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Thread: Earth's Core

  1. #341
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    Book 11 – Lost

    Chapter 2 – Space Odyssey






    A hatch at the bottom of the door to the small, cold vault like cell opened and in slid bowl with a tight lid – yet another meal.


    Zax, weak as non cultivator, feeling and looking older than his parents were at their death, trudged the short distance from the dimly lit round corner for the bowl at the other side.


    It had been twelve hours since the last meal and his body was hungry.


    Through the single window the world outside still showcased the same marvelous scenery, but to the eyes of a prisoner it grew dreary quite early.


    To Zax it was about the fifth day of his lockdown in the incarceration vault, when he got tired from the tricks his mind played on him and the heavenly bodies that took the shape of his dead loved ones.


    He finished the warm soup under ten minutes. There was no cutlery and it was nothing but liquid anyway, so he drank it long sips. The flavor, as always, was pleasant; however it did not make a difference to him. He was lethargic either way; his actions were merely to fulfil basic bodily needs and were basically done by instinct.


    Little did he know, the vague drive was the combined effort of his Infernal instinct and the cocooned beast in his dantian.


    Two hours after the meals and placing the bowl back near the shaft, Zax used the toilet, the only utility in the vault.


    Six hours later the bowl was gone and he went to sleep.


    This was Zax’s routine in the past seven and a half months.





    Day 257.


    WOANG!


    WOANG!


    WOANG!





    An alarm sound woke Zax. Inside the vault, red lights were flashing.


    Next, the vault began to shake, from mildly to violently, and yet to Zax the disturbance was no more than a slight inconvenience simply due to his weakened state.


    “Outside?” Zax hoarsely uttered.


    Down on the floor, his line of sight fell on the window, where he noticed odd shadows moving about on the other side.


    Getting up, Zax stumbled to see the possible source of the commotion. It was not out of interest or to relieve the boredom. He just did it because there was nothing else to do, apart from numbingly lament.


    At first it was hard to gauge what he saw, as it was stupidly gargantuan, but as his eyes trailed figure his mind slowly drew a shape to it.


    It walked on two, stark naked, a sort of… human? It had a hairy armpits, paunch and loins. Its brawny arms dangled from shoulder to knee. On its face an insouciant expression and one brown huge eye at the center of its forehead.


    Its size was akin to an entire solar system, though it was too difficult to truly tell in the weird laws of the Plains’ encompassing space.


    “A titan?” To Zax the Being looked like something from legends of years past.


    In the cell\ vault he was incapable of sensing its awe inspiring aura or realizing how mesmerizing of feat it was to behold someone casually walks outside of Plains.


    The titan bent forward, its head next to the Lunar Splitter spaceship it peered with its one brown eye curiously through all the windows. For a brief moment even Zax’s old mug came to its view and the two intersected one another.


    Suddenly a giddy smile formed on the nonchalant face. The titan’s lips uttered something that Zax was unable to hear, much less fathom if he did. It then straightened its back, took a step and traversed light years for a delicious looking heavenly body.





    Day 468.


    During his meal, bright light abruptly filled the entire vault until Zax was forced to shot his eyes and even cover them with his hands.


    The Lunar Splitter passed by a sun in the space between Plains that was tens of thousands of times bigger than Ercas Mir’s.





    Day 539.


    Yet another alarm rang, but other than the flashing red light nothing happened, even outside there was nothing more strange than the usual to see.





    Day 700.


    A tremor shook the vault for a split second, the recoil from the Lunar Splitter’s main cannon.


    Afterwards there was silence and smooth flight.





    Day 1209.


    Something unexpected interrupted Zax’s bemoaning.


    The door to the vault, not just the hatch, opened!


    A man draped in white silver uniform with a golden star stitched to the upper left side of his chest entered.


    “Stand up. Come after me”. He ordered in Netherling.


    Zax listlessly looked at the man, as a reaction to understanding his words, yet stayed settled on the floor.


    For over three years he received two same liquid meals a day, but in those soup meals there was just the right amount of nutrients to adequately sustain a non cultivator human, even to preserve mental stability.


    He stayed put not because he could not carry himself, but because he did not care.


    His attitude did not anger the man. Instead of repeating himself he merely gestured and Zax was lifted off the floor by simple telekinesis.


    Outside was a long, curved corridor with incarceration vault beside incarceration vault at each side of it. After the first few seconds, Zax disregarded it all.


    “What’s your name?” The question was asked by a new voice. By the time Zax noticed its owner; he was already taken to an office like room and placed within a circular formation sketched on the floor.


    The speaker was a silver hair and eyes woman, Sergeant Heyxin.


    Behind her on an elevated seat, next to a karmic desk ceramic desk sat a long, red haired woman. She had green eyes and dark gray skin. To her uniforms five golden stars glittered as if they were just polished.


    “Tell us your name”. Sergeant Heyxin patiently said.


    On his knees, Zax wearily glanced at her, not in the mood to do anything, much less entertain what for him was trivial question. In contrast, now that he finally met the people, humans or nor, that kept him captive for such a long time; he began to abjectly wonder for what purpose was he… is he in isolation.


    “Uncooperative”. The red haired woman stated to a holographic screen above her desk. “Remove the Mortal Cuffs and proceed with the Soul Scrying formation”.


    “Yes, Inspector”. The man that brought Zax nodded. Using his communicator he deactivated the cuffs on Zax’s legs.


    Instantly Zax felt his bodily strength returning to him, but only that he cultivated with the Three Stages Of Hyper Physique refinement technique. His dark attribute and dark element energy, for some reason, were barred from usage.


    Sergeant Heyxin’s Immortal Sense examined Zax’s three aspects. “Pure bodily cultivator”. She reported to the Inspector, who then, by her approval, Sergeant Heyxin’s words were added to the holographic screen. “Weird”, Sergeant Heyxin asserted. “His body is in the second level of the mortal’s second realm, but I get the impression that he isn’t weaker than a third level Martial Mortal”.


    “Indeed it is peculiar. The Core Star is quite remote even in its Plain and the worldly energy is extremely scarce throughout the entire region in the First Valley, yet its habitants had a refinement technique of such value?” The Inspector discussed.


    “Is it possible that it was introduced by the Core Star’s owners?” Sergeant Heyxin hypothesized.


    “Hard to say”. The Inspector leaned back. “A more likely assumption is that it was bequeathed by the former Godly Law Template’s owner. Mark it for further investigation. I reckon, No. 43 also trained in a rather remarkable refinement technique, supposedly created by his father… Yurnal”.


    “I recall the same thing”. Sergeant Heyxin concurred.


    “Well, activate the Soul Scrying formation and let us see”.


    “Yes, Inspector ”. The man complied.


    The circular formation on the floor blinked. A sharp buzz rang in Zax’s head and his awareness was forcefully thrown to an inner void.


    ‘Where… am I?’


    It felt like the inside of his sea of consciousness, but there was not Inner Panorama, soul or outreaching sprit, only blackness.


    “Show me his memories in chronological order, from the last thing he remembers of the Core Star”. The Inspector’s voice resounded.


    ‘My… what?’ Zax helplessly drifted in the void, even there his awareness manifested and elderly physique.


    ‘Zax-’


    It struck him, a bolt out of the darkness, a series of sounds and images that filled the void.


    ‘Again!’ He panted, reliving his blame… ‘Again!’


    Outside the Soul Scrying formation.


    The Inspector and Sergeant Heyxin ignored Zax’s dire reaction, which corresponded between his mind and body.


    They saw Anet, Liz, Jingrow and Niel and thought them to be his children and grandchildren.


    They heard a call for mother and father, but the voice was different and approximate location dubious.


    They continued to watch as both images and sounds were slowly projected and pitied more for every moment that went longer.


    In the void.


    Zax was in a wretched state, like a frightened kitten.


    THUMP!


    A loud throb, out of nowhere, reverberated, spreading ripples that distorted the sights and sounds, like a large stone dumped into a puddle.


    THUMP!


    Pungent malice seeped from somewhere unknown.


    THUMP!


    A black golden mist that was not worth a thousandth of minute inhalation imbued itself in the floating, elderly awareness.


    THUMP!


    Emotions he forgot overflowed his vacant heart, hate and rage; along with desires he thought he will never have again, for revenge and pain.


    ‘Y- You- YOU KILLED THEM!’


    “YOU KILLED THEM!”


    The projected images and sounds scrambled and the lifeless old man uttered a gut wrenching roar.


    Zax’s eyes turned bloodshot. The wisp of Infernal that breached God Demirva and God Bimentia’s closure was quickly depleting, but his fingers relentlessly trembling, wanting to tear, to massacre those who infringed upon his memories.


    “That’s enough”. The Inspector waved her hand.


    They saw and heard very little and certainly could poke into more, but the subject’s state of mind was too fragile and they were not in the business of torture, only the truth.


    The one star Constable, who by the way was a Heavenly Immortal, knocked Zax out and returned him to the incarceration vault.


    “If we won’t find the Infernal Immortal, whether there is really one among them or not…” Sergeant Heyxin.


    They could not sense the Infernal aura in the wisp that escaped, so they assume Zax’s outburst was a natural response to witnessing again the devastation of his home.


    “Rules are rules, Heyxin. Since the Chief inspector insisted to take the Milky Way Plain’s Core Star’s mission, we will all have to see it through, for as long as it takes and until no stone would be left unturned”.





    Day 1780.


    The Lunar Splitter stopped. At last, it arrived to its destination.

  2. #342
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    Book 11 – Lost

    Chapter 3 – Rakmon Penitentiary






    Year 5820 of New Earth’s colander.


    Zax is forty five years old, looks over sixty, assume by the Kon Juya Constabulary to be a few millenniums old, feels like a corpse.


    Not that any of it mattered.





    U Plain, Rakmon Penitentiary Star.


    The Lunar Splitter halted before the planet that was thousands of times larger than Ercas Mir. Its composition, as well as that of the entire humongous Plain, was governed by a far more complex set of natural laws, then those of the Milky Way Plain.


    The door to the incarceration vault opened for the second time since Zax was confined to it. A one star Constable, without saying a word, used her elemental energy to force him to faint and carry him out.


    After Zax, the Constable proceeded to another vault and another, along five more Constables who were tasked similarly.


    Soon, the hundred and fifty survivors of Ercas Mir and New Earth's catastrophe were moved to a tube shaped construct and secured within vertical pods.


    In a different location, the Lunar Splitter's bridge, Sergeant Heyxin sat on a rotating tall seat, viewing the prisoner transfer via the secondary screen with a bitter taste in her mouth.


    "Awaiting your command, Sergeant". A black uniformed woman behind a workstation said.


    Among mortals, the Kon Juya Constabulary enlisted only Martial Mortals, stipulating black uniforms as their dress code.


    "Deliver them". She set aside her dissatisfaction and ordered.


    "Yes, Sergeant". The woman replied.


    The tube shaped construct was ejected from the Lunar Splitter and dropped to the rocky planet.


    Sergeant Heyxin got up and left the bridge to the docking bay. She entered a one person spacecraft, activated it and set course to the Rakmon Penitentiary's headquarters.


    Of course she could also fly using her Immortal energy, but the worldly elemental energies in the U Plain were both dense and inflexible. For a Heavenly Immortal to fly in the U Plain's space would be as if he or she are walking neck deep through a quagmire. Sacred Immortals like Sergeant Heyxin would have it a little easy, but still uncomfortable and time consuming.


    Eight minutes later, the spacecraft landed in a twenty thousand acres' compound.


    Gray uniforms guards received her with Martial Mortal cultivation base. Sergeant Heyxin ignored them and flew directly to the headquarters' main building.


    "Chief Inspector Nazalat, Warden Sil Dong". Upon entering the bleak warden's office, she greeted the two men already there who shared a bottle of red wine.


    Chief Inspector Nazalat, commander of the Lunar Second Brigade, was a beast in humanoid form. His animalistic head had red feathered and the structure of a fox's skull. Six golden stars adorned his white and silver uniforms. He was in the Mythical rank.


    Warden Sil Dong was a different kind of Being. He had a thin torso with eight fat tentacles for arms and a pair of tiger legs, his head resembled a regular white, fat human's head, but in addition to his blue eyes he actually had eight more pairs of closed eye that were hard to notice. His uniforms were gray, showcasing a black, glossy badge of three diamonds and three pickaxes. He, too, was a Mythical Immortal.


    "I did not need you here, Sergeant Heyxin". Chief Inspector Nazalat dismissed.


    "Chief Inspector, I want to help identify the Infernal in the field, not from the Lunar Splitter". Sergeant Heyxin requested.


    It was all because the Infernal… the bad feeling she had since the order to transfer the hundred and fifty survivors to the Rakmon Penitentiary.


    The risk of his existence being true resulted in a damnable future for all one hundred and forty nine other survivors, whom otherwise could have been relocated to a hospitable Star, per the customary protocol.


    The unfairness of the matter angered Sergeant Heyxin, but she had to obey her Chief Inspector, not to mention the Kon Juya Constabulary's rules.


    "You will have to conform to the Rakmon Penitentiary's regulations. Will you be able to do it?"





    The Rakmon Penitentiary was originally a mining company that was specifically established to obtain mining rights on the previously named "Rakmon Star".


    The target mineral of the old mining company, which to date is still quite rare through the First Valley yet forms naturally in the Rakmon Star, is called "Ever Pure Solid".


    Ever Pure Solid is basically a natural solid concentration of element energy that can complement any of the seven elements and last forever in any environment without deteriorating.


    It is a commodity that Martial Mortals can use to understand the attributes and Immortals the elements.


    While five to twenty five grams of a complete Ever Pure Solid are the limits of what a first to fifth level Martial Mortals can absorb insights from, Immortals do not have a set limit and the bigger and heavier the complete Ever Pure Solid is, the more it will benefit them.


    Despite the treasure trove that the Rakmon Star, the tax the old mining company had to pay was astronomical, whether they had a plentiful or dry century. As a solution to their stressful financial situation, the former owner signed a contract with the Surgic Capital, the Immortal monarchy that the U Plain is within its domain.


    The mining company will relinquish thirty percent of its revenue, every decade, instead of paying the common tax and in return the Surgic Capital will supply free labor.


    Initially the former owner was hesitant. Thirty percent cut was actually a bit higher than the tax he to begin with wished to lessen, but working machinery on the Rakmon Star is nearly impossible… The natural phenomena on the planet happen randomly and often influence the external energy resources needed to run industrial mining. In fact, even cultivators’ attribute and elemental energies are arduous to execute.


    The Rakmon Star most usable resource is the rare Ever Pure Solid, anything else is too scarce and of low efficiency. Thus, having a living and breathing work force is the only way to mine unhindered.


    Although the former owner could buy slaves to work for the company, the quantity of able slaves required and the cycle of buying more every century or millennium was in itself a great expense. Furthermore, a lot of places in the First Valley are anti slavery, anyone that wants to be on friendly terms with Kon Juya Constabulary are, so even if the Surgic Capital does not strictly enforce it, the moment it would be threatened by sanctions it will.


    Weighing the pros and cons of the agreement, the former owner had an idea, to change the mining company to a penitentiary. Like this, with the right coordination with the Surgic Capital, the supposedly “free” labor can come in bulks from everywhere in the First Valley and by having the proper management from the get go; it would be a matter of half a decade to realize this idea.


    Nowadays, the old mining company is but a forgotten memory. The success of the Rakmon Penitentiary outstrips the former owner’s predication by a long shot, granted much of it is due to the Kon Juya Constabulary’s occasional transfers that always involve problematic personages, which encouraged other parties in the first Valley to do the same.


    As for the former owner, “May the Gods bless his soul” – says Warden Sil Dong at every income report, he had decided to accept a very lucrative buyout eons ago.





    “I will”. Sergeant Heyxin affirmed.


    “Warden Si Dong?” Chief Inspector Nazalat inquired.


    “Your Second Lunar Brigade will be stationed here until you finish your investigation, right?” He did not know why and did not ask. “Sure, as long as the lady won’t interfere with how we do things around here”.


    “Sergeant Heyxin?” Chief Inspector Nazalat sought her affirmation again.


    “There would be no problems”.


    “Then, welcome to the Rakmon Penitentiary”. Warden Si Dong toasted. “May your stay be enjoyable”.





    When he regained consciousness, he found himself lying on a coarse earth, surrounded by over a hundred humans and beast, still in deep sleep.


    They were dumped in a land of nothings but gray stone, beneath a sky of depressing hues.


    A two storeys tall tower of some sort was situated hundred meters way, before a railway to a grand crevasse of no end in sight east and west and a depth that swallowed most light from above.


    It was a sickening scenery, but for someone who had just been to hell and had his soul still lingering there, it was just a scenery.


    “One woke up…” A short, black haired human woman appeared out of nowhere, wearing gray uniforms with a badge of a diamond and a pickaxe. She approached with a cordial smile on her face, looking favorably at Zax. “WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU ARE DOING, PIECE OF SCAM! IF ONE IS FIT TO GET UP, EVERYONE IS FIT!” The woman’s demeanor shifted a hundred and eighty degrees. She snapped with an aura and loudness that could rattle a fifth level Martial Mortal.


    She was a Heavenly Immortal.


    Immediately a hundred and forty nine pairs of eyes opened in succession, confusion and dread plastered on their faces.


    Even in Zax it prompted an involuntary start; however it vanished instantly as it could not arouse a meaningful reaction in his inept heart or trespass where his Infernal self was barred.


    It took time for everyone to compose themselves. Although these were all humans and beasts that lived in Ercas Mir, lucked out during the wave that incinerated all life in New Earth or saved by Gid Chu and Yurnal’s sacrifices, none of them was non cultivator. Whichever reason they survived, no human or beast could have done so without withstanding a portion of the brunt and even the smallest measure was enough to kill anyone lacking at least a Core Master’s cultivation base.


    “Shall I raise my voice again?!” The short haired woman glared in disgust.


    No one answered. They all hasted to line up. Even Zax was pulled by a beast in humanoid form that thought he was slow enough to quicken death.


    “The place you arrived to is called Rakmon Penitentiary”. The short haired woman acquainted. “Who are you, where you came from, what you want, from this point on I don’t give a shit!”

  3. #343
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    Book 11 – Lost

    Chapter 4 – Estranged






    The miserable group felt the full wrath in the venomous tone of the short haired woman. It was not deriving from hate or Immortal’s loftiness toward a bunch of mortals. It was much simpler than that, less personal, as well as degrading…


    “C ranked prisoners are the bottom of the barrel, scratch that, they are the mud squashed by the wet, rotting bottom of the barrel!” She abusively yelled. “To you, I’m Head Guard Umber, but you won’t be calling my name, you won’t even refer to me by status. This would be our very first introduction and last interaction, all to make it clear for you what you are, where you came and what I want!”


    Head Guard Umber pointed back, to the grand crevasse that now more resembled a pit straight to hell.


    "Home". One word, said in a certain manner, expressed abundant meaning to the listeners.


    This would be the place they will live in from this day forth, a Home, but not theirs, like how a dog's home actually belongs to its owner.


    "Follow the rules passed down to you by higher ranked prisoners and never affront the Guards. Do as you are told and you will eat. Disobey and suffer the consequences". Head Guard Umber stressed. "Here your path is one and not complicated… Work, dig, meet your quota! Some of you are Core Masters, others are Martial Mortals, the first to wake up is a bodily cultivator! You all had your way to choose your path before coming here. Now, this is your new life and your only path is the one set by the Rakmon Penitentiary!"


    Head Guard Umber did her utmost to shatter all hope of the New Earth and Ercas Mir's survivors. She wanted to see them break and grovel, cry and beg, so she could ruthlessly hammer and mold now their mentality. However, she had less work to do than she assumed.


    The isolated years long voyage in the Lunar Splitter's incarceration vaults, whilst restrained by the Mortal Cuffs that reduce even a cultivator in the Mortal Enlightenment state to as regular a person can be, and under the duress of having all loved ones heinously killed, had already extinguish the will to resist what else this accursed life has to throw.


    Surely, if few still possessed a dimming spark of their former selves, their arrival to the penitentiary had made it as good as grabbing onto air.


    "Chou Ferk!" Head Guard Umber called.


    A door opened in the two storey post and out zoomed a light gray silhouette. A short, fat, three legged man with yellowish skin, yellow hair, black eyes and protrusive fangs. He wore light gray uniforms with a badge and appeared next to Head Guard Umber.


    At his arrival, his biddy eyes leered at the survivors. He was a Beginner fifth level Martial Mortal, head and shoulders above all of them, which satisfied him. Batches with cultivator on his level or higher always irritate him, even though those experts were virtually done for the instant they were brought to the penitentiary.


    "Take them". Head Guard Umber ordered.


    "Of course, Head Guard". Before Guard Chou Ferk finished Head Guard Umber disappeared from view.


    "Walk in ten rows!" Guard Chou Ferk barked. "Stand in an orderly fashion beside the railway!"


    It was a short walk, but Guard Chou Ferk still took advantage of it to say a lot.


    "On the Rakmon Penitentiary Star the worldly attribute and elemental energies are cumbersome, refining, controlling and improving the understanding over them are nigh impossible. Even if your affinity to them is extremely high, it would still be a difficult endeavor. Mostly, you will only be able to employ the basics of your three aspects". He checked the group of humans and beasts' reaction and spat on the ground for the lack of it, believing that Head Guard Umber extracted all the fun of them. "That being said, in the lifetime you have to spend here you still might make minor advancements or even accumulate some attribute energy. As a preface for that day you will briefly feel good about yourselves, perhaps a bit gutsy to test your superior, heed my warning… all of us, two hundred and sixty Guards of the Seventh Post, are fifth level Martial Mortals with abundant collection of attribute's essences. We won't kill someone for rebellious behavior, but we will make the rest of your life a constant regret. Get it?"


    There was quiet, maybe a little mumbling.


    "ARE YOU DEAF OR AM I NOT UNDERSTOOD?!" Guard Chou Ferk bellowed, his fiery aura lashed, scalding those near it.


    Roughly twenty humans and beasts howled in pain and two even received severe burns.


    "WHEN A GUARD SPEAKS, YOU ANSWERS 'YES SIR', 'OF COURSE SIR', 'WHAT ELSE SIR'!" Guard Chou Ferk was prepared to lash again, but halted when a white skinned, black haired man with slightly slanted eyes slapped those who fell back to their feet.


    "Yes, Sir!" Zechariah yelled, kicking Giant Havreim. "Are you looking for a beating?! Get up and respectfully answer our esteemed Guard!"


    "A third level Martial Mortal boot licker". Guard Chou Ferk smirked. "Hahaha, I like it! Good, for being the first sensible shit sniffer, I'll reward you with a rank up. Congrats, you get to start your first day as a B ranked prisoner".


    "Thank you, Sir!" Zechariah shouted his lungs out.


    "Hahaha". Guard Chou Ferk's mood lightened.


    Zechariah walked past Giant Havreim, pinching him. Then, with a sidelong glance, he urged him to play along.


    Giant Havreim, however, refused to lower his head. It took a nudge from Zechariah, instructing him to look at someone, and another instant of risky contact to convince him.


    'It's just temporary pain and a hit to your ego! Bear with it, as I do for Linor…' He also had to do it for only one, among the survivors, his Varinka.


    "Please forgive me, Sir! Giant Havreim is at your service day and night, Sir!" Giant Havreim yelled, getting much attention like Zechariah before him.


    Guard Chou Ferk retained his smile. "Sorry, chum, second place today only get a dirty snout, but you are on the right track. Everyone else, shout your trap from this point on".


    The other hurt survivors rearranged themselves in the rows. Their skin was scorched, but Guard Chou Ferk did not intend to leave lasting damage. Only the two who got severe burns received a tacit assistance from their fellows from New Earth and Ercas Mir, their kin of the same planet.


    Seven empty carts waited in line on the railway.


    "Get inside. As much as I want to just kick you in, the formations within the crevasse will slice through you if you enter any other way than in these carts". Guard Chou Ferk remarked. "Hurry or last one to get in, I might as well throw to prove I'm Gods damn serious!"


    Zax climbed the cart that could fit twenty people, human size… there were hundred and fifty humans and beast and since there were no Chaoyue among them all beasts could transform to a human form. Nevertheless, there were still ten people too many and so each cart had to squeeze one or two more.


    Zax’s large build was morphed to a scrawny old man, so his cart got two extra people, not that anyone complained.


    Guard Chou Ferk pushed the first cart with a kick. “Bellow do as the A and Elite ranked prisoner tell you. Don’t cause troubles and don’t make me go down. You came together and will be allocated differently down there, but I’m fond of collective punishments. If need be I’ll hunt each and every one of you because one idiot. Am I clear? You can speak now!”


    “Yes, Sir!” Zechariah and Giant Havreim instigated group response from their carts that incited the clever ones in the others.


    The way down was slow and the crevasse was deep. Two minutes into it, for the first time since they had last seen each other in Ercas Mir and New Earth, the men and women, beasts and humans got a chance to reunite. Even those who had no acquaintances, found a measure of solace in conversing with kin from the same planet.


    Zax was among the few who brought along with him the solitude from the incarceration vaults. In fact, due to having his Infernal self, his true self, sealed, the atmosphere around him was excessively melancholy.


    “Old man, who did you lose?” A brown skinned girl with short, black and ruffled hair poked Zax’s knee. “I lost my mom and elder brother, well… I lost more, but they were my most important”. Her voice was detached as she recounted, almost robotic. “They…”


    At first, Zax was not listening to her, but after his mind processed her detailed account of how both her mother and elder brother were crushed to mash by a stampede of two scales Deformed Beings when the sky turned purple, it somehow got piqued to see the poor lass.


    Her ears were pointy and her green eyes a bit too large to the frame of her face.


    “What… species are you?” She was a beast in human form that projected the appeal of a petite, lost girl. Zax did not think it was intentionally, though she probably could manipulate others’ affection toward her by look, his vision, even in his current state, was sufficiently keen to probe a first level Core Master. She was just as broken as he.


    “I’m from the Tree Paws tribe… I was. I’m Four Ears Leaves Eyes Jaguar”.


    “Your name?” Zax asked as sluggish as he always was in the past several years.


    “Nulivs. What’s yours, grandpa human?”


    “Mine…” Zax wavered, unable to bring himself to utter as if him saying will superimpose the last memory he heard someone else call it… Anet’s voice.


    “Grandpa human?” Nulivs poked the silence.


    “Whatever you want… call me”. Zax woke up.


    “Then, Grandpa Human?”


    “Sure…”


    The ride in the cart continued for a little over four hours. Gradually the skylight dimmed, blocked by the insufferable tall walls of the crevasse.


    Zax recognized a number of faces, yet except with Nulivs he talked with no one nor was interested to, as though the old man shell really made him a different person.


    Finally the carts reached bottom and a man in dusty clothes and a band with the word “Elite” on it come to receive them.


    Scrutinizing the vicinity, Nulivs pinched Zax’s shirt.


    “Grandpa Human, tell me, how long it will take us to die here?”

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    Book 11 – Lost

    Chapter 5 – Middle Sector No.131






    “Die?” For a moment Zax failed to understand the question.


    Was he not dead already? In a way that was his assumption. He was ready to also make it his answer when a cold sensation from his dantian changed his mind before he could get a grasp on it.


    “I won’t die here”. It came out as a casual matter of a fact, against their disheartening circumstance.


    Numerous projectors shed light at the bottom of the crevasse. The sky was only a distant, finger thick crack. The earth was laced by tracks that extended out of tunnels in the crevasse’s walls to dumping grounds for waste. Working them were thousands upon thousands of bushed prisoners, all sort of Beings, who had taken as close to a humanoid a form as they could transform to – that was only one of the Seventh Post’s two hundred and sixty sectors, smallest one at that.


    “Get in order, we don’t have all day!” The Elite ranked prisoner, a man of some kind of Being… he had doted, black and orange skin, red quills for hair, large blue insect eyes and a mouth filled with long, thin pointy teeth. “Second realm this way, third realm that way”. He immediately divided the group.


    Sixty three of the hundred and fifty were Martial Mortals, all thanks to the prosperity Zax ushered in New Earth before its demise.


    “Listen to the Elite prisoner”. As it so happen, the former humanoid beast – now white skinned, white haired, burly middle aged human – that pulled Zax back when Head Guard Umber was around, kept tabs on the old man and consequently Nulivs.


    He was not familiar with the two, but they came from the same planet, hence they were now his kin.


    “Eh? Yes”. Zax nodded and dragged his feet where the humanoid beast, rather than the Elite prisoner said, which ultimately was the same place.


    “Grandpa Human, I think you are wrong”. Nulivs disapproved of his answer. “You will die here. Me, too. Uncle Stone Clawed and everyone else, also”.


    By “Uncle Stone Clawed” she referred to the white skinned, white haired beast in human form, apparently figuring the identity of the big fellow as a Stone Clawed Bear from the Stone Clawed Bear clan of Ercas Mir.


    “Shhh, the Elite prisoner speaking”. The man, who was two meters and forty centimeters tall, granted.


    The Elite prisoner, naming himself “Mr. Sawbones”, a fourth level Martial Mortal, ordered the eighty seven second realm cultivators and the sixty three third realm cultivators to stand side by side in two separate lines and then reconnect.


    “See that, put together, even though this is as busy day as any, compared to Middle Sector No.131, let alone the gargantuan Seventh Post, you amount to nothing, just a few more ants in the colony. Now show me your hands!” He barked.


    Everyone reached out pairs of empty hands.


    Mr. Sawbones gestured with his right hand, in which there was a spatial ring, and a collection of pickaxes was summoned out.


    Each pickaxe landed in a pair of empty hands, till everyone was holding a mining tool.


    It was heavy despite having a normal look, five or six tone perhaps. The handle was made of wood and the head metal, but in its center were runic carvings.


    “It is your breadwinner, most valued possession, means for survival and you only get one! So learn to treat it like an additional limb!” Mr. Sawbones instilled. He retrieved a pickaxe for himself from the spatial ring and pointed it behind. “There you will regularly renew your lease on life”.


    About five hundred meters from the end of the railway, where they stood in line, was the nearest wall of the crevasse. There, prisoners were going in and out through one of the tens of tunnels, on their backs hung tattered bags and pickaxes.


    “Ever Pure Solid is a multicolored luminous mineral. It is the Seventh Post’s currency, of which you will use to purchase, first and foremost, time among the livings. You start doing this by mining for Ever Pure Solid at assigned locations. Where you will be stationed is not up to change!


    “C to A ranked prisoners have two types of quota to fill, daily and weekly. While the daily quota is optional and flexible, would only suffice to lessen the end of the week’s sum, it is mandatory to complete your weekly obligation. Failure to do so will result in a range of penalties”. Mr. Sawbones waved his hand again and a grain, meeting the Ever Pure Solid’s description, appeared on his finger. “Who is the prisoner who got promoted to B rank?”


    “Me, Mr. Sawbones”. Zechariah respectfully said.


    Mr. Sawbones flicked the Pure Ever Solid to Zechariah.


    “Thank you, Mr. Sawbones!” Zechariah yelled.


    “Later, use it in exchange for a B rank band. That’s the exact amount, so don’t expect a surplus”. Mr. Sawbones resumed his attention on the rest of the crowd. “What I just gifted him, is an eight grams piece of Ever Pure Solid. It was mined in tunnel No.64, eighteen kilometers from the entrance. In general, twenty five grams is how much C ranked prisoners have to gather for their weekly quota. B rank’s quota is twenty grams, A’s fifteen and Elite’s five. Only after a Guard promotes you, specifically for us Sector No.131’s Guard Chou Ferk, can you exchange for a new band. The conditions for promotions vary between the ranks. Learn about them on your own in your free time.


    “Note this to yourselves… in the unlikely scenario of finding a single piece of Ever Pure Solid weighing twenty five grams or over, you are obligated to notify immediately an Elite prisoner!” Although Mr. Sawbones did not state that they should come for him, his demeanor implied that aligning after another Elite prisoner will sow animosity between him and them.


    “That’s all I have to say. Next, allocations… Third realm cultivators, the ten of you, go to tunnel No.64, the ten of you to tunnel No.65, you…”


    Mr. Sawbones divided the sixty three third realm cultivators in tunnels No.64 to No. 70. The eighty seven second realm cultivators were sent to tunnels No.4 to No.17.


    “The activation chant for the pickaxes is ‘Oj Femkleer Nacbior’. It will drain whichever you’ll use to charge it, mist energy, soul energy or vitality, but it will assist in tough spots. When you’ll see prisoners leaving the tunnels, that generally means the day’s over and you may follow to the rank appropriate quarters. Disperse!”


    Finishing, Mr. Sawbones left first.


    “Call me Vimov”. Uncle Stone Clawed, actually Vimov, pushed Zax and Nulivs.“Let’s go”.


    He made sure to stand by them when they lined up and during the allocation they were distributed together to tunnel No.9.


    “Uncle Vimov”, Nulivs called, lagging behind.


    “What?”


    “I’m hungry”.


    It was a weird complain that startled Vimov. According to his stomach, it had been less than a day since they last ate. Moreover, Nulivs is a first level Core Master. Assuming she received the same timely soup meals on the years’ long voyage in space; she should be fine without food and water for at least a month. But then… why is he, too, feeling hungry?


    “It’s this place…” He murmured, insinuating the planet. ‘On the surface it was a vague tingling, but inside the crevasse it’s more distinct’. He recalled Guard Chou Ferk’s explanation of the planet.


    Initially it meant little to him… he was a third level Core Master that had just began to analyze the most basic – worldly energy, after comprehending the three bottlenecks of insight related to the sound, taste and scent of the world.


    Attribute energy was a remote concept to him and there was nothing to say about elemental energy.


    ‘I can’t sense the worldly energy!’ Without it he will have to rely on his dantian’s capacity to replenish mist energy, while working in not yet fully realized conditions.


    CLANG!


    Zax dropped his pickaxe, alerting Vimov and several others who headed for the same direction.


    “Grandpa Human, are you too hungry to hold your pickaxe?” Nulivs picked it for him.


    “Hungry? No”. Zax shook his head.


    His eyes searched the surrounding until locking on large among the waste carried from the tunnels in the carts. He walked to it, sat and leaned to rest.


    “You…” Vimov was speechless. “Is this old man so bent on dying?”


    They all lost a lot in Ercas Mir and New Earth, but one can mourn only for so long… nearly five years in the Lunar Splitter should have been enough to ruminate, in some it even ignited a fresh flame for purpose…


    That being said, Vimov was not aware that unlike the rest of them, the current Zax is only a shell of an Infernal barred by God Demirva and God Bimentia and that for how long he would stayed like this depended on several variables.


    “Dammit!” A red headed white skinned woman cursed. She was Lenrah, whom Zax encountered as part of Zechariah’s party when he went after the Black Core Yurnal left with Savir and baby Yimin.


    “If you want to die so much, old man, why didn’t you do it when the wave of inferno incinerated New Earth?!” She raged and pulled him by the collar of his shirt. “Why… Why a useless trash with zero self worth like you survived and my Duthur, my Eyla, Girith and Lisa died?!” She bawled, not minding the commotion.


    “Lenrah”, a black haired, white skinned woman approached to pacify.


    “No, Varinka! I want to know, why someone like him survived while my husband and three children died?!”


    “I can’t answer you, Lenrah, and you can’t blame him for your loss, even if he seems indifferent”. Varinka dragged her away. “Besides, we are all coping in our personal way”.


    Of their merry party of six, the dual wield pistols Duthur was the only one to die in New Earth. In the division to tunnels, Zechariah was sent to No.70, Giant Havreim to No.67, Lenrah and Varinka to No.66 and Linor to No.64.


    “Grandpa Human”, Nulivs arrived.


    “Old man, I can’t let you out of my sight…” Vimov clutched Zax’s arm and just in case Nulivs’s. “Other prisoners are looking at us. I saw B and A ranked, too. If it’s hard for you to manage, I’ll give you a hand, so please follow my lead and, for the meantime, cooperate”.

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    Book 11 – Lost

    Chapter 6 – First Kill






    TING!


    The tip of the pickaxe hit the rock and barely penetrated two millimeters. Vimov was pushed a step from the recoil, repressed a grunt, tightened his grip on the wooden handle and swung again.


    TING!


    TING!


    TING!





    “This… planet…” He gasped and continued. “It’s nothing like Ercas Mir… Maybe… it’s just the rocks… in the Seventh… Post… Either way… We must work!”


    He tried to be a role model for the inactive Zax and the impassive Nulivs, as well all those others Ercas Mir’s survivors in tunnel No.9.


    “Will I get something to eat if I’d work?” Nulivs inquired, tilting her head to make eye contact with Vimov.


    TING!


    “I’ll get… You food”. Vimov reassured.


    TING!


    Without saying a word, Nulivs picked up her pickaxe and began to mine.


    “Old man… I felt your body when I help you… It’s exceptionally resilient, so… assist us, at least for the little girl”. Vimov hoped to persuade Zax, if anything than for Nulivs’s sake.


    From his perspective the old man gave up on life, but Nulivs… she was broken. Perhaps, if they will manage to pick all her pieces back together she will recover.


    It was hard to determine if Vimov succeeded to press the correct buttons or Zax was simply going with the flow. Frankly, Vimov did not care. He was only glad to have Zax doing something productive, rather than risking getting marked as problematic.


    TING!


    The entrance to tunnel No.9 was like the base of a tree. Inside of it was a network of hundreds and thousands of tunnels wide and narrow, long and short, which split to more tunnels, like the roots of the tree.


    It was all done for Gods know how long by the prisoners in Middle Sector No.131.


    To avoid conflict on their first day, Vimov selected a spot for the three of them in an abandoned, thirty something centimeters deep crevice.


    There was no artificial lighting in the tunnel. Instead, like New Earth’s Sun Stones, here were luminous pebbles that emitted dim glow in warm hues.


    TING!


    The three mined for hours. Vimov and Nulivs were consistently drawing on their diminishing wisps of mist energy. The latter was in a worse state than the former, but her behavior was monotonous and movement mechanical. Till now she believed that death here is imminent and if it is supposed to be by exhaustion, then so be it.


    Zax, in contrast, was a lot better. Not only he was a bodily cultivator, he cultivated to almost the Peak of the Three Stages Of Hyper Physique's Second Stage, a refinement technique that emphasized treating the body like a bottomless reservoir of dark attribute energy. Even if his current mindset made it even harder to absorb the worldly dark attribute energy in the Rakmon Penitentiary Star then it already is, and God Demirva and God Bimentia's sealed anything related to his Immortal powers and Mortal Enlightenment state, should he find the desire he still can magnify his physique to match a fourth level Martial Mortal and sustain it, if constantly, for couple of years.


    TUNG!


    The tip of a pickaxe smashed twelve centimeters into the tunnel's wall, in a single swing breaking past two thirds of the combined length the trio accomplished in seven hours.


    Nulivs fell on her knees, flushed and grasping for air.


    "Don't… activate the runes!" Vimov scolded Nulivs, but it was too late. The lass had not a sliver of strength to mine. "Tsk!" He clucked his tongue. "Rest, you are done for today".


    "But… my food…" Nulivs leaned on her side and dropped on the ground. Not only the pickaxe's runes required a great consumption of either mist energy, soul energy or vitality, once activated it will extract the precise amount even at the cost of creating a deficiency in of the three fueling resources.


    "Don't worry about it!" Vimov stopped mining to get her in a sitting position. "Don't worry". He said softly.


    In his heart wondering where is that empathy for others coming from? The idea of they being his few remaining kin from Ercas Mir? The impact of losing his friends or loved ones? Or just his own coping mechanism?


    He felt like the answer was something he would need to invest time to discover, and that knowing it will not necessarily do him better.


    He took back his pickaxe and rejoined Zax.


    TING!


    At the seventh hour Vimov's pace began to deteriorate.


    TING!


    In the twelfth hour he could not keep going anymore, he had to rest.


    TING!


    Only Zax steadily mined when the eighteenth hour arrived. In fact, only he kept mining and his progress alone expanded the crevice by sixty two centimeters.


    "Enough, let's go. Many had come and left after and before us". Vimov said. "Nobody worked for eighteen hours straight …" He looked at Zax and realized that this old human was probably some exalted expert back in Ercas Mir.


    "Here". Zax reached out his hand to Vimov, in his palm was a glittering pile of Ever Pure Solid's specks, altogether weighing a bit over one gram.


    Vimov was stunned. By now he concluded that the crevice was discarded because it had zero concentration of Ever Pure Solid. He calmed down fast though. A gram of Ever Pure Solid was too little for the work they put, after all, if after eighteen hours they only found this much, how are they supposed to meet their weekly quota?


    'The longer tunnels are occupied by old and higher ranked prisoners… are we to keep digging new ones until finding a profitable spot or is it possible to make a deal…?' He wondered.


    "Can I see if we can spend it?" He asked Zax, thinking of buying food. More specifically something that can nourish second realm cultivators.


    "Yes". Zax coolly replied.


    Vimov tore a piece from the shirt he was put on in the Lunar Splitter. It was elastic, fitting the alterations in size when beasts transform. He made a small pouch and stored the Ever Pure Solid in it.


    The Rakmon Penitentiary Star's day and night cycle is fifty two hours, but regardless the time of the day, prisoners can choose to mine at their leisure, as long as they meet the weekly quota. Only access to the quarters is prohibited before two hours after sunset, which an Elite ranked prisoner has to pronounce, since a lot earlier the crack for a sky turns too dark to gauge.


    "You can't". A bearded, one eyed C ranked prisoner told Vimov after the latter approached him when the trio exited the tunnel. "To buy anything you first must purchase a C rank band at the souk".


    The man was old and meek, exactly the reason why Vimov pestered him for further information.


    Souks are the market areas between sectors. They are run by Elite and A ranked prisoners and governed by Guards while the Penitentiary supplies the available commodities.


    A tenth of an Ever Pure Solid's gram is the admission fee for a souk and half a gram is the price of a C rank band.


    As for food, according to the C ranked prisoner, everything edible can range from a tenth of a gram to several hundreds.


    "Follow me to the C rank's quarters, if you want to rest. Guard Chou Ferk hates loitering prisoners".


    Vimov nodded and fought the urge to stare up. He also felt more apprehensive now toward the Elite and A ranked prisoners. He wanted to ask about the promotions, but the decided to wait for them get to the quarters.


    The C rank quarters were situated in within a giant, mostly dark cave. It was spacious if it was not over capacity… roughly five thousand prisoners had to share it.


    “You’ll get used to it”. The old, bearded prisoner told to the trio. “Not seeing the sky”. If only fate was not so cruel, perhaps Zax would have had it in him to laugh right now.


    Some prisoners that had been in the penitentiary for hundreds of years and more, congregated to cliques under a certain Elite or A ranked prisoner\s, which got them certain improved conditions and also the confident to torment other C ranked prisoners, even if their cultivation level was higher.


    Among the C ranked prisoners in Middle Sector No.131 there were four groups that Misha, the old, bearded prisoner, recommended to avoid.


    They had no particular names, since the penitentiary's rules forbade the formation of groups, so to know who the members were, one had to cautiously ask and memorize the association by face.


    Finding a remote corner for them, Vimov transformed to his more intimidating animalistic form and glared sideways. “Listen”, He turned to Zax. “From my understanding getting into fights won’t give you troubles with the Guards, unless it’s with an Elite ranked prisoner or a well contacted A ranked prisoner. I’m planning to go to the souk to buy one C rank band and maybe- and food. When I’m gone, if someone comes to talk because you are new, unless they are also from Ercas Mir, just keep showing an introvert front until my return. Oh, and don’t let Nulivs out of your sight”. He shifted his gaze. “Girl”, she rested her head on Zax’s legs.


    “I’m hungry, Uncle Vimov”. Nulivs repeated.


    “I know. I’m going now to take care of it. Be good and wait for with your Grandpa Human, okay?”


    She nodded.


    “Good… girl”. He patted her head, gaze a meaningful squeeze to Zax’s shoulder and left.





    Seeing Vimov leaving, from another corner in the cave, a foul glint flashed in Misha’s eyes.


    “Barov Do Loyndez, Junper, Dolev, Kouweel”. He alerted three men and a woman.


    Two of the men shared his same features. The third one was a mix of a bat, wolf and a cat with human’s frame. The woman was bald, with a scar across her fact and one red eye.


    “Misha?” Asked Kouwee, the sort of humanoid beast.


    “These two over there”, Misha gestured with his chin for Zax and Nulivs. “New ones, from the large batch that arrived today”.


    “Really? Good catch”. Barov Do Loyndez, the only woman, coldly praised. “The girl is just as attractive as the one we picked seven years ago. The old man-”


    “I saw him mining for straight eighteen hours without sense an ounce of mist fluctuations. He should be a bodily cultivator”. Misha intercepted.


    “Eighteen hours! He should be strong, should we…” Dolev hesitated.


    “They have a third companion, the only attentive person among them, and he just left. The good impression I’ve made is enough to lure them, but we need to do it fast, before someone from the big four will take note that they don’t have bands”. Misha persisted.


    “Go show them your friendly smile, see if you can dupe them. It’s better than all of us ganging”. Barov Do Loyndez.


    “That’s my intention, but be ready to aid by force”. Misha rubbed his cheek, as if he remold his expression to servile one.


    “Little Nulivs, brother”, Misha strode with an aged fatigue in every step. “Your friend… Vimov, did he leave to the souk?” Neither replied. “Brother?” He felt displeasure, but maintained the facade. “Little Nulivs, you want food?”


    “Yes”. Nulivs slowly raised her head. “Can you give me something to eat?”


    Misha sighed. “Alas, my dear, a poor man like me rarely get to put food in his mouth. But you are new to the sector and I’m familiar with a few who pity us miserable”. He offered his hand for he to get up and she reached out to take it.


    “Oh, no!” Barov Do Loyndez exclaimed from afar, but even before he voice faded, it was too late…


    Zax, aware or not, clenched his fist and punched, blasting Misha’s head.


    Blood, bone and meat splashed allover.


    “Rest… Nulivs”. He gently put her to sleep.

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    Book 11 – Lost


    Chapter 7 – A Slit






    Undisturbed by the blood, bone fragments and minced meat, Nulivs closed her eyes and obediently fell asleep.


    Similarly to the lass, but for the complete opposite reason, everyone in the cave also turned quiet, roughly five thousand prisoners!


    Barov Do Loyndez, Junper, Dolev and Kouweel’s pupils contracted as they glared with killing intent at Zax, yet remained fixated to their places.


    Other prisoners had the same hostile gleam in their eyes, more so because the violent spectacle had triggered their bloodthirstiness, than they cared about Misha’s death.


    The largest group of prisoners to follow the same conduct was the thousands that got frightened by how easily a Peak second level Core Master such as Misha lost his head, both figuratively and literally, for messing with a madman like Zax, whom they hastily distanced themselves from.


    “Kouwee, inform Biton that a new prisoner killed Misha, go!” Barov Do Loyndez barked, her muscles tensed.


    "Right!" Kouwee jumped to the air, transforming to seventy centimeters tall demonic wolf bat with cat's eyes and ears.


    She itched to vent, to shred Zax for as many pieces as there were cells in his body. She held back only because she knew even with Junper and Dolev, they are not his opponents.


    “Who is that old man?” A humanoid beast with an emerald lion’s head asked Yimin.


    There were quite a few of the Ercas Mir and New Earth’s survivors currently resting in the cave in small groups. Most chose to keep apart out of caution, as they did not want to draw attention by converging a hundred and forty nine on their first day – Zechariah’s quarters were with the B ranked prisoners.


    Due to the commotion just created, they, too, were staring at him with mixed emotions.


    “A bodily cultivator…” Yimin murmured. “Without bringing out his ability to a deeper extant, I can’t deduce his refinement technique”.


    “Should we help them?” The lion’s head humanoid beast asked.


    “I would like to, also have a talk with him, but we can’t be hasty, Souri. First send someone to notify Zechariah and let’s see who will respond to this fuss”.


    A brawny, three meters tall man with granite for skin separated from the crowd. He leaked a third level Martial Mortal's aura as he walked and stared down on Zax.


    "Do you know what you just did?" His voice sounded like two stones rubbing against each other. "You are new, but it can't help you. On the contrary, Guard Chou Ferk should have warned you not too long ago not to cause problems. Killing a fellow inmate is A problem". He spoke slowly, as if he struggled to pronounce in the common language, Netherling.


    "He", Zax, placidly, raised a shriveled finger and pointed at Misha's corpse. Next, his arm drowned a diagonal line as it gestured over at Barov Do Loyndez, Junper and Dolev. "They… and the one that ran away. Four more problems".


    The granite man frowned and not so far from them, Barov Do Loyndez, Junper and Dolev displayed ugly expression.


    "Four more problems?" The granite man asked. "Are you saying that you intend to kill even more?"


    Zax unhurriedly nodded. He did not emit a trace of killing intent, yet his manner was so detached it made one's hair bristle.


    BOOM!


    A loud crash blasted gravel at the entrance to the cave, even though the entire Seventh Post was made of the same tough that soil prisoners exhausted themselves daily mining.


    A fat, four armed, tailed woman with an A rank band furiously entered the cave. Behind her was Kouwee in his humanoid form.


    "Barov Do Loyndez, who was it?!" Bellowed the woman, Biton. She was Misha's backer and in return to support in certain dealings, she relied on his submissive exterior to haul attractive prisoners, mostly fit for entertainment, before the cronies of other A ranked or Elite ranked prisoners.


    Biton flaunted her fourth level Martial Mortal aura, projecting it at Zax after Barov Do Loyndez showed her the culprit.


    The granite man moved aside, to avoid getting caught in the conflict if Zax shows no signs of seeking help. However, before he vanished in the crowd, he heard a voice whispering to his earless head. "Sixth problem".


    "C rank, come here immediately!" Biton ordered Zax. Seeing him not complying or influenced by the pressure of her aura, she was inwardly surprised. "Humph!" She snorted disdainfully and suddenly her colorless basic Martial Mortal's aura started to radiant in earthly hues.


    It is very risky utilizing attribute energy in the Rakmon Penitentiary Star. Due to the restriction on the worldly energies of the planet and law of the Plain it is extremely arduous to accumulate again and has limited practical methods for usage that all deplete rapidly.


    The earthly attribute fluctuation forced the crowd to further distance themselves or leave the cave altogether. Many among them felt longing to the power of attribute energy upon witnessing it, many others were disgruntled for not daring to employ their so extravagantly. The weakest, first level Core Masters just hoped to pass this day alive.


    The Mass Nature of the earthly attribute made Zax feel uncomfortable, not that he showed it. It would take much more to bring out his locked emotions. But eventually he did react, driven by an instinct.


    He got up, carrying Nulivs in his arms, yet she could not feel a scrap of the indomitable heavy pressure. Thus, remained asleep.


    Dark spot gradually covered Zax, blackening his skin, hair and eyes.


    "He is using dark attribute energy with his body? A bodily cultivator!"


    "A band less cultivator merging attribute energy with his physique…"


    "The counterforce his raising… this level of understanding of the dark attribute is way higher than the A ranked's earthly understanding".


    If it was any other Plain, his performance would have not been something to boast, but in the U Plain's Rakmon Penitentiary Star it spoke volume of Zax's capabilities, as well as his stupidity for contending with an A ranked prisoner.


    In the Seventh Post, only A and Elite ranked prisoner can afford attribute's essence.


    "A bodily cultivator and a user of the dark attribute…" Yimin's heart thumped, and so did everyone else present from Ercas Mir and New Earth. "Is it the Bone And Muscle Transformation?" He speculated.


    If the old man is Zax, there is no other technique that can disguise him so remarkably.


    Biton's mood became serious. Zax exuding dark attribute energy was one thing that she did not really mind. But his profundity was another, it casually brushed her earthly attribute energy!


    She grinded her teeth and pounced, exploiting the disparity in their realms to initiate a melee fight – prisoners were not allowed to have weapons and again, in the Rakmon Penitentiary Star Mist Users were limited with the use of attribute energy and mist energy alone was too frail, in this situation.


    Zax's legs were rooted to the ground. He was not really in a fighting mode, in a state where he can employ more than a tenth of his actual understanding or muster his elemental or even dark attribute physique. Even his earlier comments to the granite man were more of a reflexive response.


    The fist issued a series of sonic booms, its trajectory Zax’s face.


    With an indolent motion Zax raised his arm, palm open to receive.


    BOOM!


    The shook was absorbed in his arm before a whiff of undulation could spread, but the force behind it was not completely unstoppable.


    His legs carved two shallow lines in the ground as Biton pushed with muscle, mist and the rippling of the Gravity Property.


    One…


    Zax’s pinky closed on the back of Biton’s fist.


    Two…


    His ring finger clenched.


    Three, four, five!


    Middle, index and thumb seized and Biton’s momentum subsided to a halt.


    His fingers dug past her skin, spilling green blood, but that was also the best he could do.


    WHOOSH!


    WHOOSH!


    WHOOSH!


    WHOOSH!


    Biton’s three other arms and tailed hurled.


    He could not block them, yet for Nulivs’s safety could also not let them hit.


    “Don’t… lay a finger on her”. For the briefest of moment a cold sensation traveled from his dantian, accelerating his perception, cracking a slit in his dormancy. He shook his arm, sending a tremor to Biton’s restricted fist.


    BOOM!


    “Pouh!” Biton flung back, causing green blood with an incredulous plastered on her face.


    BANG!


    She slammed into the cave’s wall, which not even the direct attack from a fifth level Martial Mortal in the Mortal Enlightenment state can break.


    “This level of power!” The granite man, Yimin and the rest of the onlookers that could barely keep up or just register the sequence of events from the outcome all stared agape.


    “This… got to be him, right, Yimin?” The lion’s headed beast, Souri, asked.


    “If it is… what happened to him?” They all experienced the same catastrophe, but the old man had to be utterly devastated to justify this degree of lassitude.


    Zax stepped forward, in a blink appearing beside Biton and thrust his hand like a spinning spearhead.


    “Stop!” A roar reverberated from the cave’s entrance. “I said stop!” A man, human, with short orange hair, black skin and outwardly looking in his fifties erupted with an aura of a fifth level Martial Mortal and earthly attribute energy and dashed for Zax.


    “Oh?” The new arrival attracted Zax’s attention. “Seventh?” Biton was spared.


    “Argentine, apprehend him!” A commanding voice ordered… The incensed Guard Chou Ferk descended the crevasse.


    To hasten the descent he had to deactivate several of the formations within the crevasse and to do that he had to get permission from Head Guard Umber, in other words, bother a Heavenly Immortal!


    Argentine, the human Elite ranked prisoner retrieved from his spatial ring a brown gem. He clapped it in his hands, crashing it to dust and, and blew it on Zax.


    “Surrender or I’ll generate a gravitational force that might not harm you, but will kill the girl you are holding”. Argentine threatened.


    “Later… she?” All he meant to do was to protect Nulivs as Vimov told him. Although he was spiritless, Zax was not stupid and could still prioritize.


    “She…” Argentine glanced at Nulivs and then Guard Chou Ferk. “Is an innocent bystander. No harm will befall her, if you’ll obey”.


    “I saw everything. She’s indeed innocent! It’s you, shameless bastard, who dragged her into this”. Yimin intervene from the crowd. “Release her this instant and go bow before Sir Guard!” He hoped that even if the old man was not Zax, he would at least recognize him as someone from the group of survival and feel relieved to hand over Nulivs.


    “We worked our ***, barely scrapping a hundredth of an Ever Pure Solid’s gram, and when he finally rest a murder shows up! Please take him away, Sir!” Souri assisted and accompanying him and Nulivs more of the Ercas Mir and New Earth survivors appealed to Guard Chou Ferk and discreetly to Zax.


    Guard Chou Ferk was not a fool. He knew the faces of all his sector’s prisoners and those who yelled were of the last and same group as the old man. Nevertheless, he allowed the pretense to continue if it could help him catch Zax without losing more free labor…


    Just as it manifested, the black darkness on Zax receded. He let Nulivs down, walked to Guard Chou Ferk and offered his wrists to the shackles.

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    Book 11 – Lost

    Chapter 8 – Lashes






    The first day they arrived to the Rakmon Penitentiary Star, after getting the approval from Chief Inspector Nazalat and Warden Sil Dong, Sergeant Heyxin traveled the planet, surveying the management in the one hundred and eleven mining posts.


    Her opinion of what she saw was divided… quite a few times she witnessed Guards’ misconduct toward prisoners, while at other times the prisoners got too much free reign, so long as they meet their quota, which resulted in the strong and high ranked taking their frustration out on the weak and low ranked.


    One thing she did not saw and was glad for it, was the presence of children and cultivators below the second realm. The Kon Juya Constabulary relied on the Rakmon Penitentiary Star as a place to incarcerate those it determined too dangerous to keep at any other place. It did not make often transfers, but for the one in a few tens of thousands years it paid with discretion, so long as first realm cultivators and children were delivered to hospitable planets.


    Neither Warden Sil Dong nor the Rakmon Penitentiary’s shareholders minded the constabulary’s ultimatum. First realm cultivates cannot survive on the Rakmon Penitentiary Star and the only children that can, are those born with a soul and one other aspect at the second realm to a minority of unique Beings.


    Traversing the planet, she arrived to her last destination, the place in which her purpose for staying was sent to, the Seventh Post.


    “Sergeant Heyxin, I assume”. A short, black haired human woman, Heavenly Immortal greeted. “I am Head Guard Umber of the Seventh Post”.


    “Miss Umber”. Sergeant Heyxin nodded.


    ”I was notified of your estimate time of arrival, but it took you longer than what I was told. I’m afraid the delicacies I’ve prepared have turned cold”. It was not a show of cordiality, but a blunt invitation to leave.


    Like the Head Guards of the other posts, Head Guard Umber the “righteous pricks” of the Kon Juya Constabulary.


    “I’m not here for pleasantries”. Sergeant Heyxin coolly dismisses. “Take me to the sector where the batch of one hundred and fifty was assigned to work. I want to observe them”.


    “Follow me, then”. Regardless how she felt, Head Guard Umber was obligated by the Deputy Warden to entertain all of Sergeant Heyxin’s requests. More importantly, the latter was a Sacred Immortal and not a prisoner. If she will persist with the discourtesy, Sergeant Heyxin might resort to violence to discipline her.





    In Middle Sector No.131 there is a platform with a thirty meters tall pole.


    Punishment Platform.


    Right now Zax was tied to the pole for all to see, while Guard Chou Ferk sent orders the A and Elite Ranked prisoner to summon every inmate under his sector.


    Zechariah, Yimin, Vimov, Nulivs spectated from various location within the crowd.


    Sighting Nulivs with Yimin, Vimov breathe a sigh of relief. She was with a kin from the same planet. His line of sight shifted then to Zax, looking at him confused and distressed.


    “What the hell happened?” He murmured.


    Flying above the pole, Guard Chou Ferk scanned the gathering prisoners like a wolf a herd of sheep, noting each and every one from Zax’s batch.


    “This prisoner”, he pointed at Zax, though it was clear. “Committed the crime of murdering a fellow inmate, no less than on his first day in my sector!”


    The crowd was dead silent. No one dared to whisper in front Guard Chou Ferk’s current temper.


    “To those who joined today, let the punishment that will soon ensue to engrave this to your souls… you are the property of the Rakmon Penitentiary! Those to your right, your left, in front and behind are, too, the property of the Rakmon Penitentiary! By killing a fellow inmate, you steal from the Rakmon Penitentiary! By killing someone from my sector, you implicate me, Guard Chou Ferk!”


    Retrieving a red candle from his spatial ring, Guard Chou Ferk placed it atop the pole and lit it.


    “I sentence the murder with two punishments. The first, a thousand years of bearing the marks of a thousand Flame Lashes! The second is doubling his weekly quota for a thousand years!”


    “Flame Lashes” the mere mentioning of the name caused chill to run down the spine of the old veteran prisoners, and that was before their brained registered the amount of marks and period for the punishment.


    Guard Chou Ferk took another object from his spatial ring, a lavish, orange metallic handle.


    “Rise!” He called. Swinging his hand up with the handle, as if the candle resonated with it, its small flame crackled and enlarged to several meters tall, forming a thousand thongs.


    “Fall!” Guard Chou Ferk swiped and a burning thong bore down on Zax in coordination with his motion.


    THSSH!


    The thong dispersed upon contact with Zax’s torso, but it left a searing, glowing mark on him.


    Quiet.


    Despite how much he strained his ears, Guard Chou Ferk did not hear a whimper from Zax, not even a change in his heart’s beating rhythm.


    It was unexpected, but not out of the ordinary.


    The shackles he placed on Zax were similar to the cuffs he wore in the Lunar Splitter’s incarceration vault. It imposed a reduction on the three aspects, forcefully lowering them to a level of a Beginner first level Core Master, all to augment, for as much as possible, the pain from the lashes.


    THSSH!


    The second thong struck, yet Zax remained impassive while Guard Chou Ferk patient.


    THSSH!


    THSSH!


    THSSH!





    Thong after thong landed on Zax with a snapping screech. Gradually, his body accumulated so many burn marks, not one unharmed spot was visible on it.


    As for Zax… he was muddled from the pain. Because of the shackles his physical threshold was crumbling and he could not isolate his awareness in his soul. Nevertheless, even after tens and hundreds of lashes his mental fortitude, or rather the magnitude of the grievance in his heart, not once wavered.


    “Poah!” A mouthful of black blood gushed from damaged internals, the most reaction he had given thus far.


    Guard Chou Ferk gritted his teeth. Never before did a prisoner made him lose so much face.


    Typically, even the toughest nut will crack around the seventieth lashing, plea for forgiveness or lose sanity.


    But not Zax!


    ‘How is it possible?!’ Guard Chou Ferk whipped two, four, ten, twenty thongs simultaneously of the most concentrated fiery attribute energy the candle possessed. Together it was the combine might of the six hundred and seventh to six hundred and twenty seventh thongs, which to begin with were meant to be delivered separately.


    “WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE!” Guard Chou Ferk roared.


    BOOM!


    The impact was over the limit… Zax legs and right arm exploded, his left arm dangled still shackled and his chest down to his waist split opened.


    “You are killing him, Sir!” Unable to watch and do nothing, Zechariah shouted.


    He received Yimin’s message and hoped the old man was Zax, since from his perspective only a cultivator of the most acclaimed bodily refinement technique can somehow still manage to recover from such injuries.


    “Sir, who will pay the double quota if he dies?!” Yimin hastily reminded.


    “Guard Chou Ferk!” Veins popped on Vimov’s head. “Please let me receive the rest of the lashes!”


    “I’m willing to replace him, Guard Chou Ferk!” Another voice yelled, a black skinned woman. She and Zax did not know each other, but she also was part of the Ercas Mir and New Earth’s survivors and like Vimov she developed a new sentiment for their last kin.


    “Guard Chou Ferk!”


    “Guard Chou Ferk!”





    Voice after voice belonging to the other survivors volunteered to take up Zax’s place, a total of fifty three beasts and humans among the hundred and forty nine spectating survivors.


    “SHUT THE **** UP, YOU VERMIN!” Guard Chou Ferk erupted with his fifth level Martial Mortal aura. “WHO ARE YOU TO QUESTION MY AUTHORITY?!”


    THSSH!


    THSSH!


    THSSH!


    Three successive thongs struck Zax. At this point, he was no longer coughing blood. It sprouted from his throat and stomach.


    “You said you won’t die”.


    Suddenly a weak, tardy voice sounded, as all other voices fell due to Guard Chou Ferk’s outburst.


    The voice reached Zax’s ears and echoed in his dormant sea of consciousness.


    “I… won’t”. Zax, in his wretched state, hoarsely uttered a first response sine the punishment commenced.


    He heard them all, Zechariah, Yimin, Vimov, Guard Chou Ferk and the rest, yet apart from Guard Chou Ferk who sought to vent more than to be answered, the others spoke for him, not to him.


    Only Nulivs, the poor lass, looked past his condition, to challenge his retort…


    “What did you say?!” Guard Chou Ferk glared at Zax.


    THSSH!


    THSSH!


    “I…”


    A cold rush spread from his dantian.


    “…won’t die!”


    He repeated through the slit in his lethargic self.


    “Really…” Guard Chou Ferk hissed.


    “Chou Ferk, release the shackles and proceed with the punishment!” Yet another new voice, deafening and domineering, sounded.


    “Head Guard!” Guard Chou Ferk’s countenance blenched and without delay removed the shackles.


    Head Guard Umber’s awe inspiring Immortal aura projected overhead the prisoners like a comet, so bright and immersing all mortals were subservient it.


    Unshackled yet fixed to the pole by its formation, Zax felt his strength returning and his body promptly growing new limbs, healing from its injuries. However, the marks from the thongs still littered his body and the pain still seared in his skin, flesh and bones.


    “Remarkable!” Sergeant Heyxin praised.


    It was actually she who told Head Guard Umber to intervene. She remembered Zax and the memories she saw during his investigation. Considering the involvement of two Gods in the concealment of the Infernal Immortal, she could not assert it was not him, but until she was certain he had her pity.


    Zax’s recovery capabilities were truly a cause for envy. A bodily refinement technique that can heal so fast just in the second and originated from a remote mortal Plain was unheard of!


    “I did not die”. Zax raised his head. Locating Nulivs, he calmly stated.


    “You…!”


    THSSH!


    THSSH!


    THSSH!





    Guard Chou Ferk resumed the lashes.


    Seven hundredth, eight hundredth…


    Although he regained his power, the accumulated pain meant to torment regardless and still Zax did not let out a peep.


    “Stop!” Even Head Guard Umber had to admit that Zax’s endurance was daunting. “The method he refined his body probably was most excruciating”. She pointed at the hundred or so thongs waiting to mark him and their color flickered, changing from red to blue. “Whip his soul”.

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    Book 11 – Lost

    Chapter 9 – Finding Out






    “No wonder this man was the first to awake from his batch, despite being there others in a higher realm”. Head Guard Umber remarked. “However, you can see from his disposition that his soul, if not weaker, then for now at least is in a weakened state. Mark with the leftover thongs”.


    “You can’t kill him or anyone we brought”. Sergeant Heyxin could not prevent the intensifying cruelty in punishment; securing Zax’s life was the utmost her role as an absorber permitted her to do. Besides, she was piqued by his spikes in strength whenever his mood changed and was curious to test his limit, if it can eliminate him as the Infernal Immortal’s prospect.


    “Begin!” Head Guard Umber ignored Sergeant Heyxin and ordered.


    Guard Chou Ferk waved his arm, redirecting the alignment of the thongs with the metallic, which also experienced a change in coloration, from orange to blue.


    A blue thong landed directly on Zax’s head. Instead of dispersing, it entered his sea of consciousness, traversed the void and lashed on the only entity existing in it, a giant black pearl, the veil God Demirva and God Bimentia used to shroud and constrain his Heavenly Infernal soul.


    His body and dantian had their own seals and the Infernal aura and spirit shared the same bars.


    THSSH!


    The thong dispersed only after leaving its searing mark on the soul and this time… the pain was not something Zax could write off.


    ‘Zax-’


    Her voice reverberated in his sea of consciousness, triggered, along all the sights and sounds that depraved him of his sanity, by the shimmering blue mark.


    “A…” He gaped, narrowing his pupils.


    THSSH!


    ‘Zax-’


    Her voice grew louder as the scenario bit by bit became similar to what happen in the Soul Scrying formation.


    THSSH!


    Silence.


    “Niel, Jingrow, Liz…” He saw in his mind. “ANET!”


    A cold, tumultuous wave of unresolved emotions burst from its bars by a wisp of the Infernal.


    Gratified by finally having him wallowing in torment, Guard Chou Ferk swung his arm with ecstasy and vigor.


    THSSH!


    THSSH!


    THSSH!


    “AAHHH!” Zax’s head snapped back, as first his eyes then his whole being turned black and he let out a thundering roar.





    “Those names!”


    Yimin, Zechariah, Linor, Giant Havreim, Varinka, Lenrah and a selected few familiar, ever so slightly, with Zax’s household, squinted in absolute shock.


    Even though they suspected it and despite the probable evidences, till this very moment the skepticism in their hearts still dominated.


    “It’s…” Zechariah’s throat dried before he could finish.


    “..Zax!” His better half, Linor, continued.





    “AAHHH!”


    The shout blasted his ears, as he both was the closest to him and it was directed at him.


    The handle slipped from Guard Chou Ferk’s hand. He tried to grasp it, but the sound wave disoriented his senses and his fingers clenched an instant too late.


    “No! No! No! No! How can it be…? He is in the Mortal Enlightenment state!”


    He could not accept it. The ego of no conceited Guard in the Rakmon Penitentiary would accept a prisoner surpassing him or her!


    And what it meant to be in the Mortal Enlightenment State? The culmination of the Martial path and the induction of Evolutionary Ascension… at the appointed time, should he pass it, a new Heavenly Immortal would be born!


    “I- I-” Guard Chou Ferk stammered, wanting to say he will not let him but if he cannot kill him, how and what is there for him to do.


    THSSH!


    THSSH!


    THSSH!


    To vent was the only little thing that came to mind, to trample Zax now before he will never be able to.





    “You brought me an inmate in the Mortal Enlightenment state?” Head Guard Umber asked, not really fishing for an answer, for it was plainly presented to her, tied to the pole in the Punishment Platform.


    ‘Is it… the Mortal Enlightenment state?’ Sergeant Heyxin wondered.


    To be honest, there were eighteen major suspects with the possible identity of the Infernal Immortal. The Lunar Second Brigade’s Inspector could not determine who is the most likely to be the human or beast and considering the intervention of the two Gods, even assessing his appearance and gender, taken from the Immortals’ accounts in Ercas Mir, was pointless.


    Currently, Sergeant Heyxin scrutinized Zax, peering to his soul.


    ‘The date of an Evolutionary Ascension can be somewhat deduce when reaching the Mortal Enlightenment State. At the latest, it can arrive before the end of a moral’s maximum lifespan, which is fifteen thousand years’.


    Giving Zax’s age the benefit of the doubt, to eliminate him as a suspect she only has to wait between fourteen and fifteen thousand years. If an Evolutionary Ascension will arrive, it means he is not the Infernal Immortal, if it does not, then she has him and can transfer the other one hundredth and forty nine to hospitable planets they can start their lives anew in.


    But there was one flaw in this plan…


    ‘Culmination achieved through the understanding of an attribute, which pushes the main aspect for cultivation to the Peak of mortality, and cultivating the soul is essential to improve perception. He is merely in the second realm as a bodily cultivator, his soul should be at the Peaks – been, if he is the Infernal Immortal. Treated as just an extremely talented cultivator… being generous, I can say that he comprehended five bottlenecks of insight and therefore five feet past the Mortal Enlightenment state’s threshold. However… he keeps getting stronger!’


    And to achieve that, Zax either lucked out by comprehending a morsel of a worldly elemental energy or went beyond five bottlenecks of insight…





    “AH!” Zax bawled anger and sadness. His body jolted and a string of dark element energy transmitted to the pole, breaking the formation binding him to it.


    “Save me!” Guard Chou Ferk cried to Head Guard Umber. If Zax was strong enough to break free, than he was not an ordinary cultivator in the Mortal Enlightenment state.


    Head Guard Umber frowned. Rarely did she have to step forward because a Guard could not manage a prisoner. Flicking her fingers, a force that was too fast for the onlookers to see smashed Zax to the platform.


    “What happened in his planet left his soul scared”. Sergeant Heyxin stated, in other words saying as long as the thongs’ marks remain on his soul, he will not be subdued.


    Head Guard Umber waved her hand, erasing the marks in Zax soul, which made him faint. As for the remaining thongs, she vanquished them and collected the candle. Since the entire ordeal turned into a joke, she will not take part by replacing the incompetent Guard Chou Ferk.


    “Everyone, return to your work!” Head Guard Umber ordered. “Chou Ferk, come with me”.


    “I will stay here”. Sergeant Heyxin said.


    Head Guard Umber was the only one aware of her presence, so she could continue to watch without arousing suspicion in the transferred prisoners, specifically those who lost their composure when Zax uttered a series of names in his roar.


    “Do as you like”. Head Guard Umber grabbed Guard Chou Ferk and disappeared.





    “Tell me everything, starting from the beginning”.


    Inside the two storeys tall tower.


    Head Guard Umber leaned on a recliner, in front of her Guard Chou Ferk stood straight as the pole Zax was tied to.


    “Seventeen minutes ago, Tower No.131 received notification from the sector’s monitoring formation about a deceased inmate…” Guard Chou Ferk recounted.


    “Your luck, this time, sure is abysmal”. Head Guard Umber tapped the recliner’s armrest, to open the monitoring formation. A holographic screen was in the instantaneous process of being project when her finger swiped horizontally, shutting it off.


    Sergeant Heyxin would have noticed is she spied on her.


    Meanwhile, Guard Chou Ferk did his best to restrict the shuddering to his quivering heart.


    “Everything would have been preventable, if you did not lose your cool and lashed with multiple thongs in succession”. Head Guard Umber reprimanded. “Instead of following the proper procedure for the punishment, by publicly issuing a punishment and then failing to deliver, you embarrassed yourself and in association the penitentiary, before your inmates!”


    Her vision locked on him and he paled, not because of her Immortal’s prowess, but the notion of who is the woman leering at him.


    “Guard Chou Ferk!”


    “Ma’am!”


    “As a result of harming the reputation of the Seventh Post and the Rakmon Penitentiary as a whole, I deduct three thousand years of pay from your salary. Do you have something to say?”


    “No, Ma’am!” Guard Chou Ferk felt discontent… a prisoner kills another prisoner and he is getting punished for executing sentencing with accordance to the penitentiary’s protocol?!


    Ultimately, he dared not dispute it, at least not now. Head Guard Umber did not revoke him for his duty as the Middle Sector No.131’s Guard and if he cannot deal with an anomaly like Zax, there was always the for whom he acted in the first place…





    “See? You were wrong and I am right. You are dead”. Nulivs leaned above Zax, retorting to an unconscious old man she deemed a carcass with a piece of jerky dangling from her mouth. “Strange, though, your body is still warm. Mom and elder brother were ice cold. Do you think it’s because of the flood and that they had lost a lot of blood, or because they were beasts and you were human?”


    “Stop talking nonsense!” Vimov pulled Nulivs to sit quietly next to him. “I have one more piece of jerky. If you want it, stop blubbering and concentrate on chewing. This meat belongs to a Being only Core Masters and up can digest”. That was what the vendor in the souk told him and from the nip he took to taste, it sure was not like anything he had eaten before.


    Anyway…


    “It’s possible he has amnesia”. Giant Havreim guessed.


    He and roughly ninety of the New Earth and Ercas Mir’s survivors assembled in the C ranked prisoners’ quarters. Those absent were either not ready to mingle with anyone until getting accustomed to this treacherous environment or to begin with were solitary figures in Ercas Mir.


    Honestly, nobody present though it was smart to gather when they just earlier today all tacitly agreed to keep a low profile. If it was anyone other than Zax, the supreme expert of their pervious world, they probably would have also stuck to their initial conviction.


    Now, after hearing from Vimov on Zax’s behavior, Giant Havreim was the first to make a speculation.

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    Book 11 – Lost

    Chapter 10 – Resentful Guard Chou Ferk






    “You big oaf! He is an expert at the epitome of the Martial path, not a mortal!” Varinka angrily punched Giant Havreim’s shoulder.


    “I know that!” Giant Havreim complained, mildly offended. “I didn’t mean that he got it like a non cultivator. It probably what happened in New Earth that messed him up. I think… if I’d lost you I would’ve been the same”.


    “Have I turned crazy after losing my husband, sons and daughter?!” Lenrah seethed. “Most of us lost everything we held dear, but he who is supposed to be the best of us, the pillar of our world, had dared to so pathetically mentally escape from the suffering, the hate, the vengeance-”


    “Enough, Lenrah!” Zechariah scolded. “He isn’t like that!” He lowered his voice. “Something must have happened…”


    “Wishful thinking”. Lenrah muttered.


    “I saw him that day of the Immortals’ descent… a child that grew up to the size of giants and then surpassed them”.


    The man who interjected had one arm, a blind left eye and half burnt face. When he spoke, silence ensued and when he raised his chin, everyone bowed in respect theirs. It was not about him being the second strongest of the survivors, but who he is… was, at least to those of New Earth.


    “Commander Dan”, Zechariah requested permission to speak.


    “Son, the torch is in your hands now. This old man just reminisced aloud”.


    “I, then, have something to ask”. A beast with a wolf head, in humanoid form, cut in.


    Zechariah looked at the Ravenous Grass Wolf, giving her the stage.


    “Zex Zel is not the expert we remember, but from the display we had today, his power is still beyond comprehension, so much that even the fifth level Martial Mortal Guard was powerless against him. With him as our backer we don’t need to worry about the A and Elite ranked prisoners, not unless there are other prisoners as strong as him. But, eventually prisoners aren’t our issue. Guard Chou Ferk is, and the fact that no matter the pain, hatred and desire for vengeance, our jailors are Immortals! What I want to know is… why are we here instead of mining?”


    “Because it’s not pointless as you make it”. Linor answered, shifting her gaze to Zax. “Mortal Enlightenment state… Do you know what it is, Piershaq?”


    “Guard Chou Ferk mentioned it”. The wolf head beast, Piershaq, said.


    “So you don’t. Is there someone else who might know?”


    There were, but those who knew learned it from the same source as Linor so they stayed quiet.


    “The prerequisite to attain Immortality”. Linor's casual manner struck like a bolt out of the blue.


    Piershaq and all the ill informed were palpitating and without reservation they attentively perked their ears to scoop every word from Linor. The concept of Immortality was not foreign to anyone anymore, but to have someone close that attained it, or in the process to, is a blessed opportunity to ask for guidance and broaden the horizon.


    "The Supreme Rulers, Zax and many more experts of New Earth or allies to it discovered and shared a lot about the Martial path during the five powers' recession. The Mortal Enlightenment state was one of those revelations, but to access it cultivators had to meet certain conditions... In essence, after acquiring a complete understanding of an attribute, in addition to cultivating to the Peak of the Martial Mortal realm the soul and one other aspect, a cultivator will reach the Mortal Enlightenment state and be able to sense the date for the Evolutionary Ascension into Immortality. Zex Zel, as you called him, by the reaction of Guard Chou Ferk and involvement of the Head Guard, is one such expert on the periphery to Immortality".


    It was an exciting news, yet not everyone found it comforting for their situation.


    "If they were worried about Zax becoming an Immortal, they would not have let him off". An aged looking bald man with brown, wrinkled skin and dark round marks in his arms and feet, a beast in human form, commented depressingly. "'Loved' and 'Home' are two things we lost. Another nobody brought up is 'Freedom'. We are sitting here now, not because we chose to, but because the Head Guard let us. Zax was left with us, not because he had not yet passed his Evolutionary Ascension, but because even if he will, it isn't a concern for the Rakmon Penitentiary".


    "You describe a harsh reality, Jiyul Cenler, and yes, it appears to be all we have right now, but what's wrong with striving for a better future if it only costs a little bit of mining time?" A blond, white man, seemingly in his early twenties, calmly retorted. His name Lurd and he was an eccentric human cultivator in Ercas Mir.


    "I've asked around". Zechariah intercepted the conversation before it will get heated. "In the Seventh Post there aren't Immortal prisoners. Rumors claim that neither the other posts across the planet have them. Our time with Zax is borrowed. Whether any good will come from it, doing nothing will only be a future regret, a 'What if' that will haunt for the rest of your lives ". His tone emphasized that he is not willing to be that person and the others could not dispute his argument.


    "Fine…" A gloomy voice yielded, Lenrah's. "What are we to do until he wakes up?"


    "Mine". Zechariah straightforwardly replied. "No use all of us keeping watch over him. Vimov, you and Nulivs should stay with him. The rest of us, split into groups, don't risk mining alone. If you'll find a good spot, let us know thirty hours from now when we'll meet again. As for meeting the quotas, as long as you are one of us, we will work to support each other".





    'So they believed him to be the strongest expert of their planet and until today did not know that he attained the Mortal Enlightenment state…' Sergeant Heyxin mused.


    Her Immortal Sense was not focused just on Zax, but sparingly on Nulivs and Vimov, too, in addition eighteen other beasts and humans of the hundred and fifty survivors.





    Waking up, a sense of lucidness washed over him. Still, before he could grasp it, like the wave that it felt it seeped through the cracks in his unstable mental state, to the undetectable coldness in his dantian and behind the bars of his true Infernal self. What was left was not even a paddle, but the equivalent of a wet floor.


    Nevertheless, for better or worse, it was progress…


    God Demirva and God Bimentia did not intend to seal him forever, only long enough for the Kon Juya Constabulary to be done with him or better yet, hand him over to Ohar of Renzine. Besides, even if they wanted to hide his identity forever, even before his supposed mortal lifespan would have ran out, Nature itself would have acted to unleash him.


    "I was wrong". A nearly despondent voice sounded next to him. "Uncle Vimov told me not to lean over you, Grandpa Human. I thought you died".


    "Died…" Zax slowly recalled the punishment. His soul was no longer in pain, but his body, still marked by the thongs, felt like it was being on fire that can burn any Martial Mortal to crisp. He snubbed it and got up. "I told you, I won't die".


    "How are you feeling?" Vimov asked, somewhat glad no one bothered him before Zax regained consciousness.


    "How should I feel?" He was still grieving, a shell of a man, but his speech and motions were not as sluggish.


    Something in the second infringement to his memories and the third cold stimulation from his dantian and barred Infernal self, had weakened the two Gods' seal, enough to reflect.


    Unable to answer for him, Vimov offered another question. "Is your name 'Zax'?"


    "Zax?" Zax repeated, almost confirming, but then his eyes turned dull and he momentarily sunk back to depravation and wallowing. It was not his name that triggered the reaction, but the taboo of hearing someone else uttered it, other than his last memory of her…


    "Old man", Vimov noticed something wrong in his reaction that was far from simple denial. He did not know him like Zechariah and Linor, so he regressed to calling as he did in the short time they spent together.


    "W… What?"


    "Can you still muster the strength of the Mortal Enlightenment state?"


    "This?" Confused, Zax transformed pitch black and released his aura.


    "Y- Ye- Yes, stop it! You are drawing attention. Also, conserve your attribute energy!" Vimov heaved in relief. ‘So this is the man closest to become Immortal among my kin…’





    Inside a tavern’s private room, in the souk between Middle Sector No.130 and Middle Sector No.131, two men were facing each another.


    “And?” Guard Chou Ferk exhaled irritably at the granite man who talked with Zax before Biton showed up. “I summoned you to cut the middleman because I wanted a detailed account from someone on the site! Was I overestimating you?!”


    On the other side of the door to the room stood a terrified, gorgeous non human woman. She was not a prisoner, but a Core Master salve, confined to fifth floor of the tavern, the “entertainment” for all those who rented the particular room Guard Chou Ferk currently resided in. She, of course, was one illegal slave out of many trafficked to Rakmon Penitentiary Star as an incentive for prisoners to spend their surplus of Ever Pure Solid.


    This was a blunt disregard to the Kon Juya Constabulary’s rules and, but Warden Sil Dong invested in illusionary formations that can even deceive a Neonate Immortal’ Immortal Sense and to enter the fifth floor one had to swear for discretion using Oath Parchment or a genuine Intent, if it was an Immortal of the penitentiary – the Kon Juya Constabulary’s Immortals will never trespass such lowly establishments without a good reason and to begin with had nothing to do on the star except from infrequent transfers.


    The gorgeous slave woman was instructed to wait outside and wait to be recalled to do her job. Although the room had sound concealment formation, she possessed an earring that allowed her to hear everything inside, to know when she can enter.


    The consuming terror she felt did not stem from hearing something she was not supposed to. She was forced by an oath not to divulge anything related to the tavern’s costumers. No, her horror resulted from the cruelty of the Guard inside, and what such man will do to her…

  10. #350
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    Book 11 – Lost

    Chapter 11 – Sailair






    “So they banded together on their first day… Vermin!” Lying naked on the bed, Guard Chou Ferk smoked a violet cigar and puffed purple smoke that he then inhaled back from his nostrils.


    On the floor lay, quivering, the gorgeous slave woman, also naked, bruised and bleeding. Soon, Guard Chou Ferk will leave and the tavern’s Elite Ranked prisoner manager will give her something to recover before a new patron will seek “entertainment”.


    “No rush”. Guard Chou Ferk continued to talk to himself, rubbing his loins with the free hand. The intoxicating smoke from the cigar made him vigorous and giddy, wondering, among other things, if he should blow a purple ring on the slave girl and take her for a second round. “It’ll be bad if she dies”. He pissed himself as his mind deviated from the line of thought. “A prisoner kills and gets punished but a Guard kills and pay with his life…”


    It was the system’s way to deter the Guard from going overboard with the prisoners without permission.


    “No matter. There are other methods… The girl named ‘Nulivs’, if I recall… Yes! She is quite the looker and younger than the taverns’ *****s. She is close to that son of a *****, an excellent candidate to mess up further his unhinged mindset”.


    All he has to do is separate them. However, he doubted Head Guard Umber will let him cause trouble with the prisoners in the foreseeable future, due to losing so much face before them a short while ago. Hence, he will have to do it by using other prisoners as his eyes and hands for the precise time to snatch Nulivs. Afterwards, dealing with Zax will be a walk in the park, as long as he really cares for her.


    As for Zechariah, Vimov, Yimin and the rest… Currently, including Zax, there were seven prisoners in the Mortal Enlightenment state in seven different posts Guard Chou Ferk had no means to get to, much less exploit. But it did not matter; Mortal Enlightenment state prisoners for this task were overkill anyway. The Seventh Post’s Middle Sectors’ fifth level Martial Mortals can do just fine.





    “Nothing!” Lenrah granted, swinging her arms, striking the spot in the tunnel’s wall with the pickaxe.


    She was not talking about Ever Pure Solid. The source of her frustration in the past four days was none other than Zax!


    “I don’t know”.


    With one, repetitive three words sentence he dismissed every meaningful question.


    “What happened to your appearance?”


    “Do you remember your name?”


    “Do you recognize us?”


    “Can you sense your Evolutionary Ascension?”


    “Can you discuss your insights?”


    And so on and so on… until Giant Havreim asked. “Can you think, then?”


    Which Zax followed up with a new answer… “I don’t want”. Not about things that will comprise his fragmentary lucidness.


    A meter away from Lenrah was Varinka, also mining, not saying anything in response. It was vexing for her, too, hence she understood the need to vent.





    The first week for the Ercas Mir and New Earth's survivors in the Rakmon Penitentiary came to an end nine days after their arrival, a day plus eight more that comprised one week on the planet.


    As everyone found out, meeting the weekly quota was not as taxing as the first day made it seem. Usually, from what they learned, C ranked prisoners were able to fulfill the twenty five grams demand and still have a surplus of half a gram to two.


    Zax, however, had to provide double the amount, which was an impossible chore that typical prisoners will have to resort to demeaning activities in the souks to accomplish. Lucky for Zax, he was not alone. Although he did not seek them, Zechariah's ultimatum coerced them to help.


    Thus the first week passed with maybe not everyone purchasing a C rank band, but at least not missing the weekly quota.





    "I'm tired". Nulivs crouched, lying on the ground and in the blink of an eye, or rather a close of it, she fell asleep hugging her pickaxe.


    On both of her sides, two men mined in a steady tempo, Zax and Vimov.


    It had been three and a half months since they became mining prisoners and nothing changed.


    As time passed, when everyone expected, hoped, that now that he has company, unlike in the Lunar Splitter, Zax's disordered mind will gradually recover, he instead turned even more introvert and no treatment they suggested or actually tried managed to decipher where the problem originating from and wondering if it has something to do with the marks left by the thongs of fire.


    Little did they know that their futile attempt resulted from probing the sea of consciousness of an Infernal Heavenly Immortal, veiled by Gods to confuse even Neonate Immortals.


    In terms of how he really was, Zax's behavior was not a symptom of deterioration in his condition, but the opposite…


    Through the keyhole view he gained after waking up from Guard Chou Ferk's punishment, Zax immersed in all sorts of introspection. He was unknowingly urged by his barred Infernal self, the hidden coldness in his dantian and the memories he could not let go.


    His interests outside of his little world hazily involved only Vimov and Nulivs. Anyone else was just part of the scenery that came too late to capture his attention.


    'I am…' He mused at the "TING" of the pickaxe contact with the wall.


    'Zax…' It was not him answering, but the echo of her voice.


    'Anet!' He recognized each time and his mind momentarily became muddled each time.


    He felt submerged in a sea of emotions, blocked by an impenetrable dam and as long as this dam existed he could not let the water's flow push him to resurface.


    Thus continued the days, weeks and months.





    Guard Chou Ferk was a vengeful man, especially toward undisciplined prisoners, but he was also patient. As a Martial Mortal he had plenty of time to conspire and wait for his plans to come into fruition. And from the recent report he received his mood was so wonderful he even spared a trip to his favorite tavern…





    "How about it, Vimov, convince Zax to help me for three days and I'll compensate him with three hundred grams of Ever Pure Solid when the job is done". A green scaled man with a set of wooden horns and yellow eyes requested. He was an A ranked prisoner named "Sailait".


    "Your request is too excessive and it's not like Zax need your Ever Pure Solid". Vimov retorted, disagreeably, despite the difference in ranks.


    Ever since three weeks ago this fellow, Sailair, has been pestering him after getting the cold shoulder from Zax.


    Sailait did not care for mannerism. What he wanted that made him so friendly toward the survivors group and even fawning over Vimov and Nulivs was to borrow the strength of a cultivator in the Mortal Enlightenment state for an enterprise organized under the noses of the sector's few Elite ranked prisoners.


    The cause for Vimov's refusal was beyond the subject of pay… the way Sailair wants to use Zax will involve an extensive expenditure of attribute energy.


    "He doesn't but someday you will…" Sailair pressed. "All of your group! Right now you, over a hundred inmates, are untouchable because a cultivator in the Mortal Enlightenment state is on your side. But once his Evolutionary Ascension will come, whether he will pass it or not, he would be taken from the Seventh Post, never to be seen again, unless fate will have it and you will also attain Immortality. Then, all the Elite and A ranked prisoners that, at the moment, are leaving you, new ones, alone will show up to suck dry your Ever Pure Solid if not do worse. Having an excess of a few hundred grams of Ever Pure Solid might save you some of those future troubles".


    "Will you be one of them?" Zechariah joined after noting the conversation from afar. Before Sailair could answer, he chuckled and shook his head. "Well it doesn't really matter. We can simply ask Zax to kill all the Elite and A ranked prisoners prior to his Evolutionary Ascension, perhaps Guard Chou Ferk, too".


    Sailair grimaced upon hearing this. Remembering how Zax almost attacked Guard Chou Ferk and would have if the Head Guard did not stop him, he knew that prisoners, regardless of rank, will have no chance.


    Sailair started to get nervous. He waited for Zechariah to laugh it off as a joke, but the man continued to smile as if he thought on a really good contingency plan.


    “I- I- Think we got off on the wrong foot …” Sailair wearily smiled back. “Put aside the unpredictable future, in the present I do realize that my offer is a little unfair. How about we sit together and reexamine what I can do for you in return?”


    “That would be excellent”. Zechariah affirmed. “However, not today. In two days, after we’ll finish collecting the weekly quota”.


    “Then in two days it is”. Sailair agitatedly nodded and hastened to withdraw. He has not given up on having Zax work for him, but the current atmosphere made him feel like one slip of the tongue and he will end like that conning imbecile, Misha.


    “Why didn’t you reject him?” Vimov asked Zechariah after Sailair exited the C rank quarters.


    “Because as things stand for, he is right. Zax… assuming it’s really him”, since he kept the old man look and did not confirm his name, the optimists could only be certain of his identity by ninety percent while the skeptics by seventy. “One day, maybe tomorrow maybe thousands of years from now, Will be gone. Killing all the Elite and A ranked prisoners is a fine idea, if it was practical. The Head Guard will definitely intervene”.


    Evading all prying eyes, Zechariah turned to Vimov, his expression solemn. “We need to prepare, increase our Ever Pure Solid capital and raise our ranks, for if not through Zax then only this way… maybe, in another ‘One day’, the path of Martial cultivation will open itself for us again”.

  11. #351
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    Book 11 – Lost

    Chapter 12 – In The Humid Darkness






    “So, it’s like that…”


    A few days later Sailair returned, determined to share the details of his enterprise with Zechariah and a few others that the latter brought with him. Zax, although outwardly withdrawn, also was present. Zechariah and the rest perhaps did not know how to properly make him communicate, but they still were not willing to exploit him.


    “I want to excavate a new numbered tunnel that only I, and a selected few, will be able to monopolize”.


    “A numbered tunnel?” A short, red haired woman named "Kristian" queried.


    Middle Sector No.131 has seventy four numbered tunnels. From what the group learned in the past several months, apart from the first, all of those tunnels were dug eons ago by prisoners who took the initiative and their success was handsomely rewarded by the Rakmon Penitentiary.


    Well, obviously it was not as simple as it sounded…


    Rakmon Penitentiary stated a list of conditions for prisoners who want to dig new numbered tunnels. After all, as sturdy as the crevasse was, aimlessly poking holes in it will just result in their free labor wasting time instead of collecting Ever Pure Solid.


    The first condition, meant to deter the irresolute, warned that a tunnel below the proper standards will be deemed impractical and the prisoners who worked on it would have to compensate the penitentiary with ten times the amount of Ever Pure Solid they original should have handed.


    The second condition was the standards for a numbered tunnel, certain parameters for initial size and Ever Pure Solid’s output.


    Third were the qualifications of the prisoners permitted to apply for the project. Only Elite or A ranked prisoners, as successfully opening a new numbered tunnel was also, among other options, an opportunity for a rank up, though “Elite” was the limit.


    There were some additional minor conditions on the list, but those enchanted by the allure of the benefits, like Sailair, all shrugged them off.


    In essence, the reward system offered, from the smallest to the best:


    A thousandth of all the earnings from the numbered cave would go to the applied prisoner\ prisoners, a ranked up that will provide access to high hand commodities of all kind, a chance to be received as a Guard and most thrilling… Freedom.


    "Everything depends on the output of Ever Pure Solid".


    "Including the penalties!" Kristian reminded.


    "Well", Sailair leaned back, arms crossed. "There is no such thing in the world as a free meal, let alone here. I'm willing to be flexible if you are interested in making an agreement, but your requests will have to correspond to the level of work and responsibility we\ you\ I take. Since Zax is the main force in the excavation, for him alone I'm willing to provide enough dark attribute's essence for the entire endeavor and the excess he can keep. Apart from this, I'll also pay him six hundred grams of Ever Pure Solid".


    "That's acceptable". Commander Dan signaled for Zechariah to approve.


    "Delightful!" Sailair clapped. "As for the rest of you, if you are to concede now compensation, at the case of the penitentiary dismissing the new tunnel, then I can magnanimously split with this entire group twenty five percent of the thousandth I'll get".


    "Forty!" Linor retorted. "We will supply the entire workforce!"


    "Impossible!" Sailair rejected immediately. "Twenty five percent… Just submitting the application cost me a kilo of Ever Pure Solid. The penitentiary allocates up to a year for the tunnel to meet the standards and half a kilo for every monthly extension afterward. You recently arrived to the penitentiary, put together you still lack the financial stability to contribute and come the day of the excavation whatever you will earn through your work would have to go to Guard Chou Ferk's pocket for the supposed 'extra trouble' on his sector's supervision".


    "Okay, fine, twenty five", Zechariah compromised. "but you will have to guarantee us your confidence in the excavation place".


    "That I can do". Sailair smirked. "But I won't convince you together… I'll have to take you there and too many inmates will draw unwanted attention. Choose four".


    "Reasonable". Yimin thought aloud. "I want to go. Vimov can go as Zax's proxy, not that he seems to care, who else?"


    To an outsider, the mannerism of a second realm cultivator like Yimin in a group of similarity C ranked prisoners with some in the third realm would have appeared daring. To those who knew him, on the other hand, his conduct was more than justified.


    Although a second realm cultivator, he trained both in mist energy and bodily refinement and the main cause of him lingering in the second realm was his aim to comprehend as many if not all bottlenecks of insight. Sadly, today his objective had to be put on hold, due to the cultivation difficulties in the Rakmon Penitentiary Star.


    "There is no reason to make a fuss about who will go". The formerly eccentric cultivator, Lurd stated. "We are each other last kin, 'all for one and one for all', that sort of thing, right? Trusting just one or two's judgment is fine and Yimin's is as reliable as the best of us".


    "The less the better". Sailair remarked.


    "I don't have to go". Vimov said. "However I think someone who was close to Zax before should go to look out for him".


    "Then I'll also go". Zechariah volunteered. "Anyone else?"


    Quiet and head shakes. Lurd's point was tacitly approved.


    "Since everybody agreed, I'll come again to the C rank quarters tomorrow and meet up only with Yimin and Zechariah". Sailair concluded.





    The next day…


    The three entered tunnel No.41.


    C and B ranked prisoners were not allowed to change tunnels. In Middle Sector No.131 they needed to ask the Elite ranked prisoner, Mr. Sawbones, to reassign them, usually by making a small "offering". For Zechariah and Yimin, Mr. Sawbones smilingly approved…


    "You just want one day to test your luck, no need for bureaucracy". Nor annoying Zax…


    Sailair led the two through tunnels and sub tunnels for hours. Tunnel No.41 was dug hundreds of thousands years ago and the network that form within it by prisoners mining for Ever Pure Solid encompassed greater area than New Earth’s.


    “I mapped in mind all the numbered tunnels and checked each and every one for a probable deposit of Ever Pure Solid and here is the place”. Sailair said as they reached a dead end. “The prisoner that dug up to here is C ranked who I’ve taken under my wing after the fellow managed to find six complete seven grams of Ever Pure Solid and tried to spend them all at once in the souk”.


    “Nearly two weeks’ worth from one place!” Yimin was impressed.


    “Indeed”. Sailair lowered his voice but brightly displayed his excitement. ”We are about two hundred and twenty seven meters from the crevasse, in a spot right between tunnel No.39 and 38. If we’ll continue to dig just a bit farther, we should encounter the full deposit”.


    “And then it will belong to tunnel No.41…” Zechariah frowned.


    “Which is why, I can’t give you a better proof than taking you to my most precious place and showing you this…” Sailair retrieve from his backpack a small box with six exact grains of Ever Pure Solid.


    They were tiny, yet their value clear to anyone that excavated for months in the Seventh Post. Moreover, the eyesight of cultivators like Zechariah and Yimin is so keen they could differentiate the distinct features of the six grains as though they were planets.


    To the minutest detail, all six grains looked precisely the same, which was rare even for pieces of Ever Pure Solid that weighted the same, unless they originated from the same source.


    “Do we have a deal?” Sailair stared at the two.


    Zechariah and Yimin swapped looks. The former was a Martial Mortal but on the Rakmon Penitentiary Star he could not utilize his Sublime Soul Sense for communication. Nevertheless, the latter understood him.


    “Where we come from”, Zechariah offered his hand to Sailiar. “This gesture is customary when closing deals”.


    “Hahaha”. Happy, Sailair extended a green, scaly hand.





    In a humid room of a small restaurant in the souk between Middle Sector No.131 and 132.


    “It is as you said, Miss”. Mr. Sawbones slightly bowed his head before the figure that practically devoured a juicy cutlet as big as a table. “Sailiar took the bait and made an agreement with the batch of recent inmates”.


    “That’s…” The voice of a woman convulsed as the figure picked a bucket of liqueur and glugged half of it. “Expected”. She finished saying, as well as emptying the bucket and threw it on the floor.


    The room was pitch black. Mr. Sawbones sidestepped to avoid contact with the bucket. His trained eyes could only see its and the woman’s giant outlines in the dark, but it was enough to gross him.


    Literarily everywhere but the twenty centimeters plank of wood he stood on was covered in stinking mucus the non human woman secreted. As for the woman, whatever type of Being she was, she had the body of a slug with the head and arms of a human.


    “The fool pursuit for fortune is both admirable; in the way he’s prudently amassing his capital, and ludicrous, for imagining ever buying his freedom. Alas, he let the temporary presence of a prisoner in the Mortal Enlightenment state influence his acumen”.


    “Inmates like him only have themselves to blame”. Mr. Sawbones acquiesced to cut short the conversation, than having the concealed slug woman continue to secrete as she preaches. “Since I fulfilled your request, I’ll take my leave now. In the future, my debt to you is two fifths, Miss”.


    “Alright. Oh, heed my words, Mr. Sawbones, never speak of this exchange”.


    “Have I ever been this foolish, Miss?”


    “Only in the beginning, hahaha”. The slug woman laughter accompanied Mr. Sawbones out of the room.


    A short while later, she ate the last scarp of meat and sunk into deep contemplation. ‘Guard Chou Ferk uses me to carry out his revenge…’ She knew and she hated the powerlessness to refuse him. How could she? As a mere Elite ranked prisoner…

  12. #352
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    Book 11 – Lost

    Chapter 13 – Independent Personality






    BOOM!


    The force of the impact reverberated like a high speed collision of two asteroids.


    BOOM!


    By the second strike everyone had to take a step back or risk losing their hearing.


    BOOM!


    The pointy end of the pickaxe buried in the hard rocky wall of the crevasse and large chunks of stone crumbled.


    “That’s enough, rest!” Zechariah yelled to old man Zax.


    Dropping the pickaxe, Zax dragged himself a short distance from the excavation spot for the new numbered tunnel and slumped on the ground.


    Although he used a lot of dark attribute energy, he was not spent. Far from it, he could land hundreds more blow easily. The problems were that each blow had to be with his full force and the constant brunt of every impact. It was as if the crevasse was alive and hit back.


    TING!


    TING!


    TING!





    Now was the turn of the followed up group of twenty to ring their pickaxes.


    The standard initial size parameters of a new numbered cave were a hundred meters length, four meters height and three meters width. All this had to be done in the timespan of one year. Then, if the Ever Pure Solid’s output is sufficient, the project may proceed for a year of a test period that will exempt the prisoners from penalties in the case of unsatisfactory revenue.


    "You are really strong, Grandpa Human". Nulivs sat beside Zax and turned her neck to stare at him as applauded with a mechanical tempo. "Because of you we are alive and no one's bothering us. I'll be sad when you leave". Her unemotional countenance said otherwise, but the girl was blunt and honest, also pitiful.


    "Leave?" Even after Zax regained a morsel of awareness to his surrounding and the ability to reflect, his responsiveness to what not directly posed in front of him was monotonous. Instead, of listening and talking to others, he was preoccupied in making a nick in the dam that forced him to drown in standing water.


    "Yes, when you will fail or succeed in your Evolutionary Ascension". Nulivs explained.


    "No". Zax shook his head and for a split second a tiny glint passed in his eyes. "I mean; I need to leave… soon, to do something".


    "Grandpa Human, you are saying nonsense again. You can't leave before your Evolutionary Ascension". Nulivs clicked her tongue. "Where else do you have to be or do anyway? We don't have home, no more, it's dead like mom and big brother".


    Zax opened his mouth to reply but he got stumped. He felt like he has the answers to Nulivs, but his disoriented head constantly lost them each time he tried to focus.


    "Grandpa Human?" Nulivs weirdly look at him, then somewhat her gaze softened. "Please tell Uncle Vimoc and I goodbye before you leave". She rested her head on him and together they quietly watched the motions of the pickaxes and listened to their tune.





    Someplace far, far away… Situated in a the Sior Plain of light, a Star like the pearly pupil of a saint omitted divine fluctuations. This was the Holy Palace.


    A sweet sea of emerald surrounded the sole continent on the planet. Warm glow shined upon golden grasslands and silver rivers. Mountains exuding aura of sanctity perked from the earth and some even floated between it in the bright sky of ever changing white, pink, red and blue.


    Of the livings, humans were the dominant race, but of the population of trillions, they only accounted for half. Beasts, insects and all sort of intelligent Beings, from the lowest of mortals to Sacred Immortals, worshiped in the same manner from under the doom of the sky, huts, caves, stone houses and palaces, all by the guidance of the one and only Holy Palace prayed for the benevolence of God Yerfijado The Almighty.


    Spectating from a pavilion of white pillars and violet thatch, atop the Welcoming Heaven turret of the Holy Palace, His Holiness Morien cordially greeted a pair of blue haired, white skinned man and red haired black skinned woman, husband and wife Mythical Immortals known throughout the First and Second Valleys as the Aqua Ruby Couple.


    "Morien!" The blue haired man hugged the religious leader of uncountable in the vastness of the First Valley as if they were bosom friends.


    "Morien!" The red haired woman reached and tenderly kissed him on the cheeks.


    "Iven, Shikolet!" His Holiness Morien took both by the hand and led them to the table and chairs at the center of the pavilion.


    The three sat by the round table. His Holiness Morien gestured and a tray with a battle of wine and small fruits appeared on the table.


    Iven gestured and three glistering glasses appeared also.


    Shikolet smiled. She did not have anything essential to add so she accepted the role of the server, pouring for all three and pealing the fruits for the two men before her, though neither started to eat before she took first sip and bite.


    "Delicious!" Shikolet marveled.


    "Presents from The Almighty". His Holiness Morien said. "From the Third Valley".


    "We thank his generosity!" Iven and Shikolet toasted excitedly.


    The First Valley was Nature's, the second belonged to Immortals and the third to Gods, where no one but Gods can set foot on.


    A short while later of dining and chitchatting, the table was cleared and His Holiness Morien took the Aqua Ruby Couple to tour the planet to help the digestion.


    "Where are we going?" Shikolet inquired as she tiptoed from cloud to cloud with her husband.


    They could use their Immortal Sense to find anything peculiar in the direction they were heading, but refrained from doing so out of respect to their dear friend.


    "Where else?" His Holiness Morien leaped over a mountain that pierced the exosphere and uttered a grace.


    Instantly all life, sentient and not, were showered in liveliness of good fortune without them knowing.


    "To see your daughters". He answered. "King and Queen Of Veiher".


    "You invited us because of Iaura?" Shikolet momentarily halted, yet immediately hasten to catch up.


    "Your daughters are fine, Shikolet". His Holiness Morien calmed her. "They just comprehended the fifth bottleneck of insight".


    "My talented Iaura!" Shikolet cheered and Iven revealed a prideful look on his face.


    "Then, did you invite us to celebrate?" Iven asked.


    "No. I require your assistant on two matter and one is indeed regarding your daughters". His Holiness Morien confessed. "…I called your presence two years ago after having a bad premonition that came true yesterday, Princess Of Veiher has commenced the separation".


    "She did what?!" Shikolet snapped, her fiery element aura erupted and her entire figure turned to red Being of fire.


    "You had us drinking and eating when our daughter's life hanging on the line?!" A layer of frost emerged from Iven's skin as he changed to a creature of ice.


    "Iven, Shikolet, I told you! Your daughters are fine!" His Holiness Morien raised his arms, yielding, attack or listen he left the choice to them, willing to accept the repercussions, whatever they will have them be.


    Nevertheless, he did not lead them by coincidence to fly above the emerald sea when he notified them of Princess Of Veiher's actions. The water was blessed by The Almighty and no Immortal in its domain could spread his or her attack across the planet.


    "Let us continue. I'll show you everything is okay. She is still not in the point of no return and I hope a little bit of parental counsel will bring her to her senses".


    Of the three personalities, the one referring to herself as "Princess Of Veiher" was the only one detesting the notion of subjugation to a God. Anything His Holiness Morien will say she might do the opposite.


    Iven knew it, Shikolet knew it and so they withdrew their Immortal powers.


    "Thank you". His Holiness Morien sighed inwardly and stopped dilly dally, showing them to their rebellious daughter's whereabouts.


    On a secluded, barren artificial island of three hundred meters in circumference, an unpolished, five meters tall piece of jade was shackled to the ground. Inside of it was a young woman, frozen in time, like the spirit of a baby within its soul.


    “What drove her to be so mad?” Shikolet granted and accusingly glared at His Holiness Morien. “Morien, my daughter, who you said is cherished by The Almighty, under your care and his love has gotten to a peril of life and death!”


    “Iven, Shikolet, I take every bit of blame. If you still want, I’ll gladly trade my wellbeing for your friendship back”. He truly meant it…


    As three friends that grew and flourished from mortal children to apex Immortal, the roots of their relationship ran deep. In fact, it was because of His Holiness Morien that they sent their unique daughter to the Holy Palace, rather than to The Almighty and the more prominent God also interested in her.


    “Can she hear us?” Iven asked.


    “You need to touch the stone… I crafted it from the Emerald Calm Sea”.


    Iven nodded and floated down to the island. Placing his hand on the stone, he could enter his daughter’s sea of consciousness.


    ‘Iaura’, he saw the figured she manifested for herself meditating in between the and Inner Panorama of electric attribute sky, sea and land, the Princess Of Veiher’s Inner Panorama. Observing deeper, to her soul, he noted three spirits, two of which in the fetal position – the young postulant and the devotee nun.


    ‘Iaura’, he called her twice, about to make it thrice when she finally responded.


    ‘Father’, she stood naked, conceited, as if nobody and no situation can embarrass her.


    ‘Daughter’, he called, unable to fully dispose of the trace of detachment. She was not exactly his daughter since the day her spirit split to three. ‘What have you done?’


    ‘I’ve had enough, father, I demand independence!’


    Iven waited before responding, for her to see he is listening and considering. ‘But why now? And on your own?’


    ‘Because any longer with these two and my spirit will be tainted. Because I’m everyone wish to be erased’.


    ‘Iaura, you know it’s not true for me, your mother and your uncle. And everything you said is nothing new, only the decision to act upon those feelings’. He tried to reason.


    ‘I wasn’t revisiting old excuses since I have nothing new to say. I mentioned them because something changed… two things. The first that makes the facts I stated relevant… After comprehending the fifth bottleneck we all realized that to become a Celestial immortal one of us must devour the other two before passing the sixth mortal tribulation or two should divide one for us to become Infernal Immortals. The last alternative is cultivating to the Peak of the Martial Mortal realm, wait for a regular ascension and then separate’.

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