yet to incorporate to the school, I, Don Dauch, greet twice, thrice and extremely impressed with school board’s chairman’s nerves”. In a blink, Don’s mannerism flared, and her tongue teased and stung as a spiteful countenance stared daggers at Marksim. “Was my greeting to your liking, elder cousin?” She asked with her chin raised high.

    Her cousin was a second level Core Master, just like her. In terms of cultivations, he was a bit faster and a phase above her, but with regards to proficiency in formations, the Dauch family’s specialty, he was inferior to her. In the family’s enterprise, as the chairman of Eden Formation’s school board, Marksim had a slightly higher position than Don, but she never permitted him to hold it above her head.

    Disregarding Don’s sarcasm, Marksim turned his back to her, sighing to the one way glass wall and moved on to the ergonomic chair before facing Don again with a humorless mien.

    Goading her to greet him was merely to test the water of how severe was her mood. Of course, he was already prepared for the worst, in a way he brought it upon himself. To make matters even more worse, due to the four and a half hours essential exchange he had over the Caller, he made her wait with her anger boiling, before allowing her in. Still, if there was a chance to avoid an argument with an immediate family member such as Don, Marksim would have gladly taken it instead of flattering his vanity and letting it pass.

    With his better understand of Don’s current temperament, Marksim made his choice of selecting in which manner to conduct this engagement. In this particular case, he heaved a sigh of languishment for he knew that being familial will debilitate his stance.

    “Perfectly fine”. Marksim retorted. “Now, would you please take a seat”. He gestured across his desk to the two white chairs.

    “Now, now, cousin, my legs are not as feeble as yours”. Don snorted. “I’ll stand”.

    ‘*****!’ Marksim cursed. ‘If entertainment before business you seek…’ He loved his cousin and believed that on some Sun Stone stormy days she also tolerantly thought of him, but because of the correlation in their jobs and positions, conflicts between the two infrequently occurred, which caused instantaneous frictions.

    “Please, Don, you came here uncoordinated with my schedule. I will appreciate it if you, at least, manage your wild temper so we would be able to discuss with even minds whatever making you grumble”. Marksim leaned forward, almost reaching to the other side of the desk with his gesturing hand, making his request even more sincere.

    ‘Tenacious ***!’ With a delicate smile Don accepted the chair. “If cousin can’t stand the sight of an imposing woman, I won’t make it difficult for you”. She sat down, looking as comfortably as a queen on the ruler’s throne.

    ‘Not make it difficult for me? What about the shitload of men you scare every night in their dreams?’ Marksim inhaled in wonder. “Don’t speak nonsense, Don, although not exactly on time, my doors are always open for you. And in my office, please, be as comfy as you can, whether it is by standing or sitting on a broo- excuse me… chair”. He hurriedly corrected himself with a straight face, not showing a hint of apology or cynically, just acting as if it was an honest mistake.

    ‘Very good… If you care so little for your office, I don’t mind being a tad rougher…’

    CRACK!

    Don applied a bit of force and the steel legs of the chair she sat on fractured the metallic floor.

    “Oh, my! Cousin, is your pitiful looking decor made for children? It breaks so easily over an adult weight!” Don put her hand to her mouth, feigning astonishment and modesty while covering an apparent belittling smile.

    ‘No, no, no, no, no, sweet cousin, it is your fat *** that is the problem’. Marksim had to actually bit his tongue in order to prevent himself from speaking these words outloud. “Don, I assume you came here with a real issue on your mind and not just to share pleasantries, please don’t hold it back anymore”. Since they were on his turf, Marksim was worried that if they will continue this arduous game there will not by a turf for him to have. As for the said issue, though he already knew what it was about, he refrained from addressing it before Don. Otherwise, will it not be the same as recognizing the mistake Don blames him for?

    Don puckered her brows. Finally getting serious and to the point. “Marksim, what went inside your bloated when you decided to misuse your position to snatch the reins in this matter that I handled on my own?!”

    “I’m sorry, Don, but I have truly did not do nothing wrong”. Marksim gave her equally stern stare.

    “Marksim, what being obstinate will help you?” Don pressed her lips together after asking. Opening them again before Marksim could answer, she said. “…Fine, if you insist for me to be blunt, then I will”.

    “Here is a series of questions for you… Why did you release the information connecting one of our students to the Derneldar family’s incident? Recurring Zax Zel was my initiative, what made you think that you can interfere? Now that practically anyone and everyone in Kingdom Earth know that we are backing an individual, which destroyed a great family, one of our biggest donors, who is supposed to handle the criticism of the other high class families that donate to the school? Can you comprehend the mess that would occur if someone will snoop around the school and its last events and discover Zax’s identity? You even went and announced that we picked a seeded candidate, do you think that the other two schools and great families will turn blind eyes toward this statement?!”

    BAM!

    Marksim slammed his hand on his desk. Though he did so only for the sound effect deterrent and barely put any strength in his palm, it was still a blow that would have shattered a regular desk to smithereens. And yet, there was not even a tiny fracture on the smooth black surface of his desk.

    “That’s enough, Don, do you really believe that I have to give you an account for each of my decisions? Yes, you first managed the matter of Zax Zel, but the moment you handed him a set of school uniforms, he was no longer your own personal matter, but the whole school, as well! Trading one of our biggest donors for him put even greater responsibility on how he should be supervised. You, alone, sadly, cannot be the sole bearer of this investment!” Marksim palm clenched to a fist. His words lashed out in a manner similar to when an adult scolds a child.

    “Marksim, I won’t take it silently if you’ll try to coerce me just because you are the school board’s chairman. If you don’t plan to answer my previews questions, then I dare you to not answer this one, do you know who is the power behind Zax Zel?” Don sneered at Marksim.

    “I do”. Marksim said, short and firm. “However, put it aside for a moment, Don, allow me to be magnanimous and answer the key points of your questions”. Typing on his desk, several lights shone underneath Marksim’s fingers and a see through holographic image appeared between his and Don’s line of sight.

    The holographic image was of more than fifty file icons with different title on each one.

    “Names of agents of companies, organizations and high class families who investigated what happened in the Derneldar’s territory. Each of them contains how far they have gotten in their investigation. Couple of them are not related to the Derneldar’s case, but will still surprise you”. Marksim swiped his finger in a circular way and a holographic blue dot appeared on Don’s side.

    Don pressed the blue dot with her finger and began to browse the files.

    “You might possess some of this information, but not all of it. Not the critical stuff I collected”. Marksim spoke as Don read what each file contained. Some of the file did not made her bat an eyelash, very few, very crucial, caused an ugly expression to form on her face.

    “I’m sure, Don, you had the intention to do what I did, merely on a later date and gradually. Unfortunately, as you can see, that, more likely, would have been too late. Consequently, I chose to let us be the ones who reveal what happened… mostly. That does not mean that I gave away any indication that the school supports either party, only that we treat it as an internal affair that we, you, tried to mediate until both parties decided to settle on their own”.

    “Of course, failing to mediate will not put any sort of blame on you or the rest of the school. I made sure of that to avoid complications with the school’s donors and devotees”. Marksim assured while Don continued to read.

    File after file, she paid most of her attention to the highlighted red lines that were marked ahead of time. ‘There is even an illustration of Zax’s face!’ Don was aghast.

    With all of the preventive measure she took to get rid of the surveillance footages, whether those that were taken in the Derneldar’s territory or those in the Callers she confiscated from her students, it was only possible to create an illustration of Zax’s face by getting his description from people who saw him with their own eyes. Such people could only be the former staff of the Derneldar family and the students who watched Zax fight with the Disciplinary Class.

    As far as her students go, in the last students’ assembly she already fabricated a story for the student body and faculty and showed a fake picture of the perpetrator, Zax, so until he will get caught, everyone should be careful while outside of school’s grounds.

    Now, with the recent headlines Marksim released, if Zax is to be the seeded candidate of the school, she will need to sort out an excuse to explain the fake story and picture, which would be more of a headache than a trouble, but still…

    Aside from her students, to erase Zax’s face from the minds of the Derneldar’s staff… Zax’s own crushing entrance to the Derneldar’s territory had done that. And with regards to the Mist Users who fought him, they were exterminated.

    The gears in Don’s head worked extra hard to figure how someone was able to get such a detailed illustration of Zax. ‘What or who did I miss?!’ She questioned herself until her eyes landed on the answer, a few lines below the illustration.

    “Danzel cooperation” Don’s eyes nearly bulged. The Danzel Cooperation was a group of seventy five companies that originated from the Core Breaker Guild. The amount of experts this cooperation has is staggering, and its connection in the Core Breaker Guild and everything related to it, runs very deep. Though they did not have similar level experts, their level of influence was just a bit lower than the number one and two great families of Kingdom Earth’s three regions.

    ‘If the Danzel Cooperation was willing to invest heavily, than finding how Zax look like would be possible for them, but according to the file’s date, they gathered their information before Marksim’s release. What made them care about the downfall of the Dernalder family before that?’ Don hoped that the file contains the answer for this question, also.

    “No foreign mist signature… a bodily cultivator defeated Sibera Dernalder” The file read. ‘Impossible! How could they deduce that? The mist detonation should have contaminated all the mist signatures in the Dernalder family’s territory’.

    “Marksim, how could they discover that the one who fought with Sibera was a bodily cultivator? Why did the care about happened to the Dernalder family in the first place?” Don did not have the patient to read and wanted an immediate answer.

    Because the holographic image was not completely solid, Marksim was able to follow Don as she read and so knew what raised those questions.

    “Sibera’s old companions are powerful figures in the Denzel Cooperation. They initiated the investigation of the Dernalder family. How they discovered Zax’s cultivation and his appearance… I can probe into it, but they will end up knowing. For now I decided to put an eye on them. If Sibera’s old companions want to take revenge or simply interested to recruit Zax, I’ll find out before giving them the chance to make a move”. Marksim promised so Don will not worry about Zax’s safety.

    Marksim did not continue from where Don stopped him with her questions. He saw from her expression that most of her resentments for his action were dispersed by what she read about the Danzel Cooperation. He believed that if he had asked her what she would have done in his place, her response would have been either utter silence or confession that she would also make the some public releases.

    “For the past seventy two years, Eden Formation did not have one seeded entry. By claiming that we have a seeded candidate, those who uncovered or will uncover Zax’s identity, will have to take carefully before approaching him. Even then, families, schools, organizations… whoever they may be, their best choice would be to act as if he is made of fire”.

    Don stopped reading and leaned back. Marksim pressed on his desk and the holographic image disappeared. Nothing obstructed his and Don’s line of sight from each other.

    ‘Knowing his Master’s situation, it should not be difficult to convince him to let Zax officially be part of our school. We can even form an alliance that would help him against that tribe. He can keep his bodily refinement technique-’

    “Zax’s sister, Zetsa, already confirmed it. Her Master will not share his technique”. Don interrupted.

    “We only need someone in the right age and with exceptional talent to take first place, did his sister opposed of us using her brother?”

    “No”.

    “Then everything should work out with their Master, as well”. Feeling some serenity returns to the atmosphere of his office, Marksim’s sternness softened.

    “In Valgarel, we will keep him safe and his Master satisfied by offering several formations that would aid him against that tribe and its forces. In Kingdom Earth, I wonder, who will dare to lay a hand on the seeded candidate Ten Ram gave his consent for?”

  6. #106
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    Book 5 – Horns

    Chapter 10 – One Out Of Six



    One hundred thousand pieces of spiritual knowledge encompassed Zax from every direction.

    Since he began meditating, twenty two days have passed. Of the one hundred thousand fragments, it took Zax seventeen days to appreciate all the fragments, and in the past five days, he ceaselessly pondered and toiled to create the right combination of the great puzzle.

    In the pitch black world of the violet stone, there were now individual pieces of spiritual knowledge, along with twenty seven combinations. The largest combination had three hundred and sixty nine fragments combined. The smallest combination had only the minimum two fragments connecting to each other.

    It was much easier for Zax create many combinations than just investing himself on one. The implications were that his soul barely improved its cultivation. To form a largest picture of a sublime whole was the principle of Adraak Meditation, only like that a cultivator could better uncover and perceive the intimate spiritual knowledge from the subliminal mind. When instead of working to enlarge one combination, a cultivator chooses to create many, the cultivation of the soul will cease until combining all separated combinations or creating a new largest.

    A simpler manner to explain the two methods… Creating one combination will constantly improve the soul as the combination gets bigger. Creating many combinations and then combining them will improve the soul in one gigantic leap.

    Currently, Zax preferred the latter method because his soul was at the Peak phase of the Mist Master level. Inside his sea of consciousness, the juncture that leads to the bottleneck of the Mist Lord level was in plain sight of his mind eye.

    To pass the juncture Zax had to improve his comprehensive abilities, and to break through the bottleneck, he had to accumulate enough soul energy.

    The twenty second day.

    Zax stopped combining fragments, creating more combination of the great puzzle. A certain bright speck of light attracted his attention and did not let go.

    The speck of light seemed outlandish in this world of pitch black. Zax detected it accidentally within one of the twenty seven combinations he made, when he looked for individual fragments for creating the twenty eighth combination. He did not know how he could miss the extraordinary speck of light. After looking at it for five and a half hours, the speck of light was clear to him like the brightness of a Sun Stone.

    ‘That light… did I not see it already?’ After hours of spectating, Zax started to wonder. ‘I did… not see it, but perceived something that felt the same’.

    The combination the speck of light appeared on was of three combined fragments. Holding this small combination, Zax looked for more fragments that could fit it.

    ‘No’. He declared without looking at the individual fragment. ‘No, no, no, no…’ There were many individual fragments, finding one for this three pieces combination was taxing. Moreover, Zax’s gaze did not leave the speck of light and watched it as if afraid that it will disappear if his attention would waver.

    ‘What are you?’ Despite the arduous work of finding the right fragments, Zax was in a completely serene state of mind. Without even noticing, he stopped searching for fragments and just floated in the pitch black world with the three pieces combination in his hand.

    ‘Ah… such a wonderful, sweet smell…’ Zax’s inner mind, inside the violet stone, suddenly became ecstatic. A fragrance Zax never smelled before in his life assaulted his mine and gradually took over, surpassing all his other senses. ‘Nice, it’s so nice, Ahmm…’

    Inside the pitch black world Zax stopped seeing hearing, feeling, and if there was something to eat inside of it, that tasting, as well. All that was left were his sense of smell and enticed awareness of the inner mind.

    Without realizing, Zax pressed himself against the three pieces combination. The intoxicating fragrance was oozing from the speck of light and inhaled into Zax’s soul.

    Inside Zax’s sea of consciousness, the dark attribute that was merged with Zax’s soul, released a black radiance. Zax’s blurred soul trembled. It was being refined by the fragrance of the speck of light and the radiance of the dark attribute simultaneously.

    ‘Here it is!’ Zax was absent minded with regards to refinement process of the speck of light’s fragrance. What he did sense, was the unexpected of activity of the dark attribute. ‘Inside this radiance there is something exactly the same as the speck of light’. Zax rediscovered what made him feel familiar with the peck of light.

    ‘But to what is the dark attribute reaction? It is actually doing something to my soul. My soul becomes less hazy, as if it has a shape behind all obscurity!’ It was a moment of unprecedented novelty for Zax, the sensation of a forthcoming new birth.

    BOOM!

    A huge explosion erupted for Zax’s soul. The juncture and bottleneck to the Mist Lord level were completely eradicated. The refinement process of the black radiance’s and the fragrance of the speck of light’s refinement was finished. The fragrance had been integrated with Zax’s soul and the soul itself was less blurry. But to Zax, who only sensed the black attribute in his sea of consciousness, the breakthrough to the Beginner phase of the Mist Lord level felt like a stroke of luck.

    ‘The speck of light vanished?!’ As his senses returned, Zax’s inner mind regained its awareness in the black pitch world of the violet stone.

    The three pieces combination was still in his hold, but the speck of light was nowhere to be seen and the fragrance was gone along with it.

    ‘I haven’t made any improvement in the combinations, but I still managed to break through the Mist Lord level. Was it really due to the dark attribute?’ Zax wondered. ‘I’ll ask Laivien’. He decided.



    Opening his eyes after twenty two days was a first for Zax, since he began his training. He raised his head from the violet stone and retracted his hand from it.

    “Eh, this smell…” Upon gaining lucidity with his outer mind, Zax sense of smell suddenly picked an indistinct scent of unfathomable aroma. ‘Where is it coming from?’ He turned his head to look, but nothing was different in the surrounding since his awareness was sucked into the violet stone.

    “WOW!” Zax could not hold in his bewilderment. The scent was too copious and pristine. It lingered in the air, yet it was unknown from where it was coming from, there was no trail to follow.

    “Mmmm…” Beside him, Laivien murmured as if waking up from a deep slumber. She raised her head and neck.

    “Laivien, hahaha, can you smell it? What is this smell? Does it belong to your valley?” Captivated by the unique scent, Zax had a profound desire to find its source.

    Staring at Zax with a thoughtful look, Laivien carefully chose her words before speaking. “You actually broke through within the month, little Zax”. She was pleasantly surprised, but her eyes flashed with a hint of greater astonishment than she let out in her voice.

    “I did”. Zax smiled back at Laivien. Though there were some questions on his mind about the event of his breakthrough, he was happy with himself. With this new addition in strength to his soul, he wanted to know how he would fare now against a soul attack or the Soul Sense of a second level Core Master. Well… he wanted to know, after Laivien will answer him about the scent. “But, Laivien, this smell, can you tell me where is it coming from?” He continued to ask unrestrained.

    “I can try, little Zax, but you will have to calm down first”. Laivien instructed.

    “Fine”. Zax complied, a bit dissatisfied. The scent was so invigorating; he wanted to chase it even if he had to search heaven and earth to find its source.

    “Little Zax, you are saying that you smell an alluring scent?” Laivien asked to confirm and think a little further.

    “Yes”. Zax replied instantly.

    “Then before I’ll tell you what I think it is, tell me how you spent the last twenty two days till the moment of your breakthrough”.

    “All of it?” Zax asked. If Laivien wanted to know every detail of his training, it would take him some time to recount everything.

    “Yes”. It was Laivien’s turn to answer in one short word.

    Grudgingly, for the sake of knowing what the scent is, Zax sighed and started to recite his experience inside the violet stone.

    “So it is as I suspected…” Laivien mused after hearing everything. “But it’s not exactly how it should be. Even for your unique soul it is too abnormal. I wonder, what it is that is hidden inside your subliminal mind, not to mention you dark attribute…” Most of what she said was self muttering.

    “Little Zax, the speck of light, it is something every cultivator in the second realm encounter, it should be one of the six bottlenecks of insight. It’s hard for me to believe, but it sounds like you encountered, no… that your subliminal mind possessed it and in your meditation you revealed it! That is, little Zax, utterly insane!” Laivien shook her doe head, not sure how to respond to such a feat.

    “One of the six bottlenecks… Are you sure, Laivien?” Zax asked in uncertainty. According to his Master, a Core Master has in each level two bottlenecks of insight and to break through the third realm, of the six, it is enough to comprehend just two, practically any two, not even from the same level.

    Furthermore, the more bottlenecks of insight one comprehends, the harder it becomes to comprehend the next one.

    Zax did not know how difficult the first bottleneck of insight is to comprehend, only that if the speck of light was the first one, it was so easy to comprehend he done so without even thinking about it.

    “Only if what you told me, little Zax, is accurate. Let me explain so you will now why I’m lost with you… On the cultivation path, when the appropriate moment arrives, soon after reaching the second realm, the six bottlenecks of insight descend, in turn and randomly, from the world around us and to our sea of consciousness. When it happens, a cultivator has a choice, to comprehend the bottleneck or discard it. You see the difference up till here, little Zax?” Laivien asked. “With what you told me, you didn’t even have the choice to discard the speck of light or even put any effort in comprehending it. And yet, when you removed your awareness from the violet stone, your perception of the world has changed, exactly like when comprehending a bottleneck of insight!”

    “So the fragrance I smelled in the violet stone before I broke through had made me smell the world in a different way?” Zax asked with a confused expression on his face.

    “Let’s clear something first, your dark attribute acts independently and according to a set of rules I can’t explain. The breakthrough is most definitely something that it triggered. The fragrance and the current scent that you smell now, in my opinion, are as a result of comprehending one of the six bottlenecks of insight and transforming your perception of the world. In short, what you smell and so eager to find, is the world”.

    With that expounding answer, Zax ended up being speechless. When his Soul Sense immerged, he was already learning to perceive the world around him differently, but this new insight in comparison was too intense on his sense of smell. In addition, there was not any way to switch it on and off. How was he supposed to cope with it in this case?

    “Laivien, you are an Advanced phase first level Core Master. Have you encountered and comprehended the same bottleneck of insight as I?” Zax hoped that Laivien would answer positively.

    The six bottlenecks of insight are not absolute. The bottleneck Zax encountered could be the first, second third, fourth, fifth or sixth bottleneck of any other Core Master.

    “Luckily for you, little Zax, I have, as my second bottleneck of insight. Why? Are you perplexed because it’s too overwhelming and you want to know how to regulate it?” Laivien knew the answer, but Zax reaction reminded her, her own reaction to the first bottleneck she comprehended.

    “Is there a way?”

    “Huhuhu, there is why, little Zax. And it’s the same with every bottleneck. That is, waiting. In couple of hours your sense of smell will adapt to the scent of the world. You will still smell it, but it won’t affect your mind”. Laivien assure.

    ‘Waiting…’ Like without putting any effort in comprehending the bottleneck of insight, he also does not need to do anything to get use to its effect.

    “Laivien, there are six bottlenecks of insight and Master told me that it is better for a cultivator to find them on his own, but if you and I share the same insight, can we talk about it?”

    “Since you and I had the same fortune, then yes, little Zax. Ask me whatever you like”.

    “Thank you, then”. Zax said. He really thought of Laivien amiably, as if she was an aunty. “When Master told me about the bottlenecks of insight, he did not say much about their benefits. After I broke through I noticed that my soul became less blurry. Is this because of the insight I gain or the improvement in level?”

    “It is the results of the insight”. Laivien said brief and to the point.

    “So the more insights I comprehend the clearer my soul will become?”

    “That’s the main thing that will occur. Although I don’t know about anyone who comprehended all six bottlenecks, I suppose that after the sixth the soul will become completely lucid. The next time that you will cultivate your soul, you will notice that it has become somewhat easier”.

    The more close to lucid the soul becomes, the more its comprehensive abilities will improve. Soul refinement techniques, and generally raising the soul level, help a little to make it less hazy. But these were the methods of cultivators. From Laivien’s explanation of where the six bottlenecks of insight come from, Zax realized that the insights are not something that cultivators’ methods can compare with. While it will become easier for him now to cultivate through man’s or beast’s methods, the remaining five of the six bottlenecks of insight should be harder to divine.

    “And what about the world’s scent? Does it have any purpose?”

    “Mmm… That I don’t know. Perhaps if you’ll comprehend all six bottlenecks you will know. Otherwise, you will have to reach the third realm with your soul level to get the answer”.

    “Oh, reaching the third realm is something that Grandmaster told you about?” Since Zax decided on the Martial path to be his way in life, becoming a third realm expert was something that was already engraved in his mind. Knowing that it could supply him further help with the fruits he gained from his insight, he was eager to reach the third realm even more.

    “My Kartion’s soul has reached the third realm, so what he told me is certain”. Without letting Zax notice, Laivien pouted ‘It’s only a shame that he is mean and refuses to tell my anything more until things will get better’.

    “However, little Zax don’t think right now about the third or even the second realms, since there is something more interesting than reaching them”. Laivien out of the blue lowered her head to knock Zax’s forehead.

    Feeling the warmth of the fur of her doe head more than the force of the impact, Zax, wanting to know what Laivien meant, smiled and asked. “What is that?”

    “Of course, the spiritual knowledge of your subliminal mind! It seems that from it you gained your first bottleneck of insight. If it has the rest…” Laivien grew excited. “You should go and find, little Zax! Go and find!”

  7. #107
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    Book 5 – Horns

    Chapter 11 – The Origin Of The Hatred - Part One



    Eight days have gone by in a blink of an eye for Zax. After breaking through the Mist Lord level with his soul, with Laivien urging him, he continued to look for more bottlenecks of insight within the pieces of spiritual knowledge.

    In those eight days, Zax did not form large combinations, only kept working on small ones of three to five pieces. After such combination was done, Zax inspected it, hoping to find more specks of light.

    As luck would have it, eight days were either not enough, or Zax’s subliminal mind possessed only the one bottleneck of insight he already comprehended.

    Inside the violet stone.

    “Little Zax, come out. Big brother has almost arrived”. Laivien voice resounded within the pitch black world.



    This way of communication was something Zax learned about before he started looking for additional bottlenecks. Laivien explained it to him before he split his awareness and sent his inner mind into the violet stone.

    One of the valuable functions of the violet stone is that if someone will imbue it with a Soul Sense, the Soul Sense will then get a huge boost, which will allow it to surpass the scope of a Sublime Soul Sense of a third realm expert, and will also give it the distinct ability of a Sublime Soul Sense, to communicate through Soul Sense. This boost, however, is mostly useful to second realm experts, since only a second realm expert will be able to reap this much benefits, while a first realm and a third realm expert would only get a boost to the scope of their Soul Sense.

    That being said, Laivien forbade Zax from imbuing his Soul Sense to the violet stone before it would reach the second realm. The reason was the damaged state of the violet stone. If the energies inside it will be disrupted by a weak Soul Sense, then the undulation the violet stone emits to repeal the azure smoky mist might flutter, which will lead to a catastrophic event in the small and special valley…

    To avoid such a catastrophe, regardless of how unique it is, Laivien wanted Zax to reach the second realm with his soul, to improve his control over it by at least one step.



    Zax retracted his awareness from the violet stone and opened his eyes to meet Laivien’s.

    “Did Master cross the azure smoky mist, yet?” Zax asked.

    “He entered it in his animalistic form, in a few breaths he will get here”.

    Just as Laivien predicted, a fourteen meters tall stag arrived before her and Zax, accompanied by the sounds of heavy hooves strong stomps.

    “Master!”

    “Big brother”.

    The two cordially welcomed Kartius.

    “Ahm”, Kartius nodded and hot air blew out from his nostrils. “Well done, Martial son, you fulfilled your Martial father’s expectations within the giving timespan”.

    Kartius praised when he arrived, after a quick appraisal of Zax’s improvement. Still, as glad as he was, a complicated expression appeared on his stag face. The reason was that in his initial inspection of Zax, Kartius discovered that he could not grasp anything. Only when Zax stopped obstructing his Soul Sense did Kartius was able to see the changes in his Martial son.

    As far as Zax’s new capabilities with the soul went, only a Beginner phase third level Core Master, if not a Peak phase second level Core Master, would be able to see through him.

    “Big brother, little Zax got more surprises for you than you would have imagine, huhuhu”. Laivien said in amusement.

    “Little sister, Martial son, one of you should elaborate”. Though he said so, Kartius had an idea of what his Martial son could have achieve, other than the breakthrough, but it was so implausible, he did not dare believe it without confirmation from either of the two.

    “Huhuhu!” Laivien laughed. “Listen to this, big brother”, she said and began to retell everything she and Zax talked about eight days ago.

    “Martial son, is it true?!” After hearing it all Kartius felt his head going dizzy.

    To have the six bottlenecks of insight, coincidentally, locked in his subliminal mind… Kartius immediately thought of the Black Core and the entity Zax glimpsed upon the day he found the Black Core. ‘What kind of messed up benevolent heart this being had, to leave so much fortune to only one person?!’ Kartius secretly thought. ‘Or was it looking for an heir?’ He speculated.

    Whatever was the truth, Kartius did not intend to share his thoughts with anyone. As long as the answers were out of reach, he did not want the questions to impede the cultivation of his Martial son.

    “Yes, Master, but ever since then, although only eight days had passed, I wasn’t able to find anything like the speck of light from before”. Zax said.

    ‘So it’s possible that only one bottleneck of insight was perceived from the entity by his subliminal mind…’ Kartius heaved a deep, held up breath. “Then we cannot be certain if you possess more bottlenecks”. He shook his head.

    “Never mind. It is not as if it will deteriorate your training regimen whether there were more bottlenecks or just this one. You will proceed as we discussed. Since you already experienced a bottleneck of insight, moreover prematurely, there are no words that I can say to guide you toward the next one, other than keep your mind attentive at the behavior of the dark attribute and the descent of the second bottleneck of insight, in accordance to your first experience”. Kartius admitted resignedly. Now that his Martial son had the revelation of the first bottleneck of insight, any advices he thought to give him before could not be on the same level.

    “Yes, Master”. Zax said obediently.

    “Good, Martial son”, despite that his Soul Sense was being outrank by his Martial son, Kartius was still given the same respect and obedience from Zax, which made him even more gratified with his Martial son than in the past.

    “A month ago I thought to let you use the violet stone to try and perceive the bottlenecks of insight, The method I had in mind is no better than telling you to keep looking for specks of insight in the pieces of spiritual knowledge. Since this way has already proven itself successful, as long as you keep creating only small combinations and not increase the level of your soul beyond the Advanced phase of the Mist Lord level, you may continue to meditate as you were”.

    “I understand, Master”. Zax said. Sensing that his Master said everything he had to say about his training, a spark of eagerness reflected in his light brown eyes. “Then, Master, since the month you gave me is over and I achieved quite well, can I go back to Kingdom Earth for a few days?” He asked with unrestrained anticipation.

    “Mmm”, Kartius nodded. “You are granted my premission”.

    “Thank you, Master!” Zax felt his body shaking in restlessness. The desires he left in a corner in his sea of consciousness started shivering as well. Although he was only given four days, he already had an idea of how to spend them to the fullest.

    “Hmph, impatient child”, Kartius snorted. “Come on, say goodbye and we will leave. I’ll accompany a portion of the way to Kingdom Earth. Us, Martial father and Martial son, have a few things to discuss together”.

    “Goodbye, Laivien, I’ll see you in four days”. Zax hastily said. He was not sure in which pace his Master will choose to accompany him, so he spoke fast to not waste a single second.

    Laivien first stared at Kartius with an anxious expression. She looked at him that way the moment he mentioned that he has something to talk about with Zax.

    Kartius slightly nudged his head and gave Laivien a meaningful look.

    Laivien closed her eyes. When she opened them again, her doe head was directed at Zax. “Little Zax, be sure to have some fun, and don’t be shy around that girl you like. If human girls are anything like female beasts, then you should radiate confidence and strong spirit at all times”. Laivien said. Lowering her head, she knocked Zax’s forehead and rubbed it with the soft white fur on her head.

    Laivien’s advice made Zax a little awkward, but her playful approach sooth his mind.

    “I’ll tell you how it went when I’ll get back”. Zax promised, before following his Master, through the valley, past the azure smoky mist.



    “Master, in your animalistic form you are too conspicuous”. Zax remarked after the two left Grandmaster Kartion’s cave.

    “Zax, despite your Martial father’s low cultivation, I’m not as powerless as others would think. Unless it’s an Advanced phase third level Core Master or above and at least a Zhìhuì type beast, let anyone who dare, come!” Kartius roared for the distance forces of his enemies to hear and see which one of them would feel courageous.

    It was a bold move, but Kartius had two reasons of acting like that. One was Zax’s remark, as if his Martial son thinks that he can see through his true strength just because he could tell his mist cultivation level and body fitness level.

    The other reason was actually a calculated one. The household’s enemies had only four experts that possessed the power to oppress Kartius. The chances for these experts to camp with the forces they sent to monitor the movement of the household were slim to none. If they dare to try, depending on their arrangement, with the three weakest of the four, their chances against his big brother would be seventy-thirty percent wining. But with his and Raroen’s support, the pendulum would balance. And if the strongest of the four experts would leave their tribe to join the other three… well, even if they will win, there would be nothing for them to return to.

    “Getting to Kingdom Earth won’t take us a lot of time Martial son, I said that I have something to talk with you about, so slow down for a bit”.

    Sighing inwardly, Zax complied with his Master. ‘I guess he would not have bothered to come if it wasn’t something important’. He resigned himself to the situation.

    “What is it, Master?”

    “Zax”, Kartius tone was onerous. “In the past month things did not go well for our household. Since you became a member of the household and cleared up the first task in your training regimen, if later you may take part in a mission or confront, yet again, our enemies alone, you should know first the roots of the hatred the members of our household have with those wanting to destroy it”.

    ‘Is Master finally going to tell me what happened in the past that restricted everyone to only two caves?’ Zax wondered.

    “Listen carefully, Martial son”, Kartius demanded. “Last I told you that I, big brother and little sister were of the same tribe. Moreover, big brother at the beginning was our Master, but that’s not even the start of everything, merely little sister and mine first encounter with big brother”.

    Kartius’s countenance turned blank for a moment, and then grew solemn. “In the Black Horns tribe there is a hierarchy that has been distinguished according to the fur’s color of the tribe’s members. Generally speaking, the fur color is also the indication of the beast’s type in the Black Horns tribe, which helps to identify valuable tribe members before they start cultivating. Black and white fur, the rarest colors of all among the Stag and Doe beasts – the dominant species in the Black Horns tribe – were the signature of a Chaoyue type. Stags or does with gray, silver or red fur were always born as Zhìhuì type beast. And brown fur… regardless of the species in the Black Horns tribe, were always born as Shenghuo type beast”.

    “Master”, startled, Zax said. “Are you saying that Grandmaster is of the weakest type of beast?!” It sounded farfetched to even ask. After constantly hearing his Master praise Grandmaster Kartion and after meeting him, the last impression Zax got from him was of someone who was inferior. It was much more to the opposite; Grandmaster Kartius had a lofty, one of a kind glow.

    “Martial son, that indeed what many thought, for a long time, until big brother started cultivating. As a Brown Stag no one even noticed big brother before he reach the Core Breaker level. Shenghuo type beasts in the Core Breaker level continue to cultivate in their human form, since in doing so the path of cultivation becomes even wider for them. Big brother attracted the attention of elders and seniors. He trained in his animalistic form, yet was still gaining insights and breakthrough quite fast and in spars was no weaker than Zhìhuì and even the few Chaoyue he had the opportunity to challenge!“

    “Martial son, you can’t imagine the reaction of a tribe when the weakest type of beast it has beat the strongest type when they both have equal level of cultivation. Honestly, I have not been born, at the time, but knowing the temperament of the elders…” Kartius sighed. If he could go back in time, he would really want to see the faces of the elders and everyone convulse in disbelief.

    “The elders and tribe leaders were not fools. They easily could tell that the impossible has happened. That a brown fur Chaoyue beast was born and one with extreme talents on the Martial path”.

    “This should be a reason for celebration”. Zax commented with a big smile. Grandmaster Kartion’s past was without a doubt, an exhilarating story.

    “The birth of a Chaoyue type beast in a tribe is indeed a wonderful reason for celebration. However, big brother was an anomaly that undermined the already set hierarchy. For a Brown Stage to suddenly surpass in statue the gray, silver and red stags and does, which of them was willing to accept? In the Black Horns tribe, only those with black and white fur the privilege to look down on everyone as Chaoyue beasts. There was never a gray, silver or red fur Chaoyue. If a brown fur stage or doe will be put on the same level as black and white fur stags and does, they could oppress the gray, silver and red stags and does for treating those with brown fur poorly. You understand, Martial son, while for some big brother was nothing less than a cause for celebration, for others with a higher position he was an unacceptable threat”.

    “In the Black Horns tribe Grandmaster’s existence was received with controversies”. Zax said in a low and pensive voice, the bright smile was no longer visible.

    “And the one who sought to eliminate big brother the most, was none other than the tribe second leader. Back then an Advanced phase third level Core Master, a Red Stag, referred to in the Black Horns tribe as ‘Lord Kardelion’. As a Zhìhuì type beast, Kardelion resented big brother for trampling his place in the tribe’s hierarchy and wanted to kill him with the excuse that his existence will destroy the social convention the tribe was built upon. He claimed that the brown furs, the majority of the tribe yet the weakest faction, will forget their place and revolt. Kardelion came with these accusations to the first tribe leader, at the time an Advanced phase second level Core Master, a Black Stag, Lord Karns. Your Master’s father, Martial son”.

    “Master and Laivien…!” Zax almost missed a step and fell on his face while traversing the wild vista of Valgarel with his Master.

    Kartius did not respond to Zax’s reaction and continue with a frown. “Karns was also not fond with the appearance of a brown fur Chaoyue type beast in the tribe. Where the source of Kardelion’s animosity was the fear of being surpassed by someone lower than him, Karns’s traditional zealotry was not willing to accept someone who might shake the tribe’s foundations. That being said, while Kardelion wanted to just kill and forget big brother, Karns was a little bit moved by big brother Martial talent and brilliance, which aroused disagreement between the two leaders. Eventually, since they were both equal in terms of battle power, the two reached a compromise”.

    “Summoning big brother, who was detained a short while after being discovered as a Brown Stage Chaoyue type beast, Karns and Kardelion offered him two choices. One was, naturally, death. The second was to invest himself in using his talents to improve the tribe’s cultivation techniques, in addition to always being have to to maintain his cultivation a full realm below the two leaders”. Kartius looked at his Martial son and for an instance Zax could see a glimpse of shame on his face for being related to one of the two leaders. “The despicable duo forced big brother into a corner. As a Core Breaker Mist User he could not even think of retaliating against the two. He accepted the second choice”.

    “Big brother remained in Karns’s residence in the tribe and under relentless watch raised his cultivation slowly, while trying to improve the tribe’s cultivation techniques. That was big brother daily routine for nearly three decades until little sister and I were born”.

  8. #108
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    Book 5 – Horns

    Chapter 12 – The Origin Of The Hatred - Part Two



    “So Grandmaster had this kind of past… As a prisoner of the Black Horns tribe’s two leaders…” Zax said in a sober tone. His gaze was directed forward, confronted with the wild vista of Valgarel, which generally was to his liking, but in this moment, as his eyes gauged the path ahead, his face wore a cold expression.

    “I’ve told you about it already. To both of us, since childhood, big brother was a figure of undisputed significance! From being our Master, our bond grew and transformed. Kartion to little sister became a spouse, and to me became a big brother”.

    “What I did not mention was that a bit earlier before little sister and big brother confessed their feeling, big brother’s name had already risen to prominence as a genius talent. Knowing that big brother was part of the Black Horns tribe, many came, seeking his teachings, but only two had the capacity to ask for them. Among these two, one, who was the first leader of the Silverhorned tribe, Raroken, sent his youngest son, his sole Chaoyue offspring, to the Black Horns tribe to be admitted as big brother’s apprentice. Naturally, since this being a good opportunity for the Black Horns tribe, Kardelion and Karns happily accepted”.

    “Of the three strongest tribes in Valgarel, His Valor Ozeyn is the leader of the number one tribe. The Black Horns tribe always occupied the second place, but after the two leaders of the Silverhorned tribe reached the Core Master realm, it did not take them long to bring the power of their tribe to the same level as the Black Horns tribe“.

    “Kardelion and Karns wanted to deepen the relationship of the tribe with the Silverhorned tribe, and so agreed to provide accommodation for the youngest son of Raroken. As for this youngest son, he was, and is, your Martial brother, Raroen”.

    Kartius did not give Zax a chance to react. Narrating about how Raroen became Grandmaster Kartion’s apprentice was only to lay the foundation to the story ahead.

    Kartius continued with the same breath he said Raroen’s name. “Then, a short time after accepting Martial nephew Raroen, big brother and little sister appealed for Karns to allowed to be together”. Now Kartius loosen his consecutive speech as a baleful shimmer flickered in his eyes.

    Zax sensed the split second of killing intent his Master emanated and his face turned serious. It was not because the terror the killing intent contained scared him, but the thought of what happened in the next part of the story, that aroused such animosity in his Master’s heart.

    “Regardless of big brother also being a Chaoyue type beast, Karns’s obstinacy and rigid traditional zealotry could not accept a Brown Stag as his daughter spouse. In addition, other than me and Karns, the tribe had another Black Stag, which Karns already favored and groomed to be little sister’s spouse”.

    “You can’t imagine big brother reaction after being refused by Karns. Big brother was practically the slave of the Black Horns tribe for close to a century. The time he did not spend instructing me and little sister he mostly used to study the tribe’s cultivation techniques and improve them. As for improving his own cultivation, big brother barely had any time, yet the fact that he did position him as the unrivaled genius cultivator of the tribe. Despite his accomplishments and aptitude for the Martial path, he was constantly being restricted by Kardelion and Karns”.

    “Waiting for little sister and big brother outside of Karns’s residence, I was only able to hear the conversation inside. The moment Karns denied big brother’s and little sister’s mutual affection, big brother could not restrain himself and uttered a curse. Karns, in response, decided to punish big brother for his supposed impudence. At the time, due to big brother’s contribution he was allowed to cultivate to the first level of the Core Master realm, Karns, on the other hand, was in the Intermediate phase of the third level. The disparity between the two was too vast. With his upper hand, Karns struck big brother a deadly blow, nearly killing him and then threw him into the tribe’s imprisonment chambers”.

    Kartius averted his eyes to Zax and his voice turned aggrieved. “Martial son, the mental shock little sister had to suffer from our own father’s actions… for that alone our household won’t stand to exist in the same world as Karns”. He said and continued mockingly. “Karns and Kardelion thought that they had big brother under their finger, that every bit of his doing did not miss their prying eyes. Little did they know that while helping me and little sister cultivate to the second realm in his steps, big brother developed the initial gates of the Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement”.

    “To hide his bodily cultivation, big brother only trained each gate in accordance to the fitness level his mist energy already refined his body to. Big brother, when taking Karns’s attack was a first level Core Master, his mist energy naturally refined his body to the Core Breaker level. That being said, as a practitioner of the Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement, you should already know that the refinement process a bodily refinement technique is far more potent than the refinement process of a breakthrough in mist energy”.

    “While big brother was heavily injured from Karns’s blow, and his appearance was wretched, his body’s ability to endure was beyond Karns’s expectations, which made it easy for big brother to execute his revenge”.

    “Revenge?!” Zax ears perked and his eyes suddenly had a strange, puckish shine.

    Till now he mostly heard of how Grandmaster Kartion was mistreated for something that was not his fault, nor was a bad thing. He felt disdain toward the two leaders of the Black Horns tribe and their system of hierarchy. It actually aroused old memories of his, when Serah’s mother, Jinka Lova, took him, Serah, Anet and Dane to the Young Mist Users Conference, where he had a bad encounter with the people of the Martinez family, who confidently threatened and wanted to kill him just because of their higher social class.

    A story about an underdog who was ready to bite back… this kind of stories brought a thrill to Zax’s heart.

    Kartius restrained his sneer. “Underestimate once big brother and you will pay a hefty price. For a regular first level Core Master, the wounds Karns inflicted on big brother should have taken about three months to heal. Therefore, when he imprisoned big brother, Karns stationed only two first level Core Master guards at the entrance to the imprisonment chamber, so neither I nor little sister or Raroen will be able to help him. At most, I and Raroen were allowed to visit big brother for a short amount of time, while little sister was forbade from seeing him at all. Nevertheless, as things were arranged by Karns to obstruct me as much as possible from supporting big brother and little sister, seeing big brother was more than sufficient to execute an escape plan”.

    “In on the plan were only I, big brother and little sister’s closest maidservant. Raroen was but a child, back then, big brother and I knew that if we’ll involve him, best case scenario his tribe will reprimand him while trying to repair the damage he caused by helping the Black Horns tribe catch us. Worst case scenario, which made us completely reluctance to risk involving Raroen, was the chance that he would get caught. If that were to happen, Karns and Kardelion could have used him as leverage to maneuver Raroken to do their bidding, while upholding some kind pretense to avoid releasing Raroen”.

    “Then how did you proceed?” Zax asked eager to find out.

    “We waited for the natural course of things to happen. When Raroen informed his father, on his own occurred, that his training has been halted because big brother was imprisoned, Raroken got angered at Karns and Kardelion for impeding his son cultivation. In but a few days the, Raroken came to sort out why his most gifted son has to suffer the backlash of Karns’s dispute with big brother. The day of his arrival was the execution day of big brother’s plan”.

    “While Karns and Kardelion hosted a welcoming banquet for Raroken, an expert of their caliber, my duty was to wait for little sister to follow her maidservant to a predetermined spot in the tribe’s Ember Gardens, a place in the tribe only the tribe’s leaders, elders and their second and third generations are allowed to enter. Of course, being with little sister, the maidservant was no obstructed by the Ember Gardens’ guards”.

    “As I was waiting for the two, big brother commenced his part of the plan. From wounds that should have taken several months to heal, big brother mostly recuperated in the couple of days it took Raroken to arrive. Being a Chaoyue type beast and having a similar cultivation level as the two guards outside the chamber he was in, big brother was supposed to dispatch the two and meet up with me, little sister and her maidservant and together seek asylum under His Valor Ozeyn”. After speaking, Kartius heaved a long sigh.

    “Even from me and little sister big brother managed to conceal the vastness of the malice he nurtured in his heart toward Karns and Kardelion… When he escaped, he targeted one of the two most precious treasures of the Black Horns tribe, which was kept in Karns’s residence, the violet stone you trained with for the past month in little sister’s valley”.

    Hearing the mentioning of the violet stone, Zax’s eyes widened. ‘One of the two most precious treasures…?’ He knew firsthand how amazing the violet stone is, but to such degree…

    “Hundreds of years ago, Karns found the violet stone at the entrance to the second Savage Cave. With the help of the violet stone, he could keep up with the cultivation speed of Zhihui type beasts. In many internal events of the tribe, the first place contestant was, more than half the times, offered the option to receive a training session with the violet stone. For such a rare opportunity, even outsiders entreat Karns and Kardelion for the permission to take part in the tribe’s events”.

    “This unique treasure, which Karns held dear to his heart, when Raroken came and indirectly played a part in big brother’s ploy, for big brother this was the perfect moment to almost unhindered make Karns pay.”

    “Big brother lived in Karns’s residence for nearly a century. Not only did he know where Karns hid the violet stone, he also knew how many guards protected it and their level of cultivation. Four Beginner phase second level Core Master, three of which were Shenghuo type beasts. Against a surprise assault from big brother, they did not have a chance”.

    “After grabbing the violet stone, big brother met with the three of us and by the time Karns and Kardelion heard of our escape, we already were in the private territory of His Valor Ozeyn’s tribe, the Red Rose Beaks tribe”.

  9. #109
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    Book 5 – Horns

    Chapter 13 - The Origin Of The Hatred - Part Three



    “The unrivaled tribe in Valgarel, since beasts and humans settled in New Earth, has always been the Red Rose Beaks tribe”. Kartius explained to Zax. “When the four of us escaped, the only one who could protect us from Karns’s and Kardelion’s rage was the strongest beast in New Earth, His Valor Ozeyn, the sole Chaoyue Demonic Scarlet Crane in New Earth and the leader of the Red Rose Beaks tribe”.

    “Martial son, since most of the tribe members in the Red Rose Beaks tribe are bird type beasts, the locality of the tribe is spread across a chain of caves with many large mountain ranges. When we arrived to the territory of the Red Rose Beaks tribe, Big brother did not have the means to meet His Valor Ozeyn, therefore, when we reached to the Cave Of Long Beaks, the core cave of the Red Rose Beaks tribe, I, little sister and her maidservant stayed in hiding as big brother burst his way through to His Valor Ozeyn’s Blue Mountain”.

    “Big brother’s conduct did not intend to hurt anyone, only to attract His Valor Ozeyn’s attention. When few of the Red Rose Beak tribe’s elders descended to arrest big brother, he did not fight back and was willingly detained”.

    “Luckily, the length of big brother’s detention was short enough for him to plea to see his His Valor Ozeyn over an important issue, before Karns’s and Kardelion’s associates in the Red Rose Beaks tribe could inform them about big brother’s whereabouts”.

    Kartius glanced at Zax. “Things that happened afterwards are the nucleus of our household’s enmity with the Black Horns tribe and those that helping it”.

    “The four of us found safe haven in the Red Rose Beaks tribe, after big brother demonstrated before His Valor Ozeyn the supremacy of the initial stages of what you know today as the ‘Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement’, the two made an agreement. His Valor Ozeyn’s part of the deal, in fascinated admiration toward big brother’s bodily regiment technique, was to accept us four to his tribe as honorary guests, while big brother’s part of the deal was to share is technique with His Valor Ozeyn. As long as big brother could develop the Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement further, His Valor Ozeyn let us stay”.

    Kartius gave the impression of suddenly wanting to sneer at the next part of the story, but insisted, the muscles on his face twisted and it took couple of seconds before he could calm down and continue narrating.

    “Unable to refute His Valor Ozeyn’s decision, knowing that they could not under any circumstances offend and arouse his wrath, Karns’s and Kardelion’s state of mind was near madness from anger. Still… the peace we acquired in the Red Rose Beaks tribe was short lived”.

    “As honorary guests of His Valor Ozeyn, it wasn’t dangerous anymore for big brother to resume his ‘Master apprentice’ relationship with Raroen, and Raroken himself did not mind where his favored son would receive his proper training. I and little sister, however, severed our ‘Master apprentice’ relationship with big brother. Other than our new familial bond, the reason we stopped training under the guidance of big brother… For me it was the decision to halt my mist cultivation to start cultivating my body following the principles of the Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement, which back then did not require profound teachings, only short instruction. Little sister, in contrast, chose to indulge herself in the violet stone, since only she could reap the most benefits from it and big brother was not proficient with its uses at the time”.

    “Like that couple of decades passed. Big brother’s diligence studies would, every five to nine years, help him attain new small insight for the Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement, and his agreement with His Valor Ozeyn sustained. Then, after forty seven years in the Red Rose Beaks tribe, little sister got pregnant…” Kartius’s stomps penetrated deeper into the ground. “News of her pregnancy somewhat made their ways to Karns’s ears, despite big brother efforts to shush them”.

    “Over the years, Karns’s bigotry and discrimination only intensified due to what happened with big brother. Karns could not accept his daughter birthing the child of a Brown Stag, moreover, the one who stole his violet stone, which no matter how much he wanted he could not get back so long that we stayed in the Red Rose Beaks tribe. Thus, Karns’s insanity went out of bounds… Rather than a daughter with the child of a Brown Stage in her womb, he preferred a dead daughter… Karns sent assassins to kill little sister!”

    BOOM!

    Recalling what his father did, Kartius furiously stomped and a few hundred meters long and tens of meters deep fissure split the ground. If the two were followed by some of the household’s enemies, after this raging performance, Zax was certain that no one will bother them until they will get to their destination, Kingdom Earth. Furthermore, although Zax knew that this is a story of a past and Laivien is safe and sound in right now, he too experienced a spike in his killing intent.

    Zax’s number of interactions with Laivien was small, but the two had been in the company of each other for a long time. In his Martial household, the impression and warmth he received from Laivien was somewhere between a Martial mother to a Martial aunt. If someone dare threaten her, he or she will be panelized with the same fate as the Derneldar family.

    “Even today there are no incriminating evidences that Karns was the perpetrator who organized little sister’s assassination, but other than him, who could? No other tribe except the Silverhorned tribe and the Black Horns tribe had the resources for a small scale infiltration into the Red Rose Beaks tribe. The Silverhorned tribe’s first leader, Raroken, was content with big brother for Raroen’s improvement. And of the two leaders of the Black Horns tribe, Kardelion, regardless of how much hate he had for big brother, would not dare to go after my or little sister’s life without Karns’s consent. Besides, Kardelion was aware that the vindictiveness in Karns’s heart was far more potent than his. Sooner or later, Karns was bound to retaliate. There was no need for Kardelion to go through the trouble in addition to risk angering His Valor Ozeyn”.

    Kartius explained his hypothesis.

    “Karns used his associates in the Red Rose Beaks tribe to help two second level Core Masters human assassins to secretly enter the Cave Of Long Beaks and locate little sister”.

    “Little sister is alive, that you obviously know, Martial son”, reaching to this point after nonstop talking over an exasperating story of the past, Kartius’s voice became awfully hoarse. “When the two assassins attacked, little sister’s maidservant, a Peak phase first level Core Master, a Shenghuo Brown Doe, was by her side. At the nick of time she changed to her animalistic form, taking the two attacks that were intended for little sister and dying”.

    A strange gleam reflected in Kartiius’s eyes. When Zax saw it, his heart felt heavy almost taking his breath away.

    ‘Did Master and Laivien’s maidservant were…’

    Wondering only in this moment about the manner in which Kartius kept referring to Laivien’s maidservant, not calling someone who was part of their small group of four by her name… It dawned on Zax just now that perhaps his Master had a personal relationship with Laivien’s maidservant, and due to her death it was difficult for him to say her name.

    ‘Master…’ Zax wished to comfort Kartius, but the events he mentioned were not something that, for good or bad, could be reason with words. Furthermore, Zax, too, had someone he loved. Even before he realized his feelings for her, Anet, were someone tried to hurt her, no words would be enough to sooth his anger…

    “Little sister’s maidservant sacrificed herself, and the noise she made brought what happened to the attention of those outside of little sister’s room, including His Valor Ozeyn and big brother. His Valor Ozeyn got their first and killed the two human assassins, but the short span of time it took him to arrive enabled one of the assassins to release a last attack at little sister. This attack… it wasn’t enough to take little sister’s life, but it hit her in the abdomen and damaged the embryo and”.

    “That day, I and big brother were seething in tremendous rage. Little sister’s maidservant died, the embryo was hurt and little sister resorted to sustain it with her cultivation base… a pregnancy of two short years is now delayed by nearly a hundred years!” Kartius bellowed.

    “Martial son, the words I used are for this moment only and in our household they are taboo from saying outloud. If little sister or big brother wishes to unburden, they alone can repeat what I told you”. Kartius clarified after a slight moment of calming down.

    “Yes, Master”. Zax understood well his Master and in a short reply assented.

    “Good”. Kartius nodded. “There is not much left to tell”, he continued. “Unable to restrain our rage, I and big brother sought Karns’s life. Over the forty seven years, big brother reached the Intermediate phase of the second level in the Core Master realm and I was not far behind him, in the Peak phase of the first level in the Core Master realm. Generally, it was not enough for even both of us together to challenge either Karns or Kardelion, but mist cultivation was not our main aim. Training mostly in the Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement, back then big brother completed the sixth gate and I broke through the fifth. With the support of the tempering our body received, in addition to our mist energy, we had the strength to contest against Karns”.

    “We left little sister in His Valor Ozeyn’s care and rushed back to the Black Horns tribe without informing anyone about our intentions. Inside the tribe’s territory we moved stealthy. Kardelion’s residence was five caves away from Karns’s and we did not want him to learn about our arrival until after we got sufficient time to critically wound Karns”.

    “Our battle with Karns was rigorous. Only due to the fact that he was not aware of our bodily cultivation and the benefit we got from it, we were able to barely match him. Eventually, Karns’s guards made it to Kardelion and our attempt at Karns’s life met its demise. I and big brother could barely match Karns, him and Kardelion at the same time… The tables turned it was I and big brother that were about to die”.

    “Seeing that we cannot even escape, big brother made a sudden choice. Ordering me to run, he did not even give me the time to respond. Big brother destroyed his dantian, discharging all of his mist energy from his body and detonated it”.

    “If not from Karns and Kardelion, then from the sphere of destruction I had to escape in order to keep my life. Big brother, on the other hand, well… you know that he is alive, but his mist cultivation base was utterly ruined to the point that even the recovery capability of his accomplishment in the Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement could not rebuild his dantian. Martial son, compared to you, big brother is truly crippled as a mist cultivator. Nevertheless, he is also one of the strongest figures in New Earth”.

    The last two sentences came out from Kartius’s stag mouth with a lot of meaning and the sense that for a long time he waited for the proper moment to share them with his Martial son.

    As Kartius anticipated, a dumbfounded expression was plastered all over Zax’s face. This long overdue revelation struck and shook his sea of consciousness worse than any soul attack he ever experienced.

    “Grandmaster can’t cultivate mist energy!” Each word echoed in booming sound in Zax mind before leaving his mouth.

    “Regrettably”. Kartius nodded. “His only hope is that once he will reach the third realm in his bodily cultivation, with a bit of luck, he will be able to reform his mist channels and a new dantian”.

    “What level of bodily cultivation Grandmaster is currently at?” Zax asked curiously.

    Kartius thought a bit before answering. “The Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement is the method to cultivate the body from the first to the second realm. Big brother used the same requirement of cultivating mist energy in the second realm as the base of the next step after the Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement. Right now big brother completed the first level of cultivating the body in the second realm and is working on the establishment of the second level. All things considered, you can say that big brother’s bodily cultivation is at the second realm, in the Peak phase of the first level. Big brother’s soul already exceeded the second realm and crossed to the third realm”.

    “Master, are there really no other steps after the first level?” Zax was stupefied. If Grandmaster Kartion was still developing the technique to cultivate the body in the second realm, then if ever catch up to him he will reach a deadlock on his Martial path.

    “Since big brother no longer can practice formation with his mist energy, he has to relay on his soul energy to experiment. Initially, I used to help him whenever he had new insight. When he reached the third realm with his soul, he decided to create a new kind of formation to lay upon the principals and refinement method of his new technique. If it will all work out as he plans, than the complete bodily refinement technique he is creating for the second realm, will be a hundredfold better than what can be created with the basis of a mist formation like in the Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement!”

    “Oh…” Zax gasped in veneration. To refer to Grandmaster Kartion as “genius” was nothing but understatement! ‘In comparison to Grandmaster, what worth my accomplishments have? Other than my soul, everything is thanks to the Black Core and the teaching of others. Grandmaster alone achieved every step that I ever took!’ Zax criticized himself, feeling a bit of shame.

    “Awe inspiring indeed”, Kartius commented after Zax gasped. “It’s only bad that creating a whole technique of the second realm is excessively difficult. According to big brother, it will take decades for him to start working on the third level of the second realm, and about a century or two to cultivate it”.

    “That long?” The long span of time caught Zax unprepared. His training speed, which frightened many, was a small matter to his since he never knew otherwise. To suddenly stretch it by such a long time… his only option to keep training will be to primarily return to soul training.

    Kartius did not answer. He knew exactly what went on his Martial son’s head. Anyone who knew Zax and spectated at his fast cultivation will be able to read the current thoughts in his mind.

    “Don’t bother thinking about it. Concentrate on your present training regimen. Now, let me continue and tell you what happened after big brother detonated his mist energy”. Kartius said sternly, forcing Zax to comply.

    “As I fled, my mind was under an immense turmoil. I thought that big brother died. I did not know that he externally detonated his mist energy, it should not have mattered anyway, but thanks to the level he reached in the Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement he actually survived. Unable to think straight, I wanted to punish Kardelion for interfering in our fight with Karns. So while Kardelion and Karns retreated to one direction from the explosion, I went the Kardelion’s residence, targeting the second most precious treasure of the Black Horns tribe that was in his possession, the blue tower”.

    “Grandmaster’s blue tower?” Zax asked with light in his eyes. It made him quite happy to know that his Master, much like him, is daring.

    “I slaughtered my way to where the blue tower was located. The blue tower, like the violet stone, possesses several functions. One of which is the ability to fold itself into one blue brick, the size of my palm in my humanoid form. The problem is that it takes a long time to fold it completely. I did not take this time into account and had to fend the guards and elders in Kardelion’s residence while folding the blue tower. Still, I did manage to get a lucky break when all I had to face were a few of the tribe’s elders, and guards and not Kardelion himself. As it so happened, it was His Valor Ozeyn who held up Kardelion and Karns. He learned too late that I and big brother left to confront Karns and arrived after big brother detonated his mist energy”.

    “As he made it to the scene of the explosion, His Valor Ozeyn found big brother in a terrible shape. Preventing Kardelion and Karns from finishing big brother, he questioned them about the two assassins and left shortly after hearing their responses”.

    “Later I, too, left Kardelion’s residence. Though I was badly wounded, I stole the blue tower and headed to the Red Rose Beaks tribe”.

    “After big brother fully healed, assessed his condition and heard from little sister about the condition of the embryo, he asked from His Valor Ozeyn a place, a cave for our household and no one else. His Valor Ozeyn agreed and gave big brother the cave of the Krikitory tribe at the outskirt of Valgarel’s outer territory. The reason big brother wanted a private cave was due to the fact that within the territory of the Red Rose Beaks tribe, it would have been problematic for His Valor Ozeyn to restrict complete entry just to avoid future depraved occurrences like the recent one with the assassins”.

    “Providing our household with a cave would have been much simpler. Using his emissaries, His Valor Ozeyn informed all the powers in New Earth about the restrictions on big brother’s cave. He gave everyone one ultimatum for big brother to have a peace of mind, ‘One enter without permission, all will die’. The interpretation of the meaning of his words was easy to understand. Kardelion and Karns, even with their two most precious treasures lost, yet again, could do nothing”.

    “Afterwards, Raroen joined me, big brother and little sister. Since His Valor Ozeyn could not stay on guard beside big brother, he did not bother threatening others from assaulting us outside the cave. Consequently, Kardelion and Karns allied with other tribes in Valgarel, putting a price on our heads. Big brother did not idly sit around, either. The weaker tribes in the inner territory of Valgarel are always in a state of war and sometimes the tribes in the outer territory are also affected. After a thorough examination, Big brother recruited his apprentices from various diminishing tribes, gathering those he could trust and has common denominator with”.

    “Sometime later, big brother found Martial niece Zetsa. Then, you joined our household. And here we are today, Martial son”. Kartius met Zax with his eyes, as a father looks at his only son.

    The past had him go through lots of pain, yet somehow in the present he found contentment.

  10. #110
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    Book 5 – Horns

    Chapter 14 – A Legit Formation



    “This is the past of our household, the reason for our seclusion and the source of our conflict”. Kartius said to Zax.

    Zax nodded his head as a sign that he understood everything. The past of his Master and elders in the household, the great power of their enemies and the gravity of the position he placed himself when he joined the household.

    “Recently, Martial son, the condition of our household met a looming calamity. In the next step of big brother’s bodily refinement technique there is an extremely strict prerequisite. To bypass this prerequisite one needs resources that have yet to appear in New Earth”.

    “When big brother last talked with His Valor Ozeyn, he secretly learned that His Valor Ozeyn has missed the chance to meet the requirement of the prerequisite. Big brother could not reveal it to His Valor Ozeyn, and had to assure him that the development of the second level of the bodily refinement technique proceeding well. The problem is that currently, His Valor Ozeyn already broke through the seventh gate of the Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement. If he to discover that big brother finished the first level of cultivation in the second realm and he cannot practice it, His Valor Ozeyn might reexamine the value of his agreement with big brother in comparison to improving the relations of the Red Rose Beaks tribe with the Black Horns tribe”. Kartius said in an aggrieved tone.

    Hearing that the future of the household might not by that much brighter than its past, Zax carefully inquired. “Can’t Grandmaster find another method for His Valor Ozeyn to cultivate the body in the second realm?”

    “Of course big brother can”, Kartius replied confidently. “But according to him, eliminating the smallest property of his new technique will lower its quality considerably. If he offered a useless technique to His Valor Ozeyn, won’t His Valor Ozeyn be offended?” Asking a rhetorical question, Kartius did not wait for Zax to answer. “Since big brother cannot predict out His Valor Ozeyn will react when he will find that he cannot cultivate the following technique of the Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement, big brother decided for us to bring an end to the war between the household and the Black Horns tribe”.

    “After annihilating core groups of cultivators of the household’s enemies, the Black Horns tribe and his alias raised their vigilance and added some of their better expert among the groups stationed in the caves surrounding big brother’s cave. As protective measures, big brother ordered everyone in the household, other than me, Raroen and Hagen, to travel in pairs when leaving his cave for any reason. That is partly why I came along with you”. Kartius confessed.

    Zax raised an eyebrow. “Then Master, four days from now… are you planning to come pick me up?” He asked half amusingly. Zax thought his Master was content with letting him travel Valgarel on his own. Apparently, even if he was, Grandmaster Kartion was not.

    Kartius nodded, restraining a chuckle. “I figured you intend to stay in Kingdom Earth for the maximum length of time I permitted you… Four days from now, either I or your eldest Martial brother or sister will come to accompany you back to big brother’s cave”.

    “Mm…” Zax hummed. In his opinion, he did not need minders to walk with him in the outer territory of Valgarel. As long as he will not encounter a third level Core Master or a second level Chaoyue second realm expert, he believed the he could outrun anyone.

    “Then when will Grandmaster, trust my abilities to travel alone?”

    “Well, considering the enhancement of the Black Core to the Seven Stages Of Bodily Refinement… as I told you in the past, once you’ll break through the sixth gate, you would be free to roam Valgarel freely”. Kartius said expectantly.

    “Until then…” Zax thought about how long it would take him to break through the sixth gate, which was not even a part of his present training regimen, and could not help but be a little down.

    “Until then”, Kartius continued in his place. “There is another smaller matter I have yet to talk with you about”.

    “Ah, what is it, Master?”

    For a short breath, Kartius was a tad hesitant to get into the last topic on his mind. “Your ordeal that involved the support of Eden Formation”, he said, surprising Zax with the sudden mentioning of the best Martial school in El-Eden. “It is still too early to get into this subject, and I don’t want it to get into you head before everything is settled”.

    Kartius realized the he sound obscure and that he only confuses Zax. He halted his steps and the two of them stops, now, not so far from the boundary between to species next to cave twenty five.

    “Martial son, an envoy from Eden Formation and the Dauch family came to big brother’s cave couple of weeks ago. The matter he and big brother discussed is of no importance to you; just know that our household and the powers behind your human school are in good relations”. Kartius concluded without explaining explicitly.

    Zax was lost of words. ‘Why would they involve themselves with our household? Could it be…?’ As he wondered, Kartius’s humanoid hand ruffled his hair.

    “We are not far from your first home, Martial son, spend your time productively and return to your second home gratified”. Kartius’s hand tilted Zax’s head to look at him as he spoke.

    “Yes, Master”. Although it was not a command, Zax still answered decisively.

    “Good”. Kartius said, pleased, and left.



    As Zax continued on his own to cave twenty five, the lack of company had him circling in his head a few matters. The entire story of his Master he learned about in their fleeting journey together, what he should do first upon arriving to Kingdom Earth and how, in the name of the Supreme Rulers, Don Ram managed to get to Grandmaster Kartion?!

    A while later, the tunnel to cave twenty five was at sight and Zax subdued the thoughts regarding the household’s dire situation and sighed in capitulation against the resourcefulness and tenacity of Don Ram. Taking his Master’s advice, he chose to concentrate on the four days he had to spend in Kingdom Earth and dashed toward his long awaited destination.

    Looking up at the ceiling of cave twenty five, the Sun Stones up above were shining as ever and though Zax did not have a watch, he sensed that he had arrived at around midday.

    Unleashing his Soul Sense, with the current level of his unique soul, the span of Zax’s Soul Sense was close to five kilometers to every direction from him as the focal point.

    Zax released his Soul Sense to locate his parents in cave twenty five, given that in this hour of the day, both of them should have been at work. The reason he bothered to check, despite knowing their schedule, was because he was not sure how long his mother maternity leave was. If she was still staying at home with his baby sister or back at work, while leaving Liz at his grandparents to babysit.

    When his Soul Sense located his mother and baby sister at home, Zax looked ahead with anticipation and rushed home.



    Knocking gently on the door, Zax did not want to scare his mother by bursting in without her expecting him.

    “Zax!” Laylen saw through the eyehole and opened the door with sheer delight.

    “Mom…” Having her jumping and hugging him with an increasing tightness, Zax momentarily was alarmed of the flood of emotions streaming from his mother’s eyes. Other than soothing Laylen with a soft softly by calling her in the title that only she, in the whole world, was eligible to, Zax did nothing but returning the hug and waiting for his mother to calm down.

    A minute gone by before Laylen released Zax, but her heart was still beating fast with no signs of slowing.

    “Sorry… for coming and going without spending any time with you”. Zax said apologetically both to his baby sister, when he picked her from her crib in the living room, and his mother who stood and watch by the side.

    “You don’t need to apologize, Zex”, Laylen said with a dim smile. “Your father and I learned to get use to this kind of life style for our children since your big sister, Zetsa, met her Mor and began to stride after him on the path of cultivation”.

    Zax believed his mother and knew that she was not trying to comfort him. Then again, even though she spoke honestly, there was still a hint of displeasure in her voice.

    Zax did not want to make it difficult for his mother. He said nothing further and sat down on the living room’s couch, with Liz still in his arms.

    ‘I haven’t seen her for only a month, and this is the second time I get to hold her, as well…’ Zax felt dejection pinching at his heart.

    His baby sister was just a little over a month old. There should not have been a lot of changes to her, but from barely seeing her since she was born, with the keen senses he developed from cultivating his body, Zax found a different baby girl resting in his hands.

    ‘She is so little and there is a long future ahead of both of us, but right now… can I still be considered her big brother?’ It was not easy for Zax say this words outloud for his mother to also hear. He held back his tongue and caressed Liz’s red and tiny cheeks with his thumb as Laylen watched, silently, her son and daughter weaving their bond one thread at a time.

    “That’s right, Zax”, Laylen clapped her hands as she remembered something and went to the kitchen. “Lay Liz back in her crib and wait a moment”. From one of the drawers in the kitchen’s cabinet, she retrieved a sealed letter and got back to the living room.

    “This arrived last week”, she handed the letter to Zax with a brimming smile. “It was sent from Eden Formation with your name as the recipient. I and dad wanted to open it, but in the end decided to wait for you due to how important the sender is”.

    “Eden Formation”. Zax read from the envelope with a wryly smile on his face. He opened the letter as Laylen came closer next to him.

    Upon reading the content of the letter, Laylen failed to hold back an excited shrill. Fortunately, she covered her mouth with both hands on time, muffling the shrill so to not startle little Liz.

    Zax, in contrast to his mother, felt as if a tight leash was put around his neck and was there since he put the Eden Formation’s school uniforms a month ago.

    The content of the letter was short and to the point:

    “Dear Zax Zel,

    I am pleased to inform and congratulate you for being accepted to Eden Formation, the institute for higher learning and better preparation for the Martial path.

    Sincerely yours,

    Don Dauch,

    School principal of Eden Formation”.

    “Zax, when you last returned wearing this dark shades clothes, I didn’t recognize or pay attention to the symbol on them, but isn’t this the same pattern you wore last time on your clothes before leaving with your big sister?” Laylen pointed at the Eden Formation’s school symbol at the inside of the envelope.

    When Zax came home wearing clothes with the same elaborate pattern, neither she nor her husband, Marco, gave it much relevance. Besides, at the time, the two were awestruck and taken aback by the way Tularg handled Liz, to care for some set of new clothes their son happened to wear.

    “It was coincidental, mom”, Zax thought how he can explain coming back home with the school uniforms of the best Martial school in El-Eden.

    By how his mother behaved, Zax’s intuition told him that she did not know about the ordeal with Anet, the Dernalder family and his intervention, and that it would be for the best if he not lay it on her abruptly.

    “When I previously returned, I happened to visit Eden Formation and its school principal, Don Ram. Don Ram was impressed with my cultivation and treated me very well. By sending this letter, apparently she made me an official student of the school”. This much was enough for an explanation, Zax thought.

    In truth, he was not entirely clear on how Don Ram could decide to accept him without him never trying to enroll. But he did remember that his big sister spent some time with Don Ram when he was recuperating and his Master also said something vague about the household being in good relations with the school.

    ‘For now I’ll just go along. Who knows? Eden Formation pride itself in its formations. Maybe if I’ll check their library and look for some help from Don Ram or one of the teachers, I will be able to find a legit attack or defense formation that can be executed using soul energy?’

  11. #111
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    Book 5 – Horns

    Chapter 15 – Three Friends



    Zax sat with his mother and Liz for two hours, until his father came back home. At which point, his father’s reaction was slightly less emotive than his mother, but still very much caring.

    With his father, Zax sat for an hour longer, discussing the teaching of his Master, the progress of his cultivation and expounding about the members of his Martial household, though not getting into deep details. Keeping it all in a human’s simple perspective, yet still sounding bold and adventurous.

    Nevertheless, having experienced the same things with their daughter, although moved, Marco and Laylen still managed to digest all their son’s accounts.

    “Reuniting and rejuvenate the old friendships you had…” Marco repeated, after Zax told him and Laylen about his intention and worries of insufficient time to accomplish them.

    “Well, Zax, you have four days. Your friends might be spread across El-Eden, in their different schools, but with your level of cultivation you should be capable of moving around swiftly and freely. In two days you can see all your friends and in the remaining two, why don’t you go visit your grandparents? Better yet, it has been a long time since we had a family gathering. In this case, you can spend three days with your friends and in the fourth, meet everyone in the family in one go”.

    Marco tried to offer a way for Zax to spend his four days at home and has he kept going about what he could do, new ideas emerged in his head, which in turn made him unceasingly and excitedly throw new suggestion to the air.

    “Hon, don’t be restless”. Laylen laughed. It brought her great joy to see her husband enthusiastically converses with their son.

    The first time Marco saw Zax, after the three years training in Valgarel, was at the hospital, when Liz was born. Afterwards, when the family got home with Liz and Zax found himself busy dealing with the Dernalder family, up until he had to, yet again, go to Valgarel, both parents and child missed the small window they had together to properly assimilate the lost time.

    Now, however, after couple of hours with their son, not only Laylen and Marco were pleased in their hearts, but unknowingly to them, they also started to view Zax less as the child they remembered and more as they young man he became.

    “Zax”, Laylen turned to him, after Marco realized the similarities between his current behavior and his father’s rowdy one and awkwardly stopped talking. “Making a plan just to see people that are your friends sounds ridicules. To my understanding, Serah and Zushi should be at their homes. If you want to see them, simply go”. She said in a tone that both advised and admonished the inessential complexity he and his father treated with an ordinary, everyday matter.

    “Oh, that’s right, Zax, two days ago Serah did call and ask if you are still at home. It appeared that she talked with Anet, and Troel also told her that he saw you. She said that she stays at home for the whole week and asked that if you happen to return before she has to leave, come visit her at her home”. Marco recalled the conversation he had and how forcefully Serah made him promise to pass on her message to Zax, in case he would come home again.

    “Serah and Zushi…” Since the two were at home, Zax was happy the he might be able to see them at the same time. “Mom, dad, is it okay if I go out?” After the last time he stayed out for a single night, Zax got entangled with so many people and things that by the time everything was over he barely spent a moment in home and already had to leave. Feeling contrite toward his parents, this time, Zax made sure to get their consent before doing what he wants.

    “Of course you can”. Marco agreed without a hitch.

    “Mm…” Laylen, apparently, was a bit pensive before approving. Eventually she closed her eyes and nodded. “But be sure to return by morning, so we could eat breakfast together”. In an hour or so it would be dinner, yet Laylen agreed to give some leeway for Zax to spend his time with both his friends and her and Marco.

    “Thank you”. Zax happily said, getting up from the couch, eager to go see his friends.

    Opening the door, Zax heard a small cough behind his back and sensed that something was wrong.

    “You are not planning to go wearing these worn out clothes, do you?” Laylen asked with a strict tone.



    “Mocca Kart addict!”

    After thinking for a short while, Zax decided that there is not a better way to break the icy with his closest friend of the longest time, than calling her by her old and arrant nickname, from outside the apartment building she lived in.

    VRRUSH!

    The windows in the front of the building of a first floor apartment opened and slid hasty, seconds after Zax’s shout.

    “Hahaha, Earth’s Core Freak!” A curly head, combed to a black ponytail and tied to an elated young woman, barged above the meter tall guardrail of the living room porch and shouted youthfully back.

    Zax’s and Serah’s faces met each other for the first time in just above three years’ time, and neither of the two could hold back their eyes from getting moist, and the smile on their faces from stretching to the point of having facial muscles pain.

    “Catch me!” Serah shouted. Not waiting for an answer, she grabbed the guardrail and jumped, aiming to fall on either Zax’s head or in his hands.

    The moment he saw her, countless images of their childhood flashed inside Zax’s mind.

    Afraid? Embarrassed? Worried? Cautious?

    The ominous feelings that Zax initially had suddenly shattered into tiny, meaningless pieces, and then dust, before completely vanishing, the instant he saw Serah.

    His reaction bewildered even him, but Zax utterly did not care. He thought calling Serah by her nickname would work as a joke and help reconnect their friendship. Now he just felt stupid. Stupid and happy!

    ‘D level Mist User, Earth’s Core Holder’ was one of the thoughts that crossed Zax mind after seeing Serah, and before she gave him prior notice…

    Zax found out Serah’s level of cultivation seemingly at the same time she opened the windows. He used his Soul Sense for a split second during the time he waited for her to answer, in some way, to his juvenile call, only to make sure there was someone in the house.

    A E level Earth’s Core Holder? At that level, Serah could have jumped from the top floor of the three stories building without suffering too much.

    Still, her voice echoed in Zax’s ears like the command of a general or an order from his Master. He was so happy that if Serah was not descending toward him, arms spread to the sides; he would have been the one yelling for her to be careful before utilizing Kinetic Force in his feet and explosively jumping to greet her.

    “Catch!”

    Zax declared the moment he caught Serah.

    “Three years, you jerk, Earth’s Core Freak! If Anet didn’t tell me, then I would have kept thinking that you never intended to return!”

    Zax felt Serah burying her face on his shoulder, as she slobbered and an outburst of tears and snot soaked his shirt.

    “I’m sorry”. Encompassing Serah in his arms, Zax whispered while two thin trails of tears stained his firm expression.

    His words were not exactly directed to Serah’s ears, but to the general situation that was his fault. Either way, after saying these two words, Serah quieted and only maintained her closeness to Zax.

    “Serah, can we go up?” After couple of minutes and a few passersby, the intimate moment began to affect Zax. The shine of his face faintly reddened and a stray thought, which originated from Serah’s silence, made him wonder if she comfortably fallen asleep in this awkward position.

    “Yes”. Finally, Serah pulled her head backward, rubbed her eyes and looked up at the fourteen centimeters taller Zax, as she replied.



    Once meeting and greeting the amiable Troel and Jinka, Zax and Serah left her house, to go visit Zushi.

    On their way, Zax got to learn in depth, what his old friends had been doing the past three years, and also, how much they heard from their parents, and especially Anet, about his development in the time apart.

    Starting with what they knew about him, other than hearing from their parents that he returned, along the news that he done so the day a new member joined the Zel family, most of what they heard initiated from Anet.

    Apart from Zax, the seven other kids in the group of eight kids, who years ago searched together for Earth’s Core and prosperous future, during the event the Great Earth’s Core Pursuit, preserved a strong friendship, despite striding on different paths.

    As a result, they all knew, to an extent, about the surface of Anet’s predicament – since, at the time, Anet was still afraid to involve her family and friends by listing what Binjo and his big brother did to her and the threats they used to silence her.

    Only when everything was over and Zax destroyed the Dernalder shackles that subdued her, did she open up to her family and friends. In the process, narrating the support she received from her school principal, Don, who also accepted her as a Tal and more importantly, Zax’s resolute promise that he undeniably kept.

    Anet did not elaborate about Zax being a bodily cultivator, but as far as the rest of the six were concerned, the boy who amazed them in the Great Earth’s Core Pursuit and vanished afterwards, somehow, made his way back.

    Proceeding to what Serah told Zax about herself and the other six… Expect from Anet, the only one to join a Martial school with the intention to strive as a Martial cultivator, was Weysey. He currently should at the Intermediate or Advanced phase of level D as an Earth’s Core Holder.

    Dane, Merly and Mi enrolled the same school, a Martial school, but mostly in title. The three only took cultivation lessons as secondary classes to not waste their Earth’s Cores and due to their parents and teachers pressuring them.

    Serah and Zushi, like the former three, also enrolled the same Martial school and had been in a similar situation as Dane, Merly and Mi. Serah majored in design and programing, hoping to be accepted to the Mocca Kart Company after graduation, and Zushi was majoring in economy. They, as well, were cultivating in secondary classes.

    Truthfully, although cultivation was bothersome, Serah admitted to Zax that even if one does not choose the Martial path, it was still an essential commodity to have a high level of cultivation. The motive behind the forcefulness of their parents and teachers was quite logical. In essence, a leading figure, or just someone who is a bit ahead from others who work in the same field, must also have the power to protect his or her position from the ugliness that excessive competitiveness can arouse…

    Although the group of young teens was far from having to worry about this sort of things, their elders did not permit them to be complacent.

    That was it of Serah’s explanation of how she and the others were doing during these three years. Likewise, in the mix of their conversation, Zax drew Serah a picture of what he was doing in the past three years, sharing the exact details he told his parents.

    The two walked in a pace fast enough to arrive to Zushi’s home right when they finished updating each other.



    Zushi, differ from Serah, was reserved when his eyes met Zax and the realizing that he really returned dawned on him. His reservations did not sprout from ill feeling or resentment for Zax’s decision to return and seek reconciliation when it fit him. Zushi’s behavior was due to his calculated character.

    It took Serah’s intervention to set the ball rolling for the two. Couple of encouraging words and finally Serah managed to form a group hug.

    “So it’s like that…” Zushi said in an understanding tone after Zax finished sharing his tale.

    The three sat on the roof of the building Zushi lived at, with snacks and soft drinks. Above their heads, the Nightly Cover formation brightened the “sky” of cave twenty five with thousands upon thousands of tiny stars.

    “Assembling our old group would be nice”. Zushi babbled to himself. Naturally, despite his quiet voice, Zax and Serah perfectly heard him.

    “I don’t want to trouble anyone when you all have your school’s commitments”. Zax said. “Tomorrow I’ll go to see Dane, Merly and Mi and the next day, I’ll go to Weysey’s and Anet’s schools”.

    “Stupid, Black Core Freak”, Serah scolded. After Zax told her about the Black Core, she determined that he deserves an up to date nickname. “Stop being mindful around friends!”

    Watching Serah rebuke Zax, Zushi smiled. He practically saw Serah every day in school, but in this moment he detected a luster he never saw before in her eyes.

    What Zushi detected was something that in their group of eight, possibly existed only between Zax, Dane and Serah.

    It was the solidified bond the three nourished since childhood. After years of sharing beds, plates, games, homework and even pocket money… what was contained inside the hearts among the three of them was not inferior to a brotherly and sisterly bond.

    “Serah is right”. Zushi turned to Zax. “We should arrange a proper gathering for the eight of us. Besides, other than Anet, Dane, Merly and Mi are under a series of test and Weysey is in closed doors training. Since Serah and I have a few free days to spend at home, how about we go see Anet tomorrow and look for the other thing you were interested about?”

    Finding out that going to see Dane, Merly, Mi and Weysey would be more complicated than he anticipated; Zax was disheartened for his bad timing. “When do you think we can get together, all of us?” He asked before answering Zushi.

    “Weysey is more of the problematic one among all of us. Last time we talked he told me that his Mor pushes him until he’ll break through the Core Breaker level”. Zushi said.

    “Yes, but, guys, don’t forget Anet’s present status and that even Zax got accepted to Eden Formation”. Serah said with a smile of the one holding the solution. “If either of you can plea to your school principal to send our Martial teachers a personal exchange students invitations, like the one between the best Martial schools, whose parents or teachers will dare refuse?”

    “Is it possible?” Serah’s idea was audacious. Therefore Zax sought Zushi’s opinion before getting excited.

    “Anet just attained her status. I’m not sure about how good is your relationship with Eden Formation’s principal, but if you got accepted when you still can’t even use your Qi, moreover, to a school that pride itself in techniques that their basis is mist energy… it might be possible”. Zushi gave his final verdict.

    Outright happy to know that the vital he required was Don’s approval, Zax smirked in delight.

    “Then it’s settled! Since you two have free time to spend, tomorrow the three of us will go to Eden Formation to see Anet, ask Don Ram to help us and check Eden Formation’s, supposedly, best school library in Kingdom Earth”.

  12. #112
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    Book 5 – Horns

    Chapter 16 – The Summit Of Eden Formation



    The golden arched gate that welcomed all students and guests of the prestigious number one Martial school in El-Eden, shone with grandeur in the eyes of Serah and Zushi.

    Six students stood valiantly guard behind the gate. Five of the six exuded the aura of Core Breakers and one of a Mist Master. All six were in their mid twenties.

    Glancing past the bars of the gate at the six in gold and white uniforms, Zushi and Serah chocked from reverence despite their lack of major interest in Martial cultivation.

    There were two reasons why in front of Zax, Zushi and Serah were easygoing and in front of the six they suddenly became so humble. One reason was their good relationship with Zax, which could also explain why they are mellow in the company of Anet. The second reason was Zax’s lack of mist cultivation. Unless a cultivator uses a Soul Sense to inspect Zax’s body with Zax’s permission, it would be impossible to grasp his mind blowing Martial accomplishments.

    Conversely, the six students not only proudly exhibited their cultivation level; the aspect they cultivated was mist energy, which was the easiest to roughly measure when a low level cultivator faced an expert.

    Unlike Serah and Zushi, Zax, obviously, was perfectly indifferent to the six students. He was wearing the dark shades Eden Formation uniforms he received in his last stay in Eden Formation. His mother washed the uniforms early in the morning for him, while he fed and took Liz for a walk in her stroller around the block.

    “Good morning, senior!” The six students did not recognize Zax, but they sure knew what the hues of his uniforms signified.

    ‘Advanced grade student!’

    They simultaneously thought as they hastily opened the school’s gate, not even daring to question the weaklings, Serah and Zushi, upon seeing that they are actually following him and laughing together.



    “Anet should be waiting for us in the faculty building. I talked to her last night about us three coming and said that she will try to help with principal Ram”. Serah as the three entered the faculty two storey building.

    “Students Zax”, approximately five seconds from the moment they crossed the wide threshold, an aged voiced cordially welcomed Zax.

    “Vice principal Mizuri”, Zax clearly remembered his last encounter with school vice principal and was about to utter an apology when his eyes laid on the figure beside the old man. “Anet”.

    Her appearance did not catch him by surprise, but the moment the when their gazes were about to interlace, she averted her face to Serah and Zushi and avoided him.

    ‘Did my savagery repulse her that much?’ Zax mood turned gloomy, but he obstructed from showing on his face. ‘I’ll not force her to accept me’.

    He decided to put aside whatever feelings he had for Anet, if there was not a chance for them being mutual. He was content with the two of them preserving their friendship, if that was the most of what Anet wanted.

    “Junior greets vice principal Ram”.

    “Junior greets vice principal Ram”.

    Zushi and Serah called out all most at the same time.

    “Junior greets vice principal Ram”. Zax realized a moment after hearing the two, that if he wanted to apologize for his previous behavior toward vice principal Mizuri, he had to first respectfully, with accordance to his position in the school, to greet him.

    A gratified expression softened the vice principal Mizuri’s wrinkles. “Elder accept juniors’ greeting and welcome guests and student to our school”. He said warmly.

    “Vice principal Mizuri”, Zax stepped forward, slightly bowing. “For my rude-”

    “No need, student Zax”. Vice principal Mizuri raised a hand and stopped Zax, causing him to lift his head. “Let’s forget about the past and concentrate on the future, my boy. If I understand correctly, apart from visiting your friend, you also came here today to make a request from principal Ram”.

    Vice principal Mizuri was an old man, but still far from learning obstinacy and vindictiveness, most of all, against a junior. From the day he realized his mistakes from the words and treatments he used to deal with what led to Zax’s outburst, he already forgot about his humiliation of that day. Moreover, after Zax, a much stronger cultivator, greeted him unpretentiously and displayed the intentions to express regret for his past conducts, vice principal Mizuri saw him in completely new light.

    “Vice principal Ram, we did come here to trouble school principal Ram, but we will be glad with whoever that can hear us out”. Zushi politely replied.

    ‘A sharp tongue in such a young age…’ Vice principal Mizuri could easily see through Zushi’s craftiness and was amused by it. Shaking his head, he said. “Seeing the principal Ram indeed will be impossible for juniors”.

    He deliberately made it sound that for students, much less juniors that do not even belong to the school, it would be too audacious to seek an audience with Don. And with additional frown he made all three feel as if they should have started small because now no one with see them.

    “Principal Ram is currently off school’s grounds”. He stopped playing around and with a smirk confessed the actual reason they could not see Don. “Fortunately, student Anet spoke already and convinced her Mor. Since both students Anet Lensi and Zax Zel are meritorious Advanced grade students, principal Ram asked me to make arrangements for juniors’ request”.

    As vice principal Mizuri explained, a smiled appeared on Anet’s face and she nodded in confirmation.

    As for how hard it was for Anet to make this request of Don… Well, although when she approached her, Anet doubted her chances to persuade her Mor to deal with couple of schools just so she and her friends could have a get together without interference from prior obligations, the instant Don understood what her Tal wanted and that it would be helpful as an incentive for having Zax stay for a few days on school’s grounds, which in turn will strengthen his familiarity with it, she unhesitatingly approved and discussed it with vice principal Mizuri before leaving.

    Needless to say how much relieved the three were after hearing vice principal Mizuri and seeing Anet’s smile.

    After finishing speaking, vice principal nodded toward the three and left. He did not say anything to Zax and Anet about going to class. One was unable to cultivate Qi or mist, thus incapable of practicing the school’s cultivation techniques, while the other was one of the school’s principal’s Tals, it was not his place to instruct her with regards to Martial cultivation.

    “About last time we talked…” Anet approached Zax and said timidly right as vice principal Mizuri left.

    To Zax’s sides, Serah and Zushi, who were about to ask Anet about what exactly Don approved, sensed the sudden stiffness in the air between the two, held their tongoues and attentively watched.

    Though her speech was slow, almost to a halt, Zax was staggered when she brought up their last, forlorn conversation, therefore, before drawing any conclusions he patiently waited to hear her.

    Between sentences, Anet recalled the thoughts that she realized too late a month ago, and so last the chance to convey her feelings to Zax before he left.

    ‘What he did was most definitely not wrong!’ She rebuked herself again and again when he already was gone. It was a change of mind from her norm, but it did not occur due to her conflict with the Dernalder family or because Zax became more dear in her heart than she anticipated. It was a fact she deduced and an eye opener she faced with upon comprehending that she, too, picked a path in life that did not shy from taking another’s life.

    Her initial uncertainties were a product of inexperience on the Martial path, and she was very much aware of it for every day since Zax left. That being said, while her feelings for Zax were now secured and she gained a better understanding on what life may hold for her, Anet was still mentally away from being able to take a person’s life.

    With what she currently gathered, Anest mustered her resolve, puckered her brows and continued with a firm countenance. “Next time don’t leave so abruptly”. She grabbed Zax’s hand, as if preventing him from leaving without her consent ever again, and gave the impression that she will not let go until he will give her his word.

    Sensing the warmth of her hands, from a mere touch Zax felt his hearth pumping and his blood boiling. The thoughts that beforehand emerged from the coldness he misread from Anet, were now eclipsed by the laughable apprehension his rushed stupidity.

    Zax forgot that Serah and Zushi were to his sides. He was mesmerized by how cute Anet was when she both pouted and got angry. An impulse took over and the hand Anet’s held suddenly pushed her to his arms, as a sentence that for the first appeared in his mind left Zax’s lips. “Tell me to stay and I will never leave”. He truly felt it in his heart, how dominant were his feeling for Anet that he instinctively vowed for her.

    Anet’s complexion flushed as blood and heat rushed to her face. In a split second, all the thought in her head became disorganized. Nonetheless, her body was still sinking into Zax’s arms.

    “Hahaha!” An unexpected burst of uncontrollable laughter brought the two back to their senses. “What the heck, Zax? Are you two kidding me? What’s with that cheesy line?!” Serah bent over and held her stomach. “Hahaha!”

    Left to Zax, Zushi done a better job, concealing his laughter and only when Serah’s knees hit the floor did he turn around and shivered…

    “Eh?!” The awkwardness peaked, causing Zax and Anet to separate and stumble backwards.

    “Aha…” After couple of minutes Serah processed the radicalness of Zax’s line and sighed.

    “Be more sensible…” Zushi also got over the cheesiness and turned around, saying to himself, rather than Zax.

    The two were stumped and at first did not know from where and since when Zax and Anet nourished their affection for each other. They assumed that it happened sometime when Zax previously got home.

    Noticing that Zax’s and Anet’s were still in a fragile state in their relationship, Zushi and Serah felt bad for startling them.

    “Okay, okay, sorry, it’s our fault”. Serah pulled Zax and Anet together and then took Zushi by the hand to join them. “You two still need to find the time to properly explain us when you got so close”. She said gleefully.

    “When you decide for yourselves what sort of relationship you have”. Zushi did Zax and Anet the favor of letting them the time to reflect privately first.

    Exchanging a glance, Zax and Anet heaved a grateful sigh to Zushi and silently elected to find some time away from their two friends later on.

    “Fine”. Anet said to Serah and Zushi.

    “Remember that it’s a promise”. Serah said. “Now tell us, were there any conditions for the exchange students invitations?”

    “Nothing taxing”. Anet shook her head. “We just need to decide on the date of the week of the exchange students’ seminar and I’ll inform vice principal Mizuri. Now do you want to go to the ‘Summit’?”

    “The Summit?” Zushi asked.

    Anet looked at Serah. “Didn’t you say that you want to see the most prominent library in Kingdom Earth?”

    “I did”. Serah answered.

    Anet proudly smiled and straightened herself. ”Then here, in Eden Formation, we have a name for it, Eden Formation’s Summit”.

  13. #113
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    Book 5 – Horns

    Chapter 17 – Jealousy And Scorn



    “Let’s go”. Anet signaled to her friends to follow her out of the faculty building.

    Going to direction of the Advanced grade building, Anet explained. “Contrary to the name, the Summit is actually located underground the three grades buildings and the arrangement of all the different techniques corresponds to the grade of the building above its section. Also, being a Beginner grade students, Intermediate grade students or Advanced grade students doesn’t mean that you can have access to all the inscription in your section. The inscriptions each student is allowed to borrow are predetermined by grades and teacher’s recommendation”.

    “It sounds very harsh on the students who want to invest themselves in high grade technique”. Zushi pointed out.

    “You think so because you don’t major in Martial class, and as a result, don’t understand how lethal it can be for someone to cultivate a technique with severe prerequisites or prerequisites that you have yet to meet”. Anet exclaimed.

    What she talked about was a major issue that continuously reemerges, when people who just embarked on the Martial path get their hands on and try to cultivate a technique that is beyond their capabilities. The consequence such actions can lead to, worst case scenario, death. Best case scenario, temporarily wound the Qi channels and dantian.

    “She is right”. Zax backed Anet.

    His Valor Ozeyn and the bodily refinement technique Grandmaster Kartion develops were a good example. Though he did not know the specifics, his Master told him that because of a certain choice or action His Valor Ozeyn did, he cannot cultivate Grandmaster Kartion’s new bodily refinement technique.

    “We will take it into consideration, even though it’s not a big deal anyway”. Serah joined the fray. “Neither I or Zushi cultivate complicated technique and what our school supply is already very demanding for us”.

    Entering the luxurious Advanced grade building, while Serah and Zushi were at awe, the young receptionist Zax met the first time he entered the building, welcomed the four and several other students that entered at the same time.

    The group of five students was composed of fairly young teens, around the ages seventeen to nineteen, three boys and two girls. The five’s cultivation was around that of Anet’s with one exception. One of the boys had the cultivation of the Intermediate phase of the Mist Master level. The cultivation of the four in the Core Break level was below the standards of the Advanced grade building, but looking at their ages and demeanor, one could vaguely sense that each of the four had either an exceptional potential or talent, which was the reason for their enrollment or transfer to the Advanced grade building.

    “Ah!” One of the girls suddenly cried with alarmed expression. Her group was about to enter the elevator, while Zax and the others were waiting by the receptionist’s counter, when she aroused the attention of everyone present.

    “Hahahaha, so it’s true… the new bright and shining ‘majesty’ actually associate with a bunch of useless people”. She said in a loud and condescending tone while staring maliciously at Anet.

    “What?” Other than the Mist Master student, the remaining three turned around to see what their friend is talking about. When they noticed that Anet was being delayed with another student and two pitiful Earth’s Core Holders, the same nasty glint reflected in their eyes.

    “I guess that’s what you get when a miracle occurs and a waste of Intermediate grade student becomes a principal Ram’s Tal”. A slender, good looking boy said in apparent disdain.

    “True, true! Someone that barely made it to the top ten in the half year Martial competition of the Intermediate grade should know where she belongs. Now, wouldn’t it be wonderful if she will trudge to her rightful place together with the trash she brought with her?” A tall girl with extremely naturally pale complexion said.

    “Come one guys, the elevator is here”. The Mist Master student called his friends while staying indifferent to their taunts.

    “Livai, why aren’t you supporting us? Doesn’t she also make you mad? What makes her better than you for principal to unjustly accept her as a Tal?” The tall and pale girl put her hand on the elevator door, stopping it from closing, she slyly emphasize that she did not speak out of selfishness, but for the sake of the best in their group.

    “Her cultivation is not that bad and although she hasn’t presented any qualitative skills, none of us can be certain that principal Ram did not see in her something that we haven’t”. Livai, the Mist Master student, said without showing any fluctuation in his tone. “Now enter the elevator or remove your hand and stay here”. Only his last sentence revealed a hint of irritation.

    The tall pale girl and the three others were dissatisfied with Livai’s mostly uncaring disposition. They, like many other Intermediate and Advanced grade students felt wronged, due to Anet’s swift and inexplicable rise to prominence, that is, her transfer to the Advanced grade building and acceptance as Don’s Tal.

    It would not be a lie to say that in recent weeks, the mere sight of Anet fueled the jealousy of many students and brought out the worst of them.

    At first, Anet was not prepared to face such scorn or any scorn, but she just as well quickly adapted and used it to temper her personality. As for her Mor and her senior Tals, except from the same advice a few of her seniors Tals gave her, “Surpass everyone and no one will be able to look down on you”, she basically had to deal with her fellow students all alone. Not even Don, her Mor and school principal, gave her indications that she would help.

    Anet’s forte was her age, which placed her among the youngest between those of the same level of cultivation. She used this notion to follow her seniors Tals’ advice and aimed to better her cultivation and skills to be at the top of her generation, and then the older one, and older one, and older one…

    With that kind of resolve, although Anet was just at the Advanced phase of the Core Breaker’s level, she did spend the last month diligently training according to her Mor’s instructions, practicing two techniques that will assist in improving her comprehensive abilities.

    Hearing the insults of the students that walked past her and her friends, Anet clenched her fist in anger. She tried to ignore them as she usually does, but they involved her friends and that was crossing the line. Right before Anet opened her mouth to retort, Zax stopped her.

    The two girls and two boys always kept eye contact with Anet, even when Livai forced them to enter the elevator. They saw her getting annoyed and about to react, unable to give the cold shoulder that she most times does. And then they noticed Zax clasping her hand and stepping forward.

    “I understand”, Zax said in a sympathetic tone, which surprised the four, considering the frown he had a moment before speaking. “Four of you are Advanced phase Mist Masters and one is in the Mist Master level, so you think that you can belittle those weaker than you or not in your abhorrent group”.

    “What did he say?!” The third boy in the group of five, a youth with shaved head that up till now only sneered in support of his friends, held the elevator’s doors from closing and similarly to the other three was aghast.

    “Repeating even one word for the likes of you would be too much of a hassle”. Zax responded. He detested the four for their behavior, but did not speak to them to raise an argument. “Just come here and apologize to my friends?”

    “You want us to apologize to two Earth’s Core Holders?!” The first girl who spoke could not help but ask to make sure.

    “All my friends, that includes Anet”. Zax clarified.

    The four stared at Zax with faces on the verge of boiling, but still bit their tongues. Actually, they were very careful from the start, not to say anything that might involve Zax. They did not recognize him as one of the Advanced grade students and by the time the first girl started to stir thing up, they were too far to use their Soul Sense to see his cultivation. They also could not detect mist energy undulation with their mist energy, which made them speculate that he probably hides his cultivation by some means. With all of this in mind, the four refrained from taking the risk of insulting someone they were unfamiliar with and so made effort to not to answer Zax.

    The shaved youth looked at his friends and removed his hands from the elevator’s doors.

    Zax grimaced. They were ignoring him. “STOP!” He howled and his voice exploded, causing glowing blue patterns appear on the walls of the ground floor.

    The blue patterns were a protective formation that was sensitive to eccentric sounds, among other things, which Zax unintentionally activated with his shout.

    The formation quivered for a second before disappearing. At the same time, a hand slid between the slit of the two elevator’s doors as they were about to make contact.

    The doors opened and a figure came out. Livai narrowed his eyes as he tried to gauge Zax. “Are you a new student?” He asked in the same cold tone.

    “Student Zax…” The young receptionist also turned to Zax warily.

    Disregarding Livai, Zax turned his head to the receptionist. “I won’t cause troubles, nothing that can be count as ‘Violent’”. He said with a confident smile. He was not sure what the receptionist knew about him, but he guessed that she was not clueless about him, either.

    Livai huffed a bit of air from his nostrils. Like his four friends, he, too, was unfamiliar with Zax. Only, he did not care about or anyone that was currently in the ground floor. His only concerns his school where those in the Disciplinary Class and the Student Council Class. And even in these two classes, he paid heed just to those who had the same level of cultivation as his or higher.

    Knowing the present members of both classes and that outside these classes, in the Advanced grade building those he considered his rivals could be counted on one hand, Livai disparage Zax for his brash comportment.

    As for Zax’s shocking shout that managed to scare the four in the elevator... ‘Loud bravado’ Livai thought when he heard it. He also did not expect to find Zax’s level of cultivation from the use of mist energy to amplify his voice, because he knew that the protective formation that was just activated dispelled the fluctuation of mist energy in the air.

    “Student Anet, if you are introducing a new student to the Advanced grade building, please be sure to teach him the rules here. Shouting and making demands from fellow students will portrait him as a hooligan, so long that he is here. Force is allowed to be used only on the court. Otherwise, he might get beaten in every corner of the school”. Livai did not laugh or smirk when he spoke, simply reprimanded Anet, the obviously more familiar, senior student, to further anger Zax.

    “Oh, so violent is not a problem! Good to know, good to know”. Zax blabbered, feigning gratitude for the valuable information. He knew that Livai tried to get him by scolding Anet, but he found the perfect loophole in Livai’s words for a comeback. “Then if I’ll give you a beating, will you apologize”.

    The word “Pride” was practically spelled all over Livai’s face with every minuscule twitch of his facial muscles. Zax challenged him because he was proficient with handling prideful people and knew how Livai will react if he will play things right.

    “Hmph!” Livai snorted and for the first time had an expression on his face other than indifference, exasperation.

    “This guy thinks that he can fight with Livai?”

    The four in the elevator stepped out. With Livai taking things personally now, they could say and do whatever they wanted and relay on him to shield them.

    “Idiot, kid, Livai took second place in the half year Martial competition of the Advanced grade”. The tall, pale girl had mean smile plastered all over her face.

    What she forgot to include is that only the regular students of the Advanced grade building participate in the half year Martial competitions. The Disciplinary Class and the Student Council Class do not take part in it.

    “Shh! Serah, what will you do if he will regret showing off and apologize instead of accepting a duel with Livai?” The other girl was around a hundred and sixty centimeters tall, about thirty centimeters shorter than the pale girl, Serah, and basically the shortest in the ground floor. To see her jokingly scolding the tallest person in the ground floor, even with the same ugly smile, made the scene more comic than snobbish.

    The good looking youth and the shaved head youth nodded and also urged Serah no to say anything unnecessary that will take away the fun.

    Having the four encouraging him, Livai glanced at Anet, Serah and Zushi with a smug before his eyes landed on Zax and he walked closer to him. ‘Ahm? An Intermediate Mist Master?’ His Soul Sense failed to get a precise reading of Zax’s level of cultivation. What he thought was mostly an assumption.

    Zax never learned a technique to conceal or alter the cultivation of any of the three aspects. His only idea to fool Livai, in the case that he would use his Soul Sense to inspect him, was to pretend that he is struggling to repeal Livais’s Soul Sense with his own.

    Thus, Livai guessed that he and Zax had the same level of cultivation.

    ‘Do you think that having the same cultivation will help you? You barely held your Soul Sense. I would be astonished if it’s not just your soul that reached the Intermediate phase of the Mist Master’s level. And even if it had…’ In the last half year Martial competition he won against an Advanced phase Mist Master to get to second place using his deep comprehension in the Martial techniques he practiced. Since then Livai stopped putting other of the same level as his in front of his eyes.

    “Don’t listen to them. As a senior student I won’t be too harsh on you, if you want to prove that you are not all words. The instant you’ll surrender the fight would be over. If you’ll make it one minute, senior will even obey to any request”. Livai did not go as far as putting an effort in tempting Zax into the fight, due to him thinking that Zax was not a worthy opponent. Nevertheless, he did want to educate Zax, so he gave him a little incentive.

    “Oh… Is senior’s word reliable?” Zax asked, again pretending to be a simpleton.

    “You can ask anyone in school”. Livai humbly promised.

    Zax thought for a second and said. “Then, since I do have a request from senior, let’s fight”.

    Behind Zax, Anet’s anger seemed to subside. She did not make any reaction or attempt to cancel the fight. She was not fond of Livai, and naturally not of his jealous friends. If they want Zax to break their backbone, why should she stop him?

    The young receptionist also had a very solid premonition, who would win the fight. But she, too, kept quiet. Her days as a student were over and the school policy indicated that faculty is to not get involve in students’ disputes, as long as they abide the school’s rules.

    “Zax, you don’t have to fight him. Letting foolish words affect you is not worth it”. Zushi had less confidence in Zax. He learned yesterday that Zax was just accepted to Eden Formation, regardless of his Martial accomplishments and cultivation, Livai was clearly older and his friends did not appear to lie when they stated that he took second place in the half year Martial competition of the best Martial school in El-Eden.

    “It is fine, Zushi, didn’t you hear? If I’ll surrender the fight will be over”. Zax said calmly.

    As a calculative person, Zushi was not enthusiastic on letting Zax fight with someone like Livai before knowing his friend limits. And due to the fact that the Martial path was an abstract concept to him, he was not able to deduce the source of Zax’s overconfidence.

    “Serah, help me a little”. For his friend’s sake, Zushi turned to Serah, Zax’s best friend, to convince him.

    “Yeah…” Serah said, looking down. “This mean girl can’t have the same name as I do, beat them, Zax!”

  14. #114
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    Book 5 – Horns

    Chapter 18 – The Five Fingers Into Fist Formation



    “Serah…” Zushi let out helplessly.

    “Let’s fight”. Zax ignored Zushi and responded to Livai.

    Instantly, four huge smiles spread across the faces of the four students behind Livai.

    “Everyone, we are heading to the court”. Livai glanced at the four behind him, in the process, informing Zax and his friends were the fight will be held.



    The “court” in question was the same court Zax battled Don on and walked past with Susuya.

    Couple classes of Beginner grade students practiced formations, as in the previous time Zax been to the court.

    Most students were between the ages ten to fifteen. Fewer were around twenty years old and a handful of students were near the graduation’s age, thirty years old. The cultivation level of all present Beginner grade students ranged between F level to D level Earth’s Core Holder.

    To all those watching from the side, the spectacle of mixed ages with similar cultivation level was a testimony for everyone who were accepted or rejected from Eden Formation, more or less from every Martial school, which signified a vital fact to anyone who dreams to stride upon the Martial path.

    The essence of this spectacle was the old generation of Beginner grade students. These students and cultivators in the past were at the peak of their peers. Being accepted to Eden Formation indicated that at the time, in their generation, they were unrivaled. Years later, however, time revealed that the talent, aptitude and potential of these still Beginner grade students, was limited to the first steps one takes on the Martial path.

    In contrast to those failed students, what was the so important vital fact, were actually the many others students who lacked the same qualities in the past and, as a result, could not enroll Eden Formation. A portion of those students, with years of hard work, outshined their past better ones, in less notable Martial schools.

    On the court, the older generation students stood or sat in front of the younger generation students, either way, towering before them, merely so the younger generation students will always remember that although now they are the best among their peers, without the proper hard work their future will be ignominious.

    As for the salvation of the Beginner grade student who were getting close to the graduation age, in Eden Formation the sole method for them to save some face was to take and pass the test to the Intermediate grade.

    Zax and the others reached the court with tense air separating the two groups.

    “Stop!” The closest teacher to the two groups shouted when Livai approached him.

    The teacher was an Advanced phase Mist Master, but he was quite old and graduated as an Intermediate grade students from Eden Formation, before getting a teaching certificate and returning as a teacher. His status in the school entitled him the same respect as the top Intermediate grade students. Nevertheless, Livai still was very much courteous when he came over and made him stop the practice.

    After the old teacher shouted, the six other teachers also stopped their classes.

    “Teacher, we, Advanced grade students, want to use the court for a short fight”. Livai said in a placid manner. As if simply letting the teacher know his thoughts, rather than apologizing for interrupting the lesson and asking permission to borrow the court.

    Livai’s voice was not strong, but the moment the students and teachers saw the group of Advanced grade students, such an absolute silence followed that even a pin drop could be heard.

    Put aside Zax, Anet and the four from Livai’s group, Livai alone aroused immense feelings of veneration from the students and teachers. There was not one person among them who did not recognize the number two of the Advanced grade students.

    As for Zax and the impression he left in his first visit to Eden Formation. While many students ran to the windows of the three grades buildings, there were not many opportunities to clearly see him between his confutation with the Disciplinary Class and Don.

    Those who were capable of seeing him and taking a picture of him were a few and mostly from the Intermediate grade building. The Beginner grade students were too scared from angering their teachers by jumping around to the windows, and the Advanced grade students did not care about a strife between Intermediate grade students until it was too late and Don led Zax away from the three grades buildings.

    Eventually, the Intermediate grade students with pictures of Zax had to hand over their Callers to the school and go through a crafty questioning process that meant to contaminate the credibility of their memories.

    With regards to the memories the seven teachers had from Zax, at the time, they were busy calming their students.

    Thus, other than the Disciplinary Class and the Student Council Class, about seventeen other students knew how Zax looked like and none of them was currently in the court.

    Hearing Livai, the teacher’s face beamed with delight. Spars between Advanced grade students occurred regularly, but not on the school’s court. The Advanced grade students had their own private arenas inside their building. If Anet spent a little bit more time in getting to know the Advanced grade building, then training, she also would have come to know the existence of the arenas.

    The teacher did not know why Livai wanted to spar in the court and he was not about to ask. Forgetting his students, it was an unprecedented chance for him to watch and maybe gain insight from the marvelous techniques of Livai, the second skillful Advanced grade student.

    The other teachers had to same idea in their heads. Only, embarrassed to admit it out loud, they began to shout.

    “Everyone, an honorable senior from the Advanced grade building is going to expound for you on the profoundness of our Eden Formation’s techniques in the manner of a spar with a fellow Advanced grade student. Everyone, don’t try to comprehend the techniques and methods of your honorable senior. Your cultivation is still too immature. For this occasion, it would be great fortune to just bare witness and meditate over what you saw in your private time”.

    These were the general word of the seven teachers. They were not familiar with Zax, the only indication they got that he is Livai’s sparring partner, was how he stood out from the others. Also, the reason they praised Livai so much, was because they thought that the “short fight”, was really a lesson to give some pointers to another fellow student.

    The Beginner grade students obeyed their teachers while failing from concealing their excitement.

    “This is… this is…”

    “Senior Livai!”

    “It’s him, yes! I can’t believe we get to see senior Livai fight!”

    “What are you saying?! My sister saw him in the half year Martial competition and said that his skills are the embodiment of our Supreme Ruler!”

    “Unbelievable! I can’t wait!”

    “By the way, does anyone know who is the other senior Advanced grade student?”

    “Not sure”.

    “Don’t care. I want to see senior Livai’s formation”.

    “Eh? Isn’t she senior Anet, the newest member of the Student Council Class and principal Ram’s Tal?”

    “She is!”

    “Whoa! She is so beautiful, like a goddess!”

    “Yeah, yeah, no wonder she became principal Ram’s Tal”.

    “And she and Livai are even younger than hald of the students in our Beginner grade building!”

    The Beginner grade students were naive and, regardless of age, did not even dream to measure their seniors. If Livai was more suitable than Anet as Don’s Tal or how could it be that Anet became Don’s Tal instead of him… none of them entertained the thoughts.

    The seven teachers, naturally, noticed Anet from the start. They did not give her special treatment due to the fact that they knew that she was inferior to Livai in both cultivation and skill, and because they did not have to from the first place.

    Seeing and hearing the adoring eyes and words of the Beginner grade students and their teachers, Livai could not help but bask in the glorious manner he was conceived in. While he mostly had a level headed temperament and generally cared solely about his cultivation, he was also the type to relish in the acknowledgment others gave him. Especially when it came to the adorations of the Beginner grade students, they were the easiest to influence and it empowered his ego when he thought of how they looked at him as their idol and role model.

    “Fellow teachers”, Livai turned to the seven as if they were his colleagues. He liked their idea of letting him educate the Beginner grade students, and by setting his mind to do so, he felt that it would only be appropriate to refer to them as such. “There is no need to leave the court, arrange the students in a large circle”. While verbally instructing, he even pointed with his finger.

    The teachers obediently nodded and in less than a minute organized their classes into a large circle for Livai and Zax to spar in.

    “Come here”. Livai called Zax. By now he was prepared to make for himself such of an outstanding impression in his juniors’ eyes that he stopped considering Zax as an opponent with the same level of cultivation, but a dummy for training.

    “Zax, look at how confident the teachers are about this guy. Are you insisting on fighting him?” Zushi gave one last try to persuade against the fight. Beside him, Serah also showed signs of distrust on her face. She trusted Zax’s strength, it was extraordinary since childhood, but even she could not ignore the reserved behavior of Eden Formation’s teachers, the teachers of the best Martial school in El-Eden, toward someone that was supposed to be their student.

    Zax turned and noticed the changes in Serah while glancing at Zushi. “I’m strong”. He said resolutely and then smiled softly at his worried friends. ”I can’t be too excessive against a student with no good reason, but I can give you a satisfactory example of my strength”.

    Finishing talking, Zax proceeded to enter into the giant circle the seven teachers and their classes have made.

    Watching Zax, the teachers did not give voice to their thought. Though, as an Advanced grade student he deserved and received their respect, the one they were enthusiastically interested in was Livai.

    Facing each other, a strong, pure silver aura exploded from Livai. “You may surrender at any time, but please don’t embarrass our Advanced grade by conceding right at the start”. He told Zax condescendingly.

    “So powerful!”

    “It’s silver aura, silver mist energy!”

    “Senior Livai is so young and already is at the Intermediate phase of the Mist Master level!”

    In the eyes of the Beginner grade students and the seven teachers, the fluctuations in the air caused by Livai’s aura were full of imposing lordliness.

    “Your character sure has changed from when you quietly listened to your friends ridicule Anet and my friends”. Zax stood still, seemingly dull in the eyes of the spectators. He could not use Qi or mist to show off with a colorful aura like Livai, and he never had a preferable stance to start with in a fight. “I doesn’t matter, just remember your promise to fulfill a request of mine at the case that you would lose”.

    “You still talk big… don’t worry, though, if by some sort of miracle you’ll win, ask anything you want”. Despite promising again, not an ounce of concern that his opponent will beat him sounded in Livai’s voice.

    The exchange between the two confused their crowd, and wondering mummers among the students reached Zax’s and Livai’s ears.

    To make sure all the attention was focused on the fight, or rather at him, Livai amplified his voice and announced loudly. “Juniors, don’t avert your gazes, for I’ll now show you the peak of our school’s B class formations, the Four Breaths formation, which is comparable to a low A class formation!”

    The moment Livai finished talking, silver light started to glow from the tips of his fingers as his hands transformed into multiply silver blurry shapes and in a matter of a few breaths he executed couple of thousand hands signs in an exceptional proficiency.

    “Ha!” Livai shouted, stretching his arms and body, the thousands of shapes and symbols his hands drew withdrawn to his body.

    Livai’s aura consumed the shapes and symbols, whilst growing thinner and finer around his body, till it became a silvery purple translucent armor.

    “Everyone, two steps back!” Suddenly one of the teachers shouted.

    At the moment of completion, a terrifying pressure that was akin to the power of a Beginner phase Mist Lord, emanated from Livai’s armor.

    The strongest of the seven teachers was, at most, a Peak phase Mist Master. She could somewhat oppose the level of pressure Livai’s armor released, but alone she did not have the strength to shelter the students. Thus, as all the students took two steps backwards, she and the other six teachers lifted their arms and created a silvery mantle to block the pressure from spreading.

    Even Livai’s friends did not stand still when the pressure surged to their direction. They all jumped back, while Anet grabbed Zushi and Serah before avoiding the pressure.

    Finally, the pressure dissipated. The seven teachers lowered their arms with dry sensation in their throats.

    “From an Intermediate Mist Master to a Beginner Mist Lord…” One of the seven uttered with great difficulty.

    “This is the power of the best B class formation the school has!” Another teacher answered.

    The execution of the Four Breaths formation left the seven teachers overwhelmed. As part of the school faculty, though they had access to the Four Breaths formation, neither of them dreamt of actually studding it. Among B class formation it was the best and in order to practice, it required an immense perseverance and aptitude that are past what the standard Mist Master can demonstrate.

    Inside the circle, Livai looked like a knight from an epic tale. So dominant, none of the students could comment, but stare, gaping.

    “Do you need time to erect your formation or have you already executed it?” Livai asked for one reason. When the surge of pressure emerged he was busy stabilizing the formation, therefore he did not see how Zax dealt with the pressure. Examining him now, Livai was a bit taken aback when he noticed that not a drop of sweat, not a single step back or a change in his dull stance occurred.

    “I don’t need a formation”. Zax replied. His response seemed to irritate Livai.

    “You are a new student, therefore I assume that you are ignorant to the power of the Four Breaths formation. Juniors, you also should listen carefully and memorized, so in the future, those of you who will make it to the Advanced grade, will know which formation is the best among our B class formation”. Livai said proudly. “The Four Breaths formation, as its name suggests, could be maintained only for four breaths after taking the first step. In one versus one fights, there is so better formation to finish your opponent with. Erect it perfectly and upon completion it will grant a Mist Master the strength of a Beginner phase Mist Lord in the first two breaths and the strength of an Intermediate phase Mist Lord in the latter breaths!“ Livai explained.

    “Mist Lord?!”

    “This guy is a new student and he want to compete against senior Livai who possesses now the power of a Mist Lord?!”

    “Hahaha! This is probably just senior Livai giving pointers to the new senior”.

    “Yeah, but is he crazy for not using a formation to fight back?”

    “Who cares? Senior Livai! Senior Livai! Senior Livai!”

    After listening to Livai’s explanation, some students murmured wonderingly, others were already proclaiming Livai as an expert beyond Zax’s reach, and the rest simply called the name of their idol as loud as they could.

    “Oh… such a great rise in power does sound impressive”. Zax genuinely said. “But like I said before, I’m ready”.

    “In our school it is complementary for both contesters to erect their formation before the fight, yet you choose to underestimate my formation and our school’s custom. Juniors, watch and learn the destructiveness of one’s poor step on the Martial path. Regrettably, you will only be able to witness the first breath of my Four Breaths formation and learn the gravity of your mistake!”

    Livai bent his right leg slightly to a launching stance. “In front of your better ones, unsightly attitude and misbehavior are prone to create frictions and problems. Learn your place next time!”

    WHOOSH!

    The instant Livai kicked the ground, his silvery purple armor flared and the first breath of the Four Breaths formation commenced.

    “Let’s see how long your breaths are”. Zax took a small step to the left, avoiding Livai’s straight punch.

    “Eh?” Livai was momentarily stunned. ‘Was I holding back?’ He questioned. Clenching his fists tighter, he turned to Zax who was lazily standing couple of centimeters next to him.

    The first breath could sustain for five seconds and within these five seconds, Livai was still assured that he will beat Zax.

    WHOOSH!

    Livai spun his body, aiming a screw kick to Zax’s right side.

    Lowering his back, the kick traveled right above Zax’s head. ‘Oh… the way he just moved was not just a simple punch and kick. Is he practicing a close combat Martial art?’ Zax mused, placing more attention at the question than the fight.

    ‘Again?!’ Livai’s pupils contracted. ‘Am I hallucinating?’ He frowned and stared at the calm looking Zax. ‘Something wrong…’ An ominous feeling started to form in his heart. ‘Unacceptable!’ Though he could not pinpoint how an Intermediate Mist Master avoided his strikes twice, Livai gnashed his teeth and attributed his bad feeling to coincidence. ‘I’ll use the full extent of the first breath!’ He decided resolutely.

    The silvery purple armor streamed all the energy embedded in it into Livai fists, burning the seconds it had until the second breath for the full blown power of a Beginner phase Mist Lord.

    ‘He doesn’t aim to the chest area or head, but his strikes can nonetheless sever a limb of a regular Mist Master…’ Zax thought as he leisurely avoided the rain of hundreds of fists Livai projected at him. ‘If he wants to hit me so bad…’ He stopped on his track.

    BOOM!

    ‘A hit!’ Livai exulted. “What!” He then shouted in disbelief.

    “Look!”

    “Senior Livai wo- Eh!”

    “Ho- Ho- Ho…w could it be?!”

    “Teacher, what happened?!”

    After Livai, the Beginner grade students who did not perceive a fraction of what occurred and could see just the last lingering strike, screamed in shock and sought answers from their teachers.

    The seven teachers were the only ones who could barely follow the exchange and even they were unable to conceive how the scene before their eyes could ensue.

    “Livai!” Livai’s four friends, who followed him to enjoy the sight of Zax getting beat up, cried in alarm.

    “Zax…” Zushi, after hearing the description of the Four Breath formation was worried even more for his friend, now felt dumb and shocked.

    Serah stared from behind Anet’s back. The pressure from before was too petrifying to endure and since Anet’s moved to protect her and Zushi, she remained sheltered behind her. Looking at Livai and Zax, her eyes sparkled and a huge lovely smile adorned her face.

    As for Anet’s reaction... She only smiled.

    “Im- Impossible!” Livai yelled and retreated to the edge of the circle.

    He fist landed smoothly on Zax, the fool even tried to counter it, but… At the moment of contact the right armguard of his silvery purple armor shattered to smithereens like silvery purple glass!

    “You… You… What formation did you use?!” Livai did not care for his audience, teachers or even friends. He repeatedly practiced the Four Breaths formation for tens of thousands of times. His mastery over it was superb. Whether it is the winner of the half year Martial competition or a member from the Disciplinary Class and the Student Council Class, he did not believe anyone can break his formation with a plain punch Like Zax just used to counter him.

    “Tell me! What sort of formation you insidiously used after claiming that you don’t need a formation”. Livai shouted, seething from anger, his ego and pride were damaged along with his formation.

    Lifting his left hand up, Zax laughed. “The Five Fingers Into Fist formation”.

  15. #115
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    Book 5 – Horns

    Chapter 19 – The Pearl Of El-Eden



    “You…” Livai mist energy rushed to fix the right armguard. As a top student of a Martial school, which excels in formation, it was a simple thing for him to fix the Four Breaths.

    As for Zax’s response… it was a slap to his face since there was clearly no sign of mist energy, much less a formation, on Zax’s hand. Immediately, thoughts of concealed weapons or high grade Martial technique started to circulate in Livai’s mind. Those were the only means, he believed, Zax could sneakily counter him.

    “Ha!” Livai shouted, flaring the second and third breath, accumulating their might and adding it to the fourth breath.

    The fluctuations released from the silvery purple armor forced the seven teachers to put aside the implausible results of the clash between Livai and Zax, to raise again a mantle to protect their students.

    Livai’s friends and Anet were also vigilant against the powerful fluctuations.

    Inside the circle, this time around, Livai did not blink while looking at Zax’s method to protect himself from the fluctuations who emanated the power of nearly an Advanced phase Mist Lord. Yet, no matter how carefully he looked and inspected, Zax merely stood still, almost giving the impression that he is about to yawn.

    Zax’s idleness drove Livai’s state of mind into frenzy, while in his heart he began to feel despondent. ‘Mother****er! You can’t be casually standing when facing the fluctuation of almost an Advanced Mist Lord! For this… For this… gall, don’t blame me later for not holding back anymore!’ Livai despised the state he, the number two Advanced grade student, was pushed to by a mere new student. He wanted to curse at Zax and threaten him, but was afraid that afterwards he will concede, and revenge would impossible.

    Assimilating the remaining three breaths, Livai consumed the time he had before the Four Breaths formation would be terminated, saving one second of retaliation.

    Livai felt his mist channels, mist energy, body and soul being strained from the force he gritted his teeth to control. His current use of the Four Breaths formation was dangerous as well as forbidden, due to the recoil it had eighty percent chances to cause to the user’s three aspects.

    BOOM!

    Prepared to confront and destroy Zax along with his hidden method, Livai explosively pounced toward him, appearing as a streak of silvery purple energy in the eyes of all the spectators of the fight.

    Closing the distance to Zax, Livai saw him raising an outstretched fist to meet him. ‘Good, that fist… I’ll break!’

    BOOM!

    The sound of the impact resonated throughout the school and blinding silvery purple light shone from the collision point. The protective mantle of the seven teachers cracked and shattered. Livai’s friends and Anet, who was carrying Serah and Zushi, retreated farther.

    The seven teachers’ faces were full of distress, they could not escape and abandon their students and erecting a defensive formation would have taken too much time. From the beginning they did not think that Livai would go so far to unleash such a mighty force in what they thought to be a spar between fellow students.

    Just when they were about to exhaust their mist energy, an azure light descended from above the court and engulfed the spreading destructive mist energy.

    A few second have passed. The silvery purple light dimmed and vanished together with the destructive mist energy.

    “Puah!” An agonized cry sounded, causing all averted eyes to look for the result of the clash.

    Livai stood an arm length from Zax. His four breath formation was gone and blood was splattered on his chin, uniforms and the short space that separated him from Zax. His left hand supported his right shoulder, and the previous lordliness changed so swiftly into the look of a terminally ill patient.

    In comparison to Livai, Zax, as he did from the start, stood calmly, indolently, without a hint of dust or even a wrinkle on his uniforms.

    “Ho…w?” The word barely got out. His eyes no longer stared at Zax in shock or disbelief, only dilated as he struggled to remain conscious.

    “Senior Livai…”

    “The second strongest Advanced grade student…”

    “The supreme Four Breaths formation…”

    “Who is… Who is that senior?!”

    Numerous dazed whispers stirred from the seven teachers and their Beginner grade students. They all thought that Livai will beat Zax, while giving him pointers. That for the new Advanced grade student to actually surpass Livai was a joke.

    “Livai… actually lost?!”

    “This guy is that strong?!”

    Livai’s friends gulped in fear. An itch in the left side of their face, made them look to the side, find Anet, Zushi and Serah, and then heavily regret their action.

    Serah, Zushi and Anet were brimming with smiles and satisfaction. Zax’s strength was beyond their wildest dreams. Even in Anet’s point of view, despite knowing how terrifying he can be, seeing it with one’s own eyes was completely different.

    “Wonderful, wonderful”. A voice praised from the edge of the court. A figure appeared next to Livai’s friends, Anet, Zushi and Serah.

    “Vice principal Ram!” All eyes realized virtually at the same time.

    Vice principal Mizuri was none other than the one who protected the seven teachers and Beginner grade students. He was informed of the fight by the receptionist of the Advanced grade building and rushed to view it.

    “Student Livai Persion, you clearly possess the qualification to join my Disciplinary Class. If you’ll just learn what your limits are, your future might hold great achievements”. Vice principal Mizuri stepped into the court. His words made everyone but Zax and his friends sigh in admiration.

    To be told that he can join the Disciplinary Class when the opponent who won against him did not receive a word of praise, everyone thought that Zax, although extremely strong, was relaying on some sort of hidden technique to fight Livai. And now, after the fight, even though no one still knew what Zax used, it was only important for Livai to know, and then Zax will never be able to beat him again.

    “Vice principal Ram is wise”. Livai’s friends felt relieved from hearing vice principal Mizuri.

    “Yes, he definitely saw the insidious means the new students used against Livai”.

    “This would be the first and lost time he will ever dare fight Livai!”

    “In the future, he should work hard to make amends with Livai. Once Livai will become a member of the Disciplinary Class, this guy will probably run away from school”.

    The two boys and two girls laughed.

    On the other side, the happiness of Serah, Anet and Zushi turned into anger. After watching the one sided fight, the two who were concerned for Zax, trusted now that he had the capabilities to win against Livai at any time.

    ‘Why then, he did not receive praises from the vice principal?’ They wondered.

    “Here”, vice principal Mizuri lent a hand for Livai to balance himself. “I will take you into the Rehabilitation Room and when you’ll recover, come take the test to join my Disciplinary Class”.

    “Thank you, vice principal Ram!” With vice principal Mizuri being so nice to him, Livai felt content despite his condition from the fight. In fact, it only assured his suspicion of Zax using some low means to get the upper hand, but clearly not the attention of the vice principal.

    “Wait”. Zax called. “There is still the matter of your promise”. He reminded Livai.

    “Promise?” Vice principal Mizuri asked. About the arrangement of what happens in the case of Zax wining, the receptionist of the Advanced grade building did not mention to him.

    “Promise? I give my word only to honest people who respect our school’s customs. You are below my word and don’t deserve it!” Livai mustered his strength to bark at Zax.

    “Student Livai, what word did you give to student Zax?” Vice principal Mizuri asked, before Zax had the chance to respond.

    “Vice principal Ram, I promised to hold anything he might ask of me, if he would win in a fight against me. I was willing to keep that promise, but then, this dishonest new student used trickery in the fight. If I’ll be a member of the Disciplinary Class in the future, I should not stain my name by acknowledging such a low person”.

    “That’s right, senior Livai should not lower himself!”

    “Yes, we all saw the fight!”

    “Senior Livai’s profound formation was unmatched in its exquisiteness, what just means does a new student have to counter it, even if he is an Advanced grade student?!”

    The Beginner grade students and Livai’s friends commented unanimously, despite the fact that other than the flashing performance of Livai and the final result, they could not see anything clearly.

    Vice principal Mizuri turned a deaf hear to their voices. He turned to Zax. “Student Zax, you fought student Livai for this promise?”

    “Yes”.

    “Then I supposed that student Livai will have to keep his word”. Vice principal Mizuri sighed helplessly and stunned everyone.

    “What?! Vice principal Ram support the cheating new student?!”

    “Forcing someone of senior Livai’s caliber will tarnish his name; the new student doesn’t worth it!”

    “My sister saw him in the half year Martial competition and said that his skills are the embodiment of our Supreme Ruler!”

    “You already said it… even without your sister we all know that the new student is unqualified to ask senior Livai anything and should be grateful for the pointers he received!”

    “Even I think that I gained some insight from watching senior Livai. An Advanced grade student should have comprehended much more, how he can still be so rapacious?!”

    Most of those who commented were the older Beginner grade students, who already spent four or more years in Eden Formation. The little ones, who were in their first to third year in the Beginner grade, have not yet reached this foolish level of idolizes.

    ”Vice principal Ram, the new student resorted to low and dirty means in order to surpass our school best B class formation! How can I give in to his perverted whims?” Livai, as if offended, asked vice principal Mizuri.

    “Low and dirty means?” Vice principal Mizuri raised an eyebrow. “Why should he use such things? Student Livai, teachers, have you really witnessed student Zax doing this sort of stuff?” Vice principal Mizuri glanced at the seven teachers and Livai.

    The seven were silently shaking their heads. From the moment Livai attacked Zax, they could barely follow the two’s movement. Saying that they grasp Zax’s method would have been a lie. The seven teachers favored Livai and sensed that something was not quite right with how Zax conducted his behavior, but as school faculty they could not pick sides.

    “Vice principal Ram, when I used the Four Breaths formation my strength surged to the Mist Lord level, surpassing respectable teachers. I don’t know exactly what the new student used, but his dirty method allowed him to move and react also with the strength of a Mist Lord. Since only I could match him, respectable teachers could not see what he used, only rely on their instincts to guess that he was fighting dirty”. Livai explicated to justify the seven’s response.

    “Mmm…” Vice principal Mizuri assessed Livai’s rejoinder with a solemn expression. “You have the aptitude, cultivation and brain to join my Disciplinary Class, but your character is flawed”. His assessment hit Livai out of nowhere. One moment he received praises, the other he was being reprimanded.

    “Vice principal Ram…” Livai’s voice lost its assertiveness. Between losing a bit of face by doing what Zax wanted while joining the Disciplinary Class afterwards, and standing his ground while not joining the Disciplinary Class, the former carried a magnitude of more weight in anyone’s opinion.

    “Everyone, student Livai, let me ask you something…” Vice principal Mizuri said. “You all should have heard about the Pearls of Tongguo and Shìtou number one Martial schools, right?” The crowed of teachers, Beginner grade students and even Livai’s friends and Anet nodded, with very few who answered outloud. “Good. Then tell me this then, why would student Zax, the Pearl of our Eden Formation, the number one Martial school in El-Eden, have to use ‘dirty’, ’low’, ‘insidious’ means against a student with barely the strength of an Intermediate phase Mist Lord?”

    Vice principal Mizuri’s question bombarded to heads of everyone it was directed toward, as if a Sun Stone storm broke out in their minds.

    Of the Beginner grade students, only the older ones could understand what vice principal Mizuri meant. After them, the teachers, Livai and his friends and Anet, too, knew the meaning of the world “Pearl” in this context.

    Among those who strode the Martial path in Kingdom Earth for a decade or so, or were well informed and connected, it was widely known that two of the three number one Martial schools had monstrous experts. The three were divided to one in Tongguo and two in Shitou. Rumors had been spread around that the three were students below the age of thirty and already possessed skill or\and cultivation that could rival anyone under the second level of the Core Master realm.

    Next to the three, who for their peers were figures close to gods, even the older generations and expert of great families and other forces in Kingdom Earth; had to be tactful and courteous toward.

    Now, Eden Formation, the school of these dumbfounded students and teachers, also possessed a student who can be categorized as “Pearl”, and they all looked down on him?!

    BANG!

    Livai fell to his knees, bowing his head to Zax as cold sweat slid across his arched back. “Please accept my apology, senior Ram!” His voice was aggravated and his demeanor was at a newly discovered low.

    BANG!

    BANG!

    BANG!

    BANG!

    “Please accept our apology, senior Ram!”

    The two boys and two girls, Livai’s friends, as they mimicked their leader, clenched their legs of fear of losing control on their bladder and piss in their pants in front of their juniors and teachers.

    The five’s sudden change in temperament aroused the curiosity of the young Beginner grade students. Questions in faint voices sought explanations from teachers and older generation’s students.

    Vice principal Mizuri had a gratified smile when Livai apologized. With that, the young Advanced grade student was one step closer to becoming a proper member of his Disciplinary Class.

    As for revealing the part about Zax’s status in school... That was bound to happen sooner or later. Vice principal Mizuri was not oblivious to Don’s, Ten’s and Marksim’s, along with several others’, intentions of placing Zax as Eden Formation’s seeded candidate. Also, the notion of “seeded candidate” was unfamiliar to the majority of Kingdom Earth’s population, so those who can connect the dots will not do so overnight.

    Thus, vice principal Mizuri took upon himself to make the first, subtle announcement, which he was sure that will certainly spread from the mouth of the students and possibly teachers, that Eden Formation is in possession of a super genius who is not inferior to the other two regions’ Pearls.

    “I gather that your promise still stands…” Zax, like the young Beginner grade students, did not know what it means to be referred to as a “Pearl”, he did not know what Don’s deal was with Grandmaster Kartion and he did not care about any of these things right now, only of the matter at hand.

    “Anything you ask, senior Ram, please let this junior on the Martial path to help you however I can!” Livai became totally submissive. At the top of the list of the things most important to him, right above being accepted into the Disciplinary Class was “Not messing with the school’s Pearl!”.

    Zax was pleased from hearing Livai. “Well, first, your friends should apologize not to me, but to Anet and my friends”. He turned his head to the four, who were still with their hands and heads on the ground, like Livai.

    “We are very sorry for hazing Anet Ram and belittling two honorable guests!”

    The four, more or less, phrased their apology the same way.

    The faces of Anet, Zushi and Serah turned reddish from awkwardness from having the four bowed their heads for them and apologize so politely in front of so many people.

    “Good”. Zax was satisfied from the apology. Returning to Livai. “My request is very simple, especially to someone who might join the Disciplinary Class. From now on, anyone who will speak badly of Anet when I’m not around will be dealt with by you. Also, my recommendation is that you’ll take to heart this responsibility. Is my request reasonable?”

    “Yes, senior Ram!”

    “Excellent”. Zax turned and walked off from the court. Arriving next to Anet, Serah and Zushi he said smiling. “Now we should be able to go to the school’s library without anyone bothering us”.

  16. #116
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    Book 5 – Horns

    Chapter 20 - Have To Make Things Straight?



    Going back to when Anet brought her friends to the Advanced grade building… Moments before the commission by Livai’s friends started, the beautiful receptionist of the Advanced grade building, who welcomed the two groups, was in the midst of imparting the rules of the Summit to Zax, Serah and Zushi.

    Now that the “fight” with Livai was finished, there were still a few things for Zax, Serah and Zushi to hear, and due to them leaving in the middle of the first explanation, the receptionist stubbornly insisted on repeating everything from the beginning.

    “Firs, student Zax, as an Eden Formation’s student, you must register a DNA sample in order to get access to the Martial section of the Summit. Fortunately, I see here that your DNA sample was already submitted, therefore there is no need to trouble yourself”. As the receptionist confirmed, Zax had an eerie feeling in his stomach.

    ‘The school has a sample of my DNA…’ Thinking back to when he was brought to recover in the school, after concluding the issue in the Derneldar family’s territory, it was not odd that the school could get a sample of his DNA, but for someone to take it without his consent was a tad creepy.

    “Proceeding to the student’s rules of conduct in the Summit”, the receptionist continued. “The Martial section of the Summit is divided to seven levels, each level, but the seventh, is then split into two sections of the same formations’ classes and techniques’ grades. The first level, which open to all students, retain F class Martial formations and F grade Martial techniques, while the seventh level is available to a selected students and retain S class Martial formations and S grade Martial techniques”. The receptionist explained before getting to the rules which apply to Zax.

    “According to your registered information, student Zax, you have free access to all seven levels of the Summit”. The receptionist said with a hint of respect and a bit of envy.

    Next to Zax, Anet also gasped in shock that subsided only after she remembered the words vice principal Mizuri said just couple of minutes ago.

    “If you want to sign out a technique or formation from the Summit, student Zax, you are authorized to pick one technique scripture or formation scripture for thirty days. Should you lose the technique’s or formation’s scripture, you will be fined by the school. On that note, looking at your free access to all seven levels, student Zax, I must personally warn you that the jurisdiction of dealing with transgressions lie in the hands of a third realm expert”. The receptionist’s tip off came out in solemn, almost menacing, voice.

    “Are you referring to Superintendent Ten Ram?” The old and aloof figure emerged in Zax mind and even before getting the receptionist’s confirmation he nodded to her warning.

    “If you know Ten Ram, then I’m sure you understand”. The receptionist had a good impression from Zax’s character. Seeing that he was already well aware of the school’s most prominent figure, despite being a new student and despite the fact that less than twenty percent of the student body knew about Superintendent Ten’s former identity and frightening cultivation, improved that good impression.

    “The doors to the seven levels of the Martial section are equipped with identification sensors and protected by defensive formations. Upon getting to them and wanting to advance to the next level, place a hand on the door and it will read your DNA. Abusing your free access to let other students or guests into levels they are not permitted for entering will be counted as another offense to the Summit’s rules, which will be dealt with by Superintendent Ten Ram”.

    Once more, the mentioning of the third realm expert, Ten, caused Zax to node and attach great importance to the Summit’s rules.

    “That should be all for you, student Zax”. The young receptionist turned to Zushi and Serah. “The rules for the school’s guest are much shorter and simple. You cannot enter the Martial section and unable to borrow books or records from the Summit, but while you are in, you have permits to all the other sections and can read whatever you like. Also, the computers in the Summit have abridged versions of all the books and records in the Summits, but those in the Martial section. You can send up to ten abridged books or records to an outside computer with this password”. The reception handed two paper slips, one for Zushi and one for Serah with several letters and numbers.

    “Memorized?” She asked after about a minute.

    “Yes”. Zushi and Serah both answered.

    The receptionist took the two paper slips and disintegrated with her golden mist energy.

    “Good. Whether you will use your passwords or not, at the end of the day they will expire. To renew your guest’s permits you will have to wait a month and then return, accompanied by a student or a member of the school’s faculty”.

    Finally, the receptionist got to Anet, the last member in the group. “Student Anet, I’ll remind you that, as a member of the Student Council Class, although you have access to the sixth level of the Martial section, principal Ram restricted your access to borrow any technique or formation scripture for the time being. As for why, you should already know”.

    Anet indeed know. It was not because she just became Don’s Tal and joined the Student Council Class, but because her training’s method was already set by Don and skimming through eye catching Martial techniques and formation will only distract her.

    “I know”. Anet replied.

    “Then you may all go now to the Summit”. The young receptionist said with a smile.

    “Thank you for your help”. The four said before leaving to the elevators.



    Exiting the elevator in the first underground floor of the Advanced grade building, the four enters the first of the two floors the Summit has.

    The interior of the Summit’s first floor was circular, encompassing two third of the school’s grounds, and grandiose with a classical design from times before humanity immigrated to New Earth.

    The first floor was situated roughly fifty meters underground. From its wooden flooring to the artistic ceiling, the height of the first floor was twenty five meters. Lines of large bookshelves were arranged with accordance to the Summit’s circular structure and at the edges of the first floor upholstered chairs and long tables were positioned and occupied by several tens of people who were already quietly reading in the Summit.

    In between long tables was the only sign of technology in the first floor of the Summit. Those were the computers the young receptionist of the Advanced grade building mentioned.

    “So huge…” Serah said with her eyes open wide, trying to grasp the full size of the Summit.

    “In our school the library is electronic, since it is much, much cheaper than constructing an ancient fashioned library, not to mention one that contains so many paper books and records… ” Zushi also was at awe.

    “Where the Martial section is located?” Zax asked Anet.

    He used his Soul Sense to search the Summit, but it was obstructed by a formation that inhabited in the entire first floor of the Summit. The formation was exceedingly resilient than any of those Zax encountered before in the school. Its restriction gave a similar sensation to the oppressive force of the Savage Caves. Zax options were to either fight it or succumb to the two meters radius it confined his Soul Sense. Naturally, to not arouse Superintendent Ten’s wrath he chose the latter option, being a good guest to the Summit – he still did not consider himself a student of the school.

    “The Martial section has its own floor below this one. Unfortunately, only I and you can go down to it”. Anet stated the obvious simply from feeling bad for Zushi and Serah.

    “You don’t need to worry about us. We already know that maybe Half the purpose of Zax wanting to come here was to check the Martial part of this library”. Serah said, hinting to Anet with her eyes what could be the other half. “You two can go ahead to the Martial floor and check whatever technique or formation you want. I’m more interested in the art section of this library and I’m sure Zushi, too, have want to check the stuff in this floor”.

    “I’m fine”. Zushi affirmed, knowing where Serah was going with sending Zax and Anet without them. Besides, with his gaze, which was captured by the enchanting vista of the first floor of the Summit, it was evident that whether alone or with his friends, he could do fine in this amazing library.

    “Then we will head down and meet you later in about half an hour”. Zax jumped on the chanced Serah provided him to be alone with Anet. After the hug, the passionate statement and his friends laughing at him, his mind cooled down a bit, allowing him to think of better things to talk about with Anet then spout cheesy sentences.

    “There is a counter at the center of the first floor with two students that are assigned as the monthly caretakers of the Summit, since it doesn’t really has a librarian. You can seek help there in finding the sections that interest you and we can meet in the counter half a hour from now”. Anet suggested.

    It was written all over everyone faces why they were so willing to split into two groups, and Anet, much like Zax, also had things she wanted to tell him without the stress of others listening, be they strangers or friends.



    While waiting standing alone in the elevator, Zax and Anet did not talk much, but their hands were held together in mutual affection.

    Going down further in the elevator to the second floor of the Summit, to the Martial section, the elevator’s doors opened after descending for about seven seconds and eighty five meters below the first floor.

    “Let’s go”. Anet took the lead and pulled Zax out of the elevator into a small cubic room with two doors on the left and right.

    “The right door leads to the fourth level and the left to the fifth and so on”. Anet said. Going a few steps to the left door, she placed her hand on it. A hand shaped lift flashed from underneath Anet’s palm and the door opened.

    As the door, which was made from impervious metals, sunk into the floor Zax caught a glimpse of its thickness and was surprised.

    Anet stood right next to him and while waiting for the door to completely submerge in the floor, she said. “You can’t tell using a Soul Sense, but the door is forty centimeters thick, couple with the metals it was made of and the formations imprinted on it, even a second level Core Master would not be able to break through it”.

    “So severe…”

    “Of course, from the fifth level and above the B to S class formations and B to S grade techniques are kept. Inside the space of the fifth, sixth and seventh levels it security is even more harsh!”

    TING!

    After the door sunk a short sound rang.

    “We need to cross the doorstep within four seconds”. Anet did not notice, but the more she talked with Zax, even though they just left Zushi and Serah and Zax, himself, was short on words, the more joyous her tone became.

    The fifth level was empty from human presence. Its shape was plain and cubic like the previous room and fifteen meters in front of the two was the door to the next, sixth level. The differences were in the size of the fifth level, which was three times larger than the room before, and its interior, which gave it an air of the inside of a bank’s vault with the many deposit boxes that were embedded to the walls of the fifth level.

    “You still can’t use your Qi, right?” Anet asked before proceeding.

    “Yes. I was hoping to find a technique or formation that can be executed with soul energy”.

    “Oh, if that’s what you want we should go to the next level”. Anet declared and without lingering, walked with Zax the fifteen meters to the door to the sixth level and placed her hand on it.

    While the door to the sixth level functioned in a similar manner to the previous door, Zax mind was whirling.

    ‘Seriously?! How can my mind go blank the moment we left Zushi and Serah?!’ Zax helplessly reprimanded himself. ‘She’s holding my hand with more firmness than I hold hers. She talks and smiles and pulls me after her... But the hug and the things I said before were probably a bit excessive and irresponsible… even if I want to stay with her and she feels the same way that I do, I still have to go back to Valgarel and I can’t take her with me. Not before I’ll be strong enough to protect her from anything and everything by myself… If I want to be with her, I first have to make things straight!’

    Zax loved Anet, but he had commitment he could not neglect. His Master, his big sister, Laivien, Grandmaster Kartion and the rest of his Martial household needed him. If he wanted to be with Anet he first had to explain where he currently stands, and if she truly feels the same way and can accept his situation, only then can they be together. Not before he would take his time discussing with her.

    “Anet!” Zax felt her pulling him to cross the doorstep to the sixth level, yet pulled her back to him, not caring if they would have to repeat to procedure and if the door might had delay mechanism to prevent multiply repetition.

    “Zax?” Anet was startled by his abrupt behavior.

    “Err… sorry”. Zax realized that he scared her. He released Anet’s hand and stepped back whilst the door to the sixth floor rose from the floor.

    “Nothing happened, but what do you want”. Anet calmed down and said with a soft voice. She was not angry or annoyed for almost roughly being pulled back. Besides, if there was force behind Zax’s action, with his flawless control over kinetic energy he negated it before any harm could occur to Anet.

    Tenderly sliding her hair from her face, Anet gentleness and beauty caused Zax to tarry before he had a change of mind.

    ‘At the end of things, if I love her and she feels the same way, does anything else could pose a problem? Properly telling her how I feel…’ Saying these words in his mind, a sense of tranquility began to fill Zax, slowing down the whirling. ‘Should be what I do first’. He made up his mind.

    “Zax?” Still waiting for an answer, Anet could him again.

    Releasing a pent up breath, Zax quelled his heart and said with a relaxed, content voice. “I love you Anet”.

  17. #117
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    Book 5 – Horns

    Chapter 21 - Soul Binding Formation



    “Eh…” Zax’s sudden confession took Anet by surprise. Right at that moment, time stood still, her eyes were fixated on Zax’s resolute face and his words rang through her ears, pulsating in her sea of consciousness.

    The whirling thoughts that seconds ago agitated Zax, now seemed to transfer to Anet.

    In the disorder, Anet knew that she has to make some sort of response that was more than just a startling gaffe. Her inner mind tried to make sense of how deep her affectionate feelings for Zax were, not with words, but by deciphering her own emotions.

    Were there feelings for Zax? Definitely. Were they so strong that they affected her state of mind when thinking about him? No doubt. So then, how accurately she could convert those feelings into words as a response to Zax? The answer for this question was like a dispersing mist, at the tip of her tongue, yet not ready to come out.

    In truth, it was not so hard for Anet to answer as she made it to be. As a girl, her understanding of the feelings of the heart was like innate ability that man could simply not comprehend until a certain age and many experiences. In comparison to her, Zax’s confession could mix and confuse the outburst of a youthful love or a first love with what a girl really cared for, the purest form of love, true love. Regardless to what kind of love he carried in his heart, his words were already said and Anet was infatuated by them.

    Now, for Anet to convey her feelings, in the short span of time that passed since the door to the sixth level closed shut and Zax confessed, her inner mind assessed what sort of love she carried in her heart, despite its rushed built foundations, and only upon clearing all forms of uncertainties, the answer became transparent.

    “I love you, too”.

    As the words left Anet’s mouth, both she and Zax felt like the last obstacle between them, the disparity between their feelings for each other was reduced in size, aligned and completely vanished.

    “Then from now on you are my girlfriend”. Zax said, extending his for Anet. It was an intimate declaration for just the two of them.

    “And you are my boyfriend”. Anet grab his hand.

    Awkwardness was unavoidable for this newly established relationship, but the two were content with it and even enjoyed it a little.

    “Let’s go to the sixth level”. Anet said to Zax, “I’ll show you the mist refinement technique I cultivate. Sadly, my comprehensive abilities aren’t as good as Livai’s, so the formation I study to cultivate my soul is in the third level, a top D class formation”. Turning around she placed a hand, once more, on the door to the sixth level.

    ‘That’s right. Everything can be settled due time. Anet is still a student with obligations for her training. Leaving to Valgarel for a period of time should not affect us’.

    The sixth level of the Summit’s Martial section was a lot smaller than the fifth level. Once more, the interior was structured like a cubic vault, but this time around it was four square meters in size, rather than fifteen. Furthermore, there were also fewer deposit boxes in the walls of the sixth level, twelve to be exact.

    “The sixth level has in total two Martial techniques and one formation that are related to the soul. As far as I know, though, no one in the Student Council Class cultivates them because of their level of difficulty”. Anet said. “With regards to the seventh level, you should not bother. I can’t go there, but Don Ram told me that there are only two techniques in there and they are both mist related”. She recounted.

    “Do you know which ones are the soul’s techniques and formation?” Zax asked with the intentions of checking all three, to see which one would be most suitable for his current needs and borrow it from the Summit. He could only pick one after all.

    The deposit boxes imbedded to the sixth level’s walls had plates with different names written on each and every one of them.

    “I remember one of the soul techniques because Don Ram showed it to me once. It’s beside the mist refinement technique that I cultivate, ’Nine Storey Pagoda’. The soul technique is called ‘Densely Packed Soul Bullet’… here it is!” Anet found the deposit box. Placing a finger on it, a light flashed underneath her finger and the deposit box released a “Ting” before sliding out from within the wall. The procedure was identical to the door opening process of the seven levels of the Martial section.

    Inside the deposit box was a tube like casing and inside of it was a rolled scripture. When Zax picked up the casing and took out the scripture to see its content, a holographic message lit up and hovered above the opened deposit box.

    “That’s the description of the soul technique”. Anet said.

    “Name: Densely Packed Soul Bullet. Grade: Beginner A soul attack technique. Creator: A.D”.

    The description was short and did not say anything about the implementation of the Densely Packed Soul Bullet. Nevertheless, it had a peculiar appeal when one read the initials of the creator.

    “Is that…?” Zax carefully asked. He looked, staggered, at Anet.

    Seeing his expression, Anet smiled cutely at him. “Hehe, I wondered if you’ll notice. That's right, the creator of this soul technique is our Supreme Ruler, Ariel Dauch!”

    Although he had his suspensions, Zax still found himself shocked and speechless.

    Anet picked up the scripture and handed it to him. “The school is almost like a branch of the Dauch family. Naturally, the founder of the family will contribute to improve the quality of the school’s techniques and formations. Over sixty percent of what the school’s teachers teach is based of varied levels of understanding of Supreme Ruler Ariel Dauch’s teachings”.

    “Let me see”. Zax composed himself and took the scripture from Anet. It was his first time reading a documented technique, first time handling a Martial technique outside of a fight, not considering the bodily maneuvers and the Kinetic Force, so when he rolled it opened, he did so gently.

    Opened, the scripture had very few words and many explanatory pictures of flowing shapes, or in other words, the cultivation method of the Densely Packed Soul Bullet through soul energy.

    Observing the content of scripture, the outline of Zax’s face started to take the shape of a frown. Even with his unique soul and comprehensive abilities that allowed him to analyze and understand every method of training he practiced in the shortest time so far, to follow the instruction of the Densely Packed Soul Bullet was a new challenge for him.

    While looking at the pictures, he tried to simultaneously direct his soul energy according to the flowing shapes, but there were too many variations between the shapes, some simple, others profound. Any minuscule mistake caused his attempt of creating the Densely Packed Soul Bullet to fail and his soul energy to rebound, creating instead a headache.

    Zax did not think about it before, but now he understood why there was a borrowing time to the Summit. His soul, even with its capabilities that were better than the souls of most second level Core Masters, could not memorize the steps of the Densely Packed Soul Bullet to perfection. If someone wanted to learn this soul attack, he or she had to either spend a tremendous amount of time studying its scripture or maintain a constant watch on the scripture to make sure the utilization of soul energy is being done correctly.

    Concurrently, Zax also learnt the advantages of recording a technique into a scripture, in addition to the disadvantage. By cultivating a technique or formation through a scripture, there is very little need for gaining insights, since everything is already recorded and, at most, an understanding of the material is all that the practitioner needs in order to comprehend the scripture. Then again, personal insights are the foundation of one’s cultivation and their importance can be illustrated in one example…

    A person who studied a technique through a scripture, even if he or she could utilize a hundred percent of the written material, they would not be able to take the next step and improve the technique, much less use what they learned and create their own original technique.

    Conversely, a person like Zax, who actually happened to stride on the proper path of learning, by witnessing the simplified version of a technique and assimilate it to his head, with just a few pointers now and then from a good teacher, can little by little, like climbing a ladder, uncover the genuine form of the technique on his own and even reach new heights with it. As for using the self acquired knowledge to create something completely new, although it will not be easy, it certainly is doable.

    In Zax’s case, the bodily maneuver fit perfectly to this example. Kartius, his Master, made sure to only instill the six hundred and fifty bodily maneuvers in his head, without exposing anything of their depth. The proof of the usefulness in this method of learning and teaching can be displayed when going back to a little over a month ago… When Zax saw that Raroen’s accomplishment in the bodily maneuvers surpassed his, he could easily made the mistake of following his footsteps and ending up eventually facing the same premature limit of the bodily maneuvers. Instead, due to him practicing the bodily maneuvers primarily on his own, he could create illusionary manifestations in a method of training he was already familiar with and had good foundation in and detect the drawback of Raroen’s bodily maneuvers.

    Nevertheless, Eden formation would not be the best Martial school in El-Eden and one of the three best Martial schools in all of Kingdom Earth if it did not have its own way of countering the disadvantage of learning through scriptures.

    To compensate for the shortcut that is the record scriptures, the curriculum in Eden Formation emphasized on cultivating formations. The reason for this was because among all the materials that could be record as scriptures for Martial cultivation, only formations were an exception that forced whoever was trying to study them, whether by scriptures or verbal guidelines with basic example from a teacher, to industriously comprehend a shape or many on one’s own.

    “Not what you were looking for?” Anet asked when she read Zax’s expression and sensed that his attention wavered from the allure of the soul technique in the scripture.

    “No”. Zax rolled the scripture, returned to the casing and placed it in the deposit box. “Help me search for the other soul technique and soul formation”. He asked since the only way to find them was to open the remaining deposit boxes and read their descriptions.

    “Okay”.

    It took couple of minutes for the two to go through several of the deposit boxes before they found the remaining soul technique and soul formation.

    The description of the soul technique was as followed:

    “Name: Whipping Soul. Grade: Beginner A soul attack technique. Creator: A.D”.

    Yet again, it was another technique invented by Supreme Rulers Ariel Dauch.

    After examining its content and giving it a try, Zax scowled. It was about as difficult to master as the Densely Packed Soul Bullet. The only difference was that Zax felt more comfortable with the Whipping Soul. He did not think about it too deeply, but he possibly had a better affinity to techniques that maintained constant contact with the user.

    The soul formation was the last thing Zax got to. Its description read:

    “Name: Soul Binding. Class: Intermediate A soul formation. Usage: Binding the awareness of an enemy to his sea of consciousness for an amount of time that is determined by the gap between soul levels. Creator: Ten”.

    “’Ten’ as in Superintendent Ten?!” Surprised, Zax asked Anet.

    Anet raised her eyebrows upon reading the name of the creator. “Possibly. Superintendent Ten was the first school principal of Eden Formation. Maybe not as many as Supreme Ruler Ariel, but he also added a lot of techniques and formation to the Summit”.

    Zax did not dilly dally. After meeting the man, the third realm expert, even if for a short time, he wondered what sort of formation, which he could also use, the unfathomable old man developed. Not to mention that it was a phase higher than Supreme Ruler Ariel’s soul techniques!

    As he laid his eyes on the scripture, reading through it and giving it a try with his soul energy, Zax failed within on breath of time.

    As the immensely painful rebound of soul energy pounded his sea of consciousness worse than the two soul technique, a bizarre thought flashed in Zax’s mind and his closed eyes opened with a brilliant luster.

    “It… It… It can’t be!”

  18. #118
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    Book 5 – Horns

    Chapter 22 – Back To Training



    “Cultivating this formation is exactly like cultivating the bodily maneuvers!” Zax exclaimed.

    In a sense, although Zax just became aware while who knows about his Master, Raroen and Grandmaster Kartion, but the bodily maneuvers were indeed a sort of formation, a bodily formation.

    It was even more evident when Zax remembered how he met Susuya and the feat that she displayed to him as they passed the courts with the Beginner grade students, on their way to Don’s office.

    That day, the formation the Beginner grade student practiced, Susuya executed with proficiency that far surpassed her peers, yet Zax did no read further, other than thinking that in her age group she was exceptional. Now, though, he saw her feat in a way that backed his suppositions of the bodily maneuver being a bodily formation.

    It was as if the formation the Beginner grade students practiced had phases and they all were struggling in the Beginner phase of the formation. On the contrary, Susuya erected the formation per the teacher’s instructions, with no effort at all. For this, one can only presume that Susuya was beyond the Beginner phase of the formation. Here lie the similarities to the bodily maneuvers. To Zax, executing the six hundred and fifty bodily maneuvers with accordance to their Beginner phase, was the same as taking a walk, but to someone less proficient it would be nothing short from grueling.

    This revelation dawned on Zax and made him feel like his head about to explode from exhilaration. He did not gain a new groundbreaking insight to the bodily maneuvers, no. The essence of what he attained was a better outlook at a method of training he cultivated for several years now, without knowing what it really was.

    With this new outlook, with the knowledge of what were the bodily maneuvers, a bodily formation, Zax felt utterly refreshed. Washed from a burden he did not even realize he carried. His new angle at the bodily maneuvers made him wanting to forget everything about soul techniques and soul formations, put aside the remaining five bottlenecks of insight of the soul, and resume his cultivation of the bodily maneuvers with anticipation.

    “Are you choosing the soul formation?” The question was practically rhetorical. Anet asked it merely to wake Zax from the buzz.

    “Yes”. Zax answered decisively with a smile. His new outlook at the bodily maneuvers was a great addition to what he originally wanted to get from the Summit, and regardless if his concentration was now directed at the bodily maneuvers more than strengthening his capabilities with the soul, he still needed a soul technique or soul formation. As for why choosing the soul formation, other than the already given benefit, Zax was in intrigued with its usage more than in the offensive power of the two soul techniques. Not to mention that the soul formation was a phase higher than the soul techniques.

    “That’s wonderful. Don Ram continuously claims that formations are much more commendable than attack and defense techniques. But because of the complexity of formations in comparison to techniques, I didn’t want to affect you choice”. Anet admitted.

    “You are my girlfriend, if you have an opinion or anything on your mind you can always freely share it with me. I’ll also do the same”. Zax said in certainty. Actually, as long as it was someone close to him, he would always pay heed to what they have to say.

    Anet had the same frame of thought, but now that Zax became her first boyfriend she discovered that she is a bit hesitant. Only when Zax assured her that he care for her opinion did she realize how ridicules she has been and that there are no procedures in girlfriend and boyfriend relationship.

    Returning a smile, Anet said. “Then put the scripture of the formation in the casing and back in the deposit box”.

    “Okay, eh! Why? I want to borrow this soul formation…”

    “I know, but I opened the deposit box. If you’ll borrow the soul formation, the Summit will register it in my name and it’s forbidden. Just put it back and place a finger on the deposit box to open it and register it to your name”.

    “Oh…” Zax nodded. Doing as Anet told him, he transferred the registration of the Soul Binding formation to his name. Obtaining thirty days till he has to return it, he and Anet left the Martial section of the Summit with a new meaning in their held hands.



    After returning from Eden Formation, Zax spent the remainder of his time at home with his family and friends. He disclosed the situation of his Martial household with Anet, dismissing only the stuff that were personal to his Master, Grandmaster Kartion and Laivien. Anet grudgingly accepted the fact that in matters of Valgarel, Zax cannot find help in Kingdom Earth. As for the support from Eden Formation and the Dauch family, Zax also omitted that part since he did not know the details and intentions behind this decision of the two bodies.

    To cope, Anet made a secret oath with himself. Zax protected her in the past; she will grow strong to protect him, too!

    With regards to his family and the rest of Zax friends… This time around, he could only spend his time at home with Serah and Zushi. The other members of their Earth’s Core searching group of eight, his opportunity to meet them will come in other time. Alas, it was even impossible to see Take, his big sister Tal and the first figure in his life he had considered as an older brother.

    Arranging a gathering with his extended family did not end up being easier, either. His grandparents were the only people, other than his mom, dad and Liz, that Zax had visited. To meet his aunts, uncles and cousins, like with his friends, Zax could only hope to do so next time he would be home.

    Thus, leisure time at home came to a conclusion. These four days were nothing but a break from training, in which the only straining Zax did, was trying to comprehend the Soul Binding formation during night time when everyone but him had to sleep.



    “Have you spent your time productively?” Was the first thing Kartius asked when Zax met him at the outskirts of the border between species.

    Zax was momentarily stumped. Should he answered wrongly and confess that he did not train according to his training regimen for a single day, he feared that his Master will deduct a day or two from his next visit to Kingdom Earth.

    “I borrowed an extremely useful soul formation from the Martial section of Eden Formation’s library”. It was the only thing he could think of that might please his Master.

    “Mmm…” Kartius mulled. “But, have you met the girl you like and been with your family?” To Zax’s astonishment, his Master sounded as if he placed more importance social time than his training time.

    “I- I did”. Zax replied, unsure if he understood the productiveness his Master expected him to produce at home.

    “Then it’s good. Let’s head back. You can tell me how you spent your time on the way”. Kartius sighed. “Unfortunately, your Martial sister Hagen is in closed doors training. I would like you to meet this training maniac…”



    Back in Laivien’s valley.

    Kartius’s instructions were simple. To resume Zax’ training and strive to detect more bottlenecks of insight with the help of the violet stone and the spiritual knowledge from his subliminal mind. As for when this session of training will be over…? When Kartius will return and say so.

    “Big brother is strict with you for your sake, little Zax. Come, tell me how you did with the little girl you fancy”. Laivien’s amiable tone and disposition helped in quelling Zax longing for home.

    As it so happened, with his ties returning to what they used to be in his childhood with his friends and family, the effect of leaving them and going to Valgarel for an undetermined passage of time, had a little impact on Zax’s heart.

    “…I confessed to her and we are going out now”. Zax answered short and shyly.

    “Going out?” As a beast, the term was unfamiliar to Laivien.

    “It means that we are together now, like you and Grandmaster, sort of… We are boyfriend and girlfriend…”

    In humans’ standpoint, Laivien’s and Grandmaster Kartion’s relationship is akin to that of husband and wife. Zax did not know if beasts had the same stages of relationship as humans, if it evolves for them gradually. All he knew was that once Laivien and Grandmaster Kartion acknowledged each other’s feelings, it instantly escalated to a war with the second strongest tribe in Valgarel, the Black Horns tribe. Therefore, in his attempt to explain to Laivien the status of his relationship with Anet, he made it sound more awkward and complicated than it was.

    “Huhuhu, little Zax, why are you so coy? Have I not teased you before for having a girlfriend?” From his behavior, Laivien could tell that a development occurred in Zax’s relationship with the girl he liked, which in turn, made describing the subject a bit embarrassing, moreover, while trying to interpret his human’s mindset on the matter.

    “No need to further explain, I know that humans are slower and less assertive in their hearts than beasts. It actually has been so since always, look at the wild beast if you don’t believe, huhuhu. Little Rarahel and little Shulip have a better understanding than I do. They shared with me their opinions in the past and Little Zetsa also narrated to me the concept of ‘Love’ in human’s mind”. Raising her doe head, Laivien knocked Zax’s forehead. “Little Zax, so you have a girlfriend, huhuhu, I’m glad for you! As long as you won’t surrender in the future to the fickle human nature, you can always come to me for relationship advices, huhuhu!”

    Laivien was elated seeing the little boy she watched giving his all for developing his Martial path, expanding his approach in life for nurturing the feelings of the heart. She did not want him to be like the many austere cultivators who seal their hearts for a tunnel vision that can only perceive the harshness of the Martial path.

    Besides, supporting Zax decision to mingle and add more to his life than cultivating, for his current training regimen, was more beneficial than Zax himself known, and was the reason Kartius permitted him free days where he could return to his family and friends in Kingdom Earth.

    Zax and Laivien talked some more about his four days at home and his plans on how to meet the rest of his family and friends the next time he will return. They talked for about an hour, until Laivien got too tired to continue and her Krikitories caretakers arrived to attend her while she rest.



    Zax sat beside Laivien. His legs were crossed and his hands rested on his thighs, holding the scripture of the Soul Binding formation.

    Before submerging his inner mind inside the violet stone, Zax wanted to finish cultivating the Beginner phase of the Soul Binding formation. He estimated that with the insight he accumulated in the past three days, even though he only practiced in the night, he would need only one or two steps, half a day or so, to reach the Intermediate phase.

    In Zax’s sea of consciousness, threads of soul energy flow from his soul and created a swarm of abundant soul energy. Zax controlled each of the soul energy threads, made it thinner and split apart to even more threads, rather than forming more with his soul.

    After more than four hours, and many experiments, Zax attained the required amount of threads and soul energy. Observing his hard work in his sea of consciousness, Zax laughed. After so much effort it suddenly seemed to him like the threads of soul energy were noodles and the scripture was the recipe for a Soul Binding soup. It was not the only thing that made Zax feel jubilant. A few days ago, when he just started cultivating the formation, he was worried that it would take him months before he would manage to reach the Intermediate phase, much like his advancement pace in the bodily maneuvers.

    Unexpectedly he could not be more wrong. Cultivating the Beginner phase of the Soul Binding formation was almost relaxing in comparison to the bodily maneuvers, either because of his unique soul or it was possible that the bodily maneuvers were classified higher. Regardless, Zax was resolute in accomplishing what he assessed as the Beginner phase of the Soul Binding formation.

    The threads of soul energy had to be divided into seventy one groups of eleven threads each. Afterwards, each group had to form a certain shape, totaling in seventy one different shapes, and lastly be piled together into the complete form of the Soul Binding formation.

    One pile, seventy one layers… at the beginning, placing the first shape was akin to picking a feather and placing it wherever one wanted. Zax placed the first shape and got into the second, and third, and fourth…

    ‘Fifty second…’

    The small feather has long ago become a towering mountain.

    ‘Fifty third…’

    Zax’s inner voice reverberated in his sea consciousness, manifesting a hint of hoarseness from the effort.

    ‘Sixty eight…’

    The immense effort put a strain that even affected his body. The young Krikitories who played near Laivien’s pavilion were looking at his face, which grew red from the flow of blood to his head. Veins were pulsing on Zax forehead like living worms. The weird sight on the human’s face was so ghastly, the little ones were appalled so much that they ran away in fright.

    ‘Seventy…’

    One more shape, the last layer, to Zax it felt like aligning a chain of planets together.

    ‘Seventy one!’

    An unpleasant screech accompanied the completion of the Soul Binding formation. All layers were put together, not far in his sea of consciousness from Zax soul. The pile looked clumsily, but it was complete nonetheless.

    A pale emerald radiance shone a breath after Zax laid the seventy one shape. The shapes that appeared alien an unresponsive toward each other, when the light of the radiance dimmed, took the form of a united whole.

    ‘It’s complete! The Beginner phase of the Soul Binding formation should be complete with it. The formation… I can use it once against an opponent, but with my current level of mastery over the formation, it probably won’t hinder an expert above the first realm…’ Zax was well aware that it would take him a lot of practice and further cultivation of the Soul Binding formation before he would be able to use it against second realm experts. For now he could only hope and rely on his unique soul to boost the power of the formation so even Beginner phase first level Core Master will be affected by it, but that was still not certain.

    “Never mind”, Talking outloud, Zax opened his eyes and retrieved the scripture into its casing. “I will keep studying the formation with my outer mind while seeking specks of bottlenecks of insight with my inner mind and the help of the violet stone”.

  19. #119
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    Book 5 – Horns

    Chapter 23 – Third Form



    Eight days. Eight days of a strenuous search for specks of insight within the black world inside the violet stone.

    ‘Nothing’. Zax heaved a long, agitated breath. His eyes opened and the one which he wanted to see has yet appeared before his eyes.

    “Are you counting the seconds inside? It should be exactly four days since last you removed your awareness from the violet stone”. Laivien was lying in her usual place in her pavilion.

    Zax scowled instead of answering. Four days ago was the first time he halted his training. It was also four days since he began training after returning from Kingdom Earth.

    He awakened from the meditative state of his inner mind, in which he ceaselessly created small combination of the many fragments he managed to appreciate, and from the meditative state of his outer mind, wherein he got closer and closer to understanding the Intermediate phase of the Soul Binding formation.

    Zax could only raise his head and look at Laivien with imploring eyes.

    “Huhuhu, fine, fine, little Zax, I will ask big brother if you are permitted to go to Kingdom Earth again”. Laivien both felt for the young teen and found his cub like expression charming as well as amusing. She agreed to help his a second time, despite knowing her brother thoughts and the imminent refusal, simply because Zax down mood during this session of training was not due to its length of eight days, but the fact that Kartius did not give him an expiration date.

    Touching the violet stone with her chin, the reach of Laivien’s soul sense crossed caves, like that of the Sublime Soul Sense of a third realm expert. Zax knew about this trick of the violet stone, and that with this trick Laivien was able to observe and converses with everyone in the Essene Cave and the adjacent cave of Grandmaster Kartion. It was only a shame that unknowingly why, the violet stone rejected Zax’s attempt of using this function.

    Raising her neck, Laivien opened her eyes and glanced at Zax apologetically.

    “Not yet”. She quoted Kartius’s response. ‘He probably want you to make another advancement, not necessarily a breakthrough, but something, little Zax‘. The latter part she did not say outloud of fear that Zax will then work himself out to the point of sabotaging his training or worse, harming himself.

    “Thank you”. Zax said in a low voice. Now that his relationship with Anet sprouted into the next stage it was difficult to just shove it to a temporary small space in his sea of consciousness. Nevertheless, after couple of moments Zax collected himself, like he did four days ago when Laivien passed his Master refusal, and put aside his desires to see his family and friends, at the very least, for another four days.

    “Mm? Aren’t you resuming his training?” As Zax kept sitting crossed legs, Laivien was a bit surprised that with the knowledge that the training session is still ongoing he did not immediately place his hand on the violet stone.

    “Not yet”. Zax smiled as he answered with the exact words she just used to deliver his Master’s reply. “My advancement in the Soul Binding formation yielded fruits these past four days. Though I’m not confident in completing the entirety of the Intermediate phase, I have a hunch, which if confirmed to be right, it won’t be long before I’ll reach the Intermediate phase of the Intermediate of the Soul Binding formation. Before resuming my training, I want to affirm fast with my inner mind the hunch”. Zax explained.

    Ending the conversation on this note, Zax closed his eyes and delved into his sea of consciousness.

    After eight days of trial and error, inside Zax’s sea of consciousness were now, including the original one, eleven Soul Binding formations. The pale emerald formations remained fixed to their position and emitted a virtually the same dim radiance, far from the blur that was Zax’s soul.

    The hunch which Zax thought that will help him advance his accomplishments with the Soul Binding formations was based on a fundamental component in the creation process of the formation, it placement in the sea of consciousness.

    It was a faint feeling that gave him the hunch about the placement of the formation. The idea was that in the right place in his sea of consciousness, it would be a hundred times easier to erect the formation, in addition to making it more refine, consequently, stronger. And then, only after completing one Soul Binding formation in the right place, it could be placed wherever in the sea of consciousness before creating another one.

    The problem was that the space of the sea of consciousness was infinite. Finding the right spot inside of it was practically impossible. Furthermore, erecting each formation took Zax hours and was very, very tasking! Thus, Zax did not intend to erect countless formation until he will find the “sweet spot”, no. What Zax wanted was to see if his subliminal mind gathered anything from him studying the scripture of the Soul Binding formation. It was a bet, but the time it could save Zax was either negligible or very considerable.

    Entering the state of Adraak Meditation, the reason Zax did so without the help of the violet stone, was because he was too used to focusing in it on the spiritual knowledge that was related to the entity that was connected to the Black Core, and thought that by reverting to a rudimentary method of meditation he would be capable to concentrate with more ease on unrelated pieces of spiritual knowledge.

    ‘There is something!’ Zax was excited to sense new pieces of spiritual knowledge and that it was not demanding at all to separate them from the spiritual knowledge of the entity.

    In a short time, a number of pieces of spiritual knowledge, gathered from the scripture of the Soul Binding formation, appeared before Zax as greenish dots.

    ‘Carefully’. Zax cautiously said to himself before he got to inspect and appreciate the greenish dots. Those greenish dots were not at all the same to the spiritual knowledge of the entity. However much that Zax’s subliminal mind was able to gather from the scripture of the Soul Binding formation, none of these pieces carried to the profundity that the pieces of the entity carried and Zax noticed it right away.

    ‘The insights inside this pieces… if I’ll try to appreciate them, they will forever remain vague to me and will most likely hinder future achievement with the Soul Binding formation’. Zax was clear on it quite well.

    Skimming between the pieces, Zax avoided from being impetuous, while doing the minimal appreciation of the greenish dots. In the course of this delicate meditation, Zax discovered two things.

    The first was that in the future, or more accurately, the further he will get with the Soul Binding formation, the less he would be able to rely on his subliminal mind to do half the work for him. This was factual toward any formation or technique he will learn in the future, and only if the disparity between his soul capabilities and the difficulty of the technique or formation will be large, would he be able to exploit them with his subliminal mind without concern and voraciously.

    The second thing was Zax discover was more of a reminder that appreciating spiritual knowledge in regular Adraak Meditation and with the violet stone was still, two different things.

    Inside the violet stone, Zax’s senses were much more acute and the overall impression was corporal. But in regular, rudimental meditation exited a greater sense of transcendent.

    ‘The right location to erect the Soul Binding formation surprisingly should be approximately the same distance from my soul as the total length of the piled formation’. To reach this conclusion while not invoking harm to his future development of the formation, Zax appreciated the greenish dots superficiality, deciphering an ounce, stealing a glance from over eighty pieces of spiritual knowledge, not daring to dwell an instance longer on even one of them. ‘With that I can let my outer mind experiment and return to finding specks of insight in the violet stone’.

    ‘Eh?’ As Zax curbed the spiritual knowledge of the Soul Binding formation and summoned back the spiritual knowledge of the entity, cool sensation spread in his sea of consciousness, a fleeting moment of lucidity he never before had, regardless of how or with what he meditated.

    ‘Could it be?!’ A strong reaction to the exalting sensation illuminated and a vibration echoed from Zax’s soul. ‘The boundary of the Adraak Meditatio-’ He was not certain, but before he could finish the question, another cool and fleeting sensation of lucidity sparked in his sea of consciousness, and another vibration echoed from his soul, and again and again, nonstop, everything kept reoccurring.

    Zax tried to leave the meditative state, to see if the sensations and vibrations were really conjured from it. Indeed they were. Zax could not bring himself to lose the tiniest amount of concentration without feeling the sensation growing dull and his soul calming down.

    ‘The next phase of meditation…’ In the three years he was training under his Master, Zax actually learnt from him about the third form of meditation.

    Warood Meditation, this is the name of the state that surpasses the state of Somnolence Meditation and Adraak Meditation. In essence, the state of Warood Meditation emerges when a cultivator exhibits profound understanding of the subliminal mind and the state of Adraak Meditation. Then, when mental concentration is sustained and somnolence is at its minimum, the new level of perception that appears is “Warood Meditation”.

    If truth be told, Zax did not have a thorough grasp on all the spiritual knowledge in his subliminal mind, nor the state of Adraak Meditation. According to his Master even for the greatest experts who invest their life in the most obscure, soul cultivation, reaching the third form of meditation can take tens of years to figuring the subliminal mind. However, with Zax’s unique soul those decades were boiled down to a mere few years of Adraak Meditation in order from him to become all too familiar with this instinctual characteristic of the human mind, and without him knowing he touched the limit of the second form of meditation and was a premeditated step away from the third form, Warood Meditation.

    ‘Submerge!’ Zax solemnly commanded himself. He knew that this was an opportunity he cannot miss, one that he was not supposed to be able to reach yet, but miraculously did. Whatever he did to start it, he could not be sure that he can replicate his actions, which initially were kept to bear minimum so in the future it would not cause him troubles with the Soul Binding formation.

    Little by little, the minor and brief sensations reproduced faster and faster, augmenting through every corner of Zax’s sea of consciousness. And the vibrations that echoed from the soul over and over like waves, suddenly receded, assimilating into a monstrosity, a tsunami, a single vibe.

    BOOM!

    The blackness of Zax’s sea of consciousness shattered like glass, glittering fragments that crumbled into shreds, then sparkling silvery sand, then vanished.

    Everything settled.

    Outside of Zax’s body a long breath was released and silvery mist flouted out for minutes.

    Next to Zax, Laivien noticed the weird event and her brows wrinkled. “Have you had a breakthrough, little Zax?” Her question met deaf ears, but as it so happened, she did not think that he will answer. Still, she also never heard of silver mist accompany a breakthrough while coming from the mouth, or any body’s part for that matter.

    Before assuming anything about Zax’s condition, Laivien rested her chin on the violet stone, amplified her Soul Sense to the level of Sublime Soul Sense and intrude into Zax’s sea of consciousness.

    Within the state of Warood Meditation.

    Before perceiving his sea of consciousness with his mind eye, a wonderful feeling washed Zax as if he was baptized.

    SNIF!

    SNIF!

    A sweet, intoxicating fragrance suddenly sprout dominated the new state he had yet to fully perceive.

    ‘That scent!’ Zax whispered and relished.

    Two small, horizontal lines appeared in his sea of consciousness, one above the other.

    CRACK!

    A loud, uniform sound reverberated and the two lines slowly expanded to the shape of narrow eyes. Both eyes had a hint of brown in them, one, however, was dark and gorgeous, while the other was light and juvenile.

    ‘Bottleneck of insight’. One voice said softly.

  20. #120
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    Book 5 – Horns

    Chapter 24 – Two Out Of Six



    The dark brown gorgeous eye opened wide, captive by the scenery that come into existence inside the vast void of Zax’s sea of consciousness. A ripple passed in the dark brown eye and the astonishment in it switched to serenity and veneration. The dark brown eye closed, becoming a crack, then a line and finally vanished.

    The light brown juvenilia eye cracked open a lot slower than the dark brown eyes. It saw the same scenery, but had yet to perceive it. Instead, it appeared to be immersed in the properties of another sense.

    ‘Mm… This sweet scent of the world. Is it the first bottleneck of insight or new one? I can’t tell. Do all the bottlenecks of insight have this scent? And where is it?’ Only after pondering over this question, did the light brown eye begin to fully open and properly observe the surrounding.

    ‘Oh… is that part of the state of Warood Meditation?” Zax wondered as he looked ahead of his light brown mind eye.

    A barren landscape encircled Zax’s soul. It was not vast, seemed like it had a radius of dozens of meters or so. The earth of the barren landscape was similar to the shiny sand deserts in old pictures, from before humanity immigrated to New Earth.

    ‘The sweet scent is coming from there…’ Entranced, Zax brought his eye shaped awareness closer, inside the scope of the barren landscape, as if it was moth attracted by the flame.

    The instant Zax’s awareness floated above the barren landscape, an impulsive change took place. The light brown eye vanished and a youthful naked body materialized atop the earth.

    ‘Incredible! Warood Meditation is incredible!’ Upon sensing the physical form and realizing that it is his own body which was formed, Zax grew ebullient. Looking at the palms of his hands and clenching them, glancing at his shoulders and then lowering his gaze to inspect his torso and the rest of the body, down to digging his toes in the smooth and warm sand, it was the most surreal sensation Zax had ever experienced.

    ‘This is like combining the corporealness in the violet stone and the mysticism of a regular Adraak Meditation! And the scent… it’s so strong now! Stronger than even the first time I distinguished it, yet not at all imposing!’ Zax could not help but get down on his knees and lower his head and nose to the sand beneath him. ‘This land, all of it, possesses the scent of my first bottleneck of insight!’ Getting up, Zax shifted his head to his soul. ‘This is the first time I see it from this angle. Despite it getting a bit clearer, with the dark attribute flowing in it looks like an odd shaped giant construct encompassed by fug’. The state of Warood Meditation, especially inside the scope of the barren landscape, was a frozen state of everlasting lucidity and calmness. It surely elated Zax’s mood.

    ‘In this state I’m already supposed to be familiar with everything of my subliminal mind. Since I broke through by chance, I wonder if I can summon the spiritual knowledge of the entity, and able to appreciate and create small combinations of its great puzzle faster than in the black world of the violet stone?’ Zax was eager to find out.

    Sitting down cross legged on the warm and soft sand, with but a mere though, nearly endless amount of spiritual knowledge, solely related to the entity of the Black Core, appeared above the barren landscape as black stars, which complemented Zax’s sandy desert.

    Before getting into appreciating and creating combination, Zax just sat there for a while, watching those black stars. ‘Ah…’ He heaved a heavy sigh. ‘A tiny portion of all this spiritual knowledge can vastly outnumber all the spiritual knowledge my subliminal mind gathered from the Soul Binding formation’.

    He made the small comparison simply because these were the only things he ever meditated over in the state of Adraak Meditation. And though the Soul Binding formation was an Intermediate A class formation, the amount of spiritual knowledge his subliminal mind gathered from it in several days was insignificant beside the amount of spiritual knowledge he was bestowed after a single glance at the entity.

    ‘And within the new state of meditation I now feel like there is a multitude of more spiritual knowledge of the entity that I had yet to uncover. Also, I suspect that some, if not the rest, of the bottlenecks of insight are among the concealed spiritual knowledge’.

    A gratified smile suddenly adorned Zax’s face. ‘No, the sweet scent is indication that around one of these black stars, a second light speck of a bottleneck of insight is present’. It took him some time, but eventually Zax dictated it with the help of the first bottleneck of insight he comprehended.

    Initially, Laivien told him that the fragrance was the scent of the world, however now it was emanating from the barren landscape, paving an invisible path up toward the black stars.

    ‘Am I supposed to follow the smell?’ The notion sounded humorous to Zax. Nevertheless, he abided the idea.

    It did not take long before Zax found out that he can only make sense of the invisible path while remaining on the sandy desert. The result of this created a large distance between him and his allusive target. Fortunately, he could control the pieces of spiritual knowledge and make them come closer.

    ‘Tsk! There are too many pieces… Even if I follow the scent, the farther it passes through all them, the more muffled it becomes and the only way to clear these pieces away is by appreciating them’. Even though he had a stroke of luck and was close to grasp another speck of light, an accomplishment which takes tens of years, if not more, for other cultivators to achieve, Zax was still required to spend a lot of effort before finding and comprehending it.

    Hence, Zax resumed his training regimen, but without the support of the violet stone, since he was not sure what would happen if he will give up this chance to capture a second speck of light.



    Six days later.

    ‘There!’ Zax declared triumphantly.

    After a long arduous session of mediation, where Zax appreciated about forty four thousand pieces of spiritual knowledge, the speck of light was finally sighted. Upon first appearance it was vague and outlandish, much like how the first speck of light appeared to Zax when he discovered it.

    Pulling the speck of light toward him, Zax brought it centimeters from his eyes and inspected it closely.

    Due to the third form of meditation, it was not a hour before Zax became ecstatic. It occur abruptly, like with the first speck of light, and the moment it did, it was not because of some amazing fragrance, but a ticklish feeling that aroused every nook and cranny of Zax’s being.

    ‘Hahahahahahahahaha!’ Zax was unable to stop the laughing. It was not a forced laugh or a noisy laugh. The way it rolled out uncontrollably was immersed with an innocent, embryotic bliss, not too much unfamiliar to the joyful laughter and happiness of a newborn baby once he is accepted by the world and he accepts it.

    ‘Hahahahahahahahaha!’ The laughter continued and inside the sea of consciousness Zax gradually stopped seeing hearing, smelling, and even tasting, if there was anything to eat inside his sea of consciousness. All that was left were his sense of touch and the blissful ticklish feeling that took over.

    ‘Hahahahahahahahaha!’ Soon the laughter was coming not just from Zax’s mouth, but from everywhere inside his sea of consciousness.

    The space of Zax’s sea of consciousness started to tremble mildly and then with a bit of force, till it violently shuddered.

    The speck of light released undulation that spread around and the dark attribute discharged a black radiance. An interaction occurred between the two forces and the moment after, they simultaneously spun toward Zax’s soul, to nourish and refine it.

    Zax kept laughing, and although it was inside his head, he could not halt to think of how to pronounce the shortest of words. Still, as helpless as he was, he did manage to notice the activity of the dark attribute and remember that it also reacted when he found the first speck of light and, at the time, he felt within the black radiance something exactly the same as the speck of light.

    Other than differences in the effects of the first and second speck of light, everything proceeded practically as before, right to when Zax’s soul became less hazy, and an instant of unprecedented novelty dawned on him before a sensation of forthcoming new birth followed with a loud…

    BOOM!

    As before, a huge explosion erupted and the refinement process, of the black radiance and the undulation of the ticklish speck of light, was finished. The ticklish feeling had been integrated with Zax’s soul and the soul itself was less blurry. Lastly, although it was not a major breakthrough, the power of Zax’s soul increased from Beginner phase Mist Lord to Intermediate phase Mist Lord.

    The speck of light vanished.

    ‘Hahahaha!’ This laugh was utterly voluntary. ‘Inconvincible! From the Beginner phase of the Mist Lord level to the Intermediate phase and so fast, hahaha!’ At last, words could form in Zax’s mind and echo through the mouth of his materialized body.

    ‘But I do want to know, how come the dark attribute contribute to my soul level for merely comprehending bottlenecks of insight?’ He did not dwell on the question. For the current him and his achievements on the Martial path, the answer was impossible to know. ‘It’s not good. If the dark attribute will keep initiating increase in strength each time that I comprehend a new bottleneck, then after the fourth bottleneck I’ll reach the Core Master realm’.

    His Master wanted him to try and comprehend all the bottlenecks of insight of the Core Master realms before he would break through it. If nothing will change, the last two bottlenecks of insight, Zax would have to comprehend with a second realm soul and who knows how that will affect his training?

    Zax raised his head and sighed. ‘And there are also all of you…’ He starred at the black stars. ‘The more I appreciate the more of you appear. And you are already in the millions…’ He pondered if the new bottleneck will help him as well to find more specks of light. ‘But it’s weird. Why I can smell the sweet scent of the world, yet not sense the ticklish feeling? Is there prerequisite or… SHIT!’ Zax cursed as soon as he recalled.

    After he comprehended the first bottleneck of insight and left the violet stone, his new perception of the world caused the intoxicating sweet fragrance to be overbearing to the point of insanity. ‘Will the ticklish feeling also be overbearing once I’ll get out?’ Zax was genuinely afraid to leave the meditative state.

    ‘Crap! Crap! Crap! Three, two, one, GO!’ Zax composed himself, stopped thinking and grudgingly and with as much self firmness that he could muster, left his sea of consciousness.



    “Hahahahahahaha!”

    Zax’s preparations were inefficient.

    His sudden bursting laughter startled Laivien and the Krikitories around.

    “Little Zax, what happened?!” This time, Laivien did not recognize the effect of the bottleneck of insight. The new bottleneck of insight Zax comprehend was clearly one that she had yet to encounter.

    “Hahahahahahaha!” Zax held his stomach and rolled on the ground. He looked as if he just heard the funniest joke in the world.

    BANG!

    His fists knocked the ground when he stopped and lay on his back while still laughing.

    “Everyone, get away!” Laivien ordered the Krikitories. She, on the other hand, remained in her place. The sturdiness of the pavilion was able to withstand the shockwaves in the ground

    BANG!

    Zax tried to restrain himself, but although it appeared like a mental issue, it was only the product of the ticklish feeling his body felt.

    “His body resonated with something in the world… another bottleneck of insight?!” Laivien experienced two bottlenecks of insights. She needed a little observation of the situation and understanding of Zax to guess right.

    “Sit still, little Zax, sit still. Quickly get accustomed to what you feel, before you’ll wreck the little village!” Laivien beseeched Zax.

    Hearing the dread in Laivien’s voice, Zax pressed himself to settle down. He bit his tongue and stiffened his muscles, disabling his movement.

    “Mhmhmhmhmhm!” He laughed with closed mouth. Happy? Joyful? Blissful? At this point there was no word to describe how pleasurable he felt.

    The words to guide himself were jostled even when he attempted to say them in his head, but Laivien’s voice and words kept reminding him what he should do.

    The bottleneck of insight, if Zax could give it name he would call it “Touch of the world”. Perhaps, after his sense of touch will adapt to it, he would really keep the name. For now, though, the ticklish feeling was way more imperious than the sweet fragrance.

    Zax bent and clenched his body and waited.

    Soon, a day and a half gone by after he comprehended the second bottleneck of insight and Zax’s sense of touch got used to the ticklish feeling.

    “Ahhhh…” Zax’s sigh lasted a whole three minutes, and if had taken a deep breath beforehand, it could have lasted much, much more. But laughing for such a long time wore Zax completely.

    “Master…” Lying on his back and with eyes looking backwards, Zax greeted his Master who waited for him in his animalistic form near Laivien.

    “Superb, Marital son!” Kartius’s eyes reflected a splendor of contentment and excitement. “Get up. Inspect the changes in your Inner Panorama”.

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